totally kind of hot

Nathan Fielder’s Strange Sex Appeal

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: HBO

Nathan Fielder may not be your typical heartthrob. It’s unclear if he goes to the gym and he moves like it’s the first day living in his own body. His uniform is a rumpled T-shirt. His helmet of salt-and-pepper hair makes him look elderly and childish at the same time. But really, there’s no need for him to be conventionally attractive, because Fielder’s sex appeal stems from my brain.

While critics have been busy dissecting whether The Rehearsal, the comedian’s new HBO show, is groundbreaking or just cruel, I’ve simply been turned on. The deadpan caricature of himself that Fielder plays on TV has an alluring ability to convince people they should engage in absurd simulations of intimate conversations, or role-play parenthood with a rotating cast of child actors aged 0 to 18. His prolonged eye contact (otherwise known as “the Look”) and bumbling demeanor make me think he could cradle and crush me all at the same time. Thrilling!

I’m not alone in seeing this nebbish man as a smoke show. On a recent cover of this very magazine, he appeared shirtless with slumped shoulders and vacant eyes, a play on the self-serious photoshoots of Hollywood’s walking six-packs. In Reddit threads, people describe his lips as “soft and pillowy” and admit “I want to hear him talk dirty in character.” The Twitter account @WomenforFielder, which has 25,000 followers, posts confessionals like, “Just got out of court (I’m a federal judge) and couldn’t get Nathan out of my head the entire trial.” While some may like the sweet simplicity of himbos, my kink is a man I can intellectually go to war with.

Though his on-screen persona may have the charisma of a wet sock, Fielder routinely coaxes his subjects into showing their whole (metaphorical) asses on the show, a kind of arrogance that makes for great sexual tension. What could be hotter than playing manipulative mind games with strangers in the service of creating important art? When he wears an ill-fitting Batman costume (which, I would argue, requires a level of confidence that is sexy in and of itself) or dons a laptop harness with the intensity of a power-hungry assistant, he underscores how people are so desperate for his direction they will overlook glaring red flags.

Being in on The Rehearsal’s conceit feels like instant validation that Fielder and I could be together. I can see us sitting on the couch at the end of a long day, laughing about the inanity of human behavior. “Can you believe a man admitted to drinking his grandson’s pee at work today?” he’ll say, as we sip craft IPAs. Hahaha. Then, before bed, he’ll choke up while revealing to me that his eighth-grade math teacher verbally abused him. It’s hot to think that me, and only me, could know the real man behind that mask of earnest befuddlement.

I wouldn’t get horny for some prick who’s just trying to humiliate people (though many, including one New Yorker critic, believe he does just that). What really has me ready to file for a divorce and devote my life to a man I’ve never met is that just as often, he’s the butt of his own elaborately constructed joke. While role-playing one confrontation, an actor who he’s hired to portray another woman unleashes a cutting tirade about how Fielder is exploitative and incapable of feeling anything real. He looks legitimately stunned⁠ and bows his head, mumbling, “Can we try a nicer version?” Fielder is a puppet master debasing himself, striking the perfect balance of vulnerability and control.

There’s no way to tell when he is being authentic or in character, which means I project whatever I want onto that empty stare. Fielder can be a control freak or a wild card, a square or a total psycho, a self-doubter or the cocky star of a hit HBO show. “He triggers my fight or flight and savior complex all at once,” said one colleague. For me, there’s safety in his wardrobe of preppy sweaters and plaid shirts that renders him both knowable and attainable. Fielder probably brews a really nice cup of tea. But knowing he’d just as gladly don an elf suit and smear his face with chocolate is the real turn-on.

Nathan Fielder’s Strange Sex Appeal