"A place where every decent guy will find himself eventually" : delineating the friend zone as a site of sexual violence

Shields, Giorgia Lake
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Since emerging in the mid-1990s, the nature of the friend zone has solidified around a common social trope: oblivious and/or manipulative women relegate men to this platonic space, callously disregarding the entitled but unsatisfied male desire they have provoked. Due to the proliferation of this trope, particularly among the millennial generation, it is apparent that the friend zone has become part of a pop culture lexicon through which adolescents and young adults learn to experience and perceive cross-gender relationships. The purpose of this report is to delineate and critically consider the conceptual components of the friend zone by which it has become an intelligible cultural construct. These concepts include cisheteronormativity, ambivalent sexism, sexual mythology, and masculinity policing behaviors in male homosocial spaces. Examining these conceptual features as they work with and through one another reveals that the friend zone is underpinned by patriarchal myths about gender and sexuality that, in turn, sustain status quo beliefs about cross-cisgender relationships. These beliefs work to affirm and perpetuate the misogynistic logic of a culture that normalizes sexual violence against girls and women, further exacerbating their already disproportionate vulnerability to such violence. This report also serves as a starting point for future empirical research into the complexities and intersections of the friend zone discourse.