One of the joys – and I use the term loosely – of my job is finding the many, many ways that people try to turn romance, sexual attraction and the lack thereof into something that it’s not. The greatest example, of course, is The Friend Zone: the phantom prison that women exile good, wholesome men into because FUCK YOU PENIS, THAT’S WHY. Of course there is that pesky issue that the Friend Zone doesn’t actually exist. It’s not a case of ladders or a way of keeping men on the hook for nefarious purposes. It’s just one person who doesn’t want to fuck the other, and another person – almost always a guy – who can’t get over it.
Over the years, I have seen many erstwhile sexual philosophers attempt to define The Friend Zone in many ways, from a scam to a social ill that needed to be corrected by the government. But in my time I have never actually seen someone try to make the case that The Friend Zone is actually a matter of national security. But hey, that’s exactly what Hans Fiene did over at The Federalist.
ACTUAL QUOTE TIME:
The latest numbers on American birth rates are in, and they yield only one reasonable conclusion: All of us need to start having more babies or else the upcoming demographic tsunami will consume our nation, cripple our social programs, and leave us with a future so bleak that our only source of joy will be the moment we’re chosen to receive the sweet, fatal kiss of the Obamacare Death Panels, the Trumpcare Firing Squads, or the OprahCare Hemlock Squadrons.
Perhaps I’m overstating the danger a bit (Doctor’s Note: OH YA THINK?), but the point remains: Americans need to raise our sagging birth rates. One of the best ways we can do so is by reversing the trend of Americans waiting longer to get married. So, apart from tearing down America’s institutions of higher education, which tend to slow down the recitation of wedding vows, how do we do that? It’s quite simple. We tear down the Friend Zone.
No, you are not misreading this. Fiene is starting things off by equating The Friend Zone as being a key contributor to the decline in birth rates.
Now, even if we ignore the fact that the US population is expected to grow to 400 million by 2051, that is still a breathtakingly stupid way to start an already stale and insipid hot take. More impressively, Fiene’s argument manages to get fractally dumber the deeper you go. It is, quite literally, Not Even Wrong. It is parked perpendicularly to reality.
Now, Fiene is claiming that this is 60% satire and only 40% serious. But you know what? Even if we accept that hedge and let his bogus framing device go, the logic behind this deserves to be taken apart with the Chair Leg of Truth.
Let’s do this, shall we?
“Gentlemen, It’s Time For Some Game Theory.”
Fiene starts with a fairly common – and frankly tired – theme: men are not and in fact can not be friends with women. His position – with all the rigor of a YouTube “social experiment” (that he actually cites) – is simple: any man who spends one-on-one time with a single woman is actually angling for a date. No. For real.
ACTUAL QUOTE TIME:
Likewise, I’m also asserting that a man can’t truly be your friend if he secretly wants to date you. Virtually every man who meets the one-on-one qualification does, in fact, want to date you. To understand why, it helps to look at things from an economic perspective.
Why is it important to look at this from an economic perspective? Because – according to Feine:
The average man lives in a competitive friendship market where some forms of friendship appeal to him more than others and therefore get his business.
Evidently it’s a very competitive market, seeing as men actually have few close male friends at all and lose most of them as they get older. But that lack of closeness is a good thing because what men need isn’t closeness or emotional intimacy, it’s explosions, nasty farts and football games1. In fact, coming out of your emotional shell is a bad thing that women insist on; male friends are a blessing because they’re content to let you stew in silence.
Of course, if you’re a woman who happens to also enjoy blowing things up, kung-fu movies and gross-out humor… well in Fiene’s world, you are a poor second. You are – by virtue of having an X chromosome – incapable of loving these to the degree that men need.
(It’s somewhat telling that Fiene never addresses, say, trans men; are they capable of loving farts and explosions to a suitably masculine degree? How about non-binaries? And what about gay and bi men? Lesbians? Where do we draw the line, Hans?)
No really, says Fiene. Stop. You’re getting your girl-cooties all over it. You’re making him uncomfortable with your whole “emotional intimacy” and “talking” and “not using insults as terms of affection”. Women, in this economic model, are functionally worth less than men. Men are simply a better investment at every level than women.
In fact, ladies, there is only one thing that you can give him that he can’t get from friends.
Three guesses what that is.
The Economics of The Friend Zone
Continuing his trend of trying to explain human interactions in the most dehumanized way possible, men trade their time for goods. And since women can not – ever – give men the suitably unemotional physical presence that they require, why on God’s good green Earth would men ever spend time with them? Because there’s only one thing they are good for. But I’ll let Fiene explain, complete with the second-worst metaphor for sex2 on the entire site:
It’s not because he wants your friendship. It’s because he wants to convince you to open up the supply chain of a romantic relationship to him, and he foolishly believes he can do so by being a loyal friendship customer.
One wonders if this means that casual sex is communism.
Now to be sure: Fiene is no misogynist, all evidence in his column aside. He loves him the females. Why they’re so sweet and gentle and seductive, even when he’s describing “not fucking somebody” in terms of a customer service complaint. But the problem is that, well…
But because God designed these virtues to entice men into marriage, the average man will never be content to receive those gifts in a form of companionship that doesn’t lead to marriage.
I just want that to sink in for a moment. Let the “logic” of this wash over you and bathe you in its sublime idiocy. Women are designed by God to be sweet and nurturing in order to trick men into marriage. A woman’s personality is simply the pheromone to lure men to the Venus Flytrap that waits to consume him. Men can literally not be “just friends”. A woman who befriends a man without putting out is – by definition – a cocktease who is defying the will of God. And this is bad because there is literally nothing a man can do about this. He is doomed if he spends time with her because he literally cannot see a woman in anything other than terms of “must put my dick in her”.
No, I’m not exaggerating. Fiene actually says this.
Telling him he’s like a brother to you won’t stop his brain from shouting “Marry that woman and impregnate her now” when he encounters your femininity.
I will give Fiene credit; by framing his argument of “men and women can’t be friends because men can’t be friends with women”, he creates a great example of the concept of “Begging The Question”.
So. Let’s review the logic on display here. Male relationships are inherently transactional. Men barter time for friendship with other men. Men cannot be friends with women because they need to fuck her. Therefore, by not dating or fucking them, women are cheating men by not giving them the goods that men have been paying for.
OK, still with me on this? Cool. Now hang on because it actually gets worse.
Fire Bad, Tree Pretty
In Fiene’s world, a woman not putting out for her male friends is bad enough. But there’s a worse crime being committed: because he’s stuck in this quagmire, he’s not fucking other people. And to be sure: that’s not his fault. He’s just too stupid to overrule his boner.
No. For real. That’s Fiene’s argument.
Repeat the “We’re just friends” mantra a thousand times. It won’t rewire the circuits of the male mind. All it will accomplish is deluding you into thinking he’s content to stay in the Friend Zone quicksand and deluding him into thinking he can break out of it by sinking even deeper.
Fiene. Bro. Amigo. This isn’t The Friend Zone, this is Oneitis. If you’re going to try to swerve into my lane, at least get your terms right.
But let’s get back to the premise. Men are trapped in the Friend Zone because being told that they’re just friends isn’t enough to make them realize that she will never sleep with him. Being friends is the trap that women, bless their hearts, can’t help but ensnare men into because Lord love ’em those boners are just SO POWERFUL. It’s only because women don’t frame the rejection in just the right way – as is incumbent on them – to free men from their snares.
Again, I’m not exaggerating. This is literally his argument. Let’s go to the source.
Consider your best guy friend. Are you attracted to him? Does he fill you with the biological desire to repopulate the earth? If not, then do your “friend” a solid and let him go. Call him up and tell him, “It’s not my fault that your facial symmetry grosses out my ovaries, but it was my fault that I got your hopes up by putting you in the Friend Zone. As restitution, please accept the phone numbers of five girls I know who find you attractive. Stop wasting your time with me and go hang out with a girl who might one day bear your children.”
One can’t help but imagine Fiene at his local Applebee’s on karaoke night, his tie askew and shirt dishevelled and stained with spilled mojitos, mournfully crooning Kim Wilde songs while he makes uncomfortable prolonged eye-contact with women in the audience.
Now, in fairness, Fiene isn’t entirely wrong here: men tend to be the ones who Friend Zone themselves on the regular. But the issue isn’t that women are “trapping” men with their sacred femininity, it’s because guys confuse of friendship for romantic sex. And small wonder, seeing as the culture that Fiene celebrates is one that encourages men to feel entitled to fucking every woman he meets and that intragender friendship as something inherently inferior to sex and shallower relationships between men.
It’s not that women don’t ever consider fucking their male friends. It’s that women don’t consider friendship a consolation prize.
— Ella Dawson (@brosandprose) March 31, 2017
It’s not that surprising really, considering that Fiene sees women he can’t fuck as being worthless.
What Is The Point Of You?
The ultimate end-point of Fiene’s logic is simple: women are there for one thing. If she isn’t giving it to him, then she is quite literally pointless.
Don’t worry that he was genuinely only in this for the friendship. Truth be told, you were never particularly good at offering him that in the first place. But you will be quite good at offering him what God designed you to give him—marital bliss.
Women are there strictly for being impregnated by men who are incapable of any form of self-control once their penis is activated. If she isn’t cranking out babies (preferably white ones), she has literally no purpose in this world. This isn’t terribly shocking, to be honest. It’s part and parcel of the school of conservatism that’s currently on the ascent.
The reason that this assumption that women are baby-making machines, period, is so insidious is that it’s framed as a moral issue. Vice President Pence’s famous “won’t be alone with a woman” is framed as “won’t let himself be tempted into sin” – and more on that in a second – but the underlying message is “there is no reason to be alone with a woman that doesn’t involve sex.” More than ever, success – whether in business or politics – depends on networking. People get their start in their careers not by having the greatest resume but by knowing the right people. Often, that networking occurs over dinner, drinks, even just one-on-one conversations with friends.
But when women are “unable” to be friends – when women are seen as nothing but honeytraps – then they are systematically excluded from any form of advancement. They are turned from people into baby-making machines who are there strictly to trap dick. And “trap” is important because – again – their mere presence is all it takes to make men incapable of controlling themselves. The fact that women are just there means that men immediately default to cavemen who are just there to put their dicks in wherever they can. It’s significant, in the age of the Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief that so many Republican politicians vote against inclusion or gay and trans rights because they themselves would just exploit those rules to assault women.
This, more than anything else, is why so many people find Fiene’s “Men and Women Can Never Be Friends” to be such offensive bullshit: because of just how dehumanizing it is. By not fucking their male “friends”, women are damaging the world by not fulfilling their “true purpose”.
Being caught in the Friend Zone is an inarguable drag on fertility rates, as a man who spends several years pledging his heart to a woman who will never have his children is also a man who most likely won’t procreate with anyone else during that time of incarceration. Free him to find a woman who actually wants to marry him, however, and he’ll have several more years to sire children who will laugh, create, sing, fill the world with love and, most importantly, pay into Social Security.
What’s So Funny (About The Systemic Devaluation Of Women)
“But Doc,” I hear you cry, “He says it’s mostly satire! Doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t take it seriously?”
Just as importantly though is that this isn’t satire. All too often, people try to use “It’s just satire” as a get-out-of-criticism-free card. If it’s satire, it can’t possibly be sincere, right?
But satire isn’t “dumb jokes”; satire is criticism of the subject being satirized. When The Onion writes a column about an eight-billion dollar Abortionplex theme park, they are critiquing right-wing rhetoric about Planned Parenthood by exaggerating it to the point of being absurd. Saturday Night Live isn’t making fun of Trump just to be mean, they’re criticizing someone who is grossly incompetent and in the position of being the most powerful man in the world.
So what, exactly, is Fiene criticizing here? It certainly isn’t relationships between men and women.
Is it the idea of the “demographic apocalypse” that’s coming?
Is it the Federalist’s overall obsession about people not fucking being a literal issue of national security?
There’s a shitty attempt at jokes peppered through the text, but there’s no indication in here that this is anything that Fiene doesn’t actually believe to be true. Satire only works when it’s comment or critique, exaggerating to drive home the absurdity of the subject. A Modest Proposal doesn’t work when the British Parliament is actually considering cannibalism as part of a famine relief package.
Just as yelling “RAPE!” at random intervals, advocating for a white ethno-state or paying two people to hold up signs saying “Death To All Jews” doesn’t get a pass because “it’s just jokes”, calling this “satire” doesn’t excuse the sincere belief that forms the thesis of Fiene’s piece: that women who he isn’t impregnating are literally worth less than men. That men are barely-restrained beasts at the mercy of their own dicks, and that not giving them sex is an offense against God.
All this argument amounts to is an attempt to pass off the reduction of women to their reproductive capabilities and further the idea that men are entitled to them. Insisting that men and women can’t be friends is a mortal insult to women and men alike by someone who doesn’t seem to understand women or friends.