It's Hot When

It's Hot When People Call You By Your Last Name

It’s like we’re teammates, but we’re banging.

Let me take you back to the halcyon days of 2018 when Drake was in his feelings and Mamma Mia was going here again. Another perfect, wholesome movie came on the scene: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I had not read the books, but I watched the night it came out on Netflix and I was… obsessed. It understood, in a way that few modern movies have, what is romantic, what is attractive. And Peter Kavinsky, our whoa-ing hero, knew it when he called Lara Jean by her last name: Covey. It was, in a word, hot.

Calling someone by their last name does require a certain — albeit small — amount of intimacy simply because you must know someone’s last name and how to pronounce it correctly. It’s not like people’s last names are in their dating profiles, nor do people usually ask for them before making out with strangers on the dance floor. I’ve certainly hooked up with someone and not known their last name. I’ve also worked with people whose last names I didn’t know for a while because we were all in person, and why would that come up?

Someone using a person’s last name — and just their last name — lights up the romantic pinball machine in my brain. I’m not alone in thinking this, either. I spoke to multiple friends of mine who agreed. In Emily in Paris, Alfie calls Emily “Cooper” repeatedly in his sweet little British accent. Gracie is pretty much only called Hart by Eric (Ewic) in Miss Congeniality. And don’t forget the incredible sexual tension between Mulder and Scully, whose first names I couldn’t even tell you. Something about the whole endeavor feels very “1940s screwball comedy starring rival reporters” to me.

Everyone I spoke to mentioned that it sounds simultaneously intimate and casual, and there’s a gendered dynamic at play here. “There's a lot of plausible deniability. It's not like you're saying, ‘Hey, hot stuff,’” my friend Allie says. “It’s cozy and yet detached.” Tracy Clark-Flory, sex writer and author of Want Me, explains, “It's a way to kind of express a fondness or intimacy, but at a distance.” She posits that paradox might be part of what makes it horny to some. “If you’re just one of the guys, then it’s almost a fun challenge — to be seen as not just a friend, to be seen as a woman. There’s something very subtly neg-like about it that might be intriguing.”

It’s like we’re teammates, but we’re banging.

Both she and Allie compare it to pulling someone’s pigtails. And Lauren puts it perhaps most succinctly when she says, “It’s like we’re teammates, but we’re banging.” Being last-named suggests that you’ve been invited in. You’ve made the team, you’re on the big account, you’re going undercover to infiltrate the Miss United States pageant. There’s a project you are collaborating on and the project is being horny.

Almost everyone I spoke to brought up sports. Clark-Flory points out that it’s the rare arena that allows men to interact with each other in ways that say, “We're not really being tender and sweet with each other, we’re doing it with this air of toughness.” (If you want to see hot last-name usage between athletes, please, I’m begging you: read Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid.) Perhaps, then, this is a small way men have been taught to show affection.

After all, being last-named is something that is fairly prevalent in many male-dominated spaces like the military, law enforcement, medicine, and fraternities (and no female-dominated ones I can think of). In fact, not only are men more likely to be referred to by just their last name, but depressingly, when they are, they’re typically perceived as having more prestige and being more deserving of respect. Lauren says that even if she won’t ever be invited into male-dominated spaces like frats, being called by her last name “[activates] the fantasy … of being allowed to participate.” Calling someone by their last name confers not just the esteem but also the comradery men have for each other.

If I had a boyfriend and he called another woman by her last name, I’d be like, “What the f*ck was that?”

It’s also clearly spicy. Allie brilliantly points out, “I'm single, but if I had a boyfriend and he called another woman by her last name, I’d be like, ‘What the f*ck was that?’” This made immediate sense to me and to almost everyone else I threw the hypothetical at.

Perhaps hearing your last name is hot simply because it’s something different. Once you’ve been in a relationship for a while, it’s pretty easy to fall into calling each other some variation of “babe” or, if it’s only the two of you living together, simply talking to them without using their name at all. As Lauren puts it, “It’s a shock when he calls me by any name, it’s always really hot. But my last name is like a double-whoa. Especially at the point in the relationship when you’re not necessarily flirting with each other all the time. I think it's really fantastic.”

Then there’s the variation on the theme: the married last name. It does seem like some people — ahem, Mrs. Darcy and Heather Rae El Moussa — get a little thrill out of being intertwined with someone else. Frankly, I get actual corny chills when “Partition” starts and Beyonce says, “Lemme hear you say, ‘Hey, Ms. Carter.’” In a sweet twist, I know an older couple where the husband still calls his wife by her maiden name sometimes, almost as a reminder that she’s still the person he started dating.

You can’t beat the hot factor of simply calling someone by their last name. It’s a subtle, effective flirt. Whatever makes it horny, I just hope Netflix keeps employing the tactic, because it really, really works.