Warning: this is really long. This is what happens when you have multiple 200+ comment threads that crystallize all kinds of awesome new ideas for me.
The majority of Nice Guys™ (once again, used gender-inclusively) are suffering from a common delusion: that the dating world is even remotely logical.
Unfortunately, this is not true. I’m sure everyone can think of an ugly, stupid asshole with a string of partners as long as your leg, and a sweet, intelligent beauty who could walk into a bar full of sailors of the appropriate gender just on shore leave and still not get a date. The dating world is fundamentally unpredictable and unfair, and a whole lot of who is romantically successful is based on sheer, stupid, random luck. Whether all your friends are paired up. Whether you skipped getting coffee and so didn’t meet the cute girl reading Sartre. Whether you happened to live across the way from the hot mathematician who plays the bongo drums. Whatever.
I think the distinguishing trait of Nice Guys™ (as compared to Pseudo Nice Guys™) is objectification. After all, without objectification, all you have is people who, for a variety of reasons ranging from the legitimate to the idiotic, adopt a dating strategy that’s unlikely to work and occasionally leads to awkward situations (for instance, attempting to politely reject someone who won’t actually make a move). However, people using ineffective dating strategies that occasionally lead to awkward situations is not actually a social justice issue; if it were, I’d have to be leading the Great Campaign to Get People To Stop Falling In Love With Their Fuckbuddies.
True Nice Guys™, as opposed to stage one Pseudo-Nice Guys who just happen to have a passive dating strategy, seem to regard dating as more or less like ordering something from a vending machine. If you put in the right sum of money and press the right buttons, then a relationship will be dispensed for you. This belief is, of course, incredibly objectifying: you’re not treating the people you might date as people, you’re treating them as objects that function according to a simplistic set of rules.
Nice Guys™ also generally regard people of the appropriate gender as being more-or-less interchangeable. When a boy texts you X, he will always mean Y. Always tease women, because that turns all girls on ever. But in the real world people are different. The most viable seduction tactic for me is to have a four-hour conversation with me, in which you explain to me several things I didn’t already know; the most viable seduction tactic for someone else is going to be dancing all night at a house club, arguing with them about NPR, seeming to be broken and in need of fixing, or wearing eyeliner. You simply cannot reduce the multiplicity of people’s turnons to “women like this and men like that.”
However, there is definitely a gendered difference in what inputs people decide the vending machine really ought to operate on. (For this bit Nice Guy™ is going to indicate actual dudes.) In general, Nice Girls™ tend to do What Men Want, and Nice Guys™ tend to do What Women Want. (I haven’t meant any Nice Guy™ Queers, but I would be entirely unsurprised by the existence of, for instance, a Nice Butch™ who does What Femmes Want. Objectification crosses all sexual orientations.)
Unfortunately, most of the Nice Guys™ and Nice Girls™ appear to be gathering their ideas of What Men Want and What Women Want from some unholy amalgation of romantic comedies and Disney movies.
In my experience, Nice Girls ™ tend to perform femininity. I had more than a few moments in high school where I was like “all right, I’m here, I’m wearing a skirt, I put the gunk on my face, now where are the dudes hitting on me?” Unfortunately, you cannot actually get a date with a guy by wearing a skirt in his general direction.
Similarly, other Nice Girls™ will act stupider than they are around guys, pretend to need help carrying things, or artificially speak in a far higher voice. Teen magazines like Seventeen are, in my experience, primarily directed at Nice Girls™ who don’t understand how relationships work, so things like “compliment his headphones—boys love electronics!” or “wear gold eyeshadow to appear flirty” will seem like good advice that is unlocking The Secret To Boys.
Most of the advice girls get about dating boils down to be passive harder. “Guys like the chase!” “Play hard to get!” “Here’s some body-language techniques to show him you’re interested!” Cosmo‘s whole weird thing about, like, smiling at him in the correct evolutionarily-programmed way from across the room and then he’ll come over and hit on you and he won’t even realize you did anything. However, while playing hard to get and smiling at him from across the room may have its uses, it works very badly if your problem is that your desired paramour has no idea you exist.
Why do women get this particular useless advice? Probably some combination of assertiveness being masculine (so women who make the first move are unfeminine), slut-shaming (if you actively pursue your sexual and romantic wants you’re clearly a slutty slut slut who sluts), and women as sex objects (so women’s big job in the sex/romance business is standing around and looking pretty).
Nice Girls™ do have a slight advantage in that they are more likely to be hit on and thus get a relationship, which is one of the major cures for Nice-Guy-ism. However, I do think it’s a mistake to conclude from this that being a Nice Girl™ isn’t painful the same way being a Nice Guy™ is painful. One of the problems with “be passive harder” advice is that you never get a clear rejection: is it that he doesn’t like you, or that he just hasn’t asked you out yet? And the silent rejection of being completely ignored can be just as harrowing and self-esteem-destroying as the blatant “no.”
Nice Guys™, on the other hand, tend to use a couple of different inputs to the Great Dating Vending Machine. Some, especially older Nice Guys™, will tend to rely on their success: after all, they have a good job (often, for some reason, in IT), a college degree, a nice respectable middle-class lifestyle, some spending money… why, they just can’t understand why they wouldn’t be able to get any woman they wanted! Nice Guy™ rants on the Internet often point out the great injustice that is the unemployed DJ down the street getting laid more than they do, when he clearly has no prospects in life whatsoever.
However, for most Nice Guys™ that I’ve met, the input was pedestalization.
I had a very revealing conversation once with a Nice Guy™ online, who pointed out that he had brought a girl flowers every date, paid for dinners, and not even asked if she wanted to have sex. In short, he said, he was incredibly nice, he had done everything that women say they want, and he had still gotten dumped! I had to stop myself from responding “dude, I would dump you too.”
In general, Nice Guys™ tend to go for that white-knighting shit. They are so nice. They buy you things! They sing you romantic songs! They do every clichéd gesture of romance! They held you while you cried into their shoulders! They do you all kinds of favors and don’t ask you for anything in return! Don’t women get off on that? (Nota Bene: Roosh V’s Compliment and Cuddle is, unintentionally, the single best description of this mindset. Particularly since he seems to think that the attitude described therein is what feminists recommend for men. Roosh, you fail feminism forever.)
Let me be clear: I don’t blame Nice Guys™ for falling into this shit. I blame the culture that taught them that pedestalization is romantic and that all girls love Prince Charming riding in to save the day. Every damn Hallmark holiday in which you show your love for your unique, special partner who is like no one else in the world through buying the same expensive shit everyone else is buying. Every damn Tumblr macro about how you should put your girlfriend up on a pedestal and save her from the evils of the world. Every damn romantic comedy about earning the love of a beautiful woman, often via stalking. Pretty much anything having to do with diamonds.
Nevertheless, I have to be clear that pedestalization does not work. In general, people do not like to be supplicated to. Being like “I have done everything you want, Mistress! I ask only for the touch of your lips!” works well in BDSM scenes and fairy tales, not so much in real life. And while some women like all that Hallmark shit, a lot of women don’t, and ignoring the desires of your partner in favor of the desires of All Women Everywhere rarely ends well. Most people don’t want to be a plaster saint: they want to be treated as a person by their partners.
Many Nice Guys™, having realized that supplication and pedestalization don’t actually work as well as could be hoped, go to the complete opposite and start degrading women. After all, they figure, if women don’t want to be treated like princesses, they must want to be treated like dirt! Many misogynistic pick up artists take this route, which is why I classify many forms of PUA as a type of Nice Guy™-ism. The actions are different, but the mindset is the same.
To be fair, even misogynistic PUA often works better than supplication, partially because they approach tons of women, and partially because some of their strategies work for reasons other than the reasons that they think it works. For instance, the famous “neg” may be taken as friendly and flirtatious teasing, blunt honesty, a sign that he’s interested in her despite her imperfections, or even a straight-up compliment.
However, both degradation and pedestalization are the completely wrong. Gender egalitarianism ought to deal with the degradation/pedestalization problem the way sex-positivity deals with the virgin/whore dilemma: it doesn’t say virgins or whores are better, it says that the whole conversation is stupid because you can’t meaningfully judge people’s worth based on how much sex they’ve had. Similarly, the proper response to the pedestalization/degradation dilemma is neither “women are princesses” nor “women are ugly bitchy sluts,” neither “women are elves” nor “women are orcs”; the proper response is “I reject the entire premise of this conversation.”
Women are people, which means they are everywhere on the elf-orc spectrum. The proper response to women is not to worship at her feet nor to push her into the dirt, it’s to treat her exactly like you’d treat a person, except that this person usually has boobs.