An Honest Gender Neutral Response About “Friend Zones”
This entire comment by an old school male feminist Frumkin on a post by the always short-sighted E. J. Dickson, Salon’s resident feminist blogger, says pretty much everything honest that needs to be said about the subject. There’s even a Tootsie reference at the end.
This is yet another essay about sex and relationships by a female writer who starts from the utterly false premise that male and female sexuality and desire are equal, mirror-images of each other. To put that another way, she writes from the female perspective and, because she takes it as axiomatic that male and female are essentially identical and that the female perspective can be taken therefore as the paradigm “human” perspective, one can then safely extrapolate what the male perspective is. Well, perhaps that’s only fair: after all, we’ve had several thousand years of affirmative-action for men in which the male was considered the paradigm human, and female, a variation (and in medicine, a “defective case”) on that theme. It seems a pity, though, that so much of what passes for feminist thought these days, as in the present piece, is really just a superficial attempt to arrive at equality by pretending that there are no differences between the sexes whatsoever.
To wit, Dickson writes that the term “fiend zone” is inherently sexist because it disproportionally encompasses the phenomenon of men being consigned to the friend zone by women rather than both sexes being represented in both categories equally and in proportion to their numbers. But the reality is that, in our species, the model of sexual reproduction that obtains (as in many mammalian species) is that of “female choice,” in which the sex drive is much stronger in the male and in which the male must compete with many other males for a a female, who ultimately chooses from among her many suitors. Thus, the disproportionate number of men who are consigned to the friend zone, and comparatively few number of women who are, do not reflect a sexist “social construct” so much as a simple biologically determined reality: men generally are much more interested in having sex with women and with as many women as possible than the reverse, and this creates a “seller’s market” for sex which places men at a considerable numerical disadvantage. This results in far more men wanting to have sex with a given woman than will actually get to have sex with her. If all of these men are friends with her – let us suppose, for argument’s sake, that there are 15 of them – and if the woman is interested in having a monogamous relationship with only one of them, that means that the other 14 men, by definition, will be in the friend zone.
Another false assertion that Dickson makes is that the concept of the friend zone “perpetuates the myth that being nice can’t get you laid” and that “the idea that women are only into ‘jerks’ or ‘assholes’ and not ‘nice guys’ is one of the most insidious dating myths of the past 50 years.” But here again her femaleness (as opposed to feminism) skews her thinking. Being female, she assumes that the point of dating is to find someone with whom to establish a long-term, monogamous relationship, whereas from the male point of view, the point of dating is, as Dickson would express it, “to get laid.” Those are two fundamentally different and often irreconcilable objectives. To be sure, I think that when it comes to establishing a long-term, monogamous relationship, women are interested in “nice guys.” But if that “nice guy” wants to have lots of sex with lots of women, being that nice guy will get him nowhere fast. In contrast to Dickson’s romantic fantasy, the reality is that the more sexist and misogynistic a man is, the more women he will be able to get to have sex with him. That’s simply because deception and dishonesty are, sadly, essential tools in getting large numbers women into bed, which is what most men want to do. That is not, in my experience, what most women want men to do, nor what they themselves want to do in their relations with men.
Speaking from my own experience as a male feminist who came of age in the 70s during the height of the renaissance of western feminism, I can assure you that there is no quicker way to being consigned to the “friend zone” than to treat women as human beings first and not as “meat.” Boy was I idealistic. The fact is, if you try to establish a relationship with a woman on the basis of friendship and mutual respect, when you then try to transition the relationship to a sexual one, it’s always – and I mean always – “I don’t like you in ‘that way,’ I like you as a friend.” Of course, if I could do it all over again, I would abandon my principles and study up on the techniques of “pick-up artists,” and I am certain that I would have much more and much more satisfying sex. I would say that this is one of the great disappointments of feminism and the so-called sexual revolution of the 60’s (which I’m still waiting for). There was a notion once upon a time that progressive- and feminist-men like me bought hook, line, and sinker, to our great regret, namely, that feminism would liberate both men and women from their socially constructed gender roles, allowing for the sexes to meet on an equal footing in the spirit of mutual respect and interest, in other words, as friends. Presumably, this would also entail liberating women’s sexuality, all of which would, as an added benefit for men, result in making women more sexually available. Gender and sex equality and more sex for everyone: who could argue with that? One could, in such a world, be honest and frank, and a friend. But, of course, that world never came into being Honesty and frankness – and being a true friend – never got a man laid.
The predicament of men in the dating world who don’t want to stoop to deception is best expressed by that great bit in the movie “Tootsie”: In one scene, Julie (Jessica Lange) confides to “Tootsie” (Michael disguised as a woman [Dustin Hoffman]) that she wishes men could simply be honest and tell women whom they are interested in that they just want to sleep with them, without all the bullshit. When Michael, now as Michael (and not in drag as Tootsie), takes exactly that approach with Julie, and says almost verbatim what Julie said men ought to say, she throws a drink in his face.
As a bonus here’s Dustin Hoffman tearing up about his experience on the film Tootsie: