I've noticed that many women get angry and offended when men used the term "friendzone." Online, it seems to lead to some rather nasty arguments, but I never really understood why. Why did women get so upset at men complaining about being friendzoned? After talking to some of my female friends, I came to realise that the the term "friendzone" means different things to different people. Sometimes, when men complained about being friendzoned, they were talking about something very different than what the women thought. It's as though men and women are sometimes speaking two different languages and some of the conflict arises because they just don't understand what the other means.
So I'm going to try to clear the air. I can't speak for everybody nor do I really have any peer-reviewed scientific data to support my position, I really only have my own experience. But, I have met other men whose experience has been similar to mine and have talked to women about this, which leads me to believe that my thoughts on this are, at the very least, plausible. So I say what I'm about to say not in the total absence of data.
Type 1 and Type 2 Friendzone Scenarios
I think, generally speaking, men and women have different conceptions of the friendzone, what it means, and how it comes about. It is this difference in what "friendzone" means that leads to some of the animosity regarding friendzoning and the use of that term.
From the female perspective, let's call it a Type 1 scenario, men think that if they are nice to a woman then they are entitled to sex. The woman assumes, "You're only being nice to me so that you can have sex with me. After you get what you want, I'll never hear from you again."
The woman's thinking under a Type 1 scenario is fairly legitimate. No, a man is not entitled to sex just because he was nice to or friends with a woman and there is no shortage of douchebags who fail to understand this. I've seen it far too many times to deny that it exists and that it happens. Given how pervasive sexism still is, it is only natural for some women to be suspicious. It is also douchebags who share no small part of the blame for some women making this assumption. After so many encounters with douchebags wearing nice guy masks, you can hardly blame a woman for thinking that a guy who appears nice is just using that to get sex.
The male definition of the friendzone can very different. Let's call it a Type 2 scenario. This occurs when a man is friends with a woman, harbours some desire to be in a relationship with that woman, and that desire is not reciprocated. A woman can aggravate this problem by telling the man, "why can't I find a nice guy like you? You're so sweet and nice, you're going to make some girl very happy some day. Why can't I find someone like you?" and when the man suggests that they be in a relationship, or at least try, he is rebuffed. It is little wonder that this can cause confusion and frustration, which is further compounded when the woman pursues men who, from the man's perspective, only want her for sex and treat her poorly. I wouldn't say he necessarily feels he's entitled to sex or a relationship, to which he isn't entitled anyway. However, I do think he feels he deserves some kind of chance.
A woman's rejection of a man in a Type 2 scenario is also not entirely illegitimate. In that situation, while the man has every right to be confused and frustrated, he is not entitled to a relationship with that woman. A woman is not obligated to go on a date with a man or otherwise give him a chance just because he's nice to or friends with her, even if she says he is exactly what she's looking for.
Reinforcing Sexism and Stereotypes
Type 1 scenarios are not helped by some media, which reinforce the stereotypical assumptions made by women and douchebags in a that situation. A lot of media aimed at men would lead you to believe that men are feral, a-moral beasts whose only desire is to have sex; nothing else matters. A line in "Fraser" sums it up perfectly, "How can we possibly use sex to get what we want?! Sex is what we want!" While this is not true for all media, there is enough media that follows this line of thinking to make it problematic.
This portrayal is not absolute and there are plenty of cases where men are shown to want a relationship and women are shown to want sex. However, in these cases, there seems to be an undertone that wanting a relationship is somehow and inherently female thing and wanting sex is an inherently male thing. Men and women acting outside their portrayed roles is portrayed in a negative light. This serves to reinforce sex and gender stereotypes that are not and have never been particularly helpful.
As a result, women are encouraged to see men as being only interested in sex, which fosters an environment for women to assume that nice guys are really just douchebags in disguise. Men are encouraged to see themselves as being only interested in sex, which fosters an environment for douchebags to emerge. Each compounds the other. It makes it so much harder for women to find a quality man as they become much more difficult to distinguish from douchebags wearing quality man masks. It makes it so much harder for a quality man to find a woman as the douchebags have made acts of kindness warning signs for douchebaggery.
Regardless of the portrayal, the reality is much more complicated. Some men want sex, others want a relationship, others want to be friends. The same goes for women. Reducing the sexes to pre-determined attitudes towards sex and relationships is damaging. People are diverse and complex and many do not fit in the archaic and stereotypical sex and gender classifications. By trying to classify people in this way, we over-simplify something that is inherently complex to the point where we have no meaningful or useful understanding.
Under a Type 2 scenario, there is an underlying assumption that the woman owes the man a relationship, or at least a chance. While the woman's behaviour may lead him to reasonably believe that he would be her ideal partner, that conclusion is nonetheless inaccurate. As a friend, I think he deserves to be treated with greater consideration for his feelings, but that does not include a date.
What I Want To Say
Why did I write this? What was my purpose? I'm not trying to say that women are bad for ever friendzoning a man. Every woman has her reasons. However, I want both men and women to try and understand where the other is coming from. I want to explain to men why some women find complaints about being friendzoned offensive. I want to explain to women why some men complain about being friendzoned in the first place.
First, ladies, it is unfair and inconsiderate to assume that a man is only ever nice to or friends with a woman because he wants to have sex with her. Be cautious, but not cynical. Don't let the douchebags who really are only out for sex ruin it for everyone else, including yourself. Believe it or not, some men want a relationship and not just sex.
Second, ladies, if you're not interested in a relationship with a man, don't tell him that he's exactly what you're looking for. It's confusing, frustrating. Consider how he might interpret your words and actions. Even if you don't realise or intend it, you're hurting him. It hurts. Believe me, it hurts.
Third, gentlemen, please understand that even if you genuinely care about a woman and don't just want her for sex that it does not entitle you to a relationship, much less sex. Even if a woman says you're exactly what she's looking for, she is not obligated to sleep with you, date you, or even like you because you're nice to or think you're friends with her. If you think you love her, remember that she's not obligated to love you back.
Fourth, gentlemen, if a woman tells you that you're ideal relationship material but dates men who are the opposite of you, be prepared to let her go. If her actions don't back up her words, chances are she's not going to give you the chance you're looking for. You have every right to be confused. You have every right to be frustrated. But you have no right to her.
Fifth, both of you, please realise that others may interpret your words and actions differently from how you interpret them. What may seem meaningless to you may mean an awful lot to someone else. Be considerate and think about how others may interpret your words and actions.
Ladies, try seeing things from a man's perspective once in a while. Gentlemen, try seeing things from a woman's perspective once in a while. You'll both be better off for it.