In the April edition of their monthly column for Document, Liara Roux tackles the phenomenon that is the fuckboy

Dear Liara,

I keep accidentally falling for fuckboys. I’ve tried finding someone to date on apps. I’ve tried meeting people in person. I’ve tried having my friends set me up. I always end up ghosted. I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong, or if this is just the state of contemporary dating?


Dear A,

Fuckboys are not a recent phenomenon. One might argue that the first novel, The Tale of Genji, is the story of a fuckboy, a playboy, a Don Juan. Who was Apollo if not an ancient fuckboy, eternally young and beautiful, always chasing his next perfect love?

Fuckboys are sort of alchemists of the heart, using illusion and biochemical mind games to paint a false image of love where there is none. Pining after a fuckboy doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. Rather, they serve as the perfect screen upon which to project your unconscious desires.

It seems like you’re resisting something. You say you hate dating fuckboys—but you keep doing it. You’re drawn to it. You just can’t stop texting them. You can’t stop finding them. Rather than fighting these urges, sit with them. I’d encourage you to journal every day. Really be honest with yourself. Dig deep. Write about your insecurities and fears. Write about your projections.

Fuckboys are easy to project onto, because they hold you at arm’s length and send mixed signals. They do this because this is what you want. They know, deep down, you don’t really want to date them—that if you knew who they really were, you would run far away. Nothing kills fantasy like intimacy. It sounds sad, but I know it’s true—because I used to be a bit of a fuckboy myself.

My fuckboy tendencies would be loudest with women who had never been with another woman before. They were incredibly attracted to me, they would tell me—couldn’t figure out why I held such appeal. It was because I was emotionally unavailable in a way more typical of men. Most of my friends were bros. We’d hang out playing video games, talking about which girls had the best rack. I flirted like a boy, held my body like one. I’d take forever to text back. It was clear, at least in my mind, that I was fucking around.

“Fuckboys are easy to project onto, because they hold you at arm’s length and send mixed signals… They know, deep down, you don’t really want to date them—that if you knew who they really were, you would run far away. Nothing kills fantasy like intimacy.”

These women weren’t into me because I was hot or cool or perfect, as they claimed. I was simply a mirror for their unrealistic ideals and their repressed desires. Jung might call it the animus. Because I didn’t really share myself with them, they could fill in the blanks in their mind. I’d play along. I was never unkind—I tried my best to be straightforward about who I was and what I was looking for. Some girls felt hurt. But they didn’t want me, and all my complications. They weren’t interested in the same things as I was. The few times I began to open up, they’d immediately leap back. But they thought we were soulmates, and I felt a strange mix of dehumanization and pleasure; it’s sort of charming to have someone think the world of you.

If they were honest with themselves, sleeping with me was not the path to a relationship. It was a way to transform their sexuality. Lesbians often caution against sleeping with straight women, because they’re not ready for a real relationship. They want to use you as an experiment. I was happy to be used. I wasn’t ready for a relationship, either. They would think they wanted one, call me crying. I’d talk to them, hold their hand through it, and tell them that it just wasn’t meant to be.

Let me ask you a question: Would you still love any of these boys if they had been truly vulnerable with you? If they had been soft and gentle? If they had texted you back immediately?

When I grew older and did some therapy, I became more capable of truly committed relationships—but girls still occasionally seek me out. Tipsy college students timidly approach me to flirt, saying they’ve never been with a girl before. So I make out with them for a moment before sending them back to their little circle to process.

That processing is an important part of the equation, too. Talk to your friends about it. Write in your journal. I encourage you to obsess. Don’t fight it. Don’t pretend everything is okay. Don’t act like you’re not feeling the intensity. But don’t text him. The intimacy you feel with a fuckboy has nothing to do with him. Maybe you feel like he knows you better than you know yourself; this is because you know you better than you know yourself. Can you accept that? Can you look hard into that image? Can you see how all the beauty you see in him is something you hold within yourself, too?

I don’t sleep with girls who are looking for the fuckboy experience anymore. I’ve been in relationships now where I’ve been able to be my full messy self, and be seen and loved for it. The sort of practical love that has you in a content domestic rhythm, caring for each other in small, sweet ways. This sort of relationship is much harder work. It’s not a flight of fantasy. Do you really want that? It’s okay to chase after an ideal—just know it’ll probably vanish as soon as you grasp it. Maybe that’s really what you need right now.

Look deep into that mirror and get real.