The sense of zone is one of being stuck in an unwanted and distant relationship. The rejected person is said to have been put "in" the object of their affection's "friend zone", and this can be verbified, as in the sentence "So, she's friendzoned you." The concept of the friend zone has been criticized as misogynistic, because of a belief that the concept implies an expectation that women should have sex with men in whom they have no interest, simply because the men were nice to them. This is closely associated with so-called "nice guy syndrome".
Writer Jeremy Nicholson in Psychology Today suggested that a romantic pursuer, in order to avoid being rejected up front, uses a ploy of acting friendly as a "back door" way into a hoped-for relationship. When this method does not work, the pursuer consequently is placed in the friend zone.
The term "friend zone" is sometimes used in pick up artist (PUA) literature, where it forms part of PUA theories about female sexual attraction to males.
According to some psychologists, the man in a cross-gender friendship is more likely to be attracted to his woman friend than she is to him, and he is more likely to overestimate her interest in a romantic or sexual relationship.
Feminist writers have argued that the friend zone concept is misogynistic and rooted in male narcissism. The nice guy concept has been criticized as a gender trope with an underlying message that kind acts demand a sexual or romantic reward, and that this concept implies that if a woman and a man have a platonic friendship and the man becomes romantically attracted to the woman, then the woman has an obligation to return his affection. A woman who does not return her "nice guy" male friend's affection is viewed negatively or seen to be at fault.