Entitlement: Why the "Friendzone" is Men's Only
The whole premise of the "friendzone" is a heterosexual relationship that does not involve sex. (Actually this involves any relationship that can be sexual, but I feel that its more damaging aspects are more prevalent in heterosexual coupling than others.) More often than not, it refers to a friendship based upon unrequited love... mostly the female refusing romantic/sexual affections offered or expected by the male counterpart. Curious enough, while it does work both ways, there is little criticism about how a male refuses a female friend. But we'll address that later. The friendzone is built upon the idea that a guy friend is owed sex because he is being emotionally supportive and affectionate towards his friend and the fact that he is not receiving sexual or romantic favors in return is seen as cruel, unfair, and/or wrong.
Now, why is this? What is it about being denied sexual favors that is unfair and wrong? Does this mean that friendship, pure unsexualized friendship, is less worthy than a romantic affair? Is sex the only thing that defines a male/female relationship?
"You're such a great friend, but..."
This scenario come down to one thing:entitlement. Nice Guys think that because they are nice (the infamous Nice Guy syndrome - notice the capital letters. This isn't just someone who is nice who happens to be a guy; this is a guy who thinks he is being nice but instead aims to achieve some short-sighted reward out of doing kind actions), show emotional support, engage in intimacy, and otherwise provide friendly behavior, thisshould result in sexual gratification in some sort. The key word there being "should." It's not that they want it, it's not that they deeply desire it or even actively ask for it. It is that they think that this is the natural result of such displays. This mentality of entitlement is really quite an old idea for such a new word.
You see, when a person demands something in return from someone else without respect to the other's wishes, regardless of gender, it makes the second person a tool, a means to an end. It reduces the second person to a channel, vessel, or anything else you might use to achieve something. In simplicity? Anobject. That phrase "the objectification of women" no longer seems like such an inapplicable feminist rant now does it? When examined at its most basic level, the friendzone is actively supporting the male entitlement mentality.
"We should just stay friends."
That’s where the harm with the friendzone comes from. A man can ask his friend over and over again for sex. He can buy her flowers, remember her birthday, pull her hair away from her face when she barfs, and hold her when she cries over her last break up. But it never entitles him to anything sexual from her. His acts are his decision and it might be how he displays his love for that girl. While that girl should repay him in some way for his kindness – be it in the same manner, birthday presents, designated driving, or taking him to the movie when a girl rejects him – but that in no way requires sexual favors. I admit that a girl who does use a guy for emotional support without repaying him in some way is cruel and unfair. Any person who uses a person this way is cruel and unfair. But repayment isn’t the question here, it’s the type of repayment.
This also goes back to how the friendzone doesn’t seem to apply when a women gets rejected by a man for sexual advances. When a man rejects a women, it's seen as a lesser evil in society. There is usually a certain stigma that develops around a rejected girl that doesn’t happen to a Nice Guy. A Nice Guy gets called just that (even if it’s self-proclaimed) a nice guy. But a girl? She gets labeled ugly, bitchy, or slutty. Something with a bad connotation. While a rejected guy receives a good connotation. There is a reason a girl gets rejected, while there isn’t a reason a guy gets rejected.
The problem inherent in the friendzone is the double standard around men and women. Of course everyone has heard of this before, but it is prevalent again here and in a more subtle and harmful manner to both genders. It is harmful because it ostracizesmales as much as females. It taboos the friendship between males and females unless there is some sort of sexual interaction involved. It isn’t seen as a fruitful, beneficial, or even worthwhile to be in a relationship unless there is sex involved. When that happens, both men and women lose the ability to form long lasting and meaningful friendships that carry weight and power.
The culture that permits this is heavily grounded in the role of man as the aggressor and the role of women as the tease. This idea is based upon an interesting theory known as Bateman's Principle, which pretty much supports the idea that men are competitive for sex while women are selective. This too limits both men and women by stereotyping them unfairly. It limits the perception of how men and women can view their friendships and limits overall the quality of communication and interaction that the two genders can engage in. Men are expecting, even if they don’t themselves feel this way, sexual gratification, and are told repeatedly that if they do not receive it they are being cheated. Even if they do not want the sexual attention, they are told that they should want it, which creates negative feelings when the gratification is not granted. While women are told if they are not putting out they are being inconsiderate and rude, which creates feelings of guilt and obligation. So when someone deviates from this scripted role-play it leaves them stranded and without acceptance.
Friendships matter too!
Friendship does not beget sex by default. Friendships are not all based upon who is having sex with whom. The culture built around the friendzone propagates this idea and that is damaging in many ways to both males and females. Friendship, with or without sex, has real value and importance in our world. To dismiss it as something less meaningful than sexual relations is to ignore the strength and wisdom that can come from any and all friendships.