The term friend zone is used to describe the situation where one person develops feelings for someone who only sees them as a friend. Usually, the one who falls in love feels trapped in what they call the ‘friend zone’. It is a sexist term used by men to make women feel guilty for rejecting them.
On the other hand, rape culture is the normalising of sexual violence in any form or manner. Remember, the friend zone is not the same as friendship. It is a clear indication that friendship did not exist in the first place because if it did, then the rejected party should not feel the need to lash out or slut-shame a woman for choosing to be with anyone else but them. The friend zone and rape culture go hand in hand.
This trapped party tends to hold on to their feelings with the hope that they will one day graduate to become a love interest but most times, this never happens. This rejection usually leads to frustration and disappointment. It is at this point where things usually go south very fast. In some cases, if the zoned guy feels led on or used they tend to lash out. Instantly, the rational mind walks out of the door and the irrational mind walks in. It is at this point that rape culture becomes a thing.
There is no problem with two people of the opposite sex becoming friends and maintaining a platonic relationship. However, a lot of misogynists do not see it that way. For some of these men, a woman saying no to them is unheard of. Their advances can not be turned down. They cannot take a female friend out for lunch and not expect sex at the end of the lunch and you can never make the mistake of being indoors with them alone. Why? Because to them, lunch is consent, being in an enclosed space is consent and your no is a yes!
I talked with a couple of women who admitted that they have fallen victim to rape. They accepted to go out with men they thought were friends only for them to take advantage. Others were raped at their male friend’s houses during sleepovers.
These stories brought me to the realisation that the stranger rape issue is a myth. Most rape victims know their assailant and can point them out. However, they are afraid because they can’t bear the guilt, the blame and the shame. They are afraid they will be asked why they went out with the guy, why they were at his place. Well, how could they know he is an animal with zero self-control?
According to the National Rape Crisis Statistic Report compiled in 2011, nine out of ten women knew their assailant. In perspective, only one out of ten women were raped by a stranger. The numbers are so high because most of the cases are perpetrated by people you know and trust. It could be a family member, a friend, neighbour or colleague. This is the statistics in the western countries.
In Africa, the numbers are even more shocking. According to the National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community, when one black woman reports a rape case, at least fifteen women do not report. They further state that at least thirsty five black women suffer some form of sexual violence within their lifetime and one in four black girls are sexually abused before the age of eighteen. These numbers will continue to grow if we add the notion of the ‘friend zone’ to our problems.
Well, what can we do to discourage the friend zone and put an end to rape culture?
Dear ‘Mr Nice Guy,’ learn to accept no as a complete answer
More often than not, it is the self-proclaimed ‘nice guy’ who takes the approach of being the friend with the hope that one day, they will be given a chance. They spend years, pursuing a girl who already said no with the hope that it becomes a yes! Sir, rejection hurts – we know but being nice does not entitle you to sex, nothing does! They should understand they were not rejected for being nice but because there is no mutual attraction. Just remember, if she was worth pursuing romantically then she should also be worth it as a friend. Your person is out there.
Be honest about your feelings and stick to your word
Women are emotional creatures. Sometimes we feel awful turning down someone but you need to remember that it is not your fault when someone likes you and you do not have feelings for them. It is possible to accept favours, do favours, buy drinks or go out on dates with someone and they won’t ask for sexual favours in return. However, always let them know your stand when it comes to being more than friends. In case your feelings have changed and you now want more than friendship, speak up. If you ever find yourself in a situation that feels unsafe, walk away and do not look back. If you are sexually violated, report to the relevant authorities and tell your truth.
Do not date anyone out of guilt
Women are highly intuitive. You can tell when there is nothing between you and someone else and when there is something. Avoid giving the guy mixed signals. Avoid pushing his buttons and making him feel like there is something there or that something might culminate eventually. This will only rile them up and probably put you in danger or make you feel guilty and force you into dating them while you do not want to.
Dating someone out of pity never ends well. One, it will be a constant rollercoaster of emotions and not the good type of lovey-dovey emotions. It will always be you feeling unhappy and them overcompensating. Do you want to waste this much time?
As black women, we are afraid to come out and speak up against rape. As a continent, we are still behind in terms of being able to punish sex offenders. In the world, people are still telling rape jokes like they are funny! We still encourage rape culture by blaming the victim, claiming they wanted it because of their dressing, their natural God-given curves showing in decent clothes, and we even blame the hairstyle and makeup.
The friend zone is a very dangerous myth and encourages rejected men to go a step further just to see if they get the promotion. It births the concept of rape. It is improper to kiss your friend in the first place so why should they? The friend zone notion implies that a man and a woman can not be friends without being sexually involved which is sad and unfair! If a man refuses to be just a friend minus the zone, walk away; they are not worth your trouble.