Sealing Off the Friend Zone

Why The Sexist Concept Needs to Be Eradicated from our Dating Discourse

Graphic Ekavi Beh

While the idea of the “friend zone,” a platonic relationship where one party is romantically interested and the recipient is not, may seem like an innocent and even light-heartedly wacky rom-com scenario, it’s rarely innocent in the real world.

The overwhelming majority of times the term seems to surface is when it’s uttered with disdain from a scorned high school- or university-aged straight male.

It’s used as a derogatory term: if a woman turns down sexual advances from a “nice guy,” it’s always simply because she’s a bitch, and never because the guy is creepy, overbearing, sexist or all of the above.

Men who use this childish term seem to think that women owe them something, that friendship is just a regrettable stepping-stone to an inevitable romp in the hay. Their reasoning is if they perform enough “nice guy” gestures for long enough, they’ll receive the reward of sex.

When that doesn’t happen, they throw a tantrum and blame the “bitch that led them on.” What the hell kind of line of thinking is this? Hey, asshole: women don’t owe you a goddamned thing.

This is the misogynistic thinking of the men who catcall on the street, who leer at obviously uncomfortable women in the bar. Their sense of entitlement extends to encompass a woman’s entire body in their minds. This is all I think of when the friend zone is brought up—that they think a woman’s body is somehow a man’s manifest destiny.

Let’s say the reverse scenario arises: a man and woman are friends, and the woman wishes to pursue a relationship and the man is not interested. What kind of dialogue do we have there? In all likelihood, the woman will be labeled as “crazy” or “desperate,” or she wasn’t trying hard enough or was trying too hard, and so on.

The blame and shame inevitably falls on the female party. There is no scenario where the man is considered cold-hearted, or somehow wrong, for “friendzoning” the woman.

Using the term friend zone also jeopardizes genuine friendships between sexes: with this idea floating around young people’s psyches, women are likely to be cautious when interacting with male friends—maybe it’s all an act just to get them in bed.

To me, the friend zone simply feels like one of the many manifestations of rape culture, and thus cannot be tolerated in our daily vernacular.

So for the “friendzoned” guys reading this, perhaps you should re-evaluate why you feel that way. What intentions did you have going into the friendship? What is it about the wishes of others that you just can’t respect? Is it so impossible for you to entertain the idea that, perhaps, you are the one in the wrong?

The dating world needs to retire this belittling and sexist concept for good: it’s time to end the friend zone.