I recently wrote an article about why Indiana Jones is the ultimate male power fantasy, I mentioned in passing how Han Solo was a character built to cater to female fantasies about men the same way Indiana Jones was a character built to cater masculine fantasies about themselves. I think it would be bad manners to not develop that thought extensively for everyone to pick apart and criticise (or praise and agree with if that were the case).
First of all, let me make it clear, I am not saying every woman in the world likes bad boys (hell, not even every woman in the world likes men for that matter), but if statistics are to be believed it is quite a common trait at least at certain stages and ages. Secondly, I am not condoning or condemning having the hots for bad boys. It's something that happens and just as a social case it is interesting, but just in case, keep your hand on your blaster in case Han does shoot first...
To care for looks is shallow, but so is he
This should be an easy one: Han Solo is a good looking fellow. I hope regardless of particular tastes this point will remain uncontested; you might prefer another type of handsomeness, but you can't really use that as an argument to say he is NOT good looking.
The interesting point here would be WHY he is handsome, beauty after all has changed throughout the ages, at least body beauty... not so much facial beauty though. Han has symmetrical and masculine features, he is tall and well built, looks healthy and capable... he is basically all that a lady would be (unconsciously) looking for in a set of genes. After all we are hard wired to look for the best possible partner (AKA genetic material) in our sex encounters to hopefully pass on that genetic material to our offspring and make them more likely to survive and pass on that material themselves. Would Han Solo's babies be cute? I rest my case.
An unhealthy taste for the risky
Women (I will generalise throughout this article, bear with me) like adventure and excitement, at least in small doses. High atop the list of adventurous and exciting jobs is space smuggler (damn you career advisor): Enter Han Solo.
Han has deals with the worst kingpins in the galaxy, he transports whatever merchandise they offer in exchange for very needed credits, he sets his own rules, he lives by the moment, he answers to no one but himself, he gets into blaster shootouts in the cantina and hardly flinches after crisping poor Greedo away... is the point clear?
To take a ride with Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon is a guarantee of adventure and risk. Even the most average of his days are packed with excitement. In this he isn't too different from Indiana Jones, there is a catch however: Indiana Jones might break the rules to "mend" them, so to speak; Han Solo on the other hand breaks the rules in order to gain some benefit out of it, he is properly egotistic and he looks out only for himself (and Chewie, ok).
It's that "breaking the law" thing that makes him doubly attractive to women, because it is also a trait of power, not only is he dangerous and risky, but he also is powerful enough in his own world to be able to get his way. Power and risk? yes please!
But why do women find male risk takers so interesting? Well, according to this study done in Liverpool it goes both ways actually: Men are not only prone to being more risk loving than women (statistically) but interestingly enough, men that were being observed by an attractive woman were more prone to pumping up the risk level than when not being watched at all or being watched by unattractive researchers. The explanation, again, comes from our drive to find the best possible mates: Men compete with each other in shows of fitness and health (by performing risk ridden physical activities) and women perceive the most risky ones as better genetic material.
The "I will change him" factor
Bad boys have an added double bonus to be so appreciated: the challenge and the redeeming factor, both work as a closed circuit feedbacking each other. The thought process goes something like this: We want what we cannot have, just tell someone what they absolutely cannot do and soon enough you will find them struggling to avoid doing that very thing. We like what is forbidden to us... but why?
Well, according to studies linking psychology with economics' information gap theory, we are (yet again) hard wired to think that the grass is greener on the other side: when we lack a piece of crucial information we tend to bloat the positive outcome. We often completely ignore the information and just fill it up with out own wishful thinking (what are your chances to win the lottery?).
When we don't get the person that we want, and bad boys tend to scorn stable relationships, we create this elaborate fantasies about how good it would be if we actually had it. This factor also feeds the second variable in the equation: the redemption.
In their hearts, girls that fall for bad boys know the objects of their appreciation are really good deep inside, they have turned that constant fantasy into a perceived reality beyond any doubt. It will only take their very special love to "redeem" the bad boy and bring him back in track, turning him into the prince charming he has been all along. "I will change him", "He will change for me", "He just needs love", "He is just that way because he is hurt and needs healing".
Han Solo is prime material in both accounts, he doesn't bond emotionally, he is aloof, confident, cares only about himself... but deep inside, you and I know he just needs to find that true love to change him into his true heart of gold being.
Gamble as much as you want, his cards are marked
Trying to settle down a bad boy is a gamble, in more ways than you would imagine. Why would we be with someone that belittles us, doesn't show any appreciation and is always thinking of himself? Well, the answer is simple: Variable ratio reinforcement!
Ok it wasn't that simple, I admit. "What the heck is that?" is probably the question that comes to mind. Well dear, a variable ratio reinforcement is what has made the gambling industry a profitable one (for the casino owners) and makes you stay with that douchebag that only shows appreciation once every blue moon. In a nutshell it works like this: most of the time you get negative reinforcement or nothing at all, but the one time every few that you DO get something positive the ammount of pleasure hormones you segregate could be measured by the truckload.
In experiments, rats that are reinforced with food for performing tasks only at random intervals show higher levels of serotonin that the ones that receive constant food every time they perform that task. That's right, higher levels when the reinforcement is randomly given.
That is the reason although Han will almost always scorn you and neg you, the rush you get the few times he actually does show some appreciation is enough to get you going the rest of the time. Tough luck! (you saw what I did there?)
Curiosity killed Greedo
Last but not least, Han's innacesibility and general dislike to talk about his feelings gives him the final touch in bad-boyness. What mysteries lie in that soul? Does he feel the same for me? What does he do every night before going to sleep? Is he that way because of some childhood trauma? a broken heart? some rare disease?
So many questions, so few answers. But fear not, I am about to explain to you why the feelings of swoon and interest you are displaying for him are also part of your natural hardware as well... actually, do dispair, whoever hard wired you had a sick sense of humour.
I have another big word for you: Apophenia. I am not a bad boy, so I will explain what it is instead of scorning you for your ignorance and looking cool with my chess club mates (nevermind). Apophenia is the experience of perceiving patterns (existing or not). Our human brains always try to find patterns and explanations for everything we encounter. When we can find a pattern every fiber of our body wants to get more data in order to neatly tie everything together and form that explanation.
It is probably another evolutionary joke at our expense, the smartest hominids that had that drive to find explanations for stuff would probably end up doing better at the surviving and reproducing business than their more conservative less curious cousins, so we are drawn naturally to things we can't explain and try by all means to find out more in order to satisfy our thirst for "knowledge".
That's the reason that smuggler sitting on his spaceship is so irresistible, we don't know what his deal is... and we NEED to know, we are drawn to him as moths to a candle, and every time we are met with scorn and contempt we lick our wounds but come back for seconds.
I'm sorry ladies, but your attraction to "Han Solo'ish" dudes is a convoluted mess of instincts and hormones.
But there is a (new) hope!
Nope, the hope isn't that you own particular Han will change and turn into a nice guy. It happens once in a while, no doubt, but unless you shift your own expectations you are worse off.
You see, if bad boys is what you are looking for, the moment your bad boy turns into a nice guy you're equally screwed: you will lose interest and find yourself ditching the "nice guy" and in the prawl for someone new to abuse you emotionaly. Nope, the hope is that, at least in long term relationships, women DO prefer nice guys. Mystery and adventures are fine for a while, but at some point your own biological clock will start ticking for the man with the staying power. It actually happens more often than what you would think.
Studies have shown that along the cycle of their period (and the hormonal changes that happen within) women tend to favor different men as prospective partners: When they're ovulating (aka high chances to get pregnant) they prefer more masculine and bad-boyish archetypes. When they're at other stages they tend to prefer less masculine looking men (aka not testosterone bombs that will be aggressive and unreliable). During pregnancies and upbringing of babies women also favour less masculine men, the explanation?
Well, we still have that drive to find the best genes for our offspring, but we also want to find a companion (someone with staying power) for the upbringing of that very same offspring, so women tend to find an equilibrium in masculine choice during time. It basically means you will still have the hots for testosterone bombs (all the Han Solos out there) but you will want to settle down with someone more reliable.
There is a dark side to this as well I'm afraid; studies in Finland and Sweden from the 90's showed that the ammount of children that were not from their supposed father were much higher than previously though (around 1 out of 5 if you really wanna know). It might as well be that girls fool around with the bad boys but marry the nice guy... but apparently there is no particular timing involved. Either way, that is out of the scope of this article.
In regards to all those Han Solo lovers out ther, just remember, have fun, but be ready to be dumped on the next system!