I recently shared a few tweets about the the patriarchal, misogynistic, male privilege, entitled, and utterly repulsive notion (usually proffered by cishet/hetero men) of the “friend zone” that refuses to die. Refuses! I’ve written about this in the past and about how it connects to Nice Guys™ (not *any* men with many personality facets and moods that include niceness, but a very specific type here) in Nice Guys™ and Race, "Divide and Conquer," Passive Aggression and Bad Dating Tactics, Boring and Entitled ≠ Nice and Nice Guys™ and Feminism. There I discussed the specifics about the entitlement and passive aggressive misogyny involved in the myth of this “friend zone” and related issues. Thus, here I’ll mention something else.
I am really disturbed by how misconstrued and degraded the notion of friendship is. Not all romantic relationships involve sex; thus, the absence of sex does not make a relationship automatically a friendship in the traditionally platonic sense, period. Sexual attraction is not the only type of attraction that exists. Friendship does not exist between two people solely because they know each other and one of the people who has sexual desire/intentions doesn’t make that known and expects the other person to be aware of it, initiate something and desire them sexually. Pursuing someone solely for sex or for a sexual romantic relationship entitles the pursuant to absolutely nothing. No one else is required to satiate someone else’s desires unless they want to and both consent.
Women do not owe men anything solely because those men perceive themselves as “nice.” I am specific now because it is predominately cishet/hetero men suggesting that a “friend zone” exists in regards to not being able to have sex with/date women at their will. The notion that performing niceness (because actually being thoughtful is not a performance in hopes of a reward) for a sexual reward without conveying sexual interest and not making what is desired clear and known is sheerly inadequacy at best, manipulation at worst. This seems to be especially awful for Black women (which I mentioned in my essay Nice Guys™ and Race) since how Black women are devalued interracially and intraracially impacts the male gaze, especially the hetero Black male gaze. So the idea that Black women have no empowerment or entitlement to choose or to reject who we don’t desire (and not all Black women or any women are automatically heterosexual and desire men just because those men are “nice” in their own opinions) directly connects to other dehumanizing stereotypes that are used justify violence against us.
And sure, I know that some women also ascribe to this myth of the “friend zone” where they perceive friendship as the absence of sex. Of course. Patriarchy doesn’t only impact how men perceive relationships; women and other people who aren’t men are impacted too. But because of how patriarchy assigns the most power to cishet men, the related perception of entitlement to women’s bodies is much higher for them than anyone else. Certainly this is affected by other intersectional factors such as race; strugglingtobeheard pointed out in the differences between “friend zone” rhetoric of White and Black men in regards to structural power.
Several things need to occur beyond obvious deconstruction of patriarchy and awareness of male privilege. One is evaluation of what an actual friendship is and looks like is needed. The rejection of “entitlement without communication” is needed. If these men think that “friendship” is a parking place until they can be sexual, then not only do they devalue friendship, they devalue sexual romantic relationships as well. They, themselves, need to figure out what these relationships look like for them. Because what some men suggest these relationships should be is truly pitiful. Seriously.