The "Friend Zone"

April 5th, 2017

Content Warning(s): Rape Culture, Misogyny, LGBTQ+

Day five! April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month! This post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. We're all about respect here! A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Thank you!

What a timely release of this article yesterday. Please read it all the way through.

It's no surprise to me that this article not only condemns women for the population decline, but also flat out ends with the proclamation, "So get brave. Get married. Get pregnant a bunch of times and give birth to a bunch of beautiful little future taxpayers. The time has come to fight for our future. The time has come to rebuild America's demographic glory atop the rubble of the fertility-killing Friend Zone."

Hah. Haha. Holy shit.

Just what is it about the culture in our society that makes "the friend zone" a term at all? When I typed "friend zone" into Google to research, the very first thing that popped up was a colloquial definition in the guise of an actual dictionary entry: "a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other." Further articles on the search include "Avoiding the Friend Zone" and aforementioned "What She's Thinking When She Friendzones You." If you aren't starting to see the issue here, let me be blunt: the friend zone carries a male toxicity and objectification of women beyond what I can properly express. It glorifies the "nice guy" as someone who should be getting a girlfriend/sex out of a woman if he puts in enough time and effort, even if he doesn't express his interest. Reasons one is "friendzoned" as per the former article in this paragraph include "not making oneself attractive enough to others" and "do not demand a fair trade where their needs get met upfront."

That last one, "demanding... their needs" reminds me of what someone once demanded from my unwilling self.

I'm a bisexual woman. I have friends who are male, female, and other. Lemme tell you: if I couldn't be friends with an entire gender I want to have sex with, I would have 0 friends. Not only is the "friend zone" incredibly dismissive of women's agency in a relationship, but it also dismisses any notion that LGBTQ+ individuals even exist, or experience misfortune and unrequited interest in relationships. A man complaining about the "friend zone" dismisses anyone who's not like him. I've seen former friends of mine seem to expect to date me; when I turned them down, I was vilified. Not because I had done anything rude or wrong to them as a friend, but because I simply didn't feel the same way. Likewise, I've had friends who wanted to date me but respected my boundaries, and we remained friends. The first and only time I ever disrespected when someone said "no" to my dating them was in sixth grade when I was crushing on a popular boy who already had a cheerleader girlfriend (I'm sorry to both of you, retroactively); I'd had no good role models for relationships or what to even do in a crush situation, and I was even bullied for my feelings for him. It was a dark and embarrassing chapter, but I learned that lesson fast: move on because that person has their own life to live. If you can't respect that, you shouldn't be dating anyone. You should examine why you feel the need to keep pursuing someone who's clearly uninterested.

I've also watched male Facebook acquaintances in the nerd community leave vague statuses about friends of mine and how they wish they'd be noticed, or want to get to know so-and-so better (clearly for romantic purposes). I've watched them post memes about the friend zone, which I allow myself to debunk passionately. I've watched them complain about not having a girlfriend and navel-gaze so hard that they miss their own navel and enter some kind of rift in time and space where obsessing over having a girlfriend is more important than respecting each person's wishes.

As for changing this prevailing perspective, I do all I can to remind those who obsess about the friend zone that it's extremely harmful not only to women and the entire LGBTQ+ population, but to everyone who believes that a friend who doesn't have feelings for them should "just try." Nobody should be forced to do something they don't want to do, ever; nobody should be coerced into believing that this is the only way someone will like them, either.

Keep debunking the harmful "friend zone" when you see it, survivors. Remind them what it sounds like when they wish to force an unwilling person into a romantic or sexual relationship, and if you can, show empathy toward the fact that society has spun this lie, not each individual.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be about "convention culture" and what I've seen and experienced in the cosplay community regarding sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.


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