Regarding ‘Nice Guys’ and ‘Why Women Only Date Jerks’- A Critique of a Masculine Victim-Cult

I’d like to start by saying, yes, I know feminists have already written about this–but it needs to be said again. I wrote this very quickly, so be warned. This is in response to this picture, which has been circulating.

I think there are some great answers to this lying around somewhere, but I’ll try to answer with some basic points; I don’t have a lot of time to lay the groundwork of theory and whatnot here and have some lengthy introduction, so I’ll jump right to it.

First, don’t assume that all women are the same or that women’s judgement of men is anything but rational and sensible; erase the conception that women are just crazy, open yourself to self-criticism, and figure out what the deal is. I think the answer here lies less in the alleged and imagined inadequacies of female judgement and more in the actual character of the alleged ‘nice guy’–a trend, a sort of character, that I’ve seen before.

We have to separate ‘nice guy’ and ‘good guy’ from ‘submissively polite guy’. You can be assertive and nice, and it seems like some people confuse being a nice guy with being a sycophant or a clingy dude. Have your own thing, do your own thing, but don’t be a self-absorbed douche; this is the essence of being a nice guy without being ‘clingy’. Assertiveness and confidence do not equate to aggression and self-absorption; kindness and respect do not equate to submissiveness and passivity.

It’s also important to realize that being a nice guy doesn’t entitle you to sex. Nothing does. Ever. Being resentful about the lack of sexing for your nice guy persona isn’t cool. In fact, if you have this sense of entitlement, whereby being a nice guy should get you laid, or being a nice guy is a strategy towards getting laid, you aren’t a nice guy. This reminds me of something in this pic that really irks me. This writer acts like being someone’s best friend is an insult. If she’s calling you her best friend, that’s a compliment–not necessarily one that will lead to sex, but if your interest in her as a person is based around wanting to get in her pants, you’re a terrible friend. If you regard being called a ‘best friend’ as some sort of pity prize or second-rate thing, then clearly you don’t value that friendship very much, and if you don’t value the friendship very much, and only see this girl as a source of romance and sex, then you’re probably not really a nice guy to begin with–just a more passive aggressive form of jerk.

That’s what I’m seeing here, and elsewhere–the fake nice guy, the guy with the nice guy complex, who adopts what he thinks are nice guy behaviors, but maintains a view of women that, at its root, objectifies them instead of respecting them. You can’t be a genuinely nice guy without respecting women. If being nice is a means to an end, and that end is one that places her body and her sexuality above the rest of her personhood, you actually aren’t that different from a jerk–you’re just a jerk with a different strategy. The fake nice guy, the nice guy who’s being nice just to get laid, is basically the same as the high school punk who tries to be individualistic so he’ll be cool; he’s a hipster nice guy. It’s disingenuous, and not nice at all.

The way to break out of this is simple to say but hard to do; you need to break your own objectifying ways and start genuinely respecting women without automatically sexualizing them or grouping them instantly into the ‘screwable’ and ‘non-screwable’ categories. This takes a lot of self-criticism. It’s difficult. I’m not going to say I never objectify women or act like a jerk or even engage in the occasional bout of Nice Guy Syndrome. I do. I try to recognize it and I try to avoid it and change my perspective. It takes a bit of vigilance, and a willingness to let go of your ego. The force of culture is against you; the discourse on women in our culture reinforces the view of women as sexual objects or worthless and takes the value and focus away from their other attributes. It might sounds supremely unpleasant, but you may need to read some feminist theory before you learn how to be a genuine nice guy–including some feminist critiques of the nice guy syndrome (which I will link).

I have two more points to make:

First, quite a few of the girls that go for jerks do it because of their own issues with self-esteem or their male role models teaching them implicitly that a man should be a jerk. Yes, taking advantage of that does make you an ass.

Second, relationships built around the dynamic of you being a jerk to her are not going to be satisfying relationships from the perspective of anyone who’s an authentic nice guy; a jerk would consider sex sans real, emotional connection to be really satisfying.

So, that’s my take on ‘nice guys’.

Here are some other takes:

Geek Feminism Wiki
Pandagon
Femblr
xkcd

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10 Comments

  1. Posted November 14, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I’ve always felt that there was a difference between a Nice Guy(tm) and a genuinely nice person. The former is an actor in interpersonal relationships, hoping his performance will be rewarded with sex. He is both misogynist (views women as obligated to give him sex and when they don’t, as “confused” “cockteases” etc.) AND misandrist (views other men as adversaries and those who don’t use his tactics as “jerks”). The latter is simply someone who’s nice.

  2. Posted November 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I’ll have to defend the guy, because no one else will!

    Emmett’s rebuttal assumes too many things, and therefore misses the target. I speak here as a, hmm,… nice guy, and I know what he is complaining about (well, I think I do).

    A nice guy does not believe that his behaviour entitles him to being bedded. No. What the complaint is about is the contradiction between the oft asserted declarations, by women, that they like nice guys.

    Now, if that were true, the nice guys would be getting bedded more than they do. And the jerks less.

    The nice guy sees that his niceness is getting him nowhere, so what does he conclude: that the statement made about nice guys is not true.

    The fact that the jerk will not find a longterm relationship, or a satisfactory one, is irrelevant: at least he seems to be having more fun.

    Do not take my word for it. Ask yourself this question. If 100 guys given the options of being nicer, or of being more handsome or better seducers, how many would choose the first option?

    Ten? Probably less. Agreed? And why is that? Because they see being ‘nice’ is not the best way to find a girlfriend. And that is the point: womanhood discourages niceness because as a whole, as a group, they do not buy it.

    Oh. And being a ‘best friend’ is not a bad thing to be. But many nice guys would trade three of their best friends for one girlfriend.

    (Rant over!)

    • Posted November 14, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      I will reply with a respect to your perspective and from a position sharing in some part your frustration at the predilection of certain of our female friends to date who one may, in the pangs of frustrated amorous designs, designate as jerks. I mean, you know, I’m a guy. I’ve seen women dating guys that I see nothing good in. I’m not going to deny that.

      Of course, it must not be forgotten that jealousy casts many men as jerks and who are we from the outside looking in to declare one party in a relationship a jerk one, unless we willingly cast such critical eyes on ourselves? I would deny, by and by, the idea that women as a whole are going off and dating jerks; I think that’s something that’s commonly said, but it’s not really true, from my experience. Of all the couples I know, the vast majority are not composed of a woman and some troglodytic jerk. Women are smart- some will date jerks, but women as a whole aren’t being pulled by some sort of estrogenical tractor beam towards bad boys like dumb, hormone-crazed moths to a suave, rebellious flame. It’s a common image I think guy talk likes to paint, but if we really think about it, I think we’ll see how untrue it is. As far as long-term dating and couples go, I don’t think that’s true.

      Now, do jerks get bedded more? Let’s define a jerk here as someone who’s sort of a bro (itself a problematic category, because we can probably think of plenty of bros or bro-culture-inclined dudes who aren’t total stereotypical bros), a frat boy, goes out drinking and carousing for women. Let’s compare that to a genuine nice guy- not one of these fake nice guys we’ve already eviscerated as passive-agressive bros. Now, who do you think is going to get laid more- the guy who spends lots and lots of time doing nothing but looking for one night stands and putting on his ‘game’, or the guy who spends his nights reading feminist literature, working at nonprofits, and offering empathy and advice for his friends’ emotional troubles? Well, probably the first guy, who’s going to all the parties with all the people who are either horny, drunk, or possibly both. He’ll probably have more sex. That said, his sex might o be fairly dissatisfying by the standards of guys whose sexuality includes actually caring about their parter. More importantly, of course, the culture he’s immersing himself in to get laid is one that objectifies women, that leads to harassment of women, and that contributes to a *lot* of rapes, date and otherwise.

      Now, when we look at the full picture of what kind of sexual life those two examples lead- the objectifying, manipulative bad boy or the genuinely nice and honest guy- we see that it’s a lot more complex that one of them getting laid and one of them not. I would argue that if a man is going to abandon being genuinely nice and is going to start acting like a ‘jerk’ to get laid, and if having frequent sex often means more to him than forming a real emotional bond with a romantic partner- then clearly getting laid is more important to him than the principles or virtues that fostered his being a nice guy in the first place- and if that’s the case, then how much of a nice guy can he be considered to be?

      It’s not just about if you think being nice entitles you to sex- it’s a matter of why you’re being nice and what your priorities are. If you’re willing to become a jerk for sex, than ‘nice’ is not a word I’d necessarily ascribe.

      • Posted November 14, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        Oh, but I agree with your conclusion.

        I am merely pointing out how the process works: why a fundamentally nice guy would become disaffected, and would first question his attitude, and then abandon it. Move to the dark side, if you like.

        Now, you seem to be saying – in fact, you are – that someone who falls, and is tempted by the dark side, is probably not a nice guy in the first place. I disagree.

        Some one pointedly said: “When the facts change, I change my mind. And what do you do?”

        At its most brutal level, try convincing anyone, anyone, that quarterbacks get the cutest cheerleaders because they are nice, intelligent, sensitive and read feministing.com. Yeah, right!

        (OK, OK, we are not all quarterbacks.)

        Also. How long is one expected to stick to one’s ideas? Six months? A year? Two years? Five? there comes a point when can reasonably think, believe or conclude that one’s ideas are not working. And then lean towards the majority opinion.

        Facts will tend to outpoint opinions.

        • Posted November 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          I do not think you do agree with my conclusion, as your argument seems rather diametrically opposed to its core message; you seem to be operating in the view that the reason to be nice is to get laid, and that the lack of getting laid is a valid reason for a person who is nice to stop being nice, as if their being nice is a tactic that, having failed, must be thrown out to reach the goal- sex. My conclusion is that this mindset is fundamentally not nice at all, because genuine niceness does not carry with it a self-interested expectation of sexual or romantic reciprocation.

          One is expected to stick to one’s ideals forever. That is why they are ideals, and not strategies or tactics. Ideals are not judged on whether or not they ‘work’ [to get you laid]. Ideals are judged on whether or not they are right. It is right to be respectful and nice to all people; it is not right to use false niceness as a tactic to gain sex.

          • Posted November 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

            Hello again!

            Your points are well argued, but are based on misconceptions of my points.

            Being nice and then changing is not necessarily evidence of tactics or strategy; it can be evidence of disillusionment.

            Ideals are fine. However, you are being harsh if you insist that someone stick to them throughout his life. A 20-year old Republican is not allowed to become a Democrat? Or a feminist?

            I still agree with your initial conclusion: “It’s not just about if you think being nice entitles you to sex [...]” No entitlement, no. Maybe a desire?

    • Posted November 16, 2011 at 12:52 am | Permalink

      LOL, you basically just parroted every damn thing these types of men say, (thus earning them the moniker “Nice Guys”. Which if you didn’t pick up, is used sarcastically.) Do men like this see any ethical, moral, or emotional reason to be nice? Anything at all beyond whether or not it gets them bedded? Therein lies the difference.

      Have you ever been beleaguered by a “friend” of the opposite sex who, even after you’ve told them you’re not interested, or with someone already, or whatever the situation may be, keeps trying to pull this and that stunt to change your mind, only to turn outright nasty when they finally see you won’t? This has been a common experience for all too many women.

      The “jerks” of the Nice Guy worldview tend to be any other man whom they view as having more success in having sex with women than they do. Whether or not the man actually is a jerk seems irrelevant.

      And in all honesty? The nicest people I’ve known, men, women, trans, pan, no matter who they are —never proclaim themselves as such. They just do nice things and it’s apparent.

      • Posted November 16, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Oh dear, I am going to have to defend myself!

        I did not realise that “Nice guy” was sarcastic – I honestly thought it was a description.

        “Do men like this see any ethical, moral, or emotional reason to be nice?” Yes, actually. It seems evident to me – it is better to be nice than not.

        “The “jerks” of the Nice Guy worldview tend to be any other man whom they view as having more success in having sex with women than they do. Whether or not the man actually is a jerk seems irrelevant.” Overstatement. No, for the sake of argument, in this context, a ‘jerk’ is someone who acts in a way that is supposedly unappealing to women and yet is more popular (and more successful, yes) than the nice guys.

        “The nicest people I’ve known, [...] just do nice things and it’s apparent.” Good for them! But did you ever consider them as potential romantic partners?

        And, if I may… when you look around you, do you think the nice guys are as popular as the not nice ones? If you do, fine, but you are probably in a minority.

        • Posted November 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

          “The nicest people I’ve known, [...] just do nice things and it’s apparent.” Good for them! But did you ever consider them as potential romantic partners?

          Well, definitely the man I MARRIED. And with two glaring exceptions, I certainly regard many of my exes as nice people, even if things didn’t work out between us specifically. Ironically, however, the most psychologically abusive guy I’ve ever been with fit the stereotyped Nice Guy profile to a “T”. I took a chance on him though, before I had learned to recognize the differences.

  3. Posted November 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree with this article.

    Self-identifying as a “nice guy” seems to me to be the equivalent of saying, “She has a great personality, really!” – only about oneself. It’s the kind of thing you say when you can’t think of any other positive quality that defines you, when you have no real self-confidence. It doesn’t mean you actually are a good person.

    “We have to separate ‘nice guy’ and ‘good guy’ from ‘submissively polite guy’. You can be assertive and nice, and it seems like some people confuse being a nice guy with being a sycophant or a clingy dude.”

    Exactly! “Niceness” doesn’t actually say anything about who you are. It’s the mask you show to the world. Someone who truly believed he was genuinely good deep inside, would describe himself as “kind”, as “a decent person” – not as “nice”. The previous commenter is right – women don’t buy niceness. Why? Because it’s usually fake. (Decent guys, on the other hand – women are all over them.)

    Girls don’t like jerks, per se. Girls like guys with self-confidence. I know many guys like their female romantic partners to be weaker and more delicate than them (and I think that is pretty revolting). But I would never feel satisfied in a relationship unless I felt that my partner was my equal.

    Don’t try to be “nice” to girls. Be kind. Be genuinely considerate. Be honest. Respect us as human beings. And respect yourself. If you don’t believe that you have anything to offer besides being “nice”, why should I believe it?

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