The millennial girl’s bête noir: the needy, exploitative “Soft-Boy” type was apparently first explicitly defined defined in 2016 by Amelia Nierenberg in the Oldest College Daily.
The term “soft-boy” has been floating around the feminist corner of the internet for a while. … For a loose definition, the “soft-boy” is not necessarily a romantic interest, but rather a boy who exhibits his sensitivity as a social tool, transforming his awkward emotionality into a likeable characteristic.
Still confused? Let me paint a picture for you. The soft-boy doesn’t care about body hair on his woman partners, but wants to make sure that everyone knows that he’s very chill about it. It’s the boy who speaks pretty openly about going to see a therapist, but then speaks pretty openly about his friend going to see a therapist, too, and she didn’t OK that as public knowledge. It’s the boy who jokes about his own fragile masculinity, but then gets really testy about the fact that he was picked last for the high school badminton tournament. Think messenger bag. Think Michael Cera. Think an indulgent (and spurious) use of the word “problematic.” He wants you to know how many feelings he has.
Although he’s not overtly a keg-standing, never-crying, hard-grilling misogynist, the Yale soft-boy is a different presentation of an equally pernicious masculinity because he slips under the radar. Appearing emotionally intelligent excuses him from criticism because he disguises his emotional neediness as the hard-earned vulnerability of a close friendship. The soft-boy is a weight, opening up to lure caring women to his side. If it sounds like I’m using predatory language to describe these vultures of fourth-wave feminism, good read. I am. Soft-boys of Yale are a social epidemic, invisibly soliciting unreciprocated emotional labor from their woman friends. …
But the soft-boy is not a “friend” to the web of women he has spun to entertain him when he is lonely, coax him through break-ups when he is sad and help him out when he is feeling low. Instead, he’s bartered openness for a time commitment, demanding an inordinate amount of this emotional buttressing from his women friends. And he doesn’t see why that’s a problem — he thinks he’s entitled to the time his women friends spend caring for his emotional well-being, and notices neither the toll it takes on them nor the fact that he rarely reciprocates the devotion. It’s a corruption of an empathy that should be freely given, rather than demanded. And frankly, it’s exhausting.