The Ben Franklin Effect; both not, and totally Rule 34 applicable.
February 13, 2013 9:18 AM   Subscribe

The entertaining youtube channel Vsauce takes an interesting look at The Science of the Friend Zone. [via]
posted by quin (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a use of the word "science" with which I was previously unfamiliar.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Evo psych explains it all.
posted by klangklangston at 9:39 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or, "Hi reductive mate competition just so story!"
posted by klangklangston at 9:41 AM on February 13, 2013


Well to his credit he did say it was an element incorporated into our culture, implying it was mutable and not some fixed aspect of human nature.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:09 AM on February 13, 2013


On tonight's episode of The Friend Zone:

"My God! I was the asshole this entire time! No! NOOOOO!"
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:23 AM on February 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Arghhhhhh LIMERANCE GET AWAY FROM ME LIMERANCE.

I think the word Limerance itself is stalking me. I'm not into you Lmerance, you are meaningless and not science. Take the hint.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:28 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"In “The Science of the Friend Zone” by Vsauce, Michael Stevens explores the intricacies behind the dreaded “friend zone,” the situation where one person wants to be in a romantic relationship but the desired person does not."

What's interesting about that statement is that they stripped it of the gendered language. On the surface, that's a positive thing, but the entire concept is impossible to separate from all of the casual misogyny involved in its application and all you do by obfuscating that is give the concept more weight than it deserves. "Friend-zone" isn't an observable phenomena, it's an idea harbored by certain segments of society. There's no 'science' to a social construct, and it can't really be discussed outside of the language of culture and gender.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:32 AM on February 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


"What's more likely is that you have idealized the other person as a potential mate but a netural observer could tell you, in reality, the two of you don't have as much in common as you think."

And there it is in a nutshell.
posted by Talez at 10:48 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Evo psych explains it all.

The clip actually references the cultural principle of homogamous mating and also the political scientist Robert Putnam. It is hardly a slapdash application of evo psych. In fact, he's turning the argument on his head and saying that being friendzoned is a good thing, because (1) people overestimate how compatible they are with people who don't share their interests or values and (2) people need more friends these days anyway.
posted by jonp72 at 11:02 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Friend-zone" isn't an observable phenomena, it's an idea harbored by certain segments of society.

The term, maybe, but this 'phenomena' of rejection isn't and probably never has been. Books like Sex at Dawn will argue that monogamous, long-term relationships are weird cultural artifacts that likely emerged during the transition from hunter-gatherers to mostly farming communities. Instinctive urges to reproduce coupled with multiple sex partners and the behavior of leaving the child up to the genetic lottery means a hell of a lot less anxiety about choosing your mate. We don't think about relationships in the way we were evolved to. It's only in monogamous loving sanctity of marriage culture that we go out of our way to look down on 'sluts' and 'womanizers' (and yes, those terms are gendered as all hell but that's a different discussion that everybody here should be familiar with).

It's not as if this 'phenomena' is something that only happens to angry fat white dudes who can't get laid. That they are the most vocal proponent of this hypothesis and of many hypotheses doesn't automatically discredit friend zones or atheism or video game culture. Sure, there are some wild pseudoscientific fantasies out there but that's more of a social phenomena than rejection is. God knows that one day we will all be adults and somehow grow out of using Friends and Family Guy as the social and moral backbone to everything we say, do, and think but that's a different discussion than the one being had here.
posted by dubusadus at 11:22 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Plenty of people complain about not enough sex, witness the questions on askme from people of all walks of life. Everyone else we nod sympathetically, but "fat white dudes" are the assholes, because how dare they even consider it. When a "fat white dude" experiences loneliness, or jealously, or loss, or anyemotions that are common to most humans it is somehow impossible to distinguish from casual misogyny.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:24 PM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sometimes a person -- of any gender -- is attracted to another person, and that other person enjoys their company but does not reciprocate the affection. Sometimes that other person -- and again this can be a person of any gender -- will also take advantage of the affection they get from this. This can suck.

And sometimes a person -- of any gender -- can feel an initial bit of attraction to another person, but for various reasons will want to get to know them better before making any overt move. Sometimes this means that they "miss their chance", since there are other people -- again of any gender -- who will not be open to that unless it's immediate and up-front. This can also suck.

Add on to this that people this happens to often get caught in a bind between two groups who are both yelling nasty things at them for different reasons. Traditional-gender-role type people will yell things about "man up" or "quit playing hard to get". More progressive types will break out things like "nice guy" or "misogynist", or yell at women who don't do enough for the cause by breaking traditional roles and initiating stuff.

To those people, both groups, I would only repeat the words of the immortal St. Jon: "You're not helping."
posted by ubernostrum at 12:42 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll go ahead and apologize for the 'fat' in 'fat white dude' because there's no reason why we should judge character by weight. I'm not discounting human emotion here but there is accounting for privilege, which is why it just seems instinctively weird and banal for mostly neurotypical, white, able-bodied men to be so histrionic about the issues they are having with their sex life.

And sure, I'll nod sympathetically to the problems of the people I know but even then complaining about 'not getting enough sex' is something you should mature out of at some point in your life. But treating sex like it's a natural function and not some holy pedestal of manhood aren't the values expressed in places where the words 'friend zone' are employed like some kind of scientific jargon, like in /r/friendzone or /r/pua. That's a weird, insular, and wholly narrow perspective of the world and for most people it's somewhat repulsive when someone waxes on and on about his (or her) love life as if it were the end of the world. Maybe sympathy is a limitless well but there are standards and contexts that come into play here.
posted by dubusadus at 12:45 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


values expressed in places where the words 'friend zone' are employed like some kind of scientific jargon, like in /r/friendzone or /r/pua

I agree those people are idiots, whether or not they are white guys. They are not even representative of white guys, white guys on the internet, nerds, or any other subgroup. They are just the most visible because they are the most obnoxious. It is like if you have a cold, and then get shot, you stop worrying about being a little stuffed up.

I just think that tossing the entire concept of "unrequited love" out because some people wanted to invent a new term for it, and that new term got associated with some people nobody likes, doesn't make much sense. Would anyone say there is no such thing as unrequited love? Or that unrequited love is misogynistic ?

In any case the physical act of sex is secondary in most of these discussions. What people want is to be "chosen" by another person, above everyone else. Sex is just the most recognizable symbol of that. especially it seems for some men. I'm sure you could make the case that for some people marriage is the most important symbol.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:04 PM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]




Sometimes a person -- of any gender -- is attracted to another person, and that other person enjoys their company but does not reciprocate the affection. Sometimes that other person -- and again this can be a person of any gender -- will also take advantage of the affection they get from this. This can suck.

And sometimes a person -- of any gender -- can feel an initial bit of attraction to another person, but for various reasons will want to get to know them better before making any overt move. Sometimes this means that they "miss their chance", since there are other people -- again of any gender -- who will not be open to that unless it's immediate and up-front. This can also suck.

Add on to this that people this happens to often get caught in a bind between two groups who are both yelling nasty things at them for different reasons. Traditional-gender-role type people will yell things about "man up" or "quit playing hard to get". More progressive types will break out things like "nice guy" or "misogynist", or yell at women who don't do enough for the cause by breaking traditional roles and initiating stuff.

To those people, both groups, I would only repeat the words of the immortal St. Jon: "You're not helping."
posted by ubernostrum at 12:42 PM on February 13 [+] [!]


It isn't a subject that you can strip gender pronouns from. Men(typically) use the term "friendzone" to describe a situation in which they become friends with a woman that they desire sexually; despite the success of the friendship, once they become friends they're never given an opportunity to consummate the relationship. The entitlement and implicit misogyny is in the idea that women are passive players that somehow exploit potential suitors by withholding sex. Men want sex, women jealously guard it. Relationships without sexual gratification are somehow less valuable. There's all kinds of preconceptions and entitlement there that do not translate when the gender roles are reversed. I guarantee you that in almost every use of the term the gender roles will be predictable.

The people that understand themselves as existing in a narrative where "friendzone" exists aren't necessarily misogynists, but the narrative they're embracing is fully informed by a culture of misogyny. I'm sure that most of them don't even realize it's going on, somehow they always end up playing the victim in these scenarios. It's not about shaming individuals, it's about deconstructing harmful assumptions.

If you generalize the concept to mean, "sometimes sexual desire is unrequited," it becomes utterly meaningless and certainly doesn't conform with the actual usage of the term.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:06 PM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ad hominem, then it could just be the case that you misunderstood my comment or that I misunderstood yours since it seems we're mostly agreed.

Men(typically) use the term "friendzone" to describe a situation in which they become friends with a woman that they desire sexually; despite the success of the friendship, once they become friends they're never given an opportunity to consummate the relationship. The entitlement and implicit misogyny is in the idea that women are passive players that somehow exploit potential suitors by withholding sex

Stagger, so your argument is that the term 'friendzone' is gendered is because it's gendered? What about the fact that gay men use it? Or that women are capable of using it too? You're dismissing the entire spectrum of human rejection in favor of shoving a bunch of loaded meanings into a word.

Your argument is worse off because you've cut out the larger pictures of human sexuality. You can make a very strong argument that there are issues with the behaviors that stem from unrequited love that is particular to a certain population. It's more tenable than attacking only the implicit usage behind the word 'friendzone' since you don't end up corralling all of its other users. If there is a particular problem with a subset of the human population then the problem is with them and not with the tools that they use or the words that they speak.
posted by dubusadus at 1:33 PM on February 13, 2013



Stagger, so your argument is that the term 'friendzone' is gendered is because it's gendered? What about the fact that gay men use it? Or that women are capable of using it too? You're dismissing the entire spectrum of human rejection in favor of shoving a bunch of loaded meanings into a word.


I'm arguing that the meaning of the term is more specific than unrequited love. If you look at both the original and the popular usage of the term, it falls predictably along gender lines. The actions of the characters in the scenario are likewise gendered. Examples of it almost always employ women as the goalkeeper and men as the player. Wikipedia (maybe the closest we'll have to a dictionary on this) argues that it isn't gendered, and yet of the eight examples they list from popular culture, none of them involve a woman being "friend-zoned."

The colloquial usage of the term is pretty damn clear, finding exceptions does nothing to undercut that.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:42 PM on February 13, 2013


I was one of those nerds who whined about the 'friendzone' for way too long, and after reading threads here and on SA and on Heartless Bitches I totally rejected the concept.

Which I now think was a bit hasty, 'cause its a Thing That Happens to men and women. I'm seeing a gorgeous woman and she described being friend zoned for years by a scruffy musician she knows. I've heard other girls use it, both as something that happens to them and as something they do to others.

The trick is just accepting that having more friends is good, though deliberately keeping someone on the hook for money or attention isn't.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:44 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]



Which I now think was a bit hasty, 'cause its a Thing That Happens to men and women. I'm seeing a gorgeous woman and she described being friend zoned for years by a scruffy musician she knows. I've heard other girls use it, both as something that happens to them and as something they do to others.

The trick is just accepting that having more friends is good, though deliberately keeping someone on the hook for money or attention isn't.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:44 PM on February 13 [+] [!]


Part of the problem is that the scenario, as unwittingly initially drafted by Friends, has two very distinct gender roles. Women and men subverting the formula by filling in for the opposite role doesn't really overturn the script. The scenario has default roles, and those roles have characteristics associated with genders. A search for it returns loaded with this kind of tripe.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:56 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stagger Lee, it seems like you're the one wanting to impose a script and a trope and hardened roles here, while plenty of people (anecdotally in my own life, and elsewhere) seem not to care much for your imposition of such, or of the accompanying baggage you'd apparently like to bring with it?
posted by ubernostrum at 2:29 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, let's turn this inside out. What if the problem isn't that we have a society that is full of gendered contempt for women, even if that's true, but that we have a society that unlike nearly any in history envisions equal opportunity in career and social lives for men and women, and this inevitably collides with deeper-seated notions about men taking the initiative in seeking out women and women acting as the gatekeepers, not necessarily of their virtue but their own choices? This guy talks about the rise of the term "best friend" but it's not as if the concept is new -- it's just replaced words like "chum". Meanwhile, you have opportunities today to become "friends" with a woman in, say, a pottery class or even work that simply didn't exist in past European cultures -- although there's another aspect here of class involved where even though the vast majority of any population was lower class the moderating cultural tropes are derived from the upper class. Anyway, just tossing that out there.

I'm also not entirely certain that the Friends usage was nearly as toxic as some of the current, highly negative dialog surrounding it.
posted by dhartung at 2:32 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stagger Lee: “‘Friend-zone’ isn't an observable phenomena, it's an idea harbored by certain segments of society.”

dubusadus: “The term, maybe, but this 'phenomena' of rejection isn't and probably never has been.”

But we're not talking about rejection here at all. We're talking about a paralysis brought on by a fear of rejection. Fear of rejection is no new thing – and even that paralysis is something that's been well-known throughout history. Now, I think it's great to talk about why we're often so afraid of rejection that we can't bring ourselves to talk about a romantic relationship with someone we're attracted to. The problem with the idea of "the friendzone," however, is that it's a way to blame our own fear on the person we're too frightened to talk about our feelings with.

There is a sense in which this is tied up with gender. We live in a fundamentally misogynist culture; so of course this "friendzone" accusation is lobbed by men much more often than it's lobbed by women. However, the gender aspect isn't the heart of what's wrong with the idea of a "friendzone." It is just as wrong when women accuse men, or when women accuse women, of placing them in the "friendzone" – it's a way of shifting responsibility for communicating our feelings onto others.

ubernostrum: “Add on to this that people this happens to often get caught in a bind between two groups who are both yelling nasty things at them for different reasons. Traditional-gender-role type people will yell things about ‘man up’ or ‘quit playing hard to get’. More progressive types will break out things like ‘nice guy’ or ‘misogynist’, or yell at women who don't do enough for the cause by breaking traditional roles and initiating stuff. To those people, both groups, I would only repeat the words of the immortal St. Jon: ‘You're not helping.’”

This ignores the source of the problem. Being afraid of rejection sucks. Having to face a situation where you must communicate your feelings with someone you like if you're going to have a chance with them sucks. Yes, those things suck. To respond to that suckiness with a bitter, childish accusation that the person you're interested in is 'putting you in the friendzone' is to take a difficult human situation and turn it into a worse one by trading fear in for bitterness and disgust.

With respect, to those who accuse others of putting them 'in the friendzone,' and who thus find themselves under attack both from the traditionalists and the progressives, I would only repeat the words of my probably-not-immortal little brother: you started it. Don't trade your fear for bitterness and you won't find yourself in that situation.
posted by koeselitz at 2:48 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]



Stagger Lee, it seems like you're the one wanting to impose a script and a trope and hardened roles here, while plenty of people (anecdotally in my own life, and elsewhere) seem not to care much for your imposition of such, or of the accompanying baggage you'd apparently like to bring with it?
posted by ubernostrum at 2:29 PM on February 13 [+] [!]


Hey, I didn't invent the baggage. In the interest of communication, let me absolutely assure you that I'm not just picking for a fight, and the use of the term legitimately bothers a lot of people. The baggage is out there.

I'd really recommend going to that wikipedia article, and reading it with attention to pronouns. Ignoring their protests about equal use of the term, look at where "he" and "she" are used, and look at all of the examples. Do the same on a google search. Go look at the way the term is used on reddit.

I'm not asking you to agree with me, but go look at this stuff and try to understand where the concerns are coming from. Me, I'll try to be sensitive towards the emotional place that a lot of people self applying the word are coming from. I understand social anxiety, fear of rejection and all of the self-esteem stuff wrapped up in them, and I'll try to be sensitive towards those in others. But with all that said, I'd really appreciate it if you'd do that search and try to see the trend that some of us are trying to criticize.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:04 PM on February 13, 2013


Of course we can define Friend Zone as some variant of unrequited love that applies only to certain types of men, and is by definition misogynistic. I just think that it is a bit uncharitable.

I've never thought of it as someone withholding sex as a means of control, or out of sheer spite, but as choosing someone else. I've always seen as implicit in the friend zone, is that there is some other zone you are not in. I may be alone in this though.

I will accept that there are some men who think women are secretly punishing or using them, doing things like running off to the bathroom together to cackle with glee over all the men they managed to friend zone. Those men would exist without the term friend zone, or an internet for them to discuss it. And those men seem to discuss it a lot.

I also think we are a bit more honest now about the sexual component of romantic relationships, we used to pretend what people wanted when we talked about unrequited love was running through fields of wheat, laying under trees staring up at the clouds and writing each other sonnets.

When we come down to brass tacks, one person wants to fuck and the other doesn't, of course it sounds tacky. Even admitting that men and women want to fuck, and for the most part women want to fuck as much as men do, is a huge break with the past.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:07 PM on February 13, 2013


ubernostrum: “Stagger Lee, it seems like you're the one wanting to impose a script and a trope and hardened roles here, while plenty of people (anecdotally in my own life, and elsewhere) seem not to care much for your imposition of such, or of the accompanying baggage you'd apparently like to bring with it?”

When we say someone is "bringing emotional baggage" to a situation, we generally mean that they're applying emotions they have that are unrelated and acting as though those emotions are essential to the situation at hand. If I impose categories on another person's feelings for me without even being willing to ask them about those feelings, I'm pretty clearly acting as though my own emotional hangups (be they fear of rejection, dislike of socially awkward situations, etc) are part of the situation.

In other words, "the friendzone" itself represents emotional baggage that people bring to the relationships they have with other people. This is pretty much the reason why it's a faulty conceptualization.
posted by koeselitz at 3:35 PM on February 13, 2013


koeselitz and Stagger Lee, I use the term "baggage", and I talk about "imposing", because ultimately the kinds of universal declarative statements you're making are incredibly presumptuous, if not arrogant. You're taking upon yourselves the right to dictate to others their lived experiences, their "real" beliefs and motivations, etc., in order to make all of it fit the narrative you want to apply, despite the fact that this is an area where there are a lot of potential different explanations and narratives that can be going on.
posted by ubernostrum at 6:20 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


after reading threads here and on SA and on Heartless Bitches I totally rejected the concept.

Which I now think was a bit hasty
i don't know if haste was the problem here per se
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:38 PM on February 15, 2013


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