About five years ago I encountered the idea of the evil "Nice Guy™". I'm not sure which essay started the whole thing, it could have been this one but I'm not sure. The basic concept was a male author was criticizing women for falling for jerks and rejecting good but shy partners.
I read it and didn't see anything wrong with the argument, then it was pointed out to me that the author expects women to make the first move towards timid men.
Critics portrayed the essay as saying that self-described nice guys were actually vile men who expected sex for women as an exchange for treating them in a normal fashion. Legitimate nice guys are spelled out in lowercase, while the evil ones are called Nice Guys™.
But when I read it I saw someone who doesn't understand female attraction. I believe women are attracted to confidence and a take-charge attitude. They don't want to make the first move; they want to feel desired and swept up the romantic display. What the author needed was a better approach, not sensitivity training.
Still, it gave the term "nice guy" a dark aura for me, the way men who promise they will be a "perfect gentlemen" always seem to be grabby creeps and I now refuse to use the term.
Well, Scott Alexander has saved the term singlehandidly with a long but brilliant and well-paced blog post. He describes a man named Henry who is a serial abuser of women who has been married five times and used violence against all of them.
When I was younger – and I mean from teeanger hood all the way until about three years ago – I was a nice guy. In fact, I’m still a nice guy at heart, I just happen to mysteriously have picked up girlfriends. And I said the same thing as every other nice guy, which is “I am a nice guy, how come girls don’t like me?”
There seems to be some confusion about this, so let me explain what it means, to everyone, for all time.
It does not mean “I am nice in some important cosmic sense, therefore I am entitled to sex with whomever I want.”
It means: “I am a nicer guy than Henry.”
Or to spell it out very carefully, Henry clearly has no trouble with women. He has been married five times and had multiple extra-marital affairs and pre-marital partners, many of whom were well aware of his past domestic violence convictions and knew exactly what they were getting into. Meanwhile, here I was, twenty-five years old, never been on a date in my life, every time I ask someone out I get laughed at, I’m constantly teased and mocked for being a virgin and a nerd whom no one could ever love, starting to develop a serious neurosis about it.
And here I was, tried my best never to be mean to anyone, gave to charity, pursuing a productive career, worked hard to help all of my friends. I didn’t think I deserved to have the prettiest girl in school prostrate herself at my feet. But I did think I deserved to not be doing worse than Henry...
I don’t think I ever claimed to be, or felt, entitled to anything. Just wanted to know why it was that people like Henry could get five wives and I couldn’t get a single date..
Henry has four domestic violence charges against him by his four ex-wives and is cheating on his current wife with one of those ex-wives. And as soon as he gets out of the psychiatric hospital where he was committed for violent behavior against women and maybe serves the jail sentence he has pending for said behavior, he is going to find another girlfriend approximately instantaneously.
Exactly. That's exactly how I felt growing up, before I lost weight and started exercising confidence.
Alexander's point in the post is that whenever shy nerds like himself complain about their lack of romantic luck they are bombarded with claims of being the evil Nice Guys™ and not actual nice guys. These criticisms come from the social justice pit of the Internet, which is known for its vulgar hyperbolic scorched-earth rhetoric.
In a recent follow-up post, Alexander expands on that subject of online feminists bullying shy male nerds.
When feminists say that the market failure for young women is caused by slut-shaming, I stop slut-shaming, and so do most other decent people.
When men say that the market failure for young men is caused by nerd-shaming, feminists write dozens of very popular articles called things like “On Nerd Entitlement”.
The reason that my better nature thinks that it’s irrelevant whether or not Penny’s experience growing up was better or worse than Aaronson’s: when someone tells you that something you are doing is making their life miserable, you don’t lecture them about how your life is worse, even if it’s true. You STOP DOING IT.
Alexander very carefully documented his examples of prominent feminist blogs kicking shy male nerds when they try to lift their faces out of the dirt, labeling them as scum and accusing them of every vile thing possible. This is not an example of idiot hunting. There really is a reactionary social justice mentality that crushes innocent, gentle male nerds whenever they try to voice a complaint. Some of them really are nice guys.
Hat tip to Bryan Caplan for the link.