Curiously familiar hypothetical situation: You’re at a bar with your friends when you spot a guy you recently hooked up with. You’re feeling indifferent about him, but you wouldn’t be opposed to giving it another go. You think, “Ehh, no need to say ‘Hi’ right away.” Twenty minutes later, he still hasn’t approached you. You wonder, “Why hasn’t he said anything to me? Does my hair look bad”? But granted you’re not criminally insane, you brush it off and look for someone else to schmooze. Thirty minutes later, still nothing. Well, he did wink at you from across the bar (or was there just something stuck in his eye?), but then he started talking to some girl wearing a tube dress. Your confusion escalates. “Oh god, she’s way hotter than me. I knew I should’ve worn heels.” Suddenly, your neurosis reaches “Girl, Interrupted” levels and you wonder how you got so nuts. To avoid further humiliation, you turn to a friend and ask if she wants to leave and get nachos.

On a scale of 1-10, how pathetic does this sound? If you’re thinking 25, don’t worry, you’re not even remotely off base. But as desperate as it seems, I won’t hesitate for a moment to say we’ve all been there.

Fact: Girls love guys who are, for lack of a better description, total assholes.

We’ve seen it time and time (and time?) again, but nonetheless, it’s an issue that riddles our minds with confusion, stress and a shitton of excitement. So, what’s a girl to do about this bleak reality? I’m not exactly sure, but after years of qualitative research, I’ve theorized a few of the many reasons we go after those guys we love to hate.

Don’t hate the player?

The excitement of a night out in college lies partially in what experts refer to as SPQ (spontaneous potential quotient). By experts, I clearly mean myself as of two minutes ago, but I’m definitely on to something here – we college students love uncertainty, and we love it the most when it comes as an accessory to vodka and random new people.

Most girls are turned off by a guy who showers her with attention. It bores us, it seems desperate and it can be a predictor for a slew of undesirable behaviors lurking beneath the surface. Instead, we gravitate toward guys who give us just enough attention to keep us on our toes. Here’s what I mean:

Socially-unaware-nice-guy: Hi Rachel! I saw you from across the bar. You look pretty. Can I buy you a drink? You look like a G&T gal. So, what are your career aspirations? I love kids. You look pretty.

Asshole: Hey.

Think about it. Have you ever seen a guy you’ve recently hooked up with and waited an hour for him to start flirting with you? And worse, did you feel great when he finally approached you and probably said a total of four syllables that somehow made you feel on top of the world? Don’t be embarrassed if that’s a yes. We’re aroused by the unpredictability of waiting for a guy to strike up a conversation with us, and the longer it takes, the more rewarded we feel when it actually happens. Sure, some girls have no problem continuously initiating contact, but most of us would rather be the approachees in those delicate initial stages.

Disclaimer: The whole delayed-gratification thing only works to a certain extent. Minor teasing is tolerable and undeniably fun at times, but most self-respecting girls won’t chase after a guy who’s outright ignoring them.

The Worthy Competitor

You know what? It’s a cop-out to say only weak girls go for assholes. Self-esteem aside, many girls crave the thrill of keeping up with a jerky guy, or better yet, putting him in his place. While they might not always be better at flirting per se, assholes have a certain knack for conversation that confident girls can’t wait to provoke. When you’re not looking for anything serious, few things are sexier than a well-spoken, quick-talking guy whose comebacks somehow indicate that he’ll be amazing in bed.

The Tucker Max-querade

Whether you’ve read his books, stalked his website, or simply thought to yourself, “I know a guy just like this!” there’s one thing you can’t deny: Tucker Max is really, really epic.

Entertaining as his drunken tales are, Mr. Max has spawned a new breed of wannabe assholes who masquerade as genuinely awesome guys by mimicking traits like confidence, charm and humor in the forms of aggression, sleaze and flirtatious insults. It’s difficult for our drunken brains to distinguish between worthwhile guys and those who embody that second set of qualities – and for most casual flings, we don’t care to evaluate the difference. In fact, getting attention from an identified asshole can seem weirdly special.

Example: If a guy won’t give other people the time of day, but he’s taking a moment of his time to be semi-decent toward you, you might think to yourself “Wow, this guy’s being nice to me. He’s usually such a douche! I must be different.” False.

In the end, there’s no clear way to stay away from guys who play these games. It seems the best we can do is hold our heads high, stay on our toes and sleep with one eye open.

Rachel Dickens is a senior majoring in journalism and communication arts. Questions? Comments? E-mail [email protected]