There is no such thing as “The Friendzone”

If you spend (waste) any time on the internet for social activities/entertainment, you’ve probably stumbled upon Reddit or Tumblr at some point.  A tumblr called “NiceGuysof OKCupid” has exploded in popularity recently.  As it turns out this site is comprised almost equally of fakes (unfairly putting quotes from one profile onto the pictures of unsuspecting others) and legitimate (horrifying) pictures with profile quotations such as “No is just a yes in disguise.”  “Always friendzoned because sluts and whores always go for assholes.”

The explosion of online dating has led to a new avenue of risk for women in part because expressing violence and hatred after being denied sex is easy to do online – you don’t have to say anything face to face and risk bystanders and/or law enforcement getting involved.  Tumblr blogger JHameia (linked above) took matters into her own hands, but no doubt countless other harassers continue to degrade their victims until the woman in question deletes her profile and/or changes her email address to avoid being harassed.  Certainly these men don’t behave this way in public during in-person social interactions – they’d have a hard time interacting with anyone with the slew of restraining orders placed on them.  Labeling women as “fat/ugly, sluts, whores, bitches,” because they had the audacity to deny you sex is a particularly perverse privilege to profess (excuse the alliteration).

These sentiments certainly aren’t new, even before online dating the myth of “the friendzone” has been pervasive in young adult dating culture for decades.  How many romantic comedies do you see where the hot, nice girl who’s with a macho asshole boyfriend ends up with the quirky, less attractive, pining “friend” who was right in from of her face all along?  I don’t blame “nice guys” for thinking that “the friendzone” exists, I’m just saying they’re probably not actually nice and not actually friends.

The Friendzone implies several things:

1. That being “nice” is all that should matter in a relationship (male or female).  This simply isn’t the case – being nice is a standard of behavior, and if that’s all you offer to someone then you’re probably not bringing much to the table.

2. That sex is a negotiation wherein friendship can/is traded for physical affection (the “women aren’t just machines you put nice coins into and sex is dispensed” dilemma).  I would argue this is tied in with the myth that men and women can’t be friends without someone wanting sex/falling in love and is the crux of the false friendzone – if you approach a woman with friendship and are disappointed with the result being friendship, then you have come in to the situation with false pretenses, not the woman.

3. That women “always go for assholes/rich guys/jocks/whatever overarching group that doesn’t include the individual in question.”  And that, as a result, these women are all “shallow, whores, sluts, and bitches,” a rather hateful attitude to express towards women as a whole.

4. That all feelings and desires a man directs towards a woman, she should reciprocate.  I think this comes from the kind of entitlement society we live in wherein everyone feels that their voice should be heard and respected no matter what they’re demanding (in this case, sex).  To quote Phaedra Starling, “Women are under no obligation to hear the sales pitch before deciding they are not in the market to buy.”  Being nice to someone doesn’t put them under any obligation to you at all, period.  This goes back to nice being a standard of behavior, it is not exemplary or unique in any way.

5. That, and this is actually kind of scary, men are “owed” sex/a relationship after a certain amount of time spent being nice to a woman.  That “niceness” is a tactic for sex and isn’t genuine at all – that a “nice guy” is nice expressly for the purposes of gaining trust and using that trust to manipulate a woman into intercourse (think about it – if you’re really and truly nice, then you aren’t going to be angry about a friendship).

“These guys are only making themselves look bad/aren’t hurting anybody,” you might be inclined to say.  “Casual misogyny isn’t new and it’s not what’s causing sexual assault.”  Hear me out – this is exactly the kind of attitude that allows rape culture to exist.  When you mix a feeling of being owed sex, an opinion that women are generally stupid/”bitches”/”sluts”, and a facade of kindness, you’re creating a prefect storm for assault.

I’m not saying all “nice guys” are rapists waiting to happen.  Most nice guys are casual misogynists who need some self-reflection and to not be in the kind of echo chamber that Reddit communities and Men’s Rights forums tend to create.  I am saying, however, that they have to potential to be (to borrow again from Phaedra Starling) “Schrödinger’s Rapist,” which is to say if a man isn’t satisfied with “no” in one circumstance (taking a friendship to a next level, for example), he may be more likely to override “no” in a more serious circumstance (and commit rape).

I strive to not crutch my argument on anecdote and I’m opposed to writing about my own personal life and relationship, but it’s particularly pertinent because my boyfriend is exactly the kind of man a “nice guy” would call an asshole – he’s loud, he’s confident and outgoing, he plays a very aggressive sport at a semi-pro level, and by all accounts growing up he would have been grouped in with the “popular jocks.”  He also loves animals, is quite artistic, and (get this), he’s nice to me.   Often the label “asshole” is tacked onto a male that is guilty of nothing more than self-confidence and outgoing personality, which, yeah, is more appealing to more women.  Does that make women “bitches” and those men “assholes?” No.  Women, like men, like different things – some like loud and some like quiet, some like thin and some like fat and some like muscular, some like artistic and some like athletic, et cetera.

Everyone likes kindness, it’s not unique or special to be nice or courteous, you have to be more than that.  A nice guy who expects sex simply for functioning like any socialized human does isn’t nice at all.  A guy who presents friendship only to be angry with getting a friend instead of a girlfriend “deserves” neither.

6 responses to “There is no such thing as “The Friendzone”

  • Sam Loy

    There must be something in the water, because these “outing” sites have been a big talking point recently. I was wondering if you might be able to tell me what source you have when you write that there are many fakes on the site. I’m interested in knowing more and writing a piece on the subjectivity of shaming. Cheers.

    • Feminist Menagerie

      A forum I am a member of has an “OKCupid Horror Stories” thread where men and women alike share their (insane)bad internet dating stories. The NiceGuysofOKC blog came up in conversation and a member of the forums (who had posted his OKC before) found a picture of himself with the false quotes places over his picture. This is only one instance and for all he knew the picture was submitted by an angry jilted date, but there seems to be a lack of “fact checking” by the tumblr author so I imagine his was not the only fake posted on the site. His picture has since been removed but he was the subject of some unfair harassment on OKC beforehand. Many of the other posts have been confirmed/linked back to the original profile, so it seems that there are legitimate posts as well. I’d love to read your article when it’s up!

  • Blue

    I think you have a false idea of friendzone (or perhaps it is me) but out of all my male friends, friendzone has little to do with friendship. Friendzone is when you are pursuing someone for a romantic involvement, you got clues things were going good, but when you get the courage to ask, you get the response of “lets just be friends”. Now you can stay in friendzone, most don’t. Most leave friendzone, as it is difficult to want a romantic involvement with someone who only wants to be friends. Often times it is easier to just not associate with said person, rather that get to hear about all the guys she is dating.

    Let me paint a picture from a female perspective. You see a guy whom you fancy. You ask them out, and they say yes. You go to the restaurant and share a bottle of wine. Things look to be moving good. The man thanks you for the wonderful dinner and it ends there.

    You repeat the above procedure many times, maybe 5, maybe 10 times. From going on long walks on the beach, going to movies, etc. Every time you two seem to hit it off. Finally you ask to date, or maybe you even reach for his hand (big move!) and he responds with, “sorry, i only want to be friends”.

    See? Friendzone is explaining when you were pursuing a romantic relationship, everything was going well but the person you wanted thought of it only as “good friends”. Now you can either be their friend, and remember you like him a lot, and you can be his best friend where he will tell you about every girl he has sex with. Telling about how freaky, not freaky they are in bed, etc. He even goes through 2 different break ups, talking about wanting to just find a good, dependable girl. If only one existed!

    That is the friendzone to my understanding. There is no entitlement of sex, short of basically really wanting a romantic relationship with someone, but then having to choose to be a friend that hears about it, or just not be friends.

    • Feminist Menagerie

      I disagree, primarily because the term “friendzone” was coined and exists to remove agency and/or shift blame for a lack of success in forging a relationship. It makes the lack of relationship entirely the fault of the woman instead of just saying, “it didn’t work out/she wasn’t into me/we weren’t compatible (all mutual forms of accepting rejection).”

      Let’s go back to your analogy: do you know why when that happens to women (and it does), it doesn’t actually end with the man saying,”let’s be friends?” The “friends” mechanism after a string of dates that don’t end in a spark is that woman’s way of terminating the dating ritual without confrontation. Guys, in general, do this by saying “I’m just not feeling it” (sometimes) or “ghosting” (ceasing contact entirely, more frequent).

      Why don’t women “ghost?” Certainly some try, but when men “ghost” at worse it generally ends in a couple days of angry emails/phonecalls/texts and more often than not just ends with the woman brushing it off. When a woman ghosts? Look at the first link posted in my story and the Starling blog entry. Women (rightfully) fear how a man might react when they reject them – while the majority of men brush it off as a lost cause (seriously, I’m well aware most men don’t progress to the harassment stage), some take it to a frightening and violent level – showing up uninvited, stalking, threatening and harassing messages, slut shaming (in an effort to ruin a woman’s reputation online), et cetera. It’s even worse when you outright reject this kind of man. It sucks for well-adjusted men who really do just want to be told when a woman’s not interested, but I guarantee you a woman only has to be harassed after being honest with a man once to play it with the much safer “let’s just be friends” down the road.

      It’s not friendzoning. Sometimes after a few dates it doesn’t work out even if one party thinks everything is going just fine.

  • Jessica H

    The only thing terribly wrong with the article is the title. The author raises a lot of great points and worries about a culture where men are forced and encouraged to do the approaching/initiating, even if she doesn’t mention that pressure being a catalyst for most of this mess.

    However friendzones definitely exist. We’ve all known someone or other that milks sexual attention from men while sending unmistakable sexual signals of approval, only to do the old “build ’em up, knock ’em down”. The author is assuming that all Friendzones are the result of fake kindness on the initiator’s behalf (in our society this is often the male), when just as often it is fake kindness on the receiver’s part.

    This is terrible because the woman in such a common scenario is surrounding herself with potentially dangerous suitors, all the while giving them conflicting signals which may be encouraging to someone whom is instructed by society into playing the initiating role.

    The author points out that there is a myth about men and women being unable to be just friends because of sexual pressures. She is correct. But when a woman treats someone she just wants to be ONLY friends with sexually, or milks verbal/physical sexual and romantic attention from them, all the while denying a relationship of that nature, she has at that point disrespected the friendship and turned it into “The Friendzone”.

    This common occurrence is what the bulk of men are rightfully complaining about, although such men are still weak willed idiots for choosing to stay in a Friendzone when they should just move on to a less manipulative woman (and a more Real friendship) instead.

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