Nice guys finish ... in the shower?

When I am single, I get told that a "nice guy" like me isn't attractive to women. A lot.

Most of my life I am happy and active, with (too) many projects, and, at times, great relationships. But at other times, between intimate relationships, I can feel lonely and depressed. It is at these times that I have been tempted to believe the people who tell me that I am a single "nice guy" because women choose "bad boys."

This is an exploration of that logic, from the perspective of a man often labeled as the "nice guy."

How to fix a nice guy: Sixteen Commandments of Poon

About four years ago, I was alone and lonely. A friend of mine who dated a lot of beautiful women told me that I was "going about women all wrong." He said he would send me something to read, which he did. The e-mail:

Here's a very good place to start. This type of thinking will drastically improve the quality of relations with women, whether it be long standing committed relationships you're after or simply just having a better time dating women.

This sounded great; exactly what I needed. I knew what I wanted: a "committed relationship," and "having a better time dating women" sounded like a good way to get there.

When he said he would send me something to read, my friend assured me that the reason I was alone was my attitude towards women. He promised my "problems with women" could be solved if I embraced the philosophy he was sending me.

The e-mail had an attachment, which I hopefully opened. Then my hope soured when I saw the title: The Sixteen Commandments of Poon.


That didn't sound like what he described in the e-mail. But, I told myself, he did have seemingly happy relationships with a lot of women. Though the title of his philosophy was gross, it wasn't as if the women he dated were mad at him or felt used; to the contrary.

And I was alone. I could stick to my feminist ethics all I wanted, but there was one truth I couldn't deny: I was alone and he wasn't. That alone spoke volumes to me. Maybe women didn't want a guy with my feminist ethics?

I held my nose and read the Sixteen Commandments of Poon.

It was even worse than I feared. The essence of the document, and philosophy, is that men should avoid emotion and honesty with women, unless they want to end up a beta. What is a beta? The worst fate a man could have. A beta is rejected, sexually, by women, in favor of an Alpha. Lonely men like me are the pathetic betas.

The Sixteen Commandments of Poon offers hope. Betas can turn into Alphas simply by treating women the way women want to be treated: badly.

According to the Commandments, the reason I felt unattractive and rejected was because I was unattractive, and I was being rejected: Unattractive because I didn't treat women how they want to be treated. Rejected because women were having sex with Alphas instead of me.

According to the Commandments, women find emotional games attractive. Women don't find respect attractive. Women may deny enjoying emotional abuse and constant power play, but they are lying.

From the third commandment, "Make her jealous:"

Women will never admit this but jealousy excites them.

From the sixth commandment, "Keep her guessing:"

True to their inscrutable natures, women ask questions they don’t really want direct answers to. Woe be the man who plays it straight — his fate is the suffering of the beta.

From the thirteenth commandment, "Err on the side of too much boldness, rather than too little:"

Touching a woman inappropriately on the first date will get you further with her than not touching her at all. Don’t let a woman’s faux indignation at your boldness sway you; they secretly love it when a man aggressively pursues what he wants and makes his sexual intentions known.

I read the Sixteen Commandments of Poon. You probably shouldn't. It got creepier, and I am not really writing about that document (yet), but I do want to highlight something. At the time I found it reasonable logic, however gross. I felt that if I were to be less of a "nice guy" then I might not be alone.

Loneliness and depression lead to bad logic

Between the time I read the horrible Sixteen Commandments of Poon and today, I had a wonderful relationship. She was (well, is) a passionate scientist, deeply committed to using science to advance social justice. Cute, too. It was almost a fairy tale relationship; on our first date we rode bikes to an outdoor Gil Scott-Heron concert. She was exactly the sort of woman I was looking for: brilliant, and passionate about social justice. She chose, and was excited about being with, me. (!!!)

There have been other wonderful women who have chosen me in this little life of mine. Three, to be exact. A doctor dedicated to humanizing medicine, a lawyer struggling to improve domestic violence policy, and the talented artist who designed this very website (hi Ju!). Every woman I have dated as an adult has been an amazing person doing amazing things. And they chose me. (Again, !!!)

I mention these happy relationships not to brag about how desirable I am. I mention these happy relationships because I become incapable of remembering any of those relationships when I am lonely. Which leads to that "nice guys finish last" logic.

The logic is flawed. Nobody actually rejected me for being a nice guy. When I am able to look back clearly I see that when I have expressed my desires, this "nice guy" has been rewarded with better relationships than he ever imagined possible.

But again, some times I have trouble looking back clearly. When intimacy and gentle human touch become distant memory, it is hard to remember that anyone ever chose me. Similar to trying to remember what a warm day on the beach feels like when I am freezing cold in the snow.

When I am lonely, I often feel rejected by situations that have nothing to do with me. Seeing happy couples being happy couples makes me feel worse about myself. I ask: why does nobody choose me?

I begin to think that if only I were taller or better looking or more muscular or (it goes on) then women wouldn't be rejecting me. It isn't a healthy line of thought, particularly since no women are actually rejecting me. I am just lonely.

Notice the creeping present tense?

I whine about being lonely to my friends occasionally. Although I have (thankfully) not received any more Commandments of Poon, my friends still offer advice to a nice guy like me.

Which gets us to the conversation that inspired me to write this piece.

Too nice to get laid?

One friend who I have talked to a lot about my issues with loneliness called me up recently, asking me for my help. She was in tears and asked me to come over. I did.

She was still sobbing when I arrived. She is casually dating a couple guys and said she was in tears because the men she is dating are selfish, manipulative jerks. I asked her why she dated selfish, manipulative jerks.

She looked up and, through her tears, told me that my inability to grasp that was why I was alone.


Perhaps she would have said it differently (or not at all?) if she wasn't depressed and in tears. I don't know. But I do know that she told me "you are too nice to women, which is why you never get laid."

A woman in tears because of emotional abuse was telling me that I should emotionally abuse other women to get laid. And she meant it, too.

You are too nice to women, which is why you never get laid.

Do nice guys finish in the shower?

What I hear from my society, and even my activist community, is that I will date more women if I treat them worse. Is that true?

Will emotionally abusing women get me more or better relationships? Will it get me laid more? Does being mean to women work?

I don't know if emotionally abusing women works. I do know that I despise the question.

Does slavery work? Does rape work?

They may be effective, but they are still wrong. Emotionally abusing women is wrong, clearly so, even if it is effective. I have no idea if it is effective. It doesn't matter.

What about male entitlement? Nice guy gone silent?

There is an important part of the "nice guy" discussion that I have not yet touched on: male entitlement. I put it off because this particular type of critical self examination is hard. Really hard.

So hard that I will put it off for a few more paragraphs.

I logged on to an evil social network dedicated to profiting from the destruction of my privacy and asked some of my women friends for their thoughts on nice guys and sex.

Two women quickly provided thoughtful responses. This article that you have been reading is based on my personal experience, so by definition it has been male centric and hetero-normative. I hope these comments add some perspective. They echo my personal experience, yet encouraged deeper examination of entitlement.

Friend One:

I cannot properly attribute this, and I wish I could, because my recapitulation is not going to do it justice, but someone said something along the lines of "I'm not a vending machine that you put attention into and sex falls out of." There are women who do this, too, but it seems like there is a group of men who feels like being a decent human being entitles them to sex, just because.

The bolded text does a good job at explaining male entitlement. Do I feel entitled to someone else's sexuality?

"Nice guy" logic is an easy way to avoid tough questions, conversations, and critical examination of my behavior. By deciding that I am being "rejected" because a woman chooses to be with someone else (or just not be with me) I am blaming her for my loneliness. In fact, more than blaming her, since she could be whoever, I am blaming all women.

Blaming women makes no sense, absent the dark and cloudy logic of depression and loneliness. But blaming women (by feeling wrongly rejected) can be a seductive idea to me when I feel depressed, ugly, and unwanted. Answers are hard to find in that dark place. "Nice guys finish last" is an easy answer.

The problem with that answer, aside from it being wrong, is that it can lead to "nice guys" being mad at women generally. Which doesn't sound that nice at all.

Tough conclusion for this "nice guy" to come to about himself. But not as tough as the next one, which I still haven't managed to deal with: male entitlement.

Do I feel entitled to sex? Entitled to women's bodies and their sexuality? I don't think I am that sort of "nice guy." I Hope not. I am usually thinking the opposite when I fall in to nice guy logic. I am usually thinking: why would anyone want to be with me?

"I don't think I am" and "I hope not" and "why would anyone want to be with me" aren't exactly the best responses to an accusation of male entitlement, but they are honest answers. Maybe, without admitting it to myself, a sense of male entitlement (to women and their bodies) is what leads me to feel constantly, irrationally rejected.

My heart tells me that I want a healthy, caring relationship, not to extract sex from women. If that is true (it is), can a sense of entitlement to sex really be at the bottom of my "nice guy" loneliness?

Actually, it might. The constant feeling of wrongful rejection must be based on feeling entitled to something. I called it irrational a couple paragraphs ago, but maybe there is a sort of logic to this feeling of rejection, based on entitlement. I struggle at untying that little knot. Find that answer unsatisfying? Me too.

Friend Two:

It's not niceness that scares women (and some men) off as much unclear motives. People think they're being "nice" by not being forward or saying directly what they want out of an interaction. They might even act like they're uncomfortable with what they want, and that spooks other people because the intention isn't clear.

I have been told a million times that men must act confident and never admit this: I am often in fear of rejection when I am around a woman I would like to date. I fear expressing my desires in part because I fear rejection. Then people call me a "nice guy" because of my refusal to communicate my desires?

Wanting to be with a woman, and not telling her, doesn't actually make me a nice guy. It makes me a shitty communicator.

Nice guys finish ... in the shower? is the first piece of a two part series exploring "nice guys" and sexuality. The second piece, Don't hate the player, focuses on "bad boys" and will be published here in mid-February.

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Hi Pat. It's the lawyer:) Very interesting and profound article. You were always so cerebral. Anyway, you shouldn't be so hard on yourself! BTW, you being a nice guy was a major plus in my book. Take care and be true to yourself first and foremost.

Tana Lee's picture

I've been thinking about the ritual lately, and the difference between a true and useful ritual between two people, and the subsitution of the "game" as a shortcut.  The ritual is a way for nice people to respectfully feel out the possibilities, whereas the game is a way for people to pretend to be nice and get the benefits of implied niceness.