Image via Fox.

Recently, a coworker was regaling the staff describing a recent terrible sex dream she had about well-known television personality. The sex in the dream was bad, but still not nearly as awful as we all imagined it would be in real life, probably gentle and sensitive to the point of obsequiousness. “The tender man is definitely a type,” observed one coworker, quite accurately. “And he is definitely a tender man.”

What is a Tenderman?

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On the outside, the Tenderman seems like a generous and caring lover (his phrase, not mine), but there’s a level of performance in everything he does that renders any of his sexual appeal or sexual skills worthless. He is the kind of man who insists on eye contact as he enters you and, mid-coitus, will ask questions like “Am I paying enough attention to your clitoris?” (He pronounces it “clit-OR-us.”) Sure, it’s a thoughtful question if your sex partner is actually interested in hearing your answer, but the Tenderman is not. He just wants you to praise him as perfect and generous in the sack. More perfect and generous than anyone else in the world.

How can you identify a Tenderman?

  • He non-ironically calls sex “making love.”
  • He talks dirty while having sex, but in a self conscious, saccharine, and off-putting way.
  • For example (sorry), he might whisper, “Your pussy feels so good” (SORRY), but the way he says it is like the word pussy has 10 S’s in it.
  • He says, “I love coming inside you” in a way that makes you very grateful for your IUD.
  • For all his focus on your clitoris, he only wants to fuck in the missionary position because, in his words, he “respects you too much not to gaze into your eyes” as he takes you to pound town.
  • By the way, there is no pound town. Everything is slow, gentle, and deliberate as if you were a delicate bird with bones of glass.
  • He says he wants the two of you to come together, but doesn’t wait for you to get there.
  • After finishing, he soulfully looks into your eyes and voices a husky, “Hey.”
  • He tells you he wants to hold you after sex instead of just holding you after sex.
  • He doesn’t know how to cook breakfast, but is willing to take you out for brunch, provided you go dutch. (To offer to pay the whole check, he posits, is too patriarchal.)

The Tenderman exists beyond the bedroom. He is the man in a “Never the Less, She Persisted” t-shirt who loudly wishes that loudly wishes for Elizabeth Warren to run in 2020. He didn’t vote for Hillary, though—nope, the Tenderman is a Jill Stein guy. He goes on and on about how strong women are—“stronger than men, really”—but he talks over you constantly. He probably participates in gentle athletics like yoga, but wears bike shorts while doing it, so that everyone can see the outline of his penis. He is Aidan from Sex and the City, Will Schuster from Glee, or Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother. Imagine Matt McGorry without the charisma: He is your Tenderman.

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You might argue that when isolated, most of these identifiers are not that terrible of qualities and you would be right. As previously mentioned, being a communicative partner is a good thing! Being tender and sensitive and emotionally aware are all good things! But embodying these positive things while being a monster is the Tenderman’s greatest disguise. If he wasn’t so damn smug about it, you probably wouldn’t know he exists at all.

Beware the Tenderman.