How to please?
I've been thinking recently, and I realized men have a lot of pressure. Guys get a bad rep for buttering girls up only to sleep with them and break their hearts, but I think girls give guys just as hard of a time. They have to show interest in a girl, but not too much that it's "creepy" and "desperate" (two favorite modifiers), but not too little that the girl feels taken for granted and not special.
In other words, if a guy likes a girl but doesn't ask her out, he's a pansy. If he does ask her out (no matter how respectful or brash the method), he may very well be scoffed at and deemed a creep bursting at the seams with unsolicited libido. If he's gentle and quiet, he's viewed as a shut-in unaware of how to take the reins and display gender-appropriate bravado. If he's the life of the party, he's accused of having no substance.
Thus for men, the dating scene is an eternal square dance between the realms of displaying interest, remaining composed and unaffected, selling his accomplishments, or remaining humble. And unless a man is blessed with woman-wooing superpowers, the only way to find the perfect balance and when to show which side is experience. But if he's experienced, he's called a player just looking for his next victim. Not to mention being with many girls yet not finding the one yet will pose the suspicion, "There must be something wrong with him." Wow. Poor men!
OK. Now what I think is the answer to why "nice guys finish last." It's not that women actually want jerks. It's that these "jerks" have alluring traits women seek: they're outspoken, opinionated, and goal-driven. But it so happens that a person with these top-dog qualities are more likely to also be violent, controlling, and vulgar. After all, outspoken-opinionated-goal-driven versus violent-controlling-vulgar are just two parts of the same spectrum of what it is to be traditionally masculine. They come hand-in-hand.
"Nice guys," on the other hand, are praised as thoughtful and courteous. However, with these positive beta characteristics also come the negative ones -- the likelihood of being cowardly, absence of charisma, and falling under the radar in the business world. Therefore, if a woman leaves a "nice guy" for a "jerk," she is abandoning his off-putting lack of presence for a man who's more assertive. Newly broken-up nice guys who are left wondering why a woman would prefer an ass who objectifies her over one who brings her breakfast in bed are simply looking at only half the picture -- focusing only on the admirable beta qualities vs. alpha vices. She didn't leave you because she couldn't handle your sweet nature; it was because you were boring and had no fire under your rear, and masculinity was one of the things important to her.
Of course men who boast the best of both worlds do exist. Confident and accomplished, but also compassionate and loyal -- they're the stuff dreams are made of. But, and this might sound harsh, I think women who bemoan that all the worthy men are taken and they're left with the leftover losers need to look at themselves. If they want someone who meets their perfect-man description, they need to be a show-stopper as well, i.e., be good-looking, mature, intelligent and successful. After all, men who meet high standards are most likely going to have high standards. The longer the litany of respectable qualities, the more girls will want him...thus he has more liberty to choose, and he'll probably go with the girl who offers the most.
It's similar to a market...you can't bid on a house that's worth more money than you own. And no, I'm not likening romance to a dry&cut sale; I'm just trying to drive home the point that if you're a woman of many flaws, it's not in your best interest to deplore the flaws of every potential suitor.
By the way, I think beauty is just another quality. True, some men will discredit a girl entirely if she's unattractive, but a lot of the time, a pretty girl who is chosen over an average one was not chosen just because of her physical appearance. It's because holistically -- and this is so important -- holistically, she has more to offer than the other.