The “Nice Guys of OKCupid” Phenomenon: How Did We Get Here?

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By now we've all heard of the “Nice Guys of OKCupid” – a compilation of images of OkCupid profiles which contrast a guy's proclaimed “nice guy” status with words of his meant to imply that he's not such a nice guy. Some of the examples, no doubt, really were jerks, a lot of them were just lonely guys who don't know where they're going wrong, and some were guys who make the MORTAL SIN of believing in gender roles (you know, things like, they probably expect to work extra hard so their wife won't have to).

But whatever may be “wrong” with them, what this shows us is that there are a LOT of guys out there who honestly think they are good people, who think they are trying to do the right things, but feel desperately cheated of companionship, affection, and, yes, sexual gratification. There's always going to be jerks out there who can't comprehend there's anything wrong with them, but when there is an entire site (or tumblr, or several as now seems to be the case) dedicated to mocking slews of users for their romantic frustrations, then, well, maybe the problem isn't just them.

So what is a “Nice guy” supposed to do? According to one contributor, men should still pay for first dates because it's nice. Another contributor suggests that men should also bring a gift, but not expect so much as a good night kiss. Another reminds us that chivalry is not dead.

Now, at one time, it was reasonable to expect a man to pay, as it was indicative of his “provider” status to a woman who would have a very hard time fending for herself. And bringing a romantic gift is nice, you know, once you have established a connection, but on a first date? And men are also expected to follow chivalric codes which are ENTIRELY based on gendered assumptions and a man's inherent physical superiority? So a “nice guy” does all this, and is not to expect so much as a good night kiss?

The problem with holding onto these traditions, contrary to what you may hear about the damaging effects of “benevolent sexism”, is that they come from times when courtship was a far more serious affair. “Dating” is a fairly recent social phenomenon, as prior to the 50s, young men and women primarily only courted seriously, with a mind to marriage, and before that, there was some mixture of arranged marriages and courtship. But these days, with dating considered far more casual by vast numbers of people, a man who follows this “script” is investing very heavily (his time, money and energy) into an endeavor which few people take seriously.

Now, add to that the fact that, in every other aspect of society (including how we handle marriage) we expect everything to be PERFECTLY EQUAL between men and women. If a man has grown up his entire life believing that a man and a woman are perfectly equal in all respects, but he has to pay more of the “up front” costs of dating, doesn't it seem perfectly natural, perfectly FAIR, and perfectly EQUAL that he should expect some kind of return on his investment?

I'm not suggesting it is “appropriate” or “moral” or “right” but isn't it logical and fair? That, my friends, is how we got here. We have “Nice Guys of OKCupid” because many of them do believe that men and women are supposed to be equal, and in any other equal relationship, you get back what you put in. If he's expected to “put in” a lot, then he feels he has a right to expect her to “put out” a lot. Again, I'm not saying it's right. It just is.

Nota Bene: I want to make it clear that I don't think most guys are as crass and transactional as “I pay for a date = she puts out”. I don't even think the “Nice Guys of OKCupid” are thinking this on a surface, conscious level. If they were, they'd probably realize why this method of dating isn't working for them, and change their approach.

Also, I want to be clear it was not my intention to denigrate the other contributors' content or suggestions. Only to point out how they are not in line with the current culture and feed into the confusion, and even bitterness displayed by many “nice guys” who honestly attempt to follow such guidelines and end up feeling cheated when it doesn't work.

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PeopleGrowing is a young woman engaged to a young man, who thought she was full of good advice up until she read some real good advice. Now, she realizes she doesn't know everything, but she still knows a thing or two about a thing or two, and she is willing to tell you so. At length.

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