Vermin.

I have been playing with a project about low-level creeps. I’m talking about the sort of vermin who get their kicks by doing stuff that makes people feel uncomfortable or threatened without ever actually doing anything that is actually actionable or reportable. They might stand too close, but never touch… They may touch, but always engineer situations to make it look like an accident… They may seek out situations where touching is appropriate (such as dancing, or self-defence training), but carry it just a little bit too far… And so on, and so forth. They are clever little bunnies, really, because they elect to get their pervy bennies without taking hardly any risks. They’re still despicable, but clever.

They’re also ubiquitous. I strongly suspect, though I have no proof other than anecdotal evidence, that they’re probably the number one self-defence concern for women in this time and place. Although being physically attacked is obviously infinitely more dangerous, having to deal with creeps is infinitely more likely. (Men are also affected, but the frequency of the problem seems to be far lower.)

I was trying to list the basic principles of self-defence that can help people successfully deal with creeps. I worked at it for a while, then had to give up. The answer seems to be “most of them.” Peyton Quinn’s ‘Five Rules’ about violence? Check. Othering? Check. The impact of adrenalisation? Check. The Gift of Fear? Check. Rory Miller’s Logic of Violence? Check. The Triune Brain? Check. I could have carried on going, but it was getting silly.

When I thought about it, I realised that it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that the principles of non-physical self-defence should apply to errrrrrrrrrr non-physical self-defence situations. What can I tell you? I can be a bit slow on the uptake.

It seems that I’m not alone in this, though. This kind of situation seems to be blithely disregarded by most self-defence instruction (shameless marketing plug: if you want a seminar on this subject, I’m very happy to work for money). I could try and embark on a rant about sexism in self-defence, rape culture, and so on… but I’m positive that if someone has not already done so, then they will.

The thing that really bugs me is the waste of opportunity. Self-defence skills, physical or mental, benefit from being practised in real life. Most people lack the opportunities to get much of that practice in – which is a good thing. It means our world is reasonably safe. However, it does leave students in limbo; they might have read volumes about the whys and hows of certain skills without having ever applied them. Until they need them, how can they know if they really have them down? And if it turns out that they don’t, how high will the cost be?

That’s where the creeps come in. Instead of ignoring them because they are not serious enough opponents, why not encourage our students to use them as experimental subjects? After all, they are crawling all over the place, taking up valuable oxygen. They may as well be put to good use.

Students could practise their non-physical skills in the real world, yet largely safely. They could also do so without any compunction; does anyone care about hurting the feelings of low-level creeps? On the contrary, this practice would be practically a social service. (Personally, I also find tormenting creeps infinitely entertaining, but I’m mean that way.)

I can’t believe we’re missing this opportunity.

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