The Friend Zone Myth

In May of 2014, a 22-year-old man decided to kill 6 people in Isla Vista, California and cited women’s lack of interest in him as a big part of the blame. And enough people found reason to pity him for being in the “friend zone,” that it started a pretty important conversation.

When it takes a tragic shooting to start a conversation about male privilege, you hope for change. When that conversation shifts towards the “it’s not all men who are the problem” argument, you shake your head. When the #yesallwomen trending topic meets criticism like this because there are worse problems in the world, you want to fucking scream.

Flash forward more than 2 years, and some guys are STILL talking about this place called the “friend zone.” For those who are unfamiliar, the “friend zone” is a place that some men made up. It’s a place where they can retreat to when they begin to realize that they are not entitled to anything, particularly a woman’s body. Something is still missing from the conversation, and that missing piece allows men to overlook the core problem: that women are given the responsibility of men’s feelings.

I hear my friends talking about it all the time– they feel bad when a friend asks them out and they have to say no. They are so careful with their words, so careful to “let them down easy.” And even then, they feel guilty.

Here is the situation I’ve seen far too many times: Cisgender straight boy asks out cisgender straight girl. Girl, for whatever reason not owed to anyone, wants to say no. When a simple “no” should be enough, here is what she says instead- “I’m really sorry, I’m still working on getting over someone and I really can’t put myself in this kind of situation just yet. It’s just bad timing on my part.”

What she’s done here is made up excuses as to why he shouldn’t feel bad for her saying no. She’s taken responsibility of keeping his feelings unharmed. The problem here is that she never should’ve felt that responsibility in the first place.

Women who aren’t interested are not the problem. Men who think they get to blame women for lack of romantic interest are the problem.

So, to the men who place themselves in the “friend zone” because they think that they are owed something: Take a harder look at yourself than you are used to having to. It might take unlearning some of the things you’ve internalized over time, but try to understand the roots of this “friend zone.” There’s a reason why women do not have an equivalent.


If you’re interested in hearing from someone else on the subject, check out this slam poem by Dylan Garity.

4 thoughts on “The Friend Zone Myth

  1. This was SO AMAZING. I’d have loved it if you’d gone a little more in depth about how and why this mentality is perpetuated in society, and how it contributes to gender based sexual violence against women. Also, maybe one more sentence or so exploring the unequal position of men and women in today’s dating culture in general (maybe a follow-up article?). Why is it that men are expected to ask out women and women expected to reply in the first place? Why are these positions so rigidly gendered? Why do we feel bad for men who have the “hard part” of risking rejection, when rejecting is just as (if not more) difficult to do? Just some thoughts. Really awesome article. So on board with your message. #Boybye


    1. Thanks so much for your feedback! I hear you, there is so much left to say and I barely scratched the surface. I especially want to get talking about sexual entitlement, which ties in to this and is so SO important. And dating culture is another conversation that needs to be had, so glad you mentioned it- hopefully another post for another time!

      Thanks again for reading!


  2. the “friend zone” can go beyond even the initiation of romantic intrigue; sometimes someone (usually a man) constructs the friend zone when romantic intrigue is NOT initiated by them because when they fall into a friendship with a (usually a woman) some get the impression that the end result of this connection has to be “love” and/or sexual intimacy. When the girl clearly or subtly indicates she does not want an intimate relationship with said individual, the individual blames it on the status of “friend” rather than his lack of initiative, even though clearly the initiative would not have led to romance anyway. There simply was no connection. Its a more subconscious form of entitlement whereby the man believes himself to not even have to do anything, only make a connection with a girl for a romance to blossom and should said romance NOT blossom, the girl is effectively doing him harm and therefore he is the victim. The “Nice Guy” syndrome i.e a man ought to get love because he is a kind magical sun boy gestates from this notion…it all seems to connect I’m afraid.


  3. I agree 100%! There are so many forms of entitlement, most are so subconscious that those who illustrate that entitlement are mistaken as innocent by ignorance. But failure of introspection is no excuse.


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