I, like most other women, tend to fall for assholes. The cheaters, the ignorers, the blamers, the guilters, the liars, the one word responders, the secret gay porn actors (yeah, that happened) – I’m attracted to the challenge of earning affection and love from a hard, cold bad boy. And who wouldn’t be? If I can break through his tough exterior and earn his hard-to-get love, I must be special. I must be superior. I must be worth something, if he says so. There’s a reason that this archetype, both in media and in real life, has stood the test of time – it’s highly addictive because it’s highly validating.
But the assholes that were once so sought after are rapidly disappearing. It’s no longer cool or desirable to be a misogynist. Feminism and the value of political correctness have returned to the mainstream dialogue (for good, I hope). Women are reclaiming pride in their feminine qualities, such as emotional sensitivity and willingness to be vulnerable, and are coming to expect the same in a male counterpart. We no longer want the challenge of being ignored and mistreated; we want someone who will respect us, listen to us, and honor our woman-ness.
Thus, the softboy is born. The softboy has been described as “nice,” “sensitive,” and “self-aware,” straddling the line between “macho and a wet blanket” (According to Telegraph). Think Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer or Michael Cera in pretty much life. He hears you. He opens up to you. He even has feelings of his own. He’s as disarming as a puppy and he would never disrespect you.
I want to like the softboy. I really do. I want to believe that misogyny is over and that these softboys are sensitive, thoughtful men who are on our side.
But I can’t. I know better.
The softboy is problematic – dangerous, even. He was born in response to what women want, which leads me to assume that his motive is to be liked by women. And what do women do when they like a guy? Have sex with him. (No, not all the time, but like, a lot of the time.) Yes, that’s what I’m saying – the softboy is being nice to you because he wants to have sex with you, same as the badboy asshole. At least the bad boy was honest.
Why is this dangerous? Because the softboy is acting. He is emotionally available and sensitive for the sole purpose of fucking you.
Exhibit A: Johnny Rock (name changed, though only slightly). Johnny and I met at a bar. Having just gone through a breakup, I was pretty emotional. My best friend nodded encouragingly while I shed a few tears over what was likely my fifth gin and ginger. Johnny takes it upon himself to slide into the stool next to me without asking. He says he “couldn’t help but overhear” my conversation. He says the guy who dumped me “must have been a real jerk.” He calls my tears “endearing,” says he can’t fathom disrespecting a woman, and goes on to use the word “feminism” at least 20 times in the next five minutes. He tells me about the nonprofit he’s starting up. He tells me he’s a lawyer serving underprivileged populations. He tells me he loves music written by women, that their perspective is just “so much deeper.”
A few hours later, we are naked in my bed. He can’t get it up, which is fine. He says it’s because he likes me and he’s nervous, which I find oh-so-disarming. A week later, we’re naked in my bed again. He does get it up this time, and the sex is great.
And I never see him again. The text I got two weeks later said something about “not being ready to commit” and “having a lot going on right now.” Yeah. Okay.
It took me a while to figure this one out. He seemed perfect: sensitive, caring, the whole boy-you-take-home-to-mom-and-dad gamut. And then it hit me: I was fooled, once again, by the softboy.
Your plaid shirt, acoustic guitar, and Moleskine notebook aren’t fooling us anymore, softboy. Maybe you should take note from the bad boy and be real with us for once.