The Friendless Zone

There’s no way to say what I want to say without causing some offense.

The problem is this: Women are indeed at considerable risk of assault, often by “intimate partners,” especially in the United States.[1] And so, in the wake of a mass shooting, conducted by a shooter who complained that women wouldn’t date him, there has been an outcry by women who feel they’re being blamed for misogyny, expressed as rape, expressed as assault, expressed as killing,[2] and, women say, expressed in complaints about “friend-zoning”.[3]

The term “friend zone” comes from men’s experience of women turning them down for romantic relationships. In the classic rendering of this tale, the woman says, “I just want to be friends.” A man who is dissatisfied with this offer, it is alleged, is asserting a right to sex and is therefore a would-be rapist. There’s a leap in that really rather reductionist logic that at the very least, overlooks the pain of unrequited love.

I do not wish to deny that many women are victims. It may indeed be difficult, as Catharine MacKinnon argued, to tell the difference between rapists and non-rapists: Psychological tests are—or at least were—apparently unable to distinguish between them.[4] Women can hardly be expected to be better at picking men than psychologists; the rather frightening statistics[5] suggest that they pay a high price for picking wrong. I should also point out that I have repeatedly argued in favor of the recommendations in Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti’s book, Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape.[6]

But honestly, it would be a lot easier to be sympathetic with all these aggrieved women if I weren’t still facing the conundrum I described in 2010, when I first read that book (quoting myself at length):

Julia Serano, in her chapter, “Why Nice Guys Finish last,” explains that we view male-female relationships through the prism of predator and prey, a “mindset [which] essentially ensures that men cannot be viewed as legitimate sexual objects, nor can women be viewed as legitimate sexual aggressors.” She writes, “Just as it is difficult for women to navigate their way through the world, given the fact that they are nonconsensually viewed as prey, it is often difficult for men to move through a world in which they are nonconsensually viewed as predators.”

Feminists, it seems, “have discussed how the sexual object/prey stereotype creates a double bind for women in which they can only ever be viewed as either ‘virgins’ or ‘whores,’” but Serano writes of “assholes” as “men who fulfill the men-as-sexual-aggressors stereotype” and of “nice guys” as “the ones who refuse or eschew it.” She writes of her experience as a man before undergoing a sex change:

Sometimes after being hurt by some “asshole,” my female friends would come to me for advice or to be consoled. They came to me because I was a “nice guy.” In their eyes, I was safe. Respectful. Harmless. Sometimes during these post-“asshole” conversations, my friends would go on a tirade about how all men are jerks and cannot be trusted, or they’d ask, “Why can’t I find a guy who will treat me with respect?” Whenever they did this, I would point out that there are lots of guys who are not jerks, who are respectful of women. I’d even name a few. Upon hearing the names I suggested, my friends would invariably say something like “I don’t find him attractive” or “I think of him more as a friend.”

So obviously, genuine “nice guys” are not worthy of consideration. Worse, the narrative that Serano criticizes even effectively denies our existence by relabeling us as jerks in disguise. Serano parenthetically distinguishes us from “the type of man referred to in the feminist blogosphere as a Nice Guy, who is the sort of man who argues that being a ‘nice guy’ entitles him to sex with whomever he wants, thus revealing himself to be merely a closeted ‘asshole.'”

Serano argues that if women want to be liberated from the “virgin/whore” double bind, that they need to liberate men from the “asshole/nice guy” double bind. Last year [in 2009], I quoted Kay Hymowitz:

The female preference for jerks and “assholes,” as they’re also widely known, lies behind women’s age-old lament, “What happened to all the nice guys?” [From Craigslist, “Recovering Nice Guy’s”] answer: “You did. You ignored the nice guy. You used him for emotional intimacy without reciprocating, in kind, with physical intimacy.” Women, he says, are actually not attracted to men who hold doors for them, give them hinted-for Christmas gifts, or listen to their sorrows. Such a man, our Recovering Nice Guy continues, probably “came to realize that, if he wanted a woman like you, he’d have to act more like the boyfriend that you had. He probably cleaned up his look, started making some money, and generally acted like more of an asshole than he ever wanted to be.”

I have to say, that sounds like Serano’s experience. But for me, it doesn’t matter anymore. You see, since I finished my M.A. in Speech Communication last June, I’ve been unemployed. I’m destitute, which means women won’t be interested in me anyway, and I can’t afford to go out and be overlooked by them anyway.[7]

At this point, it’s been a pretty long dry spell. And I really do think that women need to accept some responsibility for the romantic choices they’ve been making. Women may complain about “jerks” and “assholes”, but I’m still not seeing “jerks” and “assholes” having any difficulty attracting women.

In fact, in Sebastopol, I’m surrounded by “jerks” and “assholes”, or to be more precise about it, frauds: faux liberals, who are in fact quite content with a really rather conservative status quo; pseudo-Buddhists, who are clearly very much attached to really rather extravagant material possessions; and assorted New Agers, whom I might be willing to consider as possibly being on to something if their pitch didn’t always, and I do mean always, come down to buy these books, DVDs, posters, candles, statues, crystals, chimes, and whatever else, and line their pockets. With women, their line boils down to, “I’m so enlightened, I’m so cool, so fuck me!” It’s manifestly obvious that the line works and, in Sebastopol, it may well be that the men fraudsters deserve the women fraudsters and vice versa.

It’s an old cliché that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”[8] But seriously, ladies, if all you’re finding out there are abusive men, you might want to try something different.

Meanwhile, my line doesn’t work. Perhaps because I don’t have a “line.” I’m just who I am.

Update, June 20, 2014: The dire need for many women to try something different was underscored when a Facebook image of “a convicted felon who was arrested in Stockton on felony weapon charges” went viral. It seems that Jeremy Meeks is “super fucking hot and the ladies of Facebook want to bring him to justice. Sexual justice.”[9] But I’m supposed to believe that women are blameless for ending up with jerks, assholes, abusers, rapists, and murderers. Bullshit.

  1. [1]Sarah Kliff, “Eight facts about violence against women everyone should know,” Vox, May 25, 2014,
  2. [2]Alex Abad-Santos, “Why #yesallwomen is the most important thing you’ll read today,” Vox, May 25, 2014,
  3. [3]Alex Abad-Santos, “Why #yesallwomen is the most important thing you’ll read today,” Vox, May 25, 2014,
  4. [4]Catharine A. MacKinnon, “Sexuality Pornography, and Method: ‘Pleasure Under Patriarchy’,” Ethics 99, no. 2 (1989): 314-346.
  5. [5]Sarah Kliff, “Eight facts about violence against women everyone should know,” Vox, May 25, 2014,
  6. [6]Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, eds., Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape (Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008).
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Valentine’s Day,” Not Housebroken, February 13, 2010,
  8. [8]Daniel D’Addario, ““The definition of insanity” is the most overused cliché of all time,” Salon, August 6, 2013,; though often attributed to Albert Einstein, the quote may actually originate with Narconon literature, but I failed to archive the reference I found the last time I pursued this question.
  9. [9]Mark Shrayber, “Hottest Felon Ever Causes Mass Facebook Freakout (Hot Photos Here),” Jezebel, June 18, 2014,

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