Study finds that being 'so babygirl' when dating is a 'game changer' for men. Why 'openhearted masculinity' is in right now.

Thumbnail credit: @eviee via TikTok, @vem_irl via TikTok, @cassandra.demotte via TikTok
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Scrolling through social media, you’ll likely find content spotlighting a beloved “babygirl” in Hollywood. Driven by stars like Jacob Elordi, Timothée Chalamet, Harry Styles and Pedro Pascal, “babygirl” men elicit a “protective instinct” among fans who are endeared by their seeming rejection of toxic masculinity and embrace of gender bending.

To be “so babygirl,” according to pop culture expert Evan Ross Katz, is to be equal parts hot, interesting and worthwhile — bonus points if they carry a handbag. Male movie stars, however, aren’t the only “babygirls” out there. In fact, a recent study conducted by the dating app Bumble found that the so-called babygirlification of everyday men who use dating apps is also on the rise.

The app’s 2024 Dating Trends report found that “openhearted masculinity” is becoming increasingly popular. In the U.S., 31% of male respondents revealed that they’ve “actively changed their behavior” to embrace vulnerability with people they’re dating more than before, and 35% of men also now consider a “lack of vulnerability” when dating to be a deal-breaker.

Shan Boodram, Bumble’s sex and relationships expert, told Yahoo News that the “babygirl” trope, with its deliberate dismantling of outdated stereotypes, is changing the landscape for the better by empowering cisgender men to lean into their own femininity.

“Growing interest in ‘babygirl’ highlights a positive shift toward celebrating who you are, as you are. These men [are] embracing their femininity and are breaking down barriers and challenging traditional dating norms. It's fostering a more open-minded and inclusive dating environment,” she said. “This trend is creating a positive ripple effect, inspiring cis men to reject harmful notions about masculinity and gender roles.”

Is 2024 ‘the Year of Self’?

Bumble, an app that's designed for women to make the first move and “challenges outdated heterosexual dating norms,” predicts that 2024 will be “the Year of Self.” This, Boodram said, means that more people are looking inward and reflecting on what it is they value and want in a relationship — that is, the overall approach to dating is becoming more intentional. Men who fall into the “babygirl” category, Boodram claimed, have seen firsthand how being more vulnerable can yield more meaningful connections.

“Men are actively changing their behavior to align with a more openhearted approach because it's proving to be a game-changer in both their mental health and their relationships,” Boodram said, noting that 25% of men who responded to the survey said that being open when dating has had a positive effect on their mental health. “As a direct result of the scrutiny that traditional masculinity has been under for the past decade, young men have had a unique opportunity to assess the different opinions and then measure those against the lives of the masculine people around them. In the end of this audit, those who’ve made changes acknowledged that a shift away from the strong and stoic archetypes was essential to their desired quality of life.”

Are men actually ‘so babygirl’ IRL?

For Victoria Emerson (@vem_irl), a TikTok creator who uses Hinge and has been vocal about her dating challenges, the open-hearted “babygirl” type of guy is someone she’s yet to come across. She told Yahoo News that she’s dated men who claim to want to be more vulnerable but ultimately aren’t consistent about it.

“What I'm experiencing more and more is having more meaningful and emotionally vulnerable conversations with guys but then soon after the walls go right back up. It's a difficult dating challenge to manage because I'm meeting more guys who realize that lack of vulnerability is an issue, but they aren’t necessarily capable or willing to do the inner work to improve,” she said.

Cassandra Demotte (@cassandra.demotte), who did not specify which dating apps she uses, is another creator who’s familiar with the complexities of dating. She also told Yahoo News that she hasn’t met someone who’s been fully vulnerable with her — though she admits to being more reserved in this regard as well.

“I have not found guys on dating apps to be more vulnerable than before. I personally don’t open up until I really get to know the person, and it’s been pretty much the same way for the guys I’ve met from dating apps,” she said.

Is it all for show?

Given how trendy the “babygirl” label is right now, is it possible that real-life men are leaning into the trend for shallow purposes? In other words, can the men who are exhibiting “openhearted masculinity” on dating apps be trusted? Boodram believes the shift that’s happening is genuine and should not be dismissed.

“Many men are authentically embracing the ‘babygirl’ identity, not just for the sake of trends, but as a way to express their true selves. It goes beyond Hollywood influence,” she said.

Sabrina Zohar (@sabrina.zohar), a dating coach and host of Do the Work podcast, seconded Boodram’s point. Seeing Hollywood leading men demonstrate that it’s OK — even celebrated — to be both feminine and vulnerable is helping other men feel safer and more comfortable to explore this side of themselves without judgment, she said. If someone chooses to be disingenuous, Zohar added, it’ll eventually become known.

“Sociopaths are utilizing this to their benefit but so are genuinely incredible men who are ready and open for a partner. Ultimately, the people dating these men need to ensure boundaries are set and they see consistency over time," she said. “Anyone can learn behavior to get more matches, but eventually the real colors will show.”