"I don't really have a lot of friends, nor girlfriends. Most women say I am too sweet, and I don't know why."
Those are the words of a solemn, Lincoln beard-sporting young guy in his dating profile, a profile that recently became the first post of 2013 on Nice Guys of OkCupid. NGOKC, Katie Baker wrote, serves up "a roster of self-proclaimed ‘nice guys' who are actually total dicks;" in quotes culled from each man's profile there are familiar laments about being "too nice," getting stuck in the "friendzone." There are also expressions of sheer rage and misogynistic threats of violence: "all I want you to is bleed like I have."
Nice Guys of OkCupid is a "dispiriting catalogue of desperation and misogynist entitlement," writes Laurie Penny for the New Statesman. Pathetic and infuriating in turns, the profiles selected for inclusion elicit gasps and giggles – and they raise questions as well. Is it right to mock these aggrieved and clueless young men, particularly the ones who seem less enraged than sad and bewildered at their utter lack of sexual success?
"This is the ugly bullying of those who already feel like losers," says Ally Fogg, a columnist for the Guardian who writes frequently about masculinity. "It's immoral to place them in the 21st Century equivalent of the medieval stocks to be mocked, abused and humiliated." In an email, Fogg suggested that NGOKC could be "potentially dangerous," driving those who are at a "low ebb emotionally" over an edge.
Without entirely dismissing Fogg's concern that some young men's rage or despair could be worsened as a result of NGOKC, there's a lot more to the site than mockery. What's on offer isn't just an opportunity to snort derisively at the socially awkward; it's a chance to talk about the very real problem of male sexual entitlement. The great unifying theme of the curated profiles is indignation. These are young men who were told that if they were nice, then, as Laurie Penny puts it, they feel that women "must be obliged to have sex with them." The subtext of virtually all of their profiles, the mournful and the bilious alike, is that these young men feel cheated. Raised to believe in a perverse social/sexual contract that promised access to women's bodies in exchange for rote expressions of kindness, these boys have at least begun to learn that there is no Magic Sex Fairy. And while they're still hopeful enough to put up a dating profile in the first place, the Nice Guys sabotage their chances of ever getting laid with their inability to conceal their own aggrieved self-righteousness.
Nice Guys of OkCupid provides an excellent opportunity to reiterate a basic truth: there is no right to have sex. (Except, of course, with one's own self.) Generations of children have misunderstood Thomas Jefferson's line that we have the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. I was one such kid; when I learned those words in fourth grade (in 1976, the bicentennial year), I marched home and told my mother that I was owed joy. Mama firmly set me straight on the distinction between the right to want and the right to be given. Nice Guys need a similar sort of come-to-Jesus talk to disabuse them, once and for all, of their insistence that in a just and democratic society, hot young pussy ought to be distributed equally to every Tom, Harry, and Dick who demonstrates a minimal level of civility.
Sex with other people may be a basic human need, but unlike other needs, it can't be a basic human right. It's one thing to believe that the state ought to provide food, shelter, and health care to those who can't afford these necessities of survival. It's another thing to say that the state should ensure that even the hideous and the clueless have occasional orgasms provided for them others. While in Britain, a few local governments have sent disabled men on trips to Amsterdam to see sex workers, citing psychological need, not even the most progressive Europeans have suggested that anyone is entitled to have their romantic longings reciprocated. NGOKC reminds us just how many young men are outraged at this reality that attractiveness, charm, and fuckability are not and never can be equally distributed.
Ally Fogg and others suggest that it's "immoral" to make fun of young men whose greatest crime seems to be that they're stuck at the sad intersection of Not Hot and Dimwit. The plea to replace mockery with understanding is a familiar one; it's what lies behind the calls to stop using the word "creep," because men find it shaming. But in the case of Nice Guys of OkCupid, disdain isn't rooted in meanness as much as it is in self-preservation. While only a small percentage of these guys may be prone to imminent violence, virtually all of them insist, in one way or another, that women owe them. Mockery, in this instance, isn't so much about being cruel as it is about publicly rejecting the Nice Guys' sense of entitlement to both sex and sympathy.
Besides the near-universal sense that they've been unjustly defrauded, the great commonality among these Nice Guys is their contempt for women's non-sexual friendship. They rage about being "friendzoned," and complain about the hours spent listening to women without being given so much as a hand job in return for their investment. Niceness, they make clear over and over again, is a mere tactic, a tool that they were promised would work to give them access to women's bodies. Their anger, in other words, is that their own deception didn't work as they had hoped. It's a monumental overask to expect women to be gentle with the egos of men who only feigned friendship in order to get laid.
So how should we respond, when, as Penny writes, "sexist dickwaddery puts photos on the internet and asks to be loved?" The short answer is that a lonely dickwad is still a dickwad; the fact that these guys are in genuine pain makes them more rather than less likely to mistreat the women they encounter. A rage rooted in anguish is no less dangerous because it comes from the Great Big Sad Place. For that reason alone, we shouldn't make men's pain into women's problem to solve.
Do these men need dating profile makeovers? Yes, obviously; making an effort to have both good grooming and good grammar is seldom a waste. What the Nice Guys of OkCupid need far more than fresh shaves and new shirts, however, are two essential reminders. No one is owed love. And no one who uses friendship as a strategy for sex has the right to complain if he ends up with neither.