The Friendzone isn’t real. The idea that every “Nice Guy” is owed sex or a romantic relationship by his female friends is ridiculous. And if you think that’s not what Friend zoning is about, it absolutely is.
The movie Just Friends perhaps explains friend-zoning best with the line, “The ‘friend zone’ is like the penalty box of dating, only you can never get out. Once a girl decides you’re her ‘friend’, it’s game over. You’ve become a complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.” – Ryan Reynolds in Just Friends.
Or Urban Dictionary with, “When you are expected to support a girl you really like while she searches for a smarter, richer, or more handsome boyfriend. There is little you can do to get out without feeling like a dick. All in all, one of the meanest things girls do, whether they mean it or not.”
To some degree, the assumption of every guy claiming to be “friendzoned” is that if they indicate an interest in one of their friends, she is in some way obligated to return the interest, and reward it with a relationship or sex. This assumption is problematic for a whole host of reasons, but most in that it ignores choice. Everyone has the right to say “Yes” or “No” to someone’s romantic or sexual interest. There is no obligation to return interest, and if a person rejects you, it does not make them an awful person. Especially when that person is your friend.
I understand that rejection sucks. It hurts and it’s shitty when someone you like, want to have a relationship with, want to have sex with, etc. doesn’t return that interest. However, no one is obligated to be interested in you or want those things with you. While sex may very well be a human need, it is not something anyone has a right to, and thus we are not “owed” it.
Underlying the promulgation of friendzoning is the idea that a female friend who rejects her guy friend’s advances is a bad person, and is a bad person in part because she sees her friend as just that-a friend. As a brilliant person on the Internet wrote, “Friendzoning is bullshit because girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.” This line wonderfully highlights the inherent sexism in friendzoning. That women should in any way be obligated to reciprocate sexual or romantic interest completely undermines the notion of women as autonomous people with the right to make their own decisions, and especially the right to make their own decisions about romantic relationships and sex.
No person is ever obligated to return romantic interest. That we penalize and antagonize women who reject men interested in them is sexist, and, to beat a dead horse, stands against the idea that women are equal.
If a guy determines he is interested in a woman, there are a few obvious courses of action. If he has just met her, he can indicate his interest in her. At that point, it is the woman’s choice to either return his interest or to reject him. If a guy doesn’t realize his interest in a woman until they are already friends, he can tell her how he feels. There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is to react to rejection by that friend by calling her a slut or a bitch and complaining about how he is just a “nice guy” unfairly trapped in the friendzone.
Beyond that, friendzoning suggests that all women are good for is sex. When a man laments the three years he wasted as a friend of a woman, only to be romantically rejected at the end of it all, he invalidates the idea that this woman might have any other worth beyond sex. The reward of being someone’s friend is not sex, it is friendship. If you are actually this person’s friend then their friendship is a really awesome reward.
In pop culture, girls who crush hopelessly on guys they can’t have are painted as just that – hopeless. Over and over again, we’re taught that girls who openly express sexual or romantic interest in guys who don’t want them are pitiable, stalkerish, desperate, crazy bitches. More often than not, they’re also portrayed as ugly – whether physically, emotionally or both – in order to further establish their undesirability as an objective fact. Both narratively and, as a consequence, in real life, men are given free reign to snub, abuse, mislead and talk down to such women: we’re raised to believe that female desire is unseemly, so that any consequent shaming is therefore deserved. There is no female-equivalent Friend Zone terminology because, in the language of our culture, a man’s romantic choices are considered sacrosanct and inviolable. If a girl has been told no, then she has only herself to blame for anything that happens next – but if a woman says no, then she must not really mean it. Or, if she does, she shouldn’t: the rejected man is a universally sympathetic figure, and everyone from moviegoers to platonic onlookers will scream at her to just give him a chance, as though her rejection must always be unfounded rather than based on the fact that he had a chance, and blew it. And even then, give him another one.
Well, screw that. The Friend Zone is a fundamentally sexist construction based solely on the idea that women should be penalised for putting their own romantic happiness above that of an interested man. If a lady doesn’t want you, then either respect her decision and keep away to salve your heart, or respect her decision and stay because you still think she’s cool enough to be worth the effort of friendship. But if you don’t respect her decision, then you don’t respect her – and if you don’t respect her, then stay the fuck out of her life.