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« A good series | Main | Ontological metaphors »

June 11, 2006

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humbition

I concur with your advice in principle, and your analysis is excellent, but I do think that it doesn't go far enough. For good reason, because where I want to go I only want to go with great trepidation. By the way, I'm an old, married guy who was in something like the equivalent of SFM hell back in portions of the Carter and Reagan administrations. SFM not "nice guy," since I certainly never thought the women I wanted and didn't have back then were attracted to any kind of "jerks." (In fact I usually genuinely liked the men they preferred me to.)

Although it is a good move in some ways to tell the SFMs that it's just their fear of rejection, not their feminism, that's getting in the way of their making a sexual advance, I think that's in part a "genetic fallacy." You may have pinned down the deep origins of their "misuse" of feminism, but they probably have a number of secondary glass bead games that they've worked out involving feminist theory that need to be demolished before at least some of them can work up the nerve to "make a move." (And the more difficult "making the move" is of course not the "getting to know" but the "making clear that one's intentions are sexual.")

The first glass bead game, I think, has to do with how "sexual harassment" is explained to very young people. I keep coming across a definition of same as "sexual attention that isn't wanted." Well, if you're rejected, then (no matter how polite or decent your approach) your attention wasn't wanted, was it? It takes a certain amount of growing up and detaching oneself from a literal and unironic view of things, to understand why this isn't an obstacle. Or perhaps it just takes dealing with people as people rather than as instantiations of rules. Or a case study approach that really addresses what sexual harassment really looks like (as in, behavior that the young SFM would indeed be strongly outraged by). By the way, I know that many people who raise this question aren't sincere; but I can still see how very young people could still be sincerely flummoxed by it. (Or even the occasional very feminist philosophy graduate student, http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2005/07/dilemma_of_the_.html)

As you read down the comments page of the link you come across a second glass bead game. Feminist women may encourage an SFM to just go ahead and "hit on" women (especially since he would always be so nice in doing so that he would never offend one), but he often just doesn't know how. And one reason, unfortunately a feminist one, is that he has managed to critique and criticize every "hitting-on" method which he has ever seen in his background, but he hasn't (partly for that very reason) developed any "hitting-on" methods of his own. Now, I do think that even the most well-intentioned men and women manage occasionally to essentialize the other gender; and I suspect that women often take the view that guys "just know" what exactly "hitting-on" consists of. This in theoretical terms is the error of not understanding the socially constructed nature of gender performance. In the case of a shy guy who doesn't want to socially construct himself within his culture -- perhaps under the delusion that all culturally constructed dating or courtship culture lies under the shadow of frat-style bad behavior -- who should be his role model? Even confident feminist guys aren't a good role model, precisely because they probably developed their "technique" before and separately from their feminist consciousness, and therefore had it well practiced before engaging in the self-criticism that might have prevented its proper development in the first place.

A related issue, and one which probably doesn't arise for either the "nice guys" or the "jerks" but which does arise for SFMs, has to do with distinguishing the development of a nice, comfy, safe platonic relationship from the approach necessary to make it clear that what one wants is not a NCSPR. SFMs have, as mentioned, lots of platonic female friends. These do not, as in the case of some "nice guys," necessarily consist of his crushes who he's hoping will "see the light someday," rather these are real, genuine friends. But he has probably learned oh so well the signals to signify that he's just the kind of guy who is totally safe, who won't take that hug as an indication of any further kind of interest, etc. And as mentioned, he doesn't know how to send the other signals.

Shall he ask her for a date? or do his enlightened bohemian friends never "go on dates as such"? Shall he compliment her on her appearance (especially when complimenting her mind would be redundant to her 4.0 GPA and brilliant thesis topic)? What exactly is the difference between the flirty repartee of the would-be lover and the witty conversation of the brilliant "just-friend"? Especially since there may be rumors that he's gay anyway...

And even in jurisdictions where the Antioch Rules don't literally apply, when and how to make a physical touch? wouldn't such a touch at least make clear that the relationship applied for is not platonic? ah, but such had better already be clearly understood before one dares or ventures.

No, it is so easy to be hard on the SFM as much as the "nice guy," but I do think that feminist consciousness can exacerbate shyness about making sexual moves, and that it isn't all about the rejection. Even though it is.

humbition

oh, in the parenthetical sentence at the end of the first paragraph, "genuinely liked the men they preferred to me." Freudian wish-fulfillment slip.

Withheld

Thanks for taking the time to write and share this.

bwconklin

I'm not so sure of the distinction here. Is there really a difference between the stereotypical "nice guy", and an "SFM"? I'm not sure I've ever met a genuine "male feminist" as described here. Sure, women deserve respect, so what? Does respecting women make you a "feminist"?

Both NG's and SFM's are simply synonyms for men who are emasculated, wimpy, overly-sensitive, overly-feminized, non-masculine non-entities who have no clue how to approach women and so use some lame friendship giuse to get laid. No need to intellectualize, it's not really that complicated..

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