Is the “Friend Zone” Hell?


Men fear and hate it. They see it as a torture device invented by women.

If someone harbors any hostility toward you for “only” wanting to be his friend, he’s probably not the best friend or boyfriend. Your friendship is not a consolation prize – and the idea of being relegated to friend status hinges on the notion that he was expecting more in the first place.

Sadly, there is an even worse response than “sex or nothing.” This is what’s known as the “beta male” movement. According to the Urban Dictionary, a beta male is “an unremarkable, careful man who avoids risk and confrontation. Beta males lack the physical presence, charisma and confidence of the Alpha male.” Beta males see themselves as the “nice guys” that women are never attracted to sexually because they are all pursuing “bad boys” who are obviously wrong for them, if only they could see it.
This reaction turns toxic when it leads to anger at the women doing the overlooking of the betas. The “beta uprising” is a (we hope) theoretical rebellion of the supposedly second-class males in order to – I’m not sure what. Eliminate the alpha males so there’ll be less competition? Punish the women who’ve not had sex with the betas?
Some people claim that the threats of violence that can ensue are fantasies, pranks, or posturing. But Reddit, 4chan, and other anonymous groups and sites perpetuate the concept and provide places for the betas to egg each other on. The Colorado theater shooting and the Umpqua College incident have been claimed as part of the uprising. Even if these claims are untrue, I’ve read the threads on 4chan. They’re truly terrifying and appalling.
 So what’s the solution? Remove the term “Friend Zone” from our collective vocabulary? Socialize women so that they become the willing sex partner of anyone who asks? Or how about socializing men so that they understand that sex is a mutual choice, not a male entitlement? Socializing everyone to realize that friendship – between partners of any gender or gender identity – is a good thing?
I’m dubious, but it’s worth a try.

2 thoughts on “Is the “Friend Zone” Hell?

  1. Hi Janet,

    As a feminist guy I really enjoyed your article; one of my favorite rebuttals of the “friend zone” concept is when you look at it from the other side and say “Why do all these guys want to put me in the F**k Zone? It’s this thing where they don’t care about being friends with you and only want to have sex with you.” I don’t remember where I first heard that, but it made the absurdity of the whole Friend Zone concept even more obvious to me.

    One thing I wanted to check in on though was your use of the “beta male” concept, which in my personal experience I’ve mostly seen as a concept invented and used by “Men’s Rights Advocates”, “red-pill”ers, Pickup Artists, and other super gross dudes. As far as I can tell, their idea is that all men should adhere to toxic hypermasculine norms of “taking what is theirs” never backing down or showing weakness, etc. etc. barf, in order to quality as “Alpha Males”. Conversely, their assertion is that anyone who doesn’t adhere to those norms is a “beta”, “cuck”, or some other bizarre term used mainly to denigrate decent human behavior as aberrant and weak.

    Feminists, for example, are often accused of being “betas” and/or “White Knights” who are merely pretending to agree with women in order to trick our way past their defenses and get what obviously every guy is actually after, sex. *massive eyeroll*.
    Basically my perception has been that, like “Hipster”, “Beta” is something that nobody actually self-identifies as, but that you call other people in order to differentiate yourself from them:

    I’m sure this isn’t true for all usages of the term across all groups, but I just wanted to let you know that taking the Urban Dictionary entry as the correct usage is potentially amplifying the ideas spread by the same gross dudes you’re trying to critique. Other than that quibble, this was a super enjoyable article, and I thank you for writing it!


    1. Thank you for your very thoughtful and insightful comments. I read as much of the 4chan comments on the Umpqua College shootings, then asked friends, “What the hell is a ‘beta’?” On 4chan, several commenters self-identified as betas who supported the “uprising.” Of course they may have been just copycat wannabes. I went with the Urban Dictionary as a short, fairly comprehensible explanation of a phenomenon that I find incomprehensible, nut you’re right – I should have checked other sources besides them and my friends, all of whom were upset in the wake of Umpqua.

      Just to add to the collection of alternate names for betas, I have heard “incels,” for “involuntary celibates.”

      I must say I do really like your “flip” with the “F**k Zone.” It makes the whole issue clearer and I wish I’d thought of it!


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