“I’m a nice guy,” crooned Neil, the sloppy, cocaine-addicted aspiring novelist, to the woman he’d just attempted to sexually assault, Carey Mulligan’s Cassandra. She eyes him now knowing otherwise. “I’m a nice guy.” Neil repeated, desperation creeping into his voice.
Cassandra smiled. “You keep saying that. You’re not as rare as you think. You know how I know? Because every week, I go to a club, and every week, I act like I’m too drunk to stand. And every f—ing week, a nice guy like you comes over to see if I’m okay. You want to f— me still?”
“I’m a nice guy.”
Though I watched “Promising Young Woman” on pay-per-view in my bed by myself, I could still hear the collective eye roll from women everywhere at this line. I could almost as clearly hear the gears turning in the head of every man who’d heard the line and thought back to a time he’d crooned it too.
I remember hearing it in high school. I got B’s DM almost a month after he’d been accused of sexually assaulting a girl I knew as a friend of a friend of a friend. This news shocked me as I thought back to running lines with him in a practice room for a play we were both auditioning for. Slightly chubby, awkwardly kind and willing to run lines with the freshman girl who didn’t know anyone there, he seemed like such a … nice guy. He promised. He promised that he was a nice guy in the DM, then he asked me on a date. He was probably lonely after he’d been kicked out of the show based on the allegations, but I knew better. This was no nice guy. I blocked him from my Instagram, along with the story from my mind.
I heard this line again a few years later. S was my new friend, why shouldn’t I have thought of him as a nice guy? I was crewing a show he was starring in, and he sure seemed like one in the beginning. We’d get coffee after rehearsals. He’d always offer to drive and pay. He showered me with compliments, even mentioning me in his bio in the playbill. Swoon. And so, I had no reason to think otherwise until his texts began to get more frequent and more demanding, and I complained to my friends that he was beginning to get a little … clingy?
I felt the first red flag when I told him I’d lost my virginity and he responded, “How about you seriously consider not f—ing someone unless you’re in a committed relationship with them.” First, this is verbatim, I still have the screenshots. Second, this is some seriously demented patriarchal nonsense.
Another red flag sprung up when he pointed out that I’d stopped responding as much as I used to and that he had “separation anxiety” when I ignored him. “I’m working,” I lied. “Are you lying to me?” he responded. Yikes. He wasn’t wrong, but he clearly couldn’t take a hint.
His response? “Don’t ignore me. I’m a nice guy.”
I brushed it off and showed the texts to my friends.We ended up laughing about it. I would never have admitted it to myself at the time, but the attention seemed harmless. The red flags are obvious now, but at the time I was almost flattered to have someone so obsessed with me. It became a little less funny when he started texting my friends begging them for my address because he wanted to drop off my usual coffee order and apologize for being clingy. I then told him I didn’t want to be friends anymore. It was even less funny when he told one of our mutual friends, “Honestly, the only thing that would fix our friendship would be a gun.”
So much for a nice guy. Isn’t it funny how that works?
From my experience with guys, this is how it usually goes: Guys only have to promise they’re nice guys in the event they prove themselves to be otherwise. A nice guy is a term used “to describe someone who believes himself to possess genuine ‘nice guy’ characteristics, even though he actually may not, and who uses acts of friendship and basic social etiquette with the unstated aim of progressing to a romantic or sexual relationship.” Sounds about right, especially when you add the context that it’s often used as a cover for violent or misogynistic behavior directed at women.
After everything I’ve gathered from my experiences with men, I request but one thing of the male population: Be a nice guy and mean it. We want to give you the benefit of the doubt. Women are not prudes or “Social Justice Warriors” or “unf—able b-tches” for not putting out or not wanting to go home with you or putting you in the “friend-zone” or not letting you hold our drinks. We’ve just heard way too many stories about what happens to girls who do. The threat of gender-based violence is always in the back of our minds, and we go out of our way to avoid making ourselves a target. We’ll give the guy we’re not very interested in our phone number at the bar because we don’t know how angry he’ll get if we don’t. On the other end of the spectrum, we aren’t sluts or whores or whatever other terms of endearment you want to call us to your buddies when we do choose to do something with you. Assuming consent was present, we think you’re a nice guy. Don’t screw it up.
People who date guys, I commend you for having to deal with not one but two pandemics in these troubling times: COVID-19 and the nearly as deadly “Nice Guy” epidemic. According to a study published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2018, six women were killed every hour at the hands of someone they knew. In February 2017, a school nurse in a Dallas suburb began identifying and counting women murdered by men. By 2018, the spreadsheet has reached 1,807 rows and counting.
But they were such nice guys…
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