About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (a bad wordplay on Orwell's "double plus good" and old machismo - I'm the realest after all) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear' or 'Unripe language'), the umbrella of several literary projects in Dutch.

This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Why is this in English why everything else in Dutch? Because I want to gun for a much wider audience here. Also, my literary English isn't good enough, otherwise I would always write in English.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What's wrong with 'Nice Guys'?

Over the past few years, 'Nice Guy' has picked up steam as an epithet of ridicule on the Internet. The type of person that is meant by 'Nice Guy' has existed for a much longer time, however, and the term itself still generates confusion. After all, what's wrong with being a nice guy*? Why the ridicule?

As my first coherent pro-feminist thing was about 'Nice Guys', and apparently it's still being read (I'm not going to link to it because I kind of like my online identities to remain vague), I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic.

Let's break it down.

1. What's a 'Nice Guy'?

Straight from the bowels of bash.org:

A woman has a close male friend. This means that he is probably interested in her, which is why he hangs around so much. She sees him strictly as a friend. This always starts out with, you're a great guy, but I don't like you in that way. This is roughly the equivalent for the guy of going to a job interview and the company saying, You have a great resume, you have all the qualifications we are looking for, but we're not going to hire you. We will, however, use your resume as the basis for comparison for all other applicants. But, we're going to hire somebody who is far less qualified and is probably an alcoholic. And if he doesn't work out, we'll hire somebody else, but still not you. In fact, we will never hire you. But we will call you from time to time to complain about the person that we hired.

This is more or less an assumption most 'Nice Guys' share: that they are perfect relationship material, but somehow never get a relationship (or sex). In other words, "I'm a nice guy, why can't women see that?"

As a take on the actual comparison drawn above, any person with a normal amount of self-esteem would kindly ask said company never to call them again unless they're calling with a job offer. It immediately reveals how weird and masochistic this 'Nice Guy' line of thinking is.

To get back on track, the core sentence that already shows the fatal flaw in the way they think about relationships and sex. It's that being a nice person entitles you to date or be in a relationship. Their parents probably brought them up with the idea that they should respect women and whatnot, but might not have told them why. Hollywood and popular media have fed their idea that by merely being nice, some woman is bound to fall for him. Obviously, the world doesn't work that way.

A term that goes hand in hand with the ‘Nice Guy’ Syndrome is the concept of the Friendzone or the Ladder Theory, both of which are quite misogynist. The Friendzone is basically a way to blame an insincere friendship on the person who feels no romantic interest in the complainer, yet the complainer somehow feels entitled to that relationship, or sex.

A major difference between a 'Nice Guy' and a plain old asshole - more about assholes in a moment, I promise - is that assholes are at least somewhat aware of what they are. 'Nice Guys' genuinely think they are nice people. Here's the thing, though: being nice is not a great human accomplishment, and describing yourself as a 'Nice Guy' is just another way of saying you wish to be as inoffensive as possible. It really is a red flag. It’s kind of like saying “I don’t beat women” unsollicited, or saying how much you “hate drama”.

Before I go any further, I want to note that I realise most 'Nice Guys' are probably young men with a low self-image. That makes it all the more tragic, but it doesn't really excuse their behaviour.

2. Typical hallmarks of 'Nice Guy' behaviour

2.1. Manipulation

‘Nice Guy’ behaviour is manipulative. ‘Nice Guys’ basically do everything they can to 'make' someone fall for them or sleep with them, all under the guise of friendship. It makes every 'nice' thing a part of the effort to get to that point. They do it so automatically that it becomes a second nature and they're not even conscious of it. It goes beyond the mere point of remembering what your love interest likes.

2.2. Objectification

A ‘Nice Guy’ ultimately reduces women to objects, not in an aggressive 'all women are whores' way, but more like 'this is my perfect princess and I will put her on a pedestal'. While they would vehemently deny it, ‘Nice Guys’ project all their romantic fantasies on one (or sometimes multiple, or successive) girls, which blinds them to the fact that these women are independent people and do not exist to fulfill his romantic or sexual fantasies.

2.3. Insincerity

‘Nice Guys’ are not nice for the sake of being nice. They're nice because they think they'll get something in return. Granted, many people do this, but for the ‘Nice Guy’, it's a way of life. Sometimes, this behaviour even veers straight into a type of co-dependency or creates a massive entitlement complex.

2.4. Ineffectiveness

Most women and many men can sense that you're a 'Nice Guy', and they think it's creepy. To make matters worse, as a method of getting sex or a relationship, its success rate is appalling. That leads many 'Nice Guys' to seek out different methods and turn to PUA workshops for advice, which is merely the other side of the coin, but operates on the same basic assumption that women can be, or should be, manipulated into sex.

2.5. Anger at other men

This quote speaks for itself: "Women always end up dating douches." Nobody likes assholes. A women who says she prefers bad boys past age 25 is probably sort of broken herself. However, most women who end up with guys that have glaring flaws don't date them because of their flaws. They end up dating them/sleeping with them because they are self-confident, have interesting stuff to say, are attractive or act like actual people instead of a scripted doormat. In addition, the 'asshole' in question may not be an asshole. He may simply be on as to what the 'Nice Guy' is trying to pull off.

2.6. Passiveness

'Nice Guys' will typically not go in against the opinions or tastes of the woman they are trying to woo, unless they somehow feel threatened. For women who are vulnerable or have questionable decision-making skills, this is sometimes enabling behaviour. At worst, it's self-serving and sycophantic. A second aspect of this passiveness is that they usually do not ever make an actual move or declare their love because they are deathly afraid of rejection. This only gets worse over time because of the emotional investment they’ve made. When the woman in question realises all of this, it’s also hard for her to say no – after all, no question has been asked, no move has been made, so it’s awkward to bring it up.

2.7. Lack of other defining personality traits

‘Nice Guys’ often describe themselves as being 'nice' – hence the term. So do many people around them. The problem is that if the first thing that comes up in your mind, if you need to be described, is 'nice', then you're probably selling yourself short. If other people see you as a 'Nice Guy', you definitely have a problem - you're seen as someone who has no particular personality.

3. Typical excuses of the 'Nice Guy'

3.1. "But I am genuinely a friend."

If you are, then why are you moping how girls only "want you as a friend"? Another variety are 'Nice Guys' who go out of their way to not do anything or act on their feelings as long as their object of desire is in a relationship, but prefer pining in the shadows. That just isn't healthy.

3.2. "But in that movie..."

Popular culture tends to feed the idea that the ‘Nice Guy’ thing is somehow cute, worth sympathising with or even truly romantic. Like so many clich├ęs about love and relationships in pop culture, it couldn't be further from the truth. Pop culture loves exploiting ‘Nice Guys’ because it tugs on a few heart strings and is good for drama. It doesn't make this sort of behaviour mentally healthy or advisable.

3.3. "If she doesn't like it, why doesn't she say anything about it?"

I’ll use a quote from one of the people who responded to my initial post:

‘Nice Guys’ make an advance that cannot be rejected in a socially acceptable way. If a guy says, "Hey, how about a date?", then it's perfectly socially acceptable to say, "Nah, I'm not interested." But instead he might say, "Oh, you're moving? I'd love to help. When? Hmm, I'm working that day, but I can call out sick. It's really no problem! I don't own a truck, but I could rent one of those ones from the Home Depot." Is this guy really helpful just generally, or is there some subtext there of him trying to impress you? Should you say, "That would be really helpful, but since I am not attracted to you, I am honor-bound not to accept your offer of assistance"? Of course not. So you don't say it, and then there's this weird THING sort of hanging in the air in your dealings with that person in the future. You're like 85% sure that he's into you, but every time he has an opportunity to actually say it, he passes it up. Eventually, you relax a little, and then one day one of your dumber girlfriends lets on in front of this guy that you have car trouble. You try to hiss at her or step on her foot or something, but you're too slow or she's too clueless, and his eyes brighten. "Can I look at it? I'd be happy to help!" Ugh.

3.4. "Welp, guess I should become an asshole then!"

Apart from being a non-argument/false dichotomy (it's not one or the other), in fact, ‘Nice Guys’ are already assholes, but with a mask of niceness. You can certainly be a nice person without the deeper layers of manipulation, self-pity and self-entitlement. By the way, I’d like to note that PUAs also display all these negative characteristics, but are more overt about it, which why quite a number of ‘Nice Guys’ end up becoming PUAs: it’s the externalised conclusion of their internalised frustration, and operates along the same lines of reasoning.

4. How to stop being a ‘Nice Guy’

  • Realise that the world doesn't owe you anything, and by extension, women don't owe you anything merely because you're ‘nice’ for all the wrong reasons.
  • Stop being a passive-aggressive doormat and be more candid about your desires. This will mean having to take rejection, too.
  • Don't pine. Realise that there are many, many potentially compatible partners that you could have while wasting time on projecting your romantic fantasies onto someone who will never reciprocate.
  • Realise that there is no "manual" to women, no guaranteed rules, etc. If you're autistic or have a bad case of the 'sperg, seek therapy.

5. So are ‘Nice Guys’ the scum of the Earth then?

Of course not. One thing I want to make clear is that ‘Nice Guys’ aren't necessarily cold-hearted manipulators. The overwhelming majority of ‘Nice Guys’ probably isn’t even aware that their reasoning and what they're doing is flawed and disrespectful. Again, a quote:

It starts with men simply being intimidated by women. Many of these guys don't know how to effectively approach women and they aren't assertive or interesting, so they fall back on the fairy tale script that "as long as I'm an amazing and great friend who is always there for her, she'll eventually see how wonderful I am and we'll live happily ever after, etc. etc." It's pathetic and undesirable, but not necessarily malicious.

It's when this plan fails again and again, that frustration and resentment builds up and the guy begins to think that he's entitled to a woman's love as a transaction for being the target of his affection and care. He isn't aware of the sick flaw in his reasoning because in his mind it's innocuous: "I'm a nice guy, why don't women like me?" and "It's so true, nice guys do finish last." But he really does behave as though a woman's rejection is a breach of contract. The Nice Guy is delusional and wrong, just not consciously so.

6. But wait!

Just like the intimidation tactics of PUAs of overly aggressive men, ‘Nice Guys’ can, in fact, be quite intimidating in their own right.

One of the keys to understanding the Nice Guy vs. the clueless innocent is that the Nice Guy's definition of himself as such is usually the result of repeated romantic failure and a resulting, crippling bitterness. The clueless innocents eventually bumble their way out of that stage. That's the difference.

I don't want to make this into more than it is, but I think many men fail to grasp exactly how uncomfortable and, potentially, vulnerable a woman can feel in the face of persistent attention, flattery, and the like.

It flies in the face of years and years of social conditioning to tell an outwardly "nice" man - one who has in no way technically threatened, harassed, or intimidated you - to "get the fuck away, I'm not interested." It's one thing to tell off the drunk who's trying to cop a feel on the subway (and even that isn't always easy). But rejecting the friend who just won't stop hanging around looking for more? It's not a simple situation.

So, many women just don't do it. Especially confident and assertive women can do it easily, but even a woman without self-esteem problems could understandably find it difficult to be ruthlessly direct in that situation. All too often, we opt for subtlety instead.

And that's where the real problem with Nice Guys comes in. A regular guy would get the hint, see it as a matter of compatibility and not take it personally, then move on to someone more likely to return his interest. A Nice Guy, on the other hand, will stick around and attempt to wear you down. Often Nice Guys will pursue "'hard luck' cases" - women who are perhaps not the best-prepared to stand up for themselves.

And in the end, if the Nice Guy doesn't get what he wants? He invents a scenario that makes his wasted effort a noble quest to overcome (what he tells himself) is his target's shitty taste in men. Because admitting that he wasted his time pushing for something that was clearly never going to happen is just plain cognitively uncomfortable.

To sum up, the "perfect storm" that goes into creating a self-described Nice Guy is a mix of a sense of entitlement, a mark who is too kind and/or passive to outright reject the NG, and the NG's persistence in the face of what many other individuals would recognize as subtle signals of mark's disinclination to mate.

* or girl, though I’ve yet to hear the first story about a girl who mirrors ‘Nice Guy’ behaviour in every way