Five Things Men Can Do To Not Be Creepy
I’ve been following a lot of the conversations in various circles about creeps, both online and in various communities I move through, and I’m really glad that this topic is getting more traction. I know that it’s a tough thing to bring up, for a variety of reasons, but until something gets brought into the light, it’s not going to change. Creepiness ends up affecting all of us, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and it’s especially challenging for male-female interactions. Plenty of women have articulately described how annoying it is for them, though so far, I’ve seen far fewer men talk about how it affects us.
It’s important for guys to be talking about this, too. Given the very scary possible consequences for women when men approach them, I think it’s entirely reasonable for someone to assume that a random guy hitting on her is a possible predator until he demonstrates otherwise. I understand that that creates a frustrating situation- after all, who likes to have to prove their good intentions? And it’s also one of the many ways in which sexism and misogyny make things harder for men. If you want that to change, work to change things. Don’t complain that women don’t assume you’re a good guy. Their reasons for not doing so are useful protective measures in a world that sets them up as targets to be harassed, groped, and assaulted while simultaneously blaming them for it. You’d do the same thing in their shoes.
What Does “Creepy” Mean?
As far as how we can change things, one piece that I think we need to look at is what makes someone a creep. I’ve heard lots of women say things like, “I just know it when I see it,” which doesn’t offer much to work with. Unless we can pin down some of the things that prompt that reaction, it’s not likely to change. So I’ve been thinking about that word and what it means lately, and I think that this video offers a pretty good visual explanation.
Sure, it’s sort of cute to watch a cat inch up every time the camera looks away. And I think that illustrates one of the common ways that creeps act. It’s the constant testing of limits, whether that’s moving into someone’s personal space, touching them without permission, getting permission for one kind of touch and then moving past that, and so forth, that makes it creepy. It’s because they keep looking for ways to creep past the boundaries. It creates a no-win situation for the recipient. If she doesn’t say anything, the creeping continues. If she does, he can claim that he didn’t mean anything, or that she misunderstood, or call her a bitch and attack her verbally or physically. Instead of being up front about it, a creep can push things and then claim innocence when he’s called on it, especially since plenty of people will ask her what she did to prompt it instead of asking him what made him think that was an acceptable way to act.
One thing that adds complexity to this is that slut-shaming makes it harder for women to initiate anything because it makes them vulnerable to being attacked. I’ve spoken with plenty of people who are convinced that men should make the move and women shouldn’t do anything more than signal their receptivity. And even when guys do take the first step, women are supposed to be demure in their responses- if they look too interested, there’s the possibility that they’ll be slut-shamed. So the entire system is set up to teach boys and men to be creeps because we’re supposed to keep inching forward. After all, we’re told that if we don’t, then nothing happens.
That’s one reason we need to stop slut-shaming. When we respect women, regardless of their sexual choices, we create room for different dynamics. Instead of him chasing her, they can each move forward or away as they see fit. Just imagine how different that would make things.
In that light, here are a few things that men can do to not be creepy. All of these assume that you don’t want to be creepy, of course. If you get off on crossing someone’s boundaries, either you need to learn how to play with that within a larger container of consent or you should admit that you enjoy assaulting people. So for the guys who don’t want to be creepy, here are my suggestions.
Managing Sexual Energy
1) Learn how to manage your sexual energy. If you feel attracted to someone or if you feel turned on, that’s yours to deal with. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility, any more than your feelings of hunger are someone else’s responsibility. Yes, I get that it’s not entirely under your control any more than you can completely control hunger when you see something you’d like to eat. And just as you’re responsible for your responses when you see a hamburger, no matter how hungry you are, you’re responsible for your sexual energy, no matter how hot someone is.
This piece is definitely easier for many men as we get older, whether that’s due to learning some skills, changing body chemistry, or something else entirely. But it can be something that any of us can struggle with, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved. I found tantra practices to be especially useful when I wanted to find ways to manage my sexual energy without denying or squashing it. If you’re not woo-averse, you might want to check them out and see what they can offer you. Despite the hype as methods for increasing pleasure and enhancing intimacy (which they can also be), they’re also useful techniques for energetic self-regulation.
Make Consent Part Of Your Approach
2) Instead of imposing yourself on someone else, make it very clear that the interest, desire, and consent of the person you want to ask is important. It’s not all that hard to do. In fact, here’s an easy formula. Start off with a conditional statement like:
If you’re interested…
If you’re in the mood…
If you’re available…
And follow up with a statement of your desire:
I would enjoy chatting over coffee with you.
I’d like to kiss you.
I’d love to go out to dinner with you.
The advantage of this approach is that it demonstrates that your interest is contingent on hers. Of course, you have to actually mean that, but if her desire and consent don’t matter to you, you’re well into rapist territory.
Responding to Rejection
3) Learn how to deal with rejection. I know full well how difficult it can be to take a chance, put yourself out there, and not get the response you want. Rejection hurts. In fact, the distress from rejection and shame is processed in the same part of the brain as the distress from physical pain. Finding ways to cope with that and build some resiliency is crucial, though. One of the reasons some guys lash out and verbally or physically abuse women who turn them down is that they don’t know any other ways to deal with the distress they feel, especially when it’s grounded in their sense of masculinity.
I think it’s also important to learn the difference between unavailability and rejection. Unfortunately, rejection can trigger shame reactions, so learning some shame resilience is part of this process. That’s not a quick fix- shame resilience can take a while to develop. I’m a big believer in therapy for that.
Understand Women’s Experiences
4) Deal with the fact that many women are bombarded with sexual interest, invitations, harassment, groping, and worse on an almost constant basis. That means that no matter how well-phrased your invitation and no matter how considerate you are, there’s a possibility that she’ll receive it differently than you intend. The best response in those situations isn’t to try to justify or explain yourself because that almost invariably comes across as you telling her that she’s wrong. Believe me- that’s not going to help.
Instead, try saying something like, “I’m sorry that I intruded on you. Thank you for telling me.” And then disengage. Instead of trying to prove you’re cool, show her. Actions speak a lot louder than words. And remember that “no” is a sufficient response.
Know When (And How) To Apologize
5) If you slip up (and everyone does), learn how to make amends. It takes a lot of courage to admit when you’ve done something that’s not in alignment with your values or expectations for yourself. But that’s the best way to avoid creating a situation in which resentment takes over the interaction. And trust me- resentment is not conducive to a happy time.
The fact is, sometimes, boundaries are going to get brushed up against or crossed, even with the best of intentions. But if you step forward with care and with attention to the response, it’ll be a much smaller thing than if you go full-speed. And when it does happen, the best response is to acknowledge it, offer an apology, and step back. Depending on the situation, there might be room in the future to try again, but whether there is or not, at least you won’t be a jerk about it.
I don’t think this covers all the things guys can do to not be creepy, given that there are lots of other ways that men creep. But I think it’s a good start and, at the very least, these steps can help create happier relationships. And all of them can be useful at any stage, from an initial introduction to a long-term relationship.
If you’re skeptical about it, try giving it a try and see what happens. Start with #2 since it’s the easiest one to experiment with. I’m willing to bet that you’ll see that the payoff is a partner who feels more comfortable and safer, which is one of the best ways to create a happy sexual connection that thrives. If that’s not positive feedback, I don’t know what is.
The only way we’re going to change the cultural messages that encourage and enable creepiness is by living it. So if there are additional things you think men can do to not be creepy, comment below. Let’s see what else we can come up with.
Thank you, what a great post!
A step toward non-creepiness that I’ve heard parents teach sons is to cross the road when a lone woman is approaching at night time, or in a quiet location. This is to avoid subjecting her to the fear of having to walk passed a strange man. When I first heard this I thought it was terrible to instil the belief in men that they are feared by women. Then one night I was taking a short cut through a secluded car park at the back of a train station when a man who I only noticed at the last minute passed by me. Catching him in the corner of my eye, I jumped out of my skin. All he did was walk on by minding his own business, and I was not even alone but with a woman friend. I was forced to admit to myself that there are some situations in which I fear men! Rationally I know that a man I’m familiar with is more of a danger to me but an unconscious fear of strangers was evidently awoken. So is the advice at the beginning of this reply helpful? I’m in two minds about it since statistically speaking it is the sons who are more likely to be attacked when out at night than daughters – maybe the advice would be better if applied to passing by any lone person irrespective of gender?
Alison, I think it’s more of a question of how men can demonstrate that we understand the fear that a lot of women face every day. Giving someone space, whether that’s crossing the street at night or not standing too close when waiting to get on the train, or anything else, is a good way to let actions speak for intentions. It’s really unfortunate, but I’d rather make sure people know I’m not a threat.
This post seems like it could have benefited from the term dick stump!
[…] Glickman writes one of the best articles I’ve seen on the subject of men and creepiness, Five Things Men Can Do To Not Be Creepy, and does a fantastic job with it. Such a good job I edited this post to add it in! A […]
Thank you, Charlie.
Great post! (Although I disagree that most women can’t articulate what makes them feel uncomfortable.)
Some other tips off the top of my head:
– Be sensitive to (and respect!) non-verbal cues that can indicate whether someone is interested in an interaction or not. Reading a book, turning or backing away, and not making eye contact are all ways that people can signal that they’re not up for interacting with you (or possibly anyone) right now.
– Be careful to respect someone’s physical space. Especially don’t loom over them or hem them in. I’ve seen many men do this without thinking at parties, particularly in what appears to be a classic male stance, which is leaning with one arm against the wall (as <a href=http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-handsome-casual-man-leaning-against-wall.-image4724153>this guy is doing</a>). This is physically intimidating and can feel especially threatening if you are literally cutting off someone’s ability to walk away from you.
– Don’t stare. Especially don’t stare at someone’s body, but try not staring at all. Staring at someone’s face is, granted, better than staring at their chest, but staring at all is unsettling to the recipient and signals an intense level of interest that may not be comfortable for them.
– To add to your suggestion of starting invitations with “If you’re interested”, I recommend ending them with “Let me know sometime,” rather than putting the person on the spot for an immediate answer. Without time to think, many people go with their default reaction, which is generally towards the status quo — in other words, you’re more likely to get a positive response if you give the person time to reflect.
Also, saying “no” directly is, unfortunately, a scary thing for many women to do because we’ve all had men react badly when they hear that word — some of us *very* badly. So if you go with this route you will have to accept that sometimes you just won’t hear back, and you won’t ever know if that’s a “no” or a flaky “yes”. Them’s the breaks. This situation will continue until women feel safer overall, so chalk it up to taking one for the general good.
– Don’t tell women you don’t know to “smile!” or “cheer up!” or whatever. Our faces are not here for your entertainment.
In relation to articulating discomfort, most people know it’s hard for the other person to accept rejection so most people struggle to issue an outright refusal. That goes for women and men alike. Research shows that refusals are preceded by delays (e.g., “well …”, “em …” etc…), palliatives (e.g., “I’d love to but”) and explanations (e.g., “unfortunately I have to do … instead”). This is not characteristic of women only in spite of the stereotype that women are indirect and men more competent at communicating clearly, a myth which perpetuates the notion that women need to say ‘no’ more effectively. Men have shown awareness of letting women down gently when not interested in their advances so it follows that they should see women’s hesitance in letting them down too. See http://fap.sagepub.com/content/16/2/133.short
This is an excellent article. Do you mind if I take a pass at rewriting it without gender (with appropriate credits, links, etc.)?
If you’d entertain the idea and would like back story, read:
Gaze Tran, not at all. I’ve seen many people of different genders and orientations act creepy and I’d love to see this issue addressed in that way. Send me the link when you’ve written it?
Will do – thanks! 🙂
I think this is a really great starting point. I know men don’t mean it, but when I’m walking to my car in the evening after the gym, it really freaks me out that they walk closely behind me in a group and laugh loudly in a darkened and mostly deserted carpark.
I hate it when they box me in, talk over me and assume they know every conversation topic better than I do.
I really hate it when they move closer and closer, when they try to sneak in a touch, even if (to me) it seems really obvious that I’m unsettled and they’re making me nervous.
Invading my personal space – gah. It makes me shiver and I break out into a sweat.
I get what you’re saying about the sexual energy thing. I get hit on a lot. Sometimes with the predatory way they’ll look at me – I feel like running for the door. I try to let guys down nicely but it’s hard to feel safe anywhere. When I’m just trying to do my groceries, looking for a new book to read, shopping, filling up petrol, going to the gym, drinking coffee. At any moment some one could, and often does just approach. Most of the guys are really nice, lovely people, but they just don’t take no. I started feeling nervous going out at all because it meant yet another social interaction where I’d be trying to let a guy down. Often with mixed results.
But perhaps the biggest thing you mentioned that resonates is respecting my opinion and backing off – not trying to invalidate my experiences. The few times I have tried to explain what it’s like to be a woman I get nowhere, and I’ve heard everything. “It’s just in your head.” “You think that’s tough? Try being a guy!” “I wish too many girls hit on me!”
Well, no you don’t. Because then you can never be comfortable. You’re on edge, waiting to be interrupted and hit on. Again. Where any interaction could end badly, and from experience, has before.
Ways not to be creepy?
Talk to me like a human being. Listen to what I’m saying, not just waiting for an opportunity to impress me with how much smarter than me you think you are. Stay a respectful distance unless I’m obviously flirting with you. If I’m backing away/turning away/repeatedly looking away then don’t chase me down and try harder. Just remember that I’m a person – not an endgame and act as such. 90% of the time, that’s all I feel like to the strange men who approach me out of nowhere.
This is the most cogent description I’ve seen yet of what goes through the creep’s mind whether they are conscious of it or not — the constant pushing to see where resistance is not consistent and using that as a springboard in. It’s the same mindset and methodology that crackers use to penetrate a foreign computer system — find the small cracks and inconsistencies they can exploit and slowly chain them together to get to the target.
There is that inner core of entitlement (“I’m a nice guy, so I deserve this”, whatever) that creeps use to rationalize any hesitation or “no” response as just a temporary setback. And that’s almost a rule 0 — if you feel entitled to or deserving of some person’s attention, then you’re wandering over the line of “relationship” to “objectification”. You have to follow 1-5 *because they’re the right thing to do*, not because doing them will help you close the deal more often. If you don’t have the basic mindset right, it does come across, and you’re still a creep.
Some women need to take this advice too.
I just want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this post and have shared it with a number of others, men and women.
What’s weird is that some woman also factor in the attractiveness of the man when considering the creepiness of his actions. For instance, David Beckham could do some of the exact same things as Rowan Atkinson and one of them would get a swooning, enthusiastic response while the other would be called a creep.
I hear this over and over again -yeah, but he’s hot so it’s not creepy! I realize that, yes, if the women is attracted then it means it’s consensual and thus not creepy. But still, if nothing else, it definitely complicates defining what actions fall and don’t fall under the creepy aisle of the sex grocery store.
SexyLittleIdeas, not really. If you respect the other person and try to make sure your actions/intentions are wanted/the interaction is consensual it doesn’t matter if you’re hideous or cute. the Cute factor only matters if you’re being creepy and trying to get away with it.
anthony, I think you’re overstating the case. Given that part of what makes something creepy is whether the sexual attention is wanted, it does seem that there’s a certain amount of “handsome privilege” at play. A good looking guy (as defined by the recipient) does have more room to flirt without being read as creepy. It’s the male equivalent of “pretty girl privilege” and it’s a facet of this issue that I’m glad SexyLittleIdeas brought up.
I think the question here centers on consent, as you point out. But people consent to different things depending on who’s initiating them and how attractive a guy is becomes one of the factors.
Excellent post!!! I have good creep radar and I second Kat’s comment that there are some guys who look at me in a way that feels predatory, even before they approach me. I call it the frat boy gaze. I’ve spent a certain amount of time trying to put my finger on exactly what it is that bothers me about the frat boy gaze – people sometimes say it’s objectifying, but I think that word is unhelpful because it just labels the phenomenon without explaining it.
I strongly second Charlie’s advice to learn how to manage your sexual energy – I think that’s part of what I’m picking up in the frat boy gaze. Not an easy thing to do, and truly, men, I don’t envy you in this regard. Even if you’re climbing the walls, though, it doesn’t have to turn you into a creep. The other necessary element of the frat boy gaze is lack of interest in the wellbeing or point of view of the person being looked at.
When I’m subjected to the frat boy gaze, I get the impression that the guy’s curiosity about my thoughts and feelings is limited to figuring out how to manipulate me most effectively into doing what he wants – to figuring out where the secret entrance to the fortress is, as it were. This attitude places the responsibility for monitoring and limiting his behavior on me.
By contrast, when you take responsibility for your feelings of desire (recognize that they’re coming from your point of view) rather than seeing the whole world in terms of them, you’re implicitly recognizing that there are other points of view on the situation – you’re acknowledging that I have my own feelings, and it’s an open question what those are. Similarly, when you express interest in someone by starting with a conditional such as ‘if you’re interested…’ you’re creating space in the conversation for the other person’s point of view.
The exact words and gestures don’t matter – the sincerity does. In order not to be a creep, you have to *genuinely* care about the other person’s wellbeing and *genuinely* want to find out what they want, not just how you can get them to do what you want. (This is not always as easy as it sounds, because we humans have a tendency to deceive ourselves about our motives, especially when those motives are less than noble.)
One way I like to define “creepy” is when someone’s intentions are hidden, independent of what those intentions are. She doesn’t know what he wants, and the fear of the unknown settles in. Even good intentions, when hidden, result in fear and distrust which is why trying to ‘play it cool’ often backfires and ruins connection.
As opposed to ‘creepy’, a guy that is failing to acknowledge a woman’s humanity is ‘slimy’. Ironically, a man who is creepy but has good intentions feels much worse than a man who is slimy but open about it.
Also, an adjustment to the Consent idea: You don’t have a choice about being interested or not, so your interest is not contingent on her interest. But your action is contingent on her interest. Learn to want something, ask for it, and be okay with not getting it.
After posting here last night, I read some other internet discussions on related topics, and I found a great post that articulates in a really compelling way what I was trying to get at by saying that the frat boy gaze contains a lack of interest in the wellbeing and/or point of view of the person being gazed at. Here’s the key paragraph:
Some men see women as puzzle boxes.
As far as they’re concerned, inside every woman, there’s a tasty Sex Treat, and there’s some way to get it out. Some combination of words, of behaviors on the man’s part, some situation will pop that box open and the treat will be his!
This perfectly describes how I experience the frat boy gaze. The author goes on to explain why the frat boy gaze (or puzzle box worldview) is experienced as threatening and/or a turn-off by so many women…I’m tempted to cut and paste more, but I’d probably end up pasting 90% of the post, so I will settle for urging you to go read it:
Wouldrathernotsay, then it’s a good thing that that’s not what I’m saying.
1) We are all responsible for our own emotions and feelings, including our desire, arousal, and sexual energy. You are responsible for yours, I am responsible for mine, etc. We are responsible for how we work with them, how we act in response to them, and in how we manage them.
2) At the same time, courtesy & politeness also make it important for us each to consider how another person might feel about our actions. At the very least, consider it a pragmatic point. And just as courtesy would suggest that you consider the ways in which sexual, emotional, and physical violence (including harassment, rape, verbal abuse, among others) affect how many women will receive your advances, courtesy also works both ways.
There is no double standard because these are things that everyone, regardless of gender, can do. There are differences in how they play out, given the different ways in which men and women experience the world (of course, with overlap but there are general patterns). But you’re looking for a double standard that doesn’t exist.
Is it a high bar? Only if you have low expectations for how you want to act.
Sarah, thanks for the link. That’s a great post!
I would almost take it a step further and say that no action by itself is creepy. Practically anything could possibly fall under the realm of fun aggression or spicing up a relationship or even role-playing. What essentially makes an action creepy is the woman and her internal response to it. -Like you said, the fear that a lot of women face every day.
It’s a good thing to keep in mind when we’re tempted to think, I wasn’t trying to be creepy, I was just flirting. As the stronger and less fair sex ;), we have to sometimes open doors, carry groceries, manage sexual energy, and make consent part of our approach.
With great power comes… heh 😉
SexyLittleIdeas, I think you’re right no act is of itself creepy. I think the determining factor is the level of relationship. Something that might be creepy to a stranger might be just fun to my girlfriend.
Actually that’s not about the level of relationship, it’s about the level of consent – a stranger hasn’t consented to you doing much (in a sexual sense).
Not being creepy means staying within the bounds of what you have consent for and explicitly asking for consent for things outside those bounds. As you said, making consent part of our approach so we stay within the bounds of what we have consent for.
SexyLittleIdeas, Matt Smith, exactly. Whatever our intentions, our actions don’t always land the way we want them to. Instead of getting angry or defensive about it, look at the situation from the other person’s perspective, or just accept it and move on.
What a crock of B.S. All this talk about boundaries and respecting women. The problem is: where is the reciprocity? I have had women catcall me, I have had them walk up to within an inch of my face and start screaming. I have heard any number of tactless insults coming out of their mouths. But it seems that if a woman misbehaves, she is not to be criticized as this will cut into female “empowerment.” The nonsense about the “man box” is equally off the mark. It’s one of those things, like Rachel Maines’s contention in the “Technology of Orgasm” that the phenomenon of doctors massaging their patients to orgasm is a manifestation of an “androcentric view” of sexuality, that has a certain appeal, but only if your thinking has the depth of paper. Consider all the recent articles by prominent feminsists about “Where have all the good men gone?” Perfectly acceptable for them to ask that. Never mind that they are using a traditional definition of a “good man.” Never mind that, using a traditional definition of a “good woman,” these women would be considered spinsters and in fact every “modern” women would be essentially unmarriageable. These women don’t give a damn about any “man box.” Why the fuck should I?
A few morning thoughts-
1) I thought that this was a great article. I especially liked the suggestions of “If you’re interested,” et cetera.
2) Re: the earlier comment of not staring, as a guy who has been (and to some extent may still be) inexperienced at how this works, it seems to me like there’s a very fine line between maintaining eye contact for an instant longer than usual as a way to signal interest, and staring/being potentially perceived as threatening. I can empathize with the statement “don’t stare.” However, it’s also frustrating as it feels like any action that expresses any potential interest in meeting/asking someone out is a potential threat, and that the list of “nonthreatening and acceptable” actions is an extremely short and limited list. When this combines with my experience of needing to be the first one to initiate any interest and thus exposing myself to rejection in a variety of ways, I sometimes feel like throwing up my hands and saying to heck with all of this. The way I try to operate is to be empathetic to the experiences of women whom I talk to and hear from, and to express interest while being nonthreatening and leaving a way out (which is why the “if you’re interested” and “let me know sometime” are helpful examples). Unfortunately, if communication is like this it carries a certain degree of ambiguity (a “no” disguised as a “I’ll call you sometime” when the call never comes).
3) The best definition fo feminism which I’ve heard (college philosophy class) and also the one I ascribe to consists of 3 principles – women have different experiences than men, women’s experiences historically have been given less importance in the past, and women’s experiences deserve equal importance.
4) I have had conversations with some women who state that they want equality (social, financial, et cetera), but revert back to a double standard if it involves something they find disagreeable. I don’t think this is feminism, but rather game-playing and being unethical. Examples range from military service to asking someone out (I’ve had a relative tell me that she didn’t think she should have to ask anyone out because of the hurt of possible rejection, and thought that men should be the ones to deal with that while demanding equality anywhere it benefited her). I’ve even heard women say that witht he advent of sperm banks that “men are useless and should go out and kill ourselves.” My point to this is twofold – if we (men and women) believe in equality, that generally involves equal rights but also equal responsibilities, and that “man bashing” is neither acceptable nor representative of true feminism. There may be exceptions (men tend to be bigger and stronger physically and may be more suited for heavy physical labor, or maternity leave), but the underlying principle should be equality in rights and responsibilities, equality in perceiving the other sex as equally worthy to our own.
5) Lastly, regarding Peter’s above comment, while you come across as being very angry and argumentative, I do think that your point that both sexes need to act reasonably is valid. Background – I’m going through a divorce where my ex was verbally and emotionally abusive, and even on one occasion physically abusive (and her response to when I told her that hitting in a relationship is unacceptable for either of us, she responded with “I’m glad things happened this way, because it improved communication.” To this day, she doesn’t think that physically hitting me was wrong at all). Just as men should be respectful, so should women. Swearing at people, screaming and insulting people in public, being controlling or abusive, or any number of unacceptable behaviors goes both ways.
6) I agree that the “attractive privilege” concept is accurate for some people – the better looking you are, the more you can get away with and not be labeled as “creepy”/unattractive to the other person.
If I am angry, it is because I have a right to be. I used to be a feminist, but no longer. Too many feminists have initiated what is essentially a war against the male gender and too many men are complicit in this war. Let me clear: there is no such thing as “reverse discrimination.” Hiring quotas are discriminatory. Harassment policies that favour one sex over the other by labelling all men as “potential rapists” are discriminatory. When it comes to the romantic arena, women are no more likely than in the past to approach men than they used to be, and yet men now bear an increasing burden when it comes to making overtures. They now risk accusations of harassment or even rape. Accusations for which they frequently have little recourse. And the women for which they are fighting have considerably less value than they did in the past since they will likely be tarnished by numerous sexual encounters with men who have somehow figured out how to negotiate these minefields and simply know how to push the right buttons, whatever else their value as a human being is–which is usually fairly minimal…
Women have been unwitting pawns in a series of social changes that ultimately diminish the quality of life for both sexes. It is no accident that the “sexual revolution” corresponds with the emancipation of women. What is the function of marriage? In a word: fairness. If the Sultan has 1000 wives, that’s 999 men who must go without. But in a society that is more “free” sexually, these problems are, in fact, magnified. Consider Wilt Chamberlain’s 40000 bed-mates. Who are these women? They are your sisters, your daughters, your wives and your girlfriends. But women have less conception of high ideals like fair-play: they have less need of them. They can get away with lying more easily and they are better at it. It is also no accident that sexual freedom and female emancipation also correspond with the increasing dominance of amoral males of a psychopathic disposition.
Peter, whatever your reasons for anger, you certainly have a right to your feelings.
Your pain and anger towards women shine through your words. I get it. A lot of women do some really messed up stuff. As you point out, all men get blamed because of what some men do. So how it that different from what you’re doing? You’re blaming all women because of what some of them do. Perhaps instead of pouring your anger out and reinforcing the cycle, you might consider what you can do to heal the wounds that have been dealt to you and look for ways to slow the cycle down. At the very least, consider why you expect women to not react through anger when that’s what you’re doing.
Thank you! I’ve had male friends who were offended at the idea that HE had to quell fears when he DIDN’T have bad intentions, but your answer is succinct and positive.
Peter, also, you said:
When you say things like this, you reinforce the notion that the number of sexual partners a woman has had decreases her value. Slut-shaming makes it harder for women to take the first step, especially since the magical number at which she crosses the ‘slut’ threshold varies so much. Some women have been slut-shamed simply for expressing their desires, or for asking a guy out, etc.
So not only are you complaining that “women are no more likely than in the past to approach men than they used to be,” you’re engaging in some of the behaviors that keep that going. If you want to be someone that a woman will approach, then consider stopping doing the things that make that unlikely.
Well, in the words of the bard herself, perhaps the John Lennon of our times: “And all the other boys try to chase me, but here’s my number, so call me maybe.”
Fantastic article, and a surprisingly interesting, civil (with just a few exceptions) discussion here. The author absolutely nailed it, especially with the boundary thing. My ex-husband of 5 years constantly, relentlessly pushes and completely disrespects my boundaries; I have developed such a strong aversion to any contact with him (but we have joint custody of the kids so I can’t ethically avoid it), and now I really understand why. Thank you so much for the insights here – I can’t change him, but at least I now understand and can name my feelings about his constant encroachment and not feel so “wrong” about recoiling from him. And I might be able to make better choices in the future… if I’m ever brave enough to date again.
If women can label us “creeps” then why can’t we label them “sluts?” Again, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander…
Peter, the two things aren’t parallel, so you’re making a false comparison.
Did you watch the video above? A creep (no matter what gender) is someone who tests, pushes, and crosses boundaries. It can be because of cluelessness and not being able to read non-verbal communication. It can be because they’re looking for weak spots and vulnerabilities that they can take advantage of. It can be because they simply don’t care about the other person’s boundaries. It can be because they’ve internalized the idea that “no” doesn’t really count. I’m sure there are other reasons, too, but the point is that what makes someone a creep is their being sexually intrusive.
What makes someone a slut? It can vary- having more than some arbitrary number of partners, being sexually expressive, wearing clothes that someone considers sexually suggestive. But it’s not about seeking weak spots in someone’s boundaries, not seeing or paying attention to someone’s limits, or anything else along those lines.
So all you’re saying is that since you find the word “creep” hurtful, you want to use “slut.” But the words have very different meanings and it looks to me like another example of your lashing out as a result of your pain and anger. Feel your anger, but there’s no reason to look for justifications for dumping it on someone else.
They have a lot more in common than you might imagine. If a woman keeps spouting sexual innuendo, if she exposes herself in public, if she reveals a list of sexual partners a mile long, I consider that a little creepy. Most sluts are creepy and most creepy women are sluts. Whereas a man might make overtures to a woman a few times, once he discovers she is not interested he usually leaves her alone. On the other hand, a woman might wear a skimpy outfit for a similar reason. But a man cannot make that go away no matter how offensive he might find it. As one man put it, it is the “gift that keeps on giving…” And he will probably be accused of harassment if he comments on it or asks her to cover up.
Whereas by “being a creep” you may be damaging one or more individuals, by being a slut, you might not be hurting any individual, but you are hurting society at large. I compare the institution of marriage and of limiting sexual relations to only within marriage to a set of cross-country ski tracks. There may be signs posted that prohibit walking on the trail, but the prohibition is only of any value if just about everybody sticks to it. As soon as more than a few people go out walking, it’s all but useless. Well, just about everybody’s trod on the tracks now. The simple fact that nobody seems willing to acknowledge is that by encouraging women to be sluts, you are simultaneously encouraging men to be creeps…
Treat them like any other friend. Once they figure out you genuinely care she’ll make the first move.
Not me. I remember feeling really depressed as a teenager, because how could I ever feel good about a man’s attentions? Either the attentions are unwelcome, and I have to put up with him persisting, or the attentions are theoretically welcome, but I’d have to worry the whole time about how he’d be behaving if they weren’t!
Of course, there’s an obvious solution to this, which is to learn that some men respect boundaries! Yay! And those are the only men I’m interested in. Ever.
Don’t assume men get non verbal cues,I really really don’t get non verbal cues either positive or negative
Honestly I think it’s neurological [autistic]. At least a simple request works best. I honestly do not want to harass women,but for the a fore mentioned reason may.
Dermott McSorley, sure, for some people, it can be because of Asperger’s or another atypical neurological condition. But I also have seen some men use that as an excuse. They only seem to have difficulty reading non-verbal language when it comes to flirting with women. I’m not saying that you’re doing that- only that some men don’t make the same effort in all situations.
If the way you process information makes it harder to read non-verbal cues, there are still other things you can do. You can still make consent part of your approach. You can learn to deal with rejection. You can learn how to apologize. You can find ways to understand women’s experiences with men approaching them. And you can read and share articles like this one or these by Amy Marsh. There are also some good guides to flirting and dating for people with Asperger’s and similar conditions.
Having said all that, I also think that for some men, it’s more about lack or practice or lack of willingness. Many neurotypical men have difficulty reading non-verbal cues because they were never taught how to do it. It’s not a skill that magically appears- it something one learns and practices, and some boys don’t get the chance. And for some men, it really does seem to be a lack of concern or willingness to lean into the discomfort of developing emotional skills.
Recently I wrote on my blog about creepers, and somebody sent me this article. I’m so glad he did. I still need to read the comments that have come before mine, so I’ll be brief so as to avoid redundancy.
I think these 2 sentences — “In that light, here are a few things that men can do to not be creepy. All of these assume that you don’t want to be creepy, of course.” — are two of the most important in the article. Many men who step all over women’s boundaries don’t care if they’re being creepy as long as they get what they want. In fact, I have known men who would identify the same behavior as inappropriate in other men, but not recognize it when they do it themselves — often even worse. Obviously I have stories!
Nevertheless, your advice is rock solid. I hope a lot of men read this, recognize the problem, and take your advice. Thank you.
nice article, you should read Mode One book, you can be totally hobest and tell her if she is interested in casual sex
Love this post! So very very true!
I don’t think there is an inherent problem with pushing boundaries of physical comfort, as long as you read the signals, and react to them gracefully and respectfully. You take her hand and she pulls it away, or you lean toward her to whisper in her ear and she moves away…apologise and take a step back. You’re communicating to her that you are interested in taking things further, but not in crossing her boundaries, and that you will respect her boundaries at every point in the interaction.
Dangermouse, perhaps that’s because you haven’t been on the receiving end of the near-incessant hassle that most women have to live with on a daily basis.
I think one thing that everyone can benefit from learning is the Wheel of Consent (Betty Martin – her book is due out soon). Understanding the difference between receiving and allowing, taking, and giving is particularly helpful where touch is concerned. Why for example, as a body worker giving a one way touch massage can I begin to feel violated? Because the receiver is taking rather than receiving…Explicit conversations around boundaries can be difficult for everyone, and invaluable.
I’m a 5’2″ fairly attractive woman who spends a lot of her time in male-dominated environments. I’ve been treated badly by men at times, and I fully understand the concept of “rape culture” although it is not a term I am comfortable with. There’s a lot more to the dynamics between men and women than expecting men to obey a set of rules in order to make women comfortable. I have found that since I have started taking on some of the responsibility of my own interactions with men, these interactions have all been more fulfilling for both parties. Just because I am a woman doesn’t automatically make me the victim in any situation when I’m dealing with a man. If I understand my own boundaries, and treat men with respect and gentleness when they begin to cross those boundaries, then I can have far more truthful interactions.
Dangermouse, fair enough. There’s nothing in what I’ve said that suggests that treating people with care and compassion isn’t a good thing. And I’m certainly not putting more than 50% of the responsibility for any of this on men. Nor am I offering a set of rules. Instead, I see them as guiding principles that we can each adapt to suit our situations, our personalities, and our needs.
I think anyone attacking the author about limiting the ‘creepy’ name, and seeming to apply rules, only to men, needs to understand that this article was written for men. Not because only men are creepy. But because that day, the author thought to write an article for men who feel they are creepy. Or for men in general. Does EVERY article in the world have to be for both genders?
Men and women interact differently. We are different sexes. Talk to men about sex, talk to women about sex and they will be very different conversations.
I think people mix up equalizing the sexes, with neutering humanity. I bet my entire collection of Stargate movies that there is an article out there for women about being creepy. Oh look: http://www.wikihow.com/Be-a-Creepy-Girl.
So that author woke up and decided to write an article for women, on how to be creepy. Their version anyway. I think all you guys should get your boxers in a twist about how gender-unfair that article is.
I have a guy in my class that is creepy. How do I define it? He stands way too close to me, invading my personal space. If our class has lunch together, he tries to eat off my plate, without any invitation. He invites himself into my conversations, even when we are faced away, or have moved away. Worst of all? He assumes I will give him rides. Even though I have turned him down and given excuses every time, no matter that, every day he follows me to my car in the dark, and tells me I “almost forgot to give him a ride home”.
That’s one guy who is just about on my “Call-the-cops-o-meter.” Call me nuts, but I don’t follow guys in the dark to their cars and tell them they almost forgot to take me to my house, eat off their plates without asking, and stand so close I’m almost touching them. You’d be creeped out too.
Maybe you should write an article about how creepy women could be. Then when the women complain, you can redirect them here, and all will be well for your worlds 🙂
That “crossing the road at night” thing? SO not gonna happen. I’m out walking, getting my groceries, going home from the train station, walking home from the gym…in short, just doing normal, everyday things and living my life. I imagine that some woman that I may have to pass may be doing the same things. If she can’t deal with the fact that she may encounter someone of the other gender in her travels, then SHE can cross the road. I’m doing nothing wrong and I’m not going to buy into the mentality that makes me a potential attacker and someone else a potential victim.
“If you feel attracted to someone or if you feel turned on, that’s yours to deal with. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility, any more than your feelings of hunger are someone else’s responsibility.”
Well that goes for fear, as well. Or is this another of the double-standards? Men are responsible for managing their feelings AND for managing someone else’s feelings? If they’re feeling fear of every man, then it’s up to THEM to deal with their emotions. I can’t manage their emotions for them and I’m not going to try or alter the way I live my life just because someone else has emotional problems. They may have had reasons to fear men in the past, but not THIS man and if they can’t make that distinction, then it’s not on me to be their therapist – I hear people get paid a lot to do that and I haven’t seen a dime.
Thank you JIM !! A breath of sanity. The most intelligent thing said on here. Ditto for the whacked-out idea that someone posted, that I should teach my son to “cross the road” so that he can reassure a stranger that he means no harm. That’s wrong on so many levels The onus is not on him to prove that-he just needs not to harm her. Period. I can see the conversation now:
Me: “Come on Buddy, we need to cross the street here.”
My son: “But Daddy, the BART station/Muni/Bus stop is on this side of the street”
Me: Yes, it is but there’s a women walking alone up there, so we have to cross the street so doesn’t think we’re going to hurt her.”
My son: “But Daddy that’s stupid, why would we hurt her ? Now we’ll miss the train/bus/etc. and be late for the movie/concert/etc.”
That’s a form of child abuse, and damn if I’m going to start laying a guilt trip on him because of some total stranger’s delusional paranoia. He/I am NOT responsible for their fear merely because of the genitalia we possess. AND we are not “Creepy” because we refuse to buy into that total B.S.
Just want to mention something often over looked by the lay person that might also bear some consideration along these lines which is psychopathy.
[…] had a say in the interaction, and you respected her say. Creepers don’t respect others. They just keep pushing the boundaries. When you actively seek her perspective or consent, she will feel appreciated, respected and safe. […]
I think Jenna Marbles maybe has the last word on creeps….
Great piece, Charlie! Most women will be shaking their heads more than once at many of your salient points.
As a once very insecure young girl growing up, and now the mother of a beautiful 20-year-old woman, I also can’t help but consider a woman’s innate need to please and care for others – nurture I suppose – as part of this conversation. THAT is the aspect of femininity that men seem to pick up on and exploit in my experience. And talking advantage of one’s perceived “weakness” is as creepy as it gets. Perceiving that it IS a weakness, in the adversarial rather than intimate or respectful tone with which many men approach dating, is again a hallmark of the creepy men we all scramble to avoid.
Thanks for the male viewpoint. We know you’re not all creeps, and you good guys probably run the other way from the goons that are to avoid guilt by association (as fast as we ladies do!). Disrespectful, creepy, manipulative men may just be an ugly byproduct of the “everybody gets a trophy” generation. Sad truth is, these guys were deceived. In the immortal words of Mick, you don’t always get what you want.
There is only one way to ensure you are not creeping a woman out.
Don’t talk to her.
Even Null’s advice is not enough. Even if you never approach or interact with a woman, they can still call you a creep. “Creep” is just a word women use to shame men with poor social skills and/or genetics.