[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.