Quote from Yvain’s post:
I remember reading about Ladder Theory on Reddit a few years ago. Ladder Theory says that guys have one ladder, People I Like. If you’re at the bottom of the ladder, I hate you. If you’re at the middle of the ladder, you are my friend. If you’re at the top of the ladder, you’re my best friend and if you’re female I probably want you as my girlfriend – barring family relationship or unspeakable hideousness.
Ladder Theory then says that women have two ladders, Friends and Potential Boyfriends. I could be way at the top of a girl’s Friend Ladder, so that I’m her best friend and her favorite person ever in the entire world, but she could still have zero interest in dating me…
The first time I read this it sounded kind of sexist and like sour grapes so I ignored it. But every time women talk about Nice Guys (TM) I struggle to understand the concept any other way. They always use this phrasing like “Man, I thought he liked me as a person and enjoyed spending time with me. But then he said he wanted to date me! What a dirty rotten liar!”
You see, I think that’s one of those inter-gender blind spots, because until now I literally did not understand that “Man, I thought he liked me as a person, but then he said he wanted to date me!” wasn’t a completely comprehensible concept to everyone. Yay. Blame the female social conditioning.
One of the first things most girls (and people mistakenly considered to be girls) learn about boys is that boys want to date you. Seriously, you’re in kindergarten, you’re talking about the guy who played with you in the sandbox, and your mom will smile indulgently and say “awww, I bet he has a crush on you.” (If he hits you, it’s also a sign that he has a crush on you. In fact, the only boy behavior that won’t be interpreted as a sign that he has a crush on you is ignoring you, and even then that’s not a failsafe.)
As I got older, the expectation that literally every guy who said something to me wanted to have sex with me continued. Male best friend? “Oooh, he has a crush on you.” I had a male friend over? He couldn’t stay in the room with me with the door closed, even when I was in fucking elementary school, because two ten-year-olds might… take it into their heads.. to have sex… or something. Sex education that boiled down to “he wants to have sex with you, and it’s your job to preserve the Precious Flower of Your Virginity because if you have sex God will hate you and you’ll get pregnant and die.” Endless fucking friendzone complaints: seriously, I spent way too much of my adolescence hanging around with geeky guys who happened to be terrible, and much of that involved hearing about the terrible injustice that pretty girls were doing to them by being their friend and not dating them. (I, of course, as the ugly girl, was completely off the radar screen as a potential partner.) The sure knowledge that any time a strange man comes up to talk to you at a club or bus station or bookstore or coffeeshop, it will end with him asking you for a date (if not just telling you you ought to have sex with him).
And, you know, I bet guys get a lot of that sort of thing too. But it’s different for guys. The patriarchy’s list of Why Girls Would Want To Date Guys looks something like this:
- Nice car
- Sense of humor
- Treats her like a gentleman/a douchebag [delete as appropriate]
The patriarchy’s list of Why Guys Would Want To Date Girls looks like this:
- …Nope, pretty much just boobs
- Also vagina
- The ability to give blowjobs
- You’ve dieted yourself down to a size two and shave all your body hair and wear makeup but not so much makeup that anyone can tell you’re wearing any
- Did I mention boobs?
I mean, both of those lists kind of suck, for a whole host of reasons. However! “She’s just friends with me because I’m confident and have a good sense of humor” is actually pretty flattering. “He’s just friends with me because I have nice boobs and am a size two and might be able to have sex with him” is… not. At all.
There is a nonzero chance that when you tell a girl you’re interested in that you want to date her she doesn’t hear “when you talk about human anatomy and Star Trek and foxes you are so interesting and smart and cool that it makes my heart flutter in joy,” she hears “sorry, I was just pretending to be interested in all that human anatomy and Star Trek and foxes stuff, actually I am only interested in your genitals and how I can put mine in contact with them.” I realize that this is completely fucked up. (The only thing that’s more fucked up is that sometimes that’s a well-founded suspicion.) Don’t blame women! Blame the society that teaches them that their only worth is their appearance!
And of course if she has been looking really hard to try to find a male friend who doesn’t want to have sex with her, the way that society has taught her literally every guy who pays attention to her does, and hears “so, yeah, I basically just care about your tits” she’s going to feel pretty fucking betrayed. So that’s why.
(Incidentally: I actually think, stripped of the gender component, the Ladder Theory has some validity. At least, I end up wanting to date all my friends and being somewhat miffed when they’re like “I don’t think of you that way.” Damn separate ladders.)
(Yes, I want to date all my friends and have for years and I still managed to believe for a really long time that dudes habitually pretended to be interested in me as a person but really just cared about trying to have sex with me. The fucking internalized misogyny goes deep.)
Photo–Ken and Nyetta/Flickr. Scrolls! Because meditation! I swear this makes sense in my head.