XKCD FTW

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I have a deep and abiding love for XKCD, as do all right-thinking people. And so I’m pleased to point you over to the latest installment, which has the most brutally correct take on Nice Guys™ that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The punch line is too good to spoil, though people familiar with the Nice Guy™ can probably guess.

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc. Bookmark the permalink. 

61 Responses to XKCD FTW

  1. 1
    Cecily says:

    The moment I read that, I thought “That’ll be up on Alas any minute now.”

    I also went and read the XKCD fora, just to see.

  2. 2
    Manju says:

    i’ve noticed this nice guy thing popping up on the feminist blogs every now and then. is that because the nice guy is overrepresented among self-described male feminsts?

  3. 3
    Jeff Fecke says:

    i’ve noticed this nice guy thing popping up on the feminist blogs every now and then. is that because the nice guy is overrepresented among self-described male feminsts?

    I don’t think so, though there are plenty of us (myself included) who are recovering Nice Guys™, who have come to realize that our Nice Guyness™ was simply douchebaggery with a nice veneer. I’m sure there are some Nice Guys™ who are posing as feminists, but as noted (over and over and over again), they’re really just Type B predators, guys who still view women as interchangable, and expect that friendship will have a happy ending — wink wink, nudge nudge — and if not, then it’s primarily because the girl they went after passive-aggressively is a bitch. Because they were so supportive.

  4. 4
    Rev. Bob says:

    I’m considering jumping on all my friends. Maybe there’s something I’m not quite getting?

  5. 5
    Joe says:

    Jeff wrote: I don’t think so, though there are plenty of us (myself included) who are recovering Nice Guys™

    If you go back far enough a lot of guys were ‘nice guys’. The fear of rejection + poor communication skills makes puberty tough to handle. I don’t know what the short hand is for the female equivalent. But I’m sure we all know at least a few girls who followed some guy about and made themselves into doormats hoping it would lead to a relationship. Only to watch him chase some girl that didn’t care about him at all. ah junior high.

    Also, one thing I think the comic gets right that the Nice Guy is after the whole package. He wants a relationship, from the panel where they seem to share a room a long term relationship. He was after the happily ever after ending, not just a ‘happy ending’ wink wink nudge nudge.

    Personally I think the lexicon is overly broad. It includes both guys who are type b sexual predators and guys whose communication skills and self esteem issues make them unable/unwilling to interact with women they’re attracted to in a mature way.

    I’d say the most sympathetic of the former lot are people whose self esteem is so low that they literally cannot bring themselves to articulate how they feel. They fall back on trying desperately to be please in hopes that the object of their desire correctly interprets their actions, reciprocates what they’re feelings and takes the first step. (They should hope for a puppy and a bottle of aged scotch as well)

    I think that behavior is why there’s such a movement by guys to defend the “nice guys”. It’s common, if you go back far enough it gets more and more common. (think throwing a spit ball at the girl you liked in fourth grade) and guys react badly to seeing their behavior equated with date rape. there’s a question also of how long you keep doing this. 2 weeks because you’re just really intimidated? 2 years? Ewwwww)

    In the interest of fairness I’ve seen this behavior in both genders. Up to and including taking advantage of the object of your desire when they had too much to drink at a party and weren’t in a position to make good decisions. But, given the way the world is structured I don’t think it’s as big a problem for men as it is for women.

  6. 6
    Mandolin says:

    I think that’s an excellent assessment, Joe. Very well put.

    “I’d say the most sympathetic of the former lot are people whose self esteem is so low that they literally cannot bring themselves to articulate how they feel. They fall back on trying desperately to be please in hopes that the object of their desire correctly interprets their actions, reciprocates what they’re feelings and takes the first step.”

    I don’t think this is a problem at all, actually. It seems just fine.

    It’s the entitlement and the anger that really get into Nice Guy territory. IMO.

  7. 7
    Silenced is Foo says:

    I think part of the problem is that, right up until teen drama shows like Saved by the Bell started, “Nice Guys” were all our TV heroes. That was how it worked for all our favorite sad little nerds on TV and in movies. No anime character ever had to work up the balls to actually proposition the woman of his dreams.

    The problem with Nice Guys is that they’re oblivious to what they themselves are doing. They think “I’m being friendly and reasonable and nice – why am I not successful”. Simple question: do you find a doormat sexy? Impressive? Hot?

  8. 8
    Type12point says:

    I don’t get this whole meme/theme whatever. I also don’t get the cartoon. This is some cultural donnybrook I’m unaware of.

    Is it the cartoon’s thrust that this guy (well, stick figure) doesn’t have any feelings for the girl? If so, his approach for getting sex is not very time-effective (or any other type of effective) but also not that scummy, considering the other types of seductions we’ve all seen examples of. If he has feelings for the woman, why would anybody find the approach of sustained courtship laughable?

    Whoosh. That’s the sound of this thing going right over my head.

  9. 9
    BananaDanna says:

    “If he has feelings for the woman, why would anybody find the approach of sustained courtship laughable?”

    Because it’s sans honesty and open communication. He expects her to understand through telepathy and his endless sacrifices that he’s the best option for her, while she sees him as just a good platonic friend who’s doing good platonic friend things that she’s also willing to do for him. Sustained courtship is what takes place when the two parties are actually aware that it’s happening.

  10. 10
    jfpbookworm says:

    I think there are a lot of recovering Nice Guys(TM) for the reasons Joe cites, and because there’s a cultural narrative about this sort of thing (as Silenced is Foo) points out.

    Another reason it shows up a lot in feminist discussions is that a lot of anti-feminists use Nice Guy(TM) rhetoric, either because that’s at the heart of some of their issues or because Nice Guys(TM) are easily recruited.

  11. 11
    Lexie says:

    Type12point,

    I think the other issue is that it is just dishonest. If a guy doesn’t ever ask you out or express feeling for you (and again, 2 weeks? OK. 2 years? ewww), and you establish the relationship on the friend level…you (the female) go on thinking this guy is your friend and you’ve got a mutually agreeable status quo and its all good. But when the guy secretly has an agenda to get you either in bed or to fall in love with him as his “goal,” and manipulates each opportunity to give his mission the advantage…he is being an ass.

    And then, if at some point it doesn’t work out the way he plans and you date someone else, then he gets mad because all this time he has been there for you, waiting for his just reward (that you owe him sex/relationship) and he doesn’t get why you could think that you and he were just friends when that is what he said all along, well, it is just being an entitled, manipulative bastard.

    And, also. I don’t think anyone is talking about junior high boys, here. We are talking about habitual adult men.

    This cartoon was so truthful for me as a female whose gotten burned by the “nice guy” thing several times in my 20s, it almost hurt to read. It was spot on.

  12. 12
    James David says:

    I’m a daily reader of XKCD, and in hearty agreement with Jeff’s analysis here. As a newcomer to Alas, I have to ask aloud, why is Nice Guys™ trademarked?

  13. 13
    Lexie says:

    James,

    Nice Guys(tm) distinguishes the term from those guys who are legitimately nice guys. Nice Guys(tm), in addition to the assholiness illustrated here, are quite famous for saying things like, “But I’m a Nice Guy! Why won’t she go out with me?”

  14. 14
    James David says:

    Thanks, Lexie, but why ™ and not simply making it a proper noun by capitalizing the first letters? Is there any legal reason for adding the ™? Thanks for helping to satisfy my curiosity!

  15. 15
    joe says:

    James, I think it’s because if you’re not hip to the usage it’s a little annoying to people who think of themselves as both ‘guys’ and ‘nice’ to see the phrase used in a way that’s pretty close to ‘date rapist’. So the trademark note reduces the number of comments that say “I’m nice and I don’t do that.

  16. 16
    Ali says:

    I don’t know what the short hand is for the female equivalent.
    I believe that would be Ali :(

    (Don’t worry, I got better)

  17. 17
    joe says:

    It’s the entitlement and the anger that really get into Nice Guy territory. IMO.

    I think that the anger at rejection is inescapable. I’m generalizing from my own life but I’ve always been at least a little upset when I was rejected. I ask you about getting together sometime. You say you don’t think so. I get hurt and upset depending on how much I wanted to get to know you better. I act like it’s no big thing. You give me an awkward smile a grateful look that I didn’t make this into a huge mess. I keep what dignity I can and go back to whatever we were doing before.

    On top of this there’s the miscommunication. She lacks the opportunity to say “No Thanks” early on. Odds are good that on some level she at least suspects what’s going on but it’s hard to reject someone because you ‘suspect’ what’s going on. That’s why the schmuck does this. It’s hard to get rejected. When it finally does happen, when our poor socially awkward hero snaps at never getting what he really wants all of the frustration comes out at once. All of the delayed gratification that will never happen comes out in one big outburst. Hopefully he stays in the ‘more sympathetic camp’ and no one gets more than their feelings hurt.

    But I think the anger / sense of entitlement is going to be there no matter what. I also think the feeling is gender neutral. Again from personal experience I’ve known people of both genders that miss communicated the type, or level, of intimacy they wanted in a relationship. All of them got angry and had some sort of blow up when they realized they wouldn’t get what they wanted. I guess social norms dictate how reasonable this response is. He bought her jewelry and roses on a frequent basis and she thought they were just friends? She did his laundry and he went to her parent’s house for Christmas eve and claims their relationship was just casual? Bull shit on both cases.

    The difference is that while she’s pissed that he’s not committed to raising 2.5 kids and a golden retriever with her in the suburbs she’s less likely to do him serious harm then diamond rose boy is the object of his affection. And if she does say, “Dig her key into the side of his little red supped up 4 wheel drive and carve her name into his leather seats.” No one’s going to say that it appears he wanted her to do it. That there’s no way they can convince a jury that it wasn’t consensual.

    Also, on the subject of “recovering nice guys” what’s the cut of? Junior High? Senior year? 2nd year of college? How far back do you go before you’re not a recovering nice guy you’re just slow to get self confidence and social skills.

  18. 18
    sylphhead says:

    xkcd is my homepage.

    I’d say the most sympathetic of the former lot are people whose self esteem is so low that they literally cannot bring themselves to articulate how they feel.

    Yes, but there’s another angle I think hasn’t been touched upon. Nine times of ten, the nice guy wants to get with a girl who is in his intimate circle b of friends. He is afraid of making any clear moves, not just due to love-shyness, but also because of what all his friends might think.

    The answer? Don’t try to get with your friends (at least if you don’t roll with *that* kind of crowd). I blame Friends for this. The underlying problem is that I think there are a lot of people who have difficulty breaking out of their shell – i.e., the four or five people they spend the most time with whom they defaulted upon years and years ago. They have trouble meeting new people and expanding their horizons, so they just set their sights on their friends at home.

    If he has feelings for the woman, why would anybody find the approach of sustained courtship laughable?

    The idea of one-sided courtship is, I think, a wee bit laughable, albeit in a sad and absurd way. That’s if the one doing the courting is primarily motivated by fear and is emotionally fragile. We’re not talking Rhett Butler on Scarlett O’Hara, here.

    If, at some critical point in a sustained courtship, the woman turns him down, and he’s okay with that (if a bit wistful over all that work going to waste), I don’t think that’s the issue. It’s the feeling of resentment that brews afterward, which usually doesn’t take long to morph into a resentment toward all women.

    Even more so than (certain types of) religion, I’d wager that this is the leading cause of misogyny in America. A lot of the worst sexists, who would have us believe that their incorrigible gruffness is why they’re the way they are, are simply wounded from being royally shut down a few too many times in the past.

    Buuuttt… that’s just my opinion.

  19. 19
    Silenced is Foo says:

    Idunno. I’m a bit of a social retard idiot (my bad), and grew up in an all-boys environment. I didn’t figure it out until second year of my undergrad.

  20. 20
    sylphhead says:

    I ask you about getting together sometime. You say you don’t think so.

    She said “I don’t think so?”?! Wow, that’s harsh dude. Have an Internet beer with me.

    The way I got it was, “yeeeaahh… maaaaybee…”, which I gather is the most common formulation. Even in my high school days, I had enough sense to know this was a “no”, even if I tried to re-interpret it in other ways. (Write her reply down in imaginary text in your head. Are the vowels elongated? Then sorry guy, better luck next time.) :)

    I would like to talk more about the rest of your post, but I have to go to an impromptu crash session. Be back in a jiff.

  21. 21
    PG says:

    The difference is that while she’s pissed that he’s not committed to raising 2.5 kids and a golden retriever with her in the suburbs she’s less likely to do him serious harm then diamond rose boy is the object of his affection. And if she does say, “Dig her key into the side of his little red supped up 4 wheel drive and carve her name into his leather seats.” No one’s going to say that it appears he wanted her to do it. That there’s no way they can convince a jury that it wasn’t consensual.

    I would just like to point out that a) a lot of people objected to that song; and b) there’s a difference between getting mad at someone for not reciprocating your romantic feelings, and getting mad at someone for cheating on you (the title of the song being, “Before He Cheats”). The first person never made a commitment and thus can’t be breaking it; your feelings of anger, frustration, etc. are based on your own bad investment with no promised return. The second person did make a commitment and your feelings of anger and frustration are based on the breach.

  22. 22
    Diatryma says:

    A very quick and unscientific quiz:

    Why won’t she date you?
    a) she thinks of you as a friend and brother-figure, and it has never crossed her mind to make your relationship anything else
    b) she is a tease and likes to string men along so they do nice things for her
    c) she is looking for something else in a relationship
    d) she’s only attracted to jerks who hurt her and leave you to pick up the pieces– women are so stupid and led by evolutionary psychology
    e) she’s too busy for a relationship right now– why add stress?
    f) she wants you to jump through more hoops and do more things you don’t want to do at all before she’ll make out with you

    A nice guy might think ACE are reasonable. A Nice Guy might think BDF. It’s not that the anger and resentment come after a rejection, but what’s behind them.

    Shorter quiz:
    Why won’t she date you?
    a) because there is something wrong with the two of you together
    b) because there is something wrong with her

  23. 23
    Decnavda says:

    Even more so than (certain types of) religion, I’d wager that this is the leading cause of misogyny in America. A lot of the worst sexists, who would have us believe that their incorrigible gruffness is why they’re the way they are, are simply wounded from being royally shut down a few too many times in the past.

    Look I think this is getting to the heart of why some of us recovering (or recovered) Nice Guys are irritated with the meme, at least as a feminist issue. It is simply wrong. Yes, it was emotional immaturity and an unfair way to treat the objects of our affections. And yes, it probably did drive some small percentage of guys to misogyny. But it was not a male issue, it was human issue, plenty of girls / young women went through the same thing, and it did not drive the vast majority of Nice Guys to misogyny, just as it did not drive the vast majority of Nice Girls to become man-haters.

    Here’s what I really think is going on: Misogynistic assholes are claiming to be – or to have been – Nice Guys, in order to (once again) blame women for their misogyny. Feminists have responded not by questioning the truth of the assertions, but by interpreting the emotional immaturity of the Nice Guy attitude as a major cause of misogyny. Result: Assholes manage to blame Nice Guys for their misogyny.

  24. 24
    Quill says:

    There are guys who do things for other people and are helpful, friendly, supportive etc. because they are caring, nice guys. Guys who are helpful or do favors for a specific person because they are Nice Guys and want to be romantically involved with her aren’t actually being nice. They’re being creeps, and if the target accepts their help and then refuses them they tend to become angry/irrational. The fact that some guys do this makes things harder for guys who are just nice and help everyone, because they get accused of having ulterior motives. And while Nice Guys are usually male and targets are usually female, I believe this can be gender-neutral.

    “Here, let me carry stuff for you/be there for you emotionally/perform various other favors for you” can be completely innocent or really sketchy depending on why someone’s offering. This is, insofar as I understand it, the Nice Guy phenomenon in a nutshell.

  25. 25
    joe says:

    Decnavda Writes:

    Look I think this is getting to the heart of why some of us recovering (or recovered) Nice Guys are irritated with the meme, at least as a feminist issue. It is simply wrong. Yes, it was emotional immaturity and an unfair way to treat the objects of our affections. And yes, it probably did drive some small percentage of guys to misogyny. But it was not a male issue, it was human issue, plenty of girls / young women went through the same thing, and it did not drive the vast majority of Nice Guys to misogyny, just as it did not drive the vast majority of Nice Girls to become man-haters.

    object? really? I know what you mean but maybe a Poor choice of words.

    The meme is
    “Women only date Jerks, not sweet guys like me that do unasked for favors. See, nice guys really do finish last.” Women don’t like this meme because of what it implies about them.

    The counter meme is
    “Guys that say they are nice guys are really passive aggressive potential date rapists who don’t realized what they call being nice might better be called being manipulative.” Men don’t like this meme because they think they’re being maligned just because they were intimidated and shy around girls at one time or another.

    I agree that the root behavior is human, not male. I think that plenty of women have done the Doormat thing and been unhappy as a result. People experience anger and frustration in these situations due to both rejection and miscommunication. Both males and females do this. Both males and females misunderstand the relationships they’re in. Misunderstanding can lead to unreasonable expectations in both males and females. Both males and females can respond to these feelings inappropriately. The way society works today a woman who trashes a guy’s car because he let her be his doormat when he had no interest in dating her is more likely to be caught and punished than a man who sexually assaults a woman because she let him be a “Nice Guy”. Sexual assault is more likely to be an inappropriate male response than it is an inappropriate female response. I am not saying it’s likely, just more unlikely for a girl than a guy. Sexual assault by acquaintances is hard to prosecute.

  26. 26
    joe says:

    She said “I don’t think so?”?! Wow, that’s harsh dude. Have an Internet beer with me.

    I was sort of summarizing it to type less. But your further points about be able to read the difference between maybe=”convince me” and maybe= “no but I don’t want to be harsh” is key.

  27. 27
    Manju says:

    I don’t think so, though there are plenty of us (myself included) who are recovering Nice Guys™, who have come to realize that our Nice Guyness™ was simply douchebaggery with a nice veneer

    its definitely an interesting twist to an old theme: “nice guys finish last”, with niceguyness as a cover for traditional mysgony…whereas in popular culture the nice guy stands in opposition to say the frat boy womanizer.

    when i was growing up the consensus was to never befriend a woman you actually desire. we called it “the friend zone”, and it was not a good place to be.

  28. 28
    Mandolin says:

    “It’s the entitlement and the anger that really get into Nice Guy territory. IMO.”

    I’m quoting myself instead of whoever responded to me that entitlement and anger are inevitable when it comes to rejection.

    Yes, that’s probably true – but entitlement and anger can be expressed in appropriate and inappropriate ways. nice Guys express them in inappropriate ways. Nice Guys often also generalize their problems (or what they assume to be true about their problems) in inappropriate ways to all women.

    A bad logic chain: This woman dumped me for a guy I don’t like = this woman is dating a jerk = this woman doesn’t know what’s good for her = all women don’t know what they want and date assholes.

    I think we talk about nice guy behavior a lot in very specific ways, when it’s a bunch fo different behaviors. A guy I knew once coerced a friend of mine into a sex act with which she was uncomfortable. She cried, and bled, and was in pain. Afterward, he turned the situation into being All About Him — not about her, who was bleeding and felt like she had been coerced into something she never wanted in the first place, but about how his feelings were hurt because she was in pain, and couldn’t she see how much he wanted to please her, and oh, he was a terrible person, he’d hurt her so much, he should just kill himself right now. So, she was forced to reassure him for having made her bleed. That was Nice Guy behavior, in my opinion. He was a Nice Guy, and she had to always make sure her responses were sculpted to his nice intentions, and that his niceness was always at the focus of things. He also fancied himself a paladin and savior who was always rescuing her and other women because he was so nice and selfless, even if the price for his rescue was often manipulative and scary.

    The same guy also threatened to kill himself when I wouldn’t go out with him. I talked him down several times.

    To go back to “typical” nice guy behavior, a friend of mine in high school had a friend who would spend time with her and do her favors. Of course, she also spent time with him and did him favors. She was dating someone else — and you know what? The someone else *was* a jerk. He had been in prison, and he was manipulative, and he used to pierce holes in their condoms to try to get her pregnant so that she would never leave him. I also thought that the nice guy who wanted to have a relationship with my friend was a jerk, but he was hands down the “better” guy for her by an outsider’s measure. Even though I disliked the Nice Guy and didn’t get along with him, if I could have waved a wand and made my friend go out with him instead of her boyfriend, I would have waved that wand without hesitation.

    I don’t know why she didn’t want to go out with the Nice Guy, but she didn’t. She loved him as a friend – she loved him as she loved me. Sure, Nice Guy went over and fixed her computer, but I did things like that for her, too. And she reciprocated; she was always generous with her time and resources.

    So when Nice Guy finally made his desires known, and my friend said no to a sexual relationship, but said how much she valued him as a close friend — Nice Guy threw all his efforts in her face. He had given her time and energy. She owed him. She was a bitch for not giving him what he wanted. He had been nice. He deserved what he wanted.

    Sometiems in these conversations, i hear people describe women like my friend as being manipulative. This makes no sense to me. Sure, she took the technical help. She also took my calculus tutoring. And she gave things back. She wasn’t manipulating Nice Guy unless she was also manipulating me, and I her in turn. She wasn’t manipulating Nice Guy unless all friendship is manipulation.

    And sure, Nice Guy was upset and angry, and sure, it was excusable because of his age, and sure, as an isolated and individual incident, it’s not really a big deal. The problem isn’t one Nice Guy, or one jerk, or one asshole. It’s the total effect that this fairly common behavior has on women. The problem is systemic.

  29. 29
    Mandolin says:

    Also, I know plenty of people who’ve gotten mates out of their friends’ group with no problem at all. *shrug* It probably depends on the friends’ group. Likewise, some women are going to have a “friend zone” that’s asexual and brotherly. Others don’t. We’re not all the same after all.

  30. 30
    PG says:

    I keep hearing that this problem of being angry and frustrated by rejection is just a human problem, not a male one, and therefore it is unfair to describe it as the Nice Guy (TM) phenomenon. I am skeptical of this, however, because when I hear women being angry and frustrated that the men whom they find attractive don’t reciprocate, they don’t say, “All men don’t know what they want and date bitches.”

    Instead, my friends sigh over the fact that men are so focused on [whatever my friend lacks and the other woman has]. Men know what they want; they want women who are thinner/ taller/ shorter/ bustier/ more fair-skinned/ more outgoing/ more domestic/ more ambitious/ more whatever than my friend is, and because of that, they’re willing to put up with the negative traits of a woman who is less smart/ kind/ funny/ interesting/ whatever than my friend is.

    When I went out with a guy a few times and he ultimately wasn’t interested in dating me seriously, it wasn’t because he had an irrational desire to date Bad Women; it was because I was of the wrong political and religious persuasion for someone with whom he’d want to have a family. When the guy I had a crush on in high school didn’t reciprocate, it wasn’t because he was irrationally drawn to bitches; it was because he didn’t find me physically attractive and thought I was a dork. And yeah, I wasn’t a conservative Christian or conventionally pretty, and I was a dork. These were totally rational decisions for these guys to make based on their priorities.

    Nice Guys, on the other hand, treat the idea that a woman isn’t into them as a sign of irrationality on her part. It’s a weird combination of low self-esteem and extraordinary self-regard to on the one hand go through a lengthy charade of “friendship” in order to avoid rejection, and on the other hand be so outraged and disbelieving that whatever woman you like doesn’t want to jump your bones. People like that aren’t just “socially awkward” — I was very socially awkward until I was about 25, I’m still in recovery yet I’ve been able to understand Why He’s Just Not That Into Me for as long as it has been relevant. In contrast, Nice Guys (TM) are severely lacking in an ability to be honestly self-aware and to see themselves objectively. If a woman doesn’t want them, it’s a problem with her.

  31. 31
    The Countess says:

    That has the asshattery of Nice Guys™ down pat! I’ve run into so many in my life that I can actually laugh about them now. The ending of that comic was precious. :)

  32. 32
    Joe says:

    Mandolin, I think i wrote the response you’re quoting. I also think I pretty much agreed with you.

    To try and boil my opinion down to a single sentence; The initial nice guy behavior is human and shared between the genders but the inappropriate responses are gendered.

  33. 12pt, sustained courtship is fine, but this is only courtship in the guy’s mind. It’s one thing if the young lady is taking her time deciding (or being coy, I suppose) and the gentleman embarks on a campaign to earn her affection. All parties involved know what’s going on, and he’s explicitly presenting himself as a suitor. If a suitor presents himself as a friend, it’s sort of a bait and switch.

    joe:

    I think that the anger at rejection is inescapable.

    Except she’s not rejecting him in the Nice Guy scenario. When I was young, I asked someone out, and she said no. That was rejection. I also made all appearances of making friends with someone in the hopes of parlaying it into a relationship, which never occurred. She didn’t reject me as a friend because we were friendly; she didn’t reject me as a relationship partner because I never asked. In that case anger at rejection is wrong.

  34. 34
    Acheman says:

    One pretty problematic aspect of the discussion of Nice Guys that keeps coming up (less here, but still a bit) is the idea that it’s inherently Gross and Weird if your long-term friend secretly wants to do you. Mandolin’s already spoken about the fact that it doesn’t always work to think that way, but something I wanted to mention is that it seems to me that people don’t always stop to think about how heteronormative this is. The real root of it is the old heterosexual/homosocial paradigm where you have sex only with people who are distanced from you socially in some way, and feel comfortable socialising only with people with whom a sexual relationship, or any sexualising at all, would be unthinkable.

    It’s the fact that I’m aware that many people – particularly many women – think this way that is, I think, behind the fact that I don’t tend to have too many close female friends. It’s the whole ‘gays in the locker room’ problem all over again, except here the locker room is emotional intimacy. Because yeah, after a while (sometimes even after a little bit) I do often find myself becoming sexually attracted to them, and then I torment myself about how horrified they’d be if they knew what I was thinking, and freak out, and pull back, and the friendship don’t go very far. I keep thinking there might be a way to rethink the relationship between friendship and sex so as to acknowledge the fact that they can’t be kept hermetically separate from each other, but that would require straight people (and those gay people who have swallowed straight people’s living paradigms) to get over the fact that sometimes their friends will have sex thoughts about them, and they won’t always know about or be able to control that. Like I say, I realise that there’s more to the Nice Guy concept than that, but I think it’s worth being mindful of the fact that these sorts of issues can bleed into the discussion of it at times.

    Edited to clarify that I’m a lesbian, because, yeah, this is one of the times that I can see that my username might cause some confusion.

  35. 35
    Christina B says:

    In my experience, a truly nice guy who is interested in a friend but doesn´t have the self-esteem to ask her out doesn´t get upset with her when she dates someone else. He may get hurt, but he doesn´t take it out on her or the guy she is dating (by telling her that he is a jerk). He doesn´t ruin the friendship because the support and the friendship that he has given is real. They are based in caring for her.

    Nice Guys (TM) on the other hand are faking the support and friendship. They expect something in return for it. It is therefore, self-centered, as opposed to being the logical result of caring for the other person. In my experience, as soon as they realize that the woman is not going to date them, they disappear or act out in inappropriate ways.

    At least this is how it feels to me, having been on the recieving end of both situations.

  36. 36
    Mandolin says:

    “The real root of it is the old heterosexual/homosocial paradigm where you have sex only with people who are distanced from you socially in some way, and feel comfortable socialising only with people with whom a sexual relationship, or any sexualising at all, would be unthinkable.”

    This may be one of the times in which my strong tendency toward monogamy is useful. I’m friends with plenty of people who I could find attractive, but since my brain doesn’t tend to make room for sustained attraction to more than my long-term partner, it doesn’t usually come up.

    On a totally other note, I find the women-date-jerks thing to be not counter to my experience — I know women who’ve dated jerks — but really not representative. My spouse was very sexually active in junior high and high school and until we met in college. (On the other hand, I wasn’t.) Spouse had a lot of partners, and he got them by being a genuinely nice guy. He’d be friends with women; the women would become attracted to him; he’d date them. His being not-a-jerk was an aid to his sex life, not a detriment. From what he’s told me, it sounds like the “friend zone” was something that worked for him, too.

  37. 37
    Sergio Méndez says:

    “I don’t think so, though there are plenty of us (myself included) who are recovering Nice Guys™, who have come to realize that our Nice Guyness™ was simply douchebaggery with a nice veneer. I’m sure there are some Nice Guys™ who are posing as feminists, but as noted (over and over and over again), they’re really just Type B predators, guys who still view women as interchangable, and expect that friendship will have a happy ending — wink wink, nudge nudge — and if not, then it’s primarily because the girl they went after passive-aggressively is a bitch. Because they were so supportive.”

    Well, I was a “nice guy” for six years, and althought I trulley expected to have a “happy ending”, and it didn´t happen, i never concluded she was a “bitch”. I still am friend with her (without expecting anything else), so I think this is some nasty over generalization here.

  38. 38
    james says:

    What’s actually wrong with trying to be friends and working from there, rather than making an immediate declaration of romantic interest? I think you’re trying to force everyone into a very old-school script, I’m not sure the world really works that way outside rom-coms. I think Achman’s post was very good on this. Why the hard line between friendship and romance?

    I also think you’re just counting the negatives. For every cases where a woman gets burnt, there are others where things work out. You can’t just assess a course of action by only counting the failures.

  39. Pingback: Nice Guy (TM) at XKCD « Restructure!

  40. 39
    PG says:

    james,

    What’s actually wrong with trying to be friends and working from there, rather than making an immediate declaration of romantic interest? I think you’re trying to force everyone into a very old-school script, I’m not sure the world really works that way outside rom-coms. I think Achman’s post was very good on this. Why the hard line between friendship and romance?

    Actually, romantic comedies are pretty heavy on people’s ending up at the end who had not stated a mutual romantic interest at the beginning. There is nothing wrong with a romantic relationship’s beginning as friendship — I’ve never really gone through the traditional dating ritual, because *every* guy I’ve dated has started as a friend and then we would realize we were mutually interested in each other romantically (or at least sexually). But so far as I know, none of my guy friends are my friend solely because they want to date/ sleep with me. I mean, I’m married now, and they’re still my friends, so they’ve probably figured out that if it hasn’t happened already, it ain’t happening now. I assume if I were friends with Acheman, it would be the same: even if she felt some sexual attraction for me, she would continue to be my friend even if she knew that I never was going to sleep with her. I continued to be friends with the guy I described above who was looking for a nice conservative Christian girl to marry even after he found her and married her. We’re real friends, as opposed to people who faked friendship until the romantic possibility was resolved.

    A Nice Guy (TM) of the sort being criticized here is the one who would stop being a woman’s friend before or at the point she got married to another guy, assuming that he grasped marriage to exclude the possibility of her finally falling in love with him. If someone was my friend before I married and still is my friend, he is not a Nice Guy (TM), he is genuinely kind and caring human being.

  41. 40
    sylphhead says:

    The answer? Don’t try to get with your friends (at least if you don’t roll with *that* kind of crowd).

    I feel like I should clarify this statement, in light of the chorus of people who have extolled the virtues of romantic relationships that began as platonic friendships. Yes, I know several people like this too, and no, despite stereotypes to the contrary, they are as fulfilling as sexually charged as any other.

    There is a difference, in my mind, between ending up with your friend, and trying to end up with your friend. A bit Zen-ish, granted. Implied in my statement, I think, is that the effort is solely coming from one side.

    The kind of relationships that started out as friendship but developed into a happy ending, I think, are cases where either both of them either unwittingly fell into each others’ arms, la-dee-da style, or where both of them had similar intentions from the beginning but were both too shy to go about it any other way than to pursue friendship first. The key word is “mutual”.

    Are there individual cases where the guy was interested in a female friend, and the reverse wasn’t true, but eventually, through studious persistence on his part, eventually came to be true? Undoubtedly. But that’s playing with fire. It’s a situation that, if eliminated altogether, would benefit both genders far more than it would take anything anyway. I am talking in the most general sense, of course.

    Look I think this is getting to the heart of why some of us recovering (or recovered) Nice Guys are irritated with the meme, at least as a feminist issue. It is simply wrong. Yes, it was emotional immaturity and an unfair way to treat the objects of our affections. And yes, it probably did drive some small percentage of guys to misogyny. But it was not a male issue, it was human issue, plenty of girls / young women went through the same thing, and it did not drive the vast majority of Nice Guys to misogyny, just as it did not drive the vast majority of Nice Girls to become man-haters.

    You’re right. Upon re-reading what I wrote, I did not manage to get across what I wanted. That second to last paragraph especially seems to be missing crucial transitional phrases.

    Here’s how the chain of rhetoric formed in my head:

    1. A lot of people are attracted to their friends, and are willing to take lengths to pursue it.

    2. (Despite being usually ill-advised, imo,) this by itself isn’t the problem. The malformed, universal anger and resentment that forms afterward is, if it lasts for longer than the usual heartbreak episode of a few days, weeks, etc. First to yourself, then to others.

    3. This same resentment can easily lead to a prejudice against the opposite sex. I was making a jump here and wasn’t talking exclusively about nice guys getting rebuffed by their friends here, Decnavda – in fact, I was more specifically thinking of those who go through bitter divorces, which seems to be a common denominator behind some of the hate-mongers I find on the Internet. Which is all to say, the politics of sex are more important than we let on.

    I am not, or at least did not mean to, single out Recovering Nice Guys. I am one myself, if my bittersweet memories of high school serve me correctly.

    PG, I must take issue with some of the equivocations you make. When “jerk” usually means, in the context of “women only like jerks”, is “someone with an aggressive personality, emotionally unfeeling, as well as other stereotypically hypermasculine traits”. Picture someone with a standoffish if not violent disposition, generally physically imposing, wearing a wife beater, either smokes, drinks, does drugs, or all of the three: notice that in Mandolin’s example, the “jerk” in question once spent time in prison. I doubt, when anyone cries “women only like jerks”, they’re actually including habitually whiny and unpleasant, sparrow-chested nerds who scheme to steal Star Wars collectibles from their friends. (Who would technically be a “jerk” in the most literal sense.) “Jerk” is not being used in the broadest, literal sense; there’s a trope and related imagery that comes with it.

    Now, I’m not saying I agree with this characterization. In fact, during college, the hetero guys I knew who did the best with women embodied an almost – excuse the term – “metro” persona. (Though I did go to an uber-liberal Ivy League, I guess.) But it does mean the complaints that women often make about what guys want – blonde, busty, vapid, or what have you – are in fact the perfect analogue, in that they are stereotypically hyperfeminine traits. I agree that “all guys just want bitches” is rarely, if ever, heard. That’s because it’s an overly literal and wrong analogy.

    Also, I don’t see the stark division you see between raging nice guys and sighing nice girls. A lot of nice-guys accept their lot with the same fatalism you ascribe to nice-girls. Others simply never say out loud the anger curdling beneath their surface, which I suspect is true of many nice-girls as well. As for finally degenerating into a self-pitying, chip-on-the-shoulder ever-victim who lashes out impotently at the world, sorry to say, I know women like this too. A couple are single and hitting their late 30′s, and one still hasn’t recovered from a very bad breakup. “Why are men so stupid? And shallow? And blind?” And so forth.

    I think this really is a gender-wide phenomenon.

    I’ve never really gone through the traditional dating ritual, because *every* guy I’ve dated has started as a friend and then we would realize we were mutually interested in each other romantically (or at least sexually).

    Oh, I doubt there are any remaining fans, if there ever were, of the traditional dating ritual. I think I am a bit more “traditional” in my ways than most of the people here, though. I find a girl outside my usual social group, get to know her, then one day find a lame-assed and transparent* excuse to get her to spend some time with me and my friends, or else do a “friend”-ly activity with me. (Usually something like frisbee or going to a night market.) So at least some of those “friend” elements is good for everyone. Maybe when I’m a bit older, I’ll spend more time in coffeehouses and walking in parks.

    Acheman, apologies as I think I’m the most guilty of what you alleged. But, the OP was talking about a distinctly man-on-woman heteronormative trope, though. What changes would have be made to be applicable to the gay community, I have no basis in knowing.

    [/leviathan post]

  42. 41
    Denise says:

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to boink your friends. I would have sex with pretty much all my guy friends. There are some of them that I would even like to try relationships with. I don’t ask them because I’m scared or shy or, in some cases, because I value the friendship too much to risk harming it due to being rejected or breaking up later. And if they start dating someone else, I might feel a little sad about it.

    But I’m not going to ever, ever act like these guys have done me wrong by not wanting me. That’s just silly. People are allowed to not be attracted to me no matter how much I want them and how good a person I am and I understand that. That’s why I’m not a Nice Girl (TM).

    Sure it’s hard when you like someone and they don’t like you back. Been there, done that. But you have to realize that your unrequited attraction is your problem, not theirs, and you have no right to make it their problem. If you have to stop being friends with them, then do it. There’s no rule that says you have to torture yourself by pretending you don’t like someone you are head-over-heels for.

  43. 42
    PG says:

    sylphhead,

    That’s an interesting idea: that hetero Nice Guys complain about women’s interest in hypermasculine guys, and het Nice Girls complain about men’s interest in hyperfeminine girls. I just don’t think it’s necessarily true.

    Both a Nice Guy and a Nice Girl could complain that s/he puts a lot more effort into a gift for the “friend” than the friend’s significant other does. Are they complaining about a hypermasculine or hyperfeminine aspect of the SO? The burden of complaints on both sides tend to be that the positive traits the Nice Guy/Girl has aren’t being sufficiently valued on the dating market and especially by the person in whom the Guy/Girl is interested. My female friends and relatives who are very domestic (surely a “feminine” trait) have complained that the guys they like seem to be looking for women who are higher-achieving in education and their careers (a “masculine” trait).

  44. 43
    Elkins says:

    The burden of complaints on both sides tend to be that the positive traits the Nice Guy/Girl has aren’t being sufficiently valued on the dating market and especially by the person in whom the Guy/Girl is interested.

    Right, and possibly the specific positive traits that Nice Girls ™ cite differ somewhat from social circle to social circle. My own experience with the Nice Girls’ ™ equivalent of “Chicks Dig Jerks” has been “Guys Dig Stupid Women.” I’ve never heard the complaint of “Guys Dig Career Women” before. So I’m guessing it just varies a bit from circle to circle, although of course the fundamental dynamic of the complaint (“the positive traits I feel I have are of no romantic value to the opposite sex, how unfair!”) remains the same.

    Probably best not to get into whether one considers stupidity a masculine or feminine trait, though. Heh.

    (Although, in truth, I’d say that societally, we tend to associate intelligence in both sexes with the refusal or inability to perform gender at all. The stereotypical male nerd fails at performing masculinity, but he is usually not precisely femme. The female bookworm fails at performing femininity, but she is hardly ever butch. It is the extreme performance of either gender expression that we associate with stupidity — stupid men are stereotypically hyper-masculinized brutish louts, while the stereotype of the stupid woman is the air-headed, hyper-feminized ditz.)

  45. 44
    jhb says:

    I think discussions of this phenomenon tend to focus a lot on the motivations and character qualities of the “Nice Guy,” often to the point of excessive and potentially hurtful generalization, and usually to the point of leading discussion away from the broader sociological factors in play.

    I think, by and large, this behavior arises far less from unrepentantly misogynistic men seeking a new way to degrade and hassle women than it does as one symptom of many of a sexist societal model of romance and sex. The best way to minimize (not eliminate, since that’s totally impossible) the suffering involved in the process is to have open, honest communication on the part of everyone involved, but the cultural narratives tend to work against this. The narrative of the dishonest or manipulative woman is very strong (as are other sexist images like the smart, attractive woman who stands by her “dumb” husband), and many sources actively encouraging women to match these stereotypes in order to succeed romantically. The same factors come into play, just with different stereotypes, on the men’s side. (As usual with oppressive systems, both genders lose freedom to behave in the way they’d prefer, but the “better” roles are saved for the men’s side.)

    Mix this in with the general distrust of honesty in American culture, and the intense association of couplehood (or sexual prowess) with success, and you get a huge list of entirely dysfunctional romantic/sexual behaviors, of which Nice Guy behavior is particularly notable but by no means the only example.

  46. 45
    sylphhead says:

    The burden of complaints on both sides tend to be that the positive traits the Nice Guy/Girl has aren’t being sufficiently valued on the dating market and especially by the person in whom the Guy/Girl is interested.

    I’m not talking about anything near a perfect correlation here. I think if we took the complaints of every tragic, love-shy fool, (including but not exclusive to Nice Guys/Girls,) put them up on a graph somehow, the results would kind of be all over the place – but the line of best fit would be toward guys complaining about uber-masculinity, and gals complaining about uber-femininity.

    I mean, it does make sense. Take all the cultural images we have of otherwise regular people who are inexplicably supposed to repel the opposite sex, and the common denominator is that they’re not good at “performing gender”. And while most of these representations I get from media rather than from real people, I consider cultural ubiquity to be the best approximation we have here for the social average.

    With absolutely no ill will or anything like that implied, I suggest that feminists are often unwilling to embrace this kind of narrative because they think it will encourage everyone to go out and reinforce traditional gender norms. This is a remote possibility, but I think the change of social attitudes that happened over the past few decades, while by no means complete, have been embraced far more thoroughly than some social critics credit. We’re never going back, ever, and excuses if this sounds callous, but I think the only reason we’ve sort of reached an impasse is because the older generation, too set in its ways, has yet to die off.

    My female friends and relatives who are very domestic (surely a “feminine” trait) have complained that the guys they like seem to be looking for women who are higher-achieving in education and their careers (a “masculine” trait).

    Yes, and I’ve known big, brutish sort of fellows (of the Zeta frat, of course) who complained that women only liked “gay guys” (by which they meant cosmopolitan). The exceptions don’t disprove the general rule.

    How often does one hear that “guys never go for domestic women” – or some variation of such? Personally, I hear “guys are intimidated by strong/independent women”, which are most definitely standard masculine traits.

  47. 46
    PG says:

    How often does one hear that “guys never go for domestic women” – or some variation of such? Personally, I hear “guys are intimidated by strong/independent women”, which are most definitely standard masculine traits.

    I think as Elkins notes above that this depends tremendously on one’s own socioeconomic and cultural norms. Among professionals with an advanced (i.e. beyond college) degree, women who are highly domestic and not hyper competitive in the academic/career realm have a harder time getting matched up than women who fit the prioritization of having a JD/MD from a highly-ranked school and a six figure salary. (To be bluntly personal about this, my older sister who is a great cook and homemaker wasn’t as hot a commodity in my group’s dating market as my younger sister, who graduated from an Ivy League college and is at a top 5 medical school.) It might be expected that the woman will reduce her work hours once she starts a family, but the resume expectation in the dating game remain.

  48. Note that all statements of the form “MOTASes go for Qish MOTASes” are based on a sample of people who have rejected the (unQish) speaker. Clearly women go for guys who are unlike me, otherwise I’d be busy, so if a string of them have done so, I’m going to notice something the men they did respectively settle for have in common and tell myself that trait is what appeals to “women” (i.e., to those women)

  49. 48
    Type12point says:

    I had meant to participate in this thread last Friday (or whenever) when, you know, I had to work for a change instead. On Monday, too.

    (Stupid, actual work.)

    Now I’m glad I was delayed. I’m not really plugged into what everybody’s talking about here. Still, reading over this whole discussion I get a real “tempest in a teapot” type of vibe. All this seems to boil down to some kind of general “fed-up-ed-ness” (if I may invent a word) with a modern masculine subset that has an admittedly timid and assbackwards approach to sexual conquest, and, when defeated, likes to put the onus on the modern woman’s dating habits. (At least, that’s what I’m getting out of this.)

    Seems to me this stuff is pretty straight forward. Some guys don’t do well at straight-up seduction, bitch about the facts of life, and then you guys slap ‘em around for being Darwinian failures. I’m sure their kvetching is really off-putting, but it strikes me as though whomping on these guys is a bit like taking time to stroll by the fat kid’s house after he was picked last for baseball and laughing at him for grousing.

    Between these “Nice Guys” you’re talking about, and the amount of “he done me wrong” stories we hear in real life and through the media, I’m honestly surprised women don’t give up on men altogether. But, whatever their various virtues and faults, I don’t see great degrees of superiority between different types of men. Only between different men. I’m switching off this theme and heading back to the big fish.

  50. 49
    nobody.really says:

    Does the cartoon strike anyone else as a little, well, Victorian? It seems to revolve around some curious assumptions:

    1. Asexuality is the norm; sexual (romantic) attraction is unusual. If a man feels such attraction, his duty is to declare it to the object of his affections. Thus, we maintain clear dichotomous modes of behavior.

    2. The man’s duty to declare his feelings is independent of the likelihood that this declaration will lead to romantic attachment. The fact that he might better develop a relationship by not immediately disclosing his interest is irrelevant.

    3. If the object of a man’s affections does not share his feelings, the man’s duty is to Get On With His Life, which precludes Being Friends. The act of Being Friends would violate the dichotomous norms.

    4. A man who fails to fulfill his duty to declare his feelings out of fear of rejection should be ridiculed. A woman who feels uncomfortable that some guy has unexpressed feelings towards her, but fears to initiate a discussion with the guy, should be pitied. Similarly, if a relationship is gratifying to a man but not to his mate, it is the man’s fault. After all, the man is responsible for other people’s happiness, not his own. To think otherwise would be unchivalrous.

    5. Being in a relationship that was started on the basis of sexual attraction is the only road to fulfillment. Being in a relationship that was started on the basis of friendship is a road to perpetual longing for others.

    Of all these assumptions, the first seems the oddest to me. I’ve never had a sexual relationship with someone who was not first and foremost a friend. Weirdo that I am, I have never picked up anyone in a bar or had a one-night stand.

    I often wonder about the social good that might be achieved if everyone were in fact an “open book”. Does Texas want to criminalize sodomy? Fine; let’s have everyone who engages in the practice turn themselves in. In many respects it might improve life.

    So how about if people actually behaved in accordance with the first assumption? What if people – especially men – actually announced each time they found someone (or something?) sexually attractive? Would that really be helpful? It might, because after the initial shock of realizing that lots of people are attracted to lots of people, we might come to accept this fact as commonplace.

    After all, isn’t it creepy to imagine some middle-aged high school teacher masturbating to fantasies about this or that student? I always thought so – until I became a middle-aged guy. I fantasize about all kinds of people all around me. If I were a high-school teacher I can’t imaging that I wouldn’t be fantasizing about students. It’s really creepy to think about only because we imaging that sexual attraction is somehow unusual, aberrant. If we could accept that sexual attraction is extraordinarily common, then we might get over this.

    Perhaps the real issue with the cartoon doesn’t involve assumptions about sex, but about goal setting and closure. Specifically, I don’t. I’m just not a guy who sets goals, and I’m reasonably comfortable with ambiguity, with maintaining multiple competing ideas. So the idea that there was a point in my life when all my romantic feelings attached to one and only one person, and all my hopes and plans revolved around that one person, and my attentions moved in serial fashion from one object of affect to another, is simply inaccurate. Romantic, perhaps, but inaccurate.

    And now we come to the last assumption. I have a great marriage and some lovely kids. And I still ponder how my life might have been different if I’d married someone else. (Although, to be fair, I do so less and less over time.) Is that really so unusual? While I still don’t get Nice Guys, I’m fond of the song One of the Good Guys by Richard Maltby, Jr.:

    Right here you see one of the good guys:
    One of the nice ones with sensible drives.
    What else could I be? I’m one of the good guys
    who play with their children and dote on and pamper their wives.

    But there was a night in Hawaii on a business trip
    I’ve suffused with a mystical glow.
    She was someone’s friend and she had this smile.
    We were on a beach and we walked a while.
    And I watched the wind billow in her hair.
    And I knew – we knew – there was more to share.
    I could feel the ground start to go,
    like volcanoes starting to blow.
    And the waves were loud we were all alone.
    we had left the crowd; not a soul would ever have known….

    But that isn’t me. I’m one of the good guys,
    one of the smart ones whose virtue survives.
    Firm as a tree, one of the good guys
    who trades a flash of heat to build a warmer fire,
    denies himself a treat to shoot for something higher,
    and that’s the part that’s sweet
    that only the good guys know.

    That’s not the end. As you suspected,
    time flipped some pages; I’m now forty-four.
    There’s money to spend. The kids are in college.
    My wife’s back in art school. We just bought a house at the shore.

    But sometimes at night in the stillness, lying wide awake,
    as the wife I still desire sleeps by my side,
    I can feel the wash of the perfumed air
    as my mind is drowning in billowing hair.
    And although I know that my life is blessed
    I am teased by thoughts that it’s second best.
    And the visions seethe in my head
    of the lives that I could have led.
    They are all still there. I can change my fate.
    There’s no time to spare; I must find them before it’s too late…!

    Oh hell, why defend all of us good guys
    drowning in plenty yet whining for more?
    Truth is, my friend – just between good guys –
    It’s not which road you take. It’s not which life you live in.
    Whichever choice you make, the longing? That’s a given.
    And that’s what brings the ache
    that only the good guys know.

  51. 50
    Decnavda says:

    I endorse Type12point’s summary.

  52. nobody.really:

    1. Asexuality is the norm; sexual (romantic) attraction is unusual. If a man feels such attraction, his duty is to declare it to the object of his affections. Thus, we maintain clear dichotomous modes of behavior.

    Romantic attraction is unusual. Almost all my friends are women, I’m a straight man, and I’ve only been romantically attracted to two of them. I’m not sure how this “maintains clear dichotomous modes of behavior” unless you’re starting out with the attitude that women are fucks, not friends. No one is saying men should not have or express romantic feelings for their friends.

    2. The man’s duty to declare his feelings is independent of the likelihood that this declaration will lead to romantic attachment. The fact that he might better develop a relationship by not immediately disclosing his interest is irrelevant.

    That he might better develop a relationship by not immediately disclosing his interest is improbable and deceptive (where “immediately” means “shortly after it becomes manifest to him”).

    3. If the object of a man’s affections does not share his feelings, the man’s duty is to Get On With His Life, which precludes Being Friends. The act of Being Friends would violate the dichotomous norms.

    I have no fucking idea where you’re getting this.

    4. A man who fails to fulfill his duty to declare his feelings out of fear of rejection should be ridiculed.

    Sure, if he then behaves as though he’s expressed his feelings (ignoring your use of the rather loaded phrase “fulfill his duty”).

    A woman who feels uncomfortable that some guy has unexpressed feelings towards her, but fears to initiate a discussion with the guy, should be pitied.

    Ah, I think I see where you’re going astray. No woman feels uncomfortable that some guy has unexpressed feelings towards her. Because he hasn’t expressed them. She doesn’t feel anything about them, they’re unexpressed, she doesn’t know about them. I promise you, that girl who doesn’t seem to know you’re alive? Doesn’t.

    Similarly, if a relationship is gratifying to a man but not to his mate, it is the man’s fault. After all, the man is responsible for other people’s happiness, not his own. To think otherwise would be unchivalrous.

    I see no relationship that is gratifying to a man but not to his mate here.

    5. Being in a relationship that was started on the basis of sexual attraction is the only road to fulfillment. Being in a relationship that was started on the basis of friendship is a road to perpetual longing for others.

    If anything, the strip says the opposite.

  53. 52
    Mandolin says:

    “If the object of a man’s affections does not share his feelings, the man’s duty is to Get On With His Life, which precludes Being Friends. The act of Being Friends would violate the dichotomous norms.”

    This is just about the opposite of the point most of teh women in this thread (and other nice guy threads) have been making.

    Please! Be friends with people you’d like to fuck! Be friends with everyone! Friends, friends, friends.

    But don’t be friends only because you want to fuck them, and declare teh friendship bad and irrelevant and manipulative and a waste of time because no sex results from it.

  54. 53
    nobody.really says:

    Almost all my friends are women, I’m a straight man, and I’ve only been romantically attracted to two of them. I’m not sure how this “maintains clear dichotomous modes of behavior” unless you’re starting out with the attitude that women are fucks, not friends.

    That’s interesting. I don’t see the “fucks, not friends” dichotomy, but perhaps other people do.

    2. The man’s duty to declare his feelings is independent of the likelihood that this declaration will lead to romantic attachment. The fact that he might better develop a relationship by not immediately disclosing his interest is irrelevant.

    That he might better develop a relationship by not immediately disclosing his interest is improbable and deceptive….

    But that’s the premise of the cartoon, isn’t it? That the guy lures some woman by being friendly and supportive, and then the relationship turns sexual?

    3. If the object of a man’s affections does not share his feelings, the man’s duty is to Get On With His Life, which precludes Being Friends. The act of Being Friends would violate the dichotomous norms.

    I have no fucking idea where you’re getting this.

    I’m sorry. I meant to refer to the second and third panels of the cartoon, which say “I could ask you out, and move on with my life if you said no. Or, we could be friends!” I read that to suggest that the author approves of the dichotomous perspective (go out or “get on with your life”) and disparages the being friends with someone you find sexually/romantically attractive. But perhaps there’s more than one way to understand that passage.

    Similarly, if a relationship is gratifying to a man but not to his mate, it is the man’s fault. After all, the man is responsible for other people’s happiness, not his own. To think otherwise would be unchivalrous.

    I see no relationship that is gratifying to a man but not to his mate here.

    “It’ll feel comfortable and natural. You’ll quietly revise your definition of love and try to be happy. And sometimes you will be.”

    I read this to suggest that the guy is contented with this relationship – he’s pursuing it, after all – but the woman isn’t.

    Admittedly, maybe the author’s just being snarky, implying that the guy is acting in a self-defeating manner because, even if he achieves his objectives, he’ll just be in a relationship he won’t like.

    5. Being in a relationship that was started on the basis of sexual attraction is the only road to fulfillment. Being in a relationship that was started on the basis of friendship is a road to perpetual longing for others.

    If anything, the strip says the opposite.

    “Only the wistfulness in your gaze and the tiny pause before you say, ‘I love you’ will hint that this wasn’t the ending you’d hoped for.”

    I read this to imply that it’s a foregone conclusion that a woman who forms a couple with a friend – that is, a guy to whom she was not initially attracted by sexual desire – will be dissatisfied. Again, perhaps there’s more than one way to read this.

    Please! Be friends with people you’d like to fuck! Be friends with everyone! Friends, friends, friends.

    Well … ok, but just cuz you asked, Mandolin. And it’s Xmas.

  55. 54
    Mandolin says:

    “But that’s the premise of the cartoon, isn’t it? That the guy lures some woman by being friendly and supportive, and then the relationship turns sexual?”

    No, the premise of the cartoon is that he is using friendliness and supportiveness not because he likes being friendly and supportive, but because he wants sex. The friendliness and supportiveness aren’t just a way of makign a friend (who also happens to be attractive), but a way of trying to coerce that person into sleeping with him.

  56. 55
    Mandolin says:

    “Well … ok, but just cuz you asked, Mandolin. And it’s Xmas.”

    Yay! ;)

  57. nothing.really, I think you’re conflating presenting this attitude with advocating it. The male stick-figure—the narrator—isn’t someone we’re meant to emulate. Munroe isn’t saying this is how relationships ought to work.

  58. 57
    Mickle says:

    “The meme is
    “Women only date Jerks, not sweet guys like me that do unasked for favors. See, nice guys really do finish last.” Women don’t like this meme because of what it implies about them.

    The counter meme is
    “Guys that say they are nice guys are really passive aggressive potential date rapists who don’t realized what they call being nice might better be called being manipulative.” Men don’t like this meme because they think they’re being maligned just because they were intimidated and shy around girls at one time or another.”

    I note that the guy has a voice in both of these, even if filtered (“guys that say”), but the gal only has a voice in the latter. The root behavior may be partly human, but the twists sexism gives it is what brings it to feminist’s attention.

    (I also note that only guys are concerned about more that just “what this says about them.” um, ok)

    Also, “guys that say they are nice guys” usually aren’t. (Especially if they say it a lot.) Whether they genuinely think they are nice or not. Simply by virtue of the fact that, as others have pointed out elsewhere, “niceness” is not a trait one usually bestows upon oneself. People that say this about themselves – especially in the context of talking about relationships – are essentially really saying “I’m normal/not a bad person” Sadly, for them and for us, “I’m normal” = / = “I’m nice.” And that’s before we get to the point already talked about a lot here, which is that neither “nice” nor “normal” equals “attractive.” Which would be where much of the confusion starts.

    Also, feminists care about the phenomenon not because we think that only guys have flaws or have one sided relationships (they don’t), but because sexism and male entitlement says that “normal” guys deserve pussy/true love, but being considered “normal” is very rarely seen as enough for girls/women to get the guy. Which is itself partly a product of the whole “guy does the asking” norm.

    It also goes back to the femininity/masculinity Nice Girl/Nice Guy issue discussed earlier. Often the “girls date jerks” bit is amended to include “who are rich/drive nice cars/etc.” The accusation then becomes that girls are shallow/manipulative/whores with a reiteration of the idea that girls overlook “normal” in favor of things. The idea that “men date bimbos,” however, is essentially accusing men of not wanting a real relationship. The idea is not that men overlook “normal”, but that they are too selfish or childish to want “normal.”

    The Nice Girl lament isn’t any nicer or healthier than the Nice Guy lament, but it’s interesting to note that while the Nice Guy seems to be concerned about not getting what he wants (a girlfriend/sex), the Nice Girl is essentially concerned about not being what is wanted. While both turn fears of being unworthy into reassuring themselves that they are too worthy, the Nice Guy usually accuses the object of his affection of being stupid, but the Nice Girl usually accuses the object of her affection of wanting stupid. Or, rather, of wanting a thing rather than a person. There is overlap – immaturity is a kind of stupidity and treating girlfriends as things to have rather then people to be with is a way to insulate oneself from not being wanted – but there does seem to be a power discrepancy.

    Which is part what drives most feminists I know crazy. Yeah, life sucks for the shy boy who fears possible rejection, but it hardly sucks less for the shy girl who for whom never getting asked is a constant rejection. And yet only the girl is really expected to go to great – but downplayed – lengths to make herself more attractive. This is why a lot of Nice Guy laments are greeted with “take shower” and the like by even feminists. The accusation isn’t so much that all Nice Guys have bad hygiene , it’s more observing/venting that similar complaints from girls and women are almost always greeted with advice on how to be more attractive to men.

  59. 58
    nobody.really says:

    There is a difference, in my mind, between ending up with your friend, and trying to end up with your friend. A bit Zen-ish, granted.

    Ya know, the Lord may have shown me the way here. Perhaps it’s a cunt vs. Kant thing.

    As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a very goal-oriented guy. I lust after lots of friends. Some of those lusts turned into physical relationships, some didn’t, but pretty much any planning that extended beyond a weekend was done by my girlfriends. Thus I try to understand things from the Nice Guy point of view, but I’m sensing that I just don’t have the ambition/organization/long-range planning skills to be a Nice Guy.

    I admire goal-oriented people, at least in theory. But in practice, I get annoyed when I perceive that I’m one of their goals. I suspect most of us were the goal of one or more parents. Their obsessive interests in the status of my relationships and oh-so-helpful newspaper clippings about careers and diet made it perfectly clear that there were things I could do to please them. Is there something wrong with parents having opinions about their kid’s lives? Maybe not, in the abstract, but it does piss me off.

    Occasionally a distraught friend (or my wife) vents to me about a situation. Occasionally I offer a suggestion or opinion. This almost always proves to be unwelcome. While journalists sometimes refer to a person as “a close friend and advisor to the President,” I’m always reminded that playing the role of friend largely precludes playing the role of advisor. Either I’m “on the team” or I’m not. Dichotomous, if you will.

    Then last night I heard Terry Gross interview Frank Schaeffer about his life growing up in an evangelical community, and the gradual evolution of his thoughts since then. All his life he had been trained to focus on the goal of saving people by bringing them to Jesus. Every word from his mother had to end with some moral. And every casual conversation with a stranger on the bus was an opportunity to evangelize. Wow, what a focused, disciplined guy! And then he remarked on how liberating it was to be free from that burden, to simply interact without agenda, to be open.

    Immanuel Kant argues that we should treat all rational agents as “ends in themselves,” not at means to some other end. I’ve often found this idea loosy-goosy. How specifically should I manifest this idea in my role as a job interviewer? As a job interviewee? A bus driver? A bus passenger? A voter? A candidate? A student? A teacher? A husband? A father? A dog owner?

    I still find it loosy-goosy. A bit Zen-ish, even. But arguably this discussion about the behavior of Nice Guys identifies a practical difference between people who regard others as ends in themselves, and people who merely regard others as means.

  60. 59
    Joe says:

    Mandolin Wrote

    No, the premise of the cartoon is that he is using friendliness and supportiveness not because he likes being friendly and supportive, but because he wants sex.

    I disagree with this. It’s pretty clear in the comic that the Nice Guy’s goals aren’t sex, they’re a committed romantic relationship. At the end of row 3 they kiss. And after that the next scene is domestic, not sexual.

    I think this is a point you’ve been getting wrong. Nice Guy’s TM (in my experience) are after a relationship that likely includes sex, but sex is not the sole or main goal.

  61. nothing.really, I can only assume you discuss politics with your therapist.