As a guy in college, I’ve had plenty of time to interact with girls and seek relationships. However, nothing stings more than when a girl considers me as “just a friend.” I can’t help but feel frustrated for investing so much time, money and emotions into a person who won’t reciprocate their feelings toward me. At the same time, I’ve friendzoned girls for not fitting my interests and they probably experience the same frustration I feel. Indeed, the friendzone is a terrible place — one where your hopes and dreams of being intimate with another becomes crushed by their view of you as a “friend.” It almost seems like the flaws lie with them instead of yourself. However, my opinions of the friendzone changed after I attended a small discussion on the matter.

On Thursday, May 12, the S.A.V.E. program offered a presentation on “Deconstructing the Friendzone,” which discussed the friendzone in terms of personal relationships and rape culture. The presentation was offered in a format conducive to open discussion, with ground rules specifying that participants could express their opinions confidentially and openly.

At the start of the event, presenters TJ and Riki began by offering a formal definition of the friendzone. They defined it as “a situation in which a friendship exists between two people where one person does not reciprocate romantic or sexual interest.” Afterward, they discussed several myths and misconceptions regarding the friendzone. The presenters claimed that the friendzone creates entitlement to another’s body, since “nice guys should be with women they deserve.”

The presenters pointed to social conditioning and our culture as the root of this problem, which evaluates relationships in terms of their progress instead of a fluid, comfortable dynamic. As a result, individuals tend to undervalue friendships and platonic relationships. Thus, if one is in love with somebody who refuses to reciprocate, the infatuated person will be unhappy or have lower social value.

The friendzone exacerbates rape culture because a denial of consent becomes ground for an individual to further pursue a romantically disengaged person. A firm “no” becomes a reason for a person to “try harder.” Other individuals not involved with these exchanges become inclined to coerce the victim via shaming and guilt-tripping. For example, the friends of a girl being fruitlessly chased might say to her, “you’re leading him on” or “you’re being such a tease.”

This culture has led to extreme cases of violence. The presenters used Isla Vista shooter, Elliot Rodger, as a firm example. Rodger conducted a mass shooting after being unable to find romantic companionship with six individuals slain during the rampage. In a separate episode, high school student Maren Sanchez was shot by an individual whose prom proposal she rejected.

In order to prevent this sort of violence within our community, TJ and Riki offered some example statements of “red flags” to determine if sexual assault and violence is likely to occur, such as, “Why won’t you give me a second chance?” “I’m different from other people” and “Just go out with him, what harm could it do?”

At the end of their presentation, TJ and Riki emphasized the importance of friendship in response to our culture that stigmatizes it. They argued that, “Building friendships can help build long and stable romantic relationships.” Therefore, even if a relationship does not pan out the way an individual wishes, a friendship can be “just as fulfilling as a romantic relationship.”

After attending this discussion, I have a different view of the friendzone. I realized that it shouldn’t matter what your status is in relation to another, but rather the shared experiences you have together. If you’re having fun and enjoying the company of another, then intimacy should not be the focus of your endeavours. So instead of saving me from the friendzone, save me from society’s conception of relationships.