Sunday, May 18, 2014

Why am I So Nice to "Nice Guys"?




I never realized how I put myself in debt to "nice guys" until very recently. I find it easy to disregard men who I feel are disrespectful or rude. But I find it extremely difficult to straightforwardly tell a man I am not interested if he is "nice" even if I have absolutely zero romantic interest in him.

I could say it's all about a fear of male violence. And I'm sure that's part of it (and justifiably so when you hear stories about a teenage girl being stabbed to death by a boy who she rejected for prom) but it's definitely not the totality of the issue.


For me it has been fundamentally about an internalized sexist attitude I've adopted that makes me believe that I owe my kindness and attentiveness to men who are polite and not out-rightly sexist. At first I thought it was simply about me being an overly nice person myself. But in reality it's a reflection of unresolved internalized misogyny. In any other context it's ridiculous to me that I'd spend my time and energy on something that I am uninterested in. And yet, when it comes to men who are sexually and/or romantically interested in me somehow it seems implausible to be straightforward and say "Thank you, but I am not interested."

This is both a result of negative experiences I've had where I've showed disinterest and received a very jarring reaction and the "positive" experiences I've had where I pretended to have some kind of vague interest and was "rewarded" by not being called sexist slurs or being threatened by violence (and receiving more of the attention I definitely did not want).

More than a few times I've had men say that I'm not "stuck up" like other women because I actually respond to them. This isn't really a compliment to me so much as it's a testament to my inability to stand my ground when it comes to men and dating. Also, more than a few times I've had negative experiences with trying to let a man down easily and being called a "bitch" or told that I'm irrational for not being interested in such a "good guy."

While a man is afforded subjectivity and the ability to choose who he is interested in (based on his personal proclivities... which are often informed by oppressive and irrational ideologies anyway) women are supposed to consent to being chosen by whatever nice enough man comes along first.

The problem with this is that (like a man) I am an individual with individual thoughts and desires. I am not an algorithm. I don't have a check list. There's not a magical number of how many times a man must compliment me for him to be "nice" and for me to be enamored. And just because a man is nice to me doesn't mean I want to date him!

I know right, incredible! It's not unlike how a man doesn't decide that he wants to date a woman just because she's nice to him.

But I've somehow come to believe that I'm in the wrong for being a human being with unique wants and desires and so I try to downplay when I'm not interested in a guy. I try to always put myself in the position to be the one rejected. I can't stand it because I know the tangible costs that exist when women dare to reject men and because I feel guilt tripped into never rejecting a man.

It's the guilt tripped aspect that confuses me the most. I can understand why I'd be scared of male violence but why am I trapped by the fear of displeasing or disappointing a man? Why do I feel like I owe not only kindness but my time and attention to "nice" men?

It took me being told that I was in a "relationship" with somebody I never had any intention of being in a relationship with to realize that this is a problem that I need to address.

And as I've been in the process of ridding myself of internalized misogyny what has helped me is realizing that the "nice guy" is not truly nice. In fact, he is the antithesis of niceness. He is manipulative. He is patriarchal. He has an entitlement complex. And all of this goes into guilt tripping women into doing what they want her to do.

I do myself no favors by commodifying myself and behaving as if I need to put out something in exchange for niceness or else I am a bitch.

Men ask for my attention or sexual favors and when I say no their response is that I am being "mean" or "unfair" or "irrational" because they are nice guys. Once I had a guy say: "well you did that with a guy before me so what makes him deserving and not me?" All of this functions to guilt trip me and other women into doing things and entering into relationships they don't necessarily want to be in.

And as somebody very interested in the feminist concept of "consent" I wonder if the prevailing culture even allows for this as a possibility if when I as a woman do not consent to a man's wishes then I am a bitch and something is wrong with me. If this is so then am I really in the position to give enthusiastic consent for anything from sex to entering a committed relationship? If my no is viewed as invalid anyway.

The "friend zone" is nefarious. Not for the men who complain that they are in it. But for the women who feel they need to put men there because if they don't then they are bad people. It's nefarious for the women who have to clarify: "I am not interested... but let's be friends!" when they really want to say "I am not interested" with a period at the end.

Many times I've tried to make men my "friends" because I didn't want any sexual or romantic involvement with them but didn't feel able to fully sever ties. And this has not really allowed me to make men aware of my disinterest so much as it's put me in a weird position where I now owe them attention and kindness because they are my "friend" even while they are clearly not interested in friendship at all and continually demonstrate that fact.

I had to take a step back from all of this and realize that just because I feel guilt when I do not return the affection of an individual man that my guilt does not mean that I am in the wrong. I am a woman. And that does not mean that I am the general property of men everywhere who decide they have some kind of sexual and/or romantic interest in me.

It's not an easy task getting rid of the notion that as a woman we are here to appease men. But it's a necessary task. One that takes time and starts with a recognition of how capitulating to so-called "nice guys" is indeed an integral aspect of patriarchy.

This is a note to myself!


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6 comments:

  1. Word!

    I had an experience in high school with a guy who was so nice, it got creepy, but then I didn't know how to tell him to leave me the hell alone, because he was just so nice! I mean, wouldn't I get bad karma for reacting negatively to all that niceness? I was definitely worried about the other shoe dropping, you could say. Plus, the thought of puppy-dog eyes upgrading to sad-puppy-dog eyes was just too much. ~:P Wouldn't it be even more wrong to turn down sad-puppy-dog eyes? Uuuugh!

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  2. You can't be responsible for how other's respond to your assertions. When you are respectfully honest with a man, you are giving him a gift. In the moment, he may not see it that way; he may respond in anger (calling you a bitch) to protect his ego, but you can't control his response. Also, observing the guy's response to your honesty will let you surmise if this person is truly capable of being your male friend. I wouldn't want to be friends with someone I can't be honest with.

    For me, I think that my reluctance to reject men that I am not interested in, has come from a place of insecurity, fear, regret that "Mr. Right" may never come along.
    Instead of being passive when it comes to relationships, and waiting for "Mr. Right" to show interest in me; I'm working on being more assertive and forward about my interest in a man. This is hard because I am opening myself up to lots of rejection (like those nice, yet unattractive guys who've shown interest in me). It's also hard because it means that I will probably spend more time single. Being a single black woman over 35...not too easy on the ego. But I'm not settling for just any ole "nice" guy.

    As an aside, internet dating is a format that helps women become more assertive in meeting men and more frank in expressing their lack of interest.

    Keep writing!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment! I know (when I'm thinking logically) that it's not MY fault when a guy takes rejection badly but I think that I've been socialized to act as if it is my fault... or that I'm a "bad woman" for putting myself in the position where I need to reject somebody. It makes no sense but I'm realizing that it's an underlying assumption that I have...

      And it's one that I'm working on! Thanks again for the comment!

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  3. I can see your point.
    As for me, I realized that just the opposite way, because I was doing exactly the same thing that men do, choosing my love interests and going after them actively. And after some time and bad experiences, I realized that the real game rules here are: men choose, women just get to say yes or no to the ones that approach. And yet, as you say, it is difficult to say no because you are suppose to appreciate them being kind to you. If you say no, they feel entitled to complain and you will hear a lot of "you let pass a good catch" (WTF!). Men are not told these things when they say they rejected an unattractive girl that asked them out, or made them a present, etc.
    It is very difficult, if you are interested in a man first, to get him. Usually it takes a lot of strategy, to fake indifference while you put yourself under his eye, so he can think he chooses you.
    Honestly, I find this so tiring and frustrating. I don't want to be seen as a trophy, but a person. I'd want men and women interactions to be a two-way street, so anyone can show their interest in other person and try to convince them that they are awesome as a partner (and respect their will when rejected).
    All this chase game is outdated and keep us women being objects. Our desires are neglected, we are supposed just to react in a specific way, to their advances. And if you rebel and behave differently, like saying no to a nice guy, you are bad.

    Well, I loved your reflections ^^ It is super-motivational to find girls that feel the same, that we should not apologize for being persons and have our own desires. Just to say no politely should be ok.

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    1. Thank you for the comment!

      That is so true... that the way dating works even if you are interested in a man you have to make it appear that you are allowing yourself to be pursued and not actively pursuing the guy. I think women who actively pursue men are often viewed as weird or desperate. It's kinda similar to the way we feel we have to capitulate to men in other respects... such as pretending we're less intelligent than we actually are (as to not threaten him) or pretending to be less capable/ more dependent so he feels "needed." And it all starts in the pre-dating stage... when we set it up so the man feels like he's the one making all the decisions and we're just passively accepting them. That's the foundation of a patriarchal relationship.

      I also hate the fact that I am supposed to wait to be chosen in effect rather than being able to actively choose who I want to date. I'm not sure what way there is to get around that when the woman = pursued and the man = pursuer is so ingrained in our patriarchal culture. I suppose you'd have to wait for an anti-patriarchal man in order for it to be successful... which is what any woman who is into men and anti-patriarchal herself I suppose would want.

      All interesting things to think about. Thanks again for the comment!

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