One of the many 'nice guys' of the OkCupid dating website.

One of the many 'nice guys' of the OkCupid dating website.

It was with great sadness that I woke yesterday to the news that the internet’s latest enfant terrible had been shut down.

In its few short weeks, Nice Guys Of OkCupid had already garnered the attention of Gawker, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, and the New Statesman. As each successive commentary debated the merits (or lack thereof) of a site whose sole reason for existing was to lampoon the ironic sexism of self confessed ‘Nice Guys’, the site itself gained both enthusiastic endorsement and outraged anger. Many (myself included) wasted no time sharing the link with everyone we’d ever met, particularly other women who’d wandered the grammatical wastelands of internet dating and found them to be filled with more than one man who’d berate you viciously for daring to ignore his previous five (unreplied to) emails. For others, it was an exercise in brutal bullying, the mockery of a subset of pathetic men who hadn’t asked to be publically exposed and shouldn’t be punished for being Beta Males with a poor romantic history.

The premise was simple - its anonymous creator trawled dating site OkCupid to find the profiles of men who lamented their existence as a ‘Nice Guy’ and how this inevitably lands them in the dreaded ‘friend zone’ while less deserving men scoop up all the hot babes around them. A typical post featured a man’s profile photo, pasted over with choice quotes from the profile itself that ranged from benign sexism (girls are obliged to shave their legs, men should be the head of the household) to downright aggression (girls are sluts and bitches who perpetually friendzone me even though I am Really Nice).

If there was a recurring theme, it was that despite their own declarations otherwise, the men featured weren’t particularly nice at all. And yet rather than look to their own behaviour to explain why they might be perpetually dateless (a propensity to wish harm on women, for example, or a penchant for fedoras), they chose instead to blame women for failing to reward them with the love they felt they’d earned.

To wit: Even though ‘Nice Guys’ will treat you like a princess, hold your hand when you’re sad and tell you every day how beautiful you are, they end up finishing last because girls only want to date jerky, insensitive assholes who treat them badly. Girls are therefore shallow bitches who can’t recognise a good thing even when it’s close enough to hide in her bushes late at night and stare through the window while crying. Or as one lad put it, he’s always in the ‘friend zone’ and never in the ‘bone zone’.

There’s been a great deal already written about the stroppy entitlement of the ‘friend zone’ concept (for a good primer, check out this post). Referring to a state of being almost universally inflicted by women, it hinges on the troubling idea that sex and companionship are rewards meted out to those men who follow the correct procedures of courtship. They give thoughtful presents and compliments. They’re good listeners. They always answer the phone, and call when they say they’re going to call. In short, they behave like a good friend would. So why aren’t they being recognised for that, and rewarded appropriately? After all, as the internet once had it, they put all the kindness coins in - so why didn’t sex come out?

Can such men be blamed for feeling this way? They receive just as many confusing messages about relationships and desire as women. The same system that seeks to reduce women to simpering Disney princess wannabes just waiting for Prince Charming to put a ring on it so they can start their life as a whole human being also instructs men to be the dominator - to make the first move, to do the proposing, to be someone she can rely on to protect her and worship her. Is it any wonder that so many of these men’s dating profiles include lines about ‘treating you like the princess that you are’ and ‘giving you the respect you deserve’ (as if the desire to give respect itself is something rare and worthy of positive acknowledgement)? They’re so focused on being the kinds of men they’re told women want to be with that they never stop to think about who women actually are - that in fact, rather than being merely the passive participants in an antiquated carnival of jousting where the victor receives all the giggling spoils, women are creatures like any other; their considerations when it comes to sex and relationships aren’t solely based on whether or not someone is nice, and they have no obligation to be any less superficial when it comes to their own physical attractions.

It’s this frustrating disconnect between how men and women are allowed to engage sexually that leads to an internet website lampooning such woe-is-me idiocy, and the subsequent outrage at the mockery foisted upon its targets. Because aren’t these men just trying? Aren’t they already sad and lonely? Isn’t it bad enough that they have to deal with the indignity of not being the kinds of men that can stroll out the door and land penis first in a compliant vagina? Must we inflict further torment on them?

It highlights the intense social fear of emasculation that lies at the heart of much antagonism towards women, particularly when it’s come as a result of sexual inadequacy. The difference in commentary regarding the treatment of NGOKC targets and, say, the women whose photos are published without their knowledge on Zoo’s Facebook page, or targeted by misogynist websites like Is Anyone Up? (a submissions based website which posted private photographs of women, often in states of undress, without their consent), or accused of being potential prostitutes because of how and whom they had sex with in their private lives is pretty clear. While the former have done nothing other than pursue their natural right to sex and companionship (rights that inform their identities as men), the latter are partially responsible for their vilification because they should have known better. Simply put: it’s punishment enough for men to have to pursue sex online, and to further mock them for it is cruel and dangerous. But women deserve to be shamed online for how they choose to have sex - particularly if it’s not with you.

If NGOKC is guilty of anything, it’s perhaps doing its job too well. By exposing the sense of entitlement experienced by men by virtue of their birthright, NGOKC also demonstrated the double standard exercised against men and women when it comes to sex and relationships, and their right to pursue - or deny - either. More importantly, it highlighted how sex is seen is something integral to men’s identities but peripheral to women’s - a gift she gives from compassion rather than one she seeks out through need and desire. For people who rail against the ‘friend zone’, the distinction is clear. Men who are nice deserve sex. And women who are nice give it.

It’s a shame it’s been taken down, but given the proliferation of ‘Nice Guys’ on the internet in general, I can’t imagine it will be too long before we see something else take its place.

In the meantime, there’s still Nice Guys of Westeros