Just trying.

Clint posted this on my facebook page. Check it out – it’s golden. And yes, in case anyone is wondering, none of the events recounted therein strike me in the least bit as unlikely, or exaggerated. This stuff goes on. It goes on a lot. It goes on way too much, really, considering what what its rewards normally are.

Dennis hit the nail on the head:  “I thought I was horrible with chicks, but holy shit these guys make me look like James Bond. I have always been under the impression that you only crack jokes and compliment a woman’s ass, boobs, or other body parts once you start dating and already slept together. I never thought about going up to a woman and splurting ‘nice tits’. It seems counter productive and by that I mean no chance of getting any.”

The world is a weird and wonderful place, positively overflowing with things that have the potential to surprise or even shock us. Therefore, I do not doubt for a moment that there are some people out there who’ve managed to get laid after shouting something sexually explicit at a random stranger across a crowded room in a non-sexual setting. However, here and now this would be the exception, rather than the rule. The vast majority of the times, behaving in ways most people would perceive as creepy does not increase one’s chances of getting any; on the contrary, it usually completely obliterates them.

Yet there seems to be an increasing number of people insisting that a variety of creepy behaviours are nothing but misguided attempts by people to break the sad and terrible isolation the 21st century forces upon us. These poor wee bunnies are only trying to get some human contact in these mean streets, and they are admittedly klutzy at it but honestly they don’t mean no harm, and women (it’s always women in this narrative) are so damn cruel to them, kicking them in the teeth when they’re already down, and it’s so very sad when all they need is a bit of understanding, honestly. And so they excuse those who catcall, those who hit on women in public places, those so convinced they’ve found “the one” that they’re turning stalkerish, and so on. Hell, women should be flattered by the attention!

I’ve got to call bullshit on that. That narrative doesn’t stack up, for the simple reason that the human species is capable of learning from trial and error. Creeping on people doesn’t help them win friends and influence people. It doesn’t get them laid. So why carry on creeping?

There could be a variety of reasons why these people do these things, not all of them malignant. They could be genuinely unable to register people’s negative reactions. They could be so used to meeting negative reactions that they believe it’s the normal way people interact. They could be incapable to learn from other people’s behaviour, imitating successful behaviour. They could have never seen successful behaviour. They could be so arrogant that they believe that anything they do is inherently ok, and people should adapt their standards accordingly. They could be doing in on purpose, because they get their kicks out of making people uncomfortable. There could be a myriad other reasons, and we may never know which one applies without getting to know the persons involved – and I for one am disinclined to encourage anyone to do that. However, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that when the preponderance of the responses to an action are negative, anyone persisting in that action hoping for a positive result has got to be showing something more than a desperate kind of optimism.

 

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With Dog as my co-pilot.

I’ve recently returned from a trip Up Norf with the boydogs, roaming & camping in the van. My old boy has done this a million zillion times, so he just fell into his usual groove. This is still relatively new stuff for the puppy, though, so it was interesting to see how he’s getting used to the whole deal and finding his role in the pack in a different setting.

Note: the puppy, aka Gamble, is actually five. However, he is, well, he’s kinda special. He is the most loving and ebullient dog you’ll ever meet, thereby conclusively proving that they don’t always take after the owner. However, as his Uncle Bob says, “if brains was black powder he couldn’t blow his hat off.” As a guard dog, he’s generally anti-useful: he’s the kind of dog who keeps trying to drag you into the local crack house, because the door is open and there are people lying all over the floor, so they must want hugs and kisses, obviously.

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During this trip, the Gambler took a giant leap in learning. All on his own, he developed a set of rules for the van-as-home:

  1. People who walk past and around the van must be ignored. No making noise or trying to climb out the windows to say hello, or Boss becomes displeased.
  2. People who get nosy around the van are a cause of concern, and one must alert Boss with warning barks (“Intruder? Intruder?”).
  3. If Boss acknowledges approachers, then they must be greeted with squeaks and wags, and ideally loved & squished.
  4. If Boss does not acknowledge the approachers, they must be told to go away with growls and barks.

I was seriously impressed. I love my boy to bits, but I never thought I could rely on him for protection. Turns out I’ve been underestimating him.

There was one particular occasion where a total twerp decided to pull the standard creepy guy narrative on me. I had stopped in the middle of nowhere, parked in such a way that anyone wanting to get a good view into the back of the van would have to stand in the road. I was sitting our of sight, on the bumper between the back doors, writing. So of course I was giving out all the signs of wanting some random interaction with strangers, right?

Depressingly predictably, this twerp decided that he’d risk getting ran over so he could pop over “to say hello” and “find out what I was writing”. Normally I’d have to tell them to fuck off and die, something that doesn’t worry me in the least, but it does get frustrating. This time, however, the Gambler decided that he had this. Every time the twerp opened his mouth, Gambs barked at him, and carried on barking until the the twerp shut up. I left them to it and kept on writing, and after a couple of minutes of this crap the guy apologised to the dog and walked away.

[I’ve yet to have a single creep apologise to me. Da Gambs clearly haz skillz.]

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So what? I hear you cry. Should we all get a creep-alert dog? Well, yes, we should, because dogs are awesome, but that’s not it. That thing that struck me is that the Gambler, a dog who is by all accounts severely educationally subnormal, with the attention span of a fruitfly, the social awareness of a potato, and a near-suicidal inclination towards misplaced loving kindness, got it. He worked out what the situationally relevant red flags are in the people around us. He worked out what my reactions indicate. And he worked out that the normal rules of conduct that apply to people don’t apply to creeps. He got the Creepy Guy Narrative, and how to derail it.

Yes, a lot of that is him responding to my cues, but even with that he’s still doing better than a lot of people. People routinely fail not only to notice creeping, but to notice the creepers’ impact on the people getting creeped at. There are plenty of people out there stuck between a creeper and an unsupportive support group. There are plenty of people tearing their hair out in frustration because they can’t make their partner, their parents, their co-workers, their boss, their friends, see or accept that there’s something off about someone in their vicinity. There are plenty of people getting socially punished for taking steps to protect themselves.

Now I’m wondering how much work we actually put into hobbling ourselves. Much as I like dogs, I’m disinclined to believe that they have a higher potential for learning than people have. If we find ourselves consistently behind our canine companions, there’s got to be something we’re doing to put ourselves there. I guess the real question is why. Cui bono?

Upgrading.

 

TL;DR people: this is not about vans, I swear.

Last week I retired Matilda, my most beloved van, about whom I’ve blogged in the past. She’s my favourite van in the whole wide world, and I could was lyrical about her many outstanding qualities, but that’s not the point of this blog.

I bought ‘Tilda in 2014, sight unseen, because my old van had died a terrible and sudden death and I was stuck. I paid £350 for her, and I might have overpaid. She’s a good old van, but she’s older than some of my readers. Around the same time, a friend of mine also bought a van. There was nothing the matter with his old van, but ‘it was time for an upgrade.’ He didn’t get any old banger, either: he got himself one of those new pickups who look like a Transformer on ‘roids.

We both need vans for the exact same purposes: getting to and from work, moving dogs, and weekend camping trips. He spent over 50 times as much as me for a tool that does precisely the same job. From my point of view, that makes him a bit of a silly.

Of course, I’m completely missing the point. To him, a van is not just something to drive. It’s something to be seen driving. It’s beyond a status symbol: his ego is wrapped in his vehicle, and that totally changes the nature of the game. If I bear in mind where he’s coming from, all his vehicle-related decisions – upgrading unnecessarily, spending as much as he could borrow, buying new, etc. – make sense. If I ignore how connected his ego and his vehicle are, though, I cannot parse let alone predict his vehicle-related behaviour.

So bloody what? I hear you ask. Well, the same thing applies to many, if not most things in life. We may think we are embarking on the same quests, wanting the same things – relationships, careers, homes, families, etc. – but actually we often want them for completely different reasons. And it’s those underlying reasons that will determine how we will go about our quests.

Significantly (for me, at least) this applies to dating, romantic relationships, and romantic rejections. People come at them with very different interests and priorities, and if we ignore these differences their behaviour can surprise and confuse us.

My goal when seeking a mate is “finding someone with whom I can share a mutually agreeable amount of time and space without wanting to hit him with a brickbat too often.” It’s about whether we can make each other happier, overall. My ego is not wrapped up in the ‘quality’ of my mate, and I particularly don’t care about his perceived social value. As a result, rejections tend to have effects on me somewhere between ‘Meh’ and ‘I wish I was dead, but I’m sure I’ll get better’ depending on how invested I was in the person in question. However, they never offend me.

I have to remind myself that, for a whole bunch of people, that’s just not how it works. People whose egos are wrapped up in the quality of their mates come at relationships from an entirely different angle. They seek to confirm or improve their social standing by being seen with the right person. Their motivation may push them into ‘upgrading’ if the opportunity arises, or rejecting their partner if their ‘value’ drops. It may also cause them to undermine their partner’s efforts at improving themselves: if they improve too much, there’s a risk that they will seek an upgrade.

This also affects how they take rejections. Regardless of how politely these may be presented, they are almost bound to find them offensive. “How dare they reject me? Do they think I’m not good enough? What will everyone else think now?” They project the kind of thinking they do on others, assuming that we all come at the issue with the same frame of mind, and react accordingly.

From my point of view, it’s idiotic for them to do that. Yet I’ve been doing the exact same. It’s beyond pointless for me to be shocked when people’s behaviour does not match my expectations, when my expectations are based on me completely ignoring where these people are coming from.

About the last blog.

Some of the responses from the last blog pissed me off and disappointed me in equal measure. This is unsurprising, given the content of the blog and my not-so-zen-master’s-like temperament. However, the direction from which I was vexed and disappointed was indeed surprising. I guess I should be glad of that.

I was expecting a lot of “hark at the little lady, talking overemotionally about stuff she knows nothing about, bless”, and there was none of that (though I’m sure it will come; when it comes to tripe, the internet always provides). What I got instead was a lot of “I too was a victim(TM) so I know what she needs, and what she needs is her feelings validated, so she can feel empowered and liberate herself from this paranoia!”

Now, I’m paraphrasing because, oddly enough, every time I see one of these posts and step in to comment, the post magically disappears. Poof! However, Scout’s honour, I’m reflecting accurately both the gist and the language of said posts. Lacking an actual piece of writing to fisk (come on, internet! you know you can do it!), I’m just gonna rant free style.

I need my feelings validated? I seriously can’t even begin to get my head around that. I routinely ask people to bullshit-check me. The people I ask are a. friends of mine and b. experts in the field I’m tangling with. I ask them because I value their opinion. One of the reasons I value their opinion is that I know them to be impartial observers AND ruthlessly loving towards me. In a nutshell, they will tell me if I’m full of shit. They will NOT validate anything I’m feeling or doing if it’s not appropriate. They will, however, support me through unclogging whatever thing is causing me to do or feel inappropriately.

That’s just how I roll. I am aware that other people do things very differently. I’m also aware that some people just like to have a Greek chorus. I am not one of those people – I don’t consider them wrong for being that way inclined, but that’s not the way I’m inclined. Anyone believing that I’m one of those people doesn’t get me. Anyone insisting that I am in fact one of those people and I’m in denial is – oh, I just wish I wasn’t trying to cut down on my swearing. Let’s just say that they are not friends of mine, and they can’t be friends of mine, and sure as hell they will never be the sort of people whose opinion I value, because they’re clearly coming at my life with an agenda all of their own, which doesn’t include any respect for how I am wired, and, yes, how that makes me feel.

What feelings, exactly? How do I feel? How do you know? Because I haven’t noticed you taking the time to ask me. You appear to have decided what my feelings are right around the time you decided I needed them validated, and without checking in with me.

You too are a victim? It’s hard for me not to snark, and snarking here would be totally cruel and inappropriate. Having gone through a personal experience of your own may make you better able to empathise with my personal experience. However, that only really works if you’re willing to consider that our experiences might not have been identical, and even if they were that we might have responded to them differently. Otherwise, you’ll be no better at understanding me than a book expert who’s read only one book. In fact, you’ll quite probably be a lot worse, because you’ll be too busy telling me how I’m feeling and what I’m needing to understand where I’m coming from. Add a sprinkling of unprocessed emotions, and our communication breakdown is likely to be epic.

I need to feel empowered? No. I need and want to BE empowered. And for me empowerment comes from knowing I have the resources and skillset to affect reality if necessary. It’s the result of a cold, calculated evaluation of my risk management. It has nothing, NOTHING to do with fear management.

If all you’re doing is pandering to my emotion in the hope that it will make them dissipate, you’re not empowering me. And if I am actually still at risk, and you’re trying to affect my risk perception without affecting my ability to risk-manage, what you are doing is putting me in danger. Unless I’m completely incorrect about my risk perception, that is…

I need to liberate myself from this paranoia?

“paranoia
parəˈnɔɪə
noun
A mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically worked into an organized system. It may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality.”

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If you’re gonna call me insane, at least you could buy me coffee first?

Soooooo, you’re planning to validate my feelings, but you believe my feelings are delusional? And you believe so even though the whole damn point of the blog I originally wrote is that my problem is in fact a flesh-and-blood problem that manifested itself right outside my garden gate, and was only put off by a moody Rottweiler?

Congratulations, here is your Mental Gymnastics gold medal.

 

 

Let’s look at it another way. I live in a flood risk area. I don’t know this because I’ve spent time looking at hydrological maps, historical records, and the like. I know this because I’ve spent many a day listening to my neighbours’ emergency water pumps while watching my garden turn into a pond, and wondering whether the water will make it to the door.

I am concerned about the risk of my property flooding. It’s real, it’s not going away, and my ability to deal with it is not getting better; in fact, it is decreasing (and before anyone gets on the ‘reject your limitations’ twaddle train, I broke my damn back three years ago. There are consequences.). As my perceived risk increases, my concern increases too.

 

So, on one side I’ve got people who believe that, because my concern is unsupported by what they consider to be valid data, it’s invalid, so they’re trying to just wave it away. On the other side, I’ve got people who believe that my concern is delusional, but in order to make me feel better they want to validate this delusion of mine.

And all I’m trying to tell all of them, and anyone else who’ll listen, is that I’d really, really appreciate some practical advice on flood defense.

 

Why is this so damn hard?

Just stories.

About a million years ago, a very-much-ex boyfriend threatened to come and visit. I’m not using the word “threatened” lightly: he wasn’t welcome, he knew he wasn’t welcome, and he was a genuinely scary guy with a history of violence (not against me) and severely erratic behaviour. So I told my housemates and we got on high alert, which was relatively easy. We had a system already in place because we’d already gone through the same damn thing with one of their exes who came back to haunt her. So we put our standard system into place and our Rottweiler in the front yard, and it all worked out fine in the end. But it wasn’t a fun day, and it made me think, because if something can happen once it can happen again unless the circumstances change.

Not so long ago, a self-defence instructor asked me what sparked my interest in the field. And I mentioned this-and-that, and then I said that my most recent flare-up in training was as a result of the concerns I had around said ex boyfriend. I was fed up feeling under-resourced to deal with him and the likes of him, so I decided to try and take steps to level up the playing field. His response was: “You shouldn’t be worried about someone like that. People that chaotic are unlikely to get organised enough to ever be a real problem.”

And I kept thinking that he has already been a problem. He has already shown up at my door. I have had already to rely on my housemates and a visiting Rottweiler for backup. I have already had to accept that, realistically, in a one-to-one situation between me and him, I’m outnumbered. This is not some irrational fear I’ve concocted out of thin air and the cobwebs in my brain. You are telling me that I shouldn’t have this concern because this is so unlikely to happen, when it already has. But we never got to discuss that, because he was too busy giving me the answer to my problem to actually pay attention to it.

 

I met my closest childhood friend when I was 6 months old and she was a newborn. We were inseparable through kindergarten and school. Then I left, and she stayed there, and, these being the days before emails and Skype and us having money for phone calls, we lost touch. A few years ago, her older brother was in the news. He’d killed himself in prison, where he was serving 16 years for killing his ex. After an allegedly tempestuous relationship, she’d finally left him. So he waited a few days, then travelled across town to her mother’s house, climbed up to a balcony, broke in, and stabbed her to death. He was the guy who used to give us rides to school in his car when all the other kids had to ride the bus. He was the guy who’d grudgingly let us borrow his records (Mike Oldfield, The Police, The Rockets). The first cigarettes I smoked were stolen from his pockets. He was a feature of my childhood as much as my stuffed toys.

A couple of weeks ago I read a letter to Captain Awkward from a lady who was being psychologically abused and exploited by her partner. The Captain’s response included a suggestion to consider contacting a domestic violence hotline. The rationale was that, although things hadn’t gotten physical yet, “If you can’t say “no” to someone without dreading the consequences, things have already gotten bad enough to be afraid.” I thought that was a clear, succinct way to put it, so I posted it on my page.

And I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was a crock of shite. That people are often fearful without valid causes. That not wanting to face the consequences of doing something is not the same as not being able to do it. And I can’t disagree with any of that, because it’s absolutely true. But at the same time I can’t disagree with the fact that if you have reasons to believe that doing something will put you in the way of serious harm, or force you to cause someone else serious harm in self-defence, the fact that you technically can do it isn’t much comfort. I can’t disagree with the evidence, statistical and anecdotal, that the worst violence in domestic cases often happens around a break-up. Although that may be a relatively rare occurrence, it’s not statistically insignificant to those people it happened to. And yes, you might be able to resolve all your problem with most people by shooting them inna face… but that is likely to leave you with new problems.

 

One of the most brilliant, analytical minds I know in the self-defence field wrote an article about catcalling. He came up with a universal response to the problem designed to work in most situations. The problem with it is that, based on the response of all the women I know who took the time to comment (totalling over 180 years of combined experience dealing with catcalling in 9 countries over 4 continents, as well as different subcultures), it is unlikely to work very well. In fact, we all believe it has a very high likelihood of making things worse. We’ve come to believe this because we’ve all tried doing something very much like it, and it made things worse for us.

And we were told that we’re not understanding the issue. That there are so many factors, permutations, and commutations that it’s much more complicated than we’re making it. That we’re being irrational about the real chances of escalation – and what statistics are we offering, anyway? That we should look at it as a systemic problem. That the solution, if applied properly and consistently, would eradicate catcalling over time. So we explained that our main concern was getting home safe. That making the world a better place would be fantastic, but not at the cost of our skins. And we were told that our fears are misplaced, and no thought was paid to asking whether any of us had ever been actually assaulted by a catcaller… which at least two of us have. And yes, two assaults out of 180 years of dealing with a problem is practically nothing… but two assaults out of 6 women isn’t, though you could throw that number out immediately because the sample size is so minute… so we have no valid numbers. And because we have no valid numbers, our combined life experiences are somehow also not valid.

 

These are three stupid stories that don’t mean a thing.  You’d have to be an idiot to extrapolate anything from them. They’re not statistically significant. The plural of anecdote is not data. We know this, because we have numbers and facts and rational, grown-up filters to look at the world through.

They’re also real stories. They have happened. They have really happened to real people who really got hurt, or were really in danger of getting hurt. But this people were women, and that changes everything.

 

These days, everything that happens to women becomes a feminist issue. Feminism has always been contentious, and third-wave feminism is, well, particularly jarring, so now everything that gets the F label gets treated differently. It becomes a political issue, a polarised issue, a policy issue. It gets caught in a fight between two extremes. It becomes everything but what it really is: the everyday problem of an everyday person.

So many people are so busy slaying the Feminist Dragon that they’re forgetting the real people behind the issues; the people who are getting hurt by those issues. They’re forgetting that, before those issues were made into banners and slogans and sound bites and applications for funding and legislation and less-than-perfect statistical studies and sometimes confusing calls for action, they were issues that routinely sent real people to hospital, or the morgue; that they still do. Worse than that, when those real people try to talk about those issues now, they can’t get heard. Hearing them would mean admitting that that mean ol’ Dragon isn’t all wrong about everything always; that there is a kernel of truth in some assertions. As if finding a middle ground, or admitting that even a broken clock is right twice a day, were signs of capitulation.

The really fun thing is that most of us who are raising those issues aren’t doing so to support the Feminist cause. It’s just not about that. Catcalling is not “a feminist issue” – it’s the issue my friend’s daughter is starting to face walking around town with her mum (oh, and she’s 11). Domestic violence is not “a feminist issue” – it’s the issue a lot of people of all genders face every day because to them “if you try and leave, I’ll kill you” is a creditable threat. Home security against wacko ex partners is not “a feminist issue” – it’s the issue that resurfaces for me whenever my ex’s life goes out of kilter.

Regardless of the genitals we sport, we’re just people looking for solutions to our problems. We just want to get home safe. We just want to feel safe in our homes – not being told that we’re safe, there there, don’t worry your pretty little head about it; but actually know that we’re safe enough, that our dangers have been reduced to a manageable level. We’re just asking for help, for support, for practical advice, and what we’re told is that our problems… aren’t. That we’re somehow misunderstanding the events of our lives. And it’s starting to feel crazy-making, and I don’t know where to go with this.

What he said.

A wee while ago, Kasey wrote a blog. I think a bunch of people filed it under “stuff that is not relevant to me”, because Kasey works a very specialist job, with very specialist risks and issues. We’re not all Tactical Team Leaders or SWAT Training Coordinators, after all. Most of us only SWAT flies.

Well, those people were wrong. This is not only relevant, but even critical stuff, applicable to virtually everybody, so I’m gonna bang on the same drum for a bit in the hope that more people will take notice.

The moral of Kasey’s blog (you have read it by now, right? Hmm) is:

It’s easy to get LOST in that head space…unless you have tethers to the world.

That applies to most, if not all of us. The only thing that changes is the head space.

 

I work directly with customers. Most of my interactions are about exchanges of services for money; they are both scripted and materialistic. There is very little room for creating personal connections, and, when there is, those personal connections cannot be allowed to affect the basic commercialism of the exchange. We cannot afford to run at a loss, regardless of how much we like a customer.

There are also frequent problems with problematic interactions; interactions in which customers try and get more than their fair dues. Although people’s tactics vary, and everyone clearly thinks that they’re being super-intelligent and original, those interactions are also heavily scripted. There is actually only a handful of ways in which people try to screw you, and we’ve seen a bunch of them a bunch of times. It’s got to the point that now we can often predict how certain customers are going to behave in the future because we recognise their “type”. One of the things we have to learn is how willing customers are to  try and exploit personal connections that are not in fact there in order to get what they want and don’t deserve. These connections are not only fake, but strictly one-sided: because we’re “friends”, they are entitled to something extra, while we’re not even entitled to the basic we’ve already agreed on.

 

When I spend too much time working, or have to deal with a bunch of bad customers in a row, I can end up thinking that humanity is wall-to-wall assholes. I can end up approaching every interaction with a “how is this one gonna try and screw me?” filter. My frame of mind is not only far from joyful, but can get in the way of having normal, personal, enjoyable human interactions. If I don’t watch out, I can end up confirming my prejudice. I can end up summoning my own demons. And I can’t get away from what I hate if I’m constantly creating it in the world around me.

So what? Well, pretty much everyone has a strong belief, or a bugbear. Something they just can’t stand. Something they are willing to fight against, whether it’s out in the real world or as armchair warriors. And it’s easy, particularly as armchair warriors, to spend a preponderance of our time fighting the good fight. It doesn’t matter what our fight is: all that matters is how much time and effort we dedicate to it, and whether we’re balancing all that with time spent enjoying the thing we’re fighting for.

People who spend too much time fighting, and not enough time recharging/balancing/ enjoying the fruits of their fight, can burn out. Too much going out, and not enough coming in. All work and no play makes Jack go cray-cray. Worse than that, they can end up fighting all the time, on automatic pilot. They can end up fixating so much on certain issues that they seem them everywhere, all the time. And when they are not there, they can summon them there with their own behaviour and attitudes. If you treat the people around you like your enemies, eventually they will become your enemies, sure enough.

As Kasey said:

Tethers are important.  Because they are important you need to protect them.  Not only from the big scary world, but from you.

And:

If you are reading this and you know, or have now come to realize that you are someone else’s tether please be kind to them.

They are focused, but that focus can give them tunnel vision.  Please give them gentle nudges and reminders.  Help them manage their time so they can protect their lives and enjoy a life worth protecting.

IMOP for a creep’s target – 4.

Preclusion with creeps is often not straightforward. Creeps aren’t stupid. If they hunt captive prey, they can be more successful. At the same time, if they corner a victim too obviously, they could blow their cover. Very few people would blame a woman who reacts badly to being cornered in a dark basement.

What the clever ones often do is seek opportunities where people would be physically able to leave, but are kept there by other reasons. That can make it very hard for targets to articulate their preclusion.

For instance, a creep may target someone at a workplace. If you are at your place of work, you’re not physically stuck there… but you can’t just leave, either. If your colleagues or bosses have been groomed into believing in the creep’s innocence, or if they have other priorities (e.g. profits), you can end up feeling completely stuck. This feeling of powerlessness is likely to increase your discomfort, which is what the creep wants.

A creep may target someone at a class. Yes, you could drop your BJJ because of the new class creep, but you really want to carry on training. You’ve invested a lot in your hobby, both in time and money, and you enjoy it. There may not be alternative equivalent training in your area. You’re after all, in a safe space… with people who would support you, if only they could see what you see… and you are there of your own free will. How can you say that you’re forced to deal with that creep, when you could leave at any time?  When you could just up and tell them that you don’t want to be near them? How can you justify feeling so unsafe now when ‘nothing is really happening,’ and ‘nothing’ could really happen in such a safe setting?

(For instructors who are routinely struggling to keep – not to get, but to keep – female students in their class, I’d recommend remembering that a creeper is always a possibility. There could be a myriad other reasons why women keep quitting, but forgetting that a creeper could be one of them is unwise.)

A creep may target an individual in a public place, or in the context of a large social gathering. Out of hearing range, they might be targeting an individual, saying the most inappropriate things, or saying things that are borderline in an unequivocally inappropriate tone, while maintaining a completely innocent demeanour. To the onlookers, it will look just like two people chatting. If the targets reacts, the onlookers may or may not believe them. If the creep has spent time developing the appropriate persona, there really are good chances that the targets will be deemed to be “overreacting.”

(There’s another factor here that needs to be expanded on at some point. Predatory behaviour often requires that a predator isolates the prey. That isolation doesn’t have to be physical. There are plenty of ways to cut us off from our resources, and convincing us that if we tried to summon them it would all blow up in our face is a brilliant way to do it.]

These are just a few common examples of how creeps may use our lack of preclusion against us. There are plenty of variations on this theme, because this happens a lot. The important thing for us to remember is that sometimes we may look free to leave, while we’re actually stuck… but sometimes we may feel trapped, when we’re actually keeping ourselves in a situation.

IMOP of a creep’s target – 3.

[Note: this blog is horribly gendered. First name and gendered pronouns make writing easier. The problem is not gendered. Men are also affected, and when they are they tend to struggle to get help, because everyone believes the problem is gendered. And everyone believes that the problem is gendered because of idiots like me, writing gendered blogs and articles because it’s easier.]

Once we have accepted that something or someone is making us feel uneasy, if we are in a physically safe situation, we can turn our attention to what exactly is giving us that feeling. [Please note: if you’re not in a physically safe situation – for instance, if you are alone, outnumbered, or if the problem person has gotten physical or has threatened to go physical, that’s not the time to focus on information gathering.] We know we feel creeped out by Percy. But what exactly about Percy is making us feel creeped out? Working out the precise reason that our spidey-sense started tingling can help us try to address the situation, and also articulate it to others.

For instance, we may realise that something about Percy is bothering us because of our past history or prejudices. Percy is wearing the same cologne as our pervy high-school PE teacher. Percy’s rhinitis makes his breathing sound like that of an old pervy caller. Percy has the wrong skin colour, or the wrong accent, and our grandma always warned us against “those people.” Being aware of that “trigger” can help us look beyond it. Is Percy completely innocent of any behaviours that are creepy per se, or are there additional factors?

We may realise that Percy is bothering us because he’s breaking one of our unspoken social rules, but the cause of that rule-breaking is not creepy in the least. Percy stares at our lips intently because he is hard of hearing, and lip-reading helps him understand us. Percy stands “too close” to us, but he stands “too close” to everyone, because he comes from a place or culture where that is the normal distance. This is the kind of situation where using words can help. Are we able to talk to Percy about the problem we are having? It may not mean that Percy can stop the behaviour (e.g. lip reading), but mutual awareness of an issue can, on its own, be a help. If we have asked nicely, and the behaviour could be stopped with no inconvenience on Percy’s part, and he chooses to carry it on… then we’re likely dealing with something more than an accidental faux pas. Percy might hail from Huggytown, but if we have explained to him that we don’t hug around here, or we have told him that we don’t like hugs, and he keeps insisting on hugging us… then he’s also kind of a dick.

This is also where the “just socially awkward” excuse often loses the “just”. If Percy is socially awkward, and he routinely does something that upsets people, and those people tell him kindly and clearly that what he is doing upsets them, and he carries on doing it… then he’s not “just” socially awkward. He’s socially awkward and a dick.

We may realise that Percy’s behaviour, although accidental-looking, is actually targeted. Percy might stand too close to everyone… but he stands closer to the ladies than to the guys. Percy is forever being in people’s way… but he backs the hell out when the men ask him to, while he forces the women to squeeze past him. Percy might hug everyone… but his hands only stray onto the women’s bums. Oh, and it’s only women of a certain age or size or social status. Or only those women who wouldn’t scream bloody murder, or lump him in the face with an office chair.

This is typical Cock-Roach behaviour, because it works incredibly well. Not only it helps normalise the wrong thing that Percy does (oh, it’s just him, he hugs everyone…) but it also makes the people who are getting the hug without the hand on the bum doubt the assertions of those who have had their bum touched. It covers up, and it divides and conquers. It’s brilliant, really.

Percy’s got the Means to creep on us. Every single living person who has the means to contact us in some way does. This kind of targeted  behaviour is what gives him the Opportunity to get where he wants to be, and keep on staying there. Percy is training all of us to tolerate his closeness, which enables him to target some of us with his handsiness.

In order to articulate to others what his happening, we need to point out to them the discrepancy in Percy’s behaviour. We need to be able to explain that yes, they aren’t experiencing what we are experiencing, and that’s the entire point: Percy is subjecting us to a slightly different experience. That is the proof of his Intention – if he was doing it unintentionally, it’d be doing that with everyone.

 

IMOP for a creep’s target – 2.

Sometimes we give ourselves seemingly very good reasons for ignoring our uncomfortable feelings. Mustn’t judge. Can’t jump to conclusions. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Innocent until proven guilty. They probably didn’t mean it. It’s all in our heads. There is so much wrong with this, that I struggle to disentangle it, but there seem to be at least three main parts of this problem.

First of all, on the surface, we seem to be prioritising protecting people’s feelings over our physical security. That’s pretty messed up. Below the surface, though, what we are really saying is that other people’s feelings need to be protected, but ours don’t. We’re burying our feelings to spare other people’s. What does that make us? Lesser people? Non-people? That’s even more messed up.

Secondly, we seem to be confusing acknowledging our feelings and apportioning blame. There is a world of difference between saying “I feel creeped out by George” and “George is a creep.” There may be a myriad reasons while I’m feeling creeped out by George that do not in fact involve any intentional creepiness on George’s part. George may be a lovely guy who wears the same aftershave as my pervy high-school PE teacher. However, I AM feeling creeped out. That feeling is a valid data point. That feeling doesn’t per se insult or hurt anyone in any way, unless I act upon it.

But no: we prefer to cling to some kind of notion that acknowledging our negative feelings towards someone is A Bad Thing. That our feelings, on their own, will somehow hurt them, or our group. As if people could read our minds. As if thinking less than well about someone must necessarily translate itself into less than good behaviour on our part. As if lying about how we feel was ever successful at making our feelings go away, rather than making them pop out unexpectedly and uncontrollably at inconvenient moments.

Thirdly, and I think this is a problem so in-built in our nature that it’s hard for us to see it, we are so wrapped up in how we do “justice” at a social level that we are trying to replicate it in our own heads. Our concept of justice is a deeply-held belief – it’s so deeply-held, in fact, that many or even most of us don’t even see it as a belief. Many western legal concepts – burden of proof, innocent until proven guilty, innocent by reason of insanity, mens rea, the need for an unbiased jury, the value of precedent, etc. – have become internalised beliefs for most of us. Of course someone is innocent until proven guilty. Of course it matters if people hurt us or purpose, or by accident.Of course everyone should be equal under the law. Of course we can’t hold people who are in a mentally unbalanced state to the same standards (wait, but didn’t we just say… oh, never mind).

I’m not saying that the underpinnings of our legal system are wrong. I’m saying first and foremost that we have to be aware that they are beliefs (or paradigms, if the word “belief” makes anyone feel squiffy). They are not facts. They are not the only way to do business. The Vikings, the Mongols, the Klingons, would laugh their heads off at them, and at us for believing in them.

Secondly, and most importantly, they are designed to work at a social level. They require a set of resources that an individual simply doesn’t have. For instance, after a robbery, a police department may start an investigation. This may involve expert investigators, forensic experts, witnesses, psychologists, substance abuse specialists, legal counsellors. The balance of evidence will be looked at by twelve uninvolved individuals. A highly trained legal expert will act on their conclusions, based on law and precedent. If we are expecting to be able to replicate that process in our own heads, we’re being a tad unrealistic.

Thirdly, this system is designed to work after the fact. It doesn’t work at preventing crime. It’s not designed to do that. It never was. It’s designed to allocate proper punishment after something has happened. And, as individuals, punishing perpetrators may be something we don’t have the ability or the right to do, anyway.

When we are faced with someone we are not sure about, who gives us an uneasy feeling, who makes our intuition tingle, we may not have the time and resources to play police-forensics-lawyer-jury before taking steps. That’s not a problem, though, because we don’t have to play judge either. We don’t have to play any part of that game. There are plenty of steps we can take that are not punitive steps. We can be proactive. But until we snap out of a mindset where every evaluation has to go through a grotesque one-man re-enactment of a mash-up between NYPD Blue, CIS, The Mentalist, and Boston Legal, we’re gonna find ourselves stranded.

IMOP for a creep’s target – 1.

One of the worst aspects of being the target of a creep is that it is often very hard to convey to other people what the problem is, or even that there really is a problem. Creeps thrive by hiding within social scripts. They push boundaries, rather than overtly break them. Unless they get cocky or stupid, or they are in a creep-supportive environment (and there are PLENTY of those), they avoid doing anything that could get them busted. That way they get to do it all again tomorrow.

It is is very hard to articulate this kind of issue. In fact, it can be hard to the point that some targets can’t even explain the problem to themselves. There is nothing tangible going on, just icky feelings and not-quite-right non-events. It all feels unpleasant, but it’s hard to explain why. That puts us in a very uncertain situation, and human beings tend to dislike uncertainty.

Because the issue is so undefined, many targets end up breaking one of Peyton Quinn’s ‘Five Rules’ for dealing with violence: “Do not deny it’s happening.” It’s often easier to bury the unpleasant sensations, to tell ourself that nothing untoward is taking place, not really, than to face an uncertain situation. Unfortunately, denial not only doesn’t make the problem go away, but it can make it worse.

First of all, once we start lying to ourself about that kind of sensation, we are effectively gagging our intuition, in the DeBecker interpretation of the word. Although our intuition can be corrupted by a number of factors – past experiences, cultural indoctrination, prejudices, etc. – there is no upside to shutting it up. By ignoring our intuition we can fail to read critical signs, which can put us in serious danger. By paying attention to it – not necessarily immediately acting upon it, but acknowledging its messages and investigating them further, and working out what caused them – we can help improve both our intuition and our ability to interpret it. It’s not about letting vague feelings lead us blindly by the nose; it’s about learning to pay attention in order to allow our intuition to inform our decision-making.

Secondly, once we decide to bury our intuition, to silence it to prevent it from sending those unpleasant feelings our way, we can end up looking for the wrong kind of evidence. “Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.” Once we decide that everything is ok, we start looking for evidence that everything is ok, and ignore any evidence that things are not ok. Creeps are masters at putting out confusing evidence. By focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative, we’re actively helping them fool us.

This combination of denial and confirmation bias pretty much destroy our chances of being able to articulate our problem. How can we articulate a situation when we’re refusing to look at it? How can we gather evidence to help us articulate the IMOP of our creep, when we’re so busy proving to ourselves than nothing is going wrong?