The idea that women aren’t attracted to nice guys is one of the most infuriating and sexist myths around. On the surface, it seems like the kind of thing someone would whine about after being turned down – “how could she do this to me, I was so nice to her”, as though an actually kind person would do anything but respect women’s autonomy. There’s something darker beneath the surface, though. It’s the thought that you shouldn’t treat women well. It’s societal conditioning that justifies men treating women like crap, because “nice guys finish last” and being too nice won’t get you anywhere.
What Is Niceness?
I’ll leave a more nuanced discussion of this to the philosophers, but I’m curious to see the “nice guys” definition of niceness. For me, it’s acting with empathy without expecting a reward. For example, if I help an old lady cross the road because I’m a traffic warden, I’m not being nice, I’m doing my job. I’ll get paid for this and therefore there’s a clear benefit for me. On the other hand, if I help an old lady cross the road because I happen to be there and she obviously needs assistance, then I’m actually being kind. I won’t be given the keys to the city or receive money or glory.
Therefore, if a man is nice to a woman because she’s human and in need of assistance, fair, he probably is just a genuine and kind person. If a man helps a woman because he thinks she might sleep with him or offer him a romantic relationship, then there’s something transactional. He’s not being kind, he’s expecting a favour to be returned.
He’s Suspiciously Nice
Women are, understandably, not united on this. There are a few reasons. Firstly, someone being overly nice can be a little odd. Imagine being a normal woman, who works a private sector job, donates a little bit of money to train guide dogs once a month, helps a friend move house and spends most of her income on rent, nice things for herself and possibly saves some.
Along comes a man who lives extremely modestly because he gives all his wealth away and spends every spare moment volunteering at food banks, hospitals, animal shelters, charity shops and anywhere else that will have him. At some point, it seems suspicious. Is he trying to do penance for something bad he’s done? Alternatively, the woman might feel bad because she doesn’t do all of these things, and he makes her feel inferior.
If she doesn’t want to give up her annual girls’ trip to Spain and cocktail hour on Fridays, she’s not a bad person, but this man might make her feel conflicted. We don’t like people who exacerbate our own insecurities.
The Problem With Love-Bombing
At the start of a relationship, it’s pretty normal to be extra nice. You might bring your partner flowers, or send them cute texts. There is a limit to this. Think of when Rachel starts working at Bloomingdales in Friends, and Ross sends her dozens of gifts, not because he’s generous, but because he’s insecure about her friendship with a colleague and essentially wants to mark his territory without giving her a “valid” reason to be upset. He’s being “nice”! This is love-bombing, and it’s abuse.
Abusive partners will often start by trying to rush through the early relationship stages to lock you down, and this will frequently involve being very intense and doing things that overstep boundaries, which they justify with some flimsy excuse of kindness. It isn’t genuine, and you should get away from this person. It’s likely that the abuser will then claim that they were dumped for being too nice, when in fact they were trying to manipulate their partner.
Women Love A Bad Boy
I’m going to be honest: I’ve only actually heard a woman say that she doesn’t like “nice guys” once or twice. The media would have you believe that we have meetings, all ~4 billion women, and talk about how much we hate it when people are kind to us, but the truth is it’s pretty unusual. The women I have heard it from usually have unhealthy ideas of what relationships should look like and struggle to find genuine connections with people.
To these women, I suggest looking at attachment styles and seeking therapy as a way to understand why you wouldn’t want someone who is nice to you without expecting anything in return. What I will admit is common is the “bad boy” fantasy. I think almost all women who are attracted to men have a little bit of a thing for fictional characters who, I don’t know, smoke cigarettes, ride motorbikes and have a sexy devil-may-care attitude.
However, having a soft spot for someone in a film, usually helped by an attractive and charismatic actor, doesn’t often translate into real life. A little imagination and fantasy are fun, but we don’t base our lives around those ideals.
So, is being nice a turn-off for women? No. Absolutely not. Here are some things most women genuinely like: people who are kind and considerate but don’t expect sex as a reward; respecting boundaries and not using the guise of “niceness” to guilt them into things they’re not comfortable with; and sometimes leather jackets.
I’ve met women who like tall men, short men, hairy men, bald men, muscular men, slim men, nerdy men, and sporty men, but I’ve never met a woman who looks over at a guy whining about being too nice and not getting laid and go, yep, that’s the guy for me.