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Men Aren’t Entitled to Women's Time or Affection. But It's a Hard Lesson to Learn

Beware a bro who knows what he 'deserves': the friendzone is only purgatory if women's decisions are less valid.

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It should go without saying that women aren't carnival prizes to be won. But just like with lots of things that should go without saying, it needs to be said, as there still seems to be some debate as to whether women are autonomous humans with the right to give as much or as little of themselves to people as they want. It should go without saying that there's no outside arbiter of who "deserves" which woman, or of what one "deserves" to receive from a woman, because women get to decide for themselves. Indeed, it should go without saying, and yet ...

Beware bros trying to inform you what they "deserve". A hurt man can be a handful – but a hurt man inspired by the conviction that he's owed something can be dangerous. For proof of this, look no further than Elliot Rodger, who will forever serve as a reminder that the phrase "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" is wildly inaccurate in one quite obvious way. And while the Elliot Rodgers of the world are, blessedly, anomalies, quite common are those men among us who use romance or business or sexual liberation or comedy or art to buttress their entitlement.

The gendered entitlement of criminals – rapists, domestic abusers, murderers – is almost always universally condemned as unacceptable throughout polite society (at least in 2014), as is the era of dowries and legal spousal rape, when women were considered the literal property of the men in their lives. But those men whose actions exhibit in softer – sometimes even socially acceptable – ways their belief that women should pay them deference (or at least quietly tolerate their varied hostilities) face much less opprobrium.

This is how men get away with bludgeoning the joy that is friendship into the unrecognizable "friendzone" – a place where it's actually humiliating to be friends with a woman. This is how Jeff Reifman gets to decide that he should receive in perpetuity the attention of his ex, let alone make the concern-trolling argument that it's unhealthy for her to do otherwise. This is how men around the world are indulged after they reach the conclusion that it's perfectly reasonable to look at a strange woman on the street and tell her she'd be prettier if she smiled. This is what leads men to believe that they're owed anything from women – whether that be a smile, an explanation, kindness, love, appreciation, time, a hug ... or even a single lousy text message.

These days, after several years apart, my ex – the one I was once certain I would marry – does actually text me on occasion, usually to wish me a happy birthday. It's a nice gesture of friendship, and one I no longer believe that I "deserve". She never owed me anything, and what needed fixing back then wasn't her or us: it was me. I know now that all the wailing over what I was due in the wake of our relationship was just an attempt to ignore my own shortcomings – the flailings of a man realizing that she was gone forever, and that he would have to live with himself.


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