Two things that immediately set off my klaxons: men describing themselves as “good guys” or “nice guys.” Now, I would argue that there are some important distinctions between these two terms and how men (and others) use them, but they both, as Jessica Wakeman puts it, set my nose to wrinkling.
Now, maybe I am just a weirdo, but it sketches me out when someone has to tell me what a great guy he is.
Especially since, almost always, men who describe themselves that way are actually total jerks. It’s like they think that if they brand themselves as nice or good, we’ll magically overlook the fact that they are shitheads. Or they genuinely believe that their behavior is in fact totally legit, and the problem is with the world, not them.
THE GOOD GUYS
Let’s tackle those good guys. You know, the aw shucks kind who say it’s just so hard getting a date or staying in a relationship, and they can’t imagine why they are single when they are, after all, such catches. They’re sensitive, you know. They totally care about the people around them, would absolutely rescue a drowning puppy if they saw one, and they “know” women and what they want.
Why is it that so many “good guys” act like adult babies, and not in a fetish sense? They expect everyone else to pick up their slack, they’re inveterately lazy, and they seem genuinely shocked and surprised when people are unimpressed with their shenanigans. Their very heteronormativity betrays a shockingly narrow view of the world; ultimately, everything boils down to them and their needs, by which I mean their penises.
The “good guys” are the ones who are terrible communicators but seem confused and startled when things go awry, and they’re the ones who don’t seem to understand why they’re trapped in a cycle of serial short-term monogamy. As they chase after women, they’re always flirting with the next possibility, and they get offended when their girlfriends aren’t so into that. And, of course, they perpetually whine about being friendzoned.
As soon as things get tough, most self-described good guys are gone, whether they’re friends or lovers. There’s no interest in building or maintaining relationships or supporting people when they go through rough experiences. Got a cancer diagnosis? Don’t call your “good guy” friend, because he won’t pick up. Want to have a talk with your “good guy” boyfriend about some stuff that’s worrying you? Might as well just break up with him, before he does it to you first.
THE NICE GUYS
The nice guy, to me, is like the “good guy” leveled up. They share many of the same characteristics, but there tends to be a sharper, caustic, more bitter edge, as documented in Nice Guys of OK Cupid. Which made for a rather chilling read while it existed, but also a stark insight into the kinds of people who freely identified themselves as “nice guys.”
These are the kinds of people who say that other people just don’t understand them, and the lack of love in their lives is due to other people being shitty. Then they proceed to parade hateful statements, many of which are deeply misogynist, to explain how everyone else is to blame for their failures in life. A woman who has had 14 sexual partners is a slut. They’re good at falling into the friend zone, but not the bone zone. They think men have a right to sex. The list goes on.
Every time someone identifies himself to me as a “nice guy,” my hackles go up. If I may, for a moment, go all psych 101 on you, there’s a phenomenon called actor-observer asymmetry, which comes up a lot in situations where people are asked to come up with explanations for behavior.
Put simply, when we’re asked to explain the behavior of other people, we attribute it to their personality, but when we evaluate ourselves, we’re more likely to bring up situational factors. Nice guys provide a pretty much textbook demonstration: "All women are bitches, I’m a nice guy.”
This cognitive bias plays a huge role in how everyone interacts with the world, but it can get reinforced among some more than others, and nice guys are kind of primed to develop a sense of wounded entitlement. These are the same people, for example, who believe that men are entitled to sex on tap, which means that for many of them, “rape” isn’t a concept they’re familiar with.
These are also the same guys who do things like going into a gym, or a school, or another space heavily populated by women, and opening fire. Because from that simmering sense of innate entitlement comes a feeling of being wronged when he doesn’t get what he wants, and he lives in a society where men are “supposed” to get what they want, and that simmer can boil over.
And the line between a so-called nice guy and a men's rights activist can be very, very thin.
BOUNDARIES, WILL ROBINSON
Now, obviously, not all people who self-identify as good guys or nice guys are awful people who are planning to rape you or go on a mass shooting rampage. But these terms are like little warning bells, signs of underlying attitudes that make me deeply nervous. The genuinely good and nice men in my life have never needed to prove it to me or tell me about it; they’ve demonstrated it with their actions.
I’ve noted, too, that this kind of self-labeling comes up a lot in men engaging in grooming behavior. As part of their work to cultivate potential victims, they remind their victims on the regular that they’re “good guys” and the only ones who “truly” understand them.
Along with that grooming comes an assurance that the good guy will always be there for the victim, reinforced by the occasional pretense of backup or support to get a woman to let down her guard and turn into a supporter for self-same “good guy.”
Which means, of course, that when other women question whether he’s really all that great, his victims are all set to defend him.
“He’s a good guy, really,” they say, surrounding him with a defensive armor of women who aren’t aware of his insidious tactics. Once taken in, it can take a long time for victims to extricate themselves, and it can be painful to watch from the outside.
Identifying warning signs can be an important part of learning and enforcing your boundaries, especially for those of us who are taught from an early age that we have no boundaries. I have no problem with judging dudes who call themselves “good guys” or “nice guys” and taking logical precautions to protect myself from them.
What about you?