Guys in the Friendzone

friend-zone1I don’t really have a lot of friends, nor girlfriends. Most women say I am too sweet, and I don’t know why. 

That’s from a profile on Nice Guys of OkCupid (which was recently shut down).

The nice guys of OkCupid commonly complain that being too nice gets them “friendzoned.” But after looking through their posts, Katie Baker at Jezebel says they don’t always seem so nice. In fact some express “sheer rage and misogynistic threats of violence: ‘All I want you to do is bleed like I have.’”

Hugo Schwyzer, a sociologist who studies men and masculinity, says these guys believe that if they are nice women will have sex with them:

The subtext of virtually all of their profiles, the mournful and the bilious alike, is that these young men feel cheated. Raised to believe in a perverse social/sexual contract that promised access to women’s bodies in exchange for rote expressions of kindness, these boys have at least begun to learn that there is no Magic Sex Fairy.

But Dr. Schwyzer also points out that the niceness is often an act.

They rage about being “friendzoned,” and complain about the hours spent listening to women without being given so much as a hand job in return for their investment… Their anger, in other words, is that their own deception didn’t work as they had hoped.

Meanwhile, since they can’t conceal their hostility their profile ends any chance of getting laid.

I’ve noticed that many actual nice guys share the illusion that women would like to have sex with any nice guy who asks.

A friend of mine who’s married started passing out a book which explains that monogamy is not the natural human state. He seemed to think that if women “got that,” they’d easily have sex with him.

I’m sure some women will want sex with him, after all, he is a nice, attractive guy. But I doubt monogamous norms are the only thing keeping women from entering his open marriage.

Another guy friend of mine proposed that the way to get a woman was to act like you found her really, really attractive (he actually did find these women really, really attractive) and communicate that you would like to have a romantic relationship. After all, it would work if they did that to him.


There’s even a joke that echoes the theme:

What’s the difference between a bitch and a slut? A bitch has sex with everyone but me.

Women just waiting around to have sex with whatever nice guy asks.

Michael Kimmel, another sociologist who studies men, says pornography helps create the illusion. Full of sexually excitable women who are ready and willing, many men watch and think it’s real.

But as he points out, women’s sexuality in porn looks an awful lot like male sexuality in real life.

In some non-Western cultures men and women do behave similarly sexually but not here, where women are more repressed: they are more slut-shamed, they worry so much about their bodies that they are often distracted from sexual feeling, and sexual assault turns desire off, for instance.

Cognitive neuroscientist, Ogi Ogas has described the process of igniting female desire, explaining that women scrutinize all available evidence – social, emotional and physical, which all lead to a general feeling of favorability, or not. Only when it all comes together, just right, do physical and psychological arousal unite, he says.

Most women do want relationships with nice guys, but they need nice + chemistry, or some other “je ne sais pas.” I suspect that most men want relationships with nice girls, but they need nice + chemistry/”je ne sais pas,” too.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 4, 2013, in men, pornography, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I agree that the term/concept itself is insulting. I have a male friend who complains constantly that he is always “put in the friend zone,” and will exclaim this with anger and resentment, as if he worked so hard to get sex and instead of being rewarded, he was insulted by a lesser, meaningless prize. And his idea of friendship is basically that your number is in his phone contacts or that you are on his Facebook, so there is no actual “use” for these women after they have insulted him so. I try to explain that the problem is that he begins the conversation from word one with the expectation that he is going to get sex, and then is let down and angered when he doesn’t. If sex is the goal, and you want no rejection or possibility of any other outcome, you should stick with financial transactions. This goes for “nice” guys as well, though you may be genuinely nice and appreciate a friendship, your use of the term signifies the expectation that you had.

    Women have a choice, there is no guarantee, and when they make a choice, the other person has no right to get angry when they don’t like the outcome. Men are not owed sex under any circumstance, no human is. It is a privilege you are given when you have consent. The idea of categorization (zones) based on a woman’s response to a man’s communication- friendship as a devalued outcome to the preferred outcome of sex- just shows that any man who thinks or uses the term is valuing women in terms of their sexual service to them over any potential friendship they could have. Not surprising given that women are seen as secondary to men in terms of value in our culture and are objectified (prizes in this case), but it is surprising that we have to come up with terms such as these that hide the real meaning behind what we are communicating/valuing here. It makes the blatant sexism more subtle and hard to identify, which can make it more acceptable and prevalent.

  2. Thank you for posting this, and the related studies.

    It has always bothered me that the idea of the “friend zone” even exists or is complained about. It is talked about like being nice to a woman, as a man, is some type of currency that is exchangeable directly for sex (or even a romantic relationship). It isn’t kindness for kindnesses’ sake, it is seen as a transaction – I’ll be nice to you, then you’ll have sex with me. As if it were some unwritten law that was universally understood.

    If a relationship or something more than friendship is what men are after, just come out and say it. Wearing the guise of friendship and then being upset when only friendship is returned is not something to complain about.

  3. In my opinion, I think the friendzone can be a bad thing and a good thing depending on the situation and the age. In high school (around the age of 18) most guys would say they were stuck in the friendzone even thought they’ve known the girl for a month or so.. I get mad when they say that because they expect the girl to fall for the guy right away and if they don’t fall for them they want to be nice and try to be sweet just so they can have sex. So now it is different because you don’t know if the guy just wants sex or if he actually wants a relationship. Vice versa with the girls also, maybe they just want to mess around or have a relationship. I would consider being stuck in the friendzone if you’ve known the person for a few years and asked her several times to go out on dates or asked her to be your gf/bf.

  4. I too think that this post is somewhat derogatory. Being a nice guy in my opinion has nothing to do with the need or desire for sex. If anything, being a “nice” guy all has to do with what you say and how you act towards everyone, not just women. For a long time, I have been known as a nice guy for my actions and what I say would be genuinely appealing to the overall public. I find it rather messed up that there seems to be a mix up of the meaning of being a nice guy given that it is being associated with sex and sexual actions. There maybe something I missed in this post, but overall, nice guys are just nice guys… nothing more. We just go around doing nice things for everybody.

    • Not only have I only dated nice guys, I never think that just because a guy is being nice that he wants sex. And I’m generally surprised on those occasions when it turns out that he wants sex.

      The post only seems derogatory because of the way you interpreted it. I agree that being a nice guy has nothing to do with the need or desire for sex for most men. But some guys do confuse friendship with attraction. It happens to us women all the time. In the near future I’ll be posting something from a woman on her experience with this. Here are my experiences (other than those I mentioned in my post and in my comments above):

      Can Men and Women be Friends?

  5. My God I worry about my gender. Being a nice Guy is the least likely to get you laid. All you got to do is simply have better stats than the women and convince her you want to share that status. Pretty much you have to treat approaching a female the same you would dealing with a cold blooded lawyer.

  6. There’s only one way to connect with people and it’s talking in real life. Sometimes you don’t connect at all and that’s fine. You can’t like everybody. Sometimes you make acquaintances, sometimes friends, sometimes a relationship. And that’s all fine. I’m grateful for every friendship I’ve made over the years. And relationships do emerge spontaneously out of normal, casual conversations. It does happen that people connect in that special way for some inexplicable reason and a relationship is born instead of a friendship.

    I feel the only true way of interacting with others is feeling genuinely interested in who those people are and try to get to know them rather than setting a goal a priori and then trying tricks and tactics to achieve that goal, without real respect and interest for the person. I think that’s a dehumanizing approach.

  7. I think I should give a rebuttal here: I disagree with this particular analysis of “nice guys.” A reason (not the only reason, of course) a lot of guys are bitter about being labeled as “nice” is because of the whole host of “bad boys” who seem to have no trouble finding girlfriends. Guys like me get frustrated when we get rejected repeatedly while an abusive jerk always seems to have a female companion by his side clinging onto his every move.

    I’m offended that this article and some of these commentators seem to believe that “nice guys” are just men who put on an act in order to get sex. This is far from the truth. While I’m sure this is not the intent of this story, I think it’s a bit irresponsible to put all guys who are unlucky in love in the same category as scam artists. I’m obviously overreacting a bit, but I think this perspective needs to be mentioned.

    It seems like we have a “chicken or egg” problem going on here: Are these guys being rejected because they’re secretly jerks, or are they secretly jerks because they keep being rejected?

    • Did you read the whole thing? I’m not saying that at all. Some actual nice guys I know are not putting on an act, but they still seem to think that women will have sex with them just because they’re nice guys. They don’t seem to get that you need chemistry, too.

      So I — and many other women — have had the opposite frustration of guys thinking that just because they’re nice (and they truly are) that we want to have sex with them. I should add that I don’t mind if a man who I see as a friend tells me he’s interested in a romantic/sexual relationship with me. What bothers me is when I tell him that I don’t see him that way but he won’t give it up.

      The guys I’m thinking of stayed nice even if not every woman they wanted to have sex with agreed to it.

      As I said in a comment above, I’ve only date nice guys and I can’t stand jerks, so I don’t think that the nice part is the problem. It’s just that you need a mix of nice + chemistry.

      Girls can’t get every single guy they want either. There just isn’t always chemistry on both sides. That’s happened to me, too. That doesn’t leave women (or me) hating men. Maybe the whole process is harder on guys because they’re the ones who are expected to put themselves out there, take the risk, and make the first move. And that’s a problem of patriarchy.

      Also, abusive men often start out very charming and the woman falls in love with him and it’s only after she falls in love with him that he becomes abusive – after she’s hooked. Most women leave but it takes them a while to do it. One of my students had this experience and I will be posting what she wrote about it in a future blog post.

      I’ve also written a piece that I haven’t posted yet. It talks about how “bad boys” and “mean girls” seem attractive at first because for some reason they tend to know how to put themselves together and look good – including both fashion and confidence. So initially men and women are both attracted to these “bad” types. But after a while the real person shows through and becomes unappealing. So chin up. The bad boys and mean girls aren’t always having the good luck that it appears they’re having – at least not in the long run.

      Here are a couple related posts if you’re interested. I’ll be writing more on the topic of why girls SEEM to like bad boys. And it only seems that way in that some girls do but most girls don’t. It’s just more glaring when they do.

      The Allure of Bad Boys

      Teen Cougars at Prom

    • unfortunately for you friend. The problem isn’t your nice or tender personality, you are beta to whomever you see getting women. Something you aren’t doing to advertise whatever awesome traits you have, my advise is to stop worrying about women and continue to improve yourself. (I’m going to guess and say your under 30) After you get to a certain point you will be the stud simply because the older a man gets the higher is worth gets to the opposite gender. (because you will be making more money and be more refined by life.) Your female counterpart will be dropping in status because the first traits men look for will be decreasing in value (looks and youth).

      Think about that careful also don’t sell your heart and love so cheaply to women. Make them earn it because you will be suffering forever once you give it up.

  8. Well I have to say this was made me laugh. Fist of all if a girl puts a guy in the friend zone it’s not because he’s too nice its most likely that she did think she would ever sleep with him or date him because his personality or his looks. And if they are saying that being “friendly” to a female should be rewarded by sex, I’M SURE ITS THEIR PERSONALITY! Because plenty of nice guys get laid, the ones that are trying to scam females into being friends with them just to have sex are obviously not “nice guys” they are scum and that’s why they aren’t having sex.

  9. It’s sad when the only reason a guy is beign nice is to get laid. If they weren’t so busy thinking about sex all the time a girl might actually like them and not feel liek the whole thing is a scam. Too many guys just want sex and thats it and then the girl is either considered a slut for doign what he wants or a bitch for rejecting him. Only the guy can end up winning in that situation and it’s ridiculous. Men should be nice because that’s how they actually are not because of an act and if they are not always thinking about getting laid and actually want a relationship then nice guys will win in the end because no one wants a jerk or a fake.

  10. Hi Georgia. I know from reading this post and the rest of your blog that you believe in the existence of nice guys. My astonishment wasn’t aimed at you but at the commentary of the others whom you quote (and the behaviour of men who cynically purport to be nice in order to get sex). Mind you, after I posted this I read the original Jezebel post, and even I felt I could see her point.

    I must say, amid the maelstrom of adolescent hormones and feelings, I couldn’t clearly judge the motivations of the girls I was interested in. I suspect many of them lacked the maturity to let me down in the terms you describe (which would have been fine) (and I must say my own overtures were hopelessly clumsy). But at the time I found myself bewildered: how can someone possibly be “too nice”? (“You know, we’d get on a lot better if you just showed a bit more ignorance and cruelty from time to time”). And no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t get in touch with my inner bastard. I still can’t.

    Apologies for confusion: I am indeed a male crossdresser, but one who has been married (faithfully!) for over 12 years. Not all nice guys crossdress, and any resemblance to any nice guy you may know is purely coincidental!


  11. I read this post with my mouth hanging open. As an adolescent I too struggled to find a girlfriend, often being told I was “too nice”. What did that mean, I wondered? Looking back, perhaps it meant that I didn’t treat girls with contempt, and perhaps they were expecting (or conditioned to expect?) to be treated in this manner. Plenty of my contemporaries seemed to managed to achieve this quite well.

    As an adolescent I was, without doubt, geeky and quirky (and you know something? I still am). I can totally see how girls would rather date a member of the rugby team than the chess club. And perhaps they were trying to spare my feelings by paying me a compliment of sorts. Instead of “Hey, you’re just too weedy and intellectual”, they may have preferred to say “Hey, you’re just too nice”.

    It never occurred to me (until I read this), that men would _pretend_ to be nice as a cynical means of obtaining sex. Let me tell you that actually being the real deal got me pretty much nowhere either! In fact, while dating, I was never looking for sex. What I was looking for was intimacy, handholding, cuddles, shared pleasures. On top of all that, sex was amazing; without it, I suspect it would be empty and unfulfilling.

    Being “nice” makes one vulnerable to hurt, of course. And being hurt persistently, deliberately, perhaps even gratuitously, is enough to rouse the anger of even the nicest person.

    I hope you don’t think these comments make me sound “mournful or bilious”. But I think this post presents a distorted view of nice men. Nice guys _are_ sometimes genuine!

    • I DID say that many nice guys are actually nice. Did you read the whole post?

      My guess is that when there’s no chemistry on her side, but a woman thinks a man is nice and she likes him, she softens the blow by saying, “You’re nice, I like you as a friend, but I’m not interested in a romantic – or sexual — relationship.”

      Then guys come away feeling like women don’t want sex with them BECAUSE they’re nice.

      So I’ve told men this. But it doesn’t mean that nice guys aren’t attractive. I’ve only dated nice men.

      But that’s another post.

      (To readers who may be confused: Vivienne is a biological guy who cross-dresses. Check out his blog at

  12. This post made me laugh out loud. I’m amazed to hear that men think that just “being friendly” is all there is to getting sex. I’ve found a secure committed relationship with a guy I can count on and trust to be attractive. He got up at night and rocked the baby and let me sleep. If this isn’t sexy, I don’t know what is.

  13. Wow, what reductionist thinking on the part of these poor “nice” guys. Sexual attractiveness is not something so easily defined. They are missing half (or maybe a third) of the picture, and then resenting the women for it. Ugh.

  14. Yup. Women want a little bit of everything. Just like men don’t want the prude, neither do women. We want someone that is nice and spicy. It is about an emotional and physical connection.

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