According to one study mentioned in Gizmodo, the answer may be yes.
The researchers, from Texas-Austin University, studied 88 factors that made women appear more “exploitable” in the eyes of both men and women. Then, the researchers showed pictures of women that illustrated these characteristics to a sample of men, and asked them to rate how desirable they found them.
The results show that, across the board, men find women with some psychological vulnerability far more attractive than the average. Comparatively, physical vulnerabilities—such as being short—don’t make any difference.
Sadly, that initial attraction doesn’t necessarily convert into long and loving relationships: when the same men were asked whether they would be interested in pursing a long-term relationships with psychologically vulnerable women, the answers were overwhelmingly negative
I don’t place much stock into the conclusion of a single study, especially one with such a small sample size. But it’s just an inference, and I definitely think that more research should be done.
Indeed, this is still something worth keeping in mind, because based on my own anecdotal experiences, there does seem to be some measure of truth to this observation. I’ve known many men to be drawn to women that could be considered vulnerable – be they younger, petite, emotionally underdeveloped, financially dependent upon them, and so on.
Traditionally, in most societies, strong-willed or “feisty” women were seen as undesirable (think Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew), while obedience and dutifulness were traits to be admired. To this day, many men (and women as well) may regard an assertive female as crazy or “bitchy.” Times are changing of course, but these attitudes continue to linger.
Conversely, some women play the “low-ball” strategy, in which they make the most of this seemingly lopsided power-dynamic by appealing to the man’s patriarchal role as protector and provider (after all, when you claim power over something or someone, you’re also claiming responsibility).
Controversially, there may be some evolutionary component to this, given that a mate who is easier to control is more likely to produce more children for you (indeed, the more patriarchal a society is, the higher their birthrates, generally-speaking). I’m not quite sure what to think. Thoughts?