The Irony of Insult Being Romantically Attractive

Lovers embracingIt’s always positive and kind to make someone feel good, however, in romance it’s very likely an insult makes the insulter more attractive to person being insulted. Seems ridiculously contradictory at first glance, but our subconscious emotional brain works in mysterious ways. Some men even use it as a deliberate technique, using a low grade insult or negative comment to temporarily lower the self-esteem of a woman in an attempt to make her more attracted to him. One such psychological premise I came across, is that this is especially true for hot women who hear numerous compliments from men everyday along with admiring stares, supposedly bored with it all, immune to it, and perhaps even annoyed by it. And it continues—which guy will make the strongest lasting impression on her mind? The one that told her what she didn’t expect to hear, temporarily lowering her self-esteem. Although it can work the other way also, men are not immune.
WWWThe Walster study (1965). The effect of self esteem on romantic liking, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, resulted in some very interesting findings. The researchers had a group of women interact with a male researcher who flirted with them, lowering some of the women’s self esteem during the conversation. The women were then given a feedback test, asking them to rate how well they liked the researcher. The results? The women who had their self-esteem temporarily compromised found him to be much more attractive.
Yes, it’s disturbing.
WWWContemplative womanSo, what’s behind this psychological aberration? According to psychologists there are two reasons:

  1. People who feel themselves as less than they really are, may want even
    less in a partner.
  2. When we experience low self-esteem we have more of a need for affection and acceptance. Both of these combined, unfortunately, seem to make the insulter more attractive.

In another study, Gudjonsson and Sigurdson (2003). The relationship of compliance with coping strategies and self-esteem, European Journal of Psychological Assessment, men and women were assessed measuring their self-esteem and compliance. The analysis showed that people with a lower self-esteem are more agreeable and compliant to the requests of others, making themselves more subordinate to others.


All of this is especially true when someone with a lowered self-esteem cannot blame the other person, as when that person surreptitiously insults with a backhanded compliment. By knowing this is how most of us operate, we can protect ourselves from being manipulated just by being aware of this aberrant human response. Psychologists tell us that nagging is another form of lowering a person’s self-esteem from a study by Dean (1964-5). A psychotherapeutic investigation of nagging.
WWWThey also inform us that while these attractions may be true in the short-term, it most likely will lead to relationship difficulties in the long term. So, if you’re in a relationship with someone who displays a pattern of innuendo towards you, it could be intensifying your attraction to them, that’s not a Catch-22 you want inflicted upon yourself, let alone pursue. The caveat here is to be aware, and beware. It’s an insidious trap.

© Joe Arrigo


2 thoughts on “The Irony of Insult Being Romantically Attractive

  1. That never works with me, nor will it ever work. I was wondering why these guys will deliberately walk up to me and say something insulting as if I’m supposed to want to speak to them. Is this a trend? Is this change they’ve come to believe in?
    I like a gentleman who has something intelligent to say about something interesting, like literature or movies or travel or something.
    There do seem to men who think the sidewalk is a pickup jiont, as if we aren’t just trying to get somewhere, and they get insulted when you brush them off. ??????
    I have known a few good men who have been totaly corrupted by these women who want to to be “dragged around by their hair…” They try that with me, they’re never coming round again. Life is too short to put up with abuse.
    I don’t know what’s become of women. I wish they’d get some self respect.

    • Thank you for insightful comment Arlene. Like your phrase, “dragged around by the hair.” And you’re absolutely right, life is too short to tolerate abuse; for either gender.

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