The Friendzone is a Sexist Myth

30 Jan

by Erin Riordan

The Friendzone isn’t real. The idea that every “Nice Guy” is owed sex or a romantic relationship by his female friends is ridiculous. And if you think that’s not what Friendzoning is about, it absolutely is.

The movie Just Friends perhaps explains friendzoning best with the line, “See when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.”

Or Urban Dictionary with, “When you are expected to support a girl you really like while she searches for a smarter, richer, or more handsome boyfriend. There is little you can do to get out without feeling like a dick. All in all, one of the meanest things girls do, whether they mean it or not.”

To some degree, the assumption of every guy claiming to be “friendzoned” is that if they indicate an interest in one of their friends, she is in some way obligated to return the interest, and reward it with a relationship or sex. This assumption is problematic for a whole host of reasons, but most in that it ignores choice. Everyone has the right to say “Yes” or “No” to someone’s romantic or sexual interest. There is no obligation to return interest, and if a person rejects you, it does not make them an awful person. Especially when that person is your friend.

I understand that rejection sucks. It hurts and it’s shitty when someone you like, want to have a relationship with, want to have sex with, etc. doesn’t return that interest. However, no one is obligated to be interested in you or want those things with you. While sex may very well be a human need, it is not something anyone has a right to, and thus we are not “owed” it.

Underlying the promulgation of friendzoning is the idea that a female friend who rejects her guy friend’s advances is a bad person, and is a bad person in part because she sees her friend as just that-a friend. As a brilliant person on the Internet wrote, “Friendzoning is bullshit because girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.” This line wonderfully highlights the inherent sexism in friendzoning. That women should in any way be obligated to reciprocate sexual or romantic interest completely undermines the notion of women as autonomous people with the right to make their own decisions, and especially the right to make their own decisions about romantic relationships and sex.

No person is ever obligated to return romantic interest. That we penalize and antagonize women who reject men interested in them is sexist, and, to beat a dead horse, stands against the idea that women are equal.

If a guy determines he is interested in a woman, there are a few obvious courses of action. If he has just met her, he can indicate his interest in her. At that point, it is the woman’s choice to either return his interest or to reject him. If a guy doesn’t realize his interest in a woman until they are already friends, he can tell her how he feels. There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is to react to rejection by that friend by calling her a slut or a bitch and complaining about how he is just a “nice guy” unfairly trapped in the friendzone.

The now-defunct tumblr, niceguysofOKCupid, documented this phenomenon of men behaving badly after being rejected by a female friend. (Note: I do take issue with many of the privacy implications of this tumblr, however, it provides ample evidence of the “Nice Guy” phenomenon and thus I’m referencing it). Profile after profile showed self-described “nice guys” ranting about “bitch women who always talk about wanting a nice guy and then go for the asshole.” Many news sites collected highlights from this tumblr showing men proclaim, “[I am] a really really nice guy” and then answer questions like ‘Would you ever film a sexual encounter without your partner knowing?’ with, “I’m not sure.” Hint: If you’re not sure whether or not you would film a sexual encounter without your partner’s consent, you’re not a nice guy, you’re an ASSHOLE.

Another disturbing example is the man who describes himself as, “a scientist, a philosopher, an engineer, storyteller, but above all else what I truly am is a gentleman,” and answers the question ‘Do you feel there are any circumstances in which a person is obligated to have sex with you?’ with a “Yes.” The number of men featured on niceguysofOKCupid who answer that question in the affirmative is astoundingly high, and something I find deeply disturbing and upsetting. There are NO CIRCUMSTANCES under which a person is obligated to have sex. That is what consent is all about. Everyone has the right to say “Yes” or “No” to any sexual encounter, and everyone has the right to give, or not give, consent and to have that decision be respected. When consent is violated then a person has been sexually assaulted or raped. No man who disrespects consent or the idea of consent is a gentleman or “Nice Guy.”

This sort of answer happens again and again with these so-called “Nice Guys” claiming to be friendzoned. One friendzoned gentleman (his description, not mine) answers the question, ‘Someone is drunkenly flirting with you. You know that with a sober mind this person would never engage in casual sex, but now it seems that they’re willing. What do you do?’ with “Take advantage of the situation.” Taking advantage of someone who is drunk and unable to give consent is sexual assault, end of story. The number of friendzoned men who fundamentally misunderstand sex, consent, and choice is ridiculous, and highlights the fact that friendzoning is based on the idea that men are owed sex and women are the people who have to give it to them.

Beyond that, friendzoning suggests that all women are good for is sex. When a man laments the three years he wasted as a friend of a woman, only to be romantically rejected at the end of it all, he invalidates the idea that this woman might have any other worth beyond sex.  The reward of being someone’s friend is not sex, it is friendship. If you are actually this person’s friend then their friendship is a really awesome reward.

As friendzoning gets an increasing amount of attention the dialogue around friendzoning has begun to change. The voices that recognize that women are people worthy of friendship and worthy of having their choices respected are beginning to dominate the conversation, and are delegitimizing the friendzoning phenomenon. Hopefully with this dialogue shift we can see the death of the “Nice Guy,” and focus instead on the men in our lives who are truly awesome people worthy of friendship, and if both parties desire, more.




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