Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The guyfriendzone

The "guy friend," a topic I thought WWPD had retired, must resurface now that Jezebel's linked to this hilarious Onion article (redundant?) about the phenomenon, entitled "Sexually Frustrated Woman Just One Of The Guys." Sample passage:

“You don’t have to be on guard around her,” said coworker and friend Ted Reiner, 26, a man to whom Valetta gives “awesome” dating advice and whom she has specifically styled her hair and clothes to please and hopefully arouse. “I don’t have to worry about what I say to her. I’m never trying to impress her or anything. Plus, she’s not high-maintenance at all. And she’s not crazy or clingy or anything.”
A Jezebel commenter has already responded, "Sounds like a Nice Girl," i.e. like a Nice Guy, but a girl. I disagree. What's spot-on about the piece, in that usual spot-on Onion way, is that the woman doesn't give the men who won't date her a hard time. She doesn't whine about their lack of interest. She certainly doesn't try harangue the guys she wants to date into sleeping with her. She never even makes her interest known!

Which is really why the whole Nice Guy/Friendzone paradigm isn't gender-neutral. The man who befriends a woman/several women as a way of getting into their pants will generally make this known. A woman in the equivalent situation probably will not. (Having never had the good, or perhaps bad, fortune to be considered one of the guys, at least in a group of straight guys, I wouldn't know firsthand.)

Or maybe that's not quite it - maybe the difference is that in Harry-Sally friendships, it's assumed the man's carrying a torch, at least if he's single, even if he's not. Whereas part of what makes the Onion article funny (yes, yes, the dangers of analyzing humor) is that no one thinks unattached women with male friends secretly want to sleep with said friends, in part because no one - apart from women, that is - thinks of women as getting "sexually frustrated." The piece works both as a painful truth to the one-of-the-guys women who've experienced this - or so it's been received on Jezebel - and as a humorous gender-reversal for those who believe the received wisdom about only men thinking like this.


Nicholas said...

A few points on which I might quibble: while I think the idea of the Nice Guy/friendzone is well-described, there's a rush to immediately identify the man's interest as being in sex that I think makes it harder to see the potential Nice Girl parallel. Namely, a Nice Guy wants a "girlfriend," where guaranteed frequent sex is certainly the goal, but the rhetoric of relationships matters. The Nice Girl is someone who wants/thinks they are owed a relationship, where sex is certainly implied but not stated for a number of reasons; the Nice Girl can very strongly imply that some particular man owes it to her to provide this relationship/sex, or that some man in general owes it to her (an example I once wrote about).

They can also very strongly imply it without ever making their interest formally known, much in the manner of Nice Guys--at least, I've seen it happen. I suspect this is all related to the phenomenon of keeping someone on the hook, which seems to be a common twentysomething relationship strategy amongst both men and women, but here--at least for now--my amateur sociology ends.

Phoebe said...


Re: the example from your post, I must admit that my knowledge of religious Christian dating circles is nil. If no one's having premarital sex, the dynamics are quite different. And if men are delaying marriage even in these apparently chaste milieus, that does say something about the milk-for-free theory!

Anyway, even in the broader/secular culture, there are absolutely some women who feel entitled to relationships/husbands. That if they're nice and attractive (self-assessments which may or may not match reality), no dude means something's wrong with all the men.

Is this the equivalent to men who think they're owed sex? I'm not so sure. I mean, women feel frightened, and rightly so, when pressured into sex. It's unnerving to realize, in a seemingly neutral interaction, that this is what a man is after. Whereas how intimidated could a man possibly be to learn that a woman wishes to marry him? She can't exactly make that happen without his consent.

Plus, do the women who feel entitled in this way generally direct said entitlement to specific men they're not romantically involved with? Maybe to ones they are dating but who won't commit. But to male friends? That's another difference - the Nice Guy wants to be more than friends, while the Nice Girl is bitter regarding men generally or specific men who do have romantic interest in her.