Jeannie Campbell

Jeannie Campbell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. She is Head of Clinical Services for a large non-profit and enjoys working mainly with children and couples. She has a Masters of Divinity in Psychology and Counseling and bachelors degrees in both psychology and journalism. Jeannie started doing character therapy in March of 2009. Her Treatment Tuesdays feature assessments of fictional characters and plot feasibility while her Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts take a psychological topic and make it relevant to writers. She can be found at her blog, The Character Therapist, at

Character Stereotypes: The Playboy

The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue,
but that they are incomplete.

—Chimamanda Adichie

Christian fiction has its fair share of heroes who dabble in playing the ladies. Of course, the nature of Christian fiction doesn’t lend itself to measuring sexual prowess by notches on bedposts, yet some of the more edgy novels flirt with this truth, or at least skirt around it.

Casanovas, Lotharios, Romeos, libertines, rakes, rogues, lady-killers, and ladies’ men find a place in all genres and time periods. Expounding on the available research will help you break away from the stereotype and create a more believable, and even likeable, character.

Playboy Psychological Factors

1) Absent Father

Studies show that men who reel in woman after woman typically grew up without a father. Jed Diamond, psychotherapist and author of The Irritable Male Syndrome, thinks that this failure to attach to a father figure early on could make men insecure about how acceptable they are. So playboys lure women as a way to compensate.

2) Ugly Duckling Syndrome

If you were to peek into a playboy’s high school yearbook, you might be surprised to find that he wasn’t the Greek god he is now. In fact, he might have been quite homely. These men who were sideline spectators in the game of love have burst out of their drab, ordinary cocoons and into the limelight . . . and they love every minute of it. They crave the attention and adoration because it’s like a balm to their inner zit-faced, braces-wearing caterpillar who still remembers what it felt like to be shunned.

3) Low Self-Esteem

A playboy hits on women to feel better about himself. It’s an ego-stroking action that can become as addictive as any drug. A woman’s starry-eyed stare validates him, makes him feel important and loveable. Low self-esteem lies at the heart of this type of overcompensation. Their confidence and charm might very well be a mask for the deepest kind of insecurity. I’ve separated this factor from the one above because even the most attractive man can have low self-esteem. Counterintuitive, isn’t it?

Not all playboys fall into one of the above categories, although #3 is pretty fail-proof. But writers can take liberty in creating different circumstances that prompt a man to seek affirmation measured by how long his string of girlfriends is. To do so, a writer has only to learn what a playboy fears most.

What’s a Playboy Running From?

1) Fear of Growing Old/Unattractive

It’s feasible to write a Casanova who hangs on to his womanizing ways because it makes him feel young and carefree. A universal sign of virility and manliness is a woman on each arm, and the mental process might be that a man should “get” while the “gettin’s” still good. Maybe deep inside, though, this character really wants to settle down but is scared to lose face with his playboy crowd. (Think Mel Gibson in What Women Want.)

2) Fear of Settling Down

Infamous self-proclaimed New York playboy Paul Janka doesn’t think of his relationships with women as dating. He just enjoys the hustle. It’s a game to him, with rules and even a self-written manual. There’s something energetic and exciting about still playing the field. It’s the unknown territory of wading into the water and letting a girl in and sharing his life with her that keeps him fishing on the banks.

3) Fear of Being Hurt

The chances of being hurt are slim to none when it’s the man doing the lovin’ and leavin’. Perhaps your character suffered an extreme emotional blow, like walking in on his wife and another man. Or maybe it reopened a wound from childhood when he was rejected by his father or mother or friends. Maybe this wound bruised his ego so much that he never wants to risk opening himself up to that kind of devastation.

Regular therapy should help a playboy see past his insecurities and utilization of women to meet his emotional (and physical) needs. But God—with the use of a willing writer—can do a great work in the life of one of these fictional heroes just by introducing him to a made-for-him heroine and making him face these fears.


The Character Thrapist