Nice Guy™ is a term in Internet discourse describing a man or teenage boy with a fixation on a friendship building over time into a romance, most stereotypically by providing a woman with emotional support when she is having difficulties with another male partner.
There are, broadly, three schools of thought about Nice Guys™:
- That they are victims of women's irrationality or cruelty, in that women say that they want "nice guys" but in fact prefer to have relationships with "jerks" or "alpha [alpha males]" (with the would-be suitor considering themselves to be in the "friend zone": a romantic limbo of sorts).
- That they are using a failed seduction strategy and need to learn or be taught to be alphas or seducers, see Pick Up Artists.
- That the Nice Guy™ strategy of "doing things for someone so that she will have sex with me, because women do or should reward niceness with sex" is a sexist construction, of which more below.
The terms Nice Guy™ and Nice Guy syndrome are used to describe men who view themselves as prototypical "nice guys," but whose "nice deeds" are in reality only motivated by attempts to passively please women into a relationship and/or sex.
Feminists and others have criticized many aspects of Nice Guy Syndrome, mostly arguing that in some ways Nice Guys (often now called "Nice Guys™" with a trademark symbol to distinguish them from men who happen to be nice people) are not actually good friends or nice to their interest.
Criticism as a relationship strategy
There are some aspects of the Nice Guy™ pattern that may be due to inexperience:
- Romantically and sexually fixating on one person ("oneitis"), before they express any mutual interest in you, is simply a relationship mistake to which many people are prone and may improve with time, experience or self-examination.
- Nice Guys™ seem to regard a man's relationship with a woman as successful or valuable only if it is romantic or sexual in nature, i.e. friendship is failure.
- Nice Guys™ may view a relationship with a woman as the only possible source of happiness in their lives.
Some aspects are due to the different socialization of men and women:
- Women are culturally trained to be gentle when rejecting men sexually, thus "you'd be a great boyfriend for someone else" and "you're like a brother to me" may be signals that the woman knows of the attraction and is trying to gently let the man down and encourage him to find other people he is attracted to, rather than callous obliviousness
Some aspects suggest that Nice Guys™ view women in essentialist or sexist ways:
- Nice Guys™ seem to expect, at some point, sexual "payment" for their kindness and generosity; that is, their niceness is self-interested.
- The self-interest is deceitful: if the man does not reveal his attraction and expresses willingness to support his friend with her problems, then it makes sense for her to treat his friendship as genuine and take the offered support.
- The implicit trade of "niceness" (emotional support) for sex is a sexist generalization that women want closeness and men want sex, so they can trade one for the other.
- Nice Guys™ regard women as being moral guardians: that women should choose the nicest men for sex in order to reward them for doing the right thing.
- Some men continue to think of themselves as Nice Guys™ even as they spend their time using misogynistic slurs to describe their alleged best friends and dear loves.
- Some Nice Guys™ consider themselves heroes for not raping women or hitting them (see Feminist cookie).
- Some Nice Guys™ do not see themselves as guilty of sexual assault because they were very gentle with their non-consensual groping, and they equate sexual assault as only being violent and forceful.
Some aspects suggest that Nice Guys™ view themselves in essentialist ways:
- The insistence on being close friends and mutually emotionally involved before expressing any romantic or sexual interest may involve some distrust of heterosexual men's sexuality as inherently dirty or predatory.
A feminist position on relationships and seduction strategies
Underlying feminist criticisms is the position that no one is owed love or sex, not for being a nice person, not for being a feminist, not for any other reason.
Loneliness and unfulfilled desires are tragic and painful, but feminists argue that consent is the only ethical relationship underpinning, and that requiring mutual consent for relationships and for sex will mean that some people do not get their romantic or sexual desires fulfilled at any given time, or maybe even ever.
Some Nice Guy™ analysis recognizes problems with the structure of traditional heterosexual relationships, including:
- The expectation that the man must always be the initiator.
- The expectation that men and women can't be emotionally intimate without also being physically intimate.
- The reality that some men like, and are suited to, close emotional relationships that aren't considered masculine.
Some feminist men identify themselves as former Nice Guys™. This can be due to the Nice Guys™ increased awareness of other men's unfairness toward female sex partners. A limit to this process is that it doesn't always lead Nice Guys™ to a symmetric increase in self-awareness.
- Friday Feminism on the run: Nice Guys (TM) redux and what makes an ideal husband and father: "She’s just hit the nail on the head with what bothers me about the Nice Guy (TM) rhetoric, those whines from some men about how it’s so unfair that women won’t flock to be with them when he’s a “decent” bloke who doesn’t do nasty things to women, and what more do they want? Well, colour us as unreasonably demanding, but women do tend to want a little bit more than a guy who simply refrains from being nasty like it’s some great sacrifice..."
- Do you have that female friend that you’re hopelessly in love with that unloads all her problems on you, only to end up back in the sack with that loser ex that cheated on her with her own sister, leaving you high and dry?: "[The comic The Nice Guy] expects us to empathise with a character who, despite being idealised to the point where we’re supposed to accept 'involuntary decency' as his only character flaw, cannot help but come across as a manipulative, angry, boring, self-pitying misogynist manchild... [the comic] is based on the premise that all women are vacuous, infantile bimbos who are utterly incapable of making rational decisions, specifically the decision to fuck the main character because of that time he helped them move house."
- The cold hard truth of it is, when you’re hearing “I just want to be friends”, “I like you but…” or the equally dreaded “it would ruin our friendship”, you’re not being thrown in the Friend Zone. What you’re hearing is generations of social pressure telling women that they can’t risk being direct for fear of offending someone. The words may be “You’re just such a good friend to me,” but the intended meaning behind it is “I don’t want to sleep with you.”