Regarding ‘Nice Guys’ and ‘Why Women Only Date Jerks’- A Critique of a Masculine Victim-Cult

I’d like to start by saying, yes, I know feminists have already written about this–but it needs to be said again. I wrote this very quickly, so be warned. This is in response to this picture, which has been circulating.

I think there are some great answers to this lying around somewhere, but I’ll try to answer with some basic points; I don’t have a lot of time to lay the groundwork of theory and whatnot here and have some lengthy introduction, so I’ll jump right to it.

First, don’t assume that all women are the same or that women’s judgement of men is anything but rational and sensible; erase the conception that women are just crazy, open yourself to self-criticism, and figure out what the deal is. I think the answer here lies less in the alleged and imagined inadequacies of female judgement and more in the actual character of the alleged ‘nice guy’–a trend, a sort of character, that I’ve seen before.

We have to separate ‘nice guy’ and ‘good guy’ from ‘submissively polite guy’. You can be assertive and nice, and it seems like some people confuse being a nice guy with being a sycophant or a clingy dude. Have your own thing, do your own thing, but don’t be a self-absorbed douche; this is the essence of being a nice guy without being ‘clingy’. Assertiveness and confidence do not equate to aggression and self-absorption; kindness and respect do not equate to submissiveness and passivity.

It’s also important to realize that being a nice guy doesn’t entitle you to sex. Nothing does. Ever. Being resentful about the lack of sexing for your nice guy persona isn’t cool. In fact, if you have this sense of entitlement, whereby being a nice guy should get you laid, or being a nice guy is a strategy towards getting laid, you aren’t a nice guy. This reminds me of something in this pic that really irks me. This writer acts like being someone’s best friend is an insult. If she’s calling you her best friend, that’s a compliment–not necessarily one that will lead to sex, but if your interest in her as a person is based around wanting to get in her pants, you’re a terrible friend. If you regard being called a ‘best friend’ as some sort of pity prize or second-rate thing, then clearly you don’t value that friendship very much, and if you don’t value the friendship very much, and only see this girl as a source of romance and sex, then you’re probably not really a nice guy to begin with–just a more passive aggressive form of jerk.

That’s what I’m seeing here, and elsewhere–the fake nice guy, the guy with the nice guy complex, who adopts what he thinks are nice guy behaviors, but maintains a view of women that, at its root, objectifies them instead of respecting them. You can’t be a genuinely nice guy without respecting women. If being nice is a means to an end, and that end is one that places her body and her sexuality above the rest of her personhood, you actually aren’t that different from a jerk–you’re just a jerk with a different strategy. The fake nice guy, the nice guy who’s being nice just to get laid, is basically the same as the high school punk who tries to be individualistic so he’ll be cool; he’s a hipster nice guy. It’s disingenuous, and not nice at all.

The way to break out of this is simple to say but hard to do; you need to break your own objectifying ways and start genuinely respecting women without automatically sexualizing them or grouping them instantly into the ‘screwable’ and ‘non-screwable’ categories. This takes a lot of self-criticism. It’s difficult. I’m not going to say I never objectify women or act like a jerk or even engage in the occasional bout of Nice Guy Syndrome. I do. I try to recognize it and I try to avoid it and change my perspective. It takes a bit of vigilance, and a willingness to let go of your ego. The force of culture is against you; the discourse on women in our culture reinforces the view of women as sexual objects or worthless and takes the value and focus away from their other attributes. It might sounds supremely unpleasant, but you may need to read some feminist theory before you learn how to be a genuine nice guy–including some feminist critiques of the nice guy syndrome (which I will link).

I have two more points to make:

First, quite a few of the girls that go for jerks do it because of their own issues with self-esteem or their male role models teaching them implicitly that a man should be a jerk. Yes, taking advantage of that does make you an ass.

Second, relationships built around the dynamic of you being a jerk to her are not going to be satisfying relationships from the perspective of anyone who’s an authentic nice guy; a jerk would consider sex sans real, emotional connection to be really satisfying.

So, that’s my take on ‘nice guys’.

Here are some other takes:

Geek Feminism Wiki

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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