White Knight Syndrome
White Knight Syndrome (WKS) is the male heterosexual equivalent of Bad Boy Syndrome, and is every bit as common – thought much less frequently discussed. “Nice guys” often complain, loudly, that women are attracted to self-destructive, self-obsessed “bad boys” who don’t treat them well. But the masculine corollary gets much less attention, even if it’s at least as common.
WKS manifests itself most commonly in the romantic choices these men make, as they choose to pursue (and attempt to rescue) troubled and unhappy young women.
Many men in our culture find themselves drawn to the role of the White Knight. With almost military precision, they seek out young women who are emotionally vulnerable and wounded, frequently with backgrounds of sexual abuse. These rescuers are often eager to protect women whom they imagine are desperately in need of protection. They are outraged at what other men have done (and may still be doing) to the women they love. White Knights almost always imagine themselves to be different from every other man. While other men (fathers, brothers, exes, strangers) have neglected, betrayed, and taken advantage of “his girl,” the White Knight believes that he is radically different.
In his own mind, the guy with WKS doesn’t want to exploit the troubled young women he pursues (or in the case of celebrity obsessions, admires from afar). He wants to save them. They are his noble cause; loving them (despite their often erratic and self-destructive behavior) helps him to maintain a heroic self-image. Only a very valiant man would put up with what he puts up with! Only a truly rare guy could endure the heartache that he does, all for the sake of saving a young woman whom he imagines is incapable of saving herself.
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