The Nice Guy Myth
There’s no such thing as a Nice Guy.
Not because all guys are monstrous, evil, puppy-kicking scum, but because we’re all human. We have moments of kindness and generosity, and we also have asshole moments. The ratio varies from one person to the next, but the mixture’s there in all of us.
I bring this up because it’s relevant to the ongoing conversation about sexual harassment in Hollywood, in SF/F, and pretty much everywhere. More than a million people spoke up this week with the #MeToo hashtag, talking about their own experiences being harassed. According to a 2011 United Nations report:
- Between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace.
- In the United States, 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 experience some for of sexual harassment in public schools.
It would be a lot easier if the harassers were all mustache-twirling villains, heartless evildoers with zero redeeming qualities.
You know. Bad Guys.
The trouble is, most harassers and rapists and abusers are just…people. They’re friends and family members and coworkers and colleagues. A lot of the time, they’re perfectly pleasant. Maybe they have a great sense of humor. Maybe they always shovel their neighbor’s driveway after it snows. Maybe they donate money to animal rescue every month.
This is the first part of the Nice Guy problem. Because when someone speaks out and names their harasser, we look at them and think, How can he be a harasser? He’s such a nice guy. Nice guys don’t harass people. Ergo, this so-called victim must be lying or exaggerating or overreacting or misunderstanding or whatever. Because logic!
I remember the first time I sat in, learning how to facilitate a domestic violence intervention group. The man to my right had been sentenced to participate after a conviction for abusing his wife. He was friendly and charismatic. It would have been easy to like him. There was almost nothing to distinguish him from anyone else.*
Nice Guys™ can harass others. Nice Guys™ can be stalkers. Nice Guys™ can be rapists and abusers. Our belief in that false Nice Guy/Bad Guy dichotomy helps those abusers. It provides another shield against accusations, a first line of defense against any consequences for their actions.
Some of these guys know exactly how to play up that defense, using it to protect themselves and punish any accusers. Some abusers deliberately craft a Nice Guy persona in order to better harass their victims.
And we let them. We see someone crossing the line, but we rationalize it in our heads because we know they’re a Nice Guy. We hear the stories, but refuse to accept them. We allow the behavior to continue.
Just like the Myth of the Nice Guy makes us likely to excuse other people’s problematic behavior, it also gets in the way of us recognizing and being accountable for our own.
I believe harassers and abusers can learn to change their behavior. (Though many choose not to.) Better yet would be for them to have recognized the harm they were causing and learned to do better before it reached the point of chronic harassment or assault or abuse.
It’s hard to step back and realize you’ve done something abusive. It’s harder if you’ve built yourself up in your head as a Nice Guy. It’s called cognitive dissonance. Someone points out that you’ve been being creepy and inappropriate. That contradicts your self-image as a Nice Guy. So your mind searches for a way to safely resolve the contradiction: She’s wrong. She’s lying. She’s misremembering.
Even if you bring yourself to acknowledge you did something wrong, you recount the story in a way that preserves you as the Nice Guy. You minimize your actions. You obfuscate the details. You mention reasons the accuser might not be giving a fully truthful or reliable account. And you stress what a nice person you are, how you’d never intentionally hurt anyone, how the guilt is tearing you apart, and so on.
What you don’t do — what we don’t do — is own our shit. We don’t dig deep to look at where our own behaviors come from.
We grew up in a society that treats women as lesser. That teaches men to be “strong” and to take what we want. We learn about the “friend zone” and the idea that women owe us sex and companionship. We hear our peers boasting about groping a girl between classes. We see them passing around nude pics of their girlfriends, because girls are things to be shared and used.
You can’t grow up like that without some of it rubbing off.** It takes active, conscious work to change those attitudes, and to do better. And you can’t do better if you’re so fixated on being a Nice Guy that you won’t even acknowledge your shit.
And now, a few disclaimers…
- I’ve referred to men as harassers and women as victims in this post, because that’s the most common dynamic. But it’s absolutely not the only dynamic. People of all genders can be victims, and people of all genders can be harassers.
- “But what if she’s lying?” Why is that the first response from so many people — almost always guys? Yeah, false accusations are a thing. A rare thing. You know what’s a hell of a lot more common? Sexual harassment. Sexual assault.
- I believe there are good people out there. I believe there are assholes out there. But nobody is 100% lawful good or chaotic evil.
We need to stop letting predators off the hook because they’re Nice Guys. We need to stop excusing ourselves, too. The goal isn’t to be a mythical Nice Guy. The goal is to be accountable for our behavior, and to strive to do better.
*I say “almost” because I did pick up an undertone of attempted manipulation from him a few times. It was subtle, but it was there. That said, I don’t know if I would have caught it if I hadn’t been looking for it.
**Yes, I’m including myself here. I’ve spent decades trying to uproot the messed-up assumptions I grew up with. I’m still working on it. I suspect I always will be.
October 19, 2017 @ 7:21 pm
In a recent con harassment policy argument, a guy said: “But I’ve known him for years and haven’t seen him do anything like that!” I could only reply: “Do you sit on his shoulder 24/7? Why do you think he would necessarily have done it in front of you?” We make friends with people. We classify them in our heads as “good,” though maybe slow to return books or tending to eat all the nachos. Then we find out our “good” friend has done some terrible things. We are shocked/angry/in denial. But loyalty to a friend should not stop us from believing the truth — especially when the victim stands to gain nothing whatsoever by standing up and telling it.
October 19, 2017 @ 8:20 pm
Thank you. You may not be perfect, but you are one of the guys I have thought of constantly this week in discussions of this subject–precisely because you are not just a good guy, but a guy doing good, on the behalf of women. So thank you.
October 19, 2017 @ 9:34 pm
Thank you for this post. I usually have problems with the “your abusers aren’t monsters” phrase because it’s used to excuse their behavior, instead of pointing out that abusers are much more insidious than that and walk among us. As a survivor from someone who was a Nice Guy, thank you.
October 19, 2017 @ 11:09 pm
Abusers, powerful and lowly, know to pick their targets. They know that their behavior would get them in trouble if “taken out of context” so they strive to create context where A) they’re broadly perceived as nice even though they are people willing to hurt others to get what they want and B) create a situation in which the victim can be blamed or at least have their account of events heavily questioned. The “well I never saw him do it” is the dumbest possible reaction. Abusers are also often people who crave approval generally, which they will read into others’ reactions even if they are just silent–anything but outright denial is taken as license to continue. That’s why it’s important to combat negative stereotyping whenever possible.
October 19, 2017 @ 11:41 pm
I think it’s pretty easy to apply this line of thinking to racism, as well. It’s easy to say, “I’m not a racist! I’d never use the n-word, or tell my kid they can’t date a black person.” But it’s so much more subtle and nuanced than that. How often do we step over boundaries, like touching a black person’s hair, or dressing up as an ‘Indian princess’ for Halloween? The answer is much the same: listen to the people affected, and own your shit. Try to do better.
October 20, 2017 @ 12:23 am
Be professional and watch your ass no one is safe.
October 20, 2017 @ 9:14 am
One of my friends suffered physical abuse as a child. As my friend says, “my dad is a great friend. He’s intelligent, good conversationalist, etc. But he’s a crap father who abused me and my sibling. When he complained that the music from my earphones was too loud and I responded (truthfully) that my player was off, he hit me. Repeatedly. And it was ‘my fault’ for talking back.” My friend tried telling an adult about what was happening. “But he’s such a nice guy.” I met their father, and yes, he seemed really nice. But during that short visit, his mask did slip once, and from that glimpse, I could see the truth of what my friend had said. I believed my friend, but I thought if I was along, the dad would maintain the nice guy mask.
October 20, 2017 @ 10:33 am
One, small thing, Harvey Weinstein was never a Nice Guy.
The twisted truth
October 20, 2017 @ 12:05 pm
I read the post and I think it has a lot issues in regards to the how people are in general. It also seems to me that the authors perception of a “nice guy” is wrapped up in perfection (which is subjective). I believe in equality as much as anyone else, but I also believe in equal responsibility and fair representation. Sexual abuse in any form is should not be tolerated and abusers should be punished according to the law. However, victims have a responsibility not only to them selves but to society to report abuses as quick as possible instead of sitting on it and doing nothing. Only to call out someone years later. The reason why it’s important to report a case as soon as possible is because the once law is on to that perpetrator , the chances of him or her abusing anyone in the short and long term will be significantly lower because, either they get locked away or (if they get away with it) they will at least think twice before doing anything stupid. Now that’s out of the way, can i just say that everyone needs to calm down. I don’t understand the appeal of everyone taking extreme positions on every social, moral and societal issue. Listen, people are emotional and people are stupid. Fact is that if someone is going around abusing people they were not nice in the first place. Being well put together, well spoken, having respect of their pairs, fame and being socially delightful does make you a nice person. Being responsible, respectful of others, standing up for others and being kind is what makes you a nice person. But even if someone has those qualities they are not perfect. I do however believe that despite that, nice people will not do certain things like sexually abusing someone. Nice people do not abuse and harass other people.
Sigh, listen most men when they were teenagers were pervs and idiots. So going crazy over nudes or wanting to share sexual experiences is just a given. Yes, some men still maintain that way of thought but most men don’t. Most men are raised to be strong and tough because we live in a tough world. I don’t see an issue with that. I do however wish most men would be more understanding and willing listen. I don’t know about all that stuff about about seeing women as being sexual objects and being raised that way. Yes we’ll drool over a sexy woman but it doesn’t mean we see them as objects or things. Most guys drool because it’s just a reaction to seeing someone they find attractive that’s all.
As for the friend zone, you are totally wrong on this point. Truth is that why should any guy or girl maintain a platonic relationship with someone they want to be with, knowing that the person he or she wants, does not want to be with them? It’s nonsense. People should feel free to walk away from someone who doesn’t want the same thing as them. even if it just a sexual relationship or FWB.
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2017 @ 12:32 pm
Dear “The twisted truth,”
Please don’t comment again until you’ve done a little research into the myriad reasons victims of harassment might not choose to report right away. (Or into the countless people who *did* report right away…and were ignored or punished for it.)
October 20, 2017 @ 5:28 pm
Dear The Twisted Truth
I encourage and insist that you do not listen to Jim C. Hines. Comment as you wish and express your right to free speech whenever you please. I absolutely abhor occasions where other people deem that they are the authority on who speaks and who doesn’t. I read your comment and I found there to be truth within, the type of truth that people don’t like to consider, the ugly truth. I would probably classify as an asshole because of the way I speak towards others and certain subjects but i have never done evil to the proportion of what is expected of assholes, perhaps I am more innocent than most nice guys. Aside from the vast simplification and generalization of all nice guys I myself found the articles claims to be a little too self evident but definitely biased towards assuming that victims are always right and the accused are always guilty. I understand that this is precisely one of the reasons why a victim might be discouraged from seeking help as Jim accurately depicts. But despite that truth I agree that in order to punish potential abusers they have to go through a fair trial that adheres to proper and objective justice. Anything other than a fair trial where the accused would be proved guilty or innocent through the objective reason, logic and the rationale of the judge would be barbaric. It is vital to hold as much skepticism to whether the accused is in fact guilty or innocent as to whether the accuser is in fact sincere or insincere. I understand that this must be an immensely difficult task for a true victim but this is the only way. The world is a brutal one.
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2017 @ 5:35 pm
The ignorance is out in force today, isn’t it.
“I encourage and insist that you do not listen to Jim C. Hines. Comment as you wish and express your right to free speech whenever you please.”
Azrael – Come back when you understand how the right in question works. Both you and the prior commenter have the right to free speech. But when you come into my space and start wasting people’s time with your ignorance, I have the right to tell you to go away.
Consider it this way. I have the right to assembly. This doesn’t mean I have the right to assemble in your living room.
If you’d care to do the work to educate yourself, great. In that case, you’ll be welcome here. Until then, you’ll have to exercise your free speech elsewhere.
Chuck U Farley
October 20, 2017 @ 6:21 pm
Bullshit. Speak for yourself asshole. Do not assume ALL men have YOUR shortcomings
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2017 @ 6:24 pm
Another shining example of American masculinity heard from.
::Chucks Chuck into the goblin pit with the other trolls::
Jim is a cuck
October 20, 2017 @ 6:54 pm
What a load of BS. “Yeah, false accusations are a thing. A rare thing. You know what’s a hell of a lot more common? Sexual harassment. Sexual assault.”
BASED ON WHAT ASSHOLE. How about some evidence to the discussion. There’s nothing more insufferable than the sanctimonious BS from beta cucks such as yourself. Society is set up for the quote-unquote “harassment” you speak of (men are encouraged to approach women, not the other way around), yet women act all upset and like they’re a survivor when it happens. Do you know what the difference is between an “unwanted advance” and a desired one? It’s the attractiveness of the advancer, THAT’S IT. It’s a completely hypocritical stance and when it’s unwanted (which is happening more in today’s society than at any other time in history due to women’s unleashed hypergamy), more often than not false allegations follow.
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2017 @ 6:59 pm
So first we get, “How about some evidence to the discussion,” followed later in the same paragraph by, “…more often than not false allegations follow.” Cute.
But thank you for demonstrating the kind of mindset that perpetuates harassment. The idea that the only difference between an unwanted and a wanted advance is the attractiveness of the “advancer”? If I was writing a caricature of an overentitled douchebag, I couldn’t have done better.
I don’t know who’s sending the trolls my way, but I’ll be booting them directly into the pit from this point forward. ‘Cause none of us have time for this nonsense.
October 20, 2017 @ 7:03 pm
These comments are a perfect example of what women and children are subjected to when they “tell”.
I’m also really exhausted seeing this kind of trash Every. Single. Day.
October 20, 2017 @ 7:33 pm
[Comment intercepted and eaten by goblins.]
A z r a e l
October 20, 2017 @ 7:40 pm
[Another comment for Golaka’s stew pot.]
October 20, 2017 @ 7:48 pm
[Comment retrieved from Golaka’s pot, dried off, and put through to serve as an object lesson.]
I have reposted this comment using a different name because the moderator of this chat room has made it so that my comments require approval before being visible to the public. I fear that my comments may be deleted because of rhis action but I suggest my fellow commentors that you consider who is not allowed to voice his own opinions and you ask why?What follows is the unedited version of what I have uploaded aside from the following statement that showed up when I typed my comment, what follows I copies and pasted directly.
In pursuit of truth, Azrael
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
In response to Jim C. Hines.
I have read your statements on the right to freedom of speech, however my statement still stands. I have the right to express myself however I please, someone may have the right to delete my comment. However I find it absolutely pathetic and petty to tell somebody else what they can and cannot say and then act as if theact ad if they are a beacon of truth. Such a declaration that such a person is educated, well researched and intelligent contradicts with the nature of the pursuit of knowledge. One cannot be a representative of objective truth if they shun the ideas of others, silence their adversaries and remain utterly ignorant. A true pursuer of wisdom and truth is forever humble and invites his ideological adversaries in respectable debate for the prospect of better educating himself. I suggest you take into consideration what I have said before you make a fool of yourself again on your own article. However, that being said, I do wish you the best of luck and I hope that you become more open minded and less toxic. It is in my best interest that the world becomes more accepting of ideas because all ideas matter. I find the left often discriminates against certain viewpoints before even contemplating them based on pure ideological affiliation. It’s sickening. #Stop-Liberal-Intolerance. Unlike my p olitical adversaries I am open to other ideas in the spirits of open debate and the pursuit of knowledge.
I leave this comment with one of my favorite quotes:
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
October 20, 2017 @ 8:17 pm
For myself and my female friends, when we hear a man describe himself as a “nice guy”, we automatically cringe — it’s a serious red flag suggesting that the guy really really is not nice. Truly nice, decent people don’t need to brag about how nice they are — it’s obvious. They act with decency, treat others respectfully, and when they screw up, they try to do better. They don’t treat women as investments which they will dump if they don’t eventually get sex. They treat women as people. Real, actual people, and not some exotic different species which cannot possibly be understood, but must be studied and exploited.
As far as “friend zoning”, the way I see it is this: if someone thinks my friendship isn’t worth their time, they are telling me that my character, my opinions, my actions, my hopes and dreams, have no value for them. Only my body does — because they do not want to interact with my character, my opinions, my actions, my hopes or my dreams, if they can’t have my body. This is not the mark of a nice person. This is the mark of someone who is uninterested in the whole of who I am. This is the mark of a user.
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2017 @ 8:44 pm
1. Yes, you are still in the moderation queue. I’m fine with differing opinions. I have no patience for deliberate ignorance.
2. You…you think this is a chat room? Wow.
3. This next part of my comment isn’t for you. I don’t expect you to grasp the point I’m about to make, or to respond with anything but defensiveness and nonsense. (That said, I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong on that.)
You came to my blog, where we were discussing sexual harassment. When told you were unwelcome, you refused to accept no for an answer. When you discovered I’d taken steps to prevent your comments from getting through, your immediate response was to look for a way to circumvent that boundary.
This is what we’re talking about. Your refusal to respect boundaries. Your unwillingness to accept when you’re told you’re not welcome. Your presumption that you have a right to my space. Your automatic attempt, upon encountering a boundary, to force your way past that boundary. And, presumably, your belief that you have every right to do what you’ve done, and that I’m the one being petty and pathetic and wrong.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you think I’m wrong. This is my space. I have the right to tell you no. None of your insults or justifications change that. Your sense of entitlement doesn’t give you the right to disregard another person’s boundaries.
The difference is that, unlike most cases of sexual harassment, Azrael has absolutely no power here. But the arrogant presumption that boundaries don’t apply to him? That’s at the heart of the problem.
Thank you, Azrael, for demonstrating that so clearly. I hope when you’re done feeling wronged, when you’ve finished coming up with more insults to hurl my way, you’ll take a moment to ask yourself why you felt you had the right to try to bypass my boundaries and force your comments onto my blog.
But either way, you’re done here.
October 20, 2017 @ 10:07 pm
[More troll food for the goblins.]
October 20, 2017 @ 10:15 pm
Wow, I would reference Lewis’ Law, but I’m guessing those who would most need to recognize that won’t bother to do the research t know what it means. Thank you, Jim, for not just blocking trolls, but using them to illustrate the exact point about not respecting boundaries. Interesting how it can be frustrating and hilarious at the same time.
Anyone wanna bet whether Azrael or the others really drive your point home by trying to cross your boundaries and post after you are asleep and can’t block them, but completely miss the obvious parallel there?
October 20, 2017 @ 10:19 pm
Whoops, was I ninja’ed while I was typing? I’m not sure, I can’t really understand what After Thought is even trying to say. Is it a troll or not? I’m confused.?
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2017 @ 10:24 pm
Ken – I’m voting troll. Or possibly a poorly-written bot. Either way, I’ve tossed their comment to the goblins.
October 20, 2017 @ 10:39 pm
Does you then also acknowledge the myth of the good girl? Many women on the surface seem nice, sweet, caring, and supportive; but then they turn out to be emotionally manipulative and self centered. Then they’ll cheat or strike you if she doesn’t get here way. Do you acknowledge this?
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2017 @ 10:51 pm
To paraphrase Margaret Atwood, men like Ahmed are afraid women might turn out to be manipulative or self centered. Women are afraid men will harass, stalk, rape, and/or kill them.
October 20, 2017 @ 11:03 pm
“Right to free speech”?
What those comments tell me is that they have failed to read and comprehend the first word of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. It is the word “Congress…” This is your space, as you’ve pointed out, and you’re not Congress.
I wonder if those same folks who scream “free speech” are the same ones who argue that the Second Amendment means we have the right to have a gun… never mind that the words “A well regulated Militia” are the *first four words* to said amendment.
But I digress.
Jim, thank you for writing this, and for stating “There is no such thing as a Nice Guy”.
A z r a e l
October 21, 2017 @ 1:08 am
[Shocking nobody, Azrael continues to refuse to accept no for an answer. Fortunately, Golaka the goblin chef has an old recipe for boundary-violating troll…]
October 21, 2017 @ 10:32 am
However, what they have successfully done is to hijack the discussion, and make it about them. Unfortunately.
A z r a e l
October 21, 2017 @ 1:23 pm
[Two more comments from Azrael, despite his being told to stop. (He insists it’s apples and oranges to compare his refusal to respect boundaries to sexual harassers who refuse to respect boundaries.)]
Jim C. Hines
October 21, 2017 @ 1:48 pm
Azrael has wasted enough of everyone’s time, so any future comments from him will go directly into the garbage.
He was such a beautiful illustration of what I was talking about, though. He admits he’s ignoring boundaries, but it’s not the same, because he’s being “sincere.” He’s behaving in a “respectable manner” as he violates my boundaries. He’s not like those other trolls.
In other words, he’s so busy thinking of himself as a Nice Guy he’s incapable of recognizing how creepy his behavior is.
October 21, 2017 @ 2:10 pm
Bravo, Jim. I would normally link my site but since you have trolls and I don’t want to catch them … . They are like bedbugs.
October 21, 2017 @ 4:39 pm
A little while back, I came across what I consider to be the perfect response to people who defend the accused by saying they can’t have done it, because they’re such a “nice guy” or whatever (and I think it applies to anything, from sexual harassment to murder):
Ted Bundy (you know, the serial killer and rapist) worked at a suicide prevention hotline.
That’s it. The most horrible people can hide their true nature. They can seem normal, even charming, and the sick part is that the *worst* ones are probably the best at hiding it. Just because someone seems like a nice person doesn’t mean that they are, or that they are all the time.
October 21, 2017 @ 4:44 pm
My first husband was and is considered a Nice Guy. He punched me, he raped me, he played an amazing game of gaslighting me, then wept when I finally got the nerve to divorce him.
October 22, 2017 @ 2:55 am
Many of the serial boundary-crossers use being pathetic or making one feel sorry for them as a way to get inside a woman’s defenses. We are taught so carefully by society that we as women must be gentle, nurturing people that we let people who appear hurt get through our self-protections. I have had a weakness in this area exploited by a man who nearly everyone thought was funny and fun and harmless. Hell, I think he thought so himself, but he wasn’t. And once he was inside, he was able to do a lot of damage to me and friends because he was a serial boundary-crosser, and an emotionally dangerous misogynist.
Another point is that not all men who predate women are entirely conscious of doing so (though many are, too). And expressly conscious of it or not, they still do the damage to the women and girls. So ultimately, just because someone doesn’t seem *aware* they are crossing boundaries does not make them less responsible for doing so. We, anyone, still has the right to hold that person accountable for the behavior. But them not seeming to know it themselves can make us disbelieve our own assessments of them. We are, again, taught as women to doubt our own understanding of reality when it conflicts with a man’s.
Incidentally, Jim–excellent use of the example you were given by “Azrael”. I almost laughed out loud watching him “hoist by his own petard”! He was, in fact, *exactly* the type of serial boundary-crosser that you were talking about. Thank you.
October 22, 2017 @ 7:48 pm
I’ve heard two types of ‘Nice Guy’ definitions in the past decade. Most likely man’splaining so please bear with me;
One is the gaslighter, the Nice Guy persona presented to everyone outside their circle of victims. Also presented to the victims as well, aka psychological abuse.
Second definition I’ve heard is the the guy that declaims “I’ve been nice! I treated you like a human! Now give me a cookie!” (Obvious euphemism is obvious.)
shutting up now.
October 22, 2017 @ 10:26 pm
I read this blog post when it first appeared and nodded to myself in agreement.
I have just come back to read the comments and am both grateful for your (Jim’s) attention to the trolls and saddened by the clueless trolls that are out there.
Thank you for this and for all the other thoughtful comments. I Have nothing to add except my agreement.
October 23, 2017 @ 11:17 am
Yeah, I see those a lot. I also see the “I didn’t do anything wrong! I wouldn’t *rape* somebody”–from a person who will still push flirting or touching, etc. The “well, I am not as guilty as *that guy over there*, so I expect you to ignore the guilt I *do* have” type. They are insidious because so many men and women actually buy into the comparison/contrast argument, and don’t look at them as different symptoms of the same problem.
October 25, 2017 @ 12:48 pm
So many people seem to simply take this as a given, the way the proverbial “Paris idler” assumed that topiary bushes simply grew that way.
Boys are trained to turn their urges into boundary-crossing and attempts to conquer women. They’re trained to see sex as something they take and girls lose.
(Predator-prey dynamic.) And if they don’t at least give lip service to wanting to take as much as they can get, by whatever means they can get away with using, they get mocked as unmanly “wusses” or worse.
This is reinforced by the “romantic” tropes we see in media, in jokes and stories, etc., where “love” is defined as a man ignoring a woman’s “no” and pushing against her boundaries until she gives in and falls in love with him. There’s just so much unbearable rapiness that is seen as normal and even desirable and anyone who is put off by it (like me) is seen as practically mentally ill.
What has always amazed me is not that so many man turn out like Harvey Weinstein, but that so few do. I think most men don’t really enjoy treating women like sex dolls, but they’re afraid that the world will see them as unmasculine if they are caught treating women like humans. And that programming/brainwashing is stuck inside, even if they consciously rebel against it, and it can come out in some form under the right circumstances.
It’s in this sense that I fully agree with Jim that there are no “nice guys;” at best, there are men who are better at not going along with the programming.
And it’s the ones who deny that who I most suspect are underneath it all the sort of rapey jerks society has programmed them to be.
October 26, 2017 @ 5:08 pm
(I’m the first two Beths, not the one with the abusive ex-husband).
Funny about that “most men as teenagers were pervs and idiots”. I raised three boys (well, still raising one, he’s 17), and none of them have ever been pervs or idiots — because their father and I held them accountable for their behavior. In fact, one of them has been in a relationship with a strong, smart, funny, talented and lovely woman since he _was_ a teenager. If you give a kid a free pass to misbehave, it’s not surprising if they take it.
November 17, 2017 @ 5:07 am
Thanks for this, Jim… I can’t even tell you what an unfortunately rare delight it is to see men who consistently stand up and call out this behavior. This post and the comments (well, most of them, anyway) are a beautiful blend of insightful and supportive.
I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot tonight after happening across a Twitter thread from a woman talking about how being hit on by even an incredibly drunk woman is a completely different and more considerate experience than being hit on by men even when they’re sober. Replies on that from men mostly boiled down to “wahhh don’t say it bothers you when guys hit on you because I have ANXIETY and recognizing your limits and lack of interest makes it WORSE! I’ll be sad and alone forever because I already can’t talk to women and now I’m even more self-conscious!” And I just thought it was funny because, as a woman who also has anxiety, especially around trying to approach anybody like this, there’s never been a single thought in my head that the problem I have is anything but my own anxiety or inexperience, much less to blame it on the other person and their response. Never has it crossed my mind that people should somehow violate their own comfort level to give me a better chance of chatting them up because I get anxious about it. Nor have I ever thought I had any god-given right to anybody else’s time or attention. And these are all the same dudes who always jump in to “not all men” every conversation at every possible opportunity, even as they demonstrate the exact behavior being discussed, like what’s happened here.
It’s impossible to even have a conversation about this stuff without 20 fedoras jumping in to shout “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN?! WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF US?!” So I doubly appreciate your moderation policy, Jim. 😀
November 17, 2017 @ 11:07 am
I am a widowed woman. When I was young and single, I was approached often by men, at conventions, at college parties, etc. I had to make my own decisions about these men, and defend my limits rigorously. It happened rather a lot, especially at cons.
Then I married.
Like a light, almost all of the attention stopped. I “belonged to someone”. All I had to do was say, “I’m married”, or “Thank you, but my husband wouldn’t like it”.
But *I had to SAY it*.
It was my goddamn shield, and I had to pull it out a couple of times a day at a con. Yes, it was married priviledge. It was also necessary a couple of times, in order to keep myself from being groped.
And it worked.
I wasn’t worth respecting, only my husband was.
Now that I am widowed, I am also heavy, and therefore not generally sought out by such men. But the fact that for my safety, I had to appeal to a man’s respect for another man–there is something very wrong there, and I feel kind of a failure to womankind to have played that card. All I can say is that, at the time, I had to protect myself any way I thought I could.
Yes, Jim. Thank you for doing your best. That is all I can do, that is all anyone can, but you are very rigorous in trying, and I respect that.