13 March 2012

The Confusion about Nice Guys (TM)

  I have been involved in several conversations lately concerning The Nice Guy (TM), who is not in any way related to a person who is actually nice. In these exchanges, I have noticed two factors which tend to bog down the concept with pointless bickering and name calling (on both sides). First, there is often confusion as to what separates the Nice Guy (TM) from a guy who is genuinely nice, and how to tell them apart. Second, some people are unable to understand why the Nice Guy (TM) is received with such venom, and why they are regarded as misogynistic creeps. I'll try to clarify both of these, but I think a part of the problem might be due to 'branding'. Although the Nice Guy (TM) does pretend to be a nice person, the name is a bit misleading for a passive-aggressive narcissist with entitlement issues, so let's call him PANE for the purposes of this post. It seems appropriate.

  A PANE is not a nice person. A PANE often thinks that they are nice, but has little to no consideration for others and has trouble viewing anyone around him as a complex person with emotions of their own. A PANE is usually hideously insecure. A PANE is someone who will profess friendship (and only friendship) to a woman, and will go out of his way to provide emotional or financial support, all in the hopes that she will be so impressed by his 'niceness' that she will seek an intimate relationship with him. The PANE often has an idea of 'what women want', which is usually a shallow understanding of romantic idealism (flowers, candles, door-opening & paying for dinner) and agreeing with everything she says. When she does not seek a more
intimate relationship with him, and begins to date someone else, the PANE will become bitter at her and label whomever she is dating as a jerk/bad guy/etc.(whether he knows anything about him or not). He assumes that any man who is more successful with women is a jerk, because if the woman wanted a 'nice' guy, they would want to date him. I reel from the shallowness of his worldview.
  He is upset that his behaviour has not 'earned' him any reward, that she has been 'using' him while looking for someone better, and that she keeps dating jerks instead of seeing him for the paragon of niceness that he is. At some point he will profess his affections for her, and if rejected, will cease pretending to be her friend (since it's a waste of his time), often label her a bitch and worse for toying with his feelings, using him, not wanting a 'nice' man, or not knowing what she wants at all. In some cases, he will remain a 'friend' and attempt to sabotage her relationships so that she will turn to him.
  In a relationship, should some unfortunate woman fall for his poor-little-me manipulations, he is often exceedingly jealous and insecure, because he is afraid that the woman he is with is constantly looking to 'trade up'. He knows (at some level) that his relationship is not based on mutual trust and respect, and assumes that everyone else is just as shallow. He will try to manipulate his girlfriend into staying away from other people, especially men, and will often complain that she is hurting his feelings if she wants to do things without him.

 In contrast, a nice guy genuinely cares about other people, does not profess friendship with ulterior motives, and if he is romantic, it is in a thoughtful and considerate way based upon his particular partner's likes and dislikes. A nice guy will be disappointed and upset by rejection, like any normal person, but will generally realize that unrequited love happens all the time, and is not really anyone's fault. He knows that a relationship is a partnership where both parties have to agree on the parameters and communicate their needs and wants as clearly as possible, and that a healthy relationship is one where both people can pursue their own interests some of the time.

  I hope that clarifies the differences between them, but it is also important to know how to spot the PANE. Here are 5 common signs:
1. The PANE will whine frequently about how nobody will date him because he is 'too nice'. This is bullshit. I know plenty of really, genuinely nice men who have dated, met the love of their life, and settled down to have beautiful children together. Also heard is the nauseatingly trite repetition of 'nice guys finish last'.
2. The PANE can sometimes be heard denigrating past dates/friends/girlfriends because they 'used him while shopping for something better'. Careful with this one, as there are some reprehensible women who actually do this. Look for specifics. Staying at his place rent-free for months until she hooked up with a Brazilian super-model is very different from him paying for a few dates and being upset that she said no to future involvement.  A PANE will often exaggerate the offences of his past 'love' to make himself into more of a sympathetic victim. A few dates while getting to know each other can easily become "She led me on for months, but was just using me, 'cause I'm too nice". A friendship that wasn't rewarded with physical intimacy/dating can turn into all manner of nasty name calling. I believe we get into that in part two. If every single woman from his past is described as a psychotic bitch who used him, it's probably not a problem with them. Run.
3. The PANE can often be heard expounding on how nice/virtuous/self-sacrificing he is, often in the same conversation that he complains that women only want to go out with jerks. Part of his argument will inevitably be "If women want to date nice men, how come none of them will date me?" If you are a straight woman and this is said to you, the best response is to disengage immediately.
4. The PANE will often wonder why women are not falling all over him. After all, he is reasonably attractive and makes lots of money. He is obviously an exemplary provider. Sorry, my sarcasm got away from me there. He may honestly think that women are attracted to looks and money alone, and nothing else is required on the part of the man except to show interest in her and tell her she is pretty. I wish I was kidding.
5. A common assumption among PANEs is that attractiveness is directly correlated to privilege. A PANE will make comments like "He's good looking, so he gets all the hot chicks" or "She's not pretty enough to be bitchy." Also, when he says "women don't want to date nice guys" he really means beautiful women, because they are the only kind he's interested in. He needs a beautiful girlfriend to show off how nice he is - a plain, unremarkable woman would date anyone, in his mind.

For further examples of PANE/NiceGuy (TM) behaviour, see TheNiceGuy, explained by a guy, a NiceGuy anecdote from the fatal feminist, and there is also an extensive list of resources at HBI.

If you identify with some of the behaviours above, you might want to check out The Nice Guy's guide to realizing you're not that nice.

  On to part two, and this post is longer than I expected, sorry. So, why is the PANE a misogynist? What makes them different from other men, women and people of other genders that are motivated by a desire for physical intimacy? I will try to break it down, using actual quotes from both PANEs and people seeking to defend or understand them. Some people will try to make the case that their screwed up notion of reality is not their fault, that they have been brainwashed by Hollywood and '50s propaganda. That might even be true, but it is still their responsibility to acknowledge it and move past it. Bad influences are no excuse for unacceptable behaviour. Ever.

Advice from a self proclaimed 'former' Nice Guy (TM), who gave up on being nice, because being a jerk was the only way to get women. (I'm paraphrasing, but yes, he said that. Really.)
Observe what guys who get hot chicks do. “ 
Yes, because all hot chicks fall for the same shallow cues you see in a total stranger. I don't really need to explain this do I? Women are not puppies, and they are not 'treats' for certain behaviours. 

break a few hearts on the way and get some power of your own.” 
So, you're saying that personal power comes only from causing others emotional pain to balance out any that you have experienced? Really? Go see a therapist. Please.

Another 'former'... This is after they have stewed in their own bitterness for too long.
 “I thought I had been perfect and so the mistake only could ever be me” 
This is misogynistic because he assumes that if he does everything right, the woman will fall in love with him, like a reward. Sorry, love doesn't work like that, and women are not prizes for good behaviour. It is also a blatant play for pity and sympathy for being victimized and made to think it was all his fault. It was.

 If you have got to do something special to conquer someone it communicates that you have a lower value...and nobody wants to spend his time with someone who consider himself lower...
Conquer someone? Women are neither enemy combatants nor Mt. Everest. Sane people do something special for someone because they love them, not to coerce them or make up for some lack in themselves. Also, non-misogynist people don't tend to think of themselves and their prospective partners in terms of who is of  'lower value'. Nobody wants to spend their time with someone who compares himself with them in those terms.

Here's someone defending the Nice Guy:
 If you like someone you go out of your way to win her over. 
What's wrong with that, you ask? It seems fine until you realize that what he's actually saying is 'If she doesn't like you at first, you have to put effort into making her like you". If she doesn't like you, it's not likely to change. Move on.

 “I always said that girls like those who take charge and say what they want. Guess it is true.” 
Translation: 'Girls' are a single entity, and all want exactly the same thing because they have no personality of their own, and this attitude perfectly explains why they haven't fallen in love with me because I asked them what they wanted to do instead of telling them, like a macho man. Women have vastly differing tastes in personality, just like men, and possibly don't like you because you make sweeping generalizations to get out of admitting that you might be wrong. 

Here's another defender:
 “They listen to what women (in a general sense) say they want, try to give them those things, and become understandably confused when it doesn't work.
Here again is this assumption that women all want the same thing, which is basically equating women with parakeets. Women want water a good listener and tasty seeds money right? Well then, why don't they fall in love with me when I give them those things? Because women can get those things at their therapist's office and the ATM respectively. This is not the middle ages.

And finally a few gems from a PANE in some serious denial.
 I've always wondered why it is that people who consider themselves feminists are often completely okay with men who have sex with tons of women. They are the ones who view women as "sex dispensers," who are most guilty of "objectifying" women, and yet are also simultaneously the most successful.
Thanks for trying to perpetuate the notion that sex is bad and all women want long-term committed relationships, but there's nothing wrong with sex. There's nothing wrong with lots of sex. If you are honest about it with your partners (serial or concurrent), there's nothing wrong with having sex with many different partners either. Desiring a woman sexually doesn't necessarily mean that you are objectifying her, but assuming that women who have sex are being taken advantage of, and that they all want to stay pure and virginal until they marry a guy like you to reward him for his good behaviour is definitely objectifying them. You can also see his assumption about other men- if they are forthright about wanting sex from a woman, that makes them jerks. Honesty is a good thing, you should try it.

“Have you ever had that experience? "You weren't good enough for me prior to my decade-long binge of partying, drug use, and casual sex, but by God, you're good enough now that I'm a single mom and you have a steady income.""
This again speaks to the PANE's assumption that all women are after a provider, and have no idea how to take care of themselves or make good decisions on their own (see above). Also, a brief translation: If you weren't with me, you obviously didn't want a nice guy, so you must have been whoring it up with jerks and taking drugs to drown your self-inflicted pain because you don't know what's good for yourself like I do. Also, her approach was probably more like: she thought after all these years that he might have grown up, got in contact with him to say hi, and found out that he hadn't. 

 "Let's just be friends" isn't meant literally; many women who use it never intend to speak to you again. It's a "let him down easy" rejection.
Oddly enough, many women who say this do actually mean it literally, and go on to be good friends with people they do not want to date. In his case, though, he's probably right. I wonder if he would prefer "You're creepy and deceitful, go away before I call the police."? Probably not, but the PANE will complain that a woman is heartless/abusive/cruel in any situation that does not involve an intimate relationship with him.

 no man goes to a woman and says "This other woman rejected me. :( It's really depressing," but I can promise there have been a lot of guys who get called at two o'clock in the morning to come pick up a woman who has rejected him 
This speaks to the fact that the PANE spends time and effort 'being there' for a woman so that she will fall for him, and demonstrates a huge lack of understanding. People who are real friends (men and women) do that for each other without the expectation of nookie. In my experience, men do this about as often as women, and if a woman calls a man she has previously rejected for something like that, it is because she believed him when he said he was fine with just being friends. He also can't conceive of a man doing that, because in his mind, a 'nice' guy wouldn't do that to a woman, and a jerk wouldn't need to. Needless to say, women aren't nice to people in his world, they are takers who give intimacy in return.

  So I guess the summation is that PANEs/Nice Guys (TM) are misogynists because they cannot conceive of a woman having individual tastes or preferences in anything, including what they like in a prospective partner, what they are attracted to and what type of relationship they want. They are usually firmly convinced that they can see what she needs better than she can, and assume that any woman who rejects them (no matter how nicely) is a heartless bitch. Any questions?
  Okay then, they are also demonstrably deceitful about their intentions and desires, incapable of accepting any responsibility for situations that don't work out, and often very manipulative and controlling. Hence, creepy.

  So we've agreed that they are misogynist creeps, and not to be confused with people who are genuinely nice. They are also disturbingly common. There's a reason there are so many rants about them. Don't get me wrong, there is a sliding scale from 'has a slightly screwed up view of relationships' to 'full on PANE mysogynist', and many of them don't realize that there is anything wrong with their perception of women. That being said, almost every woman I know has run into enough of them that fit the pattern bang-on to recognize it as a 'type'. A type more common and unvaried than any stereotype I can think of. 
  There are also plenty of other undesirable behavioural sets, but I have chosen to talk about PANEs because of their ubiquity, their invisibility to many men who don't realize what's so wrong with them, and their level of harm. I'm not talking about physical abuse, of course, but emotional abuse and lack of respect are as harmful to people in many ways, and lack of respect can come in many forms. A PANE will fervently insist that he respects women, and believe it, although he may have to work at it. He doesn't respect anyone, and doesn't realize that it shouldn't take work to do so.

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