Thursday, 20 December 2012

True friendship vs 'The Friendszone'

It has been brought to my attention that it could be objectifying to women to talk down the 'friendzone.' That much of the dialogue we men have about it is disparaging to women who have a right to have a relationship with men without being forced into a sexual dynamic.

And we do talk of it in this way. The 'friendzone' for a lot of men is the single place one wants to avoid, it's the no fly zone, the DMZ, the dead end of the male operation.

I think some things need clarified though from the male perspective. It is indeed true that a certain portion of the 'male camp' – that is, the hetero-normative, reactionary male camp – disparage the male/female friendship as a notion. This is done on the basis that a man's chief intention towards a woman should be to lay her, to get in her pants. Now, we are all victim to this psychology and dynamic. I don't put myself above and beyond this. In fact, I spent much of my university career trying to satisfy this sexual goal – have sex with as much women as possible, see every woman as a potential lay.
'Untitled' 1937 - Normally called 'Woman with Flower Head' - This painting was on the wall of my room in my first year at university. It resonated.
I make no apology for this, though I recognize at its root is a misogynist tendency. The reason I make no apology for it is that many of the women I had relations with were equally misogynist and predatory. I don't know why, perhaps they thought that behaving in this way was a sign of their sexual and political empowerment as women. In my eyes many of them were just dickheads. Just like myself and the men I was on the hunt with. Talk about equality.

But to get back to my point. I grant that from a certain narrow version of the male sexual drive, men have diminished the richness of a friendship relation with women, by viewing any kind of non-sexual contact as undesirable, and fruitless.

In doing so, we have, as a culture objectified women as purely sexual objects, never mind sexual creatures. I want to recognise this right here and now. By ruling out the benefits of purely platonic friendships with women, we perpetuate a culture which demeans and ultimately nurtures a hatred for, femininity and women as a gender. It's an existentially unsound way to treat women and sexuality in general.

To disparage the 'friendzone,' is an assault on women, because it means that women owe us their sexuality if they want to be in a relationship with us. It makes a commodity out of women. They are only worth knowing in as much as we can get a fuck. This kind of thinking is patriarchy at its ugliest.

There is a big but here though. An enormous BUT.

A lot of my experience with women have involved an abusive use of the word 'friendship.' I have had very fruitful and powerful friendships with women. Many, if not most, have been healthy and respectful. But some of them have been predicated on power, misandry and control.

It is my experience that some women like to bring men who are obviously attracted to them into their surrounding 'friendzone' as a way of maintaining non-committal sexual relations. That is, they get the fulfilment of sexual attention, the sense of power that a woman has when a man needs her sexuality, while at the same time offering up no emotional risk from her own side.

Many women use their friendships with men to gratify their own sexual egos. Such a tendency is on a par with the misogyny I have described above. And yet, I would argue that it is more morally reprehensible, because it masks itself with the sacredness of friendship. In such situations, a man can be left feeling ashamed of his sexuality, and if he expresses it, he stands accused of violating the friendship. He has done nothing of the sort, because the so called friendship has always be grounded in an eroticism. An attempt to bring that out in the light of day is too often dismissed as crude or damaging to the friendship.

A lot of women use the word 'friendship' when in fact they mean 'convenience.' They get the hit, the rush of having a sexual power over men, but they have nothing to lose, they risk nothing of the intimacy and entanglement that a sexual relationship involves.

Above all, however, they get to maintain a moral superiority over men. They behave shocked and affronted the minute a man confesses his sexual needs in the dynamic. Implicit in such abusive tendencies is the idea that sexuality itself, and in particular male sexuality, is base and primitive and wrong.

Using 'friendship' in this way is condescending and repressive. In fact, it is just patriarchy by another name. It is abusive for a man to expect that every woman owes him a debt of sex. But it is also abusive for a woman to disguise her egotistical needs under the banner of 'friendship.'

True friendships are organic. They are nurtured over time. They spring naturally from the humanity of all parties. True friendships are not top-down affairs. You can't call something a friendship and have it automatically become just that. True friendships involve just as much risk and surrender and openness as sexual encounters. Perhaps they involve more.

Whenever I hear the phrase 'just good friends', I look for the door. Many women use this as a way of getting out of an emotionally awkward situation that they have contributed to as much as the man across the table. The most abusive part of it is that they are able to do it in the name of a moral superiority that, in my experience, they have rarely earned. 

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