It seems that creep-wise, words are failing us. The word is used to describe so many personalities and behaviours that it ends up meaning completely different things to different people, ultimately meaning nothing. And as for using it to explain the problem to someone who has never experienced it, that seems completely hopeless.
As a minimum, we’d need labels for:
- People who make people feel uncomfortable to test their reactions, as a predatory interview.
- People who make people feel uncomfortable on purpose, because that’s how they get their pervy bennies, but don’t intend on going any further (I call them Cock-Roaches, because a. it amuses me and b. they scuttle when you shine a light on them. Oh, and c. I’m happy to squish them.)
- People who make people feel uncomfortable because they are socially awkward, and they are socially awkward because they can’t parse scripts or read non-verbal clues. They have a blindness to those issues.
- People who make people feel uncomfortable because they are socially awkward, and they are socially awkward because they are socialised for a different culture/subculture and haven’t adapted to this one.
- People who make people feel uncomfortable because they are allegedly socially awkward, but when they are told how/why they are making people feel uncomfortable, they refuse to change their behaviour. So they may well be socially awkward, but they’re also kinda assholes, really.
- People who haven’t done anything wrong at all other than approach someone waaaaaaay too entitled and inconsiderate, and have been falsely accused of being creeps as a result.
There’s almost definitely more- how do you class people who deliberately use their targets’ needs to try and set up an exchange of sex for goods or services, for instance? Are they predators? Does being non-violent make them non-predators, in which case what are they? Scavengers? Parasites? Are they just giving their targets the chance to make a fair and useful trade? Are they benefactors just reaping their just deserts? This seems a moral call, and, as a society, our morals are far from being uniform. So who decides?
I’m thinking that the only way out of this quagmire is to scrap labels, and start describing behaviours. Aside from moving us away from the whatchacallingwhom nonsense, it would have a whole host of other benefits:
- It would encourage us to listen to our intuition, rather than bury it.
- It would force us to observe the situation and start noticing what pings us wrong, instead of denying and ignoring it. This could teach us what a creep is doing, or reveal the fact that our intuition is misinformed by our prejudice, past history, etc.
- It would enable us to present third parties with a list of objective, observable events, rather than rely on them buying into our interpretation of a situation, or trust than our feelings are an accurate reflection of reality. “Alfred keeps standing too close to me” is very different from “Alfred makes me feel creeped out.” People can actually see if Alfred is standing too close.
- It would enable us to highlight when differences in perception between people are actually a result of differences in behaviour. For instance if “Alfred keeps standing too close to me” is met with “but he doesn’t do it with me!”, or “he’s never done that in front of me,” that can be used to highlight the fact that Alfred’s behaviour is actually targeted.
- It would also enable us to articulate to the person who’s bothering us how and why they are bothering us. And yes, sorry, but that’s important.