Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Nice Guys

oohhhh. This is a good one.

Typhonblue has a rant up about "Nice Guys" vs. "Jerks"... (Hugo has an entirely different rant up about this article, but it triggered way different things for me).

Who would you rather date? (for those of you, fair chiklits, with an interest in dating men).

She has some interesting stuff up, and some good thoughts. But I worry when she says she's happy to have Jerk boyfriend who'll hit her back when she hits him. If you guys are smacking the crap out of each other in anger, you shouldn't be together.

But that's me. I still like to pretend that men and women can be in equal, respectful, loving relationships where they make each other better instead of dragging each other down into a pit of abject despair.

I'm old-fashioned that way.

I constantly hear Nice Guys ranting about how this woman who is just gorgeous, just like a model, is living with this good-looking, unemployed, alcoholic dickwad when she could get any man she wanted. Nice Guys never seem notice that the woman is an unemployed alcoholic dickwad.

Ohhhh boy. Yea. Ain't that the truth.

My buddy Jem: "She seems like such a nice girl. Why is she with that asshole, Kameron?"

Me: "Cause she's an asshole? Stop thinking with your dick and pretending it's your logic."

I have had a good many "nice guy" friends who I got to listen wax on about how amazing some woman was (and in high school, these were usually the "experienced" women - the ones who slept with four or five different guys every year - only, not with them), how "no one else really understands her," how "she's just so sad all the time, so confused, I could help her," how "I don't understand why she comes and talks to me and has sex with him."

Believe me, buddy: it's better for you that she's sleeping with him. They deserve each other. That woman ain't no soft cookie. She'll eat you alive. Or, hell, the one I'm thinking of would have eaten *me* alive, too.

The "all women are goddesses" lament is a problem because it creates a dichotomy. If all women are goddesses, but the goddess doesn't want you, you start to resent women, and "they" get pushed onto the flip side of that, which is "whore."

The problem with worship is what happens when you lose your faith. You tend to want to destroy everything you believed in.

And I've met "Nice Guys" who did that, too.

Nice Guys are incapable of discerning differences in the personality traits of women. Perhaps this is why Nice Guys always bemoan the model-types who date Jerks, rather then the average types who date Jerks. Since all women have the same personality – beatific, angelic, perfect – there is no way Ms. Plain Jane can compete with a beautiful woman for the attention of a Nice Guy via any positive character qualities she might posess. Beauty is the only criteria for judging women in the eyes of a Nice Guy. Thus the Nice Guy’s astounding tendency to complain about how no woman notices him, while a Nice Girl is trying to say hello.

Yep. These are the Nice Guys who'll sit over coffee with me lamenting about all of the amazing women who aren't interested in them, even though they open the door for them and everything. Often, I'll try and sneak something in like, "Maybe if you were employed and had some passion about something, she might look twice at you," but that might be stretching it a little thin with them.

The worst sitting-over-coffee-with-a-nice-guy thing is when you're listening to him moan about how great the hot chick with Major Issues really is (cause he can just see into her soul), while all you really want to do it is leap across the table and have sex with him right there.

Being a not-hot chick with minor issues, you either fall off the Nice Guy radar, or they put you on it as "goddess," and don't treat you like a real person.

And I think that's what the author was really getting at: guys who actually act like themselves, who say, "This is me," and treat you like a real person are the sorts of people you want to hang out with.

Guys who pull on a Nice Guy hood and then bitch because they're moving all of the pieces around and not getting any "reward" for it (like, say, sex), aren't really Nice Guys at all. They just think they are.

Here's where I start to worry about her rant:

Because my Jerk boyfriend doesn’t carry my pack, I’ve gotten that much stronger and more rational about what I pack. Because he doesn’t give me his jacket, I learn to remember it so I have it even when he can’t offer his. Because he doesn’t always drop everything and tend to my emotional ills, I’ve become more independent and capable of tending to them myself. Because he hits me if I hit him, I’m reminded that I’m accountable for my actions. Because he doesn’t reward my bad behavior, he’s helped me mature and grow up.

Cause it's your boyfriend's job to play dad?

The hitting thing bugs me, but there's something to what she says, and here's where I agree: I'd rather I was treated like a human being than an angel. That doesn't mean telling me I'm a fucking loser, stupid, or hitting me. That's not treating me like a human being either.

What is does mean is that if you get me a dozen roses every week when, in fact, I actually don't like roses, you're not actually being all that nice to me (yes, I had somebody who did this). What it means is that you haven't heard a word I've said, and you're getting the roses for yourself, which is great: but don't pretend it's about me. You're living in a fantasyland about the way the dynamics of a "relationship" are supposed to work, not being yourself, and not respecting me (as a side note: it turns out he liked roses, and wouldn't have minded me getting him roses... now, that I can deal with. Shit, guy, tell me these things, OK? No, darling I don't "think it's gay." Damn. This is why communication is important).

And what I see when I look at men who try very hard to be "nice guys" and then wonder why they aren't getting dates with the sorts of women they want (and there are, indeed, some who are indeed quite happy to date women who look like real people), are guys who are trapped in "this is the way it's supposed to be" script.

As nice as that script may work for imaginary women living in fantasyland, you're going to get more affection if instead of playing by a set script, you listen to what the hell she's saying and make some alterations in your "affection" tactics. If she doesn't like flowers, find out what the hell she likes. And - and this is important - if she disrespects you, leave. Because I wouldn't expect a woman to stay with a guy who disrespected her any more than I'd expect a guy to. Cause people are people, and if we can get away with being assholes, most of us probably will. And who the hell really wants to be with somebody who doesn't respect themselves?

I'm obviously carrying around a lot of bias against guys who described themselves as "nice," because when I sit down with them, they sound a lot like martyrs. I used to describe myself as a "nice" girl. But you know, I realized being nice was, in fact, really boring. I got a few dates that way, but they weren't with people who were very interesting, and there was going to come a point where I was going to be who I was, and he would either freak out, or try and get me back to being "nice."

So I don't bitch that I'm not dating anyone because I'm "nice." In fact, I'm not dating anyone by choice - the people who've made inquiries or who I've met haven't done much for me, and I'm not yet at the point where I'm ready to actively pursue.

But I did used to bitch about being nice and unnoticed, so I know where some of these guys are coming from. I know all about what it is to try and play by the script, and not have it work, and not know why.

In my case, it was because I never got to be myself, so I never had any fun, so the guy I was with didn't have much fun (or if he did, it wasn't enough fun for me to continue).

The Nice Guy, while searching for a Goddess, eventually turns into a non-person, too, and might even become somebody he's not so sure he really wants to be.

Find out who you are first, before you go looking for a woman to fill up the void in your life.

You might realize that that was the problem all along.

19 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Typonblue trolled Hugo's blog for a long time slamming feminists because we dare say that men should be responsible for themselves. So while some of her instincts are good, she misses the mark completely. Witness the beating remark--lurking in there is the belief that men only hit women in retaliation. In reality, men who hit women usually do so to control them. 

Posted by Amanda

Anonymous said...

Damn good post.

I've read all three pieces and they are quite interesting. I understand that nice guys aren't, necessarily, and that jerks are not people I want to be involved with, but I have finally figured out that there is some middle ground. I had to stop being so concerned with making sure I was being nice and deal with myself first, though, or I never would have gotten there. If you can't be honest with yourself about who you are, you're screwed, and not the least because of the relationships you are in. 

Posted by Wendryn

Anonymous said...

"She has some interesting stuff up, and some good thoughts. But I worry when she says she's happy to have Jerk boyfriend who'll hit her back when she hits him. If you guys are smacking the crap out of each other in anger, you shouldn't be together."

I agree with that. At least she's being somewhat fair, I guess. It irks me when some other women suggest that their boyfriends/husbands are violent thugs because they hit BACK, while believing that women themselves have the right to hit FIRST. No one should be hitting anyone, no matter how big or small people may be.  

Posted by bmmg39

Anonymous said...

"She has some interesting stuff up, and some good thoughts. But I worry when she says she's happy to have Jerk boyfriend who'll hit her back when she hits him. If you guys are smacking the crap out of each other in anger, you shouldn't be together."

I agree with that. At least she's being somewhat fair, I guess. It irks me when some other women suggest that their boyfriends/husbands are violent thugs because they hit BACK, while believing that women themselves have the right to hit FIRST. No one should be hitting anyone, no matter how big or small people may be.  

Posted by bmmg39

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the background, Amanda. Yea, the hitting thing was just... weird.

There was enough... OK stuff there that I felt like I could take it to a slightly different place that was more positive, but knowing some background lets me go back and read over her post again with some context. 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

All this "Nice Guy" stuff has me flashing back to high school and college, when I was precisely that guy.

Eventually I wised up, because it's hard to say things like "it's easier for women to be in relationships than men" for very long if you have any mathematical ability whatsoever. 

Posted by Jeff

Anonymous said...

Not knowing anything about her or her relationship I figured that the hitting thing was hyperbole - but if it's not then it is a bit disturbing. She also characterizes women in a way that I'm not particularly comfortable with either.

All in all I agree with it. I'm not quite sure why Hugo thought that it was an attack on him (though if she was trolling his blog a while back that would go a long way to explaining it) since I just see the rant as a wake up call - that being a "nice" person doesn't mean that you are a good, or kind person. That "niceness" is generally just a cover for insecurity and the lack of a spine and that it turns to meaness and spite very, very quickly.

Men should not be coddling their women, and women should not be coddling their men. Although I wouldn't go so far as typhonblue since opening doors, lending jackets and the like are common courtesy issues, I don't want a guy who is always going to try to fix things for me. I can do it myself thank you.

I've dealt with too many men (the only ones who ever wanted to date me) who were in awe of me. Now, I'm pretty fabulous, but I'm not perfect. I'm aggressive and decisive but that doesn't mean that I always want to make the decisions. I don't want a jerk, I don't want a "nice guy." I want a good man (or woman, but that's another story). But if I had to choose between the two I'd choose the jerk - he's more likely to be attractive and interesting and there will be far fewer repercussions when I dump him for being an idiot.  

Posted by Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Hi, again Amanda. So trolling is classified as disagreeing with a point of view? I don't remember ever engaging in troll tactics while I was at hugo's board. I never insulted you or the others who responded to me, nor did I shirk away from explaining my position. Further, what I was arguing against was women's lack of responsibility, not men *shirking* responsibility.

BTW, the violence my boyfriend and I engage in does not go beyond slapping eachother in the arm. You know, the kind that *every* single wife on a sit-com does to her husband when he says something "stupid"?

But, aside from that, I believe everyone has the right to chose the level of violence they will tolerate in a relationship and not be judged for it. If a woman wants to live with a man who slaps her, that's fine by me. I don't judge her choice to live the way she wants to. Nor do I judge if it's the other way round for men.

Both men's rights activists and feminists are hypersensitive to the natural realities of a relationship.  

Posted by typhonblue

Anonymous said...

Ohhhhhhhhh shit. Violence in relationships.

Oh, man. Do I really want to take this one on?

I'm gonna go jogging and come back to it...


Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

"If a woman wants to live with a man who slaps her, that's fine by me."

As long as we all acknowledge the difference between the BDSM lifestyle ("safe, sane, and consensual") and domestic violence. 

Posted by Ab_Normal

Anonymous said...

I liked the post Kameron, I thought it was fairly insightful. I think I'll agree to disagree with typhonblue on the violence in relationships bit. I think I understand where she's coming from as per her comments, still it's a pretty silly thing to believe in as a general principle. Of course it sounds 'way cooler' than it looks in reality.

It's typically reasonably difficult for any party in a relationship to simply 'choose the level of violence they will accept in a relationship'. This can all too often degenerate into a sort of 'Spy vs. Spy'/ tit for tat escalation deal. You can think you are choosing something short of drunken knife play (think Angelina and Billy Bob), and wind up in a much more precarious place very quickly. And that's just *imagining* that you are indeed playing with a 'nice guy' here who will not hospitalize you in order to prove a point and/or his dominance. (OK, that's when I leave, right?). Yes, you might be able to afford this pattern of behavior when young, but how often can you afford to have your leg broken by your BF?

Then we get into the real world of asymmetric warfare. There is a limited population of women who are willing and capable of kicking the ass of the average male. Yes, it's not as small as imagined, but it's also not as large as hoped for either. While typhonblue may feel comfortable negotiating such parameters in her relationship, this does not mean as a matter of course that this is possible or even likely for all or even most partners in their relationships. It's best to consider any real substantial violence in any intimate relationship as a hopefully rare event that need not be repeated. Ever. Anything more is abusive, and actionable by law, and sanctioned against as such. (Again as noted above, this is outside of certain 'scenes', but Typhonblue has not indicated this).

And yes, all this would be the same sort of breezy philosophical debate people love to have on the net if we just ignored the very real costs here. The CDC will tell you that the number one injury to pregnant women is violence from their partners. The abuse rate among married women is also shockingly high. And yes, before anyone gets too snarky here, I'm talking about hospitalizations. Broken bones, shattered spleens, ruptured bladders from well aimed kicks. Now tell me again how a pregnant wife is supposed to 'negotiate' the level of violence acceptable to her? She might have once perhaps, but not at all times and under all conditions. The real true abuser will wait for those times to inflict the most pain. That's why you're with a nice guy who understands that. If you were with a true 'jerk', you'd know differently. Really.

[And no, that's not my real email.]  

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

I'd already read your reply and I'd decided not to comment, because I can tell by this line...

"That's why you're with a nice guy who understands that. If you were with a true 'jerk', you'd know differently. Really."

...that you didn't really grok the essence of my essay.

BTW, according to the findings in the Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Violence-Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments... the total number of people admitted to emergency for the results of intimate violence is... 243, 000. According to another source the total number of people admitted to emergency for *just* dog bites is... 368,245.

I'm afraid I can attest to the truth of these statistics. Both my boyfriend and I have recieved far more injuries from our cats then eachother. In fact I'm still recovering from the hellish experience following our decision to give our dandruffy and somewhat oily cat a bath.

Since I don't associate with dogs, I rarely go up ladders and I don't drive a car, the fact that I'm dating a guy probably will have little effect on my plan to live forever.

Posted by typhonblue

Anonymous said...

Thanks TB for that update on the logic front. Emergency room visits are not quite a proxy for assaults, which may or may not be treated on an emergency basis. Logic flees at your approach. But again, those dogs do not have to be yours, right? They can be your neighbors, the junk yard dog, the store guard dog, the police dog. You don't have to be 'intimate' with him or her, right? Yep, there's lots of dog bites out there. Lots of kids getting bit and yes sometimes even killed by dogs. Still I think it's much, much more likely that you'll be killed by an intimate partner than your dog.

But thanks for looking into the numbers for us. I know you'll feel safer up in Canada than down here. It's way more deadly down here. Keep your stick on the ice!  

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

Re: violence in relationships...

Yea, I see you two took the debate back over to Hugo's, which is great. For regular readers, though, I did want to weigh in on my thoughts about violence in relationships, as violence/coercion/intimidation between two people or among a group of people is less about broken bones and police reports and more about power; demonstrating who's in control, smacking each other around when one of you gets "out of line," grabbing, reaching, screaming (particularly, screaming verbal abuse of the "You're fucking stupid" variety), hitting one another in anger - that's about power dynamics, and every time there's a power play, somebody "wins" and somebody's "put in their place."

The reason so many women with an interest in women's equality get so "touchy" about violence perpetrated against women is because violence is a basic tool of control, and one of the reasons many men find it advantageous to pursue very young women - or, at least - women significantly younger than themselves. They tend to be less sure of themselves, smaller, and likely weaker.

Having never dated somebody who was significantly bigger/stronger than I was (I'm 5'9, and while dating said guys was around 180-190lbs, and the two men I'll owe up to having relationships with were 5'9 190 and 5'7 180, respectively), I can also say that power in relationships doesn't neccessarily have to do with size.

Though I had a very good buddy-buddy relationship with the second guy, the first one played a lot of power points (he was physically stronger, scored better on a number of standard tests, had money, knew that making quips about my weight would sink me, knew when to use the "selfish bitch" card, etc). And the physical intimidation and "selfish bitch" comments were all about shoring up power over me because he saw that there were a number of aspects of my life that I had together, and he didn't.

Many young women, when first entering a relationship (myself included), believe(d) they were coming in on equal ground, on an equal footing, and were very confident about where they would draw their "abuse" line. You know where the point is at which you'll walk.

The problem with this is that though you may enter a relationship you believe to be equal, there are social forces working on both of you, patterns of behavior learned from your parents, from other people in your lives, from the aforementioned sitcoms, that are going to screw with your power balances.

So though your boundary may be "If he hits me, I'll walk," it may mean that you'll be putting up with threats of violence (including having things thrown at you), coersive sex, and verbal abuse, all the while thinking that's what you need to do to maintain a relationship and be a "good woman." And if the relationship falls apart, there are a lot of significant social pressures that make a woman think that this is her fault, that she needs to try harder, she needs to put up with more.

And that's why many feminists get concerned about violence - because when many women start from a base point where they believe that they have to "put up with" a certain amount of abuse that they don't want in order to be loved, that's bad shit. That's letting people think they're chattle, that they have no will of their own, that being smacked around should be something they praise because it means they've got a boyfriend.

In a perfect world, couples could negotiate on a totally equal footing; and in the bedroom, many do. But we don't live in a perfect world.

Personally, any physical harm inflicted on me in anger, or the threat of personal harm, or angry verbal abuse of the, "You're a fucking dumb bitch," variety are now all things that would get me to the door. But when I was fifteen, I still stuck to the idea that "abuse" was all about black eyes and broken arms.

In fact, "abuse" is about power and control, and breaking down another person. Yes, in a perfect world, every woman (and man) would be strong enough all the time to walk away when she was being dominated, and would be clear on whether or not that's what she wanted. But when you're living in a society that glorifies male power over women, male physical power especially, there's going to be a blurry line between, "Is this what I really want?" and "Is this just what I've been socialized to want?"

And don't get me wrong: I would like nothing better than to be taking Ju Jitsu lessons with my boyfriend and practice moves on each other in bed all night, but it's taken me ten years of traveling, of interrogating power relations, of distinguishing between "this is what I want" and "this is what society tells me I want" to get there. And I have a feirce desire to let women know that they don't have to play by set power scripts or "put up with" somebody telling them that they're shit everyday. They can be powerful people with loud voices and still be loved and valued people.

I'm not big on violence between people. I see violence as the last resort of the cowardly. You move to violence when communication breaks down, when you run out of rational arguments.

And at its core, I believe, violence is just utterly rude. It shows a basic contempt for the humanity of somebody else; it violates their personal space, it acts as a tool of dominance utlized by the weak-willed to dominate the strong-willed in an attempt to break them down into somebody just as weak as the perpetrator.

It's mean. It's rude. It's not polite in the least.

So, TB, though you may feel that you have a strong, equal partnership that you believe is at the appropriate level of violence for you and your partner, a great many women aren't. A great many women stay with their partners because they can't see how they could be with anyone better, they believe the "punishment" they receive from their partners is a punishment meted out that they somehow "deserve" by sheer virtue of being born female.

And it's those women, and women who believe they really, really *want* to be dominated because that's how the script goes and "how could life be any different?" who I and many other feminists bleed for and talk to and try to help.

Because many of us have been those women. We've lacked a sense of self-worth while believing we were powerful. We put up with a lot of shit because we thought it was the only way to be loved. And after finding ourselves, after understanding some of the social pressures behind what we were doing, we want to engage other women in the conversation, and figure out together how to be the best people we possibly can be.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

Bmmg39 says "It irks me when some other women suggest that their boyfriends/husbands are violent thugs because they hit BACK, while believing that women themselves have the right to hit FIRST. No one should be hitting anyone, no matter how big or small people may be."

It is certainly true that no one should be hitting anyone and neither men nor women have the right to hit first. I would also like to point out that no one has a right to hit BACK either, if hitting back is for the purpose of retaliation. The law permits people to respond to violence with violence ONLY at the level necessary for self-defense.

If someone shoves me, I can shove him or her back if it necessary to protect myself from another imminent shove. But if someone shoves me and then turns to walk away, I can't run up and shove him or her from behind just because I feel like giving tit for tat.

Also, self-defense has to be limited to the force necessary for self-protection. Suppose a woman shoves a man and comes towards him to shove him again. It is perfectly legal for him to push her out of the way to prevent her from shoving him. But if he beats her to a bloody pulp, he has probably gone too far and will find himself charged with a crime.
She may be charged with assault as well, but she may be given immunity because the authorities need her testimony and will likely view his beating her to a bloody pulp as more dangerous and more serious than her shoving him.

These laws are gender neutral (as a woman, I can't shoot a man to prevent him from shoving me or run up behind to sock him in the back when he is trying to leave) and each situation must be assessed on a case by case basis.  

Posted by cmc

Anonymous said...

Avoiding the whole violence thing here like the plague, this post reminds me of my favorite quote on the topic. (Woman who said it had to go anonymous due to a stalker.)

"Nice Guys have built a whole persona and mystique about being Nice. Nice Guys like to rattle off their qualifications like: I don’t hit girls; I open car doors; I don’t interrupt; I bought her candy on our anniversary, which I remembered; I say bless you when she sneezes. Wow, Nice Guy, do you, like, breathe? Because that’s also a bare minimum dating qualification for most people, and not a positive entry on the ledger sheet there. The Nice Guy has listened, kind of, to women bitching about their mates, and somehow gotten the idea that A Nice Guy is so hard to come by that by exhibiting the barest traces of civilization, by not tearing apart his girlfriend’s pet and devouring it raw on the doorstep, he is a rare find indeed. He may not be smart, witty, fun, or have anything in common with the woman he’s chosen, but damnit, he’s a Nice Guy and that should be a free pass into her panties."  

Posted by Jennifer

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the additional comments Kameron, I think they were useful and valuable coming from a personal perspective. I agree that violence short of physical assault is also a serious issue, and one that is doubly difficult to address as it seems to be so damn common.

Me, I'm not going to touch the 'nice guy' thread other than to note for Jennifer and others that all the necessary conditions that may qualify one as a 'nice guy' may not be sufficient to satisfy your personal wants/needs/desires.

It is also no doubt true that fewer and fewer of the NG type are being 'produced', and despite being heavily selected against, everyone retains a modicum of dignity and respect about themselves, it's just a matter of differential manifestations. Al Capone was often described in his neighborhood as a 'sweetheart' for all his charitable works and the 'Dapper Don' of NYC was the same way. Still we know them as the vicious thugs they were, personally and professionally.

If at some level you don't enjoy having a comfortable realtionship with your partner and think that some level of abuse should be typical or expected, then perhaps it's time to reevaluate your expectations for and from an intimate relationship. That's probably a good point to seek out some sort of therapy.  

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say great post on violence in (hetero) relationships, Kameron. For any of us who've been there & had to fight long and hard with ourselves to get out of that mindset, it's always heartrending to hear other women talking about how they're "happy" to accept a certain level of abuse--whether emotional or physical--in their relationships. It's just nice to hear voices of sanity out there! 

Posted by Crys T

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