Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Want You But I Don’t Phenomenon

In my reflections on sexual desireability, I have found one phenomenon that rather baffles me. I’ll call it “I Want You But I Don’t.”

The IWYBID Phenomenon occurs when you are fascinated by, even attracted to, a person who simultaneously repulses you. That person possesses qualities you find charming and charismatic...but other qualities that scream “run away!”

An excellent case in point is how I feel about the character Sheldon on CBS’s sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” and likewise his three friends Leonard, Howard and Raj. The foursome are physics geeks severely lacking in social (and particularly mating) skills. Not a one of them is ugly—the actors are all cute in fact—but their hair, clothes, and mannerisms on the show do nothing for them. They are all nice guys, just appallingly lacking in the social graces. Intellectually the four could be called alpha-males, except everything else about them negates that fact.

So, here’s the crazy part: I’d love to date any of these guys, particularly Sheldon, who is at the same time arguably the most dysfunctional of the bunch. He is hilarious, which is always a plus, and a genius, ditto. But there are so many reasons to flee this self-absorbed, anal, rude, arrogant man-boy.

So I recognize I’d never want an actual relationship with a guy like this. But still, Sheldon fascinates me. I could listen to him all day rave about string theory or how to apply mechanical engineering to improve your RTA furniture. It’s pretty hot when he debates the finer points of World of Warcraft or speaks Klingon. Repulsive as he so often is, Sheldon is also sexy. It’s weird.

Geek characters are not the only archetypes that repel and attract simultaneously. I often feel that way about Dr. House, who is one moment so coldly cruel you want to smack him, and the next so adorable you want to kiss him. Clearly Lost’s Ben Linus creates conflicting emotions in a girl, but you know how attractive that guy is to a lot of us. I experience similar feelings toward Barney, the womanizer on “How I Met Your Mother,” and Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock,” and Dwight Schrute on “The Office.” There are so many men who, in spite of having some off-putting traits, just suck you in anyway.

The especially interest fact about the IWUBID Phenomenon is that a little repulsion seems to enhance the attraction. My theory is, the brain observes my desiring this undesirable individual, ergo (to use Sheldon-speak) I conclude his positive traits simply must be that irresistible.

However this works, it works. I wouldn’t accept a marriage proposal from Sheldon but I still want him on screen every minute of the show. I could rewatch a dozen times him joking about the hypothetical fellow looking for the circuit breaker in the heart of a black hole. Even in a Periodic Table of the Elements tee shirt, Sheldon looks pretty hot to me.


Miss Organizized said...

God knows I have plenty of these!! Definitely Sheldon and House and Ben Linus, as well as The Joker and my beloved T'Bag from Prison Break ;) Maybe we love these dudes so much because they'll never ever be boring??!

Diana Laurence said...

The Joker, good call! And you're right, these guys are definitely not mundane, and that's a factor too.