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Sex + Cookies 2.0 | Episode #2: “Friend Zones”

This is a guest column by Sex + Cookies 2.0, whose advisers include Feministe contributor Echo Zen and students who’ve been pushing sex-positivity since before Tumblr made it cool. We’re honoured to be Feministe’s first relationship vloggers. 🙂

Welcome to Sex + Cookies, an advice column where we answer questions on sexual health and relationships, whilst mocking creepers, misogynists and their Republican Rape Caucus allies in Congress. Alright, time to dive into our next episode…

Of course, here’s a transcript…

Sex + Cookies 2.0 | Episode: “Friend Zones”

So, someone emailed this question to us…

“Nice first episode, but how can you talk about Nice Guys™ without mentioning the friend zone? You always hear guys complaining how they’ve been friendzoned by girls they want to date.”

Ah, yes, the friend zone, a.k.a. the worst hell on Earth for blokes who seek sex as a reward for being nice to women. Failure to receive female attention in return for being nice means you’ve been condemned to this friend zone.

The idea has become common enough that the Oxford Dictionary officially recognised the term in 2013. But as we’ve pointed out before, there’s nothing nice about believing that women owe you for being nice to them.

In simple words, Nice Guys™ primarily see women in terms of whether they’ll sleep with them or not.

This is the very definition of objectifying women, seeing them as commodities or prizes to be won. It’s also a core aspect of rape culture, or the belief that men are entitled to sex under certain circumstances. Rape culture is obvious when rape victims find themselves blamed for somehow causing others to violate them.

The friend zone is another manifestation. Men who do nice things for women supposedly deserve something in return, such as dates or sex or something. Women who refuse to deliver on this expectation are accused of being *****es, for not giving it up. Or they’re accused of being frigid or leading men on.

In a way, being attacked for not sleeping with a Nice Guy™ is the flip side of being slut-shamed. Sleep with too many men, and you’re a slut (according to Rush Limbaugh). Refuse to sleep with someone, and you’re a tease who won’t give up what men deserve from you.

Ultimately, the friend zone has no place in relationships where both parties respect each other’s desires and needs. If you think you’ve been friendzoned, think for a moment how your expectations may be turning people off.

In the end, you can’t compel people to be attracted to you, because that’s not how relationships work. You can only attract others without pressuring them, and that includes your friends.

As Feministe’s first vloggers, we’re not sure of the ideal format for these columns – and frankly Jill likely expects us to determine that ourselves, as sort-of pioneers. For now we’re thinking the first half should be the episode (since, y’know, that’s kind of important) and the second half will be commentary of our feelings behind the scenes, as feminist content creators…

If you saw the first episode, you can see this one got a visual revamp in response to everyone’s feedback. It was unexpected, since historically most videos on Feministe have netted only a dozen or so comments – we didn’t realise ours would receive 200, especially since no ninjas were involved. The feedback we got was thorough enough that we were able to make specific revisions in response – this is, after all, a community-powered project where each episode reflects ongoing input.*

And whilst the new layout is technically influenced by Swiss design – unobtrusiveness, white space, blah, blah, blah – we’ll go out on a limb and say that it also reflects feminist values, i.e. making content accessible to all, regardless of privilege. It’s easier now for people with disabilities to read/hear, gender-neutral in its palette (no patronising pink), and scalable down to viewers who lack computers and have to watch everything on their mobiles. That last point is something we observed from working with teens in lower-income neighbourhoods. Plus it’s now easier to close-caption in other languages for non-English speakers. If we’re being intersectional, we need to think of everything and everyone.

Ultimately though, the design serves the content. If it’s discreet enough that nobody notices or cares, we’ve done our job. That brings us to the content of this episode: friend zones. Did we cover everything relevant in less than three minutes? Was it useful to you? We mentioned in our previous column that we want these episodes to be tools you can share with friends, to avoid aggravating yourself with schooling them on consent myths or rape culture. Is this helping… or are you using these videos for another purpose we might be interested in knowing about?

Let us know what you think, and feel free to post questions below or submit one through our Tumblr. We’ll try putting out the next episode in two weeks!

* Special thanks to Jenna, Revolver, trees, Henry and tinfoil hattie

13 thoughts on Sex + Cookies 2.0 | Episode #2: “Friend Zones”

  1. While I have no problem with the concept of making all toys available to girls and boys alike, it bothers me just a bit to read the phrase “patronizing pink”, as if it’s somehow evil for women and girls to like the colour pink. I’m a lady who has loved the shade of pale powder pink ever since I was a little girl, and I still love pink. And I don’t think that makes me any less of a feminist.

    1. It’s the assumption that all girls and women like pink and the way it’s slapped on anything coded “feminine” that’s patronising, not anyone’s individual tastes. I like pink too (dusty rose is my fave) but I sure don’t want to see it plastered all over the shops, internet and so on.

  2. Hey-

    I could say a lot about this, but I guess the most important question I have is: who are you doing these clips for? To introduce guys to your way of thinking? To engender discussion about the topics, leaving some qustions to be answered? Or to reassure feminists that they are already thinking about this the right way? Because I think the approaches would have to be very different for each target group/intended goal of communication. So far, my impression would be it’s a clip designed to reassure feminists of their worldview. Which is perfectly fine – and it seems well done for that purpose -, it’s just not doing a lot for the first two (and possibly other) possible communication goals I mentioned.

    1. That’s something we’ve struggled a lot with. Initially, these videos were just to facilitate dorm discussions around sexuality and stuff, and now that Jill’s hosting the videos here, we’re serving a dual audience: students (possibly clueless ones who think not saying no means yes) and grizzled, seen-it-all commenters here.

      Ideally these videos are meant for other feminists to share with friends to introduce them to feminist ways of thinking of sexuality… but who knows if that’s the right way of going it? The lacklustre response to this episode versus the first (5 comments versus 197 last time) tells me we need to rethink why we do these videos, since even without any actors or props (which is intentional), they’re still insanely time-consuming to make…

  3. Liked the video overall, just a couple of things – one of the big issues I have with the “friend zone” is the idea that being friends with a woman is somehow a negative. Or that there’s no point in being friends with a woman (actually, dating a guy who doesn’t have women friends strikes me as a very bad idea).

    Also, you may want to vary the photos of women that you’re using to be just a titch more diverse, particularly if you want to be intersectional!

    1. Oi, your point about needing for more diverse photos of women is correct, but the solution’s not quite as simple. With the first episode, we definitely noticed most of our photos were of white women — which tinfoil hattie also pointed out — since that’s what most of our stock photos were.

      So for this second installment, we went more with graphics instead of photos, resolving to use more women of colour for the photos. But… because most of the photos were illustrating commodification of women (be it through media, rape culture or whatever), it ended up looking like exoticisation of women of colour. That wasn’t acceptable either, so we fell back on using standard photos of white women to avoid the problem, and buy some time to figure out a solution for the next episode.

      Honestly I don’t know what that solution is, other than to avoid using photos entirely and stick with graphics instead. But that’s not exactly easy…

  4. Okay, clearly we fumbled this one. Judging by the response or lack thereof, this second episode was a dud. That’s a humbling pill to swallow, since we got so many comments on the first episode. Either the novelty of a Feministe-hosted vlog has worn off, or we fell too far back on safe topics that don’t exactly engender spirited discussion. I personally figure it’s a combo of the two.

    We’re halfway done with our third episode (on myths of accidental rape), which at this point we’ll just burn through and post so we can get it over with, and then think back on our drawing board about what we need to do to make these columns worth discussing. Maybe we need to cover edgier, more controversial topics, or get a narrator with a more sarcastic, mocking edge. I don’t know, but we’ll think of something…

    1. If it helps, I usually read Feministe at work (>.> <.<) which means I can't watch videos, and I suspect I'm not the only one! It might just be that people need to wait 'til later to click.

      1. This is the case for me–usually I’m keeping one eye on the kid, or he’s napping and I don’t want to make noise, or there’re other people in the room reading or something. So I usually can’t watch videos.

    2. Eh, it’s been almost a whole business week — people would have said something if they had something to say, by now. I’m going to go with Occam’s razor and conclude this series isn’t ready for prime time yet.

      1. I wouldn’t call the series a bust yet. You’re still averaging 100 comments a post!

        This video is basically a continuation of the last video’s topic, and people may have said all they have to say about that topic in the last thread.

        Also I personally find “Nice Guys (TM)” and their imagined friendzones so obnoxious and juvenile (like, seriously, I was tired of them by the end of junior high, and I’m a dude) that I instinctively avoid not only them but any discussion of them that doesn’t include the blood-pressure lowering benefit of unapologetic self-satisfied mockery. And I’m usually the detached and diplomatic type. If that’s even a tenth of how some women feel about it, then that may be part of the problem right there.

      2. “You’re still averaging 100 comments a post!”

        Well… okay, it’s impossible to argue with that kind of cold logic! Actually your explanation that this discussion already played itself out last time makes the most sense, especially since most people have already said what they have to say on the topic of date-seeking creepers. The next episode will hopefully offer up some perspectives on consent that even people here may not have considered before (unless they read research journals for fun). We’ll see how that goes before I start biting my nails!

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