American Morning

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October 9th, 2009
06:40 AM ET

Are women secretly yearning for a bad boy?

From Carol Costello and Ethel Bass

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Jon Hamm plays Don Draper, the charismatic lead character of AMC's "Mad Men.""]

Don Draper. He's the charismatic lead character in AMC"s "Mad Men," a TV show that takes place in the sixties when women mostly stayed at home, and men brought home the bacon. Draper is a suave "ad man," who cheats on his wife, but supports her financially. And who treats most other women like dirt. Women we talked to who watch the show – LOVE him.

“Don Draper. He’s just so mysterious,” says one 26-year-old. “It's a very particular type of magnetism – he is just so confident, and he never doubts himself,” says another young woman. One young woman summed it up best when she said, “You know he's not good for you, but like oh my God, you know, I have to have it!”

Some female viewers love Don Draper so much, they didn't blink an eye when he went beyond "bad boy" behavior to, um, sexual assault in a clip from season two .

Even Jezebel, a feminist women's blogsite, gave him a pass for this because "...sometimes assertive women get tired of always being so damn assertive ... sometimes they like to be told what to do."

Just sayin' – Are women secretly yearning for a bad boy?

Psychiatrist Gail Saltz says, “I think that women have throughout the ages ... yearned for the bad boy” and that women love the idea of Don Draper because, today they feel overwhelmed in a down economy with work, the kids, and the needy husband.

According to a study by the Wharton school, called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," ...women's happiness has fallen both absolutely and relative to men's…”

The 60's world of Mad Men is, what Dr. Saltz calls, "a fantasy solution." “The idea that the knight would come in and scoop them up and make everything easier is also very appealing, but it's a fantasy that doesn't include the being suppressed, you're not having anything of your own, it doesn't include those things.”.

But there's even a TV show about a wife who's loyal to her cheating politician husband – called "The Good Wife."

And in real life women have scorned "cheaters" like former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, South Carolina's Governor Sanford and John Edwards.

Yet they've given some cheating men a pass like Bill Clinton and now, seemingly David Letterman. Want the real life reason why? Dr. Saltz says it's "very much a function of how much you identify with the woman who's been hurt. Feel sorry for her – hate the man. Think she can take it – his cheatin' heart might be okay.”

What do you think? Why do women love the cheatin' Don Draper? Do we now yearn for that old-fashioned, bring home the bacon kind of guy?

Filed under: Just Sayin'
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. vcu_am

    Nice article. There is no shame in entertainment.

    svbodman: Obama's Nobel prize is being trivialized because it is trivial. He was nominated for not being Bush Jr. He has achieved nothing, yet was awarded over a million USD and a nice medallion. I used to joke about Obama being a token black president. The prize victory "affirms" it. Cry about it.

    October 13, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  2. Flatland Hillbilly

    We are all products of our environment, our childhoods dictate a large portion of our adult lives. If you had a descent home life with two parents chances are you will make a good life for yourselves as adults. There are variables on this but it is generally true. Men and women both fantasize out of boredom. We percieve that our life "sucks" so someone else's has got to be better, if not we will make one up. We need to work on ourselves to be more beneficial, efficient, confident and success oriented. The more positive things you accomplish with your life the less you need to fantasize abou anything.

    October 13, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  3. Buck Jackson

    First truism of women; Every good girl wants a bad boy. Its a fact. Now, not everyone's definition of bad is the same. I am not particularly good looking but have a very strong personal presence. Somewhat mysterious. Does it work for me? Absolutely. I only sleep with married women as I do not want a relationship. I do not keep count or score but I do not go more than a few days without sex, and, I cannot remember the last woman I slept with more than 4 or 5 times total.

    October 13, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  4. empnyc

    David Letterman in NOT in anyone's wildest imagination, Don Draper.
    He has neither the style nor finesse. Regardless of his misuse of politcal star power in the entertainment business, he, IMHO is simply suffering from the Bill Clinton syndrome...that is, inability to keep his pants zipped just because the sycophants are scratching at the door. Pathetic.

    October 11, 2009 at 10:25 am |
  5. Carol Ramey

    I watch AM for news–this piece was not news. And, it was "junk" no matter what category you might put it in. Infidelity, promiscuity, and adultry move along lots of plot lines, but it almost always results in unfathomable grief and agony where real people are concerned. I'm not expecting to raise the standard of what's right and wrong, but please do not ignore (or trivilize) the suffering these behaviors create.

    To follow it up with pictures of hairy legs in heels–well, as others have said, is was NOT a slow news day, so why the stupid diversion from what really affects us and our well-being. You are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    October 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  6. Lily

    Most of the guys are bad enough, with out CNN telling them "women like bad women". I hate bad boys and I am a women, and the girls who like them should go to Dr Phil. I am happy for Obama :), he is not a bad boy

    October 9, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  7. jay m

    All Women want a bad boy, it's no secret anymore.

    October 9, 2009 at 6:30 pm |
  8. CaroJ


    Women do not know what they want and have trouble separating fantasy from reality? Riiiiiiiight. It's obvious you're a misogynist. Women have no more trouble in these areas than men do. In fact, probably less. Men, as we all know, are the primary consumers of porn, and research shows that men who are heavy porn users expect women in REAL LIFE to look and act like they do in the fantasy world of porn! So again, who has trouble separating fantasy from reality?

    October 9, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  9. Leo

    I agree Mike....CNN's all fluff and opinion. Can't turn it one without one of the anchors promoting their book .."How I Got My Confidence Back and You Didn't" or,.."My Alcoholism is Worse Than Yours" or other pseudo-self -important rants. The I-Reporters are doing all the work anyway!

    October 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  10. Mike

    Yeah–turned off CNN long ago on my TV but still trolled this website once in a while since here I could pick and choose what I looked at. But time to sign off here too. Mainstream press in general either dealing with "entertainment" trivia or else keeping arguments going, no matter what the facts are or how incredibly stupid one side of the argument is. Bye CNN.

    October 9, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  11. george

    consider the possibility that these women who enjoy the thought or are tuned on by being abused (draper syndrome??) just may be individuals who have a rather poor self image. They may even be individuals who have personally experienced similar abuse.
    Such a shame that these ladies do not demand better for them selves

    October 9, 2009 at 9:29 am |
  12. dwayne

    Here in the south, there's a disproportionate number of women who not only love bad boys, but marry them. (Thus debunking the idea "women date bad boys but marry nice guys"...not in Alabama anyway.) I think the problem is that women are often brought up to equate aggressive behavior with strength and even stability, when most bad boys are anything but stable.

    And of course, "Mad Men" viewers know (even though it wasn't mentioned in CNN's report) the women in Don Draper's life, even his little girl, are all miserable.

    October 9, 2009 at 9:26 am |
  13. dave

    Some will think I'm way out in left field, but what is cheating? This is the 21st century after-all. I'm quite sure that some will say if one's significant other has sex with another person outside [the relationship] then cheating has occurred. The problem with that idea is that relationships have changed. Open relationship, exclusive relationships, dating [around], swingers, etc. Take it or leave it, there are people that believe that if their man or woman comes home every night and doesn't flaunt their philandering, then their actions are acceptable. I realize this still isn't the norm, but it makes one wonder, "exactly what is a bad boy anymore?"

    October 9, 2009 at 9:21 am |
  14. naryaquid

    October 9th, 2009 9:15 am ET
    A question like “Do women like bad boys”? being asked on the basis of a television show, is a little like asking if men like “femme fatales” If you asked, I’m sure they would tell you “yes”, hence the popularity of a star like Lauren Bacall, in the past, and Angelina Jolie in the present.

    I found the Costello report to be slanted and I wish the Mainstream Media would stop pushing the meme that women are essentially masochists, loving the “bad boy”…As the psychiatrist said, this is essentially a “fantasy”…..The captivating “femme fatales” who were quite popular with men in the 1940s (Lauren Bacall) were also a fantasy.

    No healthy person of either gender is attracted to those who abuse them.

    October 9, 2009 at 9:20 am |
  15. naryaquid

    A question like "Do women like bad boys"? being asked on the basis of a television show, is a little like asking if men like "femme fatales" If you asked, I'm sure they would tell you "yes", hence the popularity of a star like Lauren Bacall, in the past, and Angelina Jolie in the present.

    I found the Costello report to be slanted and I wish the Mainstream Media would stop pushing the meme that women are essentially masochists, loving the "bad boy"...As the psychiatrist said, this is essentially a "fantasy".....The captivating "femme fatales" who were quite popular with men in the 1940s (Lauren Bacall) were also a fantasy.

    No healthy person of either gender is attracted to those who abuse them.

    October 9, 2009 at 9:15 am |
  16. wren

    The image of "bad boy" has mystique attached to it. Often bad boys depict power and strength, even if either characteristic aren't what we want for ourselves. Women wonder, "How do they do that?" For me, I see most as a source of entertainment and humor. Wry wit...sarcasm...entertainment. Women do not want men like that on a permanent partner, but bad boys are a source of wonder and surprise, just like bad girls. "How do they get by with that?"

    Society today has eased up on moral standards. What doesn't affect us or hurt us personally do not matter. Just entertain us.

    October 9, 2009 at 9:12 am |
  17. Archangel63

    ~Sigh~ The "Just Saying" article piqued my interest today. I agree with a lot of the ideas presented, since men usually want the same thing (a woman with elegance and class, but a fierce and voracious side to her that will only come out at the right time). Most of my friends would tell me that sounds like perfection, but based on the character sketch of Don Draper you provided, it sounds like he may be the male equivalent of what I described.

    Hey, now that I think about it, that gives us good guys a chance after all; who would want a pure "bad boy" who only concerns himself with breadwinning and getting laid as often as possible? If that were the case, half of us men would never know the joy of a relationship, let alone marriage (I mean I never have, but that's for a few different reasons; you get the point).

    October 9, 2009 at 9:11 am |
  18. nancy

    are you kidding me? *barf* I grew up in the 60's watching men just like the men portrayed on this show. I didn't like that attitude as a child, and I don't like it now. Seems to me that the show points out how repressed women were and how pathetic the work place was with drunks and men who despised women. This is the generation that brought you "divorce" and made it OK for men to walk out on the marriage, and get a brand new wife and family. If I had my life to live over, I would have told my friends not to waste their time burning bras – the two generations that came after do not appreciate their sisters standing up for them. Go ahead and play with your bad boys, you kind of deserve what you are going to get. *smile*

    October 9, 2009 at 9:11 am |
  19. Judy Bowen

    Let's face it, Don Draper is not only a bad boy, he's an exceptionally handsome, sexy, and successful bad boy. CNN made a mistake this morning when they said he dipped into the secretarial pool - Don would never be that stupid. His paramours have always been successful, strong, independent women of their own.

    As for women longing for the bad boy - it's fun to fantasize about Don, but I sure wouldn't want to be married to him. The only reason his "wife" Betty (the beautiful January Jones) stayed with the marriage is because she ended up pregnant and that's what most women did in the sixties.

    October 9, 2009 at 9:04 am |
  20. Mason

    um, just wondering, but I cannot, for the life of me, find the blog post you guys quoted on the Don Draper episode

    October 9, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  21. Michele

    Where are the real men?

    October 9, 2009 at 9:02 am |
  22. Sandra

    I think that congress should be working on creating jobs to help our economy and stop acting like children bickering about things.

    October 9, 2009 at 7:49 am |
  23. Tricia

    I think that many women love a man who takes charge and has that type of confidencend charm. But living with a guy like that would get old real quick. I think it comes down to the same thing men want of women. A gentleman out side of the bedroom but a bad boy inside the bed.

    October 9, 2009 at 7:20 am |
  24. LadyG

    It's all about challenge. Women will always be attracted to the bad boy. We secretly believe that, despite the way he treats other women, we're different.

    We think we're "the one" with that special something to make the bad boy see the error of his ways and magically settle down to be an honest, loving, giving man who now wants a 1:1 committed relationship.

    That hasn't happened no matter how many times I've tried. Just one of those things we all experience over and over again before we learn the good men are right before us.

    LadyG of Bear, DE

    October 9, 2009 at 7:06 am |
  25. Jayne Shaw

    The fact that Obama won is absolutely ludicrous. Did anyone of the judges hear about the 200 murdered high school students in his hometown of Chicago? He can't even bring peace there!!!!!! I am insulted.

    October 9, 2009 at 7:05 am |
  26. Jeremy

    This is why so many woman out there get played and are single! Why? Because they are attracted to bad boy players such as the character played in this movie. Point is I dont feel sorry for any and all of you woman that keep getting played by guys like this because it is and was your fault in the first place for picking a guy like this to date. So what can you make of this question? "Truth" Woman are bad girls and players too! Ha ha.... Good morning CNN. You guys are by far the best news station!! Congrats to Obama! Keep up the good work!!!!

    October 9, 2009 at 7:05 am |
  27. Harold Schulman MD

    Loved your discussion. I think you are CNN's best and most charismatic.
    In my new book Women's Secrets, Men's Muscles Unveiled I wrote a chapter on relationships. Bottom line is consensual. Each person should be a winner. It is a fun game. The human sexual urge differences are almost infinite and always fascinating.
    Judgement should be reserved to the issue of it being consensual.
    My guess is that most of Letterman;s encounters were consensual, not coercive.

    October 9, 2009 at 7:04 am |
  28. JustMeAtlanta

    Dear Carol.

    I'm not sure I recall ever hearing your online commentary/blog before, but I definitely heard you this AM.

    I have not watched Mad Men, but I understood right away the man and situation you were decscribing.

    Men and women fall in love not because of who the other person is, but because of the way that "other" person makes them feel about themselves when they are with them. And so, it's not the "bad boy" himself (and all his ways). It is the way that he is strong and can take charge/handle the situation, do the planning, etc, etc, so that she doesn't have to do the planning, thinking, etc. It gives her, what I call, a very welcomed, God-given, Ditzy Moment.

    Women are worn out from all of the juggling, thinking, planning, shopping, preparing, caretaking, analyzing – AND holding down a full time job. It's too much! And due to the last 20 years or so, the keeping up with the Joneses mentality has exacerbated the need for her to do all these things so that she can keep herself/her family up with the Joneses.

    I don't like it when people, such as your other commenter, say, well, if you go back to the 1960's, then yes, the woman doesn't have to bring home the bacon, but she also doesn't have money or possessions of her own. I hate when people are such extremists in their points of view, since that is not what the women are saying at all.

    What they ARE saying, is that they enjoy a man that, just once in a while, allows them a Ditzy Moment, where the woman doesn't have to think since he's going to take over the thinking, planning, preparing, cleaning, organizing, etc, etc. And all she has to do is just relax and enjoy being the yummy, wonderful, lovely, loved woman that she is. Not all the time – a MOMENT.

    It's that simple and doesn't have to be an extreme concept.

    October 9, 2009 at 7:01 am |
  29. Christian El Hage

    I think girls are secretely yearning for certain aspects of the bad boy persona. Women like the mystery, a sort of aggressive caveman type in the bedroom, who would tell them what to do, yet a mysterious gentleman in public who would open doors and pull out chairs. A womans dream I think is more the sophisticated bad boy. . . a smart yet rugged personality, good looks, and a wild side that shows only in certain situations, who wants the same routine over and over again. . ? My girlfriend says I have all that, and that she hit the Jackpot when she met me and said I make Don Draper look like nothing more than a liar and a cheat, no matter how sweet he is to his wife or how comfortably he supports her. . . maybe its a Lebanese thing 😉

    October 9, 2009 at 6:59 am |
  30. chuk

    Why Don Draper? Simple... women do not know what they want and have difficulties seperating fantasy from reality. If women get what they "want", it immediately becomes a problem when their fantasy becomes reality. Most men know this and attempt to exploit this for their temporary gain... and women are happy to temporarily oblige (until the next fantasy, that is). When will we ever learn!

    October 9, 2009 at 6:52 am |
  31. Meri W.

    I concur that, at some point in my life, I fantasized about a "bad boy." However, the experience never, EVER, equates to the real thing. I had a cheating first husband and it never made him more appealing to me in anyway, shape or form. The next relationship I had was the "bad boy" and he wasn't just bad, he was psycho. I am now, happily married for the second time to my "soul-mate" and we've been together for just over 11 years and married for 7 years. I've finally gotten it right, and although I know he would never cheat on me, if I wanted him to, he could be just a little "bad" for me ;o)

    October 9, 2009 at 6:51 am |
  32. Gene

    I watch the news every morning to find out what is going on in my world. You spent 5 -10 minutes talking about a TV show. Are you freaking kidding me? What happened in the middle east? Were any of our sons, daughters, husbands, wives mothers or fathers injured or killed protecting us a world away, while you BLOVIATED about a FREAKING TV SHOW!? Now you are onto Jay Leno? UN FREAKIN BELIEVABLE! rOBIN MEAD'S LEGS ARE MUCH BETTER. I AM DONE WITH CNN FLUFF CRAP. SAY GOOD BYE TO THIS VIEWER! i HAVE HAD ENOUGH!

    October 9, 2009 at 6:51 am |
  33. svbodman

    YOU ARE trivializing Obama's Nobel Prize – shame on you!!

    WHo cares about a guy who cheats on his wife and what women think about that; who cares about the wasteful venture to bomb the moon- how dare you to minimize the importance of Obama's Nobel PRIZE – who ARE YOU to judge?

    October 9, 2009 at 6:51 am |
  34. Stacy from Chicago

    I actually turned off Mad Men because of the way they treat women (it still happens)... I turned off David Letterman as well. I think that we consistently give men a huge pass when it comes to cheating and poor treatment of and on women. I think it is time that we move forward and expect better and demand it in all arenas when it comes to men cheating on women and in adult relationships. Here is my question: what would happen if we showed women treating men like this constantly throughout a long period of time? What would be the affect on men? I don't think it is healthy... oh I realize this is just a television show but as the current media has discovered... it still happens and a lot!. Have a good day... and watch out for the "boss" because they are all men you know.

    October 9, 2009 at 6:50 am |
  35. MattjDrake

    Fantastic report – don't think I've ever seen this topic so well treated. Especially interesting is the idea that during a stressful time (like our economic time now) women seem to want to surrender to a strong figure. It makes a lot of sense in terms of fantasy at least.
    – MattjDrake (

    October 9, 2009 at 6:50 am |
  36. L

    It's not about being a "bad boy", it's about being sexy and good-looking. No one is interested in an ugly bad boy.

    October 9, 2009 at 6:49 am |
  37. Obelisk A. Ghostchaser

    It's easy for women to fantasize about the show, it's based in the 60's. People cheat like heck. My wife is out right now with one of my former friends as we speak probably. She's not here, that' for sure. Why do I think that Draper's a good sell to the females is that, yes he's sexy looking to women, but also, this world that they're in on Mad Men is not the one that we're living in, but then again... what is. I can't say, no time travel unit around here. It hurts me when she cheats on me, so... i dunno.

    October 9, 2009 at 6:48 am |
  38. svbodman

    You ought to be ashamed for such drivel while the important news OBam's Nobel prize is being trivialized. SHAME ON CNN

    October 9, 2009 at 6:48 am |