I spent most of my twenties in New York chasing women. With my shy, sensitive demeanor, they thought I was safe: a “nice guy.” “Boyfriend material.” But I see now that I was less interested in a relationship than the validation of a woman’s desire. Once I had it, I lost interest. I’d run off looking for the next person to give me that rush of being wanted and needed, then the next. Each time, I became deeply depressed.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had become a straight white male cliché. On Reddit, for example, there’s a thriving page devoted to screenshots of self-proclaimed “nice guys” who think their docility should entitle them to getting their emotional and sexual needs met by women — or, alternately, who meet women’s rebukes with righteous indignity or threats. The posts range from comically un-self-aware to alarmingly hateful, bursting with misogynistic rage. I’m not proud to admit that, sometimes, they hit a little close to home.
The idea of the nice guy isn’t new. In his 2003 book No More Mr. Nice Guy, the psychotherapist Robert A. Glover identifies the “nice guy” as a real-life archetype he’s noticed among some of his male patients. The “nice guy,” according to Glover, appears pleasant, agreeable, seemingly generous, and peaceful, but is full of repressed anger. He’s also desperate for approval — particularly from women — which he feels both undeserving of and, contradictorily, entitled to. “Nice guys believe that if they are ‘good’ they will be loved, get their needs met and live a problem-free life,” wrote Glover.
But being “good” isn’t a free pass; in fact, it can be a passive and even manipulative way of avoiding real communication and honesty with the people in our lives (including ourselves). And expecting women to swoop in and solve our emotional problems for us is just another form of misogyny. It’s dickish, and it’s dangerous. (At the extreme end of this spectrum is the incel community — men who blame women for their inability to find a sexual partner — but that’s not what we’re talking about here.)
Some guys saw the error of their ways in #MeToo and #TimesUp. For them, there was no more hiding their true feelings or behavior…