This story originally ran in July 2018.
Recently, women took to Reddit to tell their scariest stories about “Nice Guys” — what our own Miles Klee described as a dude “who claims he only wants to be a woman’s friend, then gets mad about being ‘friendzoned’ and cruelly judges her for dating anyone who isn’t him.” The Nice Guy believes he lives outside of sexism and toxic masculinity, yet his schtick still hinges on the idea that basic decency toward a woman entitles him to sexual access.
But if there’s a Nice Guy, can there be a “Nice Girl” equivalent? And if so, what does she look like? And more importantly, is she just as toxic?
To answer the first question: Yes, there are “Nice Girls.” On a recent r/AskWomen thread, people shared stories about their own oblivious Nice Girl moments. But unlike those Nice Guy stories — which involve men bragging to women that they are lucky they aren’t being raped, or threatening suicide when they’re rejected — there’s a distinctly gendered twist.
The Saddest ‘Nice Girl’ Stories From Reddit
One woman admitted to pursuing uninterested men in the hope that it would somehow cut through. “I chose to ignore what they said and focus on the ‘signs’ (we have sex! they act like they love me!). I stayed and gave and gave and gave ‘selflessly’ and had my heart broken.”
It’s just as annoying when a guy crushing on you can’t take a hint, but the twist here is that she stays, has sex, gives endlessly, and just gets slinks away to nurse her wounds privately.
Another woman said she spent years angry about not getting to shag her favorite celeb, Tom Hiddleston. Women might really really want to fuck someone, and might devote a lot of energy to feeling sorry for themselves when they can’t, but — there is no but. That’s the end of the story.
A woman stepped up to the Reddit confessional booth to unburden herself with the admission that she got very upset when people she liked didn’t like her back: “I wouldn’t take it out on anyone and just kind of wallow in my own misery, but I still had to have that moment of realization that no one owed me anything. … I have never seen a woman take it as far as many ‘nice guys’ do.” Critically, she doesn’t do anything about it to her crush.
It is arrogant and unpleasant when anyone won’t take rejection gracefully. One woman cringes at the thought of forcibly kissing a crush who didn’t want to date her—in the third grade. “Thankfully I have since learned that no means no!” Key development: She realizes it was creepy and deeply regrets it.
Some Nice Girls will risk excruciating embarrassment to pathetically confess their love. Fortunately, I believe self-directed public humiliation counts as time served. “I wrote an entire song about how the guy I liked was dating someone else who didn’t treat him right and was crazy and I was a much better fit for him,” one said. “I also sang out at our school talent show or whatever lmao.”
Then, there’s the woman who explains that, because she’s “extremely unattractive,” she doesn’t have great luck with men. But she tries to flirt anyway, and feels awful. “I’ve realized that I actually valued my faint hope of maybe receiving a spark of interest in return over those men’s comfort, and I’m ashamed to even think about it.” Again, the result is soul-searching and quiet shame.
Similar to the Cool Girl phenomenon we’ve dissected for you, some nice girls will go out of their way to convey that they “aren’t like other girls” because they aren’t into all that dumb, girly shit. By dunking on the women who are, they think men will pick them.
I used to be a nice girl of the “not like other girls” variety. Hated pink, hated romance, hated girliness, mainly hung out with guys, hated dresses, etc.
What made me a nice girl is I thought I was a catch because of those things. I can recall multiple instances of, “this person only just doesn’t want to date/hangout/whatever me because they only like dumb, girly women.”
It was super toxic, but I didn’t really obsess over it like a lot of nice guys do. I basically was just really entitled and felt superior.
What Can We Take Away From All This?
Notice anything about all the stories above? They have one important thing in common. These women talk about feeling angry, entitled and delusional, just like “nice guys.” The difference is, they say they didn’t take it out on anyone—they just turned the toxic feelings on themselves.
Of course, these women are telling their own versions of the stories. They may be unreliable narrators. We haven’t heard from the men who got Nice Girled.
Also, we know it’s not as if women never cross boundaries, or take it too far when they don’t get the guy they’re chasing. Women can be daft, shitty, persistent, shallow, grabby and awful, too. Remember that Arizona lady who sent that guy 65,000 texts at the rate of 500 a day, who then broke into his home and took a bath?
What’s important to note here — it’s kind of the point of everything when we try to break down gender — is that under our rigidly prescribed roles, we are all just human people and insecure weirdos and there’s commonality in that that’s instructive and ought to bring us closer. But then society steps in and shits all over it.
For a lot of people who don’t feel attractive or successful enough to get the person of their dreams, there are, it seems, some very appealing alternate routes and backdoor methods that are obtuse and counterproductive.
Anyone can internalize the often toxic idea that romance is some kind of waiting game: If you just play nice person/friend/dutiful lapdog/pining sucker long enough, they will eventually realize how great you are, ditch their obsession with jocks or cheerleaders and pick you.
Women are not above this! Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind of Wonderful is a Nice Girl. Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles is a Nice Girl. Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink is a Nice Girl. (Molly Ringwald in … everything?) All John Hughes movies involve a nice guy or girl, come to think about it, hoping for that payoff.
Generally, the Nice Girl is really the girl next door gone wrong. In other words, the traditional definition of a “nice girl” is a good thing: She’s sweet, she has proper morals and values and, more importantly, she isn’t a golddigger. She might not be a looker or make your heart or loins race, but she really loves you. But even that is a limiting trope. Nice Girls are still full people, and like anyone who feels they missed out on the romance everyone else is enjoying, she might get shitty and angry and feel that her goodness has not been rewarded with a good mate. Nice girls need love too! We can’t all be femmes fatales, right?
But because women generally lack the power to coerce men into relationships at will, the privilege to expect to the same degree, and are generally inclined to internalize self-loathing for their shortcomings, it’s just less likely to manifest in violent demands, gross, oblivious sexual entitlement or the kind of intimidation or clueless pestering that makes women actually fear for their bodily autonomy or their lives.
For many women, the Nice Guy often becomes their worst nightmare, whereas the Nice Girl equivalent is more often a nuisance, the kind that can be swatted away like a pest. And in the end, rather than blow up at the object of desire — or at the world, as so many rejected men have, all the while maintaining they are “nice guys” — Nice Girls simply internalize the shame.
To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, the Nice Girl is far more likely to go out with a whimper and not a bang. As one Nice Girl on Reddit put it, her final move was quiet insight about men’s limitations, but also her own:
It took a lot of time to realize that it wasn’t selfless. I wanted it to pay off. I wanted them to turn around and realize they loved me someday, just like nice guys dream. Yeah, it wasn’t cool of the people taking advantage of it, but ultimately it was my fault for not having boundaries or self-respect.
Trust me, Nice Girls can turn into real women, as long as they accept that this is not the way to make a relationship go. Nice Guys would do well to follow suit, and realize that real men can take rejection, too.