BY: SAREEEMA HUSAIN
The infamous “friend zone” is a desolate place, corroded with bitterness. When a woman makes the choice to not get involved with a man who is trying to initiate a romantic or sexual relationship, the man is said to be plummeting into the depths of the friend zone. Men often vent and joke about the audacity of these women who dismiss their wooing efforts and forsake them to such a dismal place.
Anybody would be disappointed if their romantic interest didn’t reciprocate their feelings. But when someone jokingly states that they’ve been friend zoned, they unknowingly contribute to rape culture.
Growing up in a capitalistic society, we think in numbers. We think in transactions, in deals, and in worked hours. Guy invested in Girl, she needs to pay up, and sex becomes the transaction that will seal the deal. But sex is not something that is ever “owed” to another, no matter how many minutes you spent dolling yourself up or shaving your pubes.
It’s important to be aware that the term “friend zone” inherently relies on the concept of male entitlement. When you use it, you let your ego take the front seat and your partner’s mutual interest and consent is thrown in the trunk. The friend zone both resents and blames the other party for not consenting. This disrespects the non-consenter’s physical and emotional boundaries, and contributes to a culture that normalizes this violation. A woman’s chance of being raped in the US is 1 in 5, and approximately 4 out of 5 assaults are committed by someone that the victim knows. In fact, 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance. As slam poet Dylan Garity puts it: “we all know the statistics but we don’t know how to accept how easily we become part of the problem.”
Rape culture is everywhere, from pop music that tells women “you know you want it” because of these “blurred lines” in romantic and physical relationships, to everyday jokes and dialogue. Promiscuous women are called “sluts”, whereas their male counterparts are called “studs”, and this adds to the notion that female sexuality exists solely for male pleasure. Because sexual entitlement is so normalized, men can easily fall into the trap of thinking that the “friend zone” is a legitimate way to criticize women’s choices. The only way to be rid of the “friend zone” is to stop using the term in favour of building mutual relationships.