You have a crush, and your heart beats quickly when you see him. You think about him frequently, and you’ve probably even fantasized about having a relationship with him. This situation isn’t foreign to us; we’ve all been there. Some of us experience it repeatedly. This could be because women tend to fall rather quickly, and once we do, we only think of them in a romantic sense. We have no space in our minds or hearts for anyone else either, and typically reserve the physical intimacy for them. For many of us, we don't have a roster of men we put on specific shelves under the labels of “husband” or “hookup” material. We go for the man we have strong feelings for and don’t question it.
I’ve learned that men are different. Some of them put women in boxes, and if you’re in one, it’s difficult to get out of it. It’s similar to when a girl puts her guy friend in the “friend zone.” Sometimes, he gets upgraded to the boyfriend stage, but more often than not, he stays.
The Box Theory
This "theory" was popularized by an influencer named Tinx on TikTok. "When men meet you in a romantic setting, they put you in a box," she claimed in her viral video. "Either they want to date you, they want to sleep with you, or they want nothing to do with you."
Tinx explained that it's incredibly difficult to shift from box to box, and reiterated that once you're in one, there's no getting out. This could be why some women struggle to move past the "situationship" stage.
"So if he meets you and he's like, 'I want to date this girl,' you could puke on his shoes and sleep with him on the first night, and it wouldn't matter," Tinx added. "Vice versa, if he meets you and he just wants to hook up, you could make him wait three months to sleep with you. It's not gonna change that." On the other hand, women may fall for their flings even when they don’t intend to (it’s also one of the many reasons we shouldn’t engage in hookup culture).
You may have some doubts about this. I did, too – until I saw the comments from men on a video about this theory. They pretty much confirmed my fears. "As [a] guy I've never consciously thought bout this but it is kinda true," wrote Even Dame in the comment section. "However, the categories overlap more than one might think." That's good to hear, I guess?
"Is this not the same for girls?" asked Chris Hooper. "I'm genuinely curious."
Luke added, "I wouldn't say it is clear categories, it may change from time to time."
We’ve heard Tinx’s explanation, so it’s only fair we hear from a man about this. An anonymous male (@hoe_math) on TikTok made a video about this exact topic, stating that he had come up with this theory without realizing it already had a name. "I refer to it as 'zones,'" he explains. "It's the idea that men put women into boxes, and once you're in one, you can't get out of it. I refer to them as keepers, sleepers, and sweepers, as in 'under the rug.'"
He continues, "Generally, we don't want anything to do with sweepers, but alcohol makes us do crazy things, and we don't want anyone to know about them. Everyone knows that women have a friend zone and that you can't really get out of it."
The comments on this video tell us a little more about how men think. Zach wrote, "A lot of sweepers and sleepers think they're keepers." Ouch.
A TikTok user said, "You can definitely have a woman move zones, typically it'll only be down. For example if you learn something about her past she won't be a keeper."
What the Experts Say
Rachel Sommar, Ph.D. and clinical psychologist, gave Darcy Magazine her two cents on this subject: “I firmly believe that men tend to decide the end game as soon as they meet a woman. It all starts with the spark from physical attraction, but men will figure out your box soon after either having a conversation or watching you for a while.”
“I think we all [put people in boxes], including us women,” Sommer shares. “We decide on where we’d like to go with a person as soon as we meet them. The specific box might change over time, but the first impression takes center stage most of the time.”
The first impression takes center stage most of the time.
Gender plays a bigger role in decision-making than we may think. Researchers at the University of Warwick had men and women decide if 50 objects fit into certain categories, like whether or not a cucumber is a fruit, or if a horse is a vehicle. Additionally, they asked how sure people were about their choices. They found that guys were more likely to say something completely belongs or doesn't belong in a category. However, girls often judged that objects only partially belonged. Both men and women were equally confident in their decisions. In other words, women had more nuanced views rather than deliberate ones.
One reason for this, according to the Scientific American, could be due to stereotypical "gender roles." Guys are encouraged to be decisive and quick to make judgments, while women are taught to be more thoughtful and open to different views, even if it means being critical of themselves. While I think there are some societal influences in how both genders think, I believe that how each gender processes information is biological (we won't get to this today, though).
How To Know Which Zone or Box You’re In
Knowing where you stand in your relationship can save you from heartbreak. If you’re already in a messy situationship and are sleeping around with someone but can’t seem to move beyond the “fling” stage, you already know what I will say: You’re in the hook-up box.
It's harder to tell when you’re in the talking stage with someone, but you can gauge where you’re at based on how long you’ve been mingling with them. If you’ve been going on dates with someone for over a month, there’s probably potential for you to be seen as wifey material. Anything longer could be a red flag; he shouldn’t keep you waiting. If he is, he’s stalling, meaning he doesn’t see you as someone he could settle down with. This whole wishy-washy behavior points to him putting you in the "hook-up box."
If he’s ghosting you or hiding you from his friends, he’s not that interested. You're a "sweeper." But the best way to figure out where you stand? Ask him. Just do it.
The box theory isn't new. This label is an easier way for us to understand how most men think, and it gives women permission to finally face reality instead of remaining delusional. When we're in love, we have rose-colored glasses on. Yet, when you have the box theory to keep in mind, you're forced to remain grounded and face the truth.
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