Except… hmm. Well, here’s an excerpt:
So I’m sexually and intellectually into non-gender-conformity, however you personally slice it. The male display of vulnerability is so powerful because it’s a direct affront to our rigid, cultural ideas of what Real Men are. And I find it so sexy because it’s rebellious in context and bravely welcoming of vulnerability in content which, to my mind, makes one invulnerable. And because it turns me on in ways I have yet to plumb.
So she finds vulnerability hot because (or at partially because) it indicates… invulnerability. Huh.
This harks back to the whole “it takes a really strong man to show tears” thing. It’s the idea that since these behaviors are socially prohibited for men, that men who do them are therefore bravely facing adversity, and therefore displaying strength. It’s like the one man who willingly jumps into a raging battle while butt-naked: he must be a super badass if he’s putting himself in that vulnerable position. This isn’t new, and it isn’t terribly subversive.
Hirsch’s choice of exemplifying photograph further drives this home.
Before I go any further, though, I want to make one thing clear: I do not think there is anything wrong with the Hirsch’s attraction to these men. Any more than I think there’s something wrong with some men’s attraction to women who pose sexily with machine guns. (Although I welcome discussion on both topics, including analysis and critique.)
But what’s bugging me is that I get the very strong impression that Hirsch thinks her preferences are subversive. Again, her preferences don’t have to be subversive to be good and valid. And that’s very fortunate for her, because her preferences appear to only be superficially subversive—at least insofar as she describes them in her article.
Frankly, her preferences aren’t even that far outside of the mainstream. Knowing a lot of female anime fans, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of women who go for physically feminine men (eye makeup, gorgeous long hair, thin frame, effeminate body language, etc.) who can kick your ass. And if anime is too subculturey for you, then I can also tell you about the (very mainstream) girls swooning over the hot guy in a mermaid (not merman) costume at a Halloween party I went to a couple of years ago.
And there is nothing wrong with women being attracted to these guys (or fictional hand-drawn characters, in the case of anime). But it’s silly to pretend that this is particularly subversive with respect to cultural norms of masculinity.
It is subversive for some of those norms, of course. But if one of the reasons it’s hot is because it’s the social equivalent of bravely jumping into a battlefield while nude… well, that’s just reinforcing the invulnerable masculinity norm, not subverting it. Intentionally placing yourself in vulnerable positions in order to weather them by your own force of will is not the same kind of vulnerability that men are prohibited from in our culture. In fact, it’s a kind of vulnerability that men are encouraged to take on in our culture all the freakin’ time.
A man bravely jumping into a raging battlefield nude is not the same as a man involuntarily thrown into a battlefield who subsequently cowers in fetal position while crying his eyes out and hoping not to die. Both men are vulnerable, but it’s two very, very, very different things.
However, there are women out there who do go for the latter kind of vulnerability. My second girlfriend was one. I was a helpless emotional wreck when I met her, and she actually latched on to that—that’s a lot of the reason she was attracted to me. A year later when I was pretty well healed (partly due to her, for which I am forever thankful), she lost interest and we amiably parted ways. She then found another emotional wreck and started helping him too. It’s the nurse mentality, I guess. There are women like this, and as long as they take care to protect themselves as well, that can be totally fine. And to me that is a much more meaningful and subversive gender-nonconforming attraction pattern with respect to traditional notions of masculinity.
Hirsch’s preference certainly does have gender-nonconforming elements to it, to be sure—tutus and tiaras are not male gender normative dress code. And that’s totally fine and cool and wonderful. But I get the strong impression that she thinks her preference is far more subversive and meaningful than it really is, and feels somewhat self-congratulatory because of it.
 Or just foolhardy.
 But, of course, only do so for the forces of good.
 Unfortunately, many do not. And that makes them easy targets for abusive partners. A lot of men also have this nurse mentality, and are similarly vulnerable. It makes me sad. :-(