Shelby Lorman on Her ‘Awards for Good Boys’ Book, Internet Trolls, and Dating in the Digital Age
It’s easy to pick out bad guys in the dating world. We learned as impressionable kids watching TV and movies: No to the bad boys who will break your heart, and yes to the nice boys who will treat you right. But there’s long been a fixation on bad guys, so much that when we do find a guy that isn’t so bad, we automatically deem himgood. He gets praised for doing the bare minimum and is put on a pedestal, when in reality, he hasn’t done anything but be a decent human being.
Artist Shelby Lorman has a name for these types of men: Good Boys. In 2017, Lorman created the Instagram account @awardsforgoodboys, drawing viral comics and illustrations for women who are tired of men doing the least, about the Good Boys who should be “awarded.”
Last week, her book Awards for Good Boys: Tales of Dating, Double Standards and Doom hit shelves, with new illustrations, comics, and passages penned by Lorman. ELLE caught up with the comedian, writer, and internet sensation to talk about her new book, dating in the digital age, and why you should maybe get a tattoo of your Tinder date’s name.
‘Awards for Good Boys: Tales of Dating, Double Standards, and Doom’ by Shelby Lorman
Your comics are very distinctive looking—I wanted to know what your creative process is when you make one.
It really depends. Sometimes I have a sudden idea and I’m like, I have to write this down, I have to make this right now. I always carry a notebook with me and assorted pens. Sometimes it’s just either inspiration strikes or there’s something really, really obvious and low-hanging in the news that I’ll be like, I should cover this really fast, and I’ll just kind of crank it up.
You take submissions as well, right?
Sometimes, though it’s a complicated system. I ask for a lot of bad excuse texts and ghosting stories. I don’t know what it is about my audience. They’re so hilarious and have the weirdest, most specific stories. There’s a whole saga about whether someone ghosting to take care of an emergency sheep shearing situation was legitimate or not. There was one recently where a guy tried to break up with someone from outside her window, and she could see him. He was like, “It’s my doppelgänger.” Sometimes I ask for those and I post them to my story, and then I’ll draw some of the really weird ones.
One of the things that I love about your account is when you share the hate you get online. You’re usually very funny about it. How did you handle that at first?
Anyone who’s been following me for a little bit has probably witnessed sort of my public ebb and flow while I figure out how the best way to respond is; and why, and if, and when. There are moments I really regret pushing back so hard because I’ve learned that people love the drama around that. I don’t want to continually show the hate I receive to be like, “Oh poor me, you should feel sorry for me.” I think that veers into white victimhood so quickly. On the other hand, I like to remind people, “Hey yeah, I’m drawing about cartoon men. Look at how angry actual people are getting.” A lot of the things that I receive, I can’t share. It’s really, really dark, and really hurtful and abusive. I just kind of delete, block, keep moving. I have a pretty thick skin about it at this point. Other stuff is just so, so, so funny and so ridiculous that I’m like, “I have to share this.”
A big dating concern women have is that they don’t want to come off as too intense, especially in the beginning of a relationship. Everybody wants to be the cool, chill girl, and sometimes they let Good Boys stomp all over them. What advice do you have to women who are afraid of that?
I wrote about it a little bit in the book—I think in the chapter about men using the title of “open relationship” to get away with a lot of fuckery. People who are resistant to having clear conversations about what you’re doing with each other and make you feel like you’re moving too fast or you’re being too much—it’s such a dude thing to immediately flip to “Well, I don’t want your children. I’m not trying to marry you.” And you’re like, “No, no, I really just want to set up the boundaries of what we’re doing here with each other.” Then they totally go into, like, “Well, I wasn’t looking for a wedding anyways!” And you’re like, “I literally just want to know what we’re doing.”
I think that that is the best thing you can do for yourself in terms of dating—to just not engage any further with people who make you doubt whether or not you asking for clarity is okay. I think it’s a common misconception that you’re not supposed to bring up stuff like that when you’re casual. You’re not supposed to be like, “Hey, how much texting is cool for you? Or, how many times a week do you wanna hang out? Or what’s your other partner situation—are you sleeping with other people?” I think we’re very shy around those conversations because of this thinking that if you ask those things you’re making it real; you’re making it serious, you might push them away. I just…I have absolutely no patience or tolerance for people who are shy around that.
As a woman in the creative space, so much of your personal life is reflected in your work. Has that affected your dating life?
Yeah. There are so many people, who even before we’ve met, recognize me on a dating app and are like, “Why are you on here? Why are you trying to find love? I thought you hated men.” And I’m just like, “Cool, cool, yeah, that’s totally it.”
I feel like a lot of my experience now has been informed by my last relationship. I was dating someone with the exact same job as me, which I will never, ever, ever do again. We were together when we started our mutual cartooning pages and I watched firsthand how I was received online, and how he was. It wasn’t shocking but it was so surreal to be in a relationship with someone who was getting—and I’m not exaggerating—so much praise. So many people hitting on him. He got nudes sent to him more than once. People asking him on dates. It was just really fascinating to see that his fame and rise to visibility was almost immediately romanticized by his following and by women.
I think that it led to him being received so much softer, and so much better, and I think that people saw his work as comedy so much more quickly. Honestly, being together, I felt like he really validated me in that way. I’m drawing about men being praised for doing the least, and I’m dating someone who’s not doing the least—he’s doing a lot—but I’m watching him be received so much better for every thing he does. I know I couldn’t do half of the things he does and get away with it. I felt like such a fraud, where I was like, I am this person who draws about this really specific phenomenon and I’m still cheering on my boyfriend, which then inadvertently created this thing where people were like, “Oh, he must be the best boy because they’re together.” That’s something that I’m super wary of now, in terms of people I date.
I think the one upside is that dudes really, really try to be genuine good boys around me. I’m like, “Yeah, you can give me head for an hour. Great. Perfect. Thanks for looking out!” It’s a lot of, “Please don’t draw about me,” and I’m like, “Yeah, I wouldn’t. I won’t.”
You famously brought a Tinder date to your apartment while you were creating this book. What’s on your dating profile?
I’m a huge troll, so I like to do just a little bit of a litmus test. So my profile is always super, super weird and I kind of think of it as the first gate where it’s like, okay, if they’re willing to go through this, then yeah, I’ll maybe talk to you. I do a lot of half-pictures of my face. Then I’ll usually do a meme or two. When I get people’s numbers and things are going well, my fun, flirty thing that I do is that I Google Image a picture of their name tattooed, and then I send that to them, and I’m like, “What do you think?” I kind of pull a lot of stuff like that. Light, jovial trolling.