The Vagenda

The Friend Zone

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to talk to you today about an exceptionally rare species recently making appearances across the internet. He cares about your hopes and dreams. He buys you cute presents and sends sweet texts. He’s there for you when you need him. He’s different from all those other jerks, baby. I am, of course, talking about the Nice Guy.

This year, the Nice Guy has taken to the net en masse to bemoan womankind’s appalling taste in men, giving rise to one of my least favourite ideas of all time: the friendzone. What is the friendzone? Does it really exist? Why does everyone hate it when it sounds so nice? Can it be used as a verb? After years of back-breaking research (read: anecdotal evidence and fifteen minutes on Facebook), I’ve come out with a comprehensive understanding of the friendzone and how it works. And out of the goodness of my heart, I’m willing to share it with you below.

Friendzoning is the process by which a man befriends a girl, is extremely kind to her, offers her emotional support, and the bitch doesn’t even have the decency to sleep with him. I mean, the cheek of it, right? But never fear, the Nice Guys have rallied together to support one and other through this difficult time, reassuring each other that if we can’t see what a catch they are, then those chicas are obviously shallow douchebag-loving megatrolls, unworthy of any more of their time. Entire websites have now been dedicated to hating that special female in their lives through verbal assassination, which seems a bit rich if you’re going to simultaneously refer to yourself as ‘the ideal boyfriend’. Meanwhile, pseudo-scientific bullshit articles like this one in Ask Men magazine explain away the friendzone by saying that sex is a natural state of affairs with anyone you have a passing friendly feeling for, but women ‘find it easier’ to keep most men as friends because for them, ‘sex comes bundled up with an onslaught of dizzying and complicated emotions.’ The same article even includes the assertion that men see the world in a ‘natural’ way but ‘women can’t process this logic’, so they set up a false dichotomy (friends/lovers) instead. Silly women and their silly ploys. Why can’t they just man up and have sex with all their friends already? If only their brains could just cope with logic.

The friendzone is a pretty bad idea on a whole lot of levels, but let’s start with the most obvious. Nice Guys, are you listening? This concerns you. Okay, here goes. If you’re talking about women like this, then you’re not really a very nice guy. As a lady, I reserve the right to choose who I have sex with – and if you’re expecting automatic access to the ladyparts because you’ve chilled out over a chai latte with me, then there’s not a whole lot separating you from that guy called Chad who slaps your ass as he buys you a shot at the bar. Man, at least the ass-slapper is up-front with his tactics and easier to avoid: you can see the greasy tips of his waxed up hair before he gets close enough for a proper grope, and run a mile. Nice Guys? If they’re in it for vajayjay, then even by Chad’s standards they’re kind of creepy. 

I grew up with a whole lot of male friends, some of whom have helped me through the most difficult times of my life. I have male friends who I exchange gifts with, go to dinner with, talk about each other’s problems with – hell, we even text each other goodnight, the whole shebang. In fact, I think of the guys in the same way that I do any of my female friends. They are amazing and sweet to me, and they make my life a whole lot better just by virtue of being in it. And you know what? Not once have I ever felt like I have to repay these guys by getting my kit off for them. I assume that my friendship has always been enough. If I were to find out that actually, they were just in it with the hope of getting laid, I would be absolutely crushed. So all you guys who gain a woman’s trust and friendship, only to decry her as the Wicked Witch of the West when she doesn’t want to get married to you, stop it. Immediately. The girl is not the bad guy in this situation. You are acting like swine, and I know you’re better than that.

Let me make this real clear. If a man acts like he wants to be my friend, I have enough respect for the male species that I’m going to assume there’s no ulterior motive. If he’s secretly in love with me, I expect him to have the balls to tell me. And you know, even if he does, I STILL might not sleep with him. Free will, huh? It’s a pain in the ass. If, after this has happened, he feels too awkward to continue spending time with me, that’s fine, we shall part ways fondly. Having now read an Internet Man or five hundred say of another Internet Man’s female friend that ‘the total bitch is clearly just a stupid, shallow little girl too immature for a real man’ is horribly discouraging about the human race and a seriously unattractive attitude. And no, I haven’t called anyone my friend because I see them as inferior to a potential lover. I just fucking want a friend – and I think he does, too.

This brings me nicely to my second major issue with the friendzone: its total offensive nature in equal parts to men and to women. It sends the message that everything men do is just a secret cunning ploy to get laid – and that if you can’t have sex with a woman, she isn’t worth spending time with. It’s taking the two most oversimplified sexist attitudes from each side of the divide, tying them up in a pretty package and then complaining when we recognise it for the dog turd it actually is. 

Thinking that a woman is unworthy of your time just by virtue of not wanting to date you is not cool. Ladies are great – for instance, I can make balloon animals. See? Great. Women are allowed to leave the house unchaperoned and everything these days, without even having the obligation to be romantically interested in a dude if he gives her the time of day. I am so much more than a pair of breasts and life support for a vagina, and I’m not even a very impressive example of womankind.

There are women out there with far, far cooler talents than me, who you could have an absolute blast with, without either of you having to be naked, and she’s not being an illogical prudish fuckwit if she keeps her panties on the entire time you hang out. Most men worth their dick cheese know this. So the friendzone as a concept has to die a death, because it’s destroying my faith in all of us.  Let’s start having a little more faith in each other, or – as the Nice Guys would say – it’s your loss, baby.


13 thoughts on “The Friend Zone

  1. As a woman who has been ‘friendzoned’ (yes, it can happen to us ladies too. Imagine that), I’ve never decried my male friend as being an evil dick for not wanting to shag me. To be honest, it was more like: have a weep, eat some pizza and shout at rom-coms.

  2. As another woman who has been “friendzoned,” I’m still best friends with the man and love him to pieces (now platonically). Did I ever complain to my girlfriends about him not wanting to date me? Yes, but I didn’t paint him as a horrible person, just as a man who sent really mixed signals. And now I help him not send mixed signals to other female friends in his life, so it all worked out in the end.

  3. As a man with many male friends who have talked about being friendzoned, can I just say that in my experience they’re all doing exactly what you guys are talking about as well? It’s a lament about a situation where two people’s interests in each other are not aligned, at most maybe wondering why the attraction isn’t mutual, but not a claim that they owe anyone sex.

  4. Further, I think this article is unfortunate and problematic in a broader sense in its overconflation of male romantic interest with sexual interest. Interest in dating someone, especially if it’s someone you know well enough to become their “friend,” is frequently…you know, romantic interest in the person as a whole. And yes, romantic interest contains an element of sexual interest, but it’s a far cry to immediately assume that when anybody asks you out on a date, what they mean is will you have sex with me. “Friendzoned” usually means “she was only interested in being friends and not in dating me,” not “she was only interested in being friends and not in being friends with benefits and having sex tonight.” Not saying there aren’t people like that, but it’s not everybody by a long shot.

    Also, if they say yes and *do* agree to go out with the male person in question, they *still* have the right to say no to having sex….

  5. I have a friend in the friend zone, not because I am being a bitch but because I am so not attracted to him. His selling point is that he is a nice guy and has resulted in pissing off other women around him as he insinuates they could do much better than their current boyfriends. That’s a big hint that he is that better guy. He then complains about women not wanting nice guys and has resorted to friends with benefits with someone else. Thankfully that gets him off my back even though he still has a hope we’d get together. No chance

  6. As a lady feminist slash general gender egalitarian, I think I sort of agree with Benjamin here. I think there is a tendency on the part of people who have been socialised female to think that a guy who demonstrates romantic interest is ONLY AFTER ONE THING and thus was never interested in said lady as a human being to begin with. I find that when I am romantically interested in someone, it is usually an addition to my feelings of friendship for them, not a shallow substitute therefore.

    I too have been guilty in the past of fuming that a guy was a total shallow dick for not seeing how awesome I was, and for wanting to date ‘some skinny bimbo’ who wasn’t me. More recently I have come to realise just how uncool this kind of thinking/bitching is. It’s not just guys who do it.

    Sure, there are guys out there who are Playing The Game, and they are largely assholes. And obviously, publicly bitching to an entire shared social group about how shallow/frigid/ungrateful someone is for not wanting to date you is never okay, regardless of your gender. But being hurt by rejection and privately letting off steam to a close friend is just part of being human, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to begrudge someone that.

  7. PS, Selina’s story is awful and that behaviour is totally not to be condoned. But I still don’t think it’s just guys who do it, or that it’s just about wanting to get laid when it happens.

  8. First of all, I agree that sometimes, one friend can have romantic feelings that the other person does not reciprocate, and that it’s okay to be hurt and complain for a bit. I also agree that women sometimes do the same thing. And I agree that not all men who show a romantic interest in a friend do so out of shallow ideas of sexual conquest, but because they might really be attracted to them as a person.
    But what I think the term “friendzone” and the surrounding discourse transports is a more problematic idea: That all women are supposed to sleep with any man who treats them kindly, and that platonic friendship in itself is automatically less valuable than sexual relations. It’s a continuation of the old “men and women can’t be friends”-myth, but with extra sexism – towards women AND men, as the article points out. That’s what’s so despicable about the idea of the friendzone: That a woman’s worth consists solely in her sexuality and not, say, her humour or intelligence or spontaneity, and the assumption that basically, any man I don’t intend to sleep with I should barely even speak to in the first place.
    It makes me sad to think that apparently, platonic friendships are so much less valuable than romantic and sexual relationships. Do people really think like that? These men (and women) who bitch about being friendzoned, are they just bored every second they spend with their friend where they’re not having sex? I like sex as much as the next person, but it’s not the only fun thing to do in the world, and it’s not the only thing people of the opposite sex (or whichever sex one happens to be attracted to) are good for, is it?
    This is one trait that annoys me so much about pick-up-artists and misogynists, this assumption that sex is the only thing happening between two people that is in any way relevant. The same goes for “scientists” that trace every single human behaviour back to evolution and the human need to procreate – really? Thousands of years of civilization, and we still only care about passing on our genes?
    Ok, this turned into a bit of a rant, but the topic has always annoyed me because I think it makes it unnecessarily complicated for men and women to have meaningful relationships, be they platonic or romantic, and that is just bad for everyone.

  9. I have a friend who keeps asking if I’m sure I’m not in love with him, despite being really good friends with both him and his girlfriend. He seems to think I want to sleep with him but am scared to tell him because he read the Bell Jar and he now thinks all women are secretly desperate to use men for sex as an overt demonstration of their emancipation. What?! I admit I’m quite a bitch and my male friends see it as some sort of coping mechanism for the fact that I must be heartbrokenly pining after them, why have male friends otherwise? They’d never admit to it but they all watch too many terrible rom-coms.

  10. I might take your post about “sending mixed signals” of platonic vs. physical love more seriously were your avatar not a photo of a woman’s arse.

  11. I don’t think the point of the article was to comment on individual relationships and their complexities, more to call out the chorus of ‘friendzone’ butthurt that is being sung across the internet and other media platforms. Its addressing a problematic lexicon, rather than accusing each individual man or woman of dealing with rejection incorrectly.