Social Semantics

I’ve always had an internal grading system for how good friends are and levels of commitment, starting from “acquaintance” to “marriage” passing through various stages of being a guest.

  1. The person you see in the street quite often and would say hello to.
  2. The person in the street, so to speak, who you see quite often and have a conversation about the weather with.
  3. The person you’re happy to go out with in public.
  4. The person you’re happy to invite to your place.
  5. The person you’re happy to invite to your place and tell them to make their own drink.
  6. The person you’re happy to invite to your place and tell them to make their own drink and give them the wifi password.
  7. The person you’re happy to invite to your place and tell them to make their own drink and give them the wifi password and let them stay the night.
  8. The person you don’t bother inviting because they’ll come anyway (it’s what you do), but the person you give a key to “just in case”.
  9. The person you’re happy to invite to your place and tell them to make their own drink and give them the wifi password and let them stay the night because you want them to touch your genitals.
  10. The person you don’t bother inviting because they’ll come anyway (it’s what you do), but the person you give a key to because they’re round so damned often you might as well not get up to open the door.  They’ll make their own brew anyway.
  11. The person you don’t bother inviting because they’ll come anyway (it’s what you do), but the person you give a key to because you want them to touch your genitals regularly and don’t want to have to pre-plan genital touching.
  12. The person who still has your key because they actually pay half your bills and never seems to live anywhere else.

There’s possibly some dispute around where 8, 9 and 10 should go, given that I’ve been 8 and 10 without being 9.  I didn’t realise I had so many categories either!  This is also of the assumption that “no sex before marriage” is actually, now, pretty outdated.

Social semantics have been of interest to me for a while.  So you know what I mean, let me introduce myself.  I am “a lovely guy” and “the guy you would like to marry rather than date”.  I have been friend zoned more often than I care to recollect because of that.  Women very rarely tell me that I’m boring or look funny and would never want to be associated with me and, well, “What was I thinking?”.  The majority of the time people say I’m great, but just not great enough; or they just have sympathy for me.

A video came out on YouTube in 2012 entitled “Why Men And Women Can’t Be Friends“.  The premise of the video was that men and women were asked the obvious question – can you be just friends?  Most of the women said yes and most of the men said no.  When the women were asked a follow up question about whether their male friends wanted them to touch their genitals (am I overplaying that phrase now?), most of the women replied with the affirmative.

In a follow-up video, people in relationships were asked if it was OK to have friends of the opposite sex.  Women generally said yes, men generally said no.  When the question was rephrased as whether it was OK for someone to hang out alone with a member of opposite-sex, both men and women agreed that that would be inappropriate.

So why the change in attitude?

The answer can lie in motive and reciprocal altruism.  However, sometimes the reciprocity is not equal, and so one or other of the parties involved will look like a social cheater (the person guilt-tripping someone else in to giving them something, or the other person for just taking).

Does this explain why women’s answers change?  Well, yes, it could.  If the woman in the relationship is not aware of the guy being nice to her just to get something in return, she can’t be seen as that social cheater.  However, if her man is being nice to another woman, then the reasons for that become more conscious and he becomes the cheater.

In “The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating“, Buss suggests that women prefer men who invest in them, but investment plays a substantially lessened role for women in drawing and maintaining male interest.

So actually, then, the most telling question seems to have been when the women were asked whether their male friends wanted sex with them and the idea that men will cease to invest if they don’t get sex.  Apparently there’s also a book called “Why Women Have Sex” in which reasons towards the top of the list are boredom, winning favours and getting rid of a headache.

It kind of adds weight to that internet meme that men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love.  Recent circumstances certainly add weight to the line “I use coupons to get pizza”!

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It’s an interesting line of thinking, and one that I needed to think about personally.  I’ve been friend-zoned.  I’ve continued to be friends and I’ve continued to be nice to be the people who have put me there.  And yes, I’ll admit that I have sometimes been open to the possibility of being more with those people if the situation arose.  My rationale was that we were friends and I found her physically attractive which could be a fairly decent basis for a relationship.

I also think that, at one point in one friend-zone, there was a lot of “tension” there.  Perhaps getting something out of it could have been a benefit – “been there, done that, got the t-shirt (found out what it was like / seen her naked), move on”.

At one point I also thought that having sex with a best friend sounded like the best person to have sex with as well as the worst if it wasn’t part of a full relationship.  It would have joined the three circles of the Venn diagram.

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But sex wasn’t the reason I kept being that nice guy.  I kept being friends even when I knew they were seeing other people and sex definitely wouldn’t have been on the table (or the bed, or the floor, or in the bathroom).

And this is what annoys me because I don’t personally believe in reciprocal altruism.  Friends, for me, shouldn’t need to get something in return other than friendship, however you define that.  Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t stay in an abusive relationship of any sort.  I don’t believe, though, that friendship should be a contractual relationship where you look for anything other than friendship.

For me, the true friends are the ones you can ring up and say “I’m coming over” or “We’re going out” or “Put the kettle on” and you can literally sit there and do nothing else but drink your brew, no questions asked.  When I was sat on a “friend-zoners” sofa eating pizza and watching Netflix, it was because I enjoyed eating pizza and watching Netflix with her and that’s what I got from it.

Yet, I was conscious when I was hanging out with the “friend-zoner” that if I was her boyfriend and new she was hanging out with another guy, that it would make me uncomfortable (especially if it was in the early stages of the relationship).

I could respect the boundaries while being open to something else.  I struggle with the causal link because sometimes I wonder if that openness to more that I mentioned earlier provides the motive of wanting sex as a long term goal even if there was no immediacy of it happening.

Reciprocal altruism should be a part of any relationship if it should be part of any, and I don’t get why it has to manifest as sex in a cross gender relationship.

Perhaps I’m just naive! Thoughts?

What’ll you do when you get lonely
And nobody’s waiting by your side?
You’ve been running and hiding much too long.
You know it’s just your foolish pride.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

I tried to give you consolation
When your old man had let you down.
Like a fool, I fell in love with you,
Turned my whole world upside down.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

Let’s make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane.
Please don’t say I’ll never find a way
And tell me all my love’s in vain.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.

Layla by Eric Clapton

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