Nice Guys (TM) are not really nice.

A tall man says to a shorter, crying woman, ''He's not worth crying for. Do you want to sleep at my place?''

Many self-identified “nice guys”, i.e., Nice GuysTM would sympathize with the male character and perceive his behaviour as being “nice”. According to Nice GuysTM, the poor male character is being locked into the dreaded “friend zone” by the emotionally manipulative woman. However, this image is actually part of a Mentos ad about transparent selfishness.

''He's not worth crying for. Do you want to sleep at my place?'' Mentos single pack. Selfishness without guilt.

The text at the bottom right corner says: “Mentos single pack. Selfishness without guilt.”

The concept behind the ad is that the male character’s behaviour is obviously and transparently selfish to the general public. Why then, do Nice GuysTM see their behaviour as selfless and non-predatory? I had previously thought that the perception of predation was a gender difference, but perhaps Nice GuyTM is just oblivious to the transparency of his ulterior motives and how his behaviour appears to the general public.


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17 Responses to “Nice Guys (TM) are not really nice.”

  1. JP Says:

    definitely not gender difference, especially when you’re dating a girl with a Nice Guy(TM) hanging around >_<

    that's a cool drawing though.

  2. jayn Says:

    Makes me think of the Big Bang Theory, when Leonard tries to console Penny after a bad breakup–“I said I’m her friend, not her gay friend”. As if it’s perfectly fine to ask a girl out the day she breaks up with someone. (Though, I’ll take him over Howard any day–he actually takes no for an answer.)

  3. Cessen Says:

    I’ll just note that most Nice Guy(tm)’s, as they have so been labeled and decribed, wouldn’t make such an offer for fear of it being viewed precisely as you describe. Nice Guy(tm)’s tend to be phobic about doing anything that could possibly be interpreted as forward/propositioning in that way. And they tend to be very good at avoiding that. Hence all the complaints in the Feminist blogosphere of it basically being a “wtf?” moment when the Nice Guy gets all resentful.

    Unless Nice Guy(tm) actually encompasses a wider range of less specific behaviors than I’ve been led to believe?

    In any case, the guy portrayed seems a lot more like a so-called “player” to me, trying to get her over to his place so that he can take advantage of her emotional vulnerability to get sex.

  4. Restructure! Says:

    Some people are a bit forward (or at least creepy), although that isn’t as forward as the drawing above.

    Also the situation in xkcd’s Friends is about taking advantage of her emotional vulnerability.

    Strictly speaking, the situation in the drawing above may not be perceived as sexual, since if the guy was a girl, it would make sense. When I was younger, I didn’t see obvious Nice GuyTM signs due to lack of experience, so maybe it isn’t obvious after all. It’s just obvious to me now because I’m older and aware of the existence of Nice GuysTM.

    edit: Then again, there were really no obvious signs when I was younger. It’s only obvious looking back.

    I guess the “obviousness” is when male geeks in comment threads talk about how they like this girl but they are in the “friend zone” and the girl dates “jerks” instead of a “nice guy” like them who does all this stuff for her but gets nothing back. It’s obvious that they are not really nice.

    I don’t even know what I wrote has to do with the drawing anymore. I’m just confused now.

  5. Cessen Says:

    On further consideration, I’m thinking that it basically just boils down to what the motives of the guy in the comic are. The full advertisement (complete with subtitle) make it pretty clear it’s intended as more of a player sort of thing.

    But absent the full advertisement, he could be any one of: genuine nice guy, “Nice Guy(tm)”, or player. It all depends on what motives are prescribed to his actions. It’s not at all clear simply from his actions what’s going on.

    And as you touched on before, that in itself makes it a more plausible Nice Guy(tm) action: it’s highly ambiguous. But also because it’s ambiguous, it can’t be verified as Nice Guy(tm). At least not on its own. Catch-22, of sorts.

    This is also why I’m skeptical of labeling actual people Nice Guy(tm) without some kind of insider knowledge of their motives. A (romantically) shy guy may have romantic feelings for a friend, and hope that things will go somewhere, but be relatively unable to actually broach the subject due to his own issues. And his actions can be almost identical to the Nice Guy(tm), but without manipulative intent. Even breaking off the friendship can simply be motivated by the guy’s feelings making it too difficult to be around his friend. So… it’s not so easy to identify from outside observations. Unless the guy starts talking to someone about how she owes it to him to go out with him, or some similar thing that reveals internal thought processes/motives. (“Dude, I’m totally manipulating this girl into dating me, it’s going to be awesome!”)

    And even then, I think in reality most situations like that are on a sliding scale between shy guy and Nice Guy(tm), rather than being totally one or the other. I think rarely are human being’s motives totally good or totally bad.

  6. Restructure! Says:

    Cessen,

    Nice GuyTM and player are not mutually exclusive. You can have a Nice GuyTM who is “nice” to more than one woman.

    This is also why I’m skeptical of labeling actual people Nice Guy(tm) without some kind of insider knowledge of their motives. A (romantically) shy guy may have romantic feelings for a friend, and hope that things will go somewhere, but be relatively unable to actually broach the subject due to his own issues. And his actions can be almost identical to the Nice Guy(tm), but without manipulative intent. Even breaking off the friendship can simply be motivated by the guy’s feelings making it too difficult to be around his friend. So… it’s not so easy to identify from outside observations. Unless the guy starts talking to someone about how she owes it to him to go out with him, or some similar thing that reveals internal thought processes/motives. (“Dude, I’m totally manipulating this girl into dating me, it’s going to be awesome!”)

    I totally agree. My experience of Nice GuysTM comes from (1) personal experience, finding out he was a Nice GuyTM after the fact; and (2) trying to read tech news and then wandering into off-topic male geek discussions about how women go for jerks/alpha males/bad boys and take advantage of “nice guys”.

  7. Cessen Says:

    Nice GuyTM and player are not mutually exclusive. You can have a Nice GuyTM who is “nice” to more than one woman.

    That’s a good point. Although I don’t think of going after more than one woman as being necessary or sufficient to call someone a player, even if it’s something that sometimes (often?) goes with it. Which is perhaps the tricky thing about these conversations: a lot of common language surrounding these issues isn’t well defined, and is more just kind of learned through osmosis. So everyone–especially when not in the same social circles–tends to have their own variation on what the term means.

    Personally, when I think “player” I think of someone who is dishonest in order to accomplish purely sexual goals. For example, to me the quintessential player is the guy that pretends to be interested in a longer-term relationship in order to get laid. (Although this is certainly not the only form of player.)

    Whereas I think of Nice Guy(tm) as being dishonest in order to accomplish relationship goals. And that can include sex, but it isn’t separate from wanting a romantic relationship.

    I also tend to think of players as being very self-aware of what they’re doing. Whereas I think of Nice Guy(tm)’s–at least in reality, as opposed to the satire seen in comic strips etc.–as being substantially less so. I mean, consider that if they were self-aware, you probably wouldn’t see discussions such as you referenced:

    [...]trying to read tech news and then wandering into off-topic male geek discussions about how women go for jerks/alpha males/bad boys and take advantage of “nice guys”.

  8. Restructure! Says:

    What do you think of this quote?

    You ignored the nice guy. You used him for emotional intimacy without reciprocating, in kind, with physical intimacy.

    Here, it’s clearly about getting laid, is it not? Yet, he thinks he’s a nice guy.

  9. Cessen Says:

    Just right off the bat, think of this:
    “You used him for emotional intimacy”
    Compared with this:
    “You used her for sexual intimacy”

    And I don’t mean rape, but rather a comparable “reverse” situation where a woman is voluntarily having sex with a man and hoping/expecting to get emotional intimacy back despite him never having promised such.

    So despite her saying she was used for sex, she probably does want sex to continue, no? She just wants more on top of that. And she feels used due to our cultural narrative about men and women (men want sex, women want love) as well as just generally feeling entitled.

    I imagine a similar thing is going on with this guy. He does want the emotional intimacy *as well*, but he sees that as a given as long as he “provides” it.

    In any case, the over-all letter makes it fairly clear that he’s talking about getting a girlfriend, IMO, even if individual sentences focus on sex.

  10. Restructure! Says:

    I disagree. I think this explanation of what is going on with the craigslist Nice GuyTM is spot on.

  11. Cessen Says:

    I guess we disagree then? *shrugs*

  12. Restructure! Says:

    Well, you can argue why that explanation is inaccurate.

  13. Cessen Says:

    I already stated my explanation for my interpretation, I’m pretty sure. I offer the same explanation as a refutation, I guess. Especially since in the one you link to, he makes the same point (although to a different end):

    “Except…men and women both need both physical and emotional intimacy, as anyone with any understanding of humans knows.”

    But I guess I’ll add that it strikes me as unlikely that if this man only wanted sex, he would have taken a tactic that popular culture (including the patriarchy) prescribes for finding relationships.

    To reiterate: I think it’s more likely that just as our culture teaches us that sex is something that women “give up”, it also teaches us that emotional intimacy is something that men “give up”. And despite both genders (on average) actually wanting both things, this cultural training heavily impacts how we view our interactions with others.

    Although I of course have to admit the possibility that he actually did just want sex with “no strings attached”. I cannot read this man’s mind, so it is possible. But it strikes me as unlikely given what he wrote.

  14. Restructure! Says:

    Although I of course have to admit the possibility that he actually did just want sex with “no strings attached”.

    All right, I see what the confusion is here.

    No, I am not saying that Nice GuyTM just wanted sex “with no strings attached”. I would say that no Nice GuysTM (or possibly only Nice GuyTM outliers, although I can’t imagine how that would be) want “sex with no strings attached”.

    However, I am saying that some Nice GuysTM are being deceptive to accomplish purely sexual goals. By “purely sexual”, I mean they do X to get Y, where X is being “nice”, and Y is sex. In general, “getting sex” can take on many forms, such as one-night stands, fuck buddies, or sex within monogamous relationships. Sex within monogamous relationships is the most socially acceptable form of having sex, and it is this form of sex that men who feel entitled to sex feel entitled to, including Nice GuyTM. Nice GuyTM could want sex within a monogamous relationship not because he really cared about his object of interest, but because it’s the kind of sex that is socially acceptable and the kind that men feel entitled to.

  15. Cessen Says:

    *some men feel entitled to

    I still think it’s more than just it being the “socially acceptable” form of sex. But sure, it’s going to vary from guy to guy. As I said before:

    And even then, I think in reality most situations like that are on a sliding scale between shy guy and Nice Guy(tm), rather than being totally one or the other. I think rarely are human being’s motives totally good or totally bad.

    I guess part of where I’m coming from is that people get far more biting and nasty and their forms of thinking tend to shift when they’re bitter.

    I mean, I’ve been through nasty break ups before, as I suspect a lot of people had. And I would hardly consider people’s behavior during such emotionally charged times representative of their motives when the relationship was still good (although for some reason some people do consider it representative, apparently believing that people are rationally consistent). People especially start to get focused on those needs of theirs that aren’t being met. And especially when immature and/or inexperienced, they tend to blame others for it.

    So when I read something like what that guy wrote, I tend to assume it’s coming from a place of bitterness like that. Because, frankly, it read very much like it’s coming from a place like that.

    The fact that he got to that place of bitterness still says something about how he views gender roles and gender dynamics. And I think that’s where the really valuable analysis of Nice Guy(tm) can be had. But to me this looks like aftermath.

    So I guess I still find it hard to believe that he was only seeking out women for sex, with everything else only being an obstacle to that end.

  16. Cessen Says:

    To be clear, I didn’t mean that he wrote this due to a breakup. I was just using breakups as an example of how people’s feelings and motives can be inconsistent pre and post.

  17. Restructure! Says:

    Just right off the bat, think of this:
    “You used him for emotional intimacy”
    Compared with this:
    “You used her for sexual intimacy”

    And I don’t mean rape, but rather a comparable “reverse” situation where a woman is voluntarily having sex with a man and hoping/expecting to get emotional intimacy back despite him never having promised such.

    So despite her saying she was used for sex, she probably does want sex to continue, no? She just wants more on top of that. And she feels used due to our cultural narrative about men and women (men want sex, women want love) as well as just generally feeling entitled.

    I do not think that women feel “entitled” to emotional intimacy, though, since there aren’t cultural scripts that say having sex with a man will make him love you.

    On the other hand, there are at least three cultural pillars that make Nice GuyTM feel he is entitled to sex:

    TV shows/movies (warning: tvtropes link) that show that being a Dogged Nice Guy wins the girl in the end. This narrative is actually even older than contemporary pop culture, since in the classic heroic quest narrative, the (male) hero wins some prize at the end, usually a woman.

    – Sexist evolutionary psychology ideas that say women marry men for their resources and men have sex with women who are reproductively fit. The idea behind this is that women should have no physical standards about the men they have sex with, since it’s all about what the man does, which is to be “traded” for sexual access.

    – The Othering and dehumanization of women that make men think that women’s minds are very different and we are like puzzles to be solved. Combined with the other pillars, it usually follows that solving the puzzle wins sexual access. This is the PUA logic.


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