We’re all familiar with the trope of the typical “nice guy”: the lovable boy-next-door who is just unlucky in love. Often, the object of the “nice guy’s” affections is his best female friend, who inevitably is in love with a jerk who treats her terribly. The “nice guy” then laments that he doesn’t understand why she doesn’t like him back because he’s the only man that treats her right. Sound familiar? That’s because we see this trope constantly reflected in mainstream media—for example, the character of Cameron in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. Goofy Cameron (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is in love with popular girl Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), and attempts to woo her through showing her what a “nice guy” he can be compared to her current love interest, jerky football player Joey (Andrew Keegan). The problem arises when Cameron starts to get angry at the fact that all of his “niceness” did not result in a date with Bianca. And now we’ve arrived at the ultimate problem with the “nice guy”—they’re actually not that nice. In fact, they kind of suck.
Now, this definition of a “nice guy” does not apply to genuinely nice guys. I know those exist in the world, and I am grateful for that. This particular breed of “nice guy” assumes that there is a direct causation between treating a woman “right” (aka like a human being) and sleeping with her. Cameron felt that because he tutored Bianca, listened to her problems and generally didn’t treat her like shit, that he deserved to be with her. And there lies my issue with the dreaded “nice guy”: the fact that he thinks he DESERVES anything. Niceness does not mean a woman owes a man anything. In fact, most of the things that Cameron (and the majority of “nice guys”) does are things that any decent human being should treat their friends. Also, treating someone kindly and then expecting sex creates an awkward exchange dynamic that further objectifies women.
The “nice guy” is also problematic because the frustration and rejection he feels after a woman dares to not feel the same way about him can lead to dangerous consequences for women. Elliot Rodger murdered six people in Santa Barbara, California last summer because he felt unfairly rejected by women throughout his life. Rodger said that life was not fair, and chillingly states in one of his last videos:
“You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. I will punish you all for it.”
While Rodger’s case was very extreme, it still draws a link between thinking that women “owe” you something and the acts of violence and rage that can ensue when that “debt” has not been paid.
The bottom line is, women are human beings and deserve to be treated with respect and decency. Period. There should not be a follow-up sentence saying, “And if I do X, Y and Z, she is required to feel the same way about me and if she doesn’t she’s a bitch who only likes bad boys.” “Nice guys” need to start understanding that expecting sex for being a decent person isn’t “nice” at all. And to all of the genuinely nice guys, girls and non-binary identified humans out there: call out these fake “nice guys” for what they are actually saying. Let’s make sure this trope of “nice guys” actually DOES finish last.