The Friend Zone is something that is hated by MRAs, well at least pointed at as a problem. The concept of The Friend Zone is something that Feminists very much don’t like. From what I can tell this is because the two groups view and understand this concept very differently. This is one of the points where I’m not sure if the feminist position is one of understandable and correctable ignorance or one of steadfast dogmatic intentional ignorance. I can see how at first glance much of the talk about The Friend Zone would lead feminist to believe what they do. However if you look at the situation with more than a passing glance this understanding quickly falls apart.
So, what is The Friend Zone? Lets start with what isn’t The Friend Zone.
The Friend Zone has NOTHING to do with pregnancy, fat acceptance, restricting women’s birth control options or the New Clinton pregnancy. I really have no clue why ManBoobz would link this about The Friend Zone, well other than to distract from the fact that he has no clue what he’s talking about.
Edit:ManBoobz does talk about The Friend Zone in the pod cast. It just didn’t make it onto the transcript that I read. But his position is predictably sexist. It boils down to “Friend Zoning” is an action that women take, not men. Men and only men are capable of acting so all action is male action. Because “Friend Zoning” asserts that women are people too, it must be wrong because women are furniture and window dressing not actual people.
So, What is The Friend Zone? Not yet, first lets look at what are relationships. As humans we have all kinds of relationships. Many kinds of relationships that don’t even really have names. We have work friends and friends and good friends and romantic partners and Love of Family and love of spouse and love of children. These are all very different kinds of relationships. The only real unifying aspect of relationships is you put something in, time effort energy money, and get something out of it. Different types of relationships have different levels of inputs and expected outputs. Maintaining a working friendship takes much less effort than maintaining a romantic relationship. A working friendship is going to be much less reliable with less benefits than a romantic relationship.
I know about what I do, so I will use me as an example. I am personally very good at basic home maintenance stuff, but I’m very bad at gardening. When a Working friend calls me with a minor plumbing problem, I’ll spend 10 min on the phone talking them through how to clean the P-Trap. But I’m not going to drive to their house or do it for them. Similarly if I call a work friend with a gardening problem I expect them to take 10 min to talk me though why my tomatoes died again this year. But I don’t expect them to come over and prep or plant my garden for me. With a good friend I’ll go over and supervise the plumbing fix, and expect them to come over to supervise my planting. This may require a bribe of beer and pizza in both directions. Now if my Romantic Partner calls with a plumbing problem, I’m driving right over and fixing it for them. This reciprocal assistance is how most men view most relationships and our base understanding of how relationships work.
So, What is The Friend Zone? Well The Friend Zone is when one person expects a romantic partner level of effort from the other while only providing a working friend or good friend level of effort. The friend zone isn’t when both people want to be friends, but when one is putting in the effort to escalate the relationship, and the other person accepts the benefits of this escalation with out escalating themselves. Then there is even more to it. The very existence of The Friend Zone isn’t problematic. If you attempt to escalate a relationship it’s not going to work every time. There will and should be times when one of the people won’t want to escalate, and the only way to find out is to try.
The problem with The Friend Zone occurs on two fronts. First is the time in The Friend Zone. Some time in The Friend Zone is expected as the person you are attempting to woo notices all of the extra things you do for them. If women are so blind to the social ques that indicate someone is trying to escalate a relationship with them, this is a problem. It is a problem with women, not men. It is a very solvable problem. One aspect of the Friend Zone Problem is teaching women how to see and respond to these social ques. After some arbitrary and variable amount of time it is perfectly reasonable for the person attempting to escalate the relationship to see the continued acceptance of the benefits of the escalation as a form of accepting the escalation. This continued acceptance of escalation can very reasonably seen as a message of “Try Harder” not “I’m not interested”. After a very long stay in The Friend Zone with the perceive acceptance of the escalation, being told “I just want to be friends” can be both devastating and very insulting.
Very often men who experience this aspect of The Friend Zone talk about how much effort they put into the relationship only to be friend zoned. Very often, if you don’t bother to look past the words, these expressions of frustration can come across as “I put my kindness coins in the vending machine and sex didn’t fall out”. What they are really saying is “My escalation of the relationship was accepted, but she didn’t honor the reciprocal obligation of the relationship”
The Second problem with the friend zone is how often it occurs. There is no expectation that EVERY attempt to escalate a relationship will be successful. There is a reasonable expectation that some attempts will be successful. If a person follows the rules and attempts to escalate 5,7,20 relationships and all these attempts to escalate fail, it is very reasonable that the person feels like there is a problem with the group they are attempting to escalate with. This is not a problem with women. It’s also not a problem with men. It’s a problem of how we socialize men and what we teach men about relationships. There is a very real problem with the RULES that the man is following.
Very often men that experience this Friend Zone problem become bitter and hardened over time and after, and only after, the 20th or 30th failed attempt to escalate start to call women horrible names. Once these “Nice Guys” become bitter and hardened by rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection they are no longer “Nice Guys” they are bitter hardened ass holes. This doesn’t mean they started off as bitter, they started off as “Nice Guys” and became bitter overtime. They only start bitching about The Friend Zone AFTER they have become bitter. They are now attempting to be the opposite of “Nice Guys” since being “Nice” failed horribly. But bitter hardened twisted former Nice Guy is no more affective than actually being Nice.
The Friend Zone is a real issue. It is an issue for Women and Men. It is an issue of poor socialization and poor education about how relationships work for both men and women. Just because this is a problem almost exclusively faced by men, not a men are the problem issue, doesn’t mean that “The Friend Zone” isn’t real. The Friend Zone is very real, and can be very problematic.