Welcome to Pillow Talk, a new weekly column where we (Dill & Doe) will discuss all things sex and intimacy. Dill is a straight woman with experience in a long term relationship, but now she’s back to navigating hookups and situationships. Doe has experience dating both men and women, and is currently in her first long term-lesbian relationship. Of interest to us this week are soft boys. But don’t worry, our column will not always be as hetero-centric. 

In this sea of fuckboys, you think you’ve found yourself a soft boy. Good for you! You know the type, the guy that never talks about sex with his friends, paints his nails, appreciates the arts, and loves those deep chats. We’ve been there, and it’s exciting to feel like you’ve struck gold. 

We also have a fair amount of experience with faux soft boys and have loosely configured a list of potential red flags to look out for—these are not hard-and-fast rules, but could be used as a guiding light. Before we get into that, I (Doe) thought I’d shed some light on one of my experiences with a faux soft boy early in high school: Walker, cigarette-smoking, poetry-reading, bearded film photographer from Brooklyn. We took a particular liking to each other, resulting in a plethora of pretentious dates. We went to his favorite hole-in-the-wall Chinatown restaurants, he took me to his art studio where we drew portraits of one another, and we rode the ferry and made out on the back deck. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized the unhealthy power dynamics at play in my relationship with this so-called soft boy. Our escapades revolved around his ideas, thoughts, and artistic musings (I fucking hate drawing). He pretended he didn’t know me after I refused to suck his dick on the ferry. It was mortifying, and my little freshman self just kept wondering what I did wrong and what I could do to get him back. He, on the other hand, was getting ready to leave for college, and I was just his attempt at one last hurrah.

So when we say you’ve got a real soft boy, we mean this man actually cares about you. When we say you’ve got a faux, you’ve got a potential Walker who could have ulterior motives under the guise of being emotionally available. 

Now that we’ve got you second-guessing your so-called soft boy, we present you with our tips for developing a soft-boy radar: 

    1. The Physical Signs. You see a man sitting under a tree, ring-adorned hands and painted fingernails paging through a philosophy book or lightly strumming a guitar. A lone tear drips down his cheek, probably prompted by the poetry book he’s reading. Your heartstrings pull at the sight of this fragile, sensitive boy and—STOP. If your response to this boy is the same as it would be to seeing a three-legged puppy, then take a step back and check in with the rest of this list. Because while there are plenty of real soft boys who might check off one or two of those key physical characteristics, a fake soft boy knows that his faux-gentle aura turns you into putty in his hands, and he will use that to his advantage. 
    2. Does he make you feel “special” and “not like other girls”? We will not deny the fact that it feels good to be told you’re special, especially by a guy that appears to be emotionally attuned to the world. But this line—and all of its variations—can sometimes be used as a manipulation tactic. By creating a standard of how he expects you to be in the relationship, he produces a fear that you could lose him if you don’t live up to it.
    3. He seems like the opposite of a fuckboy. The defining characteristic of the soft boy is that he seems like the polar opposite of a fuckboy. And this makes him attractive. You feel like he really sees—and values—you for being you (as he should!). But when you stop to think about it, does he actually want you to let your guard down so that you can feel more comfortable with him, or so that you’ll take off your clothes?  How does he treat you after you hook up? If you told him that you didn’t want to have sex for the next month, would he still hang out with you? 

We’re not trying to say that your soft boy is definitely a faux, but these are just some things that we’ve learned from our own experience that could help you avoid the Walkers of the world. 

Kisses and best wishes,

Dill & Doe 


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