So, for example, if a young UU man likes a young UU woman, what he does is he goes over to her and tries really hard to be harmless. He doesn’t want to oppress anyone by expressing interest or desire, so he just hangs around and acts cooperative. The more he wants her to like him, the more submissive he acts. Not surprisingly, the young UU women find this boring, frustrating, incomprehensible, and just not sexy. He doesn’t understand why this doesn’t work, or why all the young UU women are off dating “bad” men instead of “nice” men like himself.
I think that in this particular instance, there’s something to be said for having had the experience of living on the opposite end of it. There’s a reason that there’s a Nice Guy™ moniker, and it’s not because women don’t dig actual kindness.
From the young UU woman’s perspective, there’s this guy hanging around her (or, more likely, multiple guys doing the exact same thing), pretending to only be interested in friendship when, from your description of the situation, it’s clear that his interest doesn’t end there. Even if the attraction is painfully obvious, since it’s never stated the woman can’t very well come right out and turn the guy down for something he hasn’t asked for. If she does, trust me, she’ll get torn to pieces for being so full of herself (after which the guy will probably resume the kicked puppy pose).
The specific male quandary you’ve described stems from a belief that by hanging around and being “nice,” a man is entitled to female affection. I have a lot of sympathy for a lot of situations that hit men, but being upset by not getting what they won’t ask for (and will thus often try to extract through manipulation, like pretending to be a friend when the friendship is treated as a tedious and insulting means to something else) isn’t one of them. Also, many – by no means all, but enough to make it a more than reasonable concern – of the kinds of guys who make this particular kind of complaint are only a step or two a way from outright stalking the object of their desire. The use of the word ‘object’ isn’t accidental.
I sympathize with the frustration and confusion, but that’s not the same as sympathizing with the reasoning behind the complaint. When I hear one of my own male friends voicing these kinds of concerns (or other anti-feminist thoughts that since we’re friends I know don’t come from malice or any intentional disrespect) I’m happy to help him see the opposite side of his experience and understand why things are that way. What I won’t do is agree that he gets to complain that his female friends aren’t all over him for being so cooperative and friendly. Especially if it comes along with a blanket disparagement of the judgment and tastes of said women (who says the men they date are “bad”? The men they don’t date? Is there a bias there?).
That doesn’t make me an unempathetic person. It makes me a person who knows that to actually relieve this form of “harm” against men without them changing their own behavior would have to mean taking the right to choose one’s own partners away from women. It’s empathy that makes me more interested in pointing out and clarifying the communication disconnect than commiserating about how selfish these independent women are for not being available for every man’s every whim. It’s also empathy that makes me understand that the situation you describe is also difficult for the woman involved, and likely provokes a (well-founded) fear that the man in the equation probably hasn’t faced, and usually doesn’t register.
- The original disagreement turned out to be a misunderstanding, but Defenestrated’s comments apply very well to several to self-proclaimed “nice guys” I’ve encountered, even if they were a little mis-aimed in the original context. [↩]