The most amusing aspect of writing about creeps was watching the responses roll in. There were many, mostly sent privately (which doesn’t mean that I feel obliged to keep them so – consider this your only warning).
The responses could be broadly classified into four groups:
- “Ohmygawd I had no idea I was doing a creepy thing, why didn’t anyone tell me sooner” quickly followed by “but actually I will continue doing the creepy thing, because there’s a chance, however slim, that it will result in me getting laid.”
I have a lot of patience for those who don’t know How Things Are Done Here. It kinda comes with the territory, what with having been a foreigner all my adult life and not being good at peopling. However, if I tell you that something is almost certainly going to creep the fuck out of someone, literally, and you carry on because heeeeey you never know, you might get lucky, and it’s just too bad about all those people negatively affected by your behaviour… then maybe you’re not a creep, but you’re 100% an asshole.
- “Stop writing about this, it’s boring/it’s sexist/it makes you sound obsessed.”
No prizes for those able to guess the gender of the people telling me this. Surprisingly (though perhaps not very), some of them were self-defence instructors.
Yeah, I wrote about creeps a lot. I found there was quite a bit to say on the subject, it being non-simple, and people asked me questions I saw value in answering. Besides, dealing with creeps is quite possibly the most frequent self-defence/conflict management problem women face. I have thus far met 1 woman who has never dealt with one, and she’s pretty damn fierce. I’m sure there are more, but my experience thus far suggests that this is a seriously widespread issue, and that it’s not innocuous. A bunch of ‘not-quite-rape-rapes’ start with a case of the creeps. Why so many self-defence instructors elect to ignore this problem is an interest subject in and of itself. That some would actively push back against it being discussed is frankly depressing.
- “You shouldn’t say what you’re saying because SociallyAwkward™ people will be unfairly punished.”
A. No. The first thing I’ve banged on about is how to tell socially awkward from creepy, because that’s what worries people the most, and often what keeps them from reacting or causes them to over-react later on.
B. No. What I’m saying is going to give people the skills to negotiate the situation in a non-confrontational manner, with the proviso that if that doesn’t work then confrontational is definitely on the menu. Those people who don’t respond to being told clearly and calmly that something is not appropriate or is simply unpleasant to the person at the receiving end are not just socially awkward.
C. Seriously, no. Genuinely socially awkward people don’t want to be. Their awkwardness is a problem, not a lifestyle choice. Having people talk to them about problems with their behaviour in a calm and clear manner is doubtlessly unpleasant, but it helps them long term.
D. Socially awkward people are actually more at risk of being picked on by creeps than the average person, and usually less able to deal with this kind of situation. So if your goal is to protect them, for real and no shit, you should want this information shouted from the rooftops, not suppressed.
If your goal is to continue creeping people out without getting called out on it, that’s a whole other story.
- Nopeologies. These are a bit like apologies, but mostly not, and have been hilarious.
It’s amazing, really. Start talking about creeps in a vaguely popular forum and every Tom, Dick, and Harry comes out of the woodwork to apologise to you about past misdeeds. It could be that, moved by my stirring prose, those people realised the error of their ways. It could be that those people knew full well at the time that they were misbehaving, and grew alarmed at the prospect of being publicly called out on it. Hmm. How can we possibly tell? Let’s look at my favourite examples.
A. “It just so happens that I make inappropriate sexual remarks to all my female friends, and though you’re barely an acquaintance, I just like you so much that I do that with you too because you’re so very special.”
This ‘apology’ is actually a demand for my continued tolerance of the behaviour.
Yeah… Nope. Don’t pee down my back and tell me that it’s raining. If you do something inappropriate, and you know it’s inappropriate, and you know I find it inappropriate, and you carry on doing it, this isn’t some kind of endearing quirk of yours I should just learn to live with. Cut that shit out.
B. “I’m sorry if I came across as a creep.”
This ‘apology’ doesn’t even try. It doesn’t address the behaviour (‘I’m sorry if I acted like a creep’). It doesn’t address the impact of the behaviour (‘I’m sorry if what I did creeped you out’). It doesn’t in fact admit that anything the person did was wrong – all it is addressing is how they might have come across, which is merely a miscommunication issue. At best, the only thing they’re worried about is my opinion of them. At worst, they’re trying to cast doubts in my mind as to my interpretation of their behaviour, which is more than a little bit gaslighty.
C. “I’m sorry if these terrible things happen to you and yours but actually you are wrong and all women are wrong all the time because I keep being called out for creeping when actually I am not, ever, and this is so unfair, poor me.”
Which brings to mind the joke:
A man was driving down the freeway when his wife called him:
“Herman, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on Route 280.”
“Hell,” said Herman, “It’s not just one car. It’s hundreds of them!”
If you keep getting called out for a behaviour by different people, at different times, in different settings, and you manage to convince yourself that this is the sign of a conspiracy against you, then you’ve got problems beyond my ability to manage. If those people mysteriously happen to be all of one gender, because your inability to parse social interactions only seems to manifest itself with people who sport a certain style of genitalia, I’m going to grow suspicious. Mostly, though, I’m just going.
It’s funny, really. It’s particularly funny because the people in questions apparently failed to realise that they’ve blown their own cover. The reason people get away with creeping is that the people around them give them the benefit of the doubt. If the creeps are aware enough of what they’re doing to volunteer an apology for it… coincidentally at a time when I’m publicly blogging on the subject… then there’s absolutely no shadow of a doubt as to the game they’re playing.
Oh, guys, if you’re reading this and decide to get unpleasant about it:
I kept your messages in a special folder I made just for you, just in case I ever feel like publishing them. ♥ ♥ ♥