How you doin, Fuckboy?
Perhaps, like me, you are old and not conversant with the term ‘fuckboy.’ Or perhaps you’ve recently become single and have suddenly, unwillingly, become intimately familiar with the phenonomon of the fuckboy. Or maybe you came of age in the era of OkCupid and Tinder, and already know exactly what a fuckboy is, and isn’t.
Whatever the case, there’s no doubt you’ve run across a fuckboy or two in your time, whether you knew it or not.
And so as a public service to all women, here is a brief and not definitive – yet hopefully instructive – history of fuckboys: what they are, where they came from, and why they behave the way they do.
First things first: what exactly is a fuckboy, anyway? Let’s turn to that old standby, Urban Dictionary, where the most popular definition dates from 2004 (back when it was still two words). Fuck boy: A person who is a weak ass pussy that ain’t bout shit.
Nancy Jo Sales offers a more scholarly definition in her seminal article, “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse,'” in the September 2015 issue of Vanity Fair. Writes Sales, “A ‘fuckboy’ is a young man who sleeps with women without any intention of having a relationship with them or perhaps even walking them to the door post-sex. He’s a womanizer, an especially callous one, as well as kind of a loser.”
This definition is repudiated by writer Alana Massey, who published her rebuttal to Sales’ article on Pacific Standard. In the article, cuttingly titled “Vanity Fair Doesn’t Know What’s Going On With Dating Or Tinder,” Massey wrote, “Fuckboy is not a dating style so much as a worldview that reeks of entitlement but is aghast at the prospect of putting in effort.” In a follow-up to the piece, Massey told Slate‘s Jacob Brogan that a fuckboy is someone who wants a girlfriend, but doesn’t want the responsibility of having a girlfriend. Fuckboys, according to Massey, “become emotional vampires to women who aren’t even their girlfriends.”
So basically, every woman on the planet has dated, or at least known, a fuckboy at some point.
Is it possible that Adam, who ate the forbidden apple Eve gave him without so much as questioning whether or not it was a good idea, was the original fuckboy? We don’t have quite enough information to say for sure, but it seems likely. Eve was the only woman on earth, so Adam didn’t have a chance to play around on her, but a guy with so little willpower probably would have fucked every girl in the Garden of Eden, given the chance.
Fictional fuckboys abound throughout history, from the Prince who is turned into a Beast in Beauty and the Beast, to Joey Tribbiani, of Friends. But most famous is probably Don Juan.
There are many versions of the Don Juan legend, but Spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina wrote the first one around 1630. Don Juan is basically a rich dude who spends his life seducing women. He prides himself on being able to bed any woman, regardless of her age or station in life. At a time when virginity was crucial to a young woman’s marriageability and her family’s honor, Don Juan carelessly bedded any girl he wanted, not caring whether he ruined her entire future. He was pretty much the devil. Fast forward four hundred years, and people are still remaking the Don Juan story. It is, apparently, timeless.
There are lots of other historical fuckboy examples as well, and not all of them are fictional. For example, Lord Byron, who is best known for writing a satirical poem about Don Juan, in which the famous fictional womanizer is not the predator, but the prey of women who cannot resist him. Lord Byron was notorious for sleeping with scores of women – including his half-sister – all while he was married, naturally. One of his many lovers, Lady Caroline Lamb, called him “mad, bad and dangerous to know.”
If you’d like to read a classic example of poetic fuckery, feast your eyes on this excerpt from one of Lord Byron’s letters to his half-sister, Augusta, written after he’d exiled himself from England in the wake of their affair (incest wasn’t considered cool back then, either):
“I have never ceased nor can cease to feel for a moment that perfect and boundless attachment which binds me to you, which renders me utterly incapable of real love for any other human being – for what could they be to me after you? Whenever I love anything, it will be because it reminds me in some way of yourself.”
And yet, he’s rumored to have slept with 200 more women after leaving England. Whatever, fuckboy.
Not all men, of course, are fuckboys. Some are lovely and upstanding people who would never dream of treating a woman badly. (Or at least, so I hear.) Why, then, are other men prone to fuckboy-like behavior? What drives them to act like such animals?
Maybe it’s that they are, in fact, animals. In the animal kingdom, males are designed to be serial polygynists. That means they mate with one female after another in an attempt to spread their seed as widely as possible and perpetuate their genes. Author Christopher Ryan, PhD, is an outspoken advocate for men who feel that monogamy isn’t natural. He literally wrote the book on it: Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships is practically a guidebook for modern fuckboys. “Why shouldn’t we be attracted to novelty in our sexual lives, when we consider the same appetites to be indicative of intelligence when applied to music, travel, food, languages and art?” Ryan asked the website Hopes and Fears.
The advent of apps like Tinder, which lets men (and women!) to swipe and hook up with lots of people quickly and easily, only compounds men’s natural tendency toward fuckboy-ism. Of course, the founders of Tinder deny their app is responsible for enabling fuckboy behavior. In a notoriously disastrous 2015 interview just before the company’s IPO, Tinder co-founder Sean Rad said feminism is to blame for any uptick in casual sex.
“Feminism has led to it because now women are more independent and pursuing their desires. And that leads to both parties being more sexually active. It’s not because of Tinder.” Uh-huh. “You can’t deny Tinder is what the world wants…We’ve solved the biggest problem in humanity: That you’re put on this planet to meet people.”
Meeting people is great, and there’s nothing wrong with casual sex either, per se. But fuckboys are another thing entirely. They’re terrible. And it seems they’re here to stay.
GIFs via pandawhale.com, imgur.com, and giphy.com.
Comment: What are your thoughts on fuckboys?