The Dark Triad and female sexual attraction

The Dark Triad is a set of traits that are often screened for in business promotion, law enforcement and counselling, as a way to identify and steer clear from potentially harmful individuals. They are comprised of the combined psychological traits of: Narcissism – Machiavellianism – Psychopathy.

There is a significant overlap between these traits, with Narcissism largely characterised by: – grandiosity, pride, entitlement, egotism, vanity, lack of empathy, selfishness;

While Machiavellianism is defined as the intentional manipulation and exploitation of others, characterised by deceitfulness, absence of morality, cynicism, unemotional callousness, power seeking, high level of self-interest.

Psychopathy, meanwhile is characterised by- antisocial behaviour, disregard for social cues, impulsivity, compulsive lying, selfishness, disregard for authority, callousness, risk seeking, remorselessness when faced with the consequences of their actions.

At first glance, nobody in their right mind would be attracted to any of these characteristics, and yet numerous studies have found that dark triad traits generally lead to:

  1. Higher status and authority
  2. Social control and power
  3. Intense sexual appeal


Lets look at these in turn:

  1. Men with dark triad traits have some tendency to be more extroverted, which means that they are more likely to have a wider social and business network. It also means they are more likely to engage and proposition others. They take more chances, make bigger bets and shamelessly use the talents and resources of others for their own advantage. While their pride can end up being their undoing, when they fail, others usually take the fall – often willingly, while they quickly re-establish themselves and move on. They promote themselves more, undermine competitors and are ruthless in their dealings. They are prepared to sacrifice anyone and anything in order to advance and achieve their ends. This means that they often accelerate their rise on the dominance hierarchy, and are quite happy to be alone, at the top, with lackeys and sycophants rather than real relationships.
  2. When they do enter into relationships, its almost always with an agenda of personal gain, gratification and progress. To ensure this, they have an obsessive and compulsive need to control those around them. They dominate conversations, put others down, and disregard social politenesses. They tend to be highly jealous of their lovers, fearful and paranoid of betrayal, because this person will inevitably be privy to their secrets and weaknesses, yet dark triad types are themselves flirtatious and unfaithful. They micromanage every aspect of the lives of their families, making decisions on their behalf and will unhesitatingly resort to sarcasm and humiliation, shit-testing and gas-lighting in order to destabilise and maintain power over them. When caught out, they turn on the charm offensive, or alternatively become wounded, depending on the situation, in order to keep others off their guard and questioning their own integrity. They are players in every sense of the word and don’t hesitate to use violence – physical or psychological to maintain control.
  3. While dark triad types tend to be well groomed and presented, this alone doesn’t account for the very strong sexual attraction they engender. It’s been shown that men with dark triad traits are dramatically more attractive to women than similarly built men who lack those characteristics, and that extroversion itself is not enough to account for it. In fact, bizarrely, studies have shown that women who were looking to marry and have children were nevertheless more attracted to narcissistic and psychopathic males, even if they were themselves quite experienced and fully aware of the tendency for such males to be unfaithful and uncommitted. Indeed, dark triad men have far more sex, with many more partners, having more offspring, and all the while enjoying greater personal freedoms within relationships than other men.


Clearly, there is some evolutionary benefit to having a dark triad personality, that is rewarded by female attraction, submission and unswerving devotion to such men, and yet, fortunately, civilisations are built on the backs of decent, committed and honourable family men, who no doubt find this situation exasperating, because they fail to understand how hypergamy works.

Some psychologists have suggested that the elevated tendencies to violent behaviour in dark triad types signal an evolutionary awareness to females of their higher position on the dominance hierarchy and hence likelihood for protection from other males or predators.

Others have similarly suggested that their attractiveness and higher sexual partner count stems from their projected confidence, skill in deceit and boldness to approach and coercion.

Its also been suggested that dark triad individuals have a higher self esteem, and a lack of impulse control that females find exhilarating (as opposed to risk averse, conservative and pragmatic behaviour that they find dull and un-sexy). It may be that this wild streak triggers the archetypal need for females to tame the beast, or cultivate the Wildman, as so many of our myths and folk tales relate.

Disturbingly, the higher propensity for violence, coercion and rape in alpha males across all primate groups results in statistically greater access to mating privileges and offspring, and may be an inherent evolutionary trait at the heart of the socially taboo impulses found in fantasy role-play; bondage and sado-masochism sex subculture as well as the blushingly widespread rise of “mummy porn” such as 50 Shades of Grey that most husbands find inexplicable.


So can a nice guy take away any lessons from studying the characteristics of the dark triad, without himself becoming a sinister individual?


If we summarise the triad into its less pathologically described essence, we might say that:

  • narcissists have an incontrovertible sense of self worth
  • Machiavellians always look out for number one, first
  • psychopaths don’t get swayed by feelings

We might further say that these individuals always project an air of confidence; they unflinchingly do what is necessary to achieve their objectives despite the cost and they don’t let themselves be swayed by public opinion. For example, Machiavelli in his book “the Prince” was interested in how best to rule a kingdom. He recognised that a “good king” was almost always an ineffective one, which would inevitably lead to vulnerability, strife and destruction for the people. He believed that for the ultimate good of the state and its people, it was far more important to be an effective ruler, than a classically “good” one, even if it meant sacrificing a few, for benefit of the many. The ends justified the means in his eyes. Any one of us who has ever made a sacrifice will understand this.

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