Why Everyone Should Be Insulted By The Term "Friend Zone"

By Lizzie Plaugic

About a week ago, I wrote a Nerve article about sex terms that need to be retired, and without meaning to, I kicked off a heated debate about the term "Friend Zone," focusing on misogyny, miscommunication, and um, helping women move. Some people, including me, think "Friend Zone" has a misogynistic undertone. Others don't. I'm all for the open exchange of ideas, so let's try to wade through this together, shall we?

At the most basic level, "being in the Friend Zone" means you're into someone in a romantic sense, but they see you as a platonic friend. And everyone — men and women — is susceptible to this experience. It's a bummer, we know. We alllll know.

But if we're honest, in popular culture, the term most frequently refers to something that is done to men, by women. That's the problem. "Friend Zone" implies a sort of capricious, unfair act, perpetrated by the vagina-ed set.

Chris Rock examines this in one of his stand-up routines: "Men don't have platonic friends. We just have women we haven't fucked yet. I mean, we've got some platonic friends, but they're all by accident — every platonic friend I've got is some woman I was trying to fuck, I made a wrong turn somewhere, and ended up in the Friend Zone: 'Oh no! I'm in the Friend Zone!'"

But I don't think Chris Rock actually has a sum total of zero platonic female friends. I think he's playing with this idea that there's some core difference between the way men and women view relationships, and that men are incapable of viewing women as anything other than potential lays. The idea of the "Friend Zone" devalues actual platonic friendships, because it implies that all of the "friend-ish" things that men could do with women are just a ruse for sex-getting. Rock also jokes that a man in the Friend Zone is just "a dick in a glass case" put on reserve while a woman tries to fuck someone better. Using this logic, a woman would be nothing more than a vagina surrounded by a moat. The Friend Zone objectifies both parties — neither is more than a sex organ whose sole purpose is to pursue or be pursued by the other.

Nerve commenter Slav succinctly sums up the other side of the argument:

"There is nothing inherently misogynistic about the 'friend zone' — it is a valid concept because it reflects a common social phenomenon."

Slav, I love you (as a friend), but I think the term is inherently misogynistic, because in common usage, it implies that an injustice has been done, and that someone has been deprived of sex that they've rightfully earned — that they deserve. But no one deserves sex, not even Ryan Gosling. If you say you're "in the Friend Zone," you've just created a space where, through no fault of your own, the person you were pursuing put you in a no-man's-land of eating pizza without touching knees and late-night discussions without sex. But in actuality, you haven't been moved to a new relationship sector, and your train to Vagina Heaven hasn't suddenly been derailed — you just didn't know which track you were on in the first place. Maybe use of the term is evidence of a breakdown in communication, but it's not a reflection of some social phenomenon wherein women perniciously sort their relationships into Would Fuck and Would Never Fuck, But Would Watch a Movie With.

NEXT: "The last two people I've had sex with for an extended period of time, I'd known platonically for at least three years..."


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