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October 25, 2012 11:33 AM   Subscribe

Scientists confirm: friendzone is real.

(link to study)
posted by thirteenkiller (202 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
"evolved mating strategies"?

Boy, good to see that they've settled the nature vs nurture debate under the rug since I finished school.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:38 AM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Students from a public university in the United States attended a research session in return for credit toward a course research participation requirement."
...
"Participants in the emerging adult sample were 42 men and 65 women aged between 18 and 23 (M ¼ 19.34 years) from a regional public university in the Midwestern United States"
...
"By post mail, we sent paper questionnaires to 132 male and 191 female adults around the United States. Of the adults on the mailing list, 80% were from the Midwest ... After the initial mailing and a sample-wide postcard reminder, a total of 52 men and 90 women (39% response rate for men, 47% for women) returned their questionnaire in the self-addressed, prepaid envelope that we provided."

This sounds very self-selective and limited for the conclusions they have drawn.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [23 favorites]


The women in these friendships, however, seem to have a completely different orientation—one that is actually platonic.

They should have asked these people to define what a platonic friendship means - as in, "have you helped your platonic friend move? has your platonic friend helped *you* move?" and so on.
posted by rr at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Huh, the article mentions nothing about the "friendzone," and a quick skim through the linked study makes it look like it's dealing with something quite different as well.

The study seems quite interesting, but the content of the post doesn't match what's advertised.
posted by bswinburn at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


When did Scientific American get bought out by Slate?
posted by aught at 11:42 AM on October 25, 2012 [22 favorites]


Yes, interviewing a group of US college students in 2012 totally explains every social interaction between all straight men and women ever. Just think of the topics we can settle by studying these kids! I bet we'll discover that women expect to stay home with the kids, that men don't like to talk about emotions, and that "minorities" are "oversensitive", plus teh gays are great decorators.
posted by Frowner at 11:43 AM on October 25, 2012 [66 favorites]


When I was a teen and I'd come across an issue of Scientific American I was so excited. Some of the articles flew over my head, but even when I failed to make sense of what I was reading, I felt like I was learning something important about the world. Now Scientific American is... this shit.
posted by Kattullus at 11:44 AM on October 25, 2012 [34 favorites]


I read the Scientific American article earlier. I found it frustrating that they didn't present any statistics at all! So, men are more likely to be attracted to their female friends. Could we have some percentages, at least, please? Also, should we really be drawing such sweeping conclusions about a bunch of people aged between 18 and 23? I'd wager that if you took a random sampling of people at age 45, say, the results you'd get would be very different.
posted by peacheater at 11:44 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, twists and turns, but that's unfortunately true of many, if not most, psychological studies. The scientists have easy access to students, and thus end up using them in their studies. Potentially different results due to age and social strata don't pop up.
posted by bswinburn at 11:45 AM on October 25, 2012


The old lady that lives next door to me is sweet. I drive her to church sometimes and we bring her food we make. She generally keeps an eye on our house and block and gives my kids treats.

I had no idea I was really just involved in an elaborate ruse to get her in the sack!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:47 AM on October 25, 2012 [54 favorites]


As a chick who has overwhelmingly had close male friends rather than close female friends, this is extremely unsurprising.

Even if it is never said, hinted at, or acted upon by the dude, I always assume that he's at least a little bit interested in me. This, of course, makes me feel like a narcissistic douche, but it's a protection measure. I send out very clear FRIEND ONLY FRIEND ONLY FRIEND ONLY signals, don't use any flirtatious body language, don't say emotionally manipulative things, and respect their space and time.

One of the few things that gets me really, really mad is when I see a guy/girl friend pair where the girl treats the guy like a surrogate boyfriend. SO unfair. It'd be unfair the other way around, too.

Maybe this should be taught to kids in health class in schools: "your guy friend? you know, the one who is awesome and you love dearly but only like a brother? yeah, he's into you. be nice."
posted by phunniemee at 11:48 AM on October 25, 2012 [46 favorites]


Also, should we really be drawing such sweeping conclusions about a bunch of people aged between 18 and 23?

Also, should we really assume that culture and socialization have nothing to do with how people experience their feelings and how they describe them?

And I think there's some lurking moralizing about sex in all these articles, sort of a "see, see, women think they are so pure but really everything is all carnal and that just disproves feminism! Women are deluded about the real, because the real is sex, and sex is easy to understand and foundational."
posted by Frowner at 11:48 AM on October 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


Quick guide to movies that should be paid a little more attention before you draw conclusions from them:

SCARFACE (Al Pacino)
Tony's obsession with material things does not make him cool. It leads to his downfall. Elvira in the restaurant scene: "Look at what we've become, Tony. We're not winners. We're losers."

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
Harry *at first* believes "men and women can't be friends," but he spends the bulk of the movie becoming friends with Sally, and thus finds happiness. The entire point of the movie is that men and women can indeed be friends.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:48 AM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


When did Scientific American get bought out by Slate?

Circa 2003
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:50 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This really seems like an unnecessarily hostile way of framing the article and study. The whole "friendzone" issue is pretty loaded-- and the article doesn't mention the concept at all. What it does say is that men and women tend to make very different assumptions about their friendships with those of the opposite sex, and jumping right to "friendzone" seems like a good way to encourage the thread to develop into a lot of unpleasant arguments.
posted by Kpele at 11:50 AM on October 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


We can't entirely blame Scientific American, the published paper's sweeping generalizations are just as bad. It came out of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, which is apparently a peer-reviewed Psych journal.

There are however much more heavily cited, esteemed articles on the topic, and Scientific American probably can be blamed for picking this one so uncritically.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:51 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


bswinburn: "friendzone" is a term used by men posting to Ask Metafilter to describe a situation in which they would like a romantic relationship with a female friend but the female friend thinks of the male as "just a friend." See: http://ask.metafilter.com/tags/friendzone

It struck me as pretty related to (part of) the content of the study and sorta a funny way so summarize it here, but I welcome discussion of objections to this presentation.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:52 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a dude who overwhelmingly has more female friends than male friends, I'd like to point out that this article is pretty stupid.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:53 AM on October 25, 2012 [27 favorites]




It struck me as pretty related to (part of) the content of the study and sorta a funny way so summarize it here, but I welcome discussion of objections to this presentation.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:52 AM on October 25 [+] [!]



The term and associated concept have been criticized as sexist. It is a terrible way to frame the article, regardless of the article's contents, especially since metafilter has had a few heated debates on the topic in the past.

It's a not mentioned in the article or directly related.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:54 AM on October 25, 2012 [16 favorites]


Also, as a woman who has had many, many male friends, I would be absolutely fucking astonished if even a fraction of them had any sexual interest in me whatsoever.
posted by Frowner at 11:54 AM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


As it were.
posted by Frowner at 11:55 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Funnily enough, the if you plot (p: sleeping with someone) on the y axis and (amount of social contact) on the x axis, you'll see the friend zone phenomena resemble a Frank-Condon plot. Science wins twice!
posted by Slackermagee at 11:55 AM on October 25, 2012


I welcome discussion of objections to this presentation.

That's more of a MetaTalk-y sort of thing.
posted by Jpfed at 11:55 AM on October 25, 2012


Has Reed Richards built a portal yet?
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's pretty gender-essentialist, but I appreciated that the reporter didn't use language that castigated women for not having the "right" attitudes or understanding the "real" dynamics of the friendship. Both sides assumed that what they felt was what the other person felt, if men had their way we would have overpopulation. Awesome. Framing makes a difference.
posted by subdee at 11:57 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


And here is a thing: I would contend as someone socialized female that women are brought up to feel that attraction is a dangerous and charged way to related to the world, and we are brought up to believe that we are not active agents who pick, choose and evaluate partners. Luckily, given enough time most of us figure out that we need to evaluation consciously rather than do the unconscious triage that we tend to do when young.

Men, on the other hand, are socialized to believe that evaluating women is how you perform masculinity. And that women exist primarily to be evaluated. Consider the whole thread the other day where everyone trashed on that Japanese women for being picky about dates - a lot of that seemed driven by "but....but...that would mean that I would not be good enough for her, how dare this woman on the other side of the world set up criteria that I can't meet?"

But of course, the ways that men and women think about friendships have nothing to do with culture. When college students were sequestered in laboratories in pairs back on the veldt, it was exactly the same.
posted by Frowner at 11:58 AM on October 25, 2012 [70 favorites]


I'm reading through the scientific article, and its premises seem a bit bizarre. At one point they say: "It seems unlikely, then, that genetically unrelated, reproductive aged males and females engaged in non-sexual, supportive relationships – friendships – over the majority of our ancestral history."

I'm not an anthropologist, or much of an expert in this field, but I have read some medieval Icelandic literature, and it has plenty of friendly, non-sexual relationships between men and women. The medieval Norse were not exactly noted for the sensitivity of their sexual relations, so I'd be flabbergasted if this was the only historical example of male-female friendships.
posted by Kattullus at 11:59 AM on October 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


So I'm a heterosexual woman with a lot of guy friends, which whom I've been able to maintain decades long close friendships regardless of my (or their) relationship status. In only a couple of cases, have things ever gotten complicated romantically. Most of my close friendships with the opposite sex are/were initially founded on common interests (music, literature, politics/policy, film). I'm not interested in any of them sexually and I would be frankly astonished to learn that any of them were attracted to me. Of course, I'm not exactly a conventionally "hot" woman and I don't think I could ever be described as "flirty." But still. This just feels wrong. So maybe totally anecdotal, but this study doesn't seem at all relevant to my experience.
posted by thivaia at 12:00 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a dude who overwhelmingly has more female friends than male friends, I'd like to point out that this article is pretty stupid.

How many of your female friends keep sleeping with jerks instead of nice guys?
posted by Tanizaki at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


"...Both sides assumed that what they felt was what the other person felt, if men had their way we would have overpopulation. Awesome. Framing makes a difference."

Actually, men have had their way for most of recorded history, and the result is usually a society where genders are segregated and women can only come in contact with males who are family members.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


How many of your female friends keep sleeping with jerks instead of nice guys?

None?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:03 PM on October 25, 2012 [38 favorites]


thirteenkiller, that's the most charitable reading of the friendzone term possible. What people using it usually seem to mean is something more like "the only reason I was ever nice to this person was to have sex with her (or more rarely, him) and she's not putting out and that's unfair." A few women I know have been really hurt by guys they thought were friends who turned out to lose interest in being friends once it was clear a sexual relationship wasn't in the cards.

In summary, it's a super loaded term and it would generally be best to avoid it.

The criticisms of the original study already made in the thread seem pretty accurate, to me. You have to be really cautious about the level of insight granted by studies like this.

On preview, see:
How many of your female friends keep sleeping with jerks instead of nice guys?
that is more of the same infuriating thinking about gender. Because (whether Tanizaki realizes it or not), it's saying "I control womens' decisions about who to sleep with and they're not sleeping with me even though I'm super nice and that's because I'm in the friendzone rather than because women are not sex vending machines that you put niceness coins into."

See?
posted by kavasa at 12:03 PM on October 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē)
Éros (ἔρως érōs)
Philia (φιλία philía)
Storge (στοργή storgē)

Not everything is about Éros, unless you're living in a society four thousand years after those distinctions were made, apparently.
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 12:05 PM on October 25, 2012 [20 favorites]


Even if it is never said, hinted at, or acted upon by the dude, I always assume that he's at least a little bit interested in me. This, of course, makes me feel like a narcissistic douche, but it's a protection measure. I send out very clear FRIEND ONLY FRIEND ONLY FRIEND ONLY signals, don't use any flirtatious body language, don't say emotionally manipulative things, and respect their space and time.

I've actually found it a lot easier to become friends with guys after we've dated and then broken up. The sex stuff is relegated to a "been there, done that" and isn't cluttering things up - it's worked fantastically twice now, and in a third case it's the guy who put the kibosh on us knocking boots ("Look, you've seen me in action and you know I'm basically a mess with this kind of thing, right?" "....Oh yeah. DAMN. Okay, never mind.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm reading through the scientific article, and its premises seem a bit bizarre.

That's basically where I quit reading - the part where they were all "welp, there's not much history of this, so it's probably pretty recent and evolution blah blah." I was all, have you all not read any novels? Poems? Sagas? By "history", do you mean writings of documented events that affected lots and lots of people, centered on the European/Eurasian continents? I have no idea what they meant, and I think they didn't either.
posted by rtha at 12:07 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


When did Scientific American get bought out by Slate?
Circa 2003


I was making a joke but I did do a little research and saw that the three men who ran the magazine for decades all died between 1998 and 2005, which resulted in a shift in its tone. I subscribed to SA back in the 80s and early 90s, but haven't paid much attention to it since, I have to admit.
posted by aught at 12:09 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


that is more of the same infuriating thinking about gender. Because (whether Tanizaki realizes it or not), it's saying "I control womens' decisions about who to sleep with and they're not sleeping with me even though I'm super nice and that's because I'm in the friendzone rather than because women are not sex vending machines that you put niceness coins into."

See?


Not quite the point I was making, but pretty close. I was cracking wise about nice guy syndrome. Nice guy syndrome is not a strategy I recommend to my male friends.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:09 PM on October 25, 2012


I agree, social psychology is stupid. Men and women are impenetrable black boxes! Boxes! Impenetrable! Black! Pilotless drones!
posted by Nomyte at 12:09 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you know who uses terms like "friendzone"?

Lonely people and sociopaths.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:09 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh hey this seems to relate to a comment I made in the "coffee" thread a couple days ago. This study seems to confirm what I was thinking-out-loud about over there.

Basically, I posited (speaking quite generally) that if you're a boy and you grow up thinking girl stuff is not for boys (since boys/men aren't allowed to do feminine things, so you avoid those things to avoid being teased or bullied) then you grow up all those years not learning how to relate to girls/women as people. When you're a teenager you get the hormone rush and you are interested in girls - sexually/romantically foremost, though.

But because girls have only been presented to you as first this "mysterious Other" with these weird, inferior interests (shopping, dresses, dolls, playing house) and then as sexual/love objects once you're a bit older - and not so much as potential friends all this time - you perceive most interactions with women on the basis of their sexual/love possibilities; which ends up as paying too much attention to females you find attractive while mostly ignoring females you don't.

However since girls are allowed to do things coded as masculine, girls/women in general know better how to relate to boys/men, since most girls will like some boy stuff (but most boys will avoid girl stuff). So it's easier for girls to be friends with boys since it's not so very focused though the sexual/love lens - it's built around similar interests.

And since many men are used to evaluating women as sexual/romantic possibilities first and not bothering to spend time where that particular interest isn't there - since that's how they're used to interacting, they might feel "well if she's spending time with me there must be something there" because they themselves would not bother to be spending time with her if it wasn't a possibility for them. They don't understand the different relational dynamic where many women don't think this way about men because they're used to evaluating opposite-sex friends based on shared interests.

Anyway yeah I don't want to rewrite that comment or repeat myself but I totally see how it fits in with the findings here.
posted by flex at 12:10 PM on October 25, 2012 [48 favorites]


This latest finding seems to contradict this earlier, similarly well thought out study: Science Confirms Men and Women Never Meant To Be More Than Friends. I'm glad to hear that research on this important topic is continuing.
posted by orthicon halo at 12:11 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē)
Éros (ἔρως érōs)
Philia (φιλία philía)
Storge (στοργή storgē)
Not everything is about Éros, unless you're living in a society four thousand years after those distinctions were made, apparently.


Or speaking in a language where you use the same word for all four of those concepts in addition to how good you think your Big Mac or most favoritest TV show is.
posted by aught at 12:13 PM on October 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also, please. US-centric link bait much?

At best this study shows that Men and Women cannot be friends when raised in the current American society, although that might have changed due to demographics and so forth recently.

Surely the message of "It gets better", conversations about gender, gay marriage and so forth is that: there are other ways to do this whole culture thing.
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 12:14 PM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]



bswinburn: "friendzone" is a term used by men posting to Ask Metafilter to describe a situation in which they would like a romantic relationship with a female friend but the female friend thinks of the male as "just a friend." See: http://ask.metafilter.com/tags/friendzone

It struck me as pretty related to (part of) the content of the study and sorta a funny way so summarize it here, but I welcome discussion of objections to this presentation.


It has to do with intentionality. My understanding of the "friendzone" concept is that is a situation where the woman understands that the man is interested in her romantically, but does not reciprocate and decides, instead of making that clear, to ambiguously lead the guy along in a way that leaves him confused about whether there is a chance of a reciprocal romantic relationship.

I saw no evidence of this intentionality in the article or study. The article appears to be more along the lines of, "Women and men misunderstand each other" than "Scientists have shown women are manipulating men."

Of course, language is plastic, and other people can have a different understandings.
posted by bswinburn at 12:15 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]



But because girls have only been presented to you as first this "mysterious Other" with these weird, inferior interests (shopping, dresses, dolls, playing house) and then as sexual/love objects once you're a bit older - and not so much as potential friends all this time - you perceive most interactions with women on the basis of their sexual/love possibilities; which ends up as paying too much attention to females you find attractive while mostly ignoring females you don't.


You've got to wonder what kinds of romantic relationships would be possible to men if they were not socialized to essentially have contempt for the very group of people they want to fuck. I will always remember my father telling me that most men thought most women were stupid, and that's just the way things were...I did not know then and do not know now how this means that my father thinks of me. Is he "most men"? Am I "most women"?
posted by Frowner at 12:15 PM on October 25, 2012 [41 favorites]


thirteenkiller, that's the most charitable reading of the friendzone term possible. What people using it usually seem to mean is something more like "the only reason I was ever nice to this person was to have sex with her (or more rarely, him) and she's not putting out and that's unfair." A few women I know have been really hurt by guys they thought were friends who turned out to lose interest in being friends once it was clear a sexual relationship wasn't in the cards.


I am not proud to admit it, but I can confirm this as someone that was just like this in his insecure early 20s. I think if you had laid it out in so many words I would have stridently denied it, but time and perspective both pretty much make me realize that's how I was and blehgh, thats just awful.

As a guy growing up though, you have a ton of conflicting influences molding how you treat women. Maybe you were ignored or an ugly duckling, maybe (like me) you unfortunately had a best friend in high school that told you the best way to get girls to like you was to treat them poorly, maybe you looked around and all you saw (selectively of course) was guys getting girls by being assholes. So all that goes into the pot and it manifests itself in manipulative behaviors to get affection. We're not always the most sensible people at that age.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:17 PM on October 25, 2012


Every time I see the word "friendzone" I get "Hiiiiiighwaaaay to the dangerzone" stuck in my head.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:18 PM on October 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


The results suggest large gender differences in how men and women experience opposite-sex friendships. Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa. Men were also more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief. In fact, men’s estimates of how attractive they were to their female friends had virtually nothing to do with how these women actually felt, and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt—basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends. Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual. As a result, men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.

Not present: any control--which is to say, some measure of these same men and women perceive attraction and reciprocity of attraction among people they're dating, strangers, etc. I suspect this isn't so much particular to opposite-sex friendships. But I guess the likely conclusion would be "college-aged kids are bad at interpersonal relationships" and where's the fun in that headline?
posted by kagredon at 12:19 PM on October 25, 2012


You've got to wonder what kinds of romantic relationships would be possible to men if they were not socialized to essentially have contempt for the very group of people they want to fuck.

Totally! It reminded me also of this comment I posted last year. I'll quote some of what I said:
...it feels like progress that women/girls can do things previously societally reserved for men/boys, but how much progress have we made when men/boys still cannot have anything to do with "feminine" things? How equal do we really have a chance to be when these gender norms are still so rigidly enforced from the time we are tiny?

So many of the narratives (books, films, TV, cartoons) out there are male-driven with male main characters, and as girls we learn to adapt to this, because it's societally accepted that men are the standard, and women are lesser, not as interesting - boys don't want to watch "girl stuff", so we all have to watch boy stuff. We learn to absorb both the masculine and the feminine POVs presented, and integrate them into ourselves, but since boys are the standard, they don't have to, and what's more are actively discouraged from doing so, so how do they learn to identify with girls/women as people?

What does it do to an average boy to grow up being told over and over that girl stuff is yucky and girl stuff is wrong for boys and "don't be such a girl" and "what are you, a girl?" Then all of a sudden he hits the teenage years and the hormone rush, and now girls are good for something... one thing... they're still this mysterious, not-as-good, "other" but hot damn, do they got what men want, amirite?
posted by flex at 12:21 PM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm a gay dude, and the best sex I have is with my best friends, so I consider "the friendzone" to be between the bellybutton and the thighs.

I don't always have sex with my friends, but when I do, I do it in the friendzone.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2012 [65 favorites]


...there are other ways to do this whole culture thing.
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 12:14 PM on October 25


Eponysterical.
posted by The Tensor at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Why is this shit still being recycled? There have been articles on this since before the internet.
posted by mek at 12:23 PM on October 25, 2012


...but the opportunity (or perceived opportunity) for “romance” is often lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce at the most inopportune moment.

See, there's the problem: Opportunity waiting for an inopportune moment to pounce. I'm trying to visualize the massive internal conflict.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:28 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


At best this study shows that Men and Women cannot be friends when raised in the current American society, although that might have changed due to demographics and so forth recently.

Ah, yes. Once again, the aggrieved international chimes in to remind us all of our entrenched subjective bias. Thank you, aggrieved international, for recalling that the United States is not the world and that Americans (or shall I, in deference to your sensitivities, use the execrable "USians"?) are not global citizens.

It was the same with Freud, right? All that libido cathexis and repression stuff totally worked in Vienna, but not anywhere else. The rest of the world just shrugged their shoulders at the funny little cigar smoking Jew and went back to their Galenic humors. And arguments about urbanization, poverty and crime developed by sociologists in the US have no applicability beyond that narrow frame. Indeed, I'm not entirely convinced that the double helix of DNA exists outside of The Cavendish Laboratory or that we can trust the validity of the imagery that the Curiosity Rover is sending back. I mean, who can be sure there isn't just some paper being held over the camera lens? I mean, really, really sure?

It's science. Initial results are always subject to further testing in different contexts? Waving your hands and being all "woo woo US-centrism" just makes you look provincial, frankly.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:28 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm a gay dude, and the best sex I have is with my best friends

One thing I notice: when gay dudes' sexual practices are explained for straight people, not only is it usually in homophobic terms ("gay men! so promiscuous! and they cannot love! plus, it's gross!") but casual sex is always described as not only the real of male sexuality ("all men would totally have sex with strangers all the time if possible") but it's seldom described as friendly or positive casual sex.

Like, I've read many articles geared to straight women (about a million of which seem to quote Dan Savage) which boil down to "men require an endless string of novel, nubile sexual partners who will do absolutely anything, but men cannot be expected to be polite, loving or friendly to those sexual partners - just look at the gay sex!"

I have read, like, zero articles geared to straight women which say "lots of gay guys have casual sex, and there are social conventions in place that make this fairly safe and mutual, and a lot of guys actually have friends with whom they have sex, and lots of guys are on friendly terms with guys they've had sex, so actually dudes can have sex without being monstrous entitled creepers....and casual sexual encounters need not be joyless and scary!" Even though that actually describes the sex lives of those of my gay friends who get around a lot, and even though it actually describes the majority of writing by actual gay dudes on this topic.
posted by Frowner at 12:31 PM on October 25, 2012 [32 favorites]


And arguments about urbanization, poverty and crime developed by sociologists in the US have no applicability beyond that narrow frame.

They would have little applicability if the sociologists didn't make any attempt to understand how the context of the U.S. affects the argument, and whether the argument would change under different circumstances. It's not that doing US-based psychological studies is bad, but trying to draw broad evolutionary conclusions without any acknowledgment of culture-bound phenomena is worthless.
posted by kagredon at 12:31 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can Men be friends with Men? It's a question that, at first glance, seems to be well-answered; we see male-male friendships every day, on the street, in bars, or in trendy coffeeshops. But between movies like Brokeback Mountain and literature like Supernatural slashfic, one might wonder if there's more to male friendships than simple "bro-ing down." To find out more, scientists recently conducted a study that would definitively answer the question: Do Men Really Want to Fuck Each Other?

Researchers brought 100 pairs of ostensibly-platonic male friends into a science lab, where privacy would be assured. They then placed the pairs in chairs directly across from each other, and asked them questions like, "Hey what's up?" and "Are you into this?" and "Do you like him?" and "On a scale of 1 to 10, how DTF would you say you are right now?" The answers were very revealing.

"Across the board, what we discovered was that men totally wanted to do each other," said social psychologist Marianne Brees. "In a sexual way, I mean. On all of their written questionnaires, they claimed the experiment was 'weird' or 'awkward' or 'deeply uncomfortable,' but when we observed them directly, we found that that they were totally feeling it. They wanted it, I'd say. They wanted it bad."

Other scientists agree: "Oh, yeah," said a secondary researcher, who asked to remain nameless. "Remember Tim and Josh? They were, like, ALL ABOUT each other. They were totally itching to grab each others big muscled bodies and get super frisky." Dr. Brees nodded, adding, "Yeah I bet they woulda broken off a MASSIVE tasty piece of that if we hadn't been watching." Both scientists nodded.

All attempts to interview these subjects for this article went unanswered, leading us to the natural conclusion: these men were probably more interested in Fucking Each Other than speaking to Scientific American. So is there any hope for platonic male friendships?

"No, not really," said Marianne Brees, a social psychologist who works in our building. "I'd say no, it's really only a matter of time before they all rip their clothes off and start going at it. I don't mean just hand stuff, either, like it's probably gonna get off the chain, you know?" She then showed us several dozen drawings that she and the other researchers had made of their interview subjects, in various states of undress. True to the researchers' theories, the drawings seemed to depict a world in which it was literally impossible for men to remain platonic friends.

So what's to be done? Restrict this simmering mass of hormones to just kissing? Maybe the occasional hickey? More research will have to be done. But one thing's for sure: if you see two men near each other, they likely want to get mad rutty.

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posted by Greg Nog at 12:32 PM on October 25, 2012 [128 favorites]


I don't always have sex with my friends, but when I do, I do it in the friendzone.

Stay bonking, my friends.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Reminds me of this amusing, non-scientific survey (YT).
posted by Mendl at 12:34 PM on October 25, 2012


SCARFACE (Al Pacino)
Tony's obsession with material things does not make him cool. It leads to his downfall. Elvira in the restaurant scene: "Look at what we've become, Tony. We're not winners. We're losers."


Scarface: terrible movie to talk about in a discussion about unrequited attraction in a platonic relationship? Or the BEST movie to talk about in a discussion about unrequited attraction in a platonic relationship?
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:36 PM on October 25, 2012


Thank you, aggrieved international, for recalling that the United States is not the world and that Americans (or shall I, in deference to your sensitivities, use the execrable "USians"?) are not global citizens.

And yet, how strange it is that this type of "science" is almost always used to "prove" things that further advantage the already advantaged and deny the experiences of the vulnerable.

I'm pretty sure that whatever the Curiousity Rover sends back is extremely unlikely to be used to back up a bunch of just-so stories that allege to be about my sexuality.

And of course, I'm a big fan of Freud and have read quite a lot of his work - but if you think that Freud's approach to psychoanalysis "works" universally (or even "worked" unequivocally in Vienna!) or is unchallenged both by competing psychoanalytic traditions and by non-psychoanalytic approaches...well, that is parochial. If anything, arguing that Freud's ideas "worked" in Vienna because they were well-suited to upper-middle-class Viennese is a good explanation - because it suggests that Freud was a good observer and accurate theoretician. Otherwise we're left with "Freud's theories probably never worked for anyone and are just random".

Plus, as you know, Bob, there are a lot of "Freuds" depending on where he's at in his career.

Plus, I'll raise you Deleuze.
posted by Frowner at 12:37 PM on October 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


> You've got to wonder what kinds of romantic relationships would be possible to men if they were not socialized to essentially have contempt for the very group of people they want to fuck.

Totally. If most boys are raised in ways that tell them that the worst thing you can be is girly (because girls are weak, stupid, too emotional, etc.) then it must be very confusing to have to relate to the people you've been taught are people you should not resemble in any way because the way those people are is bad.
posted by rtha at 12:38 PM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I protested loudly when an ex insisted my male friends "all probably want to fuck [me]." They are just my friends! They have no ulterior motives other than friendship! They respect me as their peer!

Guess not. :-\ Thanks, science.
posted by peacrow at 12:40 PM on October 25, 2012


I stopped taking this article seriously at approximately the point where it linked to hotornot.com.
posted by ostro at 12:41 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not quite the point I was making, but pretty close. I was cracking wise about nice guy syndrome. Nice guy syndrome is not a strategy I recommend to my male friends.

"I can tell by your reaction that I was joking."
posted by griphus at 12:42 PM on October 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


So gooddd
posted by MangyCarface at 12:45 PM on October 25, 2012


If AskMe is any judge of late, the women are the ones with the crushes.

But in the end, this is just another stupid psych study where the basic premise--the honesty of the participants--is not considered.

We can't know these things because we can't read minds.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:46 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Informed, constructive criticism is important, but dismissing the results of a psychological study because it doesn't describe your life to a T (no model incorporates all possibilities) or because it offends some preheld opinion isn't very constructive. The plural of anecdote is not data, yadda, yadda, yadda. Why do mefites seem to have no problem accepting research on global warming even if it's cold out today, but psychology doesn't get any respect? They don't pull this stuff out of their asses (trust me, I've done a shedload of dataentry for this sort of finding).

Yes, this research was done on undergraduates at an American university. A HUGE amount of research is done on undergrads because they are there. Have you ever tried to recruit participants for psychological research from the community? It's crazy difficult and expensive; the study I work for has spent $100s per participant just to recruit about 350 people with a relatively common health condition - and that still took us three years.

But that's why they didn't make conclusions about age based on that study (the note about a difference in attitudes by age was from a different survey based study), and they weren't looking at the effect of culture (given that they had no comparison group). Psychology is aware of the effects of culture, and thus there are cross-cultural studies, but this one isn't one of them.

This study is a very interesting one, and the finding isn't sexist: it's just found that in this sample of relatively young, heterosexual people, men are more likely to be attracted to their female friends than women are to their male friends, and that both men and women project their own attraction (or lack thereof) onto to their friends of the opposite sex. No, not all men feel this way; not all women feel this way. But there are trends by sex.

And it's useful information: if there really are differences (biological or cultural, it doesn't matter) in the levels of attraction that men and women feel for their opposite sex friends, being aware of the difference could help improve relationships between male and female friends. Men would be more aware that their female friends are less likely to be attracted to them, and women aware that their male friends may be attracted to them.

I mostly feel for the men: since nothing is going to happen without the interest of both parties, it seems that the women's feeling (less likely to feel attraction) becomes the status quo.
posted by jb at 12:50 PM on October 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


@Tensor Tee-hee!

After trawling through the extensive debates on this, I've come to the conclusion that I must be a different species. I've had one case of unrequited love, and both of us knew the reality of the situation, and we were friends. This was at age 17/18, so it wasn't as if I wasn't at the prime of poor-male-impulse control, either. It was simple:

Her: I'm not in love with you in any way but as a friend.
Me (post crushing feelings of annihilation): If this is all there can be, that's all there will be. But let's have fun, ok?
Her: I do love you like a brother though.
Me: Ok sister, let's go have fun.

This whole "imperative urge to bonk the crap out of anything that's near me" ethos is puzzling. What's even more puzzling to me is this whole "To get into X's pants I must act like Y and do Z and might even involve drugs to do so".

We're apparently all of the same species, not mechano sets engaged in Game Theory.

Although most rodents have a reputation for promiscuity, prairie voles break the trend, generally forming monogamous pair bonds that occasionally last a lifetime. In fact, the prairie vole is typically cited as an animal model for monogamy in humans. They huddle and groom each other, share nesting and pup-raising responsibilities, and generally show a high level of supportive behavior.

Well, it was that or the usual standard of Wolf or Swan analogy.

@R.Schlock. Hmm, eponysterical?

I never stated that other cultures were any better. If anything, they're usually more depressingly retrograde than the USA. The study was based on Americans, thus my comment referenced America. (Insert whichever country you want to make your study in - and in fact, there's probably a lot of worth in doing a meta-comparison between such studies). My point still stands, however.

There's no scientific basis for desire / love / empathy and so forth, barring the mechanics of some chemicals produced. Sure, throw some evolutionary theory into it as a "this is our best model of how things work, but bugger me if I know why dogs sit at graves", "well, we're pretty sure that animals feel things now, but it was dicey for a while there and the behaviourists still aren't on board" and try to avoid the whole "well, it's cybernetic theory, right? Everything is in balance, right? That's why it's an ecosystem, right? What do you mean everyone used to think this was based on clock-work models? What the holy crap, our models are breaking down as we add more data!".

There's a lot of wiggle room between this and being unable to treat another Other as a Being-within-themselves, not a Being-I'd-love-to-Bonk.

@Frowner.

You referenced Delueze. I'm thinking of your "friendzone" right now. (Irony intended. Perhaps)
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 12:52 PM on October 25, 2012


Why do mefites seem to have no problem accepting research on global warming even if it's cold out today, but psychology doesn't get any respect?

Are survey results as strictly quantifiable as ambient temperatures?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:54 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about how these questions got asked, honestly. Like, I could see conceding that I'd like to have sex with my female friends in the abstract, and sure, it'd be an ego boost to think that they're all one hot second away from jumping my bones, but I tend to think that plenty of women have gauzy inappropriate fantasies that don't really carry any weight in their day to day world. They haven't, at least to my knowledge, impacted my friendships in any way since around high school, when this shit was all fraught and omnipresent and Wagnerian drama all the time.
posted by klangklangston at 12:55 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have had many female friends over the years.

But if they needed to have sex with me, I would totally be there for them.


I mean of course back when I was single. I would never have sex with any of my female friends now that I am in a committed relationship, with, as it turns out, a woman who used to be "just a friend!!" lol!!
posted by freakazoid at 12:56 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never understood why these types of studies/discussions always imply in some way that friendships are less valid or mutually beneficial if an element of physical or romantic attraction is involved, unrequited or otherwise.
posted by skrozidile at 12:57 PM on October 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
Harry *at first* believes "men and women can't be friends," but he spends the bulk of the movie becoming friends with Sally, and thus finds happiness. The entire point of the movie is that men and women can indeed be friends.


Umm... did you see the ending? Harry and Sally end up together. Harry means they can't be "just friends" and their relationship doesn't contradict that. (I don't believe men and women can't be friends.)
posted by Jahaza at 12:58 PM on October 25, 2012


I can't wait to see what other Biz Markee joints they examine with SCIENCE! Is it natural to be alone again?
posted by klangklangston at 12:58 PM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Why do mefites seem to have no problem accepting research on global warming even if it's cold out today, but psychology doesn't get any respect?

Are survey results as strictly quantifiable as ambient temperatures?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 3:54 PM on October 25 [+] [!]


Statistical significance depends on the sample size, effect size, etc. But generally, yes, they are.

Psychology has both qualitative and quantitative methods. Both are held to relatively rigorous standards (more rigorous than history or literature study, in terms of sampling, statistics, etc).
posted by jb at 1:00 PM on October 25, 2012


They have no ulterior motives other than friendship! They respect me as their peer!

If the gay scene offers any insight, it's that the two are not mutually exclusive! Your friends can completely respect you as their peer and love your company and friendship and also want to jump your hot bones.

Sure, there are maybe some people who will pretend to be your friend for many years but actually only want the sex, but a) they are enormous douches and b) generally don't get the sex anyway, so at least karma's helping out a little in the payback stakes. I also think they're in the minority, "friendzone" chat aside.
posted by fightorflight at 1:00 PM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Like, I could see conceding that I'd like to have sex with my female friends in the abstract, and sure, it'd be an ego boost to think that they're all one hot second away from jumping my bones


Also, I submit that since the social cost to straight men of having sex is lower (no pregnancy risk, less likely to be physically forced to do something you don't want to do, if she turns into a stalker she is less likely to be violent) and the benefit much greater (boasting rights! being wanted is flattering! almost certainly actually have an orgasm regardless of how partner fares)...while the cost of sex is higher for straight women (possible pregnancy! probably responsible for birth control! partner may regale buddies with stories or photos! other people may slut-shame! Unless dude is better than average you may not get an orgasm! May be physically forced to do something you don't want! More likely to stalk! More likely to be a violent stalker!)....men have a lot more incentive to think hopefully that they can have it off with their women friends.
posted by Frowner at 1:01 PM on October 25, 2012 [26 favorites]


Why do mefites seem to have no problem accepting research on global warming even if it's cold out today, but psychology doesn't get any respect?

This research is along the lines of taking the temperature outside my house every day for three months and concluding things about climate change.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:02 PM on October 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


I jumped straight to the JSPR paper and didn't read the Scientific American link, so this is based solely on my read of Bleske-Rechek et al.

As others have mentioned, the study is not about "friendzone" but purports to test hypotheses based on the notion of evolved mating strategies in a novel context (ie. the modern world). The bigger problem, though, and what people would do well to remember is that the researchers have taken none of the standard steps (randomized sampling, tests for non-response bias, etc.) that one can take to avoid drawing conclusions based on a skewed sample. The best we could hope to generalize about here is Midwestern heterosexual white people. I understand why they couldn't really do that in Study 1, since they wanted to interview both members of each dyad, but they don't do any meaningful justification of their snowball sampling for the older participants in Study 2:
Young and middle-aged adult sample. By post mail, we sent paper questionnaires to 132 male and 191 female adults around the United States. Of the adults on the mailing list, 80% were from the Midwest. We compiled the mailing list by asking students and research assistants to compile addresses of relatives, neighbors, and employers between the ages of 27 and 55. Because the median age of marriage in the US is 26 for females and 28 for males (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), we decided that starting at age 27 would allow us to access a sample of people who were likely to have launched into marriage and full-time work. After the initial mailing and a sample-wide postcard reminder, a total of 52 men and 90 women (39% response rate for men, 47% for women) returned their questionnaire in the self-addressed, prepaid envelope that we provided. The sample ranged in age from 27 to 52 (mean ¼ 37.37). Because 95% of the sample was between the ages of 27 and 50, we termed this the ‘‘young and middle-aged adult’’ sample. Notably, the majority of the men and women in this sample were in their thirties and early forties, and 88% of the men and 91% of the women were married and thus in a similar position regarding mateship status. For analyses, then, we analyzed them together, across age, as one group to be compared with the emerging adult sample (in which no one was married). We could not compare respondents from non-respondents on age or marital status (that information was unknown for many on the original mailing list), but 80% of respondents’ envelopes were from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Further, 90% of the respondents were married, which is typical of Midwestern samples. Of the cross-sex friends described by participants, 66% were also married, and another 10% were in a serious relationship. (Only 47% of participants and 40% of the cross-sex friends that participants described had been married when the friendship began.) Although the sample was obtained through networking and thus limited in that respect, it was similar to our emerging adult sample in its Midwestern composition.
I know that doing good survey sampling is expensive, but sheesh.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 1:02 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Although women seem to be genuine in their belief that opposite-sex friendships are platonic, men seem unable to turn off their desire for something more."

And what is that "something more"? Super-serious long term relationship? NSA sex then never talk again? Seems like all the research really showed was that the male and female participants had different perceptions of their own attractiveness to their platonic friends, so it's kind of a weird conclusion.
posted by mibo at 1:02 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like this article on Facebook - Tweet this article on Twitter - Upvote this article on Reddit

Honestly that 'article' seems like it'd be most appropriate for Tumblr.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:02 PM on October 25, 2012


The best we could hope to generalize about here is Midwestern heterosexual white people.

Cover her in hot dish and she's yours, broseph
posted by Greg Nog at 1:03 PM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


This sounds very self-selective and limited for the conclusions they have drawn.

It's two Two TWO metafilter bingo objections in one! Drink twice!
posted by Justinian at 1:03 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]



Honestly that article seems like it'd be most appropriate for Tumblr.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:02 PM on October 25 [+] [!]


Reddit works.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:04 PM on October 25, 2012


Something else worth considering is how technology is changing the way men and women relate to each other. Starting with handwritten letters and now the Internet, it's gotten easier over time for both sexes to communicate without being physically present, or even conduct relationships without ever meeting in the flesh. Removing that physicality has to make it easier to stay just friends, and relate in terms of common interests instead of mating potential.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:05 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]



If the gay scene offers any insight, it's that the two are not mutually exclusive!


And this is where the stuff flex was talking about - the part where straight dudes are raised to think that women are stupid/contemptible/contaminatingly-feminine/boring Others - comes into play.

It would be awesome if more dudes could be able to be both friendly and attracted to women.

Now, I wasn't going to bring this up because it's very much a 21st century queer person's perspective, but: I would totally sleep with pretty much any of my friends of all genders should circumstances be right and should they be into it. That's because I like the same qualities in friends and in partners - smart, funny people with distinctive physical and social presence. I find my friends attractive. Oh, not in a creepy, skeevy way and it's not even something I really think about regularly....and I certainly don't cherish deathless crushes on all of them. But my friends are cute! And nice! What's not to like?
posted by Frowner at 1:05 PM on October 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


This research is along the lines of taking the temperature outside my house every day for three months and concluding things about climate change.

This sample size is perfectly fine for what they were researching, or else they wouldn't have had statistically significant results.

I know that doing good survey sampling is expensive, but sheesh.

that sounds like snowball sampling -- it's perfectly acceptable technique.

You know, reviewers do LOOK at peer-reviewed papers. If someone wants to come into this thread and say "I'm a research psychologist and the methodology is TERRIBLE", that would be something. I'm not a psychologist, I just work for one. But there is nothing in this study that jumps out as being seriously flawed.
posted by jb at 1:06 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are so many variables in human relations that I often find it difficult to draw a broad line between friendship and romantic interest between people. I mean, there are varying degrees of feeling physically attracted to another person - to some degree, they are not strong enough to necessarily indicate a romantic interest. You could even fancy the notion that you and your pal would make a good couple, but you're totally cool with being friends. You might believe your friend is interested in/attracted to you, but don't believe it has any bearing on the friendship.

And so on. I don't buy the idea of here, on this side, is Friendship, and on that side, is Romance. We're a lot more nuanced than that in terms of how we relate to each other, which is why the "uh oh big trouble!!!" tone of the article is off-putting to me, and (one of many reasons) why I don't dig the "friendzone" concept.

We're human beings here; not characters in your favorite romantic comedy. Stop trying to model your interpersonal relationships after them.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:06 PM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh good lord.
MOST of my good friends are female. MOST of them I've never had any feelings for, despite them being attractive and desirable people. It's just not the relationship we have. And then one of my closest friends I initially pursued and now we joke about it, and another is my ex from years ago.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to human interaction.
posted by flaterik at 1:08 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


But there is nothing in this study that jumps out as being seriously flawed.


Of the adults on the mailing list, 80% were from the Midwest



I'd be very wary of even claiming this was a useful study on Midwesterner's relations to sexual desire, let alone America [320 / 370 million inhabitants, depending on how you catagorise migrant labour] and certainly not humans in general.


You're arguing for the rigorous nature of Psychology, but shooting fish in the opposition's barrel here.
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 1:10 PM on October 25, 2012


"But if we all thought like men, we’d probably be facing a serious overpopulation crisis."

Wait, we're not?
posted by nowhere man at 1:10 PM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


awkward...

really? did I accidentally Spoonerize? I do that a lot because I was raised in a profanity/innuendo-free household and a lot of words that are hiLARiously sexual to others aren't to me. Amusingly, some of the French I learned from my mother, for example, was completely innocent in the sixties and is obscene slang now.

Or is it that you assume I'm a dude, so if I say that I'd sleep with my friends that proves the friendzone thing? Not a dude! More casual about sex than many non-dudes! Would not fit well into the study in the article!
posted by Frowner at 1:13 PM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it's an interesting start to formulating a better study, and as a conversational springboard for people who are interested in hacking this element of their social lives.

Friendzone has nothing to do with it, though, so that was kind of a strange association.
posted by batmonkey at 1:14 PM on October 25, 2012


huh? How could that be pointing out a Spoonerism? Or am I thinking of some other use of the term?
posted by sweetkid at 1:15 PM on October 25, 2012


But there is nothing in this study that jumps out as being seriously flawed.

Non-rhetorically speaking, why is using a sample that is 80% Midwesterners, and 100% college kids not flawed if you're trying to generalize about American men and women in general?
posted by 23skidoo at 1:16 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why do mefites seem to have no problem accepting research on global warming even if it's cold out today, but psychology doesn't get any respect?


Cognitive Psych PhD dropout married to a tenured Social Psych prof here.

This research doesn't deserve very much respect. It is not great research in a weak journal in a sub field that causes most serious research psychologists to roll their eyes and edge away from it's participants.

Even serious psych research can be embarrassingly bad sometimes (Bem's precognition garbage for example which got published in Social Psychology's highest impact factor journal) and there are all kinds of difficult issues that temper conclusions drawn in psychology but these are nothing compared to the high salt diet that should accompany the claims of the majority of evolutionary psychologists you will hear about in the mainstream press. This area has become the new hot field for many racists and bigots who manage to get PhD’s. I feel sorry for people who are genuinely interested in the intersection of psychology and evolution because it is just an awful monster truck pile-up and everyone is better off routing around it until it gets cleared up. You can think of Evo Psych as psychology’s form of link bait and trolling.

And yes Scientific American used to be very good. Now it is not.
posted by srboisvert at 1:19 PM on October 25, 2012 [23 favorites]


huh? How could that be pointing out a Spoonerism? Or am I thinking of some other use of the term?

Oh, sadly you are right! It wasn't a Spoonerism. Freudian slip, I suppose, both times.

My teacher in freshman HS English was under the impression that all Freudian slips are sexual, on the assumption that Freud is filthy. We had a little disagreement about this that did not end well for me.
posted by Frowner at 1:19 PM on October 25, 2012


huh? How could that be pointing out a Spoonerism? Or am I thinking of some other use of the term?


No, you're meeting the difference and repetition of model changes.

@Frowner; you essentially proved the difference between the arbre / hierarchical sexual relations and your nomad / rhizomatic ability to relate to an entire network.

Meh, it happened to me as well. Gay men are the closest you're going to get to recognition of it, and even they structure it formally into #1, #2, and #3 importance of shagging. As a whole, you'd be surprised how often "straight" males come to you looking for the "non-Gay" way to check if they're "actually gay or not". Seriously: I don't mind, but I'm fairly sure the gay males would appreciate it more.


Freud? He's just wrong.
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 1:27 PM on October 25, 2012


They have no ulterior additional motives other than friendship! They respect me as their peer!
posted by j_curiouser at 1:33 PM on October 25, 2012


queer woman married to a man and i agree with Frowner - i would probably sleep with most if not all of my friends if conditions were right/stars aligned/we met under different circumstances/etc. i don't harbor secret crushes or feel like i've been "friendzoned" or anything. i'm totally pleased with them as friends and thinking they have attractive qualities doesn't diminish that - but, yeah, i find relationships in social/friend groups and i'm a pretty free person. my husband and i were friends and then best friends for about a decade before we sort of looked up one day and were all like "wait, no, i love you in a 'can you take your pants off' sort of way!"

i think flex is also making excellent points. i was raised in a culture that very much valued men over women and i grew up wishing to emulate the men in my life because i wanted to be smart and important. i was always lauded as "one of the guys." i've dated a few men who probably weren't as smart as me and it created a weird dynamic that took me by surprise. that's one of the reasons i love my husband so much - he has always been fascinated with feminine things, even as a little boy - he likes to pick out nail polishes and watch tutorials on braiding hair. he doesn't immediately dismiss things that are girlie. sure, he thinks some of the shows i watch are crap and apparently my umbrella is over the line for a man to use, but there's not an underlying aversion to relating to me through my gender instead of his sometimes.
posted by nadawi at 1:34 PM on October 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


Freud? He's just wrong.

Only brutal honesty will suffice now, I see. So I must sadly admit that I have only read parts of Anti-Oedipus and two of those little Semiotexte Deleuze/Guattari books, and my ability to talk about Deleuze is...hm...sharply limited! Sharply limited would be the phrase. I mean, you can't be an anarchist without hearing about rhizomes, rhizomes, rhizomes all the time, but that doesn't mean much.

"Rustic and unrefined", that's how you could describe my thought if you were being nice about it, since that makes it sound like tasty polenta or a rye loaf or something.
posted by Frowner at 1:35 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


it sounds like a delicious pate.
posted by elizardbits at 1:37 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not sure where this is from, but it's always been in the back of my rattlecan brain.
The difference between men and women is that a woman wants one man who will fulfill her every fantasy, and a man wants every woman to fulfill his one fantasy.
And yet, even that now sounds ridiculously naive. So mayhaps we should be removing that "Science" flag now?
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:40 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do mefites seem to have no problem accepting research on global warming even if it's cold out today, but psychology doesn't get any respect?

Psychology implicitly asserts that behaviour is law-like, that we're not all unique individuals, and that our culture isn't unique. I'm a determinist; this doesn't bother me. But I think that's a big part of the rejection you see.
posted by smorange at 1:41 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Looking at numbers: on scale of 1-9, males rated their attraction to female friend on avg 4.94, SD 2.49. Females rated their attraction to male friend on avg 3.97, SD 2.14.

Building a normal distribution from these numbers and limiting everything to scale 1-9 and creating a 1000 couples, there seems to be
In 1000 friendships there are 202 cases where man rated woman as 7 or higher. (=crush)
In 1000 friendships there are 84 cases where woman rated man as 7 or higher. (=crush)

So, according to the results they present, friendship-crushes are not *that* common and they happen to both directions.
posted by Free word order! at 1:46 PM on October 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


Psychology implicitly asserts that behaviour is law-like, that we're not all unique individuals, and that our culture isn't unique.

I don't think Psychology does this very much, but social psychology articles like this one do.

Also, I didn't see this article accounting for cultural influences or conditioning very much. It was more like, "See, the stereotypes are true."
posted by sweetkid at 1:47 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Freud? He's just wrong.

I mean, I can tell you why Freud is wrong...and yet at the same time (see what I did there?) I became a happier person who was a lot easier to be around after thinking through all that stuff about disavowal. Also the stuff about wishes. Is it because I have been brought into being as a Freudian subject so it "works" on me? Is it because of a strong placebo effect? What is a subject anyway?

I can't actually answer any of those questions.

(Sometimes I think I'm an anarchist and most of my reading history or material culture because that's less theoretically sophisticated and I'm just basically not smart enough to do comp lit. But I've still got to live, and if I'm too stupid for theory, I might as well kid myself by doing lesser thinking - I already tried the "I am too stupid for comp lit so I might as well be dead" routine.)
posted by Frowner at 2:00 PM on October 25, 2012


@Frowner (and I apologise to everyone else for the de-rail).

Deleuze is really worth while, while always bearing in mind his phonetic similarity to delusion (Simulacra... no, Baudrillard, hush), but like Nietzsche, you'll only really get the most out of him if you know the back-story. Difference and Repetition is best if you've a grounding in philosophy, and almost impossible if you don't; Capitalism and Schizophrenia is hard-core unless you know exactly the cultural references being used, and won't make real sense until you've devoured the sources he did. His other stuff about cinema, well, a given you need to understand the new wave before you get into crystal moments of time in film.

Given you're an Anarchist, I'm assuming you got to Delueze through Negri and Multitude or similar ways. This is good, but please don't skimp on the realisation that even though Continental philosophers aren't demanding formal logic that they are demanding a large cultural base of knowledge. They are, and you won't grokk them unless you know this.


Good luck, pip pip, your choice of ideology is definitely right and I wish you all the best. Remember: Don't let the bastards grind you down.


/tootles off
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 2:00 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Looking at numbers: on scale of 1-9, males rated their attraction to female friend on avg 4.94, SD 2.49. Females rated their attraction to male friend on avg 3.97, SD 2.14.

Building a normal distribution from these numbers and limiting everything to scale 1-9 and creating a 1000 couples, there seems to be
In 1000 friendships there are 202 cases where man rated woman as 7 or higher. (=crush)
In 1000 friendships there are 84 cases where woman rated man as 7 or higher. (=crush)

So, according to the results they present, friendship-crushes are not *that* common and they happen to both directions.


Holy shit, the actual data. I am repressing a strong desire to cut and paste this comment 15 times in a row.
posted by Diablevert at 2:03 PM on October 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


This is good, but please don't skimp on the realisation that even though Continental philosophers aren't demanding formal logic that they are demanding a large cultural base of knowledge

That was why I read Freud in the first place! Amazing how much one is helped when reading a book called Anti-Oedipus by having read Freud.
posted by Frowner at 2:04 PM on October 25, 2012


It's been a while since I studied social psychology, but even back then my (often American) lecturers stressed that one of the big problems with social psych was that so much of the research was done on American college students, and you couldn't necessarily generalise from them even to college students in other countries, or older Americans. Also, the most serious atttention was paid to research that had been widely repeated, and ideally been subjected to meta-analysis.

The classics of social psych were things like the Milgram obedience studies, because they were replicated all over the world, with different groups of participants.

Something like this? It could be valuable, but you'd definitely want to see lots of replication before you started drawing conclusions from it (which is why most media coverage of psychology, or indeed most sciences, is so frustrating).

[On preview, picking up on the discussion line of sweetkid etc]
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:06 PM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


@Frowner

Good call :blush:, that could (and probably did) come across as patronising, so I'm an ass. It wasn't intended to be; oversight.

Reading Freud is kinda pre-history to me, and doesn't even come close to the amount of references you'll be pulling out for later Delueze / Guattari. On a low estimate, I needed to reference about ~70 other sources just to get through his early work. And yes, this is when he was still required to satisfy academic boards.

~ Ok, before I get sanctioned for Ego driven hogging of threads, I'd better make a Blue post or get mailed. I shan't post more here. (For at least 10 posts)
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 2:13 PM on October 25, 2012


This is already probably plastered all over the mensright's subreddit, and the seduction subreddit as well. And will probably be trotted out everytime someone tries to inject a little perspective from "reality" into the conversation as if to say "Look SCIENCE"

meanwhile I will be plastered, in a different nature.
posted by hellojed at 2:22 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This *article* about this study is the height of scientific silliness, to the point of creepiness. It seems to be saying that no man can ultimately control their sexual urges towards women they are attracted to. So men are animalistic beasts while women should probably be confined indoors and be always dressed extremely modestly ( isn't that how traditional culture has often interpreted this kind of perspective...)
posted by Bwithh at 2:30 PM on October 25, 2012


basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends. Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual. As a result, men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.

A textbook example of self-serving bias and one common enough that I've both experienced it personally and seen it played out between friends multiple times in my, so far, short span of life.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:31 PM on October 25, 2012


females generally were not attracted to their male friends

Aren't lovers and spouses usually friends too....
posted by Bwithh at 2:33 PM on October 25, 2012


Wow, there's a lot of echo chamber anecdata in this thread.

Does any other, more reputable research exist on the subject?
posted by underflow at 2:43 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does any other, more reputable research exist on the subject?

According to Dr. Richards he's entered the zone and discovered that it is inhabited by the being known as Annilhilus, which makes a lot of sense. Also something about a cosmic control rid, which I'd assume is a men's rights thing.
posted by Artw at 2:55 PM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Man, metafilter has a burning disdain for the term "friend zone". I wonder if it's genuine or just used to feel superior to places like reddit.
posted by Evernix at 2:55 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that anyone is taking this study seriously without a control.

Couldn't it just be that men (in this age group) would rate their attraction to (and reciprocal attraction, and so on) a random female peer higher than vice versa?

I suppose that doesn't, strictly speaking, invalidate the conclusions, but it sure makes them less exciting.
posted by ssg at 2:55 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, metafilter has a burning disdain for the term "friend zone".

Probably because it's passive aggressive, othering, and self-victimization all rolled into one term.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:00 PM on October 25, 2012 [20 favorites]


Yeah you're probably correct.
posted by Evernix at 3:01 PM on October 25, 2012


Man, metafilter has a burning disdain for the term "friend zone". I wonder if it's genuine or just used to feel superior to places like reddit.

I don't speak for the rest of MeFi, but I dislike the term because it (a) fails to credit the putative assigner of folks to "zones" with the full range of motivations and emotions that it's always prudent to assume a random human being possesses, and (b) is whiny as fuck.

Couldn't it just be that men (in this age group) would rate their attraction to (and reciprocal attraction, and so on) a random female peer higher than vice versa?

I've been wondering the same thing, although I did not read T2ndFA.
posted by kengraham at 3:10 PM on October 25, 2012


Yeah, "friend zone" isn't necessary to describe the phenomenon. Men are more likely to be sexually attracted to female friends and to believe the feeling is mutual. Women are less likely to be sexually attracted to male friends and also believe the feeling is mutual. Oh noes.
posted by Justinian at 3:12 PM on October 25, 2012


It's been a while since I studied social psychology, but even back then my (often American) lecturers stressed that one of the big problems with social psych was that so much of the research was done on American college students, and you couldn't necessarily generalise from them even to college students in other countries, or older Americans. Also, the most serious atttention was paid to research that had been widely repeated, and ideally been subjected to meta-analysis.

This is way off topic but it is pretty much a gigantic peeve of anyone who has to deal with intro level psychology student writing:

Most scientific researchers both implicitly and explicitly reject the question of the validity of college students as samples and that is why they continue to use them. If you question college student sampling without a good reason for why the sampling explains the differences in the study rather than the study's manipulations you will generally fail the assignment or exam question because it reveals that you fundamentally misunderstand scientific method.

Science deals with this kind of thing with a put up or shut up mentality. If you've got a good alternative explanation then bring it on...with the data to back it up.
posted by srboisvert at 3:12 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


(and 10)

"Friend zone" is a pathetically adolescent term to deal with non-reciprocating emotional relationships, of varying degrees, that probably include sexual desire. It's not as if there's not a huge lexicon of plays, dramas, books and culture dealing with this issue out there. "Nope"* let us all revel in our new discovered perpetual teenage desires.

It says a lot about a culture where it even has the slightest bit of traction. Note: The Ancient Greeks are not only rolling their eyes, they're asking the Romans to stop all mosaics so that the Victorians won't ban their viewing, and we won't export sexual repression to the New World, and the Georgians are busily hiding their notebooks**. That's not even mentioning non-Western cultures, who are all like "WTF is this shit white dudes"***.

In other news, we enforce perpetual childhood / adolescent development on the species we desire to domesticate.

How.... fitting. For those who aren't being shaped like this.






*NOPE NOPE NOPE being the Reddit response to spiders, apparently.
**This is Hollywood, actual factual history is secondary to profit. Hint: no gross, EVER.
***Gotta hit those memes.
posted by Cheradenine Zakalwe at 3:13 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hah, I think "friend zone" is a pretty awesome and accurate term. I also think that it's the guys who are responsible for the situation, not the women.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:17 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am a straight man with mostly female friends who would totally bone down with most of them. It's confusing! Like with many things in the gender and sexuality world, queers are leading the way towards a better world — accept and enjoy your desires! Friendships get better for it.

I have found this difficult to implement in my hetero world, though. Lots of cultural inertia to overcome.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:19 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


FRIEND ZONE CUBA
posted by hellojed at 3:37 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think "friendzone" is an inaccurate word, but any shorthand that describes a complex emotional situation is probably gonna be sloppy. I buy that the situation "friendzone" describes is real, but maybe humans are responsible for the situation, not only women or only men.
posted by King, in the hall of the mountain at 3:39 PM on October 25, 2012


friendzone...
Is that what they're calling facebook now?
posted by kaibutsu at 3:40 PM on October 25, 2012


I must have missed something. Is there something wrong with friendship? I think it's a pretty cool thing.
posted by effugas at 3:43 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would say that the people objecting to the word "friendzone" probably have no idea what it is like for a socially awkward, shy 20-ish guy.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:43 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


HeTexted: Women upload screen shots of their text-message conversations and ask strangers about what he “really means” - or they can “ask a bro” for advice.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:45 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've never understood why these types of studies/discussions always imply in some way that friendships are less valid or mutually beneficial if an element of physical or romantic attraction is involved, unrequited or otherwise.

Word.

Friendships in general are not all perfectly platonic mutually admiring relationships between glowing spirit-orbs.

This mostly-hetero man feels a slight attraction to another hetero man friend. There was even that one night in prague on new years. There's another friend of whom I am, honestly, slightly jealous - because he's brilliant in ways that I will never be. There's the entirely uncomplicated relationship with a woman who I will always love as a sister, and another with a woman who I could see myself loving as a partner, but don't, because she isn't available, and actually it's fine.

I can imagine that some of these tensions will fade away, some might explode the friendships eventually, and new tensions might form where none existed. This is the texture that makes these relationships special and memorable. They aren't fatal, and even if they are, does that somehow degrade the value of the friendships while they lasted?

The implied ideal here is... boring.
posted by tempythethird at 3:49 PM on October 25, 2012 [17 favorites]


KokuRyu: I would say that the people objecting to the word "friendzone" probably have no idea what it is like for a socially awkward, shy 20-ish guy.

Eh, I was a shy 20-ish guy, and I'd say the idea of "friendzone" does plenty to harm shy 20-ish guys. It's a social construct that makes them more anxious about romance and dating, not less. Putting all the harm the idea causes women aside, it can really fuck a dude up to be worrying about some social construct that will supposedly keep him from finding love.
posted by Kattullus at 3:55 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


The implied ideal here is... boring.

I really have to agree (but won't at any great length, as this thread seems to be the ugly little sibling of one from like two days ago that cost me several hours of my life and was also based on an FPP showcasing an article of...questionable value). I think that a complaint that "I thought he was my friend, but he just wanted to bone me!" is not far removed from a dude complaining about getting "friendzoned." I want to be all like: He's not trying to use you, and he really is your friend; what could be friendlier than desiring someone? And also like: She's not fucking with your head; she really does like you, it hasn't all been some crazy ruse, but she doesn't want to fuck you and who cares why, if she's your friend you can deal.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:58 PM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh shit man, Richards just found Namor in the Sue Storm Friendzone and now it's totally going down.
posted by Artw at 4:01 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would say that the people objecting to the word "friendzone" probably have no idea what it is like for a socially awkward, shy 20-ish guy.

I was likewise once a socially awkward, shy 20ish guy. And I think it makes no difference whether or not you can relate to having "been there". It's a damaging concept to both genders.

I think that a complaint that "I thought he was my friend, but he just wanted to bone me!" is not far removed from a dude complaining about getting "friendzoned."

I think they're pretty far removed, or removed enough anyway to be very different. A guy complaining about being friendzoned is whining that friendship isn't good enough and was denied his entitled sex; a woman complaining that she discovered her male friend had ulterior motives is pointing out that he was effectively deceiving her. It's true that both are surmountable and the friendship can be salvaged, but I don't see how they're comparable beyond that.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:03 PM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


(And mind you, it doesn't have to be a major deception or anything, but it is a quite different dynamic, based on entirely different assumptions.)
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:07 PM on October 25, 2012


A guy complaining about being friendzoned is whining that friendship isn't good enough and was denied his entitled sex; a woman complaining that she discovered her male friend had ulterior motives is pointing out that he was effectively deceiving her.

I actually don't agree with...well...any of that. I think most guys who think they've been "friendzoned" are confused and hurt because they thought their friendship with a woman was becoming something more; they feel deceived. And most women who are put off when their male friends express a romantic interest feel similarly deceived. But I think they're both false premises. Friendships can very easily lead to romance; I'm pretty sure friendship is a necessary component of romance, even. But the friendship isn't invalidated when one person has feelings the other doesn't share, and it's not based on a lie when one expresses feelings the other doesn't have. I'm not saying there aren't manipulative men and women out there who just straight up use people, but I don't think they're the norm.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:15 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


It has been true that a large percentage of my male friends have ended up eventually expressing their desire for a relationship or sex with me. I used to find it depressing as a teenager, but I've gotten over it at this point. I do enjoy being friends with women and gay men much more for that reason, however.

I've never felt "deceived," necessarily, but I have felt betrayed and scared when my disinterest has led to them trashtalking me or saying abusive things to me in general. One casual friend who asked me out over the phone got a very chilly, angry tone when I told him I'd started dating someone else, and it was offputting. I mean, I've been called a "slut" for not sleeping with a guy who turned out to be interested in me... figure that one out. Some women are not very kind to the men they reject though, either. I'm sure that hurts. Wish that men didn't do the angry slurs thing, though.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:21 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think most guys who think they've been "friendzoned" are confused and hurt because they thought their friendship with a woman was becoming something more; they feel deceived. And most women who are put off when their male friends express a romantic interest feel similarly deceived.

Only the difference is, the guy who was "friendzoned" was not actually deceived. He can feel like he was, sure, but this is based on his expectations of a future that he wants to happen and does not materialize. By contrast, the woman who is hurt to discover that the guy she thought was a friend was actually interested in her with the end-game of sex in mind actually was deceived. They both feel deception, but only one experienced it.

Again, the deception she experiences does not necessarily have to be a huge deal, although it can be, especially if he ends up getting pretty bent out of a shape about it as a result.

But the friendship isn't invalidated when one person has feelings the other doesn't share, and it's not based on a lie when one expresses feelings the other doesn't have. I'm not saying there aren't manipulative men and women out there who just straight up use people, but I don't think they're the norm.

Oh yeah, like I said, the friendship can most of the time weather something like that intact. And I didn't say either dynamic was the norm.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:24 PM on October 25, 2012


Only the difference is, the guy who was "friendzoned" was not actually deceived. He can feel like he was, sure, but this is based on his expectations of a future that he wants to happen and does not materialize. By contrast, the woman who is hurt to discover that the guy she thought was a friend was actually interested in her with the end-game of sex in mind

Again, I'm not saying people like this don't exist, but I think to presume this is what's going on in the mind of most guys who try to move a friendship to a romantic level basically bespeaks a very dark view of human nature, at least regarding men, and it's one I really do not share at all. I think actual deception in these situations is probably quite rare.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:31 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would say that the people objecting to the word "friendzone" probably have no idea what it is like for a socially awkward, shy 20-ish guy.

Current socially awkward, shy, early-20s guy here, in ur thread, bein ur anecdatal counterexample.

Even leaving aside the above-mentioned damage that the idea can do to everybody, it's also just a stupid construct, or at best one that requires elaboration on a case-by-case basis. It's almost always unproductive, and also self-deceiving, to try to slot one's experiences into nebulously-defined, faddish little one-word categories.
posted by kengraham at 4:35 PM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Again, I'm not saying people like this don't exist, but I think to presume this is what's going on in the mind of most guys who try to move a friendship to a romantic level basically bespeaks a very dark view of human nature, at least regarding men, and it's one I really do not share at all. I think actual deception in these situations is probably quite rare.

Alright, now that I have a better idea of where you're coming from here, you've given me a little food for thought.

I'm honestly not trying to paint this darkly, but the dynamics of what the friendzoning complaint boil down to are:

1. Guy wants the friendship to move to the romantic level.
2. This does not happen - whether through confessing and being turned down, or having said love interest end up starting a relationship with someone else.
3. Guy becomes hurt, possibly resentful.

At no point was he deceived, although he might feel as though he were. The problem with this is that he's hurt that his love interest did not conform to the future he wanted to have, and has to "settle" for being friends instead. That's a pretty shitty thing to say about a friend.

Now, a woman discovering that her male friend was pursuing romance - this can go any number of ways. She might be worried that his feelings are going to be hurt, she might brush it off, she may feel kind of lied to. But either way, what's happening there isn't really in the same ballpark as "I was friendzoned". That's why I don't think they're that comparable.

So granted, in reading better what you're saying, I'd agree: not every guy - probably not even most - are engaging in deliberate deception where this romantic pursuit of a friend is concerned. What I mean more is: the guy saying he was friendzoned sees the future he desires not manifest and is disappointed to have to "settle" for what is; the woman who discovers her male friend desires her romantically was - up until that point - not aware of this fact of the present until it is revealed. "Deception" is likely the wrong word here, as it implies intention, which is not necessarily the case. And again, the friendship should - barring emotional immaturity and impulsiveness - be able to survive in either instance.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:50 PM on October 25, 2012


I'm finding a lot of the talk here really confusing and it's becoming obvious to me that what I consider "friendzoning" is not the norm. As I mentioned above, I really believed that friendzoning only happened when one party intentionally deceived the other party that their romantic attentions might become welcome. Without that element of malice I think you just have the garden variety miscommunication and differing desires; sad, yes...bad, no.

The element of malice I apply above is why I always thought "friendzoning" was really mean. If everyone else has such a different idea of what friendzoning is, well, I'm going to have to think long and hard about talking about this because the possibility for talking past each other is just too high.

I'm also really thrown by the number of people in this thread saying that men who make a move on their friends have somehow been deceiving them. Especially because I think there's some overlap in this with the same people who are saying here that what you should be doing is dating your friends.

You (generic you, not pointing at anyone specific) can't have it both ways, if you believe the preferred way for men and women to meet is date their friends, you gotta be ok with having your friends want to sleep with you.
posted by bswinburn at 4:50 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm also really thrown by the number of people in this thread saying that men who make a move on their friends have somehow been deceiving them.

I guess you're talking about me, since I'm the only one who said this, and I've since amended my word choice.

I really believed that friendzoning only happened when one party intentionally deceived the other party that their romantic attentions might become welcome. Without that element of malice I think you just have the garden variety miscommunication and differing desires; sad, yes...bad, no.

Well, I think the idea of "we can't be a couple; I have to settle for being JUST FRIENDS with this person who was my friend to begin with" is kind of a crappy thing to think about someone who's supposed to be your friend. Doesn't have to be the end of the world, though.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:55 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I think the idea of "we can't be a couple; I have to settle for being JUST FRIENDS with this person who was
> my friend to begin with" is kind of a crappy thing to think about someone who's supposed to be your friend.

Living in the era of 'friends with benefits' and finding yourself locked into the role of friend without benefits is bound to be even more galling than usual. Anyone who finds it galling way over and beyond the call of friendship gets not a drop of censure from me.
posted by jfuller at 5:05 PM on October 25, 2012



Living in the era of 'friends with benefits' and finding yourself locked into the role of friend without benefits is bound to be even more galling than usual. Anyone who finds it galling way over and beyond the call of friendship gets not a drop of censure from me.


I feel like you must be misunderstanding the whole "friends with benefits" thing. Now, if every friendship normally was sexual, and you alone were left out, that would - yes - be sort of frustrating and uncomfortable. (Although it still would not entitle you to sex!) But actually even in this enlightened era - when swinging queer folks such as myself generally find ourselves passably attracted to our friends - there's no rule that says that friendships must contain sex. Most friendships do not. If you're a dude who is all bent out of shape because you are not getting to have sex with a woman, and you frame that as "but she is FWBs with all her other guy friends" you are almost certainly incorrect.

See, on those occasions in my youth when some fellow was hanging around wishing and hoping and I didn't realize it, I would have crossed him off my list right away if his thought process had been "I don't like Frowner enough to spend time with her unless there is also fucking, so if I determine that there will be no fucking I'm not going to be friends".

A truly excellent rule for young folks everywhere: even if you have a giant crush on someone, do not spend so much time with them or money on them that you will regret it if they are not interested. And don't pretend that you won't resent the time or the money if you will resent it - don't kid yourself.
posted by Frowner at 5:14 PM on October 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


A truly excellent rule for young folks everywhere: even if you have a giant crush on someone, do not spend so much time with them or money on them that you will regret it if they are not interested. And don't pretend that you won't resent the time or the money if you will resent it - don't kid yourself.

Frowner, this may be the first thing you've ever said that I wholeheartedly agree with.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:16 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really believed that friendzoning only happened when one party intentionally deceived the other party that their romantic attentions might become welcome.

Yeah, this isn't really how most people define it, I don't think.

Plus, honestly, MOST of the time when it's described the way you do, it's, "THE GIRL intentionally deceived THE GUY that HIS romantic attentions might become welcome"; i.e., its the girl's fault.

not every guy - probably not even most - are engaging in deliberate deception where this romantic pursuit of a friend is concerned

And just to throw a not-so-popular-on-MetaFilter term into the mix, the whole Nice Guy (TM) censure is so often about how the Nice Guy is more-or-less intentionally being deceptive - he is supposedly entering into a friendship on a completely platonic level, while secretly hoping and/or plotting to turn the friendship into a romance.

Living in the era of 'friends with benefits' and finding yourself locked into the role of friend without benefits is bound to be even more galling than usual.

Um, getting the "benefits" of sex with your otherwise-platonic friends is a privilege you negotiate with individual friends, not an inalienable right you're given by virtue of living in the 21st century.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:18 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Students from a public university in the United States attended a research session in return for credit toward a course research participation requirement."

This sounds very self-selective and limited for the conclusions they have drawn.


basically every psychology experiment is like this.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:32 PM on October 25, 2012


> Um, getting the "benefits" of sex with your otherwise-platonic friends is a privilege you negotiate with
> individual friends, not an inalienable right you're given by virtue of living in the 21st century.

Well duh. Nevertheless in an era when sex is so widely, easily, and offhandedly available there's less than no reason to hang around carring a torch for someone you would like to be romantically involved with but who isn't that into you. You're friends with someone, of either sex, fine! Excellent! You're stuck in the friendzone, which is a totally different thing? Leave.
posted by jfuller at 5:33 PM on October 25, 2012


Plus, honestly, MOST of the time when it's described the way you do, it's, "THE GIRL intentionally deceived THE GUY that HIS romantic attentions might become welcome"; i.e., its the girl's fault.

Yeah, that part I'm not so sure of. An unfortunate side effect of the way I define it means that the only people I can be absolutely certain who have been friendzoned are people I have friendzoned. So while I can be fairly certain I've been friendzoned once, I know for a fact that I've friendzoned others twice. I forgive myself for this behavior because it happened when I was from around 16 to 18.

I'm also wondering when people think this is happening. Because to me this is an activity I think of happening is around people's mid-teens and extending to, maybe, their very early 20's. In other words, around the time people are discovering their own sexuality, their sexual power, and are often at their most callow. I don't really see this as a problem among adults; quite frankly, who has the time? Now in my early 40's I have a number of female friends who've I've known, on average, around a decade. Some I had a date or two with long, long ago and it became quickly mutually obvious a sexual relationship was not in the cards. Most though, friends, from the start.

I don't have any friends where there was a strong romantic feelings for the other person from the start, but they didn't reciprocate. A couple have asked if I would be interested, but I'm not. It has nothing to do with 'just friends' being categorically worse than being lovers, but that the emotional pain of being around someone who I still had strong romantic feelings for would be too much. Better to cut and run. So I have a lot of sympathy for the guys who said they don't want to be 'just friends'.

I think it's often not that they wouldn't want to be friends, had things been different; But that as things are now, it's just too painful.
posted by bswinburn at 5:37 PM on October 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


My understanding of the "friendzone" concept is that is a situation where the woman understands that the man is interested in her romantically

i understood it as not specifying whether the woman understands or not. she could understand or not, it doesn't matter, the focus is on the existence of the unrequeted romantic feelings, not the reason why they're unrequetted.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:42 PM on October 25, 2012


the whole Nice Guy (TM) censure is so often about how the Nice Guy is more-or-less intentionally being deceptive - he is supposedly entering into a friendship on a completely platonic level, while secretly hoping and/or plotting to turn the friendship into a romance.

I think it is not about this. Deception is certainly a valid and oft-use tactic in these matters. The disgust directed towards the Nice Guy is the position of cowardice and weakness from the Nice Guy tactic springs. It invites disgust.

I don't think Nice Guys think they are being deceptive. They think that being nice is how it is supposed to work and don't believe that men with dark triad traits are more successful. Nice Guys are amazed that their romantic comedy behavior doesn't work. They think Ducky was an outlier.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:52 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the Nice Guy syndrome is more or less about the ability to communicate, self-confidence, and even an understanding of how people are friends. The Nice Guys just don't get it, but it's not exactly their fault, it's just they, for whatever reason, have never learned how the whole dating thing works. They don't know what to do, and have unrealistic expectations.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:06 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This *article* about this study is the height of scientific silliness, to the point of creepiness. It seems to be saying that no man can ultimately control their sexual urges towards women they are attracted to. So men are animalistic beasts while women should probably be confined indoors and be always dressed extremely modestly ( isn't that how traditional culture has often interpreted this kind of perspective...)

There is a difference between pointing out the fact that men and women tend to behave in a certain way and that they must behave in a certain way. I think it's obvious that the conclusions of this article reflect reality at least to some extent. It doesn't make any conclusions about nature or nurture.

I think it's helpful to men to know that chances are that they are more attracted to their female friends than they are to them. It could prevent a lot of embarrassment, creepy behavior and pointless crushing, if that were more widely known.

There are a whole host of less than optimal behaviors that humans tend to engage in. Studying them and pointing them out isn't an endorsement of them. This kind of study can never tell us how we should be, only how we are now.
posted by empath at 6:13 PM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I must say that twice in my young life did I get shunted into the Friendzone* with women I had a lasting smitten on: once in my teens and once in my twenties. The two ultimate results could not have been further apart -- one woman is still my closest friend to this day, all pangs years behind us; the other I have not spoken with in decades and have no idea where she is.

While I suffered the usual immature (and largely baseless) resentment of their boyfriends, it irks me to this day that they had a boyfriend in common who -- years apart -- maltreated both of them appallingly. This guy was a university acquaintance of mine and although I have not seen him since 1987, he is probably the only person in the world I ever daydream about performing an act of physical violence upon. Last I heard, he lives in Europe, while I am based in North America. However, I am in Europe once every couple of years for work and it never fails to cross my mind that I could go to let's-say-Zurich, knock on his door, and smash him in his stupid oversized nose then walk away. That he would surely have no idea who I was or why I had hit him makes it all the better.

Then the fugitive moment passes. I have not tracked him down and never will, but I am pleased to recall that he had a very fashionable hairstyle in 1987 and him being frozen in my memory in that stupid Flock-of-Seagulls-perm crossbreed is revenge enough.




*Yeah, I am not crazy about the term either but it serves its purpose as useful shorthand here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:30 PM on October 25, 2012


I agree with the people saying that this "problem" of finding friendship and attraction mutually confounding and confusing feels like a part of figuring out sexuality and identity fairly young. I'm not saying I have it all figured out now, but the question of separating out which person is just being friendly, who is flirting for the sake of flirting, or is flirting with intent seems both less complicated and less fraught now. But I can remember being 18 and finding that incredibly stressful and difficult.

I am glad I didn't even see the term "friendzone" until I was maybe in my thirties. When I was young I probably would have identified with it and thought it was descriptive of some relationships in my life, without seeing (as is so obvious in hindsight) that the actual issues were otherwise.

And this is where the stuff flex was talking about - the part where straight dudes are raised to think that women are stupid/contemptible/contaminatingly-feminine/boring Others - comes into play.

This, though, as a straight guy who works in an extremely male-dominated profession with a bunch of guy-guys (not dude-bros, more like slightly insecure and slightly hypermasculine totally heteronormative guy-guys who drive pickups and go home to their wives and do totally stereotypical guy things on weekends, you know, the opposite of metrosexual sensitive guys... we clearly need a better vocabulary for this) doesn't resonate for me at all. I read expressions of hostility towards women all the time on the internet, but not one guy I am ever around expresses that kind of hostility. And I'm talking totally non-PC social spaces where racist and homophobic jokes get made casually, so if that kind of misogynistic hostility was there it would come out.

The point being, that hostility isn't nearly as universal as perusing Reddit threads, and I don't think pervades every straight man's life. There are all kinds of things wrong with sexuality and gender roles and the way both men and women are raised, but I think we also need to acknowledge complexity and nuance, and the ways in which people can carry that complexity with them.
posted by Forktine at 6:44 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


The article talks about attraction and romance. Aside from the editorializing at the beginning and in the conclusion, there is no mention of sex(the act)..

Why is this entire thread about sex(the act)?
posted by yonega at 7:05 PM on October 25, 2012


This *article* about this study is the height of scientific silliness, to the point of creepiness. It seems to be saying that no man can ultimately control their sexual urges towards women they are attracted to.

Young men are horny (we're talking about men here). Socially awkward young men are horny, and often channel that horniness (for example, befriending women they would like to have sex wiith) in inappropriate ways.

Part of the problem of "Friend Zone" young men is that they have exceedingly high expectations, to the point of being delusional, about what should happen. The best advice for them is to be up front with themselves - they are looking for a more than platonic relationship. They then have to figure out the route to achieving real intimacy, emotional or physical, aka "dating".

That's the problem - there is no formalized dating or courtship anymore, and Friend Zone guys, who may have lower EQ's than their peers, need a more structured approach to dating, until they can figure things out.

This is not to say that young men deserve sex and more than platonic friendship, and that women are around strictly for providing sex and intimacy.

But that's what these guys want - a real "girl friend", so why bother being friends?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:05 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm also wondering when people think this is happening. Because to me this is an activity I think of happening is around people's mid-teens and extending to, maybe, their very early 20's. In other words, around the time people are discovering their own sexuality, their sexual power, and are often at their most callow.

Mostly, I think you're right, although I would extend it to possibly late 20's, and add that friendships established as "unrequited friendzones" in the 20's can certainly be carried on well into people's 30's or 40's.


I don't think Nice Guys think they are being deceptive. They think that being nice is how it is supposed to work and don't believe that men with dark triad traits are more successful. Nice Guys are amazed that their romantic comedy behavior doesn't work. They think Ducky was an outlier.

Hmmmm. You've got a point here - I guess then I would say that there's certainly a range of how self-aware Nice Guys are about their own deceptiveness. Not all of them are quite that innocent, but I think you're right that some really are that clueless.

My point was more that even if they're not that self-aware, their behavior is inherently deceptive. They're offering friendship hoping that romance will be returned. Even if they think that's how it's "supposed" to work, they're still entering the relationship under false pretenses.


"And this is where the stuff flex was talking about - the part where straight dudes are raised to think that women are stupid/contemptible/contaminatingly-feminine/boring Others - comes into play."

[....] I read expressions of hostility towards women all the time on the internet, but not one guy I am ever around expresses that kind of hostility. And I'm talking totally non-PC social spaces where racist and homophobic jokes get made casually, so if that kind of misogynistic hostility was there it would come out.


I'm not sure flex was so much talking about open outright hostility, but also referring to things like "women drivers" jokes and "Oh God, I gotta go shopping for drapes with the wife this weekend" griping and "Sleepin' on the couch again boys - told my wife her new dress made her butt look big. Hey, she asked, right?" Even if it's said with a certain level of humor, there's still that subtext of "Women R Different & their interests are Not As Good as Mens'."
posted by soundguy99 at 7:30 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure flex was so much talking about open outright hostility, but also referring to things like "women drivers" jokes and "Oh God, I gotta go shopping for drapes with the wife this weekend" griping and "Sleepin' on the couch again boys - told my wife her new dress made her butt look big. Hey, she asked, right?" Even if it's said with a certain level of humor, there's still that subtext of "Women R Different & their interests are Not As Good as Mens'."

I'm not at all saying that lots of guys don't say it (just a few nights ago I was sitting at a bar waiting for a friend and a middle aged guy a few stools down started in with those kinds of not-funny "jokes"), just that I find it interesting that I so rarely hear it in real life, including in very non-PC social spaces, compared to how often I read it on the internet. I definitely notice it when I hear it, because I think it's crappy and I'll think less of someone who talks that way, and it's striking how seldom that kind of retrograde stuff is actually expressed in my hearing compared to other kinds of retrograde shit that people seem happy to say loudly and often.
posted by Forktine at 7:38 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, different non-PC social spaces, I guess - I also work in a male-dominated field, and I'd say casually sexist jokes and wise-assery show up a lot more than homophobic or (especially) racist versions of same.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:51 PM on October 25, 2012


we clearly need a better vocabulary for this

I think I second the spirit of this, but a theme in this thread is that being honest -- and detailed -- in one's introspection probably results in healthier relationships of all kinds than does the alternative. I'm sympathetic to the idea that a (locally) comprehensive, precise specialized vocabulary is often essential for thinking about things, but when describing the personal characteristics that a bunch of folks have in common, it's likely that attempts at defining terse, precise terms are going to be less effective than just listing observed data about those people, and then abstracting from it, at whatever length it takes, the general features one would like to point out.

The term "friendzone" itself is being used by some people to denote something which is undeniably part of their real emotional landscape. However, it's obvious from the thread that they'd have been better off just investing in a few paragraphs hashing out the idiosyncratic details from the get-go, because the term is too vague and overloaded to expect that we'll all come to anything like the same understanding when we read it. (The same is true of e.g. "dude-bro", as I gather you understand from the fact that you deployed considerable disambiguation-effort in describing the type of not-dude-bro you meant.)

I'm sort of harping on this point because I think it bears on the discussion of the types of interpersonal situations being discussed here. Terms like "friendzone" can, I'd guess, act like thought-terminating cliches, where the thoughts in question are the very same introspective thoughts that go a long way toward attenuating the suffering -- by both parties -- that can happen when two people have very different ideas about the nature of their relationship and its future. A dude whose interest in his friend is of a different sort than hers in him (I'm just following this thread's template, genderwise, here, and maybe also describing the most frequent such scenario) can make an honest assessment of his own feelings, and communicate them to her, with as much comprehensiveness as it takes to be honest and precise and clear. This means he has to have mental space to fill with the products of his introspection, and he has to feel like there's really something there to be explored. Terms like "friendzone" come pre-loaded with all kinds of cultural cruft and implicit meaning (far beyond the basic cultural cruft and implicit meaning borne by all words), and it's likely to get into his head, fill up the space, make him think he understands the situation and doesn't need to work more, and tell him what to feel and how to communicate with his friend. Terms like "friendzone" are the spammy little links in random emails from your friend's hacked account that come bearing malware that loads up your disk with its detritus.

Probably the vocabulary for describing the hypothetical dude's situation exists already, but he's going to have to assemble some words in his mind, in his own way, if he wants to come to grips with the issue and communicate honestly and with minimal unnecessary pain for himself and others.

To be really clear, I'm not picking on you, Forktine, about how you described anyone. The phrase of yours I quoted -- which I'm sure you meant in a harmless way, especially since I think you did do a good job disambiguating the type of people you're talking about, nicely -- just made sense to me in the context of the thread. I'm addressing the word "friendzone" itself, using your phrase as a jumping-off point, not criticizing anything you said.

(For those who want to talk about Deleuze [me!], maybe the issue about some of the scientific language used in not technically precise, but [to the very limited extent I can understand] metaphorically/explanatorily powerful ways in A Thousand Plateaus is related. Maybe this thread does indeed need moar Deleuze-talk, or at least meta-Deleuze-talk -- or maybe these parentheses just contain my own free-association shit.)
posted by kengraham at 7:56 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


it is direct proof that two people can experience the exact same relationship in radically different ways


Wow, hold the front page. Next thing you know they'll be discovering that not all feelings are reciprocated. Ain't science somethin'?
posted by Kit W at 2:04 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, this 'friendzone' applesauce never seems to consider a dynamic that I, at least, am familiar with from experience. Guy is interested in woman, approaches her as a friend, she likes him well enough ... suspects that he might be romantically interested (because we're not stupid), but because he keeps his sexual interest concealed, she concludes that he's not very sexy when she might, had he acted differently, have thought otherwise.

If a guy shows sexual interest in you, it encourages you to consider him in a sexual light. If a guy tries to hide his sexual interest, often you come to the conclusion that if he is sexually interested, then the fact that he hid it means he's either not interested enough or too chicken. Faint heart never won fair maid, as my mother used to say.

It's not that women aren't interested in 'nice guys' or that women never hit on men, or any of that malarkey. But a person's sexual presence, male or female, is part of how you decide whether you're attracted to them or not, and if their sexual presence is evasive, it's a turn-off.

The pairs in that study could very well have included relationships where the woman said she wasn't sexually interested in the man, not because it had never occurred to her that sex might be on the cards, but because it had occurred to her, she'd thought about it, and she'd made a decision. Not that 'Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual,' but that they'd decided that whatever sexual interest their male friends felt in them wasn't enough to make anything happen, and therefore not enough to justify telling strangers about things that are, if you're a woman, supposed to be private.

Because, y'know, women are raised to tell a lot of white lies. As witness, for instance, 'Although men were equally as likely to desire “romantic dates” with “taken” friends as with single ones, women were sensitive to their male friends’ relationship status and uninterested in pursuing those who were already involved with someone else.' Guys, it's not that the girls weren't interested; it's that nobody wants to look like a man-stealing slut.

Women are encouraged to keep quiet about our unreciprocated or socially off-bounds desires. We're also encouraged to protect the public dignity of suitors we don't want.

This study really needed some controls for social pressure.

Oh well, another day, another badly-constructed and over-hyped 'Men and women are different, we always knew it!!!!' study. What else is new?
posted by Kit W at 2:26 AM on October 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


> I don't think Nice Guys think they are being deceptive. They think that being nice is how it is supposed to
> work and don't believe that men with dark triad traits are more successful.

Then too, in all the billions of people in the world there will be some number of guys who actually aren't pulling any sort of nice-guy act, who just naturally are that way and can't be otherwise without feeling sleazy and manipulative due to being untrue to what they are. Sucks to be them, I guess.
posted by jfuller at 4:57 AM on October 26, 2012


I disagree that the "friend zone" concept or term should be considered damaging since basically all it communicates is :

Be Open — If you feel romantically attracted, then you should express that early in the friendship.

Don't Be Creepy — If your romantic interests isn't reciprocated, then you should not attempt to leverage a friendship into a relationship. It's bad for you and annoys them.

How can either statement be considered bad advice?
posted by jeffburdges at 5:06 AM on October 26, 2012


The article talks about attraction and romance. Aside from the editorializing at the beginning and in the conclusion, there is no mention of sex(the act). Why is this entire thread about sex(the act)?

Well, for many people, the two things are rather strongly intertwined....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:29 AM on October 26, 2012


Sucks to be them, I guess.

You guess right. They have the option of feeling "sleazy and manipulative" with a woman or "true to themselves" while alone. The choice is theirs.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:45 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


How can either statement be considered bad advice?

Those are great advice, and should probably be automated responses to every relationship AskMe that gets posted.

But "friendzoned" usually connotates something different and less positive, more along the lines that the friendzone is a totally separate area from the sex-zone or relationship-zone, and you get "put there" or "stuck there" by women when you don't act alpha enough or whatever. It's an incorrectly simplistic and misguided model of human interaction that doesn't overlay well onto real life, in other words.

Honestly, I think the term on its own merits is relatively neutral, but it is inextricably linked to a lot of not-nice baggage at this point because of how it gets used. That happens to words and concepts sometimes, and while it is your choice whether or not to try and reclaim the word, the baggage and history needs to be acknowledged as part of that.
posted by Forktine at 5:56 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, I'm sure the PUA forums must love that term, but they're still basically telling guys "Don't keep bothering female friends who rejected you, meet other women who might be more into you." That remains a positive message whatever else comes in the same packaging.

I'm honestly never too much annoyed by the PUA types because, however stupid they get, they're afaik only interested in making a first impression. Ergo, they remain innocent little lambs when compared with Rules Girls, who advocate emotional manipulation throughout a relationship.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:09 AM on October 26, 2012


The whole thing just makes me uncomfortable. I do my damndest to NOT lead men on. I am as flirtatious as a rock. I really, really don't want to give anyone the wrong impression that yes, someday, I will fuck them when I couldn't care less about their penis. And yet, it doesn't matter what I do because the guys will want to fuck me anyway. And finding out that they want to tends to put a ticking time bomb on the relationship because once they get up the nerve to Make Their Move, it's over. I used to suck it up and date them anyway once they asked because I'd had it drilled into my head to "give them a chance." I still didn't want to fuck them (and then I'd gotten their hopes up even more), and then we both hated each other and the friendship was over and we never spoke again. But then again, was it really a friendship, or just a waiting game on their end? They're mad at me for not falling for them back, and I'm mad at them for forcing me to have to reject them sexually and thus be an asshole. I wasn't trying to deceive them! I was trying to do the dead opposite of that! And yet...they're convinced by their hormones that I did. How am I supposed to fight that?

This is why I don't have a lot of male friends, and the few I do that aren't gay/married/whatever I keep at a casual distance. I am just tired of "the sex part always gets in the way." I know it's adorable to fall in love with your best friend and all, but I just...don't. And I'm tired of being the bitch who didn't fall in love back. It's not worth it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:12 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm comfortable with the attitude that playing just friends when you actually want a relationship should always be condemned as passive aggression, jenfullmoon, certainly that's a useful fiction for males anyways.

Yet, anything that keeps you from being friends with half the population must be your fault as well. I suspect your "flirtatious as a rock" comment suggests the problem : If you were more open, flirtatious, aggressive, etc. with the guys you actually want, then maybe these fake friends would recognize the difference much earlier, meaning the less clueless ones either disappear or choose regular friendship, rather than falling for their own fantasy.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:50 AM on October 26, 2012


I haven't had a crush on a real live boy for most of a decade, so I don't think that's going to happen. And given that some of these dudes actually did see how I was when I was actually interested in a dude, back in the dark ages, I'm not sure it helped. People are gonna believe what they want to believe, I think. Sometimes even in the face of reality.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:16 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The whole thing just makes me uncomfortable. I do my damndest to NOT lead men on

You know, I believe you and the other posters to this thread are being sincere when they say things like this. But metafilter proper is not representative of the general population; it's not even representative of ask.metfilter (a recent run of comically weird crazy-gendered recent asks - you're immature if you're male and don't have a particular possession, etc.).

Not to be heteronormative, because this happens in gay pairings too (especially older-younger, oddly enough the power dynamic is exactly the opposite), but for those of you who are pleading innocent, I'm going to attempt to explain.

A lot of the bitterness of friendzone comes from cases where the female party *knows* what is going on and chooses to take advantage of the overtures of favors that the male party, being just unclear enough about the status quo that the male party spends a lot of money and untold amounts of time trying to "win" her heart. This is a long lived cultural meme and to deny that there is a subset of young women, in particular, who take advantage of it is basically not participating honestly in the discussion or are simply choosing to not see what's going on.

When you know people who have wasted - literally, not figuratively - years of their lives on a series of users, well, that's where friendzone comes from. I think it has been perverted by the pickup artist movement, but really, it's an object lesson to young men converted to a soundbite: don't do favors for women that you wouldn't do for men of the same closeness, don't be someone's backup plan, don't let yourself be used. A soundbite is useful for young people and that is *ok.*
posted by rr at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


> The choice is theirs.

Whose else would it be? But the incentives are pretty perverse.
posted by jfuller at 11:44 AM on October 26, 2012


So in addition to not being too flirty, women have to not be too un-flirty, because the onus for preventing unrequited affection and misunderstanding in opposite-sex friendships is always on women and if you don't devote time and headspace to managing your male friends' expectations, you're leading them on.

God, what a shit thread.
posted by kagredon at 11:51 AM on October 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


When you know people who have wasted - literally, not figuratively - years of their lives on a series of users, well, that's where friendzone comes from.

At what point does one say to friends in this situation that they, too, need to take some ownership over their own participation in a series of terrible non-relationship relationships? We see askmes where the OP will say "I am with my SO who does suchandsuch and it bugs me, is it okay that it bugs me?" where "suchandsuch" is asshole behavior bordering on abuse, and you skim the OP's past questions and see this is just the latest in a long line of crappy relationships they've been in. At some point, they need to get to a point where they recognize they fall into a pattern of this kind of thing and need to take steps themselves to stop doing that.

I think most of us here understand and believe that there are skeevy, manipulative women who live in a world ruled by The Rules - but I, and probably most of us, also believe that they are not so common that one can say that *every* guy who's had unrequited feelings for a female friend is a guy who has been deliberately played.

For those who do get played, and played a lot, that is shitty. I feel bad for anyone who gets into situations like that. But the sole solution is not "Stop talking to women altogether" and it's not "All women are manipulative bitches." It's more "Some women pull manipulative crap, and I need to learn better to recognize what I get out of relationships with women like that, since I seem to do it a lot, and stop doing it." The same goes for women who fall for endless numbers of "bad boys" who treat them like shit.
posted by rtha at 12:34 PM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


But the incentives are pretty perverse.

The incentives to seek romantic/sexual companionship? I don't think people need an incentive to do that any more than they need an incentive to eat their favorite food.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:37 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


> At what point does one say to friends in this situation that they, too, need to take some
> ownership over their own participation in a series of terrible non-relationship relationships?

Right off, IMHO. Codependency takes two.
posted by jfuller at 12:42 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


At what point does one say to friends in this situation that they, too, need to take some ownership over their own participation in a series of terrible non-relationship relationships?

Which is fine, and good, and I agree with you, and I've been that guy for a bunch of people.

What I'm trying to communicate, however, is sometimes you need a soundbite or a hook that you can use to tie the conversation to, and -- at least in my experience -- that is what "friendzone" is. I also truly believe that *any* shorthand, soundbite, etc. would be viewed similarly. I think there's a lot of thought/language policing around the issue.

If anyone has a better suggestion than a long "there are SOME PEOPLE who TAKE ADVANTAGE... " soliloquy, which actually gets to the root of things and speaks to the *male experience* of the guys in this situation, I'd love to hear it. Because there are other terms for it, and they are genuinely far more offensive than "you've been friendzoned."
posted by rr at 1:36 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Women often trade sex for emotional intimacy. However, if there was some way to have emotional intimacy without all the problems of sex...

Enter the friendzone. Women don't have to worry about if the guy looks good, or if she can take him home to mom, or if he's financially appealing. She gets all the emotional comfort she needs and he hangs on the hope that one day, she'll finally see how great he really is.

Except she won't, because that's not the deal, and that's not the agreement.

This article, however lite, is good news for men, if they ever see it. They can move on to a full relationship with a woman. It's bad news for the women that harbor these sad fellows, their IM list of solace will be reduced to guys with cameras and ex-boyfriends.

Or maybe not, no one will see this and with so many new movies in the theaters, everyone needs someone to share the popcorn.
posted by four panels at 1:41 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I fully supported blaming guys for passive aggressive like behavior, whether of not that's their motivation, so nice straw man, kagredon. I merely commented on the fairly exceptional case jenfullmoon proffered here, but bad luck also works.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:19 PM on October 26, 2012


So in addition to not being too flirty, women have to not be too un-flirty, because the onus for preventing unrequited affection

here's an analogy. if i order pizza and i give the delivery guy a $50 bill for pizza that costs $18, and i say "keep the change" he would almost surely know that i meant to give him a $20 bill. now, he could make a huge tip if he didn't ask if i really meant to give him a $20 bill. it would be a dick move, but totally within his rights.

similarly, if a guy is doing boy-friend-y things for a woman who is in her eyes just his friend, she should almost surely recognize that she is getting gold-star-courtship treatment instead of standard-friendship. now, she could have a lot of fun times if she doesn't bring up the issue of how he really feels about her. it would be a dick move, but totally within her rights.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:27 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't want to argue the example, but the guy getting the pizza had accidentally paid with his $50 bill; the Nice Guy engaging in "boy-friend-y things" (which makes me wonder, "Like what?", as everyone has different degrees of things they will do for friends) is doing so purposefully. Nor am I sure anyone "should almost surely" recognize they're being courted; that depends entirely on what the guy is doing for her.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:00 AM on October 28, 2012


Personally I'd like to never again see an analogy between theft and rape, or money and women's sexuality. There are better ways to make the point.

similarly, if a guy is doing boy-friend-y things for a woman who is in her eyes just his friend, she should almost surely recognize that she is getting gold-star-courtship treatment instead of standard-friendship. now, she could have a lot of fun times if she doesn't bring up the issue of how he really feels about her. it would be a dick move, but totally within her rights.

Why is the socially clueless (and often deliberately clueless) behavior of a man being turned into the woman's fault? His shitty behavior is his own fault and his own responsibility; if she also turns out to be acting shittily then that's her fault, without either excusing or explaining his shittiness.

And in real life these things tend to take place in ambiguous areas, and people tend to take advantage of that ambiguity. The guy doing "boy-friend-y things" is using the ambiguity of friendship/more-than-friendship to be close to the woman and attempt to build intimacy, for example. She might be unaware of his dual agenda, or she might be aware of it and choose to take advantage of that same ambiguity, who knows -- either way, he's doing the first shitty thing and the fix is for him to stop doing it, not to blame her.
posted by Forktine at 10:03 AM on October 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Why is the socially clueless (and often deliberately clueless) behavior of a man being turned into the woman's fault?

Because we generally assign blame to the party who in in a position of power when someone with a borderline disability is being exploited, even if voluntarily so.
posted by rr at 2:45 PM on October 28, 2012


I don't think that failing to make an unambiguous romantic overture can be categorized as a disability.

What if the woman really likes him as a friend, but suspects he is angling for more? As many have pointed out, preemptively rejecting someone is not a great move for either of them. Unlike the guy who accidentally gave a $50 bill, the suitor won't be happy to be told "Just in case you're into me, the answer is no."

He is in fact exploiting the cultural pressures on women to be kind, to not be presumptuous, etc. Cultural pressures that are continually reinforced by other men with the censure (often in degrading and sexist language) of women who dare to reject them, or who even dare to 'presume' their own desirability.

He can either give her a clear opportunity to kindly reject (or accept) him, or take a hint. He is no less powerful in this situation than she is.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:11 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Because we generally assign blame to the party who in in a position of power when someone with a borderline disability is being exploited, even if voluntarily so."

what
posted by klangklangston at 4:29 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


The most recent part of this conversation is really highlighting the reasons why I think you need to have an element of malice on the part of one of the parties before anyone should assign anyone blame in these situations.

Something I think everyone needs to accept* is that you can have really dreadful social outcomes to situations where NO ONE is to blame. Sometime it's just a matter of shitty luck and perfectly fine people interacting badly due to misunderstandings, differences in style, and their personal idiosyncratic take on what the cultural background assumptions are.

My personal take:**
(a) "Clueless guy comes on to woman in an ambiguous, wanna-be friends, way. Clueless Woman is unsure about Clueless guy's intention and gains some material benefit from their interactions. Clueless guy comes clean and gets hurt/angry. Clueless woman is angry at Clueless guy." This is perfectly fine, even though everyone had a bad time. No one is to blame. Such is life.
(b) "Clueless guy comes on to woman in an ambiguous, wanna-be friends, way. Savvy Woman is crystal clear about Clueless guy's intention and gains some material benefit from their interactions. Clueless guy comes clean and gets hurt/angry. Savvy woman goes her merry way." This is not ok, Savvy woman acted horribly. She is to blame. No law I know about makes her behavior illegal***, and rightly so, but she's still a jerk. Such is life.

I honestly believe that 95% of cases are type (a) cases and a lot of the things people call (b) cases are really something else. i.e. Savvy guy comes onto Savvy Woman, but tells himself he's Clueless Guy after he gets hurt.

*not that I think everyone will.
**transpose genders below as needed. I think this dynamic is true for all gender combinations.
***well, depending on their interactions, some could, but that's a minority of a minority of cases and let's not deal with insane fringe cases here.
posted by bswinburn at 5:02 PM on October 28, 2012


"Because we generally assign blame to the party who in in a position of power when someone with a borderline disability is being exploited, even if voluntarily so."

>what


Yeah, but I might say WTF???

I encountered the "friendzone" several times in university before finally hitting my stride and actually moving on to dating women.

As a guy, I was definitely responsible for the situation - I wasn't able to communicate what I wanted, I had unreasonable expectations, and I never knew when to quit. I think the girls in question were merely happy to have a new friend.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:49 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The most recent part of this conversation is really highlighting the reasons why I think you need to have an element of malice on the part of one of the parties before anyone should assign anyone blame in these situations.

Mm. The thing is, though, we're discussing general patterns of behavior here, rather than any specific relationship. So how do you assign malice or blame across these patterns of behavior without actual knowledge of the details of any given relationship? (I also think "blame" might not quite be the right word here, but more on that in a minute.)

Something I think everyone needs to accept* is that you can have really dreadful social outcomes to situations where NO ONE is to blame.

Oh sure.

Sometime it's just a matter of shitty luck and perfectly fine people interacting badly due to misunderstandings, differences in style

Yup, yup, and yup.

and their personal idiosyncratic take on what the cultural background assumptions are.

This is where we differ. It's not about anyone's personal idiosyncratic take, it's about the idea that the background assumption common to many cultures (including the U.S.) is: Women are the ones ultimately responsible for men's emotional, romantic, and sexual health.

And so how this works is that if a guy is "unlucky in love", he can just throw his hands up and say, "It's not MY fault! She wouldn't or couldn't see me standing there right next to her the whole time!"

So your example (a) actually works in a whole different way if you reverse the genders or make it same-sex; those cases don't have the same kind of cultural baggage attached to them. But since "Clueless Guy approaches Clueless Woman" includes the above cultural background assumption, it's not necessarily "perfectly fine."

Which brings me to the use of the word "blame." I think it might actually be too strong a word here, because to me it implies a certain level of harmful intent - maybe "responsible" is a better term. As in, you would blame me if I dropped something heavy on your foot on purpose, but if it was a genuine accident you would simply say I was responsible for your sore foot.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:55 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is where we differ. It's not about anyone's personal idiosyncratic take, it's about the idea that the background assumption common to many cultures (including the U.S.) is: Women are the ones ultimately responsible for men's emotional, romantic, and sexual health.

Wow. Just wow. I almost wish metafilter voting because I totally want to see how mainstream people think this is. Because I have not only not thought that for a single moment, but it never occurred to me that a significant segment of the population might believe that. If this really is something that a large percentage of the population of the US believes, well, I've been walking around with my eyes shut. That is so not my background assumption I didn't even realize it might be other people's.

So, I'm being totally honest and non-confrontational when I say, do you have a cite for that? Because if my eyes are closed, I really want them open.

And, yeah, I mean blame, just like you articulated. Maybe you need to read several of my comments together to really see that. Here, here and here I lay it out. And I lay it out because I want to make it clear that most of the time there should be no blame laid. Women shouldn't blame men for them pining for them. Men shouldn't blame women for not reciprocating their feelings. There is no blame to be had. You need the malicious behavior for there to be something worthy of blame.

The thing is, though, we're discussing general patterns of behavior here, rather than any specific relationship. So how do you assign malice or blame across these patterns of behavior without actual knowledge of the details of any given relationship?


Totally agree with you there. Which is why I say in one of my previous posts that the only people I know have been "friendzoned" (For my narrow, malice including definition of friendzoned which is the only one I will be using in this particular comment) are ones I have.

I want to break down the problems brought up by this thread as much as possible so we can talk about reasonable solutions to each part.

As I see it there are three problems being discussed simultaneously here which are only tangentially related:
(1) How can we get women the dignity that they deserve in the public space;
(2) How can we provide men welcome opportunities to hit on women; and
(3) What should be done about friendzoning.

The only reason I'm interested in problem 2, in terms of this conversation, is because I don't believe you're coming to be able to to solve problem 1 without solving problem 2. I know from languagehat's much favorited comment in the related thread that not everyone agrees with me on this, but it is how I feel. Languagehat, I infer, would say something like, "just stop doing it." I don't view that as realistic without providing alternatives. And once there is a decent alternative I think that saying, "Just stop doing it" actually does become realistic. Telling people that it's not the time or the place for something works when there is, actually, a time and place for the behavior. (And, yes, I know miko and others, for instance, thinks we do have answers for this question. Until we have a thread explicitly on that subject I didn't want to derail any more than I already arguably had. I felt knowing we disagreed was enough for the moment).

For question 3, I think it's an easy answer. Don't do it. It's malicious behavior, it's wrong, it's never good. You'll probably feel like shit about it later. Luckily, I also think it's rare behavior and tends to go away. We tell kids not to hit each other in pre-school and that letting themselves be hit is bad, and eventually almost everybody stops hitting each other. Maybe in freshman year of high school we should tell kids not to friendzone each other and to not let themselves be friendzoned either. Anyway, as I define it, I think it's a small problem.

As far as clueless men and clueless women getting together. I don't even want to stop that, as long as we can get to an answer to protecting women's dignity in public at the same time.

In the other thread people point out, quite humorously, that I don't have an answer as how to solve problem 2 (and therefore, in my mind, providing the groundwork to solving problem 1) and I don't have one. Well, I have a lot, but none strike me as realistic at all and I'm not going bring up ideas which I would mock in the most utopian social science fiction.

Lastly, and sorta unrelatedly, I can easily see how anyone reading me superficially could say I'm suffering from the "But what about the Menz" disease. Because I believe languagehat is superficially right, the answer to problem 1 is to get men to leave women alone. But that just leads to the question, "ok, how do we do that?" And the answer to that, for me, is question number 2. But, by all means, I could be wrong. There may be a realistic way to solve problem 1, without dealing with problem 2. I'm open to listening to them. Feel free to blow my mind at any time.

And with that, I think I should just use my posts from this thread and complete Nanowrimo early.
posted by bswinburn at 10:26 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I read that again and I have totally conflated this thread and the "Simple Question" thread. I'm tired. Mea Culpa.
posted by bswinburn at 10:33 PM on October 28, 2012


You need the malicious behavior for there to be something worthy of blame.

Part of me agrees with this because it's a generous view of human behaviour, and I think life is better when people adopt that view, but part of me thinks that you'll have to stop blaming people for all sorts of things you'd want to blame them for, and I'm not sure that that's realistic. People rarely act maliciously.
posted by smorange at 10:49 PM on October 28, 2012


I haven't witnessed anyone claiming that "women are the ones ultimately responsible for men's emotional, romantic, and sexual health" either, bswinburn. I asserted that "playing just friends when you actually want a relationship should *always* be condemned as passive aggression" because doing so should help males avoid that self-victimizing behavior, addressing (1) is merely a side benefit.

In another thread, we chatted about evidence that no explicitly dating oriented venues, such as online dating or family introductions, work terribly well for producing lasting relationships, suggesting that most obvious attempts at (2) should similarly fail.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:33 AM on October 29, 2012


Wow. Just wow. I almost wish metafilter voting because I totally want to see how mainstream people think this is. Because I have not only not thought that for a single moment, but it never occurred to me that a significant segment of the population might believe that. If this really is something that a large percentage of the population of the US believes, well, I've been walking around with my eyes shut. That is so not my background assumption I didn't even realize it might be other people's.

So, I'm being totally honest and non-confrontational when I say, do you have a cite for that? Because if my eyes are closed, I really want them open.


I don't have the formal academic background in gender studies to produce cites very quickly - maybe someone with these credentials could take a swing at it.

I'm willing to give it a shot, but I won't really have time to do so for a day or so.

But, as I see it, the phrase "cultural background assumption" means that a concept is embedded in or permeates a culture. So huge swaths of people never particularly actively think about it, in the same way that we never really think about the nitrogen in the air we breathe - we just breathe in and go on about our day. And yet, the nitrogen is still there, it still has an effect on us whether we realize it or not. And in the same way, there are assumptions about the relationships between the genders that thoroughly permeate our culture - maybe we never really actively think about them, but they exist and influence our behavior. So maybe don't consider it as you've been walking around with your eyes shut; instead think of it as you've been walking around breathing for however many years, and maybe it's worth stopping and thinking, "Hey, what's IN this "air" stuff, anyway?"

So given that idea, your wish for metafilter voting, and jeffburdges' comment, "I haven't witnessed anyone claiming that "women are the ones ultimately responsible for men's emotional, romantic, and sexual health" either" aren't necessarily relevant, or going to give you good data. Because as an unexamined cultural assumption, it's rarely openly claimed, and opening it up to a vote is just going to get you a bunch of responses from people who have never or only very lightly examined their assumptions.

Also, a lot of the entire concept of examining our unexamined background assumptions about relationships between the genders has it's roots in feminist theory and study and gender studies. And feminist theory and gender studies are often treated with derision and suspicion, and not as widely disseminated as some might hope.


Dammit, I gotta go, I'll try to get back to this, but just as a quick note, yeah, now I think I better see where you're coming from with your use of the word "blame", and I don't totally disagree with you.

And I totally feel ya on conflating this and the "Simple Question" thread - I've been bouncing between the two so often just in reading them that I've sometimes felt almost dizzy. And on top of that, there's a MetaTalk that's addressing a lot of stuff brought up in both threads.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:36 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


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