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.