“The Fuckboy, in his current form, aims for the night, aims for the break, goals to ghost. The Softboy strings you along under loftier auspices. He is Nice yet Complicated; this isn’t just a hookup. It’s a series of such,” wrote Alan Hanson in his article “Have You Encountered the Softboy?”
Lillian Eckstein ’18 read this piece aloud to me a couple of months ago with the premise, “HOW HAVE YOU NOT READ THIS?” I cannot help but assume she was implicitly commenting on my softboy past. Rewrite: my ongoing experience with softboys. So here I am, writing in the Orient, aiming to put something out there that is original, something that hopefully goes slightly beyond a white girl complaining about white girl problems. I wrote this because I think boys suck and they cannot be told enough that they suck.
First, please read Hanson’s original piece. All of my ideas are directly inspired by what he wrote, though, sure, I will give myself a little credit considering Hanson is probably a softboy himself, because softboys are so very introspective!
Let me introduce the “Bowdoin Softboy,” which, through a delightful coincidence, can be shortened to the BS:
The BS barely managed to say hi to you across the salad bar in Moulton, but sends you a Snapchat later “we should get a meal sometime!”
You get the meal, but his friends sit nearby, and he finds a way to participate in their conversation certainly too many times. Then he gets up to get silverware, then seconds, then toast, then tea, then another cup of tea and then has to run.
The BS forgot to clear his used napkin.
The BS often wears Patagonia, but asserts he got it on clearance in Freeport; were the Bean Boots, too? He reminds you that his new turtleneck is from Salvation Army. He has really been thinking hard about class implications at Bowdoin.
“The Fuckboy is perplexed that you were upset when he forgot to text you for three days then sent ‘what are you up to’ at last call. The Softboy knows this behavior is selfish and cruel, though his desire to get laid can trump this. He feels shame. He does it again,” Hanson wrote.
The first-year BS opens up to you about his high school ex. He holds no resentment, though he is sad and caught in nostalgia. He says that he does not think he will be emotionally available for a long time. He makes out with you that evening in a College House basement.
The Senior BS insists you come over and cook with him sometime. When you do, he shows you souvenirs from abroad. He later Venmo charges you $12 for “insert pasta and wine emoji.” The wine had already been opened, and the meal was vegetarian.
The BS stops and asks you about the paper you are writing for your sociology class in HL. It just so happens that he took Sociology 1101. He bemoans all of the “isms.” Though, he is still confused as to why his living room is a male-dominated space. He uses the word ally lightly, borderline ironically. He wields his “Free Flow” and “Consent is Key” stickers like badges.
Just as you are over him, he resurfaces by insisting you study with him. By insisting you get a meal. By insisting you play beer pong with him at a party. By insisting you go home with him.
Though these examples seem specific, any resemblances to specific people are a coincidence. Instead, the Bowdoin Softboy fits no specific mold nor demographic; rather, he permeates all spaces. The BS is a result of second-wave Fuckboys. Those who think they are “one-of-the-good-guys,” those who hold themselves to a “higher standard.” Softboys manage to generate power from their sensitivity and self-conscious nature.
Though it may seem like there also exists a softgirl, this is a falsehood. Any behavior women exhibit that resembles that of a BS is a response to living in a hookup culture determined by the institutionalization of male entitlement. This culture allows the BS to get excused time and time again for his actions. This culture rewards men for moments of kindness and punishes women for misinterpreting the intention of men’s kindness.
Fuckboys, Softboys and all of you in between, please recognize the power you have in a society so deeply rooted in patriarchal norms. Please take a moment to recognize the impact of your actions.
Julia Conley is a member of the Class of 2018.