Recently, a friend posted and started a discussion on facebook on “Friend Zoning” and asked the question is around whether this ultimately is part of rape culture. This got me thinking and because it’s such an important issue today it needs to be examined and talked about openly! The cartoon image above sums up, particularly the attitude of the guy’s thinking that ‘friend zone’ is something that is bad and the fault of the other person, is this not totally selfish? To begin, let us examine some definitions, firstly a definition of Friend Zone’ing in the Urban Dictionary:
The Friend Zone
This is the worst position someone can be in, if they have feelings for someone. When a person develops romantic feelings for someone, but the other person only sees the relationship as just being friends. Because the two are around each other a lot, the one in love will harbor his/her feelings for the others. Only to become completely consumed by this person. This leads to the one in love to complain to all his/her friends about the situation, and to become “pussy whipped” by they other.
Tom meets Amy, and falls in love. But Amy does not hold the same feelings. Therefore the two become friends, and that’s it. Now Tom, being around Amy and just friends, harbors his romantic feelings for her. He then will become “pussy whipped” by her, and complain to all his friends about his feelings for her. At this point Tom should realize he is in the Friend Zone and move on. [source: Urban Dictionary]
This is a definition of the ‘friend zone’ and for sure this is nothing new, its been around for years. Before we consider the issue further we need to understand a typical definition of ‘Rape Culture’ that society today seems mixed up in:
A Rape Culture–what does that mean? The Rape Culture is best defined as a culture in which rape is prevalent and pervasive and is sanctioned and maintained through fundamental attitudes and beliefs about gender, sexuality, and violence. Many feminists, scholars, and activists argue that the United States of America is the paradigmatic Rape Culture. America’s traditional gender roles which polarize the sexes, offer prescriptions and proscriptions for female and male sexuality. These rigid ideologies serve to label men sexual subjects (read: predators) and women sexual objects (read: prey). In a system such as this, it is no wonder rape is as prevalent as it is.
In a Rape Culture, rape is seen as inevitable. It is widely accepted as a “fact of life” and there is little if any talk about ending the cultural practice. In fact, rape is not seen as a sanctioned “practice” at all, but rather an isolated act that occurs between individuals–this is part of what I call the “mythography of rape.” (Please see the Lies and Statistics section for more information on this topic.) I posit that rape is not an inevitable part of our society; it, like all other crimes and practices, can be eliminated. I, for one, am committed to the struggle to end violence against women and revolutionize cultural norms and values. [Source: University of Minesota article]
In today’s society it is obvious to me that we live in a culture that has become over emphasised on sexuality and this in turn has led to a person’s identity becoming intrinsically linked with their own self-esteem and value. Imagine the scenario above in the urban dictionary definition of The Friend Zone, where Tom meets Amy and supposedly falls in love only to discover that Amy hasn’t got the same feelings yet Tom because his value, self-worth and identity is linked to his feelings of falling in love, he can’t let it go! In this scenario Tom’s boundary’s are fuzzy, Amy’s boundaries are perhaps loose and giving off mixed messages which leads to Tom complaining to his friends. In this situation, how are the boundaries compromised, and who is manipulating who? In this example, then consider first:
Amy – she see’s Tom as a friend, enjoy’s his company, yet, she takes advantage of his infatuations and manipulates his friendship to get him to do thins for her, perhaps offering lifts, lending her money and so on.
Tom – can’t let go of ‘romantic feelings for Amy’ and likes being around her, sees more in the friendship than is there, gets frustrated and tries to get his friends on his side.
In this scenario to unpack what is going on when someone doesn’t get mutual affections according to their own warped expectations and assumptions about each others sexuality, making it out that it’s their fault that the other doesn’t have the same feelings. Typically, Tom targeting untruths about Amy to his friends or anyone who will listen, whether its verbal or social media but the thing is it is in the public forum. Is this not a form of bullying? Character defamation? Why does Tom think he is entitled to such a reciprocal of the same feelings?
On reflection, who is behaving correctly, Amy or Tom or neither? In this situation, both Amy & Tom see’s the other as an object of their sexuality – although it’s one-sided, and in its worse outcome could lead to rape.
At it’s worse attitude and where real attitudes need to change and the reasons why is summed up pretty well by selfish attitudes. For instead of seeing people as just objects we need a change to see people for who they are. The image below (the one with the guy showing his finger) really sums up an attitude which is prevalent in a culture that people are an object for my selfish gratification!
This continuing nasty and bully attitude is both selfish, inappropriate and should not be tolerated.
Where has it all gone wrong?
Let’s consider how the media portrays the sexes. The likes of Rihanna, Beyonce and even Miley Cyrus dress to impress! They put themselves on a pedestal as an object for men lust after, yet they are unreachable by the public. And then how does the media and movies portray romance? Is it not a ‘instant falling in love’ in the movies – so is it hardly surprising when it comes to society people expect and have similar aspirations? In this popular culture people, rather sexuality is seen as sexual and personal gratification – Is this not purely selfish?!?
Have we somehow lost something in where self-esteem and self-worth comes from? Today, perhaps there is too much emphasis on our identity being linked to that of our sexuality. Is there a confusion between my value as a person is linked to that of belonging and having a sexual relationship to know intimacy? Where does value ultimately come from? To me there is a very fine line between that of LUST (idolatry) and LOVE (wanting the best for each other)
The break down of family values, mother and father in the home must surely give to a break down of values and identity. The role of both parents in bringing up kids is crucial – especially when they get to certain ages developmentally. In teenage years for example both parents model How to behave towards the opposite sex. If this is not present then where is the modelling coming from – well hopefully other members of the extended family or community. However we know there are many children growing up in situations where this is absent.
Changing Attitudes and Values is needed!
In the article on Rape Culture above there is a wonderful quote:
“The transformation of a rape culture demands a revolution of values.”
This is absolutely right! We mentioned earlier that society has mixed up and confused a person’s self-worth and value with that of sexuality and sexual identity. What are some of the attitudes and values that need to change?
- Separation of our identity with that of our sexuality – seeing people as valuable human beings created in God’s image. (not objects)
- Enjoying friendships over and above exclusive relationships as a need to belong
- Relationships are more than a sexual partnership
- To understand the real value of intimacy and belonging is not defined by who will sleep with me
This is not an exhaustive article or the list above, and during the course of the coming weeks and months we’re sure we can add to it – from your comments and discussion! It is an important issue to raise amongst young people in your youth groups. How do your youth see and relate to the opposite sex? How can we help them to express and show value in relating to the opposite sex? What values do your youth need to change and how has family values reinforced these values – helpful or not?