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August 9, 2012 8:41 AM   Subscribe

"The Creepicus Complainicus, of the genus “Saddest Panda.” His cry is 'Why won’t someone just touch my wiener?'" Captain Awkward addresses the perrenial case of the creepy dude and the development of the proto-rapist.

"I’m not slithering around on the floor and hissing with my forked tongue when I say that the situations described in these two letters are pretty good examples of what Rape Culture is and why it is so insidious..."
posted by Sayuri. (356 comments total) 101 users marked this as a favorite

 
> He’s mostly been concentrating on the other women: telling them to expose themselves...

Wait...does the letter-writer mean creepy or criminal?

It's both.
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 8:45 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Didn't read the post closely enough and was expecting photos of a cute, really sad-looking species of panda. Did not get.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:48 AM on August 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


I read this earlier, and it's interesting (though I wish blogging were a bit more heavily edited)...

but how do pandas come in? I thought the problem with pandas is that they don't like to have other pandas touch them, and so they don't have baby pandas.
posted by jb at 8:48 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


..he has a tendency to make sexist jokes or joke about sex and then tell us we have no sense of humor when we don’t find them funny.

Oh man, there's a guy at work who does this (and also under-the-radar,"HR wouldn't like what I'd like to say" type jokes) even when not in the presence of women and it is super creepy. He also has this enormous fake grin on all the time. Megacreepy.
posted by DU at 8:50 AM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hey, I know that guy! Sadly, I think we all know that guy...
posted by Forktine at 8:50 AM on August 9, 2012 [22 favorites]


creepy or criminal

Just had this discussion with a friend last night. We came to the conclusion that "creeping" or "being a creeper" has a stronger connotation to younger people than it does to us. Like actively doing something aggressive, rather than just being generally oogy. I thought both stories went way over the "creepy" line, as I define it.
posted by JoanArkham at 8:51 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the problem with pandas is that so many of them are raised in isolated captivity that they are not sure how to go about the correct normal way of mating.

This applies to both actual pandas and the panda analogues in this article.
posted by elizardbits at 8:51 AM on August 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


Raper, no Raping!
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:51 AM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think the "sad panda" thing goes back to some episode of South Park.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:52 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


My husband was best friends with a #2 for a long, long time. But the apparent need to defend someone you've known since middle school is strong. It wasn't until creeper came to our wedding and hit on every woman there, including my mother, that my husband was finally like "yeah, he's a creeper."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:56 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep, it was Sexual Harassment Panda. And people who don't know that makes me a saaaaaaaaaaaad panda.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:56 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thank goodness I don't have any friends who behave even remotely like this. It makes me physically ill.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:57 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the most awesome and accessible explination of rape culture ever, thanks for sharing it.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:58 AM on August 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


We all know that guy - I know a "that guy" who actually changed himself (by conversations, reading feminist books and a lot of self-reflection and hard work) and is, seven years later, a much nicer and happier person with a wonderful long-term girlfriend. Every time this comes up, I want to remind folks that if this is you or if you think it might be you, you can absolutely stop, change and fix your life.
posted by Frowner at 8:58 AM on August 9, 2012 [53 favorites]


Offering to drive my stranded friend home from a party, then informing her that he expected sex as “payment” when he dropped her off; following her to the house after she said no


Seriously how is this ever okay? How does the situation "your friend is jerking off to my pictures and letting me" ever seem just fine and dandy to anyone? This is like Fifty Shades of Fucking Obvious Creepster.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:59 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


In my experience it all seems a lot more okay when you're 18-19 and lack the life experience to know better and the men in your social circle are all telling you it's okay because we've known him forever and yeah he's a little weird but he's always nice to US etc etc.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:01 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


JoanArkham:
"We came to the conclusion that "creeping" or "being a creeper" has a stronger connotation to younger people than it does to us."
I've always associated the term "creeper" with the Tim Conway sketch where he looks like he's flashing people but is fully clothed and has a teddy bear tied to his chest on the reveal. The fact I'm familiar with a Tim Conway sketch reveals my age, and I'll keep in mind that "creeper" has more serious connotations if it is brought up again.
posted by charred husk at 9:05 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


But the apparent need to defend someone you've known since middle school is strong.

I can see this, and I understand it, kind of. But if my partner - not to mention a bunch of my other friends - told me that Friend from Middle School was behaving in a gross way like this, I really hope I wouldn't just brush it off with "Oh, you're imagining it," or "He doesn't mean it like that," or "He was just drunk," when it's clear that the behavior is ongoing. Telling an old friend that they're behaving in bad ways is not fun and it's scary for pretty much everyone, but at some point you have to decide if you've got a spine or if you're willing to be complicit in your friend's sexual harassment/assaults.
posted by rtha at 9:06 AM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


What's a Tim Conway?


About 150lbs
posted by mulligan at 9:08 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


But the apparent need to defend someone you've known since middle school is strong.

Yeah, idk about that. If a friend of mine molested someone in their sleep, I certainly wouldn't defend them, and good lord if they did it to someone I was dating, I would hunt them down like a mad dog in the street.
posted by elizardbits at 9:08 AM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Telling an old friend that they're behaving in bad ways is not fun and it's scary for pretty much everyone, but at some point you have to decide if you've got a spine or if you're willing to be complicit in your friend's sexual harassment/assaults.

Yep. That was pretty much the thrust of the article -- that we are so entrenched in a "rape culture" that this fact has to be pointed out to people instead of them inherantly knowing it. Instead most guys make themselves feel better by forwarding those "ways women can avoid being raped" lists to all the women they know because they're sensitive guys and stuff.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Okay, that was mean of me -- especially since I've been extremely lucky to know a number of men who WOULD issue an unholy smackdown on their friends if their friends ever acted like a creep to me. Guys, we do notice if you get it and we really appreciate it. Thanks.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


most guys make themselves feel better by forwarding those "ways women can avoid being raped" lists to all the women they know because they're sensitive guys and stuff

"Most" guys? That seems just a little sweeping.
posted by yoink at 9:13 AM on August 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


* waits for yoink to read my followup *
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have a perennial fear that I am that guy. I have been assured many times by many people that I'm not, but I still never quite feel safe.
posted by cthuljew at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


Yeah, idk about that. If a friend of mine molested someone in their sleep, I certainly wouldn't defend them, and good lord if they did it to someone I was dating, I would hunt them down like a mad dog in the street.

Yeah, well, clearly I don't agree with it. But in the social situation I was in, the men weren't privy to a lot of the more heinous behavior, and the rapey dude would always manage to pin the fault on the women involved (she was crazy, or a bitch, or a heartbreaker, or a tease). There was a lot of willful ignorance and turning a blind eye because no one wanted to believe this dude was really quite so bad and most of it happened behind closed doors and the guys wanted to "mind their own business." And the other dudes making excuses for the behavior were genuinely decent people in most other ways (my husband definitely is!). It wasn't until years later, when rapeydude became this kind of paranoid whackjob who started lashing out at his male friends in very aggressive ways that they started to GET IT.

But I mean, that's the whole rape culture THING and how this behavior is perpetuated. You "mind your own business" about the "sex" lives of others and women are all crazy and make shit up anyway and blah blah blah loyalty.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


I can’t tell you how to bring this up without making your boyfriend defensive. He SHOULD feel bad. He SHOULD feel upset and defensive. Because his friend is a budding sexual predator who sexually assaulted his own girlfriend in her sleep, and he doesn’t want to do anything about it because the guy is “fun to hang out with.” Thinking about that and realizing how very, very out of line he is must feel pretty bad! HE should be the one writing to me, or at least, he should be the one worrying about your feelings and the potential social fallout of tolerating this guy. Not you. It shouldn’t be your job to have to come up with solutions for this.

This x 100
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:18 AM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is a great essay. But it is a pet peeve of mine that happily-coupled people—like these letter writers—seem to often place normal single-person behavior in the same category as sexual harassment and sexual assault, as though the fact of not being in an established relationship and seeking a partner were inherently creepy. Oh no—this guy went to a party with the hope of meeting a prospective sexual partner! The horror! Maybe it's just me but I don't think that belongs on the same list as feeling up random strangers without their permission and telling women that they are "up for grabs" when not in the presence of their partners.
posted by enn at 9:21 AM on August 9, 2012 [30 favorites]


It does feel a bit like there's a cultural shift going on away from sexual harassment being something that just happens, like the weather or something, to pushing back on it as something that people (generally but not exclusively men) do, and in particular, to engaging more men as allies.

There are studies that show that many/most sexually predatory guys are convinced that this is how all men operate, and they're just the ones getting a hard time for it. One of the best ways to show them that this isn't the case is for more men to pipe up and say "uh, no, dude, not so much."

Thanks, guys who get it!
posted by rmd1023 at 9:22 AM on August 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


I read this last night and have been in an ongoing discussion with some friends this morning. This comment was especially brilliant in illustrating the disconnect between the way men and women experience the world.

I've known some of these guys. My freshman year of college I got trapped in a dark room by a version of #1. I'm forever grateful to the guy who just walked in the room, so I could escape.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 9:23 AM on August 9, 2012 [54 favorites]


In my experience it all seems a lot more okay when you're 18-19 and lack the life experience to know better and the men in your social circle are all telling you it's okay because we've known him forever and yeah he's a little weird but he's always nice to US etc etc.

But honestly, this kind of thing persists in certain regions and subcultures - I'm really shocked by what my thirty-ish graduate student friends (especially out East) tell me about how they are treated by men - hook-ups that turn into "no I did not say we could have that kind of sex stop forcing OUCH JESUS stop" events, lies, pressure....and it's all tolerated by their social circle, and the person who talks about is "crazy" or "a bitch" or that's just what she should expect if she has casual hook-ups. (Meanwhile, of course, monogamy is "uptight" and "boring".)

Something else I've noticed: creepers consciously or unconsciously target socially vulnerable women - women who are a little wacky, or depressed, or on the margins of the group, or who have an unusual lifestyle or manner of dress. And that means that those women are even less likely to be believed: "I don't like her very much" and "I think her job at that skeevy cocktail bar is really gross" turns into "so she really must have done something to deserve how she was treated, let's not blame Bob."
posted by Frowner at 9:23 AM on August 9, 2012 [20 favorites]


In the comment section is this horrifyingly illustrative comment (long) that does one of the best jobs of breaking down rape culture I've ever seen.

The Question.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:24 AM on August 9, 2012 [150 favorites]


Did not get.

And I was hoping for some kind of article about how China was upset over the lack of Anthony Weiner in Congress/any position of power.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:26 AM on August 9, 2012


Yeah, there's a generation gap on the word "creep" or "creeper" for sure. If you're over 40 or so, it means "He's socially awkward." If you're under 30 it means "He's a nasty motherfucking sex criminal and we all know it, but if I say that out loud people will tell me I'm being a buzzkill."

Still, I get the sense that we're moving in a positive direction here. It used to be if someone was a sex criminal, nobody said ANYTHING AT ALL. Now we're at least willing to name it publicly as "creepiness," and it's sort of understood that that creepiness-as-a-euphemism-for-rapiness IS an undesirable quality even if we still treat it as an obnoxious personality quirk and not a criminal tendency. Maybe in a few generations we'll actually be willing to say "that dude is a rapist and he deserves to be in prison." That would be nice!
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:28 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


But it is a pet peeve of mine that happily-coupled people—like these letter writers—seem to often place normal single-person behavior in the same category as sexual harassment and sexual assault, as though the fact of not being in an established relationship and seeking a partner were inherently creepy.

Except that the man in question was not behaving like a normal single person. He was behaving like an especially creepy version of a NiceGuy(TM). In my formerly single life, I would have been completely skeeved by any man who went out with the attitude that he was gonna get laid.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 9:29 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Oh no—this guy went to a party with the hope of meeting a prospective sexual partner! The horror! Maybe it's just me but I don't think that belongs on the same list as feeling up random strangers without their permission and telling women that they are "up for grabs" when not in the presence of their partners."

And someone just missed the point.

When you go to a party (or any social event) and getting laid eclipses every other concern, that's not great (just from a healthy socialization point of view). *Maybe* it's not creepy, but it's certainly not a great mindset.

When you go to a party and getting laid eclipses every other concern to the point that the woman at the event are actively trying to avoid you because you make them uncomfortable, that's not just "normal single behavior." Come on, man, that's not even close. (Putting aside the wisdom, that those guys so desperately trying to get laid are really only undermining themselves via their such utterly unattractive deperation.)

Wanting to get laid is fine (who doesn't want that!). Wanting to get laid and actively adding sexual overtones to every conversation while broadcasting a signal that every woman you meet is good for only one thing and adopting an attitude that you are "determined to make it happen" or that "you deserve it because your a great guy" or that "everyone except me really just wants to get laid, but is too prudish to act on it" etc, ad nauseum. That's what rapists think.
posted by oddman at 9:32 AM on August 9, 2012 [43 favorites]


But it is a pet peeve of mine that happily-coupled people—like these letter writers—seem to often place normal single-person behavior in the same category as sexual harassment and sexual assault, as though the fact of not being in an established relationship and seeking a partner were inherently creepy.

I assure you that at every party I ever attended back in the days when I dated fellows, the guys who were in the headspace of "I want to get laid tonight doesn't matter who as long as she's attractive enough that I can get it up" were not only incredibly gross but also made me suspicious of the other guys. There's a vast difference between "I'm going out tonight to get laid" (in which case you need whatever the young folks use instead of Craigslist or wherever the young folks go instead of pick-up bars, so that everyone is on the same page) and "it would be really nice if I met an attractive girl who I could date at this party, but if it's just a fun party that's cool too".

I will go so far as to say that when men confuse "Mission: get laid"-style creepiness and "I'm going to this party and it would be awesome if there were a girl there" it is a problem.

Also, guys who go out to parties to "get laid no matter who" - many of you are very obvious. We do not believe that you are Christian Grey or some kind of super-secret-agent.
posted by Frowner at 9:34 AM on August 9, 2012 [28 favorites]


I knew a guy like this in college and man, was it painful to be around him. Just fucking awful. None of my female friends (and really, very few of my guy friends) were comfortable around him, because he just would. not. stop. trying. to. get. laid. And talking about trying to get laid. And whining about not getting laid. And referring to any gathering where he wasn't getting laid as a "sausage fest." Oh my god, what I would give to have never heard the term "sausage fest".

Unfortunately while I for one would happily have not invited him to things, there's a certain gravitational pull that social groups have, such that unless everybody is willing to shun somebody, it's very hard not to include them. It's very hard not to feel like the one who is causing the drama and being uptight. It's very easy to believe that you will be the one ejected from your group of friends because, yeah, Joe gets on everyone's nerves every once in a while but you don't drop your friends just because he want to get laid, am I right? There are man-rules about this stuff, and you just violated the code.

It is very difficult, especially for a young man, to feel like he has violated the code. Because that's part of what it is to be a man: knowing the code, living the code, enforcing the code. If you don't live by the code, you're not a man, and then what are you? But nobody ever really tells you what the code is in any kind of useful way.

Fifteen years older and perhaps even a little wiser, I can see how this idea, the idea of the code, is a bunch of bullshit that perpetuates injustice and enforces rigorous conformity and silence in the face of oppression, and restrains one's own senses of righteousness and self-expression. But it's a lot to expect of people, and for me anyway this view of the code comes of having been a known outsider and a tolerated hanger-on in most of my peer groups. I can imagine it being really costly, psychologically, for a person who feels that the code has rewarded them and made them safe, to flip it around see it as an impediment to their self-actualization.

Is there a point? Yes. I think that a lot of men in these situations experience the same fear around speaking out against creepers that women experience. I think that men fear being labeled as uptight and being called a bitch just as much as women do. I think it's important to acknowledge that, in every social situation, one's male privilege diminishes with every violation of the code. And men know this, and this is a way that male privilege perpetuates the worst in men, and silences the best.
posted by gauche at 9:36 AM on August 9, 2012 [26 favorites]


As I have said before,
I think that "creepy" is an interesting insult, because of it's dual meaning - both "This is a person who looks/acts unattractive" and "This is a person who may harm me in the future." I think the vitriolic reaction to this insult from men stems from how this combo definition makes it seem that, if the man is not what the woman considers attractive, that he is therefore going to harm her. I think that that is much more of an insult than either of the two definitions alone.
A few comments in this thread have opened my eyes to the shift in definition. The article itself uses the word "creepy" wholly as "dangerous", not "odd." It seems to me that the "nerd movement" from, oh, before I was born, where nerds claimed their oddness as a strength, to today's hipster nerds who idolize (while sarcastically snubbing) certain aspects of "nerd" culture has seen a shift in the definition of creepy:

first, othering: "that guy looks and acts differently and is creepy. there must be something wrong with him."

Then, retaliation: "There is nothing wrong with looking or acting different. Being creepy doesn't mean something is wrong with them, it means something is wrong with you for judging them."

Then, defense: "I look and act differently and that is part of how I portray myself to society. I am proud of this and for you to say that I am therefore dangerous shows how narrow-minded you are. Everyone should feel free to act how they want, regardless of whether some people think it's creepy."

And now, reconstruction: "Looking and acting different is a whole different cloth than RAPING someone! We aren't judging you because of your interest in anime or your dirty clothes. We are calling you creepy because the way you look and act raises many red flags in our minds, and we wholly expect you to physically and verbally sexually assault someone."

The key is to remember that different people mean different things when they say "so-and-so is creepy." Although the general usage has changed over the past few years, not everyone is up-to-date.
posted by rebent at 9:37 AM on August 9, 2012 [17 favorites]


I don;t think there is anything inherently wrong with making sex jokes or even asking a woman to expose herself as long as it is going on between two consenting adults. The problem starts when one consenting adult has no fucking clue what other consenting adults are into. One adult is having difficulty navigating all the subtle cues that let him know that the other adult is into whatever is happening. If the guy only did this with women who were interested in this, he would be fine. The problem stems from his lack of social skills, He can't even figure out which women those are.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:37 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh no—this guy went to a party with the hope of meeting a prospective sexual partner! The horror!

This issue isn't about a guy going to a party with the hope of meeting a prospective sexual partner. The issue is about what that guy proceeded to do in the attempt to obtain that prospective sexual partner.

It's not what you think that makes you a creeper, it's what you DO. Just like it's not FANTASIZING about breaking into Tiffany's and grabbing all the diamonds that makes me a jewel thief, but actually DOING IT would.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on August 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


This issue isn't about a guy going to a party with the hope of meeting a prospective sexual partner. The issue is about what that guy proceeded to do in the attempt to obtain that prospective sexual partner.

Well, but that's not what it says. The letter-writer has separately listed these other things that the guy has done that are making women uncomfortable. Then, as its own item, he lists "he goes with the mindset that he will meet someone there that he might be able to have sex with, rather than to have fun with his friends"—as though in and of itself that were a discrete offense, separate from the inappropriate things he does at the parties.

I think, also, people are reading this differently from me, e.g. Frowner's summation of "I want to get laid tonight doesn't matter who as long as she's attractive enough that I can get it up" is not how I read it—I read it as "I would like to meet someone at this party, who might eventually go out with me and sleep with me." Certainly it is possible that I am misreading it.
posted by enn at 9:40 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don;t think there is anything inherently wrong with making sex jokes or even asking a woman to expose herself as long as it is going on between two consenting adults. The problem starts when one consenting adult has no fucking clue what other consenting adults are into. One adult is having difficulty navigating all the subtle cues that let him know that the other adult is into whatever is happening. If the guy only did this with women who were interested in this, he would be fine. The problem stems from his lack of social skills, He can't even figure out which women those are.

I agree with this generally but - I really, really hope that everyone is aware that picking up on 'subtle cues' that someone wants sexually explicit conversation and sexually explicit requests is, like, ninth level ninja suble-cue-reading. I've definitely been in situations where I've clicked very quickly with someone (those are the sex on the first date situations!) but almost never fallen into "let's violate social norms right away together in a way that could easily turn bad for the female person involved" complicity and would really always leave that for later when there's some trust and negotiation involved.
posted by Frowner at 9:41 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


> In the comment section is this horrifyingly illustrative comment (long) that does one of the best jobs of breaking down rape culture I've ever seen.

Thanks very much for linking to that; I loved the linked post but wasn't about to dive into a long comment section. That is a great comment and I urge everyone to read it.

> Still, I get the sense that we're moving in a positive direction here.

Me too. It's frustrating as hell to see how slowly the change is happening and how hard it is for people (mostly men) to Get It, but I really do think it's happening. I've been very discouraged here on MeFi sometimes ("haven't we been over all this? why don't people just Get It already?"), but then I remind myself of how long it took me to really get it (to the extent I can, as a man), and I remind myself that patriarchy has been omnipresent for a long, long time and it will take a long time to dissolve it, and I try to cheer up.

Anyway, thanks for the post, and thanks to the commenters who have made this a civilized thread (I can just imagine how it would have gone back in the early days of MeFi).
posted by languagehat at 9:41 AM on August 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


The problem starts when one consenting adult has no fucking clue what other consenting adults are into. One adult is having difficulty navigating all the subtle cues that let him know that the other adult is into whatever is happening. If the guy only did this with women who were interested in this, he would be fine. The problem stems from his lack of social skills, He can't even figure out which women those are.

This. I was trying to say this in a good way, so thanks for saying it. It's this. There are guys who just get lost in the sea of signals from society, and just fail at simultaneously understanding those signals while moderating their own behavior when trying to deal with their own chemical fueled emotions.

I'm not really a party goer and I can't really think of anybody I know who was a real creeper. But to me it's a jacked up setup for these guys who don't get it. Guys have control over society, so they put in all these skewed rules and norms, mostly skewed to men's desires, and then the guys that can't navigate these waters and understand what is going on - they just get lost and confused and miserably fail at being normal, treading deep into creeper waters.
posted by cashman at 9:45 AM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


You know, this business about how Men Would Never Get Laid Without The Hard-Sell Approach makes me think about something I've been mulling over about the "friend zone."

I think for some men, the friend zone is a real phenomenon. Some guys DO get put in the "friend zone" -- or, well, in the "I think you're a potential rapist and I refuse to be alone with you ever" zone, but that doesn't sound so flattering.

If you're the sort of guy who is inclined to get all high-pressure with women, you probably don't have any platonic female acquantances who actually trust you. You've hit on every woman who comes within range, you've escalated it in a boundary-violating sort of way if they didn't respond well right away, and so now all the women you know have either (1) gotten with you right away, when you were still being cute, and not seen how badly you take rejection; (2) seen how badly you take rejection and decided that they will never in a million years trust you; or (3) run away entirely.

If you don't act all rapey and high-pressure (or all rapey and I'm-a-nice-guy-who-deserves-your-vagina), you end up with female friends who haven't slept with you but still trust you. And sooner or later, you end up flirting with one of those friends and it goes well, and you end up with a girlfriend in a low-key totally-consensual way without any hard sell required. But rapey guys don't get to have that experience, and so they end up believing it's genuinely impossible. Well, it IS genuinely impossible FOR THEM.

Similarly with the business about how men and women can't be close platonic friends. If you're the sort of guy who puts the hard sell on all your female acquantences, it's TRUE: you've never had a close platonic female friend, and you never will. The women you know are all either receptive to your advances or doing their best to edge away from you without making you angry.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:45 AM on August 9, 2012 [53 favorites]


he lists "he goes with the mindset that he will meet someone there that he might be able to have sex with, rather than to have fun with his friends"—as though in and of itself that were a discrete offense, separate from the inappropriate things he does at the parties.

See, in the context of rest of the creeper's description, I read that sentence to describe the sort of guy who is just so fucking obvious that he's only there to get laid. The kind of guy who huddles sourly around the keg until the cute girls show up and then he lights up like a firefly and shoulders his way over to preen his dubious attractions. The kind of guy who, an hour later is going to be ugly and pissed in the backyard because some girl he was "grooving with" is making out with some other dude.

The kind of guy who doesn't have personality but does have "game."
posted by gauche at 9:46 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think, also, people are reading this differently from me, e.g. Frowner's summation of "I want to get laid tonight doesn't matter who as long as she's attractive enough that I can get it up" is not how I read it—I read it as "I would like to meet someone at this party, who might eventually go out with me and sleep with me." Certainly it is possible that I am misreading it.

In the interests of internet honesty, I will say that I find it frustrating during conversations about harassment and sexual assault when someone (usually but not always a dude) steers the conversation to "but what about all those other dudes who are acting almost exactly like Creeper Dude but differently enough to be innocent and who get all insecure that they are going to be called out for sexual harassment?"

Two things:

First, if it's not about you, don't make it about you. If you aren't being a creeper, own that certainty. If you are hindered by severe social anxiety and guilt, work on those things - don't mix them up with anti-creeper discourse.

Second, honestly, when I meet a guy who worries about doing something "almost exactly like Creeper behavior but different enough to be innocent", the vast majority of the time he is being a creep and the difference between him and Creeper isn't as big as he is trying to convince himself that it is. I will submit, however, that several of these dudes have been my friends and the bad behavior has been clueless, sharply limited and fixable rather than a sign of creeper-hood.

Third, it turns the conversation right back to men being victimized by sexual harassment discourse.

If you are sincerely worried about being hassled for sexually harassing women because you are going to parties in the hopes of finding a girlfriend, I would strongly suggest that you sit down with an honest friend and talk about how much is likely to be guilt and anxiety and how much is likely to be your behavior, and how much of your behavior is just unsuccessful versus how much is problematic, then come up with plans for managing the anxiety and modifying the behavior.

I have just had so many internet conversations that start out about rape culture and turn into "why nice nerdy guys are afraid to try to pick up girls".
posted by Frowner at 9:49 AM on August 9, 2012 [151 favorites]


You're probably right, gauche. I think I was sort of responding more to a "now that I've got mine, I find the idea of dating distasteful along with anyone who is participating it, so can everyone please just stop" attitude that I've seen elsewhere than to what is actually present in this particular letter.
posted by enn at 9:50 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Though I should clarify that not every dude who believes in the "friend zone" is that sort of high-pressure creep. Some are genuinely good guys who don't know any better because they spent too many of their formative years watching and listening to the high-pressure creeps.

I guess the question is, do you believe in the friend zone because all the women you know treat you that way, carefully keeping you at a distance and refusing to explain why? (If so, you probably deserve it.) Or do you believe in the friend zone because it seems to account for the experience of your more, well, experienced friends? (If so, I think your friends are likely to be jerks or worse, but you're probably fine. Just stop hanging out with those dudes.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:50 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


* waits for yoink to read my followup *

O.K., followup read. All (well, "most") is forgiven.
posted by yoink at 9:52 AM on August 9, 2012


And in fact there's a third possibility, which is that all the women you know keep you at a careful distance, not because of anything you've done personally, but because you're hanging out in a social circle with a high enough percentage of other dudes who are rapey assholes that all the women you run into at social functions are on RED FUCKING ALERT. But there really are social circles that aren't like that, I promise.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:53 AM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Then, as its own item, he lists "he goes with the mindset that he will meet someone there that he might be able to have sex with, rather than to have fun with his friends"—as though in and of itself that were a discrete offense, separate from the inappropriate things he does at the parties.

I didn't read it as discrete, but as part of the context. And I read "mindset" as a sort of shorthand for "Won't STFU about how horny he is."
posted by rtha at 9:53 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


First, if it's not about you, don't make it about you.

Um, that's being a little willfully blind to the very pervasive discourses around all these issues which say, essentially, that "rape culture" is more or less coterminous with "male culture." I mean, I understand your point that this kind of defensive response has a way of blurring the focus on what is clearly unacceptable and offensive behavior--but it would also only be fair to accept that that blurring of the focus doesn't just come from defensive males; it also came from a long history of feminist discourses which basically said that every expression of male heterosexual desire is directly complicit in some form of sexual violence against women.
posted by yoink at 9:58 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


theBigRedKittyPurrs So, I read that comment, and now I know for ABSOLUTELY SURE that I AM NOT THAT GUY. Holy crap. Wow. I don't even. And while I spotted how messed up the waiting in the dark was as I read it, I was more than willing to gloss over it because the erstwhile narrator (Doctor Glass) was too.
posted by cthuljew at 10:00 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


you end up with female friends who haven't slept with you but still trust you. And sooner or later, you end up flirting with one of those friends and it goes well, and you end up with a girlfriend in a low-key totally-consensual way without any hard sell required. But rapey guys don't get to have that experience, and so they end up believing it's genuinely impossible. Well, it IS genuinely impossible FOR THEM.

I still think this is a dumb way to purposely start a romantic relationship. There are plenty of "nice guys" who would never do the sort of overt hard sell advances that you are talking about. Instead they befriend women who often have no possibility of romantic interest in them at all (and sometimes are already in a long-term committed relationship) and pine for the day that their platonic relationship eventually transforms into a romantic one. That kind of situation isn't fair to the woman, who probably doesn't want to inadvertently string along someone who secretly wants to date them just by being friends with them, and it's not fair to the guy, who for that kind of scenario to work has to hide any overt signs that they are interested in more than friendship until after a close friendship is established. It makes way more sense to me for people to instead just make their intentions known from the beginning, and for everyone to take a no means no attitude when it comes to being rejected. I think that's one of the main ways that online dating is better than a lot of the other dating options, because there's much less dancing around the issue and much less awkwardness around rejection.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:02 AM on August 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


This is definitely getting forwarded to some male friends of mine. Recently, I had to explain to them that calling a woman a slut is not an okay thing to do, even if you don't view slut as a negative term anymore (yes, they were trying to appropriate the word slut to have a positive connotation...*facepalm*). It was a little sad for me that they took my complaint about the term more seriously than that of their SOs who were right there with me.
posted by Loto at 10:03 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


and now I know for ABSOLUTELY SURE that I AM NOT THAT GUY.

Awesome. But (to anybody else in this thread experiencing the same worry) I'd like to suggest that the absolutely best way to be sure that you aren't that guy is to CALL OUT THAT GUY.
posted by clavicle at 10:06 AM on August 9, 2012 [31 favorites]


Some feminists have said that all straight male desire is problematic. (Though it's been fewer than you might think, and the ones who have said this are really marginal and controversial even within the most radical corners of the feminist community.)

But nobody here is saying that. When EmpressCallipygos came close, she backed off right away and apologized.

I think I might understand where you're coming from. I spent a lot of years in my teens or early 20s feeling like feminism meant I was Bad and Broken and Wrong. I was alternately really defensive and really self-flagellating about the whole thing. And then at a certain point I realized I'd gotten a cartoon version of feminism. The vast, vast majority of feminist women think it's totally fine to be a man (with a penis and a libido and everything!) and totally fine to ask women out on dates and try to get laid and all that stuff, and really just want us to be self-aware about it and do it in a way that's respectful. The "all straight sex is rape" boogeyman is, for the most part, our own paranoid mishearing of a much more reasonable point.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:07 AM on August 9, 2012 [28 favorites]


It's like being a psychopath, if you are seriously worried about being a creepy guy, you are probably not a creepy guy. Because you are actually thinking about how your actions affect other people.

As for the definition of "creepy" -- I was a teen in the 90s, and we always used "creepy" to indicate someone who was scary in a not-immediate-threat way, like a creeping hand in a horror film. The guy who asks you to dance isn't creepy, the guy who doesn't accept a polite refusal is creepy.
posted by jb at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


it also came from a long history of feminist discourses which basically said that every expression of male heterosexual desire is directly complicit in some form of sexual violence against women.

Wow, speaking of straw feminists...
posted by ndfine at 10:13 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


it also came from a long history of feminist discourses which basically said that every expression of male heterosexual desire is directly complicit in some form of sexual violence against women.

And thinking that through carefully is your responsibility as a good ally.

I'm going to be as sincere and experience-sharing as possible because I believe this is really important:

As I've said elsewhere on this site, one of the things I worry a lot about and read a lot about is racism/white supremacy. I am a white person. I want to be a good friend to my friends of color and a good political ally to my comrades of color. I want to participate in the struggle to dismantle white supremacy.

Sometimes I read blogs by POC and they are upsetting to read. I feel blamed, or someone has had a frustrating experience and is all on the "white people all should die" tip, or someone says something internally inconsistent, or someone posts whose considered philosophy is "white people are inevitably terrible because they are white, and you simply can't expect any better from them". I often feel in myself this strong impulse to take the focus away from my participation in white supremacy and my commitment to fighting it and put the focus on 'look at this hurtful/foolish thing you said there' or put the focus on 'look at this extreme and rarely-held philosophy about white people, it is so wrong!'

Through reflection, I've come to realize that the desire to start focusing on "activists of color you are doing it wrong" is actually my desire not to be accountable, my desire to turn away from the emotionally and socially difficult work of anti-racism. It is white supremacy keeping itself alive in me.

I have come to recognize a particular emotion in myself - a sort of resentful "don't blame me when you are doing it wrong" feeling - as a sign of this.

At that point, I try to remember to step away from the monitor because I know I'm burned out and making bad intellectual decisions. I try to remind myself that my desire to get rid of racism is stronger than my desire to blame activists of color (even when activists of color, who are people just like me, say something inconsistent or wrong or just plan can't-deal-with-this-racist-shit-anymore angry).

I feel very strongly that in conversations like this, the desire to turn the critique back onto "but Andrea Dworkinite radical feminists - a minority within a minority! - said this and someone made that "all men are potential rapists" poster so women have to be very very careful when they criticize men about rape culture" is basically an extinction-burst of misogyny. Not that the men who turn the conversation that way are themselves terrible misogynist people, but that really thinking through rape culture, misogyny and gender privilege can be draining, emotionally wrenching and no fun, and it's very, very emotionally helpful to assign some blame to women/feminists because it cuts down on the pain and discomfort of the situation.
posted by Frowner at 10:13 AM on August 9, 2012 [127 favorites]


But I also realized that not all women are fully aware: maybe it was because I was reading the story as opposed to being there, but I also didn't twig to "the Question". But I'm lucky in that I'm a pretty hefty woman who has almost never been physically intimidated by a man or woman (not since I was a kid and fighting with my big brother), so I'm just much less aware of things like dark hallways.
posted by jb at 10:13 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of "nice guys" who would never do the sort of overt hard sell advances that you are talking about. Instead they befriend women who often have no possibility of romantic interest in them at all (and sometimes are already in a long-term committed relationship) and pine for the day that their platonic relationship eventually transforms into a romantic one.

Yeah, but that's not really the advice being given. As I read it, it's more: men, stop trying to get laid and instead try to connect with women as people, as friends and equals without sex being any kind of an objective at all, and women will like you much more, and will maybe even have sex with you. What you're describing is a man who enters a friendship with a woman without being honest with the woman and potentially without being honest with himself.

If he were honest with himself, he would have to confront the question: "Is a friendship with this person worthwhile even if there is no possibility of romance?" And it's totally okay if the answer is no. Sometimes attraction is too strong. But if the answer is no, then at some level the woman's role as a potential sexual / romantic partner is worth more to the man than her role as a friend. And if that's true, then he's not really following nebulawindphone's advice at all.
posted by gauche at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


And for some further reading about when it's time to call out that guy, I'd like to recommend this awesome reply to the comment about The Question.
posted by clavicle at 10:16 AM on August 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


nebulawindphone: I think for some men, the friend zone is a real phenomenon. Some guys DO get put in the "friend zone" -- or, well, in the "I think you're a potential rapist and I refuse to be alone with you ever" zone, but that doesn't sound so flattering.

I don't think the "friend zone" refers to this? It really casts a negative light on platonic relationships, even given your later clarification.

Dear god, why does sex make everything so damn complicated? I've nearly taken myself completely out of the game, because it's like there's so much time and energy devoted to it, the dire race to mate saturates so much of the media, and don't even get me started on sickening bro culture like stupid sex comedies and South Park and Tosh.0 and the like... it's this huge pile of repulsion and I'm sick to death of it to the extent that I stay away from dating just because I don't want to be perceived as being anything like that in even the slightest way.

The behavior of other guys in chasing women repels me so much that I just stay out of it. It all just seems so desperate. Relax a bit. It doesn't matter that much if you don't get laid regularly. There is a whole world out there that doesn't have to do with inserting Tab A into Slot B. If more men would learn this fact it'd make the world a better place, and not just for women.
posted by JHarris at 10:20 AM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


What a FANTASTIC article. Thank you for reading. That should be required reading for teenagers, especially.
posted by agregoli at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


(A momentary derail: Sometimes I read blogs by POC and they are upsetting to read.

I wanted to clarify that the upset that I might feel in that situation is nowhere near how upsetting it is when some poor kid gets shot by the cops, or some other instance of racism - it's not that my little sadfeels are AS IMPORTANT AS RACISM. I just wanted to express how it feels to be a self-critical holder of privilege in a situation where there's a strong discourse of critique of that privilege, because I think that's something that privileged people need to think through (among themselves! not pestering others!).
posted by Frowner at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


oh god never show these guys PUA stuff

it will be the worst thing of all time
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:26 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've had a couple of dudes be a total fucking creepers to me, had my boyfriend at the time tell me he was angry on my behalf, and then a month later he's laughing it up with them at shitty sexist jokes. I've seen friend groups go from gender balanced to like 95% male because of bullshit like this and it's really pathetic.

Guys, if you do this and I notice it, I consider you a complete fucking coward.

Anyway, this sexist/assault apologist dynamic is why I tend to avoid pre-established communities. I've had it turn out bad time and time again and I'm just sort of done.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:31 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


As I read it, it's more: men, stop trying to get laid and instead try to connect with women as people, as friends and equals without sex being any kind of an objective at all, and women will like you much more, and will maybe even have sex with you. What you're describing is a man who enters a friendship with a woman without being honest with the woman and potentially without being honest with himself.

Well if the guy is already trying to get laid and this is the advice you are giving him it's inherently "how to get laid" advice and in that context I think it's bad advice. Obviously having good friends is great regardless of what genders, ages, sexual orientations, etc. those friends have, and telling someone to be less socially off-putting so that they can make friends is valid. But if your how to reach your goal advice consists of stop pursuing your goal, don't do anything to reach your goal, and wait for your goal to randomly happen without you actively wanting it to, that's bad advice. Especially when there are straight-forward non-creepy ways for people to find sexual partners without having to use the don't seek out sexual partners and you may or may not end up accidentally finding a sexual partner route.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:40 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


burnmp3s: But if your how to reach your goal advice consists of stop pursuing your goal, don't do anything to reach your goal, and wait for your goal to randomly happen without you actively wanting it to, that's bad advice.

Actually, when your goal relies upon the will of another human being, it's decent enough advice. To influence the will and desire of another human, if you really wish to do so, you have to become attractive to that person. If doing that seems like it'll take too long or be too much trouble, and someone wants a faster way, then they might just be a creeper.

That's because, yes, there are faster ways to the goal of influencing someones will and desire. The ones must frequently offered to men are manipulation or outright coercion.
posted by gilrain at 10:47 AM on August 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


In every one of the long term relationships I've been in, there has been Creeper Dude has been around. In the college relationship, CD insinuated that my boyfriend wasn't enough man for me and that I needed to be with him. In front of boyfriend. Often. It got to the point that I told boyfriend, "I don't like hanging out with him and I won't if there is drinking involved." (He got handsy when drunk.) Boyfriend said something along the lines of "Enh, he's just like that with everybody. He doesn't mean anything by it."

After college boyfriend had a similar Creeper Dude in his circle. Who thought it was funny to corner girls and tell them how pretty and sexy they were. Who thought it was perfectly okay to come into a girl's tent on a camping trip quietly to "check on them." Who often and frequently told boyfriend2 that the second he dropped his guard, I was a "free target." Boyfriend2 also said, "Enh, he's just like that. Don't let it get to you." Later, when CreeperDude 2.0 dramatically betrayed Boyfriend2 in a completely unrelated matter, Boyfriend2 was appalled and completely surprised that this dear, dear friend could even think about doing something like that. Completely ignoring the absolutely icky way CD 2.0 had treated me and every other girl in our group for years.

Until I met my husband, I thought that these responses were just par for the course. That you could not expect boyfriends and signficant others to stand up to their creeper friends. That it at most, if you were lucky, the other girls in the group would work together to make sure you never ended up alone with Creeper, but expecting him to be shut out of the group was insane.

Then, while on an early date in our relationship I met a co-worker of my husband. Her boyfriend proceeded to give me a veerrry overlong hug and then spent most of the night leering and making suggestive comments. Right there, in front of his girlfriend and my husband. After about the third one, my husband said, "Dude. What the fuck is wrong with you?" There was some huffiness and posturing but Creeper Dude 3.0 backed down. Later his girlfriend made apologies for him. At another function, weeks later, Creeper Dude 3.0 did the same exact thing to a mutual friend who happened to be single. My husband again, walked over to him and told him to knock it off. Since then, my husband and his friends have told their co-worker that she's welcome to any event, but the boyfriend has to stay home. He's not welcome because he makes all the woment feel uncomfortable. As far as I know, it hasn't prevented him from being a disgusting creeper, but it's no longer okay in our circle of friends.
posted by teleri025 at 10:47 AM on August 9, 2012 [52 favorites]


There was an older guy in one of my college classes who was a serious creeper to me. His response to my stating unequivocally that I wasn't interested in going out with him was that it didn't matter, he still would fantasize about me. This unnerved me so much that I filed a report with the school. There would be no action taken against him since he technically hadn't done anything that violate the school's code of conduct, but I just wanted the situation on record. I'm pretty sure that everyone I told (family, a few friends, the professor who signed off on the report) thought that I was overreacting. Like, this is just what happens sometimes. Hell, even I began to think I overreacted after the guy dropped the class, and I didn't hear from him again.

But he was one of those guys who would rant about his crazy bitch ex-girlfriend for twenty minutes. He asked other people in the class if I had a boyfriend. Or if they thought I was gay because I didn't have a boyfriend, and I have short hair.

Maybe I overreacted and maybe I didn't. But I don't doubt that he'll go on creeping on other girls half his age, and if anything happens, I'm glad my report will be on file.
posted by book 'em dano at 10:49 AM on August 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


Because I can hear the knees jerking: Frowner avoided saying that you should not critique feminists who are wrong. They said you should not make the critique about them--neither your own, new critique, nor the body of critique that the discussion is about. It is possible to register any objection at all without changing what the discussion is about, but it demands subtlety and patience. If you can't manage those, then yeah, go somewhere else.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:57 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I always took "creepy" to mean unwanted sexual attention, which implies that the recipient is not attracted to the creeper.**

So part of the solution is learning to recognize whether the recipient is attracted to oneself or not BEFORE offering any sort of flirtation. Unfortunately, people don't generally walk up and say "I find you very attractive; please flirt with me." This is almost all subtle body-language, eye contact-y stuff, and some people (especially men) never learn to read these signals. Without that feedback, the creeper may be completely unaware that s/he is, in fact, being creepy. Who really knows, but I suspect this is more common than people who read the negative signals correctly but chose to ignore them.

Of course, there are shades of grey, ranging from "kinda creepy" (I caught this ugly person checking me out on several occasions) to "creepy as fuck" (they tried to corner me in the bathroom and kiss me). Maybe the definition has changed over the years, but I see attempted rape as being waaaaaaaay beyond "creepy".

** I don't think the element of danger is mandatory for creepiness to occur. As a guy, I've been super creeped-out being aggressively hit on by (unattractive, to me) women without ever being in any fear for my personal well-being. It's more of an "Ewwww, you're disgusting, please stop ogling me, touching me, talking to me, etc.".
posted by LordSludge at 10:57 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Creeper" is the correct term. They stay hidden until they are in the worst possible place, then self-destruct, ruining their own life and that of anyone nearby.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:01 AM on August 9, 2012 [21 favorites]


This is the last thread I expected to see a minecraft reference in, though in hindsight its pretty obvious.
posted by radcopter at 11:03 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then, while on an early date in our relationship I met a co-worker of my husband. Her boyfriend proceeded to give me a veerrry overlong hug and then spent most of the night leering and making suggestive comments. Right there, in front of his girlfriend and my husband. After about the third one, my husband said, "Dude. What the fuck is wrong with you?"

This stuff used to make me wonder what the hell. My opinion on it now is that this CD took in societal signals that women are to be treated like interchangeable property. A man is actually to be considered weaker if he settles on a long term mate. So as a result, many guys actually believe that message and act like this.

I remember hearing songs like Snoop Dogg's "it aint no fun" and other little skits from rap groups around that time that made it clear that they wanted the women they were around to think that sleeping with multiple or most males in the group was a good thing. I just didn't understand why you would sleep with somebody and then want them to sleep with your friend.

But lest you think it's just rap songs, that message gets reinforced by television shows. Shows like big bang theory or that 70's show where there is one woman who sleeps with 2 or 3 different members of the main cast.

Some CDs take this message in and then just say it overtly, expressing the societal signals he has chosen to take in. Languagehat is on it - patriarchy just needs to get gone.

This is almost all subtle body-language, eye contact-y stuff, and some people (especially men) never learn to read these signals. Without that feedback, the creeper may be completely unaware that s/he is, in fact, being creepy. Who really knows, but I suspect this is more common than people who read the negative signals correctly but chose to ignore them.

Yep. And some CDs rebel when they are told about their behavior. Because they probably can still fall back on the messages they received and continue to receive, and they think it is thus okay.
posted by cashman at 11:03 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always took "creepy" to mean unwanted sexual attention, which implies that the recipient is not attracted to the creeper.**

In general, the creepiness that I refer to and that my friends call out has little to do with sexual attraction. Usually it's the accumulated build-up of uncalled-for physical interactions, obnoxious or insulting statements, physical proximity, and/or other actions and statements. I don't know anyone who wants to hear flat-out from a friend or acquaintance that their public photos are a catalyst of nighttime activities. I have known guys I might have been attracted to, if they hadn't quashed any hopes by insulting women, making outrageous suggestions, getting hands-on, and so forth. Ugly isn't creepy. Suggesting you'd like to rape me is creepy. Suggesting if I weren't taken, I'd be yours is creepy. Touching me continually with my express displeasure noted is creepy.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:03 AM on August 9, 2012 [26 favorites]


Well there's the comment of the year
posted by MangyCarface at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2012


The fact that creepers in Minecraft are also distinctly phallic, and are referred to frequently as "green penises" (symbolic of jealousy, perhaps) is suddenly making me want to give Notch way more artistic credit than he probably deserves.
posted by gilrain at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


then the guys that can't navigate these waters and understand what is going on - they just get lost and confused and miserably fail at being normal, treading deep into creeper waters

If one is lost and confused about navigating in those waters, dreading deeper into the creeper zone isn't the only alternative. One could step back and ask oneself, or a friend, what the matter is. One could even ask a woman, though I'd be careful not to make "why don't women find me appealing" morph into "why don't you find me appealing." And in all of the above, one would have to be prepared to be honest, and receptive to honesty in return.

As for the "friend zone," I've had platonic friendships with women pretty much all my life, so I'd hesistate before describing the "friend zone" as "the place where women keep creepy guys at arm's length." At least, having platonic friendships with women all my life, I'd hope so.
posted by Gelatin at 11:05 AM on August 9, 2012


As for the "friend zone," I've had platonic friendships with women pretty much all my life, so I'd hesistate before describing the "friend zone" as "the place where women keep creepy guys at arm's length." At least, having platonic friendships with women all my life, I'd hope so.

My understanding of the term "Friend Zone" is that it was popularized by so-called "Pick-Up Artists" to explain why, in their opinion "Nice Guys Finish Last" (at the getting-laid contest). In other words, the Friend Zone is where guys who want to fuck a girl who doens't want to fuck them back live. My impression has always been that these guys don't actually want to be friends with said girl, making the term 'Friend Zone' erroneous.

So no, if you are platonic friends with a girl, you're not in her "Friend Zone" - you two are just friends. If a girl thinks you are platonic friends but you secretly or overtly want to sleep with her, then you are in her Friend Zone.
posted by muddgirl at 11:11 AM on August 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


Possibly of use: red and yellow creeper cards designed for conference use.
posted by feckless at 11:12 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Gelatin: At least, having platonic friendships with women all my life, I'd hope so.

Yeah, but those women are just your friends, right? The "friend zone" is not actually about friendship.

Actually being friends has nothing to do with unrequited desire and silent resentment. That situation, which is the "friend zone", is about one person assuming they are friends with someone and the other person actually identifying not as a friend but as a scorned suitor. That can be uncomfortable but relatively harmless, or it can build into a dangerous situation.
posted by gilrain at 11:17 AM on August 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


Hey. Let's do away with the myth that women only find advances from men creepy if they are not attracted to the man advancing (whether in addition to the behavior in question being unpleasant or not).

There are plenty of hottttt creepy guys! And also! Lots of guys who are not attractive to me are not creeps.

Behavior that is unacceptable is not determined by how you look. This is the same argument applied to women who get accused of 'asking for it' by making an effort to look good (makeup/short skirt/revealing top as invitation to rape).

A person does not have permission to invade or encroach my personal space simply because they are attractive.

Does this need further explanation?
posted by tulip-socks at 11:17 AM on August 9, 2012 [67 favorites]


Possibly of use: red and yellow creeper cards designed for conference use.

Here is a better view, and good god, I'd love to get my hands on some of those for construction workers. I don't know if it's because summer is construction season, but I have seen more lunch and other time construction creeper guy sexual harassment this year than ever in my life.
posted by cashman at 11:17 AM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually, when your goal relies upon the will of another human being, it's decent enough advice. To influence the will and desire of another human, if you really wish to do so, you have to become attractive to that person. If doing that seems like it'll take too long or be too much trouble, and someone wants a faster way, then they might just be a creeper.

That's because, yes, there are faster ways to the goal of influencing someones will and desire. The ones must frequently offered to men are manipulation or outright coercion.


I don't think finding someone to have sex with inherently involves influencing a person's will and desire in the way you are talking about. In fact, I think the whole purposely influencing a person who doesn't think you are attractive to change their mind is an inherently problematic strategy. Sure there are cases where people who don't find each other attractive initially eventually have those feelings and pursue them, but there are many more cases where one person is hopelessly fixated on someone who will never ever under any circumstances consider dating/sleeping with them no matter how great or objectively attractive they are. In fact, that's pretty much the defining aspect of the "nice guy" syndrome, they wonder what they are doing wrong so that the particular person they are infatuated with doesn't want to be more than friends even though they are doing everything right in terms of doing whatever the person wants them to do as a friend. In terms of looking for a romantic partner, it makes significantly more sense to ignore the people who you are attracted to but aren't attracted to you, and find someone with whom you can share mutual attraction without any kind of overt or covert seduction.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:19 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there evidence that rapes are especially likely to be committed by the "creepy" guy in your friend group?

I am under the impression that rapes are more-or-less just as likely to be committed by socially fluent men who wield interpersonal power.
posted by grobstein at 11:19 AM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


That situation, which is the "friend zone", is about one person assuming they are friends with someone and the other person actually identifying not as a friend but as a scorned suitor

This is an amazing way to put this!
posted by muddgirl at 11:19 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


The socially fluent men who wield interpersonal power are often secretly described as creepy by the women (or victimized men) in the group. It's a very odd dynamic that's almost impossible to believe until one encounters it for the first time (usually in college).

When I was an undergrad in the early 2000s, someone came up with the brilliant idea of starting a website to anonymously out these socially-fluent creepsters. It Did Not Go Well.
posted by muddgirl at 11:21 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Is there evidence that rapes are especially likely to be committed by the "creepy" guy in your friend group?

So...no calling someone out until they actually rape? Every dog gets one free bite? Plus there's a whole spectrum of sexual harassment and abuse that is still not ok.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:21 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


I guess the question is, do you believe in the friend zone because all the women you know treat you that way, carefully keeping you at a distance and refusing to explain why? (If so, you probably deserve it.) Or do you believe in the friend zone because it seems to account for the experience of your more, well, experienced friends? (If so, I think your friends are likely to be jerks or worse, but you're probably fine. Just stop hanging out with those dudes.)

I believe in the friend zone because a lot of women go to lengths to keep me around and hang out with me, and are (or were) attracted to me, but don't want to endanger that pleasant status quo with the possibility of the breakup that might follow dating. Here's a typical scenario:
We are dating, things are going great, we're into each other. I have to leave town for a few days. We expect things to continue to develop when I get back, but instead, with one of the other people she is dating, it gets serious, they sleep together, and at that point become exclusive. So when I return, they're a couple and our dating is over. But she still wants to hang out, because we have good times together. Fast forward a few months, the couple has broken up, she's single and looking. But I'm no-longer dating material - I'm a friend, and friends are too valuable to her to risk putting in the tumbler that is dating.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:24 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, for those afraid that their behavoir may fall into the Creeper Zone, try to remember these helpful tidbits.

1. Just because a woman smiles or is vaguely polite to you does not mean she wants to have sex with you.
2. Most people you encounter on a daily basis will not want to have sex with you.
3. You are not entitled to sexual intercourse with anyone, for any reason, no matter what.
4. Continuing to act like you are entitled to sexual intercourse after being told "No." is disgusting. Don't do it.
5. Try, for just a few seconds out of your day to imagine having a conversation with a woman that does not involve sex, sexual relationships, or intercourse.
6. Actually have a conversation with a woman that is not some twisted way of laying the ground work for getting laid.
7. If you see another dude acting like a Creeper, call him out and publicly humiliate him.
posted by teleri025 at 11:25 AM on August 9, 2012 [30 favorites]


Friend zone derail = boring.

I always took "creepy" to mean unwanted sexual attention, which implies that the recipient is not attracted to the creeper.

Hey you know what? You can get unwanted sexual attention from people you are attracted to! Omigosh, I know, but it's happened to me! I think my husband is sexy as hell, but if he walked into my workplace and shouted, "Squeak Attack, show me your tits!" that would be unwanted sexual attention. And he would be a creeper, albeit a sexy one.

The key part of the phrase is "unwanted" and people should stop taking that to mean "but oh biy I sure would want it if he were just hot!"
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:27 AM on August 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


My understanding of the term "Friend Zone" is that it was popularized by so-called "Pick-Up Artists" to explain why, in their opinion "Nice Guys Finish Last" (at the getting-laid contest).

I am pleased that this usage was unfamiliar to me. Thanks.

In other words, the Friend Zone is where guys who want to fuck a girl who doens't want to fuck them back live.

In the case of guys* like that, I call it "planet Earth." Hmf.

My impression has always been that these guys don't actually want to be friends with said girl, making the term 'Friend Zone' erroneous.

I agree with muddgirl, that's an awesome description.

I'd also point out that there isn't necessarily a solid wall between the statuses of "friend" and "lover"; I'm still friends with a number of my exes. But of course, that's because we both want to be.
posted by Gelatin at 11:28 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


-harlequin-: I'm a friend, and friends are too valuable to her to risk putting in the tumbler that is dating.

All right, that's fine of her to do, you know. Why is this the friend zone rather than just another of your friends? When a girl has dated you once and decided you weren't right for her or whatever, should you still have first dibs when she's comes up single again later on?
posted by gilrain at 11:30 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I always took "creepy" to mean unwanted sexual attention, which implies that the recipient is not attracted to the creeper.

That's not how anyone I know would use it. As I noted above, asking a girl to dance is NOT creepy. Not accepting a, "no thank you," is rude, and if you continue to push it, it's creepy.

I worked at a donut shop for a few years. I have no idea why, but for some reason the smell of coffee and fried dough makes every woman far more attractive - I went from being asked out once in the five years before to being asked out every other week, and our uniforms were not at all flattering. The not-creeps asked me out or asked me for my phone number, and accepted if I declined. The creeps kept asking and arguing and just wouldn't take no for an answer. It didn't matter if they were attractive or not -- a pretty young thing bothering me=creepy, older, less attractive man who accepted my decline=not creepy.
posted by jb at 11:31 AM on August 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


Actually being friends has nothing to do with unrequited desire and silent resentment. That situation, which is the "friend zone", is about one person assuming they are friends with someone and the other person actually identifying not as a friend but as a scorned suitor.

Right most of the time when I've heard it used it's to describe a woman labeling a man as "just a friend" when that person would actually like to date the woman. The idea is that men who avoid this friend labeling are able to make successful romantic advances because they are not considered to be friends, whereas ones who are labeled are doomed because their attempts will be rebuffed solely on account of the friend designation having been made. I think to a large extent the reason it's such a popular concept is that many men want to rationalize their rejection in favor of other men in terms of the woman making a bad decision rather than for actual valid reasons.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:31 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Definitely enjoyed seeing the call out on the whole "but he's not creepy to ME" thing.
posted by forkisbetter at 11:31 AM on August 9, 2012


Because I can hear the knees jerking: Frowner avoided saying that you should not critique feminists who are wrong. They said you should not make the critique about them--neither your own, new critique, nor the body of critique that the discussion is about.

I will however add something I should have said in my whiteness analogy: it's really important to be careful when you assume that someone is wrong when they're talking about how they experience oppression! I have learned this myself via reading blogs! I would say that it is far more likely that I am wrong or missing some crucial piece of information than anything else.

1. Sometimes I will think "oh, [oppressive situation] isn't really that pervasive, this person is way too angry" and then they will break out the statistics.

2. Sometimes as I read more and more deeply about a situation, the reality of it hits me much more deeply - I've had many "hey, wait a minute, that would really hurt so bad and you'd feel so terrible and afraid, I guess it is a big deal after all" moments about white supremacy.

3. Sometimes someone will just be blowing off steam but I won't get that since I don't use the same rhetoric.

4. Sometimes I will realize that certain "extreme" positions actually make a lot of sense for people in certain situations, and because I am not the boss of the universe, I not only do not need to care, it is not my right to care. Someone has had enough Really Shitty Experiences with [privileged group] that they have decided that they really just don't trust [privileged group] at all? I'm sad that we have not dismantled [oppressive structures] to the point where that person can live in freedom and safety, and I support that person in keeping themselves physically, mentally and emotionally safe. Even if they're keeping themselves safe from me, I recognize that I don't get the Super Special Snowflake Non-Oppressive Pass just because I am trying to be self-critical.

In short, it's really not germaine whether Andrea Dworkin would have wanted to have sex with you unless you were traveling back through time and trying to get a date with her.

5. Sometimes, I am feeling angry, threatened and afraid of change, so I look for the stupidest and most reductionist, nit-picky interpretation I can possibly put on the text precisely so that I can denounce it to myself.

I have found that the most productive way for me to read is to assume that when someone who is oppressed talks about their experience with oppression, it is legit. And the bar for being "not legit" is pretty high - direct, good, evidence that the statement in question is pervasively not true. So the answer to "In my experience oppression is everywhere" is not "but a-ha, in this one little corner there is no oppression, so you are wrong and should back down, because 'everywhere' means 'no exceptions'!" That's called arguing the letter of the law in contravention of the spirit.

Also, I've found it better to read with an open heart - not thinking "this person really has a lot to prove about [oppression] and if they do it well enough I may believe them" but rather thinking "this person has things to share about [oppression] and as a person who wants to end [oppression] I would like to see what they have to say".

When I am structurally privileged, I have to keep myself aware of all the little ways I've been taught not to see things, to minimize what I do see and to sort of mentally skate over the feelings and experiences of people affected by the oppression in question. I have to doubt and second-guess myself a lot about the issue, because I am trying to defeat a part of myself - I am trying to defeat the part of me that has been socialized to value and enjoy its privilege no matter what that does to anyone else. I have to distrust my own experiences and feelings when I'm thinking about race - even though in many, many other areas of life where I am not privileged, I work to trust myself and to understand my own feelings.

This is difficult to do well! And I mess up a lot! Hence I feel like I have to second-guess myself when I say "that person is wrong!"
posted by Frowner at 11:31 AM on August 9, 2012 [40 favorites]


tulip-socks: Gonna disagree here. A man's behavior can make an otherwise physically attractive guy very unattractive. So while he was "hot" from across the room, once the interaction starts and he starts acting overaggressive/inappropriate/etc, he becomes unattractive (like "ew" unattractive) and any further attention from him is unwanted and "creepy".
posted by LordSludge at 11:31 AM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


A man's behavior can make an otherwise physically attractive guy very unattractive. So while he was "hot" from across the room, once the interaction starts and he starts acting overaggressive/inappropriate/etc, he becomes unattractive (like "ew" unattractive) and any further attention from him is unwanted and "creepy".

Some of the creepiest guys I've known have been the most objectively attractive - like making out with passed out girls creepy.
posted by jb at 11:36 AM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Canada has some interesting sexual assault prevention posters
Is there evidence that rapes are especially likely to be committed by the "creepy" guy in your friend group?

I am under the impression that rapes are more-or-less just as likely to be committed by socially fluent men who wield interpersonal power.
posted by grobstein at 11:19 AM on August 9 [+] [!]
Creepy guys are often very socially fluent. They may even drive fancy ads and have lots of money! They might be married! They might be the big shot personal injury attorney hitting on every woman at a wedding.

What makes these guys creepy is not that they don't know where the boundaries are. They are creepy because they are crossing boundaries of speech and touch/personal space. Often, the more "socially fluent" a guy is, the creepier he can get away with being. Because who really wants to tell the attorney to cut that shit out when he's your boss and he's called you uptight before in front of your whole office?
posted by tulip-socks at 11:37 AM on August 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


burnmp3s: able to make successful romantic advances because they are not considered to be friends, whereas ones who are labeled are doomed because their attempts will be rebuffed solely on account of the friend designation

I think this is almost entirely in the heads of men. It may be true that women tell men they are just friends in order to politely distance themselves from persistent men they are not attracted to, but their continued refusal to date these persistent men is not due to being friends, it's the lack of attraction.

As a data point, every single romantic relationship in my life grew out of friendship that began without expectation of romance. It's actually hard for me to imagine a relationship without a friendship.
posted by gilrain at 11:38 AM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


In general, the creepiness that I refer to and that my friends call out has little to do with sexual attraction....

Let's do away with the myth that women only find advances from men creepy if they are not attracted to the man advancing (whether in addition to the behavior in question being unpleasant or not).

Thank you, for god's sake. When is this going to stop coming up. Just the other day I was hit on by a really nice guy I'd met a couple times and just wasn't attracted to at all (plus, taken), and it was totally healthy interaction and I was flattered and not uncomfortable at all. It's about behavior, not looks.

Also, since when was anyone equating single behavior with creepy behavior? Who says the letter writers are in blissful relationships and thus are being overly judgey of people looking for partners? Way to miss the point.

I think my husband is sexy as hell, but if he walked into my workplace and shouted, "Squeak Attack, show me your tits!" that would be unwanted sexual attention. And he would be a creeper, albeit a sexy one.

That's a great little vignette, and a wise comment!
posted by Sayuri. at 11:39 AM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


When I was an undergrad in the early 2000s, someone came up with the brilliant idea of starting a website to anonymously out these socially-fluent creepsters. It Did Not Go Well.

I'm curious to know the outcome of this story, muddgirl - what happened?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:40 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frowner, superb comments in this thread. Eloquent and enlightening. Thank you!
posted by Catchfire at 11:40 AM on August 9, 2012


Lordsludge, we are in absolute agreement.

I call this phenomenon "good from afar, but far from good."

Meaning, hot from across the room, attractive until he groped me/demanded my. Umber/was otherwise creepy.

I am appalled that I was not as clear as I thought I was being.

Creepy absolutely 100% obliterates any hint of attraction.
posted by tulip-socks at 11:40 AM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


All right, that's fine of her to do, you know. Why is this the friend zone rather than just another of your friends? When a girl has dated you once and decided you weren't right for her or whatever, should you still have first dibs when she's comes up single again later on?

You seem to have misunderstood - at no point did she decide I wasn't right for her. She took a risk/loss management strategy that is distinctive from other ways of making friends. Also, being in the friend-zone means that we are friends. (You seem to imply otherwise).
posted by -harlequin- at 11:40 AM on August 9, 2012


The socially fluent men who wield interpersonal power are often secretly described as creepy by the women (or victimized men) in the group. It's a very odd dynamic that's almost impossible to believe until one encounters it for the first time (usually in college).

Yes, or the women just slowly disappear.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:42 AM on August 9, 2012


-harlequin-: at no point did she decide I wasn't right for her

You don't think that her deciding not to date you is a clear signal that she thinks she doesn't want to date you?
posted by gilrain at 11:43 AM on August 9, 2012 [22 favorites]


You don't think that her deciding not to date you is a clear signal that she thinks she doesn't want to date you?

Straw man much?
posted by -harlequin- at 11:44 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The creeps kept asking and arguing and just wouldn't take no for an answer.

Yeah, some guys get that message, believe it, and do that. Cee-lo's song "I want you", the movies where the jerk guy decides he wants to be with some woman and he just keeps at it and in the end they sleep together (Boomerang famously explored this). There are so many "I'll stop at nothing to win your heart" songs, I'm sure you're familiar with at least a few. CD get these messages and take it as something to emulate. If you don't want to go out with them, they have received the message that it is something wrong with their technique, or their lack of perseverance. Craig in Friday is told he cannot be Debbie's boyfriend because he "has no game". At one point he pulls her close in telling a story, and she politely moves back away. At the end of course they seem to be on track to be together. Hmm, was Ms. Parker a creeper?
posted by cashman at 11:45 AM on August 9, 2012


But doesn't saying "I'm in the Friend Zone" imply that if you stop being freinds with the woman, she'll suddenly want to date you? Doesn't that imply that such a woman is a little unbalanced?
posted by muddgirl at 11:46 AM on August 9, 2012


Fast forward a few months, the couple has broken up, she's single and looking. But I'm no-longer dating material - I'm a friend, and friends are too valuable to her to risk putting in the tumbler that is dating.

Isn't it also possible that her feelings about you changed over those months? I mean, you got to stay a friend, so she clearly still likes you. But she doesn't Like like you anymore. That happens! All the time! Your feelings didn't change, but hers did. Isn't it also likely that in your life, your feelings towards a once-dateable female friend changed to the point where you wouldn't really consider dating her anymore, but she still kind of wants to date you? This isn't a Women Put Men In the Friends Zone thing. This is a Humans Have Feelings That Change Over Time thing.
posted by rtha at 11:48 AM on August 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


Doesn't that imply that such a woman is a little unbalanced?

People who believe in the Friend Zone already believe that women are mentally unbalanced, which may explain why they're still single.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:53 AM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Weird, Area Woman Wasn't Harassed Today [Today's Onion]
posted by cashman at 11:54 AM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


tulip-socks: Creepy absolutely 100% obliterates any hint of attraction.

YESSS!

I actually say the "creepy" is the opposite of "attractive".

If guys need any more incentive to not be creepy, it's that being creepy makes you unattractive. You might as well smear poop on your face. NOBODY wants to hook up with the creepy guy.
posted by LordSludge at 11:57 AM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would argue that the "friend zone" is part of rape culture. Men don't put men in the "friend zone." Men don't consider themselves in the "friend zone" of women they don't wish to sleep with. "Friend zone" implies some sort of entitlement to erotic enjoyment which is currently (and usually unjustly) being curtailed. Getting out of the "friend zone" (i.e. having sex with the friend) is a chief project of many men's health magazines and pick-up artist courses which are some of the worst propagators of rape culture. I don't know any women who talk about putting certain men in the "friend zone" except perhaps as a defence mechanism against creeping -- but again, they are using the language of rape culture to protect themselves.

Two adults in a nonsexual, healthy, amicable and enjoyable relationship are friends; they are not in any kind of demarcating "zone."
posted by Catchfire at 11:58 AM on August 9, 2012 [49 favorites]


Gilrain, let me put it another way. You know how when someone is attracted to you, and they're married, so there is no way it would go any where, but there is a bit of an internal struggle going on, and they'll ride that edge a little?

When that is coming from someone whose reason for their internal clampdown is a preference for keeping a known friendship over the lesser-known risks of releasing the clamps, I think that's distinctive enough to have a sub-category.

There seems to be resistance to accepting that some people sometimes make these kind of choices. People aren't simple cloned things that all fit in the same boxes.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:00 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've long thought being overly possessive was a Bad Thing, but I am gobsmacked at how casual the guys in the linked articles were about the Creepers hitting on their girlfriends, and on occasion even touching them in seriously inappropriate ways. I went to college and all, but back then I really don't remember, or would imagine, such behavior being laughed off in such a nonchalant way.
posted by Gelatin at 12:01 PM on August 9, 2012


it's that being creepy makes you unattractive

But that doesn't fix the fact that if you're conflating creepiness with both rapeyness and unattractiveness, then the implication is that women think that men who aren't attractive are out to rape them.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:02 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think that's distinctive enough to have a sub-category.

Why? I'll ask again - do you think if you told your friend, "I don't want to be friends any more, don't call me unless it's a proposition," suddenly the situation would change and she would ask you out on a date? If so, why haven't you?

But that doesn't fix the fact that if you're conflating creepiness with both rapeyness and unattractiveness, then the implication is that women think that men who aren't attractive are out to rape them.

"If A, therefore B" does not equal "If B, therefore A".
posted by muddgirl at 12:03 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


-harlequin-: When that is coming from someone whose reason for their internal clampdown is a preference for keeping a known friendship over the lesser-known risks of releasing the clamps, I think that's distinctive enough to have a sub-category.

You believe that your friend wants to date you, but has decided to date someone else instead, is that right? Has she told you this, or do you just know her mind better than she does?

It's not an impossible situation which you describe, but Occam's Razor leads me to believe the reason she is dating someone else rather than you is because she prefers to date someone else rather than you. You understand how that would be the default assumption?
posted by gilrain at 12:04 PM on August 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


There are so many "I'll stop at nothing to win your heart" songs, I'm sure you're familiar with at least a few.

My friend dubbed "Every breath you take" as the "Happy Stalker Song".

Men don't consider themselves in the "friend zone" of women they don't wish to sleep with.

That's an excellent point. Women don't talk about being "friend-zoned" - okay, I thought I was once, and then a friend point out to me that it was probably just the guy's way of letting me down nicely. (I'm a bit dim).
posted by jb at 12:07 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I’m not sure I’ve witnessed such scrupulous use of the term "creep". I have definitely seen situations where a sufficiently undesirable guy is rebuffed and then termed “creepy” for no discernible reason other than to socially indicate just how undesirable he was. Easy example: too old (no matter how boundary-observing he was otherwise, unless the appropriately observed boundary is to stay far away). I think that’s a tad petty, and doesn’t at all mean that creepy can only be applied to unattractive/undesirable persons, just that the term can get used (misused?) for social reasons. In that way, it seems like a socially acceptable way to express disgust by painting the person ambiguously as potentially dangerous (I have also seen some guys do this, too, except they use “psycho”).

I'm not at all familiar with how "friend zone" is being used (though I admit, it's more a tv-pop culture term than something I tend to encounter in life). What seems to be the suggestion is that it’s an excuse used by skeevy guys for why they can’t get with a “friend”. Some people seem to be chiming in to suggest that it is also used by non-skeevy clueless guys. The original concept – correct me if I’m wrong – was that by not indicating romantic/sexual interest in someone early on, you encourage a platonic relationship which requires a rather more difficult change of track if it is ever to become something else. Has no one experienced this? I feel like I’m going through it right now. (long-time friend revealing that she’s been interested in me for ages. But that’s just not how I think of her, and if other people can switch their interest on and off like a light switch, well... I can’t. Plus, there’s no way I’d risk the friendship at this point. It’s too damn valuable and part of that is because she’s awesome, not skeevy) It's gendered use also seems (to me) to reinforce the notion that guys are just "never not up for it" which is kind of hideous.

Two adults in a nonsexual, healthy, amicable and enjoyable relationship are friends; they are not in any kind of demarcating "zone."

Okey-dokey. Hey, I don't care if I never use the term. It's just my experience of it to date has been an indication of one-sided interest in what is otherwise a friendship (which might indicate dishonesty about the friendship but isn't necessarily the case if that interest has grown).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:08 PM on August 9, 2012 [9 favorites]



If guys need any more incentive to not be creepy, it's that being creepy makes you unattractive. You might as well smear poop on your face. NOBODY wants to hook up with the creepy guy.
posted by LordSludge at 11:57 AM on August 9 [+] [!]


Sadly, rapists/creeper aren't being creepy in honest attempts to attract partners. Creepy behavior is often habitual/enculturation or a symbolic gesture to the men present that they're all 'on the same team' wrt objectifying women. Creepy behavior is almost never for the benefit of the potential victim. It often has plausible deniability ie 'I was just complimenting your dress!' or 'what? It was just a joke! You can't take a joke?'

Sometimes it's a screening device. Women who don't put up with the public groping/slut shaming of other women/complaints about frigid bitches generally don't hew to the victim role. But since they might, more testing (or alcohol) is often applied, because a 'stronger' victim may seem to some a bigger prize.

Creeps aren't generally interested in consensual sex, much less meaningful relationships.
posted by tulip-socks at 12:09 PM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


You know how when someone is attracted to you, and they're married, so there is no way it would go any where, but there is a bit of an internal struggle going on, and they'll ride that edge a little?

Sorry, that's not a justification, that's gross and out of line. I have a low tolerance for cheaters and I hold my friends (and those I might want to be more than friends) to the same standard. If a person who is in a relationship and was obviously "riding that edge" between normal friend behavior and flirty-pants single behavior, I would stop hanging out with that person.

The major point here is that you would like this woman to think of you in a different light. You do not want to be her platonic friend. She (for whatever reason) would prefer to see you in such a platonic light. You have two choices, respect her wishes and be her platonic friend or quit hanging out with her. Waiting around, claiming you're in a "friend zone", and otherwise disrespecting her wishes is rude and not cool. Regardless of why she wants to be just friends, that's what she says she wants. Listen.
posted by teleri025 at 12:12 PM on August 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


sparklemotion, Rapeyness, by definition, is unattractive to the vast majority of women. Creepiness is/may be an indicator of potential rapeyness. Like the stench of tobacco on a man's shirt may indicate he is a smoker without having to witness him stuffing a cigarette into his maw.

Being afraid of getting raped is not fun. If you make me feel afraid, I am repelled.

See how repel and attract are opposites? I'm ok with allowing attractiveness to be about more than only physical appearance. I'm hoping to one day live in a society where everyone else agrees with me.

For instance, I find boring. It handsome men to be Unattractive. Same with stupid and handsome, alcoholic and handsome, cigarette smoking and handsome. I can be attracted to someone until I decide I am not.

Additionally, someone who is not immediately attractive can become attractive (hair cut, stellar personality, etc)
posted by tulip-socks at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Durn and others talking about "the friendzone is real!! I have one and use it!!" it's my understanding that the friend-zone is something only straight ladies have (I do not believe in it, for the record). If you are feeling ragey, don't read this site about it.

Same goes for creepy vs. psycho. In my experience, straight women use creepy to discuss men who make them feel uncomfortable, where straight men use psycho for women who make them uncomfortable. It's interesting, I think, that creepy is more about the feeling a person gets ("creeped out") whereas psycho lays all the blame on the person being insulted by the term.
posted by AmandaA at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


The original concept – correct me if I’m wrong – was that by not indicating romantic/sexual interest in someone early on, you encourage a platonic relationship which requires a rather more difficult change of track if it is ever to become something else. Has no one experienced this?

No. I married the guy who started out as a platonic friend, and who I wasn't particularly attracted to at first. But I don't see why I wouldn't want to get in a romantic relationship with a close male friend, if we were both actually attracted to each other. IME, 9 times out of 10 when one of my friends says, "You're just too close of a friend to actually date," behind their back she is saying, "I'm not sexually attracted to that guy/girl." I have never had a friend tell me, "Gosh, I am so attracted to that person physically, mentally, and spiritually, but I don't want to ruin our friendship." Maybe it's cruel, but I also see it as another symptom of rape culture - the fact that women are so afraid of causing a scene that they'd rather lie and make it worse for everyone.

long-time friend revealing that she’s been interested in me for ages. But that’s just not how I think of her, and if other people can switch their interest on and off like a light switch, well... I can’t.

There are tons of people I'm not attracted to. Some of them are my friends. Does that mean they're in my Friend Zone? No, it just means I'm not attracted to them, and if we were strangers I probably still wouldn't be attracted to them. Just because someone is my friend and is attracted to me doesn't give them, like, a better place in line. Maybe a little more thoughtfulness and consideration when I turn them down.
posted by muddgirl at 12:21 PM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I like to think of myself as a fairly enlightened (if not quite Enlightened) guy, but damned if I don't learn something every time I log onto this joint. Frowner, you are on today.

Also, I think it's necessary to be reminded every so often that it's not enough to not be That Guy - you have to call That Guy out, where ever you see him. Culture doesn't change until culture changes.

That last line sounded so much like Buckaroo Banzai I just had to leave its nonsensical ass right there.
posted by Mooski at 12:25 PM on August 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


"Men don't put men in the 'friend zone.' Men don't consider themselves in the 'friend zone' of women they don't wish to sleep with. 'Friend zone' implies some sort of entitlement to erotic enjoyment which is currently (and usually unjustly) being curtailed."

Kinda goes to show the variable definitions of "friend zone" but I would say I've friend-zoned men and to me (straight male) in practice that has meant the guy saying like "yo matt you are super cute and I would really like to hook up" and then me being like "oh man I appreciate that but I'm not really into it." Like, I don't expect dude to stop wanting to hook up, just to understand that's not going to be part of our relationships range at present and then we keep hanging out and hopefully it isn't an issue. Conversely, I would also consider women who I don't want to sleep with possibly in the friend zone depending on our relationship (i.e. we're friends), but that's not really a status that I notice since that applies to most women -- unless it's a boundary I have to deliberately maintain with an individual. I thought this was pretty much the common understanding of what "friend zone" is but seeing the wide range of interpretations... bleargh, I abandon the term in favor of anything at all more specific...
posted by Matt Oneiros at 12:31 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem, tulip-socks, is using the term "creepy" to describe an unattractive man who _isn't_ rapey. If you don't think that that happens -- explain why John Waters does the introduction to this video. The actions of the singer/dancers in the video _are_ the rapey form of creepy, but John Waters is just there because he is "creepy looking".

I realize that it's a symptom of the evolution of language and all that, but it is a fair point.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:32 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


John Waters is creepy-looking?
posted by muddgirl at 12:33 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have never had a friend tell me, "Gosh, I am so attracted to that person physically, mentally, and spiritually, but I don't want to ruin our friendship."

Personal anecdotes are intrinsically de-raily, but I'll just say that I do think she is attractive, though that doesn't automatically translate to me as suitable partner (me: introvert; her: extravert, etc.). I don't know. Maybe you all have a thousand friends of the non-Facebook variety but I don't. Good friends are way harder to come by than potential suitors. I don't need some pop culture term to explain to her or anyone else why I don't think trying something more than friendship is a good idea, but it seems to me that it gets to the heart of the concept as I originally understood it, with or without saying the words. That it's used as an excuse and easy let-down? Undoubtedly.

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:33 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Frowner, I want to buy you flowers. Or chocolates. Or just whatever trivial thing would be awesome for you. But only with your consent. You've added a lot to this conversation for me.
posted by custardfairy at 12:35 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Um, that's being a little willfully blind to the very pervasive discourses around all these issues which say, essentially, that "rape culture" is more or less coterminous with "male culture." I mean, I understand your point that this kind of defensive response has a way of blurring the focus on what is clearly unacceptable and offensive behavior--but it would also only be fair to accept that that blurring of the focus doesn't just come from defensive males; it also came from a long history of feminist discourses which basically said that every expression of male heterosexual desire is directly complicit in some form of sexual violence against women.

I would really like to know what/where this "long history of feminist discourses" is. I have taken many graduate WGST seminars and have not seen them. If we are talking about Andrea Dworkin here, she was not referring to the very act of sexual intercourse but the culture that narrates and imbues intercourse with its 'meanings', as the thing that contributes to patriarchy.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:40 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Admittedly, creepy-looking is in the eye of the beholder.

I think everyone agrees that creepy-acting is always bad.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:41 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Thank you for the compliments, custardfairy and Mooski and Catchfire. I freely admit that my comments owe quite a lot to the blogular wisdom of others!)
posted by Frowner at 12:44 PM on August 9, 2012


Are we okay with a distinction between "creepy" and "creepy"? For example, there's a guy here in town, looks to be north of fifty if not sixty, long gray ponytail, who hangs out at bars around here. He's pretty obviously checking out the girls. But as far as I can tell, he's never done or even said anything to anyone. Just sort of there, watching. This is creepy an inappropriate, but I don't see it as hugely problematic to the point of needing some sort of intervention. The bar is open to the public and he's not getting in anybody's business. So he's "creepy" in some sense, but in a passive sort of way. Bad behavior, but possibly harmless?

Then there's the guy who I physically removed from a room at a party in law school because he was doing pelvic thrusts while standing over a girl who had had a bit too much to drink and was obviously very upset about the proceedings. That's completely out of bounds. He wasn't a friend of mine or part of my social group, so the cost to me was low, but I wouldn't have cared if he had been. F*ck that guy.

Right?
posted by valkyryn at 12:46 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think we're talking about palming the black spot to anyone who could be described by the word. There are clearly gradations of behavior.
posted by gilrain at 12:48 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


You believe that your friend wants to date you, but has decided to date someone else instead, is that right? Has she told you this, or do you just know her mind better than she does?

It's not an impossible situation which you describe, but Occam's Razor leads me to believe...


Two points, firstly, yes, she (multiple shes, actually) has told me. Secondly, I have done the same thing (friend-zoned someone) myself.
I'm disappointed that it is so difficult for people here to accept the breadth and variety of human interactions,
posted by -harlequin- at 1:00 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


That she has told you she wants to date you more than this other person, but instead dates him is very necessary information. I do accept the breadth and variety of human interactions, but can only do so when told of them. You initial telling of the story reads very differently with this omitted.

Anyway, that sounds like a strange situation. I imagine she has her reasons.
posted by gilrain at 1:04 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's been said many times already, but just in order to add to the evidence: When I was in secondary school, the creepiest guys were also the most handsome, well dressed, popular among many of the guys and best friends with my cousin. At college, and later in all my workplaces, I've seen the same, but to a lesser extent. Creepy has nothing to do with your looks or social status. And in my experience, the Line between creepiness and rapeyness is ultra-thin
posted by mumimor at 1:05 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is something horribly horribly wrong with the idea that somehow being friends with someone is a bad thing in any way shape or form. In my humble opinion, the "Friend Zone" is an inherently sociopathic construct.
posted by Freen at 1:06 PM on August 9, 2012 [19 favorites]


A-freaking-men Freen.

The idea that being friends is a bad thing because it prevents a woman from wanting to have sex with you is blindingly harmful. The "Friend Zone" concept is harmful because it removes the agency of the individual. She would totally have sex with him, but because he was nice and treated her as a friend, she can no longer entertain the concept. Really, it's a moot point. Why someone is not romantically interested in you matters very little, only that they aren't. Hell, sometimes, you may not fully understand why you don't think of someone "that" way, you just don't. And to have to continually present reasons and rationales as to why you don't want to have sex with someone is exhausting and devalues the entire concept of friendship.

Life isn't some romantic comedy. People (men and women included) don't fall in love with you just because you tell them you love them. Sometimes they just want a friend. A real friend. Not someone who's just killing time until sex happens.
posted by teleri025 at 1:14 PM on August 9, 2012 [18 favorites]



John Waters has a problematic place in this conversation. He makes creepy movies that are heavy with social commentary. That makes his appearance in a parody of creep guy behavior appropriate. My knowledge that he is gay makes him not a potential partner, for me.
posted by tulip-socks at 1:19 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The comment in the original article by elodieunderglass, linked by theBigRedKittyPurrs and Space Kitty above, is one of the best things I've ever seen showing the difference between men and women when it comes to rape culture.

I'm going to copy and paste it here, because I think it deserves as wide coverage as possible, though it will be a long comment. My apologies.

My wife spotted it straight away, by the way. I didn't.

-----

elodieunderglass said:

Not surprisingly, I have a story? It’s pretty long, and I’m sorry. My husband, Doctor Glass, recently went on a weeklong workshop. The participants worked on teams, slept in a dormitory, shared meals and spent all day together. While there, Dr Glass acquired a strikingly beautiful female friend, who was absolutely luminous – like a fallen star or a revolutionary. She was also just about to enter university, making her very much younger than Dr Glass. They were on the same team, had much in common, and seemed to enjoy each other.

However, there was a twenty-something dude on the course who, according to Dr Glass, “made things awkward.” Immediately, he tried to make the workshop all about his pantsfeelings for Luminous Girl. Although he was on a different team, he was constantly buzzing around Dr Glass and Luminous Girl, getting in their way (which was dangerous and distracting, as they were doing physical labor) and trying to get her to talk to him, work with him, come over and look at his work, etc. In return she tried to ignore him, laughed him off politely, repeatedly referenced her desire to do her work, physically moved away whenever he got close to her, and stuck like glue to Dr Glass; saying NO in all those thousand little pleasant ways that women are trained to do. Awkward Dude tried to impress her with physical activity, but Dr Glass cut him off because he was being distracting. Confused and annoyed, Awkward stepped up his Game, trying to impress her with his intellectual cred, and it went down like a lead zeppelin, with Luminous and Dr Glass resuming their own work and conversations. So Awkward started loudly asking wasn’t Dr Glass married?!

At this, Awkward Dude attempted to kill Dr Glass with his laser-eyeballs at every turn, lurking and glaring and pining like a bad Snape impersonator. (Dr Glass wasn’t sure why he was suddenly the target of the resulting animosity, as he clearly had no romantic interest in Luminous, until I explained it to him: Dude had decided that the reason Luminous Girl was not sleeping with him was because she was the Possession of Another Male, and further, a Male who Already Had His Fair Share of Females; thus Dr Glass was the enemy for not shunning her and leaving a clear path for fellow males. “Oh,” said Dr Glass in sudden revelation, “That makes sense, I guess.”)

But the guy persisted – it wasn’t that Luminous didn’t like him! It was that she was clearly in thrall of my husband. The solution was to get her alone! So whenever they sat down to a lecture, Luminous, practically dragging Dr Glass by the arm, would move like lightning to position herself between him and a safe wall – with her lovely admirer circling them and glaring, loudly asking Dr Glass about his Wife Back Home. Awkward Dude implied that Dr Glass was creepy and odd for always hanging out with a girl half his age. Awkward Dude was annoyed that the course director, an older woman who should presumably know better, had assigned dorm space based on teams, so that Dr Glass and Luminous bunked in adjacent rooms (while he, Awkward Dude, was in the wing with the married couples!) because it was inappropriate and wrong to place a married man next to a teenaged female. On a particularly cold day, Dr Glass noticed that Luminous did not have warm clothing, and lent her an extra hoodie. It happened to have his name on it; Awkward Dude practically ignited, to the point where even the other people on the course were laughing awkwardly at him and saying “Uh, she’s… allowed to wear clothes?”

Luminous and Dr Glass both liked hiking, so one evening after dinner, they went out for a hike by themselves – not inviting the others in case Awkward Dude got wind of their plans. (“I mean, it sounds cruel, but I just hated him,” Dr Glass said.) It was after curfew when they walked back to their rooms,and the halls were completely dark; Dr Glass hung back to fill his water bottle. When he got to the rooms, at the end of the corridor, Luminous had been cornered by Awkward Dude. When Awkward spotted Dr Glass, he yelled at him about how inappropriate it was to go hiking alone with Luminous. Luminous seized the opportunity to flee to her room, locking the door. “I think it’s inappropriate to police her hiking,” Dr Glass said mildly and went to bed.

The next day was the last day of the course, and Dr Glass had had enough. Awkward Dude was “trying it on” in front of the whole group, making everyone uncomfortable. He had dragged Luminous into yet another unwanted conversation and Dr Glass called him out, in front of everybody, a deadly blow to Awkward’s pride. Awkward Dude tried to appeal to the group – he was only trying to be friendly – but Dr Glass had him up against the ropes, metaphorically, he’d broken the floodgates, and everyone began to laugh at Awkward instead: the old married couples, the other young men, and Luminous.

“I really feel bad about that, actually,” Dr Glass said. He hadn’t really wanted to humiliate the younger man in front of everybody, especially since his only crime had been really inept flirting. Was it really Dr Glass’s place to speak for Luminous? Perhaps he’d made a big deal out of nothing. But Dr Glass didn’t regret it. He just felt odd. He didn’t know why he’d been so savage over something so banal as Awkward’s favorite movie. He was pretty sure that he didn’t regard Luminous as a possession, or something to be protected. He’d just snapped.

“OH MY GOD,” I replied, “WHY DIDN’T YOU DO MORE? WHAT A FUCKING CREEPER!”
Well, Dr Glass wanted to assume good intentions on everyone’s part. They’d all lived together, after all, eaten together, worked together. Emotions had run high. It would have been pretty terrible for the Dude if he’d been ostracized right at the beginning, just because he wasn’t very good at talking to girls. After all, he was there for the workshop. They all were.

“AAAAH,” I wound down, “But what Luminous? WHOSE WORKSHOP WAS RUINED BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T FEEL SAFE?! She couldn’t just relax and enjoy spending time with you/her other new friends/nature – she practically had to have a bathroom buddy! He didn’t even let her focus on the work she was PAYING MONEY to do! You did not cross a line! HE CROSSED THE FUCKING LINE!”

Dr Glass totally agreed. But he still felt oddly uncomfortable about it all, as if there was something there to regret, like he was missing a piece of the puzzle. And then I asked The Question. And after I asked The Question, his face changed. He looked sick. “I didn’t think of that.” After The Question, he wished he’d been more explicit – gone to the course director. Been there more for Luminous. The good intentions that he wanted to assume, the passes he was willing to give the other man, evaporated, completely. They had evaporated for me, halfway through the story.

When I tell this story to women, they spot The Question right away. The men don’t; they think that Dr Glass behaved like a gentleman, neither doing too much nor too little. They are feminist men, and good people. They have read “The Gift of Fear” and they talk about privilege and the patriarchy, and they don’t spot it.

The Question is this: Why Was Awkward Dude Waiting For Her In The Dark?

Earlier in the story we heard that his own room was far away from hers. It was dark, at the end of a dark hall. He was waiting there, after midnight, with the lights off. HE HAD BEEN WAITING FOR HER IN THE DARK AT THE END OF A DARK HALL AFTER CURFEW, HE KNEW SHE HAD GONE OUT AND HE WAS WAITING FOR HER TO COME BACK. He was angry when he realized that she wasn’t alone. And Luminous was afraid – bolting into her room. Locking the door. And the women go HOLY FUCK WHAT IS THAT as soon as they hear about the atmosphere, and the men just accept it as another anecdote of Awkward Dude’s awkwardness, you know? Because how rude/silly/inept to pester a woman about hiking with another man!

While the women are going BAD INTENTIONS BAD INTENTIONS FUCK SHIT THAT WOULD NOT HAVE ENDED WELL. And then you point out The Question to the men, and wait a while, and they suddenly go OH. OH MY GOD. WHY WAS HE WAITING FOR HER IN THE DARK. THAT’S – THAT’S PRETTY FUCKING SKETCHY. Everything changes. Dude-sympathy is gone. They put on the Matrix-goggles and peer into the world that apparently only women see. Awkward cornered Luminous in the dark after curfew at the end of the hall when he thought she was alone and he had a lot of anger and when my husband showed up he read Luminous as afraid and she ran into her room and locked the door. That is the reality. The good intentions, they are not there. Perhaps Awkward would have said that they were, that we, in our paranoia, are seeing rape in every dark corner. Perhaps he was trying to apologize for his previous behavior, or lend her a book, or make sure that she got back safely from her hike… so he’d chosen to do so alone, in the dark, making her afraid. That was what had been bothering Dr Glass. He wasn’t wearing the Goggles of Feminine Intuition, but he picked up on the signals that something wasn’t right. Seeing the Question doesn’t make you paranoid – it means your instincts are working.

If you live in the world of women, it isn’t your duty to educate everybody, to hand-hold and explain, to pass out Matrix-goggles. It’s Situation Normal: All Fucked Up. But perhaps you, Letter Writers, have good men, men who just need to wear the goggles.
That’s not really what I think, but our society is fucked up. I’ll assume good intentions on their part. Maybe it will help.

-----

I can very easily see myself as doctor glass. I've taken part in such threads like this before. I try very hard to understand what it's like to be under constant threat of assault by men, and how hard it must be to live that way, and also to get involved in discussions like this. I know that between 1 in 6 and 1 in 4 women will be raped or seriously sexually assaulted. I know that men attack women in all sorts of sketchy situations - that creepy behaviour is a warning sign.

I know all of that, and I missed the question anyway. The worst that I thought would happen? A fist fight between Doctor Glass and Awkward. Seeing the question was like getting punched in the stomach. Holy Shit. How did I not SEE that?

As a guy, you can walk through sketchy areas at night, and the most you're ever afraid of is some druggie is going to attack you and take your wallet and phone. If I was threatened with a knife, late at night in a dark area? Hell yes I'd hand over my money. It's not worth getting stabbed over. But that's it. I'm a pretty big guy, I've been in a few fist fights, and though I've no illusions that someone angry enough or with friends would take me down in a heart beat, I'm secure enough in my own ability to defend myself that were my life in danger, I'd likely be strong enough or fast enough to survive.

Getting raped just isn't something you're afraid of as a man. You can know it happens to women, you can know how MUCH it happens to women - I know three women that have been raped or assaulted - but it was very enlightening to realise just how much I don't get it. That I can't really get it.

My wife of course spotted things were going very badly wrong pretty early on - before Luminous started to hide herself between Dr Glass and the wall.

I'd like to think that I maybe would have asked her what was wrong, was she afraid of him when she physically started to shield herself from Awkward dude. And would almost certainly have accepted an explanation like 'no, he just creeps me out' at face value.

I sensed things were not right - that awkward was super creepy and should take a fucking hint. I thought Doctor Glass did the right things though; did enough. Until I read the Question.

and then I knew I was wrong. My wife asked me; did you understand the question? Wasn't it obvious what probably would have happened?

No. No it wasn't. I'd bet for most men, being honest, reading that comment for the first time, you didn't ask that Question either. We live a life so free of fear - of that fear - that meeting a guy in a dark hallway at night doesn't set alarm bells ringing. His creepy behaviour before that didn't set enough alarm bells ringing.

I think I may have been Doctor Glass when I was younger - but with no-one to ask the Question, it just never got beyond 'jeeze, what a creep' in my head. You step in, you try to help. You look after women because you're brought up to be a good guy.

It's not enough. And if you think it is, that doctor glass did enough, I have another Question.

"What do you think would have happened if Doctor Glass had gone straight to his own room that night, instead of seeing Luminous Girl to her door?"
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:20 PM on August 9, 2012 [55 favorites]


Why? I'll ask again - do you think if you told your friend, "I don't want to be friends any more, don't call me unless it's a proposition," suddenly the situation would change and she would ask you out on a date? If so, why haven't you?

I heard the suggestion before.
Partly, I think it's an asshole move - I really don't see relationships as something that should begin with ultimatums. It's also partly because I value these friendships - so I might be more inclined than she is to take the risks of dating for the potential rewards, but the friendship is pretty damn fine. If dating is a risk to a friendship, ultimatums are that times ten.

My being able to apply force, doesn't mean that I should. She's a smart woman, if I was the kind of person who used this kind of leverage to get my way, I doubt we'd have hit it off in the first place. (And I know I would be re-evaluating someone I was attracted to if they pulled that.)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:21 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


To perhaps add depth to the definition of friend zone: it seems most people here are adopting "guy wants to fuck female friend, she doesn't, friendzone" as the definition.

I've also read other discussions in which the friendzone specifically places more blame on the woman, as in "girl has told guy she isn't interested, but keeps letting him take her on basically dates (movies, dinners, etc.), is emotionally invested/involved with him more than 'just friends' usually are, cries on his shoulder about what a jerk her boyfriend is, etc."

All implying or placing more blame on the woman for emotionally using the guy on purpose, knowing he likes her, while not actually seeing him as a romantic option.

I think this definition is also fraught with difficulty and weirdness and possible misogyny, but wanted to put out there that I have read multiple accounts that define "Friend zone" as the woman being deliberately manipulative, not just "why won't she bone me".
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:22 PM on August 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


Eh, the best repudiation of the concept of the "friend zone" I've ever heard/read is: "A woman is not a machine that you put kindness into until sex falls out."
posted by Mooski at 1:25 PM on August 9, 2012 [77 favorites]


Yeah, I think that's probably it. "Friend-zone" is a word loaded with different things to different people.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:25 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a lot of food for thought. There is a continuum from socially awkward man with no social skills to creepy man to proto-rapist man to rapist. Some socially awkward men would really try to rape somebody if they were only less awkward enough to get away with it, while other socially awkward men would never rape somebody but they don't know how to avoid coming off as creepy. I don't think we can make blanket statements about the male "creep." Some creeps are creepy, because they choose to be creepy, but some creeps are creepy, because they have no clue about how to act in a non-creepy way. (I'm 40, so I suppose my understanding of the word "creep" is on the cusp for this thread.)

Exposure to a creep can be at best annoying and at worst extremely harmful for a woman, regardless of whether the creep is acting out of malice or cluelessness, but I think it's also necessary to point out that some men really don't know how to act properly (both around women and in social settings more generally) and might change their behavior if somebody actually gave them a clue. In other words, calling out bad behavior is absolutely essential (both from women and their male friends and partners), but finding some way to model good behavior needs to be done as well.

When I was an 18-year-old college freshman, I ended up going to a college where the sexual politics were so bad that it ended up inspiring a cover story in Newsweek. Women students were constantly in fear of date rape, while many male students were also constantly in fear that they would be falsely railroaded as a date rapist by the college's disciplinary system. If you were a male student at that time, you heard so many case studies about date rape that you secretly worried that you would turn into some date rape monster in a moment of weakness when you got too horny or too drunk. The prevalence of acquaintance rape was way more common than any cases of men getting railroaded by the disciplinary system, so I agree women had it worse. But I'm not sure if the anti-rape education was actually helpful in changing men's behavior for the better if men ended up walking away from the educational sessions, thinking that they were only a few steps away from becoming rapists anyway.

Think of the fraternities you find on many college campuses. This does not apply to all fratboys, but you can find numerous examples that fit the stereotype of the fratboy who behaves abominably toward women, yet has no problem "getting laid." (Cf. Tucker Max etc. etc.) When socially awkward men see socially skilled fratboys who never stop their misogynist behavior because their misogyny and mistreatment of women never stops them from getting laid, it leads a lot of these awkward men to think that what keeps them from "getting laid" or having a longer-term boyfriend/girlfriend relationship is that they've been "too nice." I know that this reasoning is based on a self-serving assumption, but it is very easy for an awkward 18-year-old man to fall into it. I should know. I used to be one of those men.

The result is that these socially awkward men become whiney pseudo-"Nice Guys" who are following the same rape-prone path as the fratboys, just in a more passive-aggressive way. Thankfully, I never got past the whiney pseudo-"Nice Guy" stage, because I matured, got over myself, and realized that being a nice is all about actually being nice instead of telling everybody how nice you are.

On the other hand, this process isn't easy. It's not wrong for straight men, no matter how socially awkward they are, to desire romance, intimate relationships, and sex. What needs to be done is to show them a way to learn how to fulfill those desires without being assaultive, creepy, or relying on sleazy pickup artist manuals.

For example, think about how you learned to kiss somebody for the first time in a romantic or sexual way. Some of you probably figured it out without really to ask anybody, but when I was a teenager, I actually had to ask some platonic female friends how to pull it off. Think of how "first kisses" typically work in movies. Rarely do you see people in movies asking for consent for a first kiss. Instead, the convention in the movies (and in real life too) is to lean in forward toward the person you want to kiss and wait a brief but unspecified amount of time for the person you are trying to kiss to lean in toward you. If the person you want to kiss also leans toward you, it generally signals that they want to kiss you, whereas if they lean away from you, it signals they do not want to kiss you. Now, you may think of this micro-analysis of kissing as ridiculous, but the point is that the social conventions are very ritualized, not everybody can figure out those conventions simply by watching, and even a kiss can be chancy, because verbal consent is not usually involved. (In fact, some people might blame a request for verbal consent as "spoiling the mood.")

I guess the larger point is that, if learning how to kiss somebody can be so difficult for some people, you can see that an even larger number of heterosexual men are going to have trouble in their attempts to find potential girlfriends and sexual partners. And as some of these heterosexual men screw up in their quest, some of them are going to start adopting misogynist patterns of behavior, because that's what their culture feeds them. It is this process that we all have to nip in the bud. Calling men on their creepy, assaultive behavior is absolutely essential from both their male and female peers, but I guess what I'm saying is that men need models for what they should do, not just what they shouldn't be doing.
posted by jonp72 at 1:26 PM on August 9, 2012 [23 favorites]


The thing is, though, molerat, is that going out to movies and out to dinner and listening to each other are all things friends sincerely do for each other. And it's very possible a woman doing all of that with a man has sincere and innocent intent that she really DOES see him as just a friend. Maybe it only looks manipulative from the guy's perspective because he really just wants to get in her pants, and is only playing along because he thinks maybe he will get to someday -- she is sincerely just treating him as a friend and is doing friend things with him because that's what friends FUCKING DO.

In that scenario, it's the GUY who's being manipulative, by pretending to be a sincere friend becuase he thinks it's gonna get him laid.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:27 PM on August 9, 2012 [28 favorites]


Re: possessiveness. Yesterday while I was waiting for the bus, a moving truck was stopped in front of me and the guy gave me a pretty explicity up and down look, and then yelled some gross stuff at me. I flipped him off, and then went back to my book. When I told my boyfriend about it, he was indignant and upset on my behalf. He wasn't upset that someone else was horning in on something he possesses - he was upset that someone had violated the sense of safety of someone he loves. I'm sure that this was the sense that you meant it in, but I just wanted to clarify that when women want people to respond to the creepers and the grossness of sexual assault and harassment, we want the response to come from a place of compassion and love and recognition of personhood, and stuff. Not a placee of "This woman is mine and no one else gets to say sexually explicit things to her."
posted by ChuraChura at 1:27 PM on August 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


I heard the suggestion before.

Typo. I meant people in the past have suggested I do this.

posted by -harlequin- at 1:28 PM on August 9, 2012


The thing is, though, molerat, is that going out to movies and out to dinner and listening to each other are all things friends sincerely do for each other. And it's very possible a woman doing all of that with a man has sincere and innocent intent that she really DOES see him as just a friend. Maybe it only looks manipulative from the guy's perspective because he really just wants to get in her pants, and is only playing along because he thinks maybe he will get to someday -- she is sincerely just treating him as a friend and is doing friend things with him because that's what friends FUCKING DO.

In that scenario, it's the GUY who's being manipulative, by pretending to be a sincere friend becuase he thinks it's gonna get him laid.


Yeah. I mean, I totally agree that very frequently those guys are wearing Nice Guy Glasses. I guess what I wanted to get at is, I have seen men that seem to genuinely think the friendzone is a place women deliberately exploit men emotionally. Whether or not that's actually true, if they genuinely believe it, how do you deconstruct or explain the problems with that? It requires a different strategy than if we think friendzoning is just "she doesn't want to fuck me and I deserve it".
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:39 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really don't see relationships as something that should begin with ultimatums. It's also partly because I value these friendships - so I might be more inclined than she is to take the risks of dating for the potential rewards, but the friendship is pretty damn fine.

It's not an ultimatum, it's a boundary. If you are happy being friends with her, and wouldn't give that up to date her, then is she in your "Friend Zone?" If two people are in each other's friend zones, doesn't that just mean that they are friends?

If dating is a risk to a friendship, ultimatums are that times ten.

She's said, "I won't date you if we're friends." Is that not an ultimatum under your definition?
posted by muddgirl at 1:42 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've long thought being overly possessive was a Bad Thing, but I am gobsmacked at how casual the guys in the linked articles were about the Creepers hitting on their girlfriends, and on occasion even touching them in seriously inappropriate ways. I went to college and all, but back then I really don't remember, or would imagine, such behavior being laughed off in such a nonchalant way.

I also thought that was a bit odd. My wife is a grownup and she can handle herself just fine. But at the same time, someone willing to behave inappropriately towards her in front of me is obviously willing to violate her boundaries in very serious ways, and it gets my attention in a big way. It doesn't mean I act all possessive -- but it does mean that I watch very closely for a signal from her of "help!" in that moment; it also means that I put the guy into a permanent mental category of "nasty creeper, always avoid, and probably warn people about."

Regarding "friend zone," I always see it in the context of someone saying "I really like this girl, but she has put me in the friend zone, how do I get out?" as if his Dating Credit Score is too low so he can't get a low-interest high-sex dating loan at the spank bank. And generally, I don't buy it -- people fuck their friends, all the time; much more often, being in the "friend zone" means that she doesn't want to fuck you but thinks you are an ok person to hang out with. That's not a punishment, that's making a friend, and if you are lucky she will have a cute friend she could introduce you to. (Like how I was out on the town with a female friend (oh no, friend zoned!) who introduced me to this cutie, and now we're married, etc, you heard that story before.)
posted by Forktine at 1:43 PM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Whether or not that's actually true, if they genuinely believe it, how do you deconstruct or explain the problems with that? It requires a different strategy than if we think friendzoning is just "she doesn't want to fuck me and I deserve it".

I'm not really seeing the difference between "I need to act like her friend because eventually she'll see I've earned the right to have her fuck me" and "she doesn't want to fuck me even though I deserve it".

In any case, the way you handle both mindsets is with a Cher-in-MOONSTRUCK slap upside the head and a stern admonition that "YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO HAVE A GIVEN PERSON FUCK YOU JUST BECAUSE THEY MAKE YOUR DICK HARD."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:45 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think FriendZone is a space where a male performs functions usually taken care of by a good SleepZone partner.

Usually the female doesn't insist on the SleepZone guy doing these auxiliary SleepZone tasks: Talking at inconvenient hours about fears and relationship issues and problems with the SleepZone guy, paying for events that the woman loves but SleepZone guy couldn't be bothered, buying gifts that usually come from a SleepZone guy like jewelry, etc. So you have two unstatisfied/deluded people serving some alpha dude.

All this from the FriendZone guy who neglects his own pursuit of an appropriate SleepZone partner, and who would not do the same things for other women that he is not actively trying to impress due to physical traits or imaginary virtues.

FriendZoned guys aren't really the friends of women, friends are. And women who accept the efforts of a FriendZoned guy are also probably not capable of being friends.

Anyway: AWESOME ARTICLE. I think this straight talk should be plastered in men's rooms and refreshed daily as needed.
posted by drowsy at 1:45 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I see what you're saying, nakedmolerats, and I do think there are some men, especially less experienced or younger men, who would be confused by simply being treated as a real friend by a girl they were romantically attracted to. I think that sort of more innocent confusion can only be cleared up by fixing more pernicious culture we're complaining about in here.

For instance, how many of those more innocent types have learned that they're friend zoned and such from talking to their guy friends. Like, "I don't know guys, she says we're friends but it seems like there might be something more?" And friends answering, "Yeah dude, she's totally stringing you on. You've been friend zoned!" rather than, "Nah dude, that just sounds like friend stuff."

I think, as fighty as they can sometimes get (and this thread has actually been relatively excellent), these threads and other similar conversations online and in real life are the way to start changing those casual responses.
posted by gilrain at 1:45 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have lots of things to comment on but I will try to be succinct.

First, I'm over 50 but "the creepy uncle" was a thing in my girlhood and everyone knew what you meant-- he was a guy to be avoided because he would try to touch you or rub up against you or make lewd comments.

Yes, songs have often sent the wrong message, as have TV and movies. Just try hard enough, guys, and you win the girl! She has no will of her own, apparently.

Hey. Let's do away with the myth that women only find advances from men creepy if they are not attracted to the man advancing (whether in addition to the behavior in question being unpleasant or not).

There are plenty of hottttt creepy guys! And also! Lots of guys who are not attractive to me are not creeps.


I had the interesting experience of meeting a creeper in college first one-on-one and then in a group. It was so weird to me at the time how quickly he went from "Hmmm interesting guy, I wonder if he will ask me out?" to "Eeew stay away from me creeper."

We met through my roommate-- she had known him in high school. She left us alone and he and I discussed my music collection. He had wicked, flashing eyes, curly hair, and a great smile. I was definitely interested and if we had spent anymore time together, I would have gone out with him.

Then I showed up for the first day in my ensemble music class and he was there. Most of the rest of the group had been singing together for a year already. Several girls and even some of the guys saw me walk up to him with a big smile and a hug and after class told me to steer clear of him, he was trouble. They enumerated several instances of him making unwanted advances, especially when the group was touring and staying in hotels. I was troubled because it didn't gibe with my first impression.

I stopped being so friendly and started watching him instead. He definitely took my new coolness as a challenge, but that in itself was not a creepy or weird thing. What was creepy and weird was how he handled every other woman in the group. He was constantly dogging people, trying to touch them (with neck rubs and cheek kisses and so on) even though he was not invited. I was also told he had tried to sleep with one of the singer's sisters who was under age. Little by little the guy who had been intriguing to me and definitely date material became a loathsome monster I would not want to be alone with.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:47 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


nakedmolerats: “Yeah. I mean, I totally agree that very frequently those guys are wearing Nice Guy Glasses. I guess what I wanted to get at is, I have seen men that seem to genuinely think the friendzone is a place women deliberately exploit men emotionally. Whether or not that's actually true, if they genuinely believe it, how do you deconstruct or explain the problems with that? It requires a different strategy than if we think friendzoning is just ‘she doesn't want to fuck me and I deserve it’.”

It's pretty clear the difference comes from the fact that the term has evolved away from its PUA origins, I think. But that doesn't make it less sexist, really.

I've been noticing this term used more and more over the past few months, mostly because I've been hitting r/funny as a guilty pleasure. And I think it's really rooted in immaturity that is a large component of sexism. Usually, the guys put in the "friend zone" are actually not depicted as guys who want to have sex with the girl. They're depicted as guys who adore this girl from afar, and she simply doesn't acknowledge them as a potential partner.

The thing is, if you're an adult, that's not really something you can call "manipulation." People are allowed to choose their potential partners. That's just how rational human relations work. No amount of being a nice guy obligates someone else to date you. And when it comes down, really, if anybody ever feels like they're in a "friend zone," the recourse they have is blindingly simple: as the person they like out. Really.

If asking someone out or suggesting romantic involvement is so embarrassing or difficult that it's not really something you can get yourself to do, you don't get to turn around and blame the friend you'd like to date and act as though they've been manipulative.

This is part of the larger system of sexism because it fits the patterned assumption: women are manipulative, and particularly when men don't get what they want, it's because they were manipulated by a woman. In each and every one of these "friend zone" instances, it's clear that the male who has been "friendzoned" by the female never actually sat down and had the "I really would like to be involved with you, because you are my friend and I like you" conversation. Turning around and blaming one's own cowardice or entitlement on the imagined manipulation of woman is classic sexist behavior.

EmpressCallipygos: “I'm not really seeing the difference between 'I need to act like her friend because eventually she'll see I've earned the right to have her fuck me' and 'she doesn't want to fuck me even though I deserve it'.”

Maybe I'm being entirely too charitable, but in almost every instance of "friendzone" I've seen pointed out on the internet, fucking is not part of the equation at all. "Friendzoned" guys are supposed to be guys who completely dote on women who do not notice their doting because they see those guys as "just friends." Which seems slightly more innocent to me; however, as I said above, it's sexist and immature to blame someone else for not feeling feelings that you feel they're obligated to feel when you haven't actually taken the simple step of actually talking to them about it.
posted by koeselitz at 1:52 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


For your interpretation of friend zone, koeselitz, Kris Straub has crafted this comic. Also, his post below could well be a post in this thread. Let's pretend he is Mefi's own, briefly:
as a young, unpopular and unkissed lad, all the way through junior high and high school and college, i believed there was such a thing as a friend zone or a “ladder theory” that explained why girls didn’t look twice at me

i have since discovered that every guy who believes themselves to be in a friend zone has placed the girl of his desires in the romance zone, and just as the guy doesn’t want to be in his zone, the girl doesn’t want to be in that zone either. it’s 1:1. if a girl doesn’t like you it isn’t because of a zone. it’s because she doesn’t like you and also doesn’t have to like you

only after i learned that lesson did i grow incredible facial hair and become very charming and funny and exotically handsome
posted by gilrain at 2:02 PM on August 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


I know there's not much room in the conversation for this, but honestly I was saddened that in both stories, Creeper and Awkward end up being ostracized. What these men needed was someone to reach through to them, to help them mature and grow into allies. I suppose that's the long game.
posted by polymodus at 2:04 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've seen pointed out on the internet, fucking is not part of the equation at all. "Friendzoned" guys are supposed to be guys who completely dote on women who do not notice their doting because they see those guys as "just friends."

I've had a couple of these guys ans friends, and IME there's a relationship between doting and sex in their mind. Their doting earns them, not just sex, but it's a large part of it. "She cries on my shoulder but goes back to his bed" is what they've told me.
posted by muddgirl at 2:06 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


She's said, "I won't date you if we're friends." Is that not an ultimatum under your definition?

That's not how I read it. She's not going to date, and the status quo is friends.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:07 PM on August 9, 2012


I know there's not much room in the conversation for this, but honestly I was saddened that in both stories, Creeper and Awkward end up being ostracized. What these men needed was someone to reach through to them, to help them mature and grow into allies. I suppose that's the long game.

I think this can happen, but it's pretty clearly a "you need to admit you have a problem' situation. Until that happens ... ostracization is the best option. Well, and pressing charges, when appropriate.
posted by feckless at 2:08 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


polymodus: I suppose that's the long game.

That is the ideal long game, absolutely. It's like being a first responder, though: you have to secure the accident site and ensure the safety of yourself and others before you can attend to the fallen.
posted by gilrain at 2:17 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't actually think that's the "long game" – not in the case of #2, anyway. The creeper in letter #2 has broken the law by sexually assaulting someone. That's illegal. In order to deal with having done that kind of thing, creeper #2 will have to undergo punishment and treatment. Those aren't things a 'circle of friends' can really do.
posted by koeselitz at 2:20 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


"socially-fluent creepsters"

See, in my book, if you're "creepy", you BY DEFINITION are not socially fluent -- or not with regards to dating, anyhow. Creepy = you're doing it wrong. Making somebody feel creeped out means you are not socially fluent in this aspect of human relations, regardless of how well that person does in other social scenarios.
posted by LordSludge at 2:24 PM on August 9, 2012


it's sexist and immature to blame someone else for not feeling feelings that you feel they're obligated to feel when you haven't actually taken the simple step of actually talking to them about it.

Sometimes they do make their intentions clear, are rebuffed, and supposedly accept the "let's be friends" offer. I tend to call these "suitors-in-waiting", which is a role I think men (and some women) adopt far more often, if at all, when young. Because they eventually figure out that not only does it not get them the girl/guy, but it's a miserable experience the rest of the time, too. It’s also fun (read: not fun) being the boyfriend while one or more of these “friends” hang around. You see the intentions clearly. Your partner does not. There is nothing you can say without seeming jealous or possessive. It’s a no-win situation. I remember this happening often enough that I had a “must be socially perceptive” dating requirement when I was younger that was entirely about this one thing.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:25 PM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


"I know there's not much room in the conversation for this, but honestly I was saddened that in both stories, Creeper and Awkward end up being ostracized. What these men needed was someone to reach through to them, to help them mature and grow into allies. "

I think a lot of women (and men) have done this for a lot of otherwise-decent guys who are weird about women. Or who get socially awkward around women they're attracted to. Or who don't realize their dating modus operandi gleaned from rom-coms is creepy. I know I have.

But there are guys who are making people actively unsafe (letter writer #2), which isn't for me to deal with. And there are guys who I don't know who are being creepy in passing, that's someone else's problem. And there's a point past which you have to say, look, dude, I've explained fourteen times why your behavior is a problem and we just can't hang out if you are going to spend all your time here creeping on my next-door neighbor.

I have a pretty good friend I think I've talked about before, who is a great guy -- attractive, earns a good living, interesting to talk with, good listener, has fun hobbies -- really a total package kind of a guy. Except when he's near women he finds attractive (and available), at which point he becomes indistinguishable from a garden-variety creeper. He comes on waaaaaaay too strong, in the name of "romance," and is so eager to find a girlfriend that he ignores or can't see signals that a girl isn't interested. One time he met a girl at a club, got her number, found her address, sent her a dozen roses, and invited her to come to his house for the weekend. I went through the roof, and I'm like, "That girl is going to change her number and move because she thinks you're a rapey stalker! That is so over the line!" And he was like,"No, it's romantic!" Me: "No! Girls don't like that! It is creepy and threatening!" Him: "You don't know anything about dating, you're married!" Me: "Dude, I think that means I WON AT DATING."

I have had this conversation with him literally dozens of times (mostly about much lower-level creeping, that one was his apex of creepery) and he just can't hear it. And he would never, never assault a woman. But the fact is that he has zero idea of what appropriate dating behavior is, and zero concept that he is breaching women's boundaries, and zero concept that he is indistinguishable from someone actually dangerous. And the truth is at a certain point I quit inviting him to events where my unattached female friends would be around, because his behavior is really socially unacceptable and he makes women feel threatened, despite literally dozens of attempts to explain to him what was wrong and why it was wrong.

And I want to reiterate this guy is a really fantastic guy with an awesome personality who's good-looking, stable, etc. He's not generally socially awkward. He's not got a grudge against the world. He just. can't. date. Someday I hope that will change, because he deserves happiness, but he is sabotaging himself and no amount of his friends, male and female, trying to explain to him why his behavior is super-inappropriate has done a single bit of good.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:32 PM on August 9, 2012 [33 favorites]


I think the "sad panda" thing goes back to some episode of South Park.
Another thing I don't want to see.
posted by Namlit at 2:44 PM on August 9, 2012


"I know there's not much room in the conversation for this, but honestly I was saddened that in both stories, Creeper and Awkward end up being ostracized. What these men needed was someone to reach through to them, to help them mature and grow into allies. I suppose that's the long game."

What these men needed was to not be around these women.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:45 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I tend to call these "suitors-in-waiting", which is a role I think men (and some women) adopt far more often, if at all, when young.

You can see this, in microcosm, in a bar or club, as the really attractive women are often surrounded by a "halo" of men hoping for their opportunity to chat her up, but too timid to actually approach her.
posted by LordSludge at 2:46 PM on August 9, 2012


I wish I'd had this to read when I was 20. It might not have changed what my male friends did, but it probably would have changed how I did things.
posted by immlass at 2:47 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wish I'd had this to read when I was 20.

Jesus. I wish I'd had this to read when I was fourteen. I endured a lot of teenage creepers in high school. (Thanks, debate team!)
posted by ambrosia at 2:53 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Him: "You don't know anything about dating, you're married!" Me: "Dude, I think that means I WON AT DATING."

I need to remember that :)

I once had a friend asking me for dating advice, and (being the naturally helpful type) I was racking my brain and even put up an askmefi. Then I happened to mention that my SO is also my first and only relationship, and he was like, "So you know almost nothing about meeting people and dating?" Which was true, but apparently I still managed a hole-in-one.
posted by jb at 2:59 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've long thought being overly possessive was a Bad Thing, but I am gobsmacked at how casual the guys in the linked articles were about the Creepers hitting on their girlfriends, and on occasion even touching them in seriously inappropriate ways. I went to college and all, but back then I really don't remember, or would imagine, such behavior being laughed off in such a nonchalant way.

Creepy Uncles are really good at going after women that they won't be punished for harassing. That means they evaluate her personality, her family and friends and her SO. We just excised a Creeper from our social circle, a (now ex) friend dated him and brought him around during which he repeatedly got drunk and pawed at/ tried to kiss other women (we excised him after incident #2 but I found out after that he did this an average of 2x per month the whole time they dated. Think on that!). Anyway, he ONLY went after women with low self esteem and no or unsupportive partners. The kind that were more worried about upsetting his girlfriend by saying he hit on them than on, y'know, being assaulted. I have to say, he received a swift kick in the ass from a male friend of the second woman he assaulted at the scene and that was gratifying.
posted by fshgrl at 2:59 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


What these men needed was someone to reach through to them, to help them mature and grow into allies. I suppose that's the long game.

Yeah, I'm sorry, but the long game for me doesn't include being buddies with rapists just for the sake of karma. In both cases these guys actually had friends who somehow actually were okay with their behaviors. It was the women who were threatened with a loss of friendship and company over their "inability" to deal with suggestions involving their ladyparts, not really the reverse. If I were LW2, I would have been reaching out with, like, an anaconda. Or a flamethrower. [Note: do not actually own snakes or flamethrowers. Would not actually attack a dude with a snake, not even on a plane. But I would absolutely ostracize the hell out of him.]
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:00 PM on August 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


Creepy = you're doing it wrong.

I think this might be one of the reasons that these rape culture threads turn into nerdy guy apologist threads -- the fear that that is what being said. Because if:

creepy = you're doing it wrong

then:

you're doing it wrong = creepy.

and many, many young men feel that they are doing it wrong. Too many people can read the stories andremember the time that they said something they thought was clever that turned out to be overly-forward or the time they were all moony about someone that turns out felt nothing in return. And so there is a underlying feeling of being attacked in these sorts of threads.

Does anyone know if there is data on whether men that remain socially awkward are a significant subset of rapists. I could see how it would work out: Awkwardness + entitlement -> frustration -> anger -> assault. But I've never seen any data about the kind of men that are rapists, and it doesn't seem right. Then again, I am shocked by almost every statistic I've ever seen about sexual assault, so how things seem to me probably doesn't have much value.
posted by rtimmel at 3:07 PM on August 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


The suitors-in-waiting thing reminded me of the "Hooked" How I Met Your Mother episode.

The plot is all about the friend zone, male and female.
Future Ted mentions how most his stories have been romantic or have portrayed him in a fairly positive light, but in this next story, he was simply a jerk. Ted tells the gang that he has invited a woman over under the pretense of checking out his antique camera collection, which Barney classifies as "bait." He's tried many types of bait (slot machine, trampoline), but found that a teacup pig is the best kind, which Ted then borrows after seeing the reaction Robin, Marshall and Lily gave.

Later, Ted is at MacLaren's telling the gang about this woman, Tiffany (Carrie Underwood), he snared using the pig. She says she's really into him, but can't be with him "right now." The gang sees through her ruse, telling Ted that he's been "hooked," a euphemism for stringing along someone's interest in you until someone better is available.

Everyone gives an example: Marshall did a high school classmate's homework and was her "secret boyfriend", Robin allows her pre-morning show cameraman to pamper her, and Lily's high school flame, Scooter (David Burtka), works at her school as cafeteria staff, where she doesn't exactly tell him that a relationship is impossible.

Ted refuses to believe that he has been hooked, and continues waiting on Tiffany. When she shows up to the bar with her co-workers, Barney is excited to see that she and all her friends are pharmaceutical representatives, which he calls the "hot-chick" profession of their generation (like the nurse or stewardess was in the past). He hooks up with several of them, before meeting a particularly plain rep, declaring the era of the "hot pharma girl" over.

All the while, Ted himself has "hooked" a librarian from Columbia. Henrietta treats Ted just like he treats Tiffany, even assembling a sumptious dinner (with an ice sculpture) when he drops by. Ted is just as dismissive of Henrietta as Tiffany is of him. Soon, Ted is invited to go to a wedding with Tiffany, which he sees as a sign of commitment, and he meets her in the room with champagne. Much to his chagrin, she comes in with the best man, the guy who "hooked" her, and she proceeds to pamper him in front of Ted. Ted leaves, intent on making sure Henrietta doesn't feel the same heartbreak.

Unfortunately, he took the best man's jacket by accident, which had the wedding ring inside. Bending over at Henrietta's door to tie his shoes, the ring falls out, and Henrietta opens the door to see Ted down on his knee, in a tuxedo, with a ring in his hand. She immediately assumes he is proposing, says yes, and introduces him to her parents (who had stopped by). With a fair amount of awkwardness, Ted explains what has happened and makes sure she knows that they will never be together.
posted by cashman at 3:32 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"socially-fluent creepsters"

See, in my book, if you're "creepy", you BY DEFINITION are not socially fluent -- or not with regards to dating, anyhow. Creepy = you're doing it wrong. Making somebody feel creeped out means you are not socially fluent in this aspect of human relations, regardless of how well that person does in other social scenarios.
posted by LordSludge at 5:24 PM on August 9 [+] [!]
Nope. Just as you can be fluent in Spanish and refuse to speak the language in particular situations, you can be socially fluent and refuse to obey the norms of other people's comfort and safety.

As I said before, many creepy guys aren't generally in this for real life relationships. and sometimes not even to get dates. They are in it to, at best, make women and girls uncomfortable, and at worst to identify and groom victims.
posted by bilabial at 3:51 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


...[W]hen he's near women he finds attractive (and available), at which point he becomes indistinguishable from a garden-variety creeper. ... He's not got a grudge against the world. He just. can't. date.

This is really, really common... damn near universal, if you ask me; it's just that everybody has their point of attractiveness where they're reduced to acting... weird. (Women, if you want to relate to the guy's mindset, imagine trying to carry a conversation with a single, available Barack Obama or Brad Pitt or whomever-the-girls-think-is-hawt-these-days, who is sort of indifferent to your existence, without getting flustered.)

The irony is that to fix this, he needs to be surrounded by beautiful (to him) women -- not even in a sexual sense, but so that they no longer rattle him, until interacting with beautiful women just becomes normal, common. But he will never be surrounded by beautiful women as long as he keeps acting creepy and chasing them away.

Easiest short-cut to solving his problem: Get a job bartending. (But don't hit on anybody for, like, a year.)
posted by LordSludge at 3:52 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


uh.... as has been said before?
posted by bilabial at 3:53 PM on August 9, 2012


there's a generation gap on the word "creep" or "creeper" for sure. If you're over 40 or so, it means "He's socially awkward." If you're under 30 it means "He's a nasty motherfucking sex criminal and we all know it,

This makes me feel really awkward about wearing the bright green Minecraft T-shirt my kids gave me for Father's day.
posted by straight at 3:58 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The TV trope that really makes me see red is the two guys duking it out over a woman. Friday Night Lights springs to mind. I was reminded by the original link where the creepy guy tells the girl that her boyfriend has "forfeited" his rights by not showing up. It is as though women are a prize, or rather a piece of real estate with squatter's rights and not an equal human being with a working brain and the ability to make her own choice. I actually had this happen to me without actual fisticuffs. Two men had a discussion-- off camera as it were-- and I was told the outcome at a later date.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:59 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


But I've never seen any data about the kind of men that are rapists, and it doesn't seem right. Then again, I am shocked by almost every statistic I've ever seen about sexual assault, so how things seem to me probably doesn't have much value.

Ted Bundy was said to be incredibly charming.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:02 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's exactly what it is, the idea of women as property, and a lot of these "friend zoned nice guys" think of friendship as a layaway plan where if they put enough Nice Thing coins into their relationship, eventually they'll get the merchandise.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:03 PM on August 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


I used to be a creeper. I sat uncomfortably close to girls, touched without asking, hugged too long, and complained about the lack of sex even though I was such a nice guy. I don't know how I got that way, but it seemed socially acceptable because nobody told me to stop. I look back on my past self and am angry, sad, and embarrassed.

What got me to stop? I think it was that my roommate pointed out that I had the hover-hand. And I was like "but only desperate creeps have the hover-hand... oh." And then I realized that I was doing all the stuff I despised, but I was blind to it before. Now that I can see it, I know not to do it, and I'm SO much happier than I was before. Also I finally was able to talk to girls and engage them as human beings, and that helped a lot with obviating most of the reasons I was creepy to begin with.
posted by Jon_Evil at 4:05 PM on August 9, 2012 [17 favorites]


Exactly! The layaway plan. Hah!

See also: I've spent X amount of dollars on you, so you should put out.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:07 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was reminded by the original link where the creepy guy tells the girl that her boyfriend has "forfeited" his rights by not showing up. It is as though women are a prize, or rather a piece of real estate with squatter's rights

I was reminded of the Femme de la Rue post where I got accused of being at best culturally insensitive and at worst racist for saying the guys in the video were acting in a sexually predatory way and should he stopped by the law. Yet this is pretty much their exact opinion on women, from the mouths of the guys she interviewed.
posted by fshgrl at 4:12 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


bilabial: ...[M]any creepy guys aren't generally in this for real life relationships. and sometimes not even to get dates. They are in it to, at best, make women and girls uncomfortable, and at worst to identify and groom victims.

That is ridiculous. I agree that creepy behavior has that effect, but except in rare cases that is not the intent.

Do you think this guy (as a really common example) really has an agenda to intimidate women?:

Eyebrows McGee: I have a pretty good friend I think I've talked about before, who is a great guy -- attractive, earns a good living, interesting to talk with, good listener, has fun hobbies -- really a total package kind of a guy. Except when he's near women he finds attractive (and available), at which point he becomes indistinguishable from a garden-variety creeper. He comes on waaaaaaay too strong, in the name of "romance," and is so eager to find a girlfriend that he ignores or can't see signals that a girl isn't interested. One time he met a girl at a club, got her number, found her address, sent her a dozen roses, and invited her to come to his house for the weekend.

Creepy, yes. But intentionally intimidating? No. Just clueless.
posted by LordSludge at 4:15 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a friend who, for a long time, was hard-core stuck in the "friend zone" with every woman he was interested in romantically. I don't know if he ever put it in those words (I don't think so) but he'd fall head-over-heels for a woman in our social circle, often times bringing her into our social circle, and get frustrated when the romantic feelings were never reciprocated (though usually the women would be interested in another guy in the group.)

The difference with my friend, though, is that:

1. He genuinely did want to be friends with these women even if that's all it was going to be, and was and remains so (some of these women are still his closest friends, and his old feelings for them were never unclear.)

2. He never thought that he just needed to "put his time in," with them, so to speak.

3. He never did anything to make them feel unsafe.

Hence, he knows the feeling of the "friend zone," but was not a creeper. He was awkward with women (he's got a great girlfriend now, met through online dating, I believe, which got him over the initial hurdle for him of presenting himself in romantic terms) but he wasn't ever creepy. "Doing it wrong" does not mean "creepy." But if you're creepy, yes, you're doing it wrong.

On the other end of things, I was raised to raise hell at the sort of situation elodieunderglass describes (though I actually missed The Question myself.) But in college I found myself in a situation of direct conflict between doing what one sees as correct under The Question, and the whole unspoken bro-code that contradicts it.

There had been a big party in my dorm, which I was sort of part of hosting, the night before. In the morning, I run into a friend of a friend (a woman) who is distressed because she got hammered at this thing the night before and doesn't know where her clothes ended up. It's possible that I freaked over this a bit more than she did, but the thing was that there was this group of guys from my floor surrounding her when she asked me this, and one of them gave what looked to me like a "fuck yeah, bro" expression while standing behind her, and my hackles were raised through the roof.

I immediately call up my friends to see if anyone knows anything, and if I'm over-reacting, and so on. Everyone thinks this is sketchy as hell. It does not take long before two of these guys are at my door asserting their innocence (quite angrily) and I drop it. They say they are good friends with this girl, travelled with her, etc. What I was accusing them of (actually just asking people about) was insane. And then for the rest of college these guys made a point of causing shit for me because of my reaction.

For the record, I'm still unsure whether I was right or wrong there and what about.

But I think the reason men react like they do to elodieunderglass' story is that the second question, the one which cuts very deeply and in both directions, is "what if I'm wrong?"
posted by Navelgazer at 4:23 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've only run into this once. And I got punched in the face HARD when I kicked a handsy dude right the fuck out of a party that wasn't even at my house. Worth it.
posted by braksandwich at 4:25 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is ridiculous. I agree that creepy behavior has that effect, but except in rare cases that is not the intent.

I disagree. Well, I guess we can't know intent in all cases. But we can talk about how creepiness functions. If I wanted to figure out who is vulnerable, all I have to do is act slightly creepy -- violate some boundaries in very light ways, something like "teasing" that isn't really teasing, or tickling and not stopping immediately when asked. You could isolate vulnerability very quickly that way.

Does that mean that everyone who acts that way is looking for vulnerability? No, of course not, but it absolutely points to why we shouldn't be defending or perpetuating that kind of behavior.
posted by Forktine at 4:28 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is a broad range of male socially awkward behavior, including date-seeking socially awkward behavior. It is not all creepy, and I agree with those above who say that the conflation of the two is counterproductive. My social circles have always tended towards the geeky, and I've been around lots of men who have no idea how to talk to women. Most of them come across as totally harmless. It is not creepy to be insecure, or to not be good at eye contact, or to talk about nothing but Warcraft, or to not know how to keep a conversation going at all, or to run around with a towel tied around your neck pretending to be a superhero.

What is creepy is habitually crossing women's boundaries. We were all very aware of who the few creepy guys among our large circle of awkward nerds were, we talked about it, and they didn't keep getting invited to our parties.

But I now realize that when I say "we" talked about it, I really mean my women friends and I talked about it. I don't think we talked to the guys in the group so much about these problems. And perhaps, from their perspective, it wasn't so easy to spot what was going on. Maybe to a guy in the room, it just looks like one more socially awkward guy getting shot down by a girl he approached. It's not like we hand out cards listing the various reasons we don't want to date each individual guy, so from the outside male perspective, getting turned down due to creepiness may look just like getting turned down because of lack of common interests or whatever, especially when the guy doing the watching is himself not too sure how to successfully interact with women.

But it isn't the same. Most of the awkward guys I've known, despite whatever cluelessness, were able to treat fellow human beings with respect, regardless of gender, the large majority of the time, without having to think about it first. But that very unthinkingness may lead to "let's assume the best intentions until demonstrated otherwise" reactions and tolerance of creepiness both because they don't know what it's like to be the woman whose boundaries are being disregarded and because they have sympathy with awkwardness in general.

I've been fortunate to have been in groups with large and vocal enough female contingents that these creepy shenanigans were not overly tolerated. But I do, now, wish that more of those conversations about the creepers had included our nice nerdy guy friends, too.
posted by unsub at 4:30 PM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Unintentionally intimidating" is still intimidating. The stranger on the other end of the behavior doesn't know if the guy is a good egg who is acting like an out-of-control stalker, or an out-of-control stalker who is acting like an out-of-control stalker.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:30 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


He genuinely did want to be friends with these women even if that's all it was going to be, and was and remains so

I guess I remain confused as to why we need a "Friend Zone" distinction. If both parties are happy to be platonic friends, but there is a level of unequal attraction... so? By bestowing a special relationship status on one person - that girl or that guy is in The Friend Zone - it seems to be making a bigger deal out of a situation that isn't necessarily so.

Maybe this is just golden agism creeping up on me. When I was a kid, and you liked a friend of yours, but didn't want to tell them, we called it a 'crush' or even a 'secret crush'. We didn't pretend that the other person was in any way an active member in our internal fantasy, by pretending that we had been placed in some kind of Zone.
posted by muddgirl at 4:31 PM on August 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


When I was a kid, and you liked a friend of yours, but didn't want to tell them

Or you did tell them and they shot you down, and you remained friends...
posted by muddgirl at 4:32 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re "creep" semantics:

I think, where some mis-understanding seems to lurk (like a creep!) is that, as people have mentioned, the word has multiple meanings, just like any word that generalizes an individual. I can't speak for everyone, but in my younger days I definitely over-heard two attractive women have the conversation such as thus: "Oh, Derek, what a creep! giggle giggle!" And, as a guy, I think: Oh my god! What if I'm Derek to Shirley! or whatever? And then I could just see her, giggling behind my back about what a hopeless loser I am and how pathetic it is that moi-creep would have any chance with her. And then, of course, I grew up and got along what not. So, I guess the word has evolved, and now it means "potential sexual predator," but whenever I hear it, I still think of being a pathetic loser in college, who had no idea of how the world worked whatsoever, and being afraid to death that somewhere, some girl, thought I was a creep :(
posted by gagglezoomer at 4:33 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sidhedevil: "Unintentionally intimidating" is still intimidating. The stranger on the other end of the behavior doesn't know if the guy is a good egg who is acting like an out-of-control stalker, or an out-of-control stalker who is acting like an out-of-control stalker.

Totally agree, but there's a fundamental split here where some people are insisting creepers are creepy on purpose, whereas others (including myself) maintain that creepers are unintentionally creepy, that they know exactly what they're doing when they make women uncomfortable. The difference in intent is crucial to understanding the "creeper" phenomenon.

bilabial: They are in it to, at best, make women and girls uncomfortable, and at worst to identify and groom victims.

I mean... Really?? Ugh. How dehumanizing. How Othering.

Like others on here, I've been a creepy guy at times too, and I've NEVER tried to "groom victims". I have, however, made many many social missteps in my day. And I hate that I made some women uncomfortable. I used to really, really suck at the whole dating process. Now I just kind of suck at it.
posted by LordSludge at 4:52 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


muddgirl: perhaps I wasn't clear. There'd been some concern in the thread that "creepy" was an overbroad term, used to paint all romantically awkward men with the "proto-rapist" brush. I was just giving a counter-example, because I don't think that's the reality at all. There's awkward and there's creepy. They are two pretty different things and we know them when we see them.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:01 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Immature people will be mean though, and call names, and it sucks that that makes things confusing for the unwitting subject of such name-calling. Yeah, awkward introverts will get called creeps by immature girls, but there's a huge difference between that and a man demonstrating creepy behavior. Same goes for the awkward->creep->PUA-> continuum (albeit a wibbly, wobbly one). We're not bashing awkward guys here, we're trying to discuss what's appropriate and inappropriate behavior so that hopefully with some self-awareness and work, that slide down the continuum can be avoided.

I'm not really sure the word has evolved so much as it just has different contexts and uses, like anything else. I don't see a creep, in the conscientious use, as a potential sexual predator, but as someone having crossed boundaries. (Boundaries which I really don't think are that vague. All the women in this and similar threads has made it clear what sets off their mental alarms.)

I don't find the friendzone conversation that productive. Friendzone is a mental construct created by the rejected party, male or female, and I don't think necessarily has to imply that you were expecting/deserved more. The term is a product of disappointment, or resignation. It can definitely be bitter and douchey, though. I don't know, this is coming from a woman who's never been friendzoned because she didn't really pursue many men in the first place. What do I know.

If I were LW2, I would have been reaching out with, like, an anaconda. Or a flamethrower.

I'm developing so many ladycrushes in this thread.
posted by Sayuri. at 5:01 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Or, I guess, we men don't always know "threatening-creepy" when we see it, as is the point of this FPP, so maybe I'm just rambling.)
posted by Navelgazer at 5:02 PM on August 9, 2012


I don't think anyone has made the claim that every guy who falls in love easily is creepy.
posted by muddgirl at 5:04 PM on August 9, 2012


And, as a guy, I think: Oh my god! What if I'm Derek to Shirley! or whatever? And then I could just see her, giggling behind my back about what a hopeless loser I am and how pathetic it i

Dude, there is a huge difference between pathetic loser and "creepy". CREEPY MEN FRIGHTEN WOMEN, OK? Or, make women itch to kick them right in the nuts, depending on the woman's personality.

Potential suitors who live with their parents, are socially inept, shy, insecure, smell weird or vote Republican might be rejected with extreme prejudice and they might not like it but IT'S NOT THE SAME THING.
posted by fshgrl at 5:12 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Totally agree, but there's a fundamental split here where some people are insisting creepers are creepy on purpose, whereas others (including myself) maintain that creepers are unintentionally creepy, that they know exactly what they're doing when they make women uncomfortable. The difference in intent is crucial to understanding the "creeper" phenomenon.

I see what you mean, but I think the problem the OP touches on is that very often, it's easier to excuse or deny creepy behavior by saying "oh, he's just awkward / socially inept / geeky". It's often considered more shitty to tell the poor awkward creeper that he is creeping everybody out than it is to tell the girl that "he didn't mean anything by it".

And as others have said, the problem is that women don't KNOW if that guy at the party is just awkward or "genuinely" creepy.

How does the difference in intent make a difference in how to handle/address the problem?
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:29 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"he didn't mean anything by it" = "you are raising a fuss over a nonexistent thing, your offended feelings are bad and you should feel bad"

It's in the same non-apology camp as "I'm sorry if you're offended," only secondhand and so even more watered down.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:37 PM on August 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


LordSludge: Certainly, not all men who ever exhibit creepy behavior are grooming victims. But some of them definitely are (for examples, see that Reddit thread where rapists tell their stories). I am not saying this to try to put you in the same category as rapists, but to demonstrate that there are categories of creepiness that are distinct from those of your personal experience. Unless you have been keeping a pretty keen eye out for it, I suspect that your data set of creepy guys is more limited than that of the average woman. Some men are inadvertently creepy for a while and then get themselves straightened out. Some men are creepy out of total disregard for women's feelings and experiences. A variety of motives can lead to the same behaviors, and there are many different levels severity of creepy behavior.

I think "I used to be somewhat creepy, and feel badly about it, therefore all creepy guys are just clueless and inept," is another form of minimization of a phenomenon which is really not mostly harmless, even if it was in your personal case.
posted by unsub at 5:39 PM on August 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


LordSludge, there are men who behave inappropriately to women on purpose. There are men who behave inappropriately to women because they don't realize what they're doing is inappropriate. Both groups are called "creepers" because they creep people out.

Now, maybe there needs to be more granular terminology, like we call people we know to be conscious predators "vultures" and people we know to have mistaken beliefs about what behaviors are appropriate "hedgehogs" or whatever.

But the current terminology is "creeper" and it means someone whose behavior, for whatever reason, creeps people out. I would argue that the onus is not on the person being creeped out to produce a more precise taxonomy.

So. There are creepers who are mistaken. There are creepers who know exactly what they're doing, which is treating women like they're not people. When you're the person being followed down the street and into your gym, you don't spend a lot of time wondering "Why does this man think this is OK, when it's clearly not?" You think "Holy fuck, this is so not OK!"
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:40 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dude, there is a huge difference between pathetic loser and "creepy".

I think the point I was trying to make was that maybe the word gets tossed around a little bit, and what it means to you doesn't mean the same thing to an young adult who herself hasn't exactly mastered the English language. Maybe there are guys who have been called "creeps" just for trying to shoot for the stars with someone out of their league (and remember, we were all young and stupid once). So, then, you know, they come to this thread and see "creep = rapist" (I'm exaggerating I know) and remember when someone called them a "creep" or their friend a "creep" and then everyone wonders where the "straw feminist" comes from and that's probably like 20% of it right there.
posted by gagglezoomer at 5:40 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm in my 40s but a lot of my social circle is younger - for us, "creepy" is an attitude, "creeper" is when creepy crosses the line into continued unwanted advances after being rejected.

I see it more in the younger adults and remember it well from my own college days. Oh, I remember so very well. Because I let a friend down. I, one of the females she came to for help, gave her a soft answer and kept giving the guy a chance. He was a friend of my husbands; he couldn't be *that* bad, right? Until he raped her after we went to bed. (Party ended, female friend slept on couch, creeper came back about later and let himself in - we hadn't locked all the doors.)

Raped her on my couch while my children slept in their room. She didn't cry out because she didn't want to traumatize my young daughters (she babysat them often, loved them). He left and she stayed on that couch crying and dying inside until morning.


So, yeah, people - when you have "that guy" in your group, do something about it before... well, before it's too late. Before you're crying 15 years later just trying to type out a story of something that didn't even happen to you.

(Oh, I managed to get rid of creeper after that - I got rid of him so well he left college and returned to home state. Since his roommates kicked him out, no others would claim him as a friend anymore, and wasn't welcome in our social areas, there was no point in staying in the city.)
posted by _paegan_ at 5:45 PM on August 9, 2012 [17 favorites]


Anybody who comes to the thread and thinks we are talking about anyone other than "people whose behaviors creep other people out" didn't RTFA or indeed RTFT.

Yes, I agree that the "straw feminist" here, just like every other straw figure, comes from people who aren't paying attention to what other people are actually saying and just listening to the echo chambers in their heads, but it sounds like you're suggesting that that is the fault of the people who are talking, not the people who aren't listening.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:47 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer: "I have a friend who, for a long time, was hard-core stuck in the 'friend zone' with every woman he was interested in romantically. I don't know if he ever put it in those words (I don't think so) but he'd fall head-over-heels for a woman in our social circle, often times bringing her into our social circle, and get frustrated when the romantic feelings were never reciprocated (though usually the women would be interested in another guy in the group.) The difference with my friend, though, is that: 1. He genuinely did want to be friends with these women even if that's all it was going to be, and was and remains so (some of these women are still his closest friends, and his old feelings for them were never unclear.) 2. He never thought that he just needed to 'put his time in,' with them, so to speak. 3. He never did anything to make them feel unsafe. Hence, he knows the feeling of the 'friend zone,' but was not a creeper. He was awkward with women (he's got a great girlfriend now, met through online dating, I believe, which got him over the initial hurdle for him of presenting himself in romantic terms) but he wasn't ever creepy. 'Doing it wrong' does not mean 'creepy.' But if you're creepy, yes, you're doing it wrong."

I have a couple of reaction to this. First, argh. Did he ever actually, you know, ask the woman out if he was into her? No, I guess not. And it's not his fault if he was socially awkward. None of this makes him creepy.

What would be creepy would be if he said to all his friends, "stupid women always put me in the friend zone." Because that would mean blaming his own awkwardness on the supposed manipulativeness of women, and it would mean acting as though they're obligated to want to be with him.

You don't say he ever said that, so I assume he didn't.

In the larger sense, though, I totally agree with your main point. The line between "creepy" and "just an awkward guy" is bright and clear, at least to those of us using the term this way. Please remember that this is a thread about guys who touch other girls without permission and complain when they get upset.

And also, it's kind of annoying that these conversations always turn into 'not all guys are like that!' and 'hey, most guys mean well!' - as though anybody disputed that, and as though anyone simply hates men. It'd be awesome if we could have a conversation about this stuff just once without going down that road, but ah well.
posted by koeselitz at 5:51 PM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Lordsludge, I'm going to address your comment in two parts.
whereas others (including myself) maintain that creepers are unintentionally creepy, that they know exactly what they're doing when they make women uncomfortable. The difference in intent is crucial to understanding the "creeper" phenomenon.
The only way to know intention is to be in the head of the actor. And this is not possible. Allowing for the "maybe he means well" intention excuse also allows for the creeps to say "but she really wants it..." or "she was super flirting with me before she passed out, she totally intended to have sex with me." Except we know that these are not valid excuses. Because we have only external information to rely on, we have to rely on the behavior. Which in these links of the OP, is severe boundary crossing. Asking creeps if they want the object (ha! object!) of their attention to be uncomfortable usually (yes! qualified!) leads to the creep saying, "NO man, we're all just having a good time here. Relax!" They either don't know or won't admit that they are headed down a path of creepiness. And we can't tell if it's ignorance or lying. We. Can't. Tell.

I said:
As I said before, many creepy guys aren't generally in this for real life relationships. and sometimes not even to get dates. They are in it to, at best, make women and girls uncomfortable, and at worst to identify and groom victims.
posted by bilabial at 6:51 PM on August 9 [2 favorites +] [!]
You taking They are in it to, at best, make women and girls uncomfortable, and at worst to identify and groom victims. out of that paragraph looks pretty disingenuous. I made it pretty clear that I am not accusing every guy who seems creepy of being out to get his rape on. I did this with the use of the qualifiers "many" and "generally."

In my 20+ years of experience with men, the ones who merely seem creepy are the ones who back off when I give signals of disinterest or tell them, "no thanks." The ones who are creepy are the ones who tell me to "stop being such a self absorbed bitch who thinks everyone wants to get in your pants!" when I try to leave or say, "no thanks." The ones who are creepy tell rape jokes and get offended when I say "that's not funny." I don't have enough fingers to count all the times I've been sexually assaulted or raped by creepy guys who insisted they meant no harm or blamed me for being upset. I have never been assaulted or raped by a guy who said "actually, you're right. That was a pretty shitty thing to say. Thanks for letting me know you're uncomfortable."

I'm very happy that you do not fit into what I freely admit is a generalization. And I am very happy that you have actively worked to seem/be less creepy. Because allowing guys to act/be creepy because they "might actually be great/harmless guys" gives cover to the assholes who are boundary pushers and/or rapists. And sadly, unless there is video of a dude raping another woman, or I am lucky enough to have a friend/acquaintance brave enough to have told me that dude is a rapist...the only way I can know for sure that a guy is a rapist is that he rapes me. And hey, I've had the experience! I'm going to do my damnedest to forgo that method of data collection, whether or not creepy seeming non-rapists are offended by my efforts.

I think you might understand why sharing what is "generally" happening makes us safer? If a few good apples get let down because I'm afraid, let's treat the actual problem, which is that this behavior is often the precursor to horrifying things, instead of saying, "but I'm a good guy! other creepy guys are good guys too! Stop painting us all with the same brush." Instead, when you come across a creepy guy (or woman!), tell him (or her!), "hey, when you act like that, you are acting like a creep." You don't have to call him a creep. Just keep it factual, this is behavior that creeps engage in. If the person is an asshole, he'll keep doing it. If he's a nice guy, he'll make an effort to learn. (and yes, I do believe that people can change. But I strongly believe that people tell us who they are. If a guy is moving in closer while I am backing up? I believe that he doesn't respect my comfort. Same with rape jokes, ass grabbing, and leering, etc.)

I have witnessed deeply creepy guys pull the "I had no idea!!! you guys were all so uptight" card when confronted about this shit. Guys who had cornered me at parties to tell me that they'd wanted to know if I'd fuck them, or did they need to invest in some roofies. Guys who groped girls at parties even after the girls had swatted them away. Ignorance of social norms.

So the intention argument gets no traction with me. None. I will repeat it: can't know for sure that someone is willing to rape me until that person tries. Until the onus is on men to not try, I have to do what I can to protect myself and those around me. Sadly, there are no signs or collars or badges for wanna be rapists, or repeat rapists. These people are often Sunday school teachers, college students, baby sitters, neighbors, colleagues.
posted by bilabial at 5:52 PM on August 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


It'd be awesome if we could have a conversation about this stuff just once without going down that road, but ah well.

Look, there are people saying that an evolving term always means X, that a particular behaviour without a doubt indicates motivations Y and Z. I don't see how you can have people make those assertions and not expect them to be questioned. My little part was in simply noting that I've heard the term used more loosely as people seem to be insisting is the case. It's not a big deal. I also don't think absolute uniformity of reply and agreement on every conceivable point is required to condemn absolutely heinous behaviour. It would be awesome if we could have a conversation about this stuff just once without insisting that it be so.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:00 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


koeselitz: no, he never said those things, is a genuinely great guy and just had no confidence in himself until his mid-to-late twenties. In fact, when we were in a band together, his perhaps most emotional and beautiful song was about one of these women, basically with the message of "well it's clearly never going to happen between us, but you're going to have an amazing life and it's enough for me to just know that." He's come wonderfully into his own since that time, as I've said, but he never acted entitled nor blamed the women for not being into him. He was just understandably frustrated.

Anyway, I'm sorry for having added to the "friend zone" derail with what was supposed to be just a story to draw clear lines between "awkward" and "creepy" and move things along. I know what we're talking about here. I've had a lot of experience witnessing it.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:08 PM on August 9, 2012


I have to do what I can to protect myself and those around me.

This is the bottom line, for sure. And I just want to make clear that I never wanted to suggest that anyone should ignore their instincts as some kind of "benefit of the doubt". That would be incredibly unwise. Again, I was speaking about too-casual use of the term, where some people seem to be intentionally conflating danger with distaste, not about people actually perceiving danger and reacting to it.

You don't have to call him a creep. Just keep it factual, this is behavior that creeps engage in.

I am dealing with my own (potentially dangerous) creepy neighbour at the moment and would be interested to hear if others think this is good advice. Because my immediate instinct is to do nothing to set him off, and pointing out his socially inappropriate behaviour seems like it might do that.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:16 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean... Really?? Ugh. How dehumanizing. How Othering.

This reads an awful lot like, “It’s too bad so many of you women have had men sexually assault and rape you, but you really should be more careful how you talk about it. You might hurt my feelings.”

I was first sexually harrassed when I was in seventh grade. I was walking home from school and two men in a jeep less than ten feet away from me started yelling about giving me oral sex and how they'd like to have sex with me. Street harrassment was common after that, so common I don't recall instances I recall locations and complete with the usual cars circling multiple times, and only died down in my mid twenties when I stopped using as much public transportation and stopped walking.

I was first serially sexually harrassed by a person when I was in the ninth grade. He spent my art class harrassing me, including putting his hand on my chair and then telling me to sit on it. No amount of moving, saying no, and ignoring him worked. I finally told my mother about it and she suggested going to the teacher about it, but I didn't want to make a big deal about it. He was making me hate my favorite class, but I didn't want to get him in trouble with the teacher. I didn't want to dehuminize and other him, to use your appropriation of language. It took listing out two pages of what he'd been doing nearly daily to go to my teacher, and I was lucky; she was female and immediately moved him away from me and made sure he never bothered me in her class again. I've had more minor instances of serial harrassment since, but that one again stands out as the first indication that I was never safe.

In the tenth grade, a car stopped next to me when I was walking home and the driver yelled at me to get in and they'd give me a ride. There was no way in the Nine Worlds I'd ever do that. I'm sure just as men justified a stranger waiting for a woman in a dark hallway to talk to her alone as something "reasonable" that the words about how my refusal to trust these men, to paint them with the same brushes as rapists (OH MY GODS HOW DARE I!!!!) is a horrible thing. One of them, one I actually knew when he'd been to my house with my brother, approached me the next day at school, appologized for scaring me, and explained the situation. I assessed the dangers and did end up getting rides from them and having them as friends, but if that man who'd approached me at school had mocked my fear or told me I was othering them by being suspicious and self-protective I never would have.

I was raped by my ex-boyfriend. I was at his house, in his room, so clearly I "asked for it." He's a charming person who I loved and valued as a friend for a long time, but that didn't stop him from ignoring me as I tried to push him off of me and told him, "We can't do this" and "stop" and "don't." Now I can see all the red flags that led to that result, but at the time... I trusted him. I loved him. I loved him for years afterward until I realized just how profoundly my ability to relate to men was because of my own denial that I was raped.

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to trust another man like that again. All of mankind being judged by a fifteen minute rape - truly I'm a horrible human being. Othering. Dehumanizing. Any othering or dehuminizing I've experienced is clearly unimportant.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:19 PM on August 9, 2012 [35 favorites]


Yeah, the whole "Well sure it's terrible women get molested and harassed and raped, but what if some wonderful nerd boy who is just a little awkward gets his feelings hurt and doesn't get to hit on women because they think he's creepy?" is disappointing, but unsurprising.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:24 PM on August 9, 2012 [25 favorites]


I feel like there is a thing that happens in all of these threads on sexual harassment/creepy behavior, where a few people start protesting because they once did a thing that might possibly have been called X, or they were once unjustly called X, and they're not bad people! You can't lump everyone who ever did X in with the really bad people!

And yes, language is sometimes used imprecisely, it is true, but mainly the problem is not our lack of finely-tuned semantics, the actual problem for all of us is the people who do really bad shit. If there were not super creepy dudes who made women miserable and drove them out of social groups and raped them, then your accidentally-too-forward-pass-at-a-lady-once would not set off alarm bells, because women would be able to default to feeling safe around men, instead of always having to keep an eye out for creepiness that might be the only warning they get before an assault.

Which, I think, is one of the points the original article was trying to make: that when decent, well-intentioned folks give this kind of shit a pass and blame women for reading too much into supposedly-innocent shenanigans, the end results are poor all around. The solution to being lumped in with bad people is less to appeal to the dictionary and more to stand up to the super creepy dudes who are making your gender look bad.
posted by unsub at 6:28 PM on August 9, 2012 [18 favorites]


How about creepy = 'Sets the Spidey sense tingling'.

You know when someone is at an event and is throwing off vibes that he's there for some other purpose. Like you think he's going to boost stuff from the house party, or he's only on this retreat to suck up to one person on the team, or he's scoutmaster because he pervs, it can be easy to detect. Or like Dr. Glass, it can be an awareness of something incongruent but it just makes you wary and attentive.

Creepy is creepy, not awkward. I take it as a given that most women have good instruments for creep detection. I hope my daughter acquires that equipment.
posted by drowsy at 6:41 PM on August 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Maybe there are guys who have been called "creeps" just for trying to shoot for the stars with someone out of their league (and remember, we were all young and stupid once).

Maybe there could be more guys who approach attractive women as fellow people with thoughts and feelings instead of as beautiful, coveted objects on distant pedestals of impossible desire who grant magical status to their owners. Then there could be fewer men who say "She called me a creep because she thinks she's out of my league" while the women say "That guy is a creep because he doesn't think I'm human."
posted by nicebookrack at 6:51 PM on August 9, 2012 [20 favorites]


Nicebookrack,

Have some perspective. I was specifically referencing an experience that I had over a decade ago, when I was a college student. Last time I checked, nobody talks like you seem to think they do in your quotation, and especially not when they were 19 years old. Also, I hate the attitude when individuals project adult mindsets onto people who society deems adults but are, really, children.
posted by gagglezoomer at 6:59 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or more bluntly: how often do guys say about a woman "she's out of my league" because she's a brilliantly funny weightlifting-gold-medalist who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry and not because her body is pleasantly symmetrical.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:03 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Discussion of how not to be a creeper on John Scalzi's Whatever.
posted by Peach at 7:05 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, I hate the attitude when individuals project adult mindsets onto people who society deems adults but are, really, children.

Discovering that other people are human and hurtable was very important and I learned it when I pushed them in the playground mud and they cried even though playground mud is fun and I liked it. Also from biting my sister's arm and getting grounded.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:12 PM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


She totally deserved biting but I knew what I was doing, i.e. harm.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:15 PM on August 9, 2012


"Creep" always implied "predatory" to me, in that it was about someone sneaking around, like a snake or lizard, who do so in order to catch prey unawares. A "Creeper" was a sort of 50s-60s variety-show joke character, in the vein of window-peepers or the dirty old man on Laugh-In, though of course such behavior is in fact predatory, but nobody took it seriously then.

I did know a guy a little like this who settled down (and got married) and is now perfectly pleasant to talk to and no longer hugs you with a feely sweep/grope on your bra strap area.

I still have a hard time forgiving him for that though, because come on. And it's a little disconcerting to think someone who appears to be a nice person ever acted that way and thought it was ok. It's good that he can change, but of course you can't help thinking, if he divorces will he go right back to groping?
posted by emjaybee at 7:24 PM on August 9, 2012


Yeah, the whole "Well sure it's terrible women get molested and harassed and raped, but what if some wonderful nerd boy who is just a little awkward gets his feelings hurt and doesn't get to hit on women because they think he's creepy?" is disappointing, but unsurprising.

In an attempt to explain my take on this whole thing, I will state my own "reading" of things:

1) When I read the captainawkward article it was clearly about very troubling males in one's social circle that display creepiness that a) makes people uncomfortable and, b) suggests they could cause physical harm / sexual assault if trusted to far.

2) When I read the comments in this thread, 1/3rd of them were talking about the article, while another 1/3rd were using terms like "most men" in relation to the article, and the last 1/3rd was fighting about what "friend zone" means.

If you disagree, I'd recommend you re-read the article and then re-read this thread. One is very specific about a very specific set of dangerous people. The other is a lot of very huge generalizations about broad groups. I've gotten to a point in my life where I can (mostly) ignore the generalizations knowing that "that isn't what they really meant" but I don't know how much others can. Even knowing, it is still very very frustrating because I am a programmer and excessively pedantic.. But I also think the more generalized your argument, the more of your audience you chance offending, which means gaining enemies not allies. The more concise we can be about the actual problems, the more potentially enemies become allies and are then able to "get" it. I whole-heartedly agree that men and women should be calling people out on their inappropriate behaviour.. and there are some people - both men and women - who don't "get" it and won't even if we were pedantic and accurate.
posted by mbatch at 7:27 PM on August 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


tl;dr: if you make broad sweeping generalizations don't be surprised if people overreact about that.
posted by mbatch at 7:30 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And since I made it to this thread, despite that it is a derail -- I've always taken "friend zone" to mean that the person being crushed on is actively and knowingly manipulating the crusher for profit and gain by implying a slowly growing romantic relationship while knowing all along that they have no intentions of getting physically intimate. I know women and men who have openly admitted that, yes, they were using someone for a) money, b) street cred, c) to get into shows/VIP lounges/etc, etc. People do this sort of stuff to each other all the time though I would believe it is weighted towards a younger and more immature crowd.
posted by mbatch at 7:37 PM on August 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't speak for everyone, but in my younger days I definitely over-heard two attractive women have the conversation such as thus: "Oh, Derek, what a creep! giggle giggle!" And, as a guy, I think: Oh my god! What if I'm Derek to Shirley! or whatever? And then I could just see her, giggling behind my back about what a hopeless loser I am and how pathetic it is that moi-creep would have any chance with her.

There's a lot of latent stuff to unpack here, but pretty much:posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:41 PM on August 9, 2012 [34 favorites]


Yeah, I'm sorry, but the long game for me doesn't include being buddies with rapists just for the sake of karma.

I think you misunderstand karma. The long game isn't about individuals versus individuals. I'm sorry people don't see it that way.
posted by polymodus at 7:45 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dittoed for truth, PhoBWanKenobi, thanks, now flagging and moving on
posted by nicebookrack at 7:55 PM on August 9, 2012


Let me tell you a little story about a guy whose behavior was definitely not anywhere near as egregious as what was described in the original post or the "The Question" comment, or in the majority of the stories related here, and didn't want to think of himself as a creep--in fact, was deathly afraid of people thinking he was a creep--but was pretty socially awkward, particularly around women, very particularly around women that he was attracted to. He doesn't like to admit this now, but sometimes, when they made it clear that they weren't interested in him romantically, he'd try to stay in the friendzone, never quite admitting to himself that he was secretly hoping that they'd change their minds, like the guy in innumerable 80s romcoms who would futilely chase the blonde until they realized that their friend, the brunette, was the perfect one for them all along; he aspired to be that brunette. He never was that brunette, and would occasionally get exploited by the object of his desire, but never really learned his lesson.

Until one day, when he was a bit older but still within young adulthood, and went through the cycle again with someone who seemed OK with being friends, until she told him that he needed to cool it and stop sending her emails for a while (this was when email was still a pretty new medium for the relatively few people that had it, like this guy); he was hurt and wanted to know what the problem was, and why they couldn't talk it out, and she was pretty insistent on telling him to cut it out and was even a bit cold to him. And he was pretty butthurt about it for a while, pretty damn mad if you want the truth, and brooded about it and bitched about it to the people who would listen, but he was polite to her and gave her her space, and in time they became friends again.

And then she told him why she had to take a break for a while, and what had happened to her a while back, and what had triggered her reaction, and in particular how his being about twice her size, literally, factored into this, and he got a radically different perspective on the situation, to put it mildly. And he was grateful for her friendship and her courage in talking about such a painful subject. And he resolved that if some woman didn't seem to reciprocate his interest in her pretty much immediately and unequivocally, he'd drop it, and if they somehow became friends regardless, that was great, but he had no reason or right to expect that "with benefits" would ever be tacked onto that in the future. And that's worked out pretty well for him ever since, I think.

So, to any dude out there who has been reading this thread and is worried that they might be a creep--hey, the fact that you're worrying about it is a good sign; the real creeps are too good about rationalizing their behavior, I think. But you can take this thread (and Scalzi's checklist linked above in particular) to examine your own behavior in this regard. And try not to resent people who are suggesting that you do the same. Sometimes, you've got to be cruel to be kind, as the man sang.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:59 PM on August 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I only have one think to say anymore. None of this is about guys making sure they're not creepy. That's not what either letter was about. This isn't a warning to guys who are worried they come off as creepy. This isn't about better dating strategies or getting out of the friendzone. Rape culture isn't about rapists, it's about the surrounding culture that serves as support for them. This is about the men and the women in social circles who let everyone from "creepy uncles" to serial rapists continue to violate the boundaries of the more socially vulnerable because it's "boys being boys" and they don't know any better. The creepers are a problem. The bigger problem is the culture that permits their behavior and its up to every individual to make sure they are dismantling rather than supporting that sick system.
posted by Danila at 8:08 PM on August 9, 2012 [29 favorites]


Someone please go put that Scalzi post on the front page!
posted by Sayuri. at 8:09 PM on August 9, 2012


Hey from that Scalzi post, the pithiest maxim:

"You can avoid being a creeper [by] not having a goal that you are creeping towards."

Perfection. And +1 on @Danila, and getting back to cases, this also really helps explain what the creepy, hinky feeling is about: some dude is creeping toward a goal that is not welcome - and thinking with every move that goal is somehow closer regardless of the object's reaction. That can't be tolerated when it is experienced.
posted by drowsy at 8:32 PM on August 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


None of this is about guys making sure they're not creepy. That's not what either letter was about. This isn't a warning to guys who are worried they come off as creepy. This isn't about better dating strategies or getting out of the friendzone. Rape culture isn't about rapists, it's about the surrounding culture that serves as support for them. This is about the men and the women in social circles who let everyone from "creepy uncles" to serial rapists continue to violate the boundaries of the more socially vulnerable because it's "boys being boys" and they don't know any better. The creepers are a problem. The bigger problem is the culture that permits their behavior and its up to every individual to make sure they are dismantling rather than supporting that sick system.

The problem, I think, is that the socially awkward can end up absorbing the rape culture, even if they're nowhere near the "creepy uncle" or serial rapist end of the continuum. A guy can legitimately want to avoid acting like a creep without necessarily expecting that it will help him in dating "strategy." But just because a guy wants to avoid acting like a creep doesn't mean that he won't come off as creepy in some situations. As scalzi said, creepy is in the eye of the beholder, and arguing with somebody who judges you as a creep only makes you more of a creep.
posted by jonp72 at 8:33 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


polymodus: “I know there's not much room in the conversation for this, but honestly I was saddened that in both stories, Creeper and Awkward end up being ostracized. What these men needed was someone to reach through to them, to help them mature and grow into allies. I suppose that's the long game.”

jetlagaddict: “Yeah, I'm sorry, but the long game for me doesn't include being buddies with rapists just for the sake of karma. In both cases these guys actually had friends who somehow actually were okay with their behaviors. It was the women who were threatened with a loss of friendship and company over their 'inability' to deal with suggestions involving their ladyparts, not really the reverse. If I were LW2, I would have been reaching out with, like, an anaconda. Or a flamethrower. [Note: do not actually own snakes or flamethrowers. Would not actually attack a dude with a snake, not even on a plane. But I would absolutely ostracize the hell out of him.]”

polymodus: “I think you misunderstand karma. The long game isn't about individuals versus individuals. I'm sorry people don't see it that way.”

I don't think karma has much to do with it.

Look, I agree when you say that the goal of politics is the greatest good for the greatest number – and that even when people do really bad shit, we (as in the whole-society we) ought to seek to act in a way that benefits them. All human beings are human beings, and all human beings are supposed to be beneficiaries of civil society.

But I think you're very, very wrong when you equate that goal of mutual benefit with a need for "someone to reach out to them, to help them mature and grow into allies." This is true when people are adolescents. It is not true for adults. It is a bit comforting to believe that what people who commit sexual assault or sexual harassment really need is a connection with someone who can help them, but that isn't how the human soul works.

Responsibility to other people is a real and concrete thing. When people threaten or touch others without consent, and when they do so repeatedly, the process they need isn't a coddling or a connecting. What they need is the formal process of punishment and reconciliation with society at large. They need to be able to accept that they've done something wrong, and to feel as though they've worked to right the wrong they did and paid their debt.

Lots of people find this a bit weird and counter-intuitive, but it's true: sometimes the very best thing a person can do in these kinds of situations, particularly when there's a clear-cut instance of lawbreaking (like the assault) is report these men to the police and file charges. I don't blame any woman if she doesn't want the hassle of having to do that; it's not their responsibility, given that they're the victims of these crimes. But if you wanted to do these men good, having them go through the system, have it made clear to them what they did wrong, and have them face the consequences and pay their debt to society is the best thing you can do for them.

Believe me, if there were some way to push past these things with the buddy system, that would happen. So many of the guys we're talking about – particularly those in the two letters in the linked article – were given so many chances, and had so many people pulling for them and trying to help them make it work. They were beyond that kind of recourse, though. There are some things that just being nice and welcoming won't solve.
posted by koeselitz at 8:36 PM on August 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


There are some wonderful comments in this thread (nebulawindphone, Frowner, Eyebrows McGee, jonp72...) but it's not easy reading. It is terribly saddening to read about the "thousand little pleasant ways that women are trained to say no" and it is also saddening to see the awkward and inept being classified as potential rapists - justified but sad. I've creeped out a couple of wonderful people over the years (cf. 1, 2). Looking back it just hurts to know that I made them feel anything but warmly loved. I can only hope I've since developed that emotional continence. Threads like these help.
posted by deo rei at 8:38 PM on August 9, 2012


The thing that kind of blows my mind about all of this discussion (here and elsewhere) is that it is such a departure from what was once considered absolutely normal. The best example of this is Scalzi's #5 -- no touching -- which has never seemed ok to me and yet has somehow been an absolutely standard item on any list of how to flirt since I can earliest remember. I am much more comfortable in the social world we are moving toward. I can't imagine what a change (painfully gradual though it must be) for women.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:57 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I missed the original link to Scalzi's post, thanks for re-linking it. He really batted that one out of the park, and in some ways it's a great companion piece to the articles in this FPP.

In particular, his comments about letting the other person initiate contact and not boxing people in are all things I have tried to be careful to apply in my own life for years now. As a relatively imposing man, my being touch-feely would carry baggage I'm not interested in; I'd rather just be solid, calm, and comfortable in my own skin. I'm tall and easy to find in a crowd -- if you want to give me a hug, you'll know where I am.

A guy can legitimately want to avoid acting like a creep without necessarily expecting that it will help him in dating "strategy." But just because a guy wants to avoid acting like a creep doesn't mean that he won't come off as creepy in some situations. As scalzi said, creepy is in the eye of the beholder, and arguing with somebody who judges you as a creep only makes you more of a creep.

Scalzi's piece is all about what you as an individual can and should be doing. The articles in the FPP are about something more complicated, when someone else in a group is, or appears to be, acting like a creeper. It's easy for me to police whether or not I am a groper. It's not nearly so easy to know what is going on, and what to do about it, if an acquaintance seems to be creeping people out.

I think a lot of the time "Dude, that's kind of creepy, don't you think?" carries some real weight coming from another guy. I said literally those exact words to someone just a few weeks ago, and at least when I'm around he's been keeping a handle on the creepy commentary since then. And that's the link between the FPP and Scalzi's piece -- if you pick up on something on the creepy spectrum, say something. Creepiness relies on darkness and silence; being exposed for the world to see changes everything.
posted by Forktine at 8:59 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Oh, I managed to get rid of creeper after that - I got rid of him so well he left college and returned to home state. Since his roommates kicked him out, no others would claim him as a friend anymore, and wasn't welcome in our social areas, there was no point in staying in the city.)

Paegan, I appreciate what you have told us, and I totally agree with and understand with what you and your friends did. Yet somehow the pessimistic side of me worries whether that creeper wormed him his way into a new circle of friends in a new city, simply repeating the process all over again, especially after I read the link about men who've admitted on surveys to committing multiple sexual assaults. (Tl;dr: (1) just 4% of the men in one survey committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes; (2) in another similar survey, 95% of the attempted or completed rapes were committed by just 8.4% of the men. I found this just as scary, if not scarier, than the material in the FPP.)
posted by jonp72 at 9:06 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry guys, karma actually didn't sound like the correct word when I wrote it but it's been a long couple of weeks and I couldn't find a better substitute at the time. What I meant was more along the lines of "Sorry, but we don't always owe it to them to be the bigger person. Creepers aren't a campsite. Women shouldn't get the burden of leaving them better than we found them." Koeselitz said it better, I think, than I could have. From the stories, it did sound like many men (and women!) have had friends attempt to be allies and reach out. Or, well, their friends have covered for them, leaving them without criticism but with damaged social circles and people in their wake. I don't think "maturity" is the issue. If the lessons of "don't rape women" or "women are not a prize you win at the fair" or "do not stalk women" [or men] have eluded someone after decades, I don't think the community is best served by continuing to try to reach out and cover up their mistakes and actions.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:07 PM on August 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got a lot from the comment that had "The Question" in it. At least since becoming an adult, I have never been concerned about being attacked by someone I know. I know that I might be mugged by a stranger but I have never had to worry about (e.g.) a friend pressuring me into handing over my wallet, or going to sleep and finding an acquaintance rifling my pockets, or a colleague physically forcing me to comply with their wishes. That's the context in which I read Awkward Dude's behaviour - it was embarrassing and irritating, but not threatening. Even waiting in a dark corridor near her room - yes, he was waiting for her, it's another example of his irritating behaviour, so what? It's not as if he were a stranger waiting in a dark alley.

I have now been hit with the Great Stick of Enlightenment. This is obviously different for women because stop rolling your eyes I know that's what you're doing women do have a well-founded fear of being assaulted by people they know. This turns Awkward Dude's behaviour into something much more threatening: given his earlier behaviour he was actually very much like a stranger waiting in a dark alley and Luminous Girl was quite right to be afraid. I can also see that the workshop organisers and other participants were at fault, not just for letting his creepy behaviour spoil her experience but especially because it was a live-in workshop and his behaviour made her feel threatened.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:25 PM on August 9, 2012 [21 favorites]


Final thoughts:

Right now, one of my friends (who is probably the best example of humanity there is, that I've met, in my life) is seeing a junkie loser who verbally and sometimes physically abuses her. (PS She has a support network and is actively working her way out of that situation.) The point of this comment, though is not whether she should DTMFA (it is known), but that, this guy, by virtue of being a piece of human garbage, has caused so much pain. Pain to her, most of all. Pain to her family, somewhat less. And even pain to me, because I am her friend.

So this got me thinking (it's late and I've had a few drinks): like, fuck these assholes. Half the arguments in this discussion (ME INCLUDED) are about distancing ourselves from these life-destroyers. Well, news-flash! There probably are literally no rapists reading this whole deal right now. Look how much damage these sociopathic assholes cause!!! They not only destroy the lives of you, or the people they love, but their friends, acquaintances and colleagues! Apologists v. Advocates is no longer a thing. How about Felons vs. People Who Respect People?
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:58 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Living in a rape culture is awful. I handle it by also living in Touch Me Inappropriately I Will Punch You In Your Astounded Fucking Face culture, population me. Seriously. I'm not wasting time explaining to some fucktard something he already knows but doesn't give a shit about. I will, however, ensure he knows to never try it on me or anyone I know.
posted by moneyjane at 10:31 PM on August 9, 2012 [23 favorites]


I will admit to being a Bad Person who has Bad Ideas.

This line in the original link really resonated with me:
"Women are so socialized and trained to absorb other people’s badness and weirdness for them"
and this from the "The Question" comment: "In return she tried to ignore him, laughed him off politely, repeatedly referenced her desire to do her work, physically moved away whenever he got close to her, and stuck like glue to Dr Glass; saying NO in all those thousand little pleasant ways that women are trained to do. "

I think that another aspect of what we are calling Rape Culture that a lot of males don't grok is how strong the "be nice" conditioning is for women. Strong enough to counter your own instinct for safety and self-preservation. It's constantly self-reinforced in every little interaction we have, be nice, baby the other person's feelings, put yourself last.

It is very very hard for a woman to break that conditioning, and when you do, the reaction will be, as moneyjane puts it, astounded.

I am trying to reprogram myself, every time I find myself doing something sappy like giving my husband the largest steak when dishing up dinner, or agreeing with a shop assistant that some hideous item is just lovely, I give myself permission to kick a Greenpeace canvasser in the shins.

It's a delicate balancing act.
posted by Catch at 10:56 PM on August 9, 2012 [29 favorites]


I don;t think there is anything inherently wrong with making sex jokes or even asking a woman to expose herself as long as it is going on between two consenting adults.

But it isn't. It's going on between a would-be rapist and a potential victim.

The problem starts when one consenting adult has no fucking clue what other consenting adults are into. One adult is having difficulty navigating all the subtle cues that let him know that the other adult is into whatever is happening. If the guy only did this with women who were interested in this, he would be fine. The problem stems from his lack of social skills, He can't even figure out which women those are.

Yeah, I'm going have to call bullshit on that. That's a nice myths us blokes like to tell ourselves when we should know that the reason we're not picking up those oh so subtle clues is because actually, nobody fancies us with a side order of we're not rapists, oh no, we're just awkward and have problems determining if you like us, so excuse us for going a bit too far.

It's that mindset that makes sexual harassment and rape possible and it excuses men from actually being grownup enough not to get our willies out in public. It's an attitude that's especially prevalent in nerdspaces, where of course every second bloke has self diagnosed himself with ADD or Aspergers and it's eternally that day in highschool the football jocks picked on you, so of course you're not expected to adhere to normal every day social standards.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:40 PM on August 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


bilabial: So the intention argument gets no traction with me. None. I will repeat it: can't know for sure that someone is willing to rape me until that person tries. Until the onus is on men to not try, I have to do what I can to protect myself and those around me. Sadly, there are no signs or collars or badges for wanna be rapists, or repeat rapists. These people are often Sunday school teachers, college students, baby sitters, neighbors, colleagues.

Of course you gotta take care of yourself. In the moment, you don't *care* about intent, because you can't be sure. I didn't mean to suggest that you stop doing this in your personal life.

But for purposes of discussing the "creepy" phenomenon and what might be done about it, intent matters a whole lot. The cause, and solution, for each is markedly different. The intentionally creepy, the would-be rapist... well, I don't understand the mindset. I want to say "Some people are animals that need to be put down."... but that's facile. All I can guess is that the person is somehow broken and needs fixing, in some way, so they will no longer want to rape people.

But for the unintentionally creepy folks, I think there is some hope**, because the cause is not malevolence, but social ignorance. They haven't learned the dance; they're stepping on toes. I'd even say *most* guys stay creepy their entire lives, just based on my observations... but then I work in IT, notorious for producing socially awkward guys. It's a real challenge to "train" these guys, because that requires a pretty major setting aside of ego -- particularly difficult for folks with low self-esteem -- but I think it can be done with at least some success. Probably too long a discussion for here, but I could throw out some ideas.

Thank you for the discussion and for sharing your own awful experiences. As a guy, I've had dozens of run-ins with creepy women, myself, and I do think men deserve to not be subjected to creepy behavior as well. But I do understand that it's not at all the same -- I'm a big guy and there was never any possibility of being overpowered physically. And there you have not just the possibility, but the actuality. Horrible.

** And by "hope", I mean hope for both men (the creepers, in this discussion) and women (who would otherwise be creeped-out). Really just "hope" for making the whole situation better rather than throw our collective hands up in GRARRR.
posted by LordSludge at 12:10 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am so angry after reading this thread I want to punch a guy. Not just from the stories of abuse, but also because there are guys who STILL just. Don't. Fucking. Get. It.

I don't want to hear excuses or justifications. I don't want to hear about Friend Zones or how some friend is awkward, our karma or any of that bullshit. Because women are being harassed by guys who make them feel creepy and unsafe.

The ONLY thing I want to hear is "I will have no tolerance for this shitty behavior, no excuses." If you can't give that, then I don't want to know you, because YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.
posted by happyroach at 12:33 AM on August 10, 2012 [33 favorites]


Preach.
posted by Danila at 12:40 AM on August 10, 2012


"The problem starts when one consenting adult has no fucking clue what other consenting adults are into. One adult is having difficulty navigating all the subtle cues that let him know that the other adult is into whatever is happening. If the guy only did this with women who were interested in this, he would be fine. The problem stems from his lack of social skills, He can't even figure out which women those are."

Attraction does not equal consent,

Attraction does not equal consent,

ATTRACTION DOES NOT EQUAL CONSENT

This is a pattern of thinking that a lot of dudes fall into, so much of our culture does, but it is a large aspect of rape culture. Even if one were a mind reader, and truly able to read the minds of potential partners, doing only exactly what they were sexually into, that would not be carte blanche to do it. This kind of thinking still treat potential partners like a vending machine that instead of only needing the requisite number of niceness coins but also needs to correct dance of button pushing.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:55 AM on August 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


I am so angry after reading this thread I want to punch a guy. Not just from the stories of abuse, but also because there are guys who STILL just. Don't. Fucking. Get. It.

I think part of the problem is that "getting it", in the sense that is necessary to be useful, is hard. It's not enough to have good intentions. It's not enough to have the right beliefs. You also need to be able to spot the patterns. When you belong to the privileged group you become blind to them. As a white, middle class, heterosexual male in a well-respected age group and living in the country of my birth, I am constantly surprised at how often I miss things that are obvious to women, racial minority groups, gay folks, immigrants, etc. Over and over again people draw my attention to the "subtle" ways in which the world is made more threatening to people who don't happen to belong to the same privileged categories that I do. And the thing that just kills me is that they're not actually all that subtle. They're right out in the open. But they have no direct, personal consequences for me. And, just like magic or one of those visual illusions in which perceptual adaptation wipes out huge parts of the visual field, they vanish.

The comment on "The Question" that several people have linked to is a really great example. I literally did not spot the "guy waiting in the corridor". I knew he was creepy. I thought he could be dangerous. I did not make the connection between his presence, alone in the corridor at night, waiting, and the intention to rape. When the comment called attention to it, I saw it immediately (and briefly wondered if I'd just failed to read that part of the story), but of course that's way too late to be useful.

Why didn't I see it? I don't think I'm sympathetic to rapists (I hope not), but I'm not afraid of them. I haven't learned to spot them. And as a consequence I over-extend the presumption of benign intentions. In everyday life, the assumption of benign intentions is automatically extended to almost everyone. You need a reason to deny that extension to someone. The problem here is that the guy had clearly forfeited any right at all to that presumption, but I didn't see it until too late. I had classified him as a jerk, I thought he might be dangerous. That was too mild a judgment, but I don't think that's the egregious error. The egregious error is failing to shift the presumptions... if someone might be dangerous, then in these situations it is safest to assume they are dangerous until proven otherwise.

And this is where I get a little pessimistic. I want to be the kind of person who could say "I will have no tolerance for this shitty behavior, no excuses." and have it be true. But I'm not. Blindness to the behaviour means that I do tolerate it, by default. It's not conscious, it's not intentional, but it just happens. Sure, I can offer excuses for this tolerance. I have my own demons, old traumas that make me shy away from confrontation, deeply rooted fears of violence that stop me from stepping forward even in situations that actually pose no threat to me. But in some respects this just makes matters worse. As someone hypervigilant for threats against my person even when they don't exist, you'd think I'd do a better job of at least seeing real threats to others. But I don't. The things that I fear are not the things that you fear, and the so the cues that matter to you remain invisible to me. The pattern detection skills don't generalise. You'd think they would, but they don't. And so white women don't automatically see how racism works, black men don't automatically see how sexism works and so on.

I think it's possible to learn to see these things. But it doesn't come easily, and it doesn't come simply by having the best of intentions. The only thing that seems to help me is trying to pay attention to the experiences shared by others, to force myself to set aside my own defensiveness, and think carefully about what it is that I'm not seeing. Above all else, I need to constantly remind myself that these things exist, but I cannot see them. I gradually get better, but if I were being totally honest with myself I would have to say that I still don't really "get it".
posted by mixing at 5:36 AM on August 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


He wasn't upset that someone else was horning in on something he possesses - he was upset that someone had violated the sense of safety of someone he loves. I'm sure that this was the sense that you meant it in, but I just wanted to clarify that when women want people to respond to the creepers and the grossness of sexual assault and harassment, we want the response to come from a place of compassion and love and recognition of personhood, and stuff. Not a placee of "This woman is mine and no one else gets to say sexually explicit things to her."

Absolutely. The disturbing thing to contemplate -- particularly in light of the events described in The Question comment cited above -- is that I may have failed some of my friends and acquaintances by not speaking up on the grounds that I feared it wouldn't be appropriate. I don't know Dr. Glass, but his conduct resonated with me as being proper, perhaps even self-conciously so since Awkward Dude kept loudly casting Luminous Girl's avoidance of him as inappropriate behavior on Dr. Glass' part. And as The Question comment makes clear, "proper" isn't enough.

I'll be at a large event in Nerd Culture next weekend, and I'll have this discussion, and that at Scalzi's place, very much in mind.
posted by Gelatin at 7:08 AM on August 10, 2012


This conversation, and a lot of conversations like it, are doing at thing that I must admit frustrates the shit out of me. I have seen a lot-- a lot of people insisting that most creepers are just misunderstood, that they don't pick up those oh-so-subtle social cues, that we should feel sorry for the poor boos who just don't know how to talk to women without making them feel threatened, wary, and unsafe.

Fuck. That.

I know some of you have personal anecdotes about guys who really are that bad at socializing, but I sincerely doubt that the majority of creepers are in that position. We're talking about people who repeatedly and consciously violate other people's boundaries, target vulnerable-seeming women, and don't take no for an answer. We're talking about serial predators.

It's worth bringing up the Readercon debacle, I think. The Readercon creeper had a history of doing this sort of thing, which only came out when one woman spoke up about it. But even he was excused by many people as simply misunderstood and socially awkward, and nearly got away with a slap on the wrist after making a big production of an apology.

Guys like that, I don't see social awkwardness. I see someone who is very socially acute, and uses that skill to manipulate and target others. Those are the creepers I am worried about, and the creepers we need to remove from our social circles and communities.
posted by nonasuch at 7:21 AM on August 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


But even he was excused by many people as simply misunderstood and socially awkward

...despite the fact that he admitted to the harrassment. The facts of the matter, in this case, were not in dispute in any way.
posted by Gelatin at 7:30 AM on August 10, 2012


I have seen a lot-- a lot of people insisting that most creepers are just misunderstood, that they don't pick up those oh-so-subtle social cues, that we should feel sorry for the poor boos who just don't know how to talk to women without making them feel threatened, wary, and unsafe.

I tried to write my comments in a way that made it clear that it was a choice these guys make, but I'll clarify since this seems to be directed somewhat at earlier comments I made.

I don't think anybody should feel sorry for these guys. They made the choice to be that way. I am also not saying that most of the creepers are guys who made poor choices to behave in this manner. I tried to take a couple of the cases of bewilderment, share in those feelings because I've certainly felt them, and then explain what I thought was behind some of those bewildering actions, now that I have lived a while and received all these messages from society.

It's always tricky in these threads because sometimes they are just meant as venting threads, not attempts to solve the problem. And I think a few folks step in trying to provide insight, when often people just want to be heard.

The point regarding social cues is less oh these poor guys, and more There are a Million Ways to Be, and you chose the wrong one(s), buddy. I think that what allows the "call them out!" function to work - that they are presumed to be able to change their behavior to acceptable sets. So the machinations behind that are helpful to know - if you can conceptualize a set of factors that you have some bit of confidence led to the production of a certain type of person, you can best know how to attack it, dismantle it, and more importantly stop that archetype from ever being viewed as an acceptable persona to choose.

So that's why I was citing popular songs and movies and television shows. Not to excuse their behavior, but to show the set of train tracks that they saw and made a poor decision to choose to chug down.

I think the "oh he doesn't mean anything by it" is ridiculous in almost any circumstance. But anyway, I think this is more of a venting thread, sorry for any derail I helped spread.
posted by cashman at 7:49 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The link and the thread don't feel like venting to me. The link in particular is about solving the problem. What comes off as venting is the frustration of hearing arguments that sound like dismissing or minimizing or ignoring the real problem (guys being creepers who are NOT called out on it by their friends and family). This link is a good map of how to be active in stopping these behaviors, and instead there is a derail about causes. Who cares about causes? Knock that shit off, is the point.
posted by agregoli at 7:57 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


LordSludge: “But for the unintentionally creepy folks, I think there is some hope**, because the cause is not malevolence, but social ignorance. They haven't learned the dance; they're stepping on toes. I'd even say *most* guys stay creepy their entire lives, just based on my observations... but then I work in IT, notorious for producing socially awkward guys. It's a real challenge to "train" these guys, because that requires a pretty major setting aside of ego -- particularly difficult for folks with low self-esteem -- but I think it can be done with at least some success. Probably too long a discussion for here, but I could throw out some ideas... Thank you for the discussion and for sharing your own awful experiences. As a guy, I've had dozens of run-ins with creepy women, myself, and I do think men deserve to not be subjected to creepy behavior as well. But I do understand that it's not at all the same -- I'm a big guy and there was never any possibility of being overpowered physically. And there you have not just the possibility, but the actuality. Horrible.”

Look, the problem here is pretty clear. You are laboring under a vastly, vastly, vastly different definition of "creepy" than the rest of us, and it's probably worth clarifying exactly what it means to you and to us.

I mean, the way I'm reading this, there are unintentional things a person can do, little accidents, that are "creepy." Like – you stare too long at a person; or you can't think of something to say; or when you do think of something to say, it's about a gruesome car wreck you read about, rather than something more, I don't know, a propos. Or you're not sure how to act, whether you're supposed to hug someone or shake their hand. Those things can seem weird in the moment, but I don't think they fit the definition of "creepy" as we have it in this thread. Some of these things might even be signifiers of creepiness, but not in isolation. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think any woman here would call a guy "creepy" because he got confused or was too awkward to know whether a hug or a handshake was called for at a given moment; "creepy" would be if he always insisted on the hug, even after he'd had it made clear it wasn't appropriate.

You see the difference here? "Creepy" means overtly insisting on pushing oneself on women or men. It means insisting over the objections or clarifications of others. It means acting as though the feelings of others don't or shouldn't matter, or as though others are obligated to act or feel in certain ways. Try reading jscalzi's Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping and deducing a definition of "creepy" from it; I think that works pretty well.

In my mind, "creepy" means "habitually ignores the stated wishes of others regarding their personal space."

If that's the case, then basically the whole notion of "creepiness" is built on the fact that creepy people have been told over and over again how their actions are wrong. This isn't a case of social awkwardness or ignorance. It isn't hugging when handshakes make more sense; it's doing so after being asked or shown that it isn't really desired or called for.

The reason the definition becomes kind of a linchpin is because I think a lot of people have something like that definition of creepy in mind when they read in your comment that you feel like (pardon the paraphrase) creepiness is really just social awkwardness, that it's not necessarily malevolent, and that it just means guys need to get certain training they might not have gotten. Creepiness as we're describing it is emphatically not the same thing as social awkwardness. When you habitually ignore the stated desires of others, that's not just how people are if they don't know how social situations are supposed to work – it's a clearly intentional flouting of any respect for the well-being of other people.

I say this because it's easy to read certain comments in this thread and see them as saying that it's sort of acceptable to just habitually ignore the personal space other people ask for, that that's something that lots of guys just do. But I don't think you mean that. I think you mean that sometimes uninformed people are awkward, and that's okay.

We're really not talking about people being awkward and uninformed. We're talking about people using the "I'm just awkward or uninformed!" thing as an excuse to flatly and repeatedly violate the space of other people. That is an entirely different thing, and it's worth noting it and making it clear.

"Creepiness" isn't something people do accidentally or unintentionally. Intention is built into the definition.
posted by koeselitz at 7:59 AM on August 10, 2012 [16 favorites]


I think the rage-making part of the Readercon fail was that people saw the policy implemented as written for a "totally creepy weird guy" kind of guy, but only partially implemented for someone who had been around the community and was part of it and totally a "missing stair" kind of problem where many people just sort of worked around it. The good news was that the outcry, coupled with good work from some of the convention committee have resulted in the resignation of the entire board of directors (who had implemented the questionable punishment), the person in question banned for good per the policy, and the con has announced several steps they're taking to improve the experiences of folks going forward.

The statement laying this out is one of the best instances of such a thing I've seen - a complete lack of weaseling "we're sorry if you were upset, but that's all on you" kind of non-apologies.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:00 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


And if you are actually awkward and/or uninformed, I am totally okay with bringing you up short and sudden so you learn loud and clear that what you are doing in an awkward/uninformed way is wrong.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:14 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Look, the problem here is pretty clear. You are laboring under a vastly, vastly, vastly different definition of "creepy" than the rest of us, and it's probably worth clarifying exactly what it means to you and to us.

Yeah, this difference in definitions is probably the crux of my disagreement. I suppose what you would call a "creeper", I and my friends would call a "fucking freak" who would be socially ejected and summarily shunned. Even the unintentionally "creepy" (by my definition) guys end up being distanced - it's hard to hang out with a guy who stares at girls, flirts a little too hard with every damn server or bartender, etc.

Apologies if there are any hard feelings. I think there may have been a lot of talking past each other due to differences of definitions.

(Also, I don't use "attractive" to necessarily "physically attractive". It's more of a package deal; behavior is a pretty major factor IMO.)
posted by LordSludge at 8:29 AM on August 10, 2012


Readercon responded well. When Polaris in Toronto had someone who was systematically sexually harassing underage women (and overage) - like 15 years worth of harassment - they made the women change their behaviour instead of kicking him out. (he was a foot fetishist, so no one was allowed to walk around with barefeet).
posted by jb at 8:32 AM on August 10, 2012


The Readercon apology was so unexpectedly good that I almost fell out of my chair. It's really sad that it's a rare enough thing to be surprising.
posted by rtha at 8:34 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The statement laying this out is one of the best instances of such a thing I've seen - a complete lack of weaseling "we're sorry if you were upset, but that's all on you" kind of non-apologies.

Yeah, that's how it's supposed to be done. And it looks like the convention committee is taking solid actions to back up their apology, as well.
posted by Gelatin at 8:36 AM on August 10, 2012



Part of the point of the article is that it is can be hard for people (guys especially) who aren't on the receiving end of it to tell when someone is being creepy, vs just socially awkward, and that social awkwardness gets trotted out as an excuse all the time. Predators know how to act in ways that are easy for others to dismiss and yeah, as has been reiterated above, target vulnerable (maybe even socially awkward!!) women. So people patting themselves on the back- of course we'd spot and eject those kinds of creeps immediately- are kind of missing the point.
posted by ninjablob at 9:16 AM on August 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think this might be one of the reasons that these rape culture threads turn into nerdy guy apologist threads -- the fear that that is what being said. Because if:

creepy = you're doing it wrong

then:

you're doing it wrong = creepy.


I'm late to respond to this, and admittedly I've skimmed some of the intervening thread, but....

Creepy (in the potential-rapist sense of the word) is a SUBSET of "you're doing it wrong."

There are guys who struggle with dating because they're too shy, or socially awkard, or naturally introverted, or just because DUDE DATING IS HARD and most of us can only hope to do a really successful job of it once or twice in our lives. If that's seriously all that's going on, if a guy is bad at dating but genuinely respectful of the women he approaches, it's fine. Nobody minds. If anything, people sympathize. We've all been there.

What muddies the waters a bit is that some guys are real entitled jerks, but hide behind the position that "It's not my fault, I'm just socially awkward," and they use that "awkwardness" as an excuse to grope women without their consent, or follow/pester/implicitly-threaten women who have already said "no," and rationalize that behavior by saying "Well, I'm not suave and rich, so this is the only way I'll get any attention." THAT'S creepy. But a shy guy who still takes "no" for an answer and respects the need for consent and all that? I've got no beef with him.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:47 AM on August 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think this is an area where EVERYONE (male or female, introverted or extroverted, single or coupled, suave or awkward, and regardless of whether they self-identify as "nice" or "ruthless" or "passive" or "aggressive" or whatever) needs to take what the AA folks call a "searching moral inventory" and really just keep a very close eye on the effect that their behavior is having on other people.

A lot of the feminist discourse here is aimed at convincing people that it's necessary to take such an inventory in the first place, since really looking deeply into the question of whether you're behaving well is hard and painful and frustrating.

But so, yeah, in threads like this we tell a lot of stories of the form "This guy thought of himself as a harmless nerd and a nice guy, and he turned out to be a truly vile and disgustingly abusive person." But the moral of the story isn't meant to be "All self-described nerdy nice guys are vile." The moral is "A few self-described nerdy nice guys are vile, and even though guys like that make up a minority of the population, it's really really important for you to check every now and then that you're not one of them."

Think of it like the PSAs you read telling you to get a prostate exam every few years. The message is not "EVERYONE IN YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC HAS PROSTATE CANCER." It's more like "You're probably fine, but still, this is important, so you'd better get the exam even though it's unpleasant." Don't rely on the fact that you feel fine on the surface about your behavior. Look deeper, even though it's painful. And then, once you've done that, then the next time you hear a call for a prostate exam some ruthless moral self-examination, you can be like "Yeah, that's a good idea, I do that every once in a while and it really helps me correct the mistakes I'm making" or "I do that every once in a while and I'm pretty confident I'm not part of the problem so far, though of course I'll keep checking regularly because I might pick up bad habits later."

The trouble I think is that a lot of pushback in these discussions sounds like HOW DARE YOU EVEN REMIND PEOPLE TO EXAMINE THEIR BEHAVIOR?! THAT STIGMATIZES NORMAL MALE BEHAVIOR AND MAKES US FEEL ASHAMED AND AWFUL! And.... well, I'm not even sure what to say to that. We've all got room to improve our behavior (men and women, introverts and extroverts, blah blah blah) and pointing out opportunities to improve is a far cry from publicly shaming anyone. It happens that some of the opportunities to improve are gender specific. (Though for what it's worth, a lot aren't, and we have discussions here about economics or social dynamics that you can totally read as "Here's an opportunity for moral self-improvement" in a gender-neutral way.) But "here's a common male misbehavior that you might want to check yourself for" isn't inherently any more stigmatizing than "here's a common male form of cancer that you might want to check yourself for."

I dunno. If there's really a way that feminists can get this message across in a way that feels less stigmatizing, then we should do it. But I'm not sure a better way exists. If you just hear a generalized call to moral self-examination, you say "Oh, sure, sure, I do that all the time, I'm a smart guy, I'd notice if I were fucking up." Whereas if you read an article about A Guy Who Did A Specific Bad Thing and recognize something of yourself in it, that might be a real wakeup call. And if you read such an article and don't recognize yourself in it, then... okay. It's cool. You're probably fine. Don't read some sort of generalized man-hating intent into it that isn't there, and don't try to argue that the story shouldn't be told at all. You know?
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:18 AM on August 10, 2012 [22 favorites]


For those who are attempting to excuse creepy behaviour as being simple social awkwardness, I thought this post by Hershele Ostropoler here sums up that problem:

"If you step on my foot, you need to get off my foot.

If you step on my foot without meaning to, you need to get off my foot.

If you step on my foot without realizing it, you need to get off my foot.

If everyone in your culture steps on feet, your culture is horrible, and you need to get off my foot.

If you have foot-stepping disease, and it makes you unaware you’re stepping on feet, you need to get off my foot. If an event has rules designed to keep people from stepping on feet, you need to follow them. If you think that even with the rules, you won’t be able to avoid stepping on people’s feet, absent yourself from the event until you work something out.

If you’re a serial foot-stepper, and you feel you’re entitled to step on people’s feet because you’re just that awesome and they’re not really people anyway, you’re a bad person and you don’t get to use any of those excuses, limited as they are. And moreover, you need to get off my foot.

See, that’s why I don’t get the focus on classifying harassers and figuring out their motives. The victims are just as harassed either way."
posted by Dynex at 2:04 PM on August 10, 2012 [62 favorites]


Dynex: See, that’s why I don’t get the focus on classifying harassers and figuring out their motives.

In most places, discovering and addressing the root causes of problems is considered a more effective way of addressing them than making analogies and oversimplification.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:57 PM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Besides most creepers are not that socially awkward. A key part of their strategy is keeping a few people in the group sweet. Often an older or attached female of the easily flattered variety or a few males of the bro-dude variety, depending on the group. He needs that social currency to get away with hassling newcomers and low status females.
posted by fshgrl at 3:01 PM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


We've had plenty of time to discuss the root causes. But the bottom line is this is behavior that needs to end, and it is not the responsibility of the people being harassed to find out what makes the harassers tick. In fact, doing so helps contribute to an environment where we're too busy trying to understand the creepers to stop them.

Frankly, it's up to the creepers to deal with whatever major malfunction they have that's causing them to act the way they do. All I care about is that the creepy behavior stop, and if that involves tossing them out, then that's fine by me. I just don't have the energy to feel sorry for the poor misunderstood sexual harassers.
posted by happyroach at 3:05 PM on August 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Dynex: “For those who are attempting to excuse creepy behaviour as being simple social awkwardness...”

As far as I understand it, the problem here isn't so much people attempting to excuse creepy behavior as being simple social awkwardness. The issue is that people are defining creepy behavior as simple social awkwardness. And since that has historically been the actual definition of "creepy," that's not really that weird. Hell, I remember in school having people say things like "the way your hair is cut makes you look creepy" or "the way you let your pants sag below your waist is creepy." "Creepy" is not a static term, unfortunately – it's a term that's changed a lot. As someone very perceptive said above, it's actually nice to see an actual word that people are now commonly using to mean "sexual harasser or danger." It'll be nice if we can go even further later and name things explicitly, so as to avoid this confusion, but that time will come, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 3:05 PM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


So many really well-thought out comments in this thread, I'm really happy we could both vent and constructively argue for the most part with not many folks getting their knickers in a twist. I think the guys who jump in here and say "yeah, I was like that but a) grew out of it, b) was told to knock it off and thus saw the light, c) it bit me in the ass" might be perceived as unwanted in this discussion but I think are really helpful, at least as a positive example to other would-be or existing creeps (wherever on the continuum they fall). Great links, too, Scalzi's post for the would-be creep is a great companion to the OP on how to deal with one. What seems to be missing are some complementary articles on what to do if you're already that creep, to help avoid the slide on the continuum and/or the vicious" creep->women avoid me->creep more" cycle.

I'm pretty goddamn awkward, but it's just baffling how little common sense people have when it comes to respecting other people's boundaries and what's inappropriate behavior or not. Like, hey, don't follow her around the con and stare and hover if she's not reciprocating your eye contact and looks uncomfortable. Hey, don't take secret pictures of pretty or shorts-and-a-tank-top women on the train. I see this all the time, and it's so obvious, I want to reach over and smash their phone to the ground.
posted by Sayuri. at 3:12 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Besides most creepers are not that socially awkward. A key part of their strategy is keeping a few people in the group sweet. Often an older or attached female of the easily flattered variety or a few males of the bro-dude variety, depending on the group. He needs that social currency to get away with hassling newcomers and low status females.

That is a perfect encapsulation of predatory behavior. And I think this is why the onus has to be on everyone, including the socially awkward among us, to not behave in ways that are interpreted as creepy (cf. Scalzi's great checklist for a how-to on this), because those same behaviors are used by, and used as cover by, predators.
posted by Forktine at 3:22 PM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh hey, here's the latest socially awkward misunderstood well-meaning aw shucks regular guy who "assigned a benign playfulness to his behavior and said his motivation was crucial to understanding his position" that it's perfectly acceptable to harass one's student interns.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:31 PM on August 10, 2012


How to tell if you're a creeper:

You know the Kübler-Ross model of grief? Apply that to rejection. If you react to rejection with anything other than step 5, acceptance, you're a creeper.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:05 PM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the bottom line is this is behavior that needs to end, and it is not the responsibility of the people being harassed to find out what makes the harassers tick.

We have already established that creepers are not going to take responsibility for their own actions. It's part of what makes them creepers. That being the case, some other course of action is necessary.

To find another course of action, I like to start by analyzing the problem. What do you do?
posted by LogicalDash at 7:29 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do you do?

I read the linked articles, which are -- wait for it -- analyzing the problem. Those, plus Scalzi's piece, are reasonably comprehensive about how creeping/predatory behavior happens in groups, what can be done about it individually, and what can be done in the group. Is there more you need here?

For a very long time, there's been a protectiveness towards, even a nurturing of, socially inept behavior in some social spaces like conventions. That's gone hand in hand with predatory behaviors, and it's super hard to tell the two apart, because they both involve violating boundaries. The solution is to not act that way, regardless of whether your intent is predatory or not, and everyone benefits.
posted by Forktine at 8:08 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


To find another course of action, I like to start by analyzing the problem. What do you do?

I like to identify the problem. I don't believe the problem is poor misunderstood socially maladjusted guys who just need handholding. The problem I see is that people (mostly but not exclusively men) are minimizing and ignoring the effect of predatory men on the women around them in a way that enables the predators to continue predatory behavior, up to and including sexual assault. These are two different problems and their solutions are radically different.
posted by immlass at 9:20 PM on August 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


I almost didn't read this thread because I read a lot of feminism articles and threads and have a lot of conversations about feminism and I just get so exhausted with the pervasive derails and the persistent sadfeels about straw feminists and the men who invoke their wrath that I just want to run away from everything and live on an island sometimes. I'm glad I did click through in the end, because the discussion in this thread has been excellent, and thank you to all who participated. Men who used to be creepy but who shaped up and knocked that shit off? Thank you.

Even though I thought I was pretty well practiced in picking up signs and social cues, it didn't hit me until I read this article and this thread that I know that guy. Both of them, in the same guy. And even though he scared me enough in college that I'd written up a comprehensive report of why I thought he was dangerous and sent it to several friends and uploaded a copy with an anonymous email address, I still didn't want to report him to the college because I didn't think it was that serious, and it wasn't until now that I identified it for the creeper behaviour it is. (I was never in fear of assault, but I was terrified of him making my life hell within our insular program and incestuous debate club. Also he's incredibly good with computers and I seriously considered trashing my laptop for fear of key loggers.)

I realized just now that every time I tried to explain to someone why we stopped hanging out, even really good friends I trust, I was bracing myself for the "that doesn't sound so bad, are you sure you're not overreacting?" line. And I did get that line a lot, but thankfully not from the ones who matter.

There's so much to process there, and I'm grateful to be thinking about it in this light, but man do I ever wish I didn't have the memories to deal with.
posted by Phire at 10:03 PM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem I see is that people (mostly but not exclusively men) are minimizing and ignoring the effect of predatory men on the women around them in a way that enables the predators to continue predatory behavior, up to and including sexual assault

Righto.

People's motives for minimizing predatory behavior are based on a fundamental and pervasive misunderstanding of what motivates that behavior.

To correct this, one needs to replace the misunderstanding with a correct understanding.

Ultimately this means getting a better read on the particular creeper one's dealing with, but it helps to have a realistic set of expectations for how creepers think.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:43 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have already established that creepers are not going to take responsibility for their own actions. It's part of what makes them creepers. That being the case, some other course of action is necessary. To find another course of action, I like to start by analyzing the problem. What do you do?

Appeal to the friends of the creepers who have thus far been making excuses for him to ask them "guys, instead of covering for him, HELP him get it, and PROTECT me."

Which is exactly what this fucking article was trying to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:06 AM on August 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


People's motives for minimizing predatory behavior are based on a fundamental and pervasive misunderstanding of what motivates that behavior.

Actually, I would say that male people minimize the behavior of creepers because society supports the interpretation that the comfort of men is more important than the comfort of women. That is the behavior I am calling out, questioning, asking men to rethink: that their feeling of discomfort at violating the geek rule about never ostracizing anyone isn't more important than my fear of a creeper molesting or assaulting me and/or my women friends.
posted by immlass at 6:33 AM on August 11, 2012 [19 favorites]


People's motives for minimizing predatory behavior are based on a fundamental and pervasive misunderstanding of what motivates that behavior.

I'd say it has at least as much to do with a misunderstanding - and/or outright refusal - to acknowledge the effects of the behavior, regardless of whether the guy doing it is a jerk or just awkward.

If you see a friend of yours acting like this, then the way to fix it is to pull him aside and tell him it's not cool. Don't put it on the woman he's doing it to to diagnose what his problem is. Make it your problem to fix, not hers, whatever the cause.
posted by rtha at 8:49 AM on August 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here's an askme from earlier this year that I was too lazy to find last night that's exactly about this kind of behavior and how to deal with it. Ghostride The Whip linked to this blog post on Five Geek Social Fallacies, which is pretty great (and doesn't only apply to geeks).

The thing is, in the askme, it doesn't really matter why the OP's friend was doing the objectionable stuff he was doing (see especially #3); he had been told repeatedly that it wasn't okay (see especially #4), so if he was clueless before, he now has a clue, but he continues to demonstrate that he doesn't care. Is he especially dense and still clueless? Is he a sociopathic jerk? At some point, does it matter? That shit just needs to stop, and if it has to be stopped by ostracizing him, then so be it. I hope things worked out for the OP of the ask.
posted by rtha at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I guess I am one of the people who wasn't so impressed with Dr. Glass. Okay, he wasn't an active asshole to Luminous. But he was letting someone else get away with assholishness, when he had the power to stop it. Would many people do what he did? Sure. Are they mostly okay people who mean well? Likely. Are they acting like douchebags when they let things like this go? Yes.

Too many people can read the stories andremember the time that they said something they thought was clever that turned out to be overly-forward or the time they were all moony about someone that turns out felt nothing in return. And so there is a underlying feeling of being attacked in these sorts of threads.

This is the same problem. Look, you can act like X without forever and always being an X. You can do X, and apologise, or grow up, or whatever. Dr Glass was generally a good guy (said his wife), but he fucked up in that story. Asshole fucked up more, but we're allowed to have stories where multiple people do the wrong thing. Doesn't mean he's not a good guy.

So you, socially awkward person, once meant to be friendly and were creepy. If you are a reasonably good person, you will learn from this and stop being creepy. If you are not, then you will step up your creepiness. Patterns of behaviour matter much more than one-off actions.
posted by jeather at 10:58 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


> People's motives for minimizing predatory behavior are based on a fundamental and pervasive misunderstanding of what motivates that behavior.

Are you serious? People's motives for minimizing predatory behavior are based almost entirely on a desire to avoid trouble. Very few people know or care what motivates other people's behavior (or their own, for that matter). And motivation is irrelevant except to the offender's shrink—to quote Marx, "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it." Stop these guys from harassing women by any means necessary.

Another point that may be obvious but should probably be stated for the record: guys stick up for guys. One of the countless legacies of our long history of patriarchy is that we all (with a few exceptions, obviously—I'm talking about the overall picture) divide people into two camps, M and F, and we see the world through the lens of the side we're assigned. Men see other guys, even guys they don't personally know, as part of the same team; they may get mad at them, but they take them seriously and "understand" them in a way they tend not to take women seriously, even women they love and care for. This is the basis for an infinite number of good old sexist jokes that have been told around campfires, in bars, and at comedy clubs since time immemorial. Just as we listen to a tale of woe told by a child with attention and concern but with the underlying reservation that it's just a kid (who doesn't understand the world of adults and may be misinterpreting events), so men often listen to women, even women they love and care for, with the reservation that women don't really understand the kinds of things men understand, and specifically don't understand the pressures men face, externally and internally, and thus hear women's complaints at one remove. It takes a lot of hard work over a long period for a man, even a man who thinks he's all for women's rights, to pry himself out of this frame of mind and truly take women and their concerns seriously. I wish it were easier, but it's not. I think we're on the right path. I hope we're on the right path.
posted by languagehat at 12:14 PM on August 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


Are you serious? People's motives for minimizing predatory behavior are based almost entirely on a desire to avoid trouble. Very few people know or care what motivates other people's behavior (or their own, for that matter).

It was mainly an observation on the people in the thread who were getting all preoccupied with the mindset of the creeper. It might not generalize.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:26 PM on August 11, 2012


Asshole fucked up more, but we're allowed to have stories where multiple people do the wrong thing. Doesn't mean he's not a good guy.

I like the subconscious? accidental? name change here from Awkward...

preoccupied with the mindset of the creeper

Some of us can't help that, I think. I know I just want to ask the offender "what the fuck is wrong with you?" when I hear these stories. It's impossible to generalize even if we knew, and it's unfair to project that on other offenders, but I think trying to figure out motives maybe helps lead towards writing like Scalzi's on how to be self-aware of your shitty behavior. Like, STOP, just STOP. Here's why it sucks.
Agreed though, it's not anyone's responsibility to change that mindset other than the offender and why should we have the burden of trying to understand.
posted by Sayuri. at 2:40 PM on August 11, 2012


Possibly of use: red and yellow creeper cards designed for conference use.

DEFCON: Why conference harassment matters
posted by homunculus at 6:05 PM on August 12, 2012


I like the subconscious? accidental? name change here from Awkward...

Probably both. I didn't skim back to get the names. I remembered Luminous because I thought it was a stupid name, Dr. Glass because I work with glass sometimes, and -- well, Awkward guy might also be awkward, but there's no evidence for that in the text given.
posted by jeather at 6:13 PM on August 12, 2012


Is Captain Awkward one of mefi's own? The followup post is addressed more to creepers themselves, deals with lots of the issues discussed here.
posted by peppermind at 6:23 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Awkward guy

Captain Awkward (and most of the Awkward Army) is female.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:58 AM on August 13, 2012


Captain Awkward (and most of the Awkward Army) is female.

We're talking about "Awkward guy" described in "The Question" comment, not about Captain Awkward herself. The latter is I'm guessing was a benefit-of-the-doubt moniker chosen by Dr. Glass.

Is Captain Awkward one of mefi's own? The followup post is addressed more to creepers themselves, deals with lots of the issues discussed here.

A great post. There's a great line from a comment near the top - "If you are doing something to someone, and you’d be embarrassed if the person knew you were doing it, don’t fucking do it." Fucking gospel.

The posts she links to are great companion pieces, too, although Dr. NerdLove is written pretty intense and I wouldn't want to be a socially awkward person eading that... it's informative, but makes the relationship world seem more precarious and women more self-centered than they actually are. Also, try to be "unaware" of someone you like or pretend to ignore them? How about you still engage them, just pull back if someone looks uncomfortable or doesn't want to interact and keep your contact from being too aggressive? Seems easier.

And Pervocracy... man, great to have a post by a formerly creepy female, a good read for aggressive or awkward women than might not realize they fit in the creepy category.
posted by Sayuri. at 7:50 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is the behavior I am calling out, questioning, asking men to rethink: that their feeling of discomfort at violating the geek rule about never ostracizing anyone isn't more important than my fear of a creeper molesting or assaulting me and/or my women friends.

One simple sentence that encapsulates and explains so much of the cognitive dissonance experienced in my 20s. Thanks, imlass.

I'm happy I hang out with a better class of people nowadays.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:30 AM on August 13, 2012


The same night this FPP was posted I went out for a drink with a good acquaintance, another mother in the neighborhood about my age.

Right after we sat down the manager came over to chat us up, starting with asking for our IDs (we're too old to be asked for IDs, really, but when you're a mother and past a certain age you're mostly invisible so I guess it's kind of flattering). He was focused on my neighbor, which I'm used to, since I'm always the girl with the girl that the guys are paying attention to, I'm the other girl, you know what I mean, so it's an awkwardness I'm familiar with. And she's smiling and we both kind of laugh at the guy's dumb jokes so he'll move on and he stays for a little too long, then he goes away. And if that were the end of it, then whatever.

But it wasn't. He kept coming back over and I mean, we're talking, but he keeps interrupting us, and it wasn't cool. Yet here we are, every time he comes over, like four times, laughing uncomfortably and waiting for him to leave again. And the last time he comes over, I'm actually in the middle of talking about some feminist stuff with her, and he walks up behind my neighbor and startles her by grabbing her shoulders (as a "joke") and I see him start to do it but I didn't warn her in time. And again she laughs and smiles uncomfortably and I am upset I didn't say anything to her in the moment, and also I'm sick of this guy intruding on us, and I just kind of go flat and monosyllabic but he doesn't really get the hint because he's not paying any attention to me.

When he leaves we both look at each other - "That was creepy." "Yeah, that was creepy. Who does this guy think he is?" "I don't know, but the manager of a place shouldn't be making the guests feel uncomfortable." "I wish I would have said something." "Yeah but you don't want to, like, make a scene, right?" "If [other neighbor mother] were here, she wouldn't have put up with that." "I know." "She would've called that guy right out." "I know." "Why didn't we say anything?" "I don't know." "What the hell." And it's pissing me off, I'm talking about feminist stuff FFS, yet here is this dude pulling this creepy shit on us and I don't call him out at all, what is my deal?

You would think we're older, we know better, we're more settled in ourselves, we'd say something, but we don't. It pisses me off when I analyze how I act around men as opposed to how I act around women: usually I laugh a little more, I talk a little peppier, I draw them out, I entertain, I handwave the slightly uncomfortable stuff. I brush things off, I minimize areas of conflict. I don't know, I don't think I do it consciously, but it's like this is my role, to be "cute", to make him feel good, and definitely not to challenge him too much - your worth is measured by how attractive and pleasant (and unthreatening) men (and therefore, by extension, people) think you are, underneath it all, no matter where you're at in life. Again, it's not a conscious thing really. It's just the role you're trained to play, growing up.

I'm sure some of it is personality - after all, [other neighbor mother] would have cut this dude off for sure; she's more confident than I am, more secure. But a lot of it is just what you do as a woman - don't make waves. It's been very hard for me to share my opinions - I've had to learn to do it, because I tend to avoid conflict and simply internalize it - it ramps up my anxiety. Contributing what I think brings a level of pushback and dismissiveness and anger on me that can be so hard for me to process. All my life I've had dreams where I'm being attacked, and I try to fight back, but my punches are so weak they do nothing; and it is awful to realize you are such an easy target, it is awful to go through life knowing the easiest way to get by is to not draw attention, the wrong kind of attention.

This is not a society amenable to women saying their piece: I already do not naturally feel I have the right to occupy space, to share my opinions, to participate in any way but attempting to be inoffensive; it frustrates me that I sometimes I only manage to overcome that after I have a couple drinks because I'm less inhibited. It frustrates me that when I manage to overcome that it is sometimes awkward or overmuch or TMI because I don't have a lot of practice at it. It frustrates me when I overcome that to be shouted down. It frustrates me that so few people take me seriously in large part because I am in many ways an invisible woman. It frustrates me that my husband can say the same thing I'm saying and people will listen to him, even praise him, that he can make mistakes or talk too loud and get a pass on it, but I can't.

When I get angry about this stuff it's because I don't see how it will be fixed; it's a thousand tiny slights, it's a sick structure that no one wants to look at or understand because it makes them uncomfortable or defensive. But it won't be fixed without that analysis. And in the meantime it's on my shoulders to navigate my way through it all, which is depressing and overwhelming. And this stuff keeps happening because everything is set up to enable it; we all enable it and mostly don't even realize we are doing so.

I wish men's discomfort didn't continually rank higher than women's fear and anxiety; their anger is a demonstration and reinforcement of their general power, and women's general position one step down - these more immediate issues, but less important, because they don't see what it's like, and we have to exist on gratitude when they attempt to understand a little bit now and then.
posted by flex at 9:04 AM on August 13, 2012 [36 favorites]


That's a great comment, flex. All I can say is, the more men are exposed to accounts like that, to women explaining what they don't like and why it's hard to confront it, the less excuse they'll have for continuing to act that way.
posted by languagehat at 10:45 AM on August 13, 2012


This is not a society amenable to women saying their piece

It's not even saying our piece - I have been full-on socialized into having great misgivings about ever expressing, even in non-verbal ways, that unwanted attention from men is unwanted.

How did this socialization occur? Well, in a million tiny ways but the ways that still make me shiver, that stand out, include multiple times from childhood through college being yelled at in the street by strange men when I declined to give them my name. Men, larger, stronger, and older than me, who followed me for blocks, shouting that I was stuck up, a bitch, a dyke, because I didn't smile when they commanded it. Men who stared at me at bus stops and then called me a fat ugly bitch when I turned my head away in discomfort. These encounters, with their very distinct undercurrent of impending violence, were incredibly strong lessons in social control.

Other encounters shaped me as well. No threat of violence, but definite judgement and withdrawal of approval. Men I knew who called me uptight, frigid, no fun, when I said I didn't want a "friendly" back rub from them. Men who asked me out and told everyone I must be “a lez” since I turned then down. Men who warned me not to be uncool or a bitch when I pointed out objectifying language they used about my friends.

All times that I learned it was incredibly important that a man not feel a tiny bit discomfited, and that I was expected to endure (and not complain) about any amount of harassment, threats, and name-calling if I was responsible for that discomfort.

So along comes the original link, which discusses how men can help by asking serial harassers to stop harassing women, and I think yeah! We can put our voices together! And instead we get pages and pages of caressing the misogynist construct “friend zone,” and more sad panda moping about the semantics of the word “creep” and I sigh, at the utter not-getting happening here.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:01 AM on August 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


I just want to say "thanks" to everyone who pointed out The Question. I so wish that could have been posted to the infamous What'cha Reading thread from a while back.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:08 AM on August 13, 2012


Fantastic comment flex.
posted by Catch at 3:13 PM on August 13, 2012


This may have been partially inspired by this thread, but just wanted to share a "sometimes they get it" moment -

Just saw on my Facebook feed where a guy reprinted a link to a Smoking Gun post about a guy who had been arrested for groping a woman in a Wal-Mart and claimed, when captured, that her "booty" was so hot that "he couldn't help himself." Most of the comments responding to the link were from guys cracking jokes about "not a jury in the country would convict him" or quoting Sir Mix-a-lot lyrics.

I responded that "hey guys, on behalf of your mothers, your sisters, your girlfriends, your wives, and every woman you've ever met in your life, this REALLY isn't a cool thing to be laughing and cracking jokes about."

...Within thirty seconds, the guy who posted the link said, "....Yeah, you're right, this actually isn't funny after all. Sorry." And took it down.

Sometimes if you speak up, they get it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 PM on August 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm sorry to report that elodieunderglass, the person who posted the story 'The Question', has apparently experienced harassment since her post went viral, including a rape threat.

I really want to punch something. That's all.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:26 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


What the fuck is wrong with people?
Does anyone have a link to the reddit thread she mentioned? I'd like to see the type of reaction there...
I feel horrible for inadvertently helping bring this attention on her by starting this thread... thanks assholes out there for ruining this.
posted by Sayuri. at 5:37 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sayuri, you're not responsible for their actions. And even though she wishes her comment hadn't received so much attention, I'm very glad I read it and I think I'll behave more considerately as a consequence.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:16 AM on August 14, 2012


> What the fuck is wrong with people?

Repeated for emphasis. Jesus, people make me sick sometimes. And specifically male-type people, just so we're clear. What a mess patriarchy has made of this species.
posted by languagehat at 8:40 AM on August 14, 2012


Here's elodieunderglass's follow-up comment to some guy who was like "WHY DID LUMINOUS NOT REPORT IT MAYBE SHE DIDN'T SEE ANYTHING EITHER HUH":

WHY ARE YOUR FEELINGS BURNING
TO KNOW WHY A VOICELESS WOMAN IN A STORY
DID NOT BEHAVE IN THE WAY
THAT YOU MANSPLAIN SHE SHOULD HAVE
AND
WHY
DO YOU FEEL LIKE
WE NEED TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS


So yeah, pretty much.
posted by Phire at 8:43 AM on August 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


How did this socialization occur?

I just remembered one of my creepy "don't make waves" moments.

When I was in my mid teens - maybe sixteen? - I traveled a lot by bus because... no car. One time I was at this really remote bus stop. I think I was heading back from a job training or a job interview with my summer job, but it was really isolated, by a large road with few cars on it, and the bus only came every hour. There was this older guy there - maybe in his forties or fifties? I suck at aging people - and we were just making small talk. I may have even mentioned school, meaning high school. I mostly wanted to read, but I'd already learned the "when someone talks to you, you're polite" rule, and hadn't yet learned how much that rule makes your life difficult, and so how to shut things down fast. Suddenly, he asked for my telephone number and made some comment about how he'd like me to marry him. Still no bus in sight; not really safe to walk (no sidewalk, over twenty miles form home); no where to escape. So I lied - I gave him a fake number, and smile like I was supposed to in response to his "marriage proposal", and when the bus came I found a seat he couldn't sit next to me at and prepared to get off the bus early, in a heavily populated place, so he couldn't follow me home. Thank the gods he got off before my stop came; I wasn't looking forward to the walk and the inevitable street harassment that accompanied that.

But, you know, women should speak up and not be so passive, or something.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:04 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


How did this socialization occur?

That's like asking us to pinpoint when we started breathing air or when we chose whether to be left- or right-handed. In many cases it's so ingrained and starts so early that it takes us a while to even realize that it's been happening, and then another while to realize "wait....this is NUTS."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:59 AM on August 15, 2012


I really don't like the word "mansplaining" and I wish people wouldn't use it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:55 AM on August 15, 2012


Joe, what would you prefer to use to describe the phenomenon of men trying to say "see, ladies, I've figured it all out and HERE is why you are having such trouble with [phenomenon that happens to women all the damn time that we have already figured out the problem by our own grown-up selves]"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:31 AM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, Joe, sometimes it isn't about what words you wish people wouldn't use. We women wish that men would stop covering for the creepers amongst their friends. I think that's the bigger issue here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:35 AM on August 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Something that doesn't imply that I, too, am likely guilty of doing that because I am a man would be nice. When I read "mansplaining" repeatedly in the comment thread I thought that in the context of that discussion it wasn't worth complaining about, but it did bother me. In a discussion that is partly about the responsibility of good men to act in certain situations, insulting men is counterproductive. No, it's not more important than the experiences of women we're talking about, and yes I know which side of this issue I'm on because of what's actually important. It's still a shitty thing to say.
posted by makeitso at 5:55 AM on August 15, 2012


All I can say, then, is that I'm sorry that women talking about their fear and frustration about some men harrassing them and other men covering for it made you feel bad because of a semantic choice. Goodness knows semantics is much more important than fears for personal safety.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:02 AM on August 15, 2012


Really? I just said it wasn't more important. Literally.
posted by makeitso at 6:13 AM on August 15, 2012


Joe, perhaps you would like to explain what we should use instead?
posted by Blasdelb at 6:18 AM on August 15, 2012


I'm going to shut up after this because this is a good thread and it would be pretty ridiculous indeed if we manage to turn it into a discussion about us poor men getting our feelings hurt by a word. But the term is blatantly sexist and any number of alternatives spring easily to mind. If you feel entitled to use bigoted language against an oppressing class I'm not going to argue with you, I just think that in the long run it's not helpful.
posted by makeitso at 6:43 AM on August 15, 2012


Hi all, makeitso and I were talking about this in person this morning and since the discussion has died down otherwise, and he had good points, I invited him to come on and comment. It is a derail, I know...
I had never heard "mansplaining" before, and while it's pretty hilarious and is well-earned derission in this context, I have to agree somewhat that it kind of promotes gender-separating attitudes. Clearly in the context of history of misogyny in the human species, I think women deserve, to put it lightly, to use whatever language they like, for fuck's sake. In this context I assumed "mansplaining" describes men making excuses for other men's bad behavior, but I understand it has a largest, more misandrist connotation than that? Perhaps douchesplaining would be better?

I agree it's non-issue in the face of this whole conversation, but I also understand men's frustration with the word. I mean the good men, not the ones making excuses for bad behavior.
posted by Sayuri. at 6:49 AM on August 15, 2012


Actually just looked it up, and it seems pretty context specific, makeitso. So, while there could be a better word, I'm not seeing the offense good men are taking to it. If you're not being a condescending ass, then you're not mansplaining, and I don't think anyone will say you are.
posted by Sayuri. at 6:51 AM on August 15, 2012


Yes, "mansplaining" is explictly the act of over explaining something to someone who knows more than you do about it because you are a man and she isn't.

So when I totally over-explain something to my mom (or she totally over-explains something to me - really, mom, I've learned how to suck eggs, and poach and fry them too!), it's over explaining, but it's a different thing.

I think the UR-example has to be that one linked upthread, where a man started explaining a woman's OWN BOOK to her, was told that SHE WROTE THE BOOK, and then CONTINUED.
posted by jb at 7:32 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you are a guy and you are explaining something to me, that is not automatically mansplaining. If you are a guy and you are "explaining" my own experience to me, as if you know better than I do what it is to be me in that experience, then you are mansplaining. (Huh. Autocomplete on my phone autocompletes mansplaining when I type the first four letters. Didn't know it could do that.)

This makes me think of a thing a friend in college used to say: if something makes you feel defensive, it's never bad to take a moment to consider what it is you think you're defending.
posted by rtha at 7:46 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


rtha: “If you are a guy and you are explaining something to me, that is not automatically mansplaining.”

Then use a word that isn't a portmanteau of "man" and "explain."

The term "mansplain" only perpetuates patriarchal bullshit by causing divisions and enables obnoxious bro-culture by making them feel as though they're the only men. When we use that word, we're shooting ourselves in the foot.

This is one of the funny wrinkles of the patriarchy, kind of like those sitcoms where the men are always portrayed as stupid – it's still sexist, and it's still patriarchy, because men are still generally allowed to explain and given power over most situations. But this thing sure does serve as a kick in the knees to any guy who dares step out of line and not act like the misogynist asshole they're "supposed" to act like.

And, yeah, it makes me feel like crap to hear it. It makes me a hell of a lot less likely to explain my feelings in the future.

TL;DR: "Mansplain" is a stupid word because there's nothing inherently wrong with being a man and explaining something. "Sexist condescension" and "talking down to someone" don't have that many syllables in them. It's always better to find a neutral and expressive way to say something than to fall back on a weak stereotype (that whenever men explain, it's sexist condescension.)
posted by koeselitz at 8:12 AM on August 15, 2012


Well, shit, koeselitz, the number of men who still think WOMEN are a monolithic groupthinking demographic are legion and WE'VE had to find a way to suck it up....especially when there are other and more important things to be talking about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:15 AM on August 15, 2012


You're right, Empress. I should've known to shut the fuck up before I started. I was pretty much done here anyway. Sorry.
posted by koeselitz at 8:25 AM on August 15, 2012


....For the record, I also could have dialed it back a few notches and not made so much of a thing of it....sorry from me too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:31 AM on August 15, 2012


TL;DR: "Mansplain" is a stupid word because there's nothing inherently wrong with being a man and explaining something.

There is if what you're explaining is my own reaction/experience to something. If you are explaining your feelings about something, you are not mansplaining, you are just regular old explaining.

It makes me a hell of a lot less likely to explain my feelings in the future.

You talking about your own feelings = explaining

You talking about what my feelings are/should be = mansplaining.
posted by rtha at 8:36 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Then use a word that isn't a portmanteau of "man" and "explain."

However, it is pretty much exclusively men who mansplain.

Generally, if something could easily have 'and so now you see, little lady, where you went wrong.' appended to the end of it, then it's going to be mansplaining.

It is, by definition, when a man decides to explain to a woman how she's feeling things wrong. How she's doing it wrong. If she just acted/thought/talked/walked/was as big as a/didn't fear rape/ate tacos like a man does, then she'd realise it was all just a silly misunderstanding and how she shouldn't take it so seriously. Because obviously a man knows exactly what its like to be a woman, and therefore is in an ideal situation to explain her own feelings to her.

You see it a huge amount in any discussion about rape, sexual assault, creepers. Or indeed, tacos. Because men feel the need to tell women How It Really Is in all sorts of situations, not just those relating to sexual assault.

It goes hand in hand with the Wot About The Menz! which dictates that any discussion of women's issues will end up as a discussion about how discussing this, in those terms, is not taking account of the feelings of decent guys who just want to get laid/guys who get assaulted/guys who get raped in prison/guys who might be offended that a woman might confuse them with a creeper.

Its why any discussion about sexual assault often excludes men. Because basically, we tend to be pretty dickish around women, and even 'good men' are prone to mansplaining and Wot About The Menz?!! - with the best of intentions, and not meaning to give offence of course.

But to put it bluntly, men are extremely prone to dragging conversations around to their way of thinking, and to how it affects them. We're so used to women shutting up and listening, we're so used to being the primary driver of conversation in a mixed group, we're so used to being On Top - that we do it without even realising we're doing it. Women are expected to be the conciliators, to think of the feelings of others (especially men), to not offend anyone, to think of ways to put their point across without being seen as too 'mannish'.

So when they do stick their head above the parapet, it's utterly inevitable that a certain section of men will shout them down, often with threats of violence for Daring to Question the Status Quo. Which is why we don't get to actually hear their stories very often, especially bluntly from their point of view. And I for one very much hate that, because theirs is a world I don't really grok, because its utterly alien to my way of life. I try, and I sympathise, and I want to help, but most of all, I just want to listen - to learn things I don't know.

Ala what happened to elodieunderglass, who's Question was one of the most insightful and thought provoking things I've ever read on the topic. Yet she gets rape threats. And more insidiously, plenty of men explaining to her how she's Doing It Wrong. Worse, how Luminous Girl was
Doing It Wrong. And now she's fled the internet for a bit. Because of all our fine fellow men who felt that they needed to splatter her personal blog with comments, because heaven forbid 5 minutes passes without a man putting in his two-penneth.

TLDR; If you're getting offended by the word 'mansplaining', you're Doing It Wrong. It's Not About You.
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:43 AM on August 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


> But the term is blatantly sexist and any number of alternatives spring easily to mind.

Oh yeah? What are they?

> I have to agree somewhat that it kind of promotes gender-separating attitudes.

"Gender-separating attitudes"? Dude, this is a gender-separating issue. Are you seriously suggesting women should pretend it's not men who do this so the men won't get their feelings hurt? Here's a suggestion: work to stop men from doing this. Then the word can die a graceful death.

> The term "mansplain" only perpetuates patriarchal bullshit by causing divisions and enables obnoxious bro-culture by making them feel as though they're the only men. When we use that word, we're shooting ourselves in the foot.

What the hell? You're usually smarter than that, koeselitz.

This is one of the stupider derails I've seen around here. Thanks for ruining the tail end of the thread, guys. Makes me proud of my gender, it does.
posted by languagehat at 8:43 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm just listening.
posted by cashman at 9:06 AM on August 15, 2012


"Manscaping", however, is still okay to use.
posted by LordSludge at 9:34 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm personally not a fan of the word "mansplaining", mostly because I then spend more time arguing with people whose feelings are hurt that I insinuated that men do annoying things to women in discussions of feminism than I do discussing the actual issues, and there are only 24 hours in a day.

"Paternalistic condescending bullshit" is my preferred go-to, but that lends itself less well to being verbed, and also doesn't quite convey the infuriating feeling of being told that I couldn't possibly know what happened to me because lol women so emotional.

Even aside my personal reservations about the word, however, elodieunderglass was specifically addressing a dude, who was evidently labouring under the delusion that his dudeliness gave him insights into what Luminous Should Have Done to be considered a Proper Victim and blah blah contributory negligence you silly women just don't know how to handle it. I'm not going to be losing much sleep about her word choice there, nor am I going to edit someone else's words in order to avoid hurting some people's feelings because some other people who identify as the same gender that they do are jerks.
posted by Phire at 10:21 AM on August 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


However, it is pretty much exclusively men who mansplain.

Generally, if something could easily have 'and so now you see, little lady, where you went wrong.' appended to the end of it, then it's going to be mansplaining.


See, the thing is, that's not true. Women do plenty of that-thing-that's-usually-called-mansplaining. It happens across any sort of privilege gap as far as I can tell. White women lecturing men or women of color on why they don't (can't, shouldn't, mustn't, whatever) experience racism the way they do? Yeah, that's the same dynamic. Or make the gap straight/queer, rich/poor, working/unemployed, healthy/sick, whatever. The same sort of thing happens. And either we call it "mansplaining" as online-progressive-person in-group code, and people outside the in-group think we're idiots, or we call it by some other name and miss the generalization that it's the Same Damn Thing regardless of the specific attributes of the specific condescending entitled-acting person who's doing it.

The phenomenon we currently call "mansplaining" is a real thing, and it sucks, and it needs a name, and it's totally appropriate for that name to be witty and scornful and whatever. But the actual word "mansplaining" is a shitty name for it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:13 AM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


So getting back to people who make excuses for creepers....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:17 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep. Sorry for feeding the derail.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:20 AM on August 15, 2012


It seemed like the conversation about creepers had mostly died down, so I'm not so upset about the derail, and I'm glad a couple of the nice men listening here spoke up if they were offended, as ridiculous as it seems in the face of everything we've talked about. I don't partake in many online discussions like this, mostly because when I venture from my little inner world I find myself horrified by the world and retreat immediately back. It sucks that these discussions dissolve into comments about specific men's hurt feelings. I don't think anyone should shut the fuck up, though. I understand the offense comes from them feel like woman think ALL men are condescending assholes. But I guess I also don't see how using "man" in a word for something that men - albeit DOUCHY MEN - uniquely do means that ALL men do it. Which isn't what anyone is trying to say. It's like saying all men are creepers, it's just not true. I wish I could find another example of a word like this. I think both sides here need to compromise a bit... the offended men need to realize no one is necessarily calling THEM sexist assholes just because "man" is in the word and that women are just SO used to all sorts of bullshit that it's difficult to see the point, and the folks - mostly women - here who are aghast at such a comparatively petty topic should, you know, respect the reaction.
"SHOULD?" Sorry, that is pretty assholey of me.... I just want us all to get along!

I still stick by "douchesplaining." Maybe brosplaining as a subtype. Ugh, maybe I'm being sexist when I use the word "bro!" I'm a bad human! The world and society mean nothing! Ahhhhhhh!
*throws arms up and runs around like Kermit the Frog*

On preview:

Yeah, people who make excuses for creepers are total fuckers! I think fuckers is a word we can all agree on.
posted by Sayuri. at 11:23 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I'd suggest that there are also 'whitesplaining', 'cisplaining', etc - that each word highlights the particular form of privilege in play, and that's why it's valuable. The dynamics that drive racism rhyme with the dynamics that drive misogyny, but they are not identical. I mean, I can't mansplain, for lo I am not a man and do not have social, institutional and emotional structures cementing my identity into place, but I have noticed that this does not prevent me from whitesplaining.)
posted by Frowner at 11:28 AM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd suggest that tangential discussions about terms like this is one way that people may be unconsciously creating an environment in which creepers can get away with what they do, because if we're all arguing over whether "mansplaining" is a good word or not, we're no longer talking about whether there's an effective way people can take their socially awkward friends aside and say "dude, you're being kind of a dick, stop it."

Because now we're all thinking about how men are feeling. Again. As ever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:31 AM on August 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


...Hmm. I just advised someone else to go take a walk when it looked like they were getting upset; I think I need to take my own advice and do the same. Sorry, all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on August 15, 2012


I suppose it's still up in the air whether women can mansplain. I think we all are condescending assholes at one point or another, but I think mansplaining is pretty specific to male-to-female douchery. But that doesn't mean that if makeitso explains something to me that he's mansplaining! Only if he's being a "look here, little woman" gendered jerk about it.

Agreed! This is not the time to talk about it perhaps, but I'm glad we got a chance to touch on it, because I really strongly feel that no one is calling all men mansplainers. I think it's a relevant topic with regards to the responsibility of male friends to out creepers, and we don't want to alienate the good friends with sexism, however I think their potential alienation here should HAVE NOTHING TO DO with whether it's their shared responsibility to creepshame. Of COURSE it is.

I just watched all the videos at normalbobsmith.com about the peepers of Union Square and am shocked that it appears no one ostracizes these bastards. As a women being creeped, I know I have basically frozen when this happens, in a "just act normal" pattern where I guess I assume if someone is being that obvious, then they are mentally unbalanced and confronting them is dangerous. But what about all the men sitting around watching this happen? Especially the front row peepers that stand RIGHT in front of sitting women. That's not peeping, that's physical intimidation.
posted by Sayuri. at 11:40 AM on August 15, 2012


EmpressCallipygos: “...Hmm. I just advised someone else to go take a walk when it looked like they were getting upset; I think I need to take my own advice and do the same. Sorry, all.”

I hope you have a good walk, but when you get back – you have nothing to apologize for, at least as far as I can see. You've been really awesome in this thread, and your comments have been helpful and thoughtful and not rude at all. And my little "you're right, I should shut the fuck up" rejoinder up above was me taking my own little feelings and also stress from work and throwing that back in your face, and it was really uncalled for. And I'm sorry for it. I'll make sure it doesn't happen again.

My big objection to the term "mansplaining," and the fairly fraught and ranty way it came out, was mostly due to a confusing and disorienting mixture of contradictory feelings I had about it. The word "mansplain" makes me uncomfortable for a lot of reasons – largely because I have this tendency to explain things, and when I hear that word it really makes me doubt myself – and the line there seems fuzzy, you know? I mean, up above, I said why the word made me feel weird and why I didn't think we should use it. But immediately I wonder to myself – is that really fair? Is it fair to tell people what word to use? Sure, I was talking about my feelings, but isn't talking about my feelings that loudly (my language was pretty harsh) kind of forcing them on people? So suddenly I have this conundrum – is it fair to talk loudly about my feelings? I'm kind of forcing myself on other people when I do, aren't I? Is that me being 'manipulative'?

I'm sure women will not recognize this conundrum or sympathize with it at all. (That's sarcasm.)

Sigh. So really, I end up with this realization that I'm mostly disoriented and confused by this situation because it's new to me. It's not really new to most women, I don't think, but since I'm a man I've generally been spared the worry that expressing myself might be manipulative and the concern that I'm pushing people in an unfair way by stating my feelings.

I think the "mansplain" conversation can wait for another day, really. This isn't a case where it's very relevant; the person who used the term clearly meant something very specific, and it wasn't even used directly in this thread – it was only quoted.

Sayuri.: “Agreed! This is not the time to talk about it perhaps, but I'm glad we got a chance to touch on it, because I really strongly feel that no one is calling all men mansplainers. I think it's a relevant topic with regards to the responsibility of male friends to out creepers, and we don't want to alienate the good friends with sexism, however I think their potential alienation here should HAVE NOTHING TO DO with whether it's their shared responsibility to creepshame. Of COURSE it is.”

That is a really, really good way of putting it, and I agree wholeheartedly.
posted by koeselitz at 12:21 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bruce Schneier posted about harassment at DefCon, linking to the same article homunculus linked to above. Hopefully more awareness of the issue and the gravitas of Schneier weighing in on it will help.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:41 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I skimmed that DefCon link the other day and saw red for hours afterwards. What the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by rtha at 2:01 PM on August 15, 2012


Sigh. So really, I end up with this realization that I'm mostly disoriented and confused by this situation because it's new to me. It's not really new to most women, I don't think, but since I'm a man I've generally been spared the worry that expressing myself might be manipulative and the concern that I'm pushing people in an unfair way by stating my feelings.

Actually, I can see how it ties directly into the main topic.

What you experienced in that moment what the startlement about having to think about women's feelings in an area you've never had to consider them before. It's a startlement to you, and a bit of a shock, because you are someone who wants other people to like being around you - you don't get off on forcing people into uncomfortable positions where you have the power.

The main topic is about how men's behavior actively puts women in danger and how other men - well meaning men who never have to think about it - defend it because the woman's perspective is so different, so alien, from their own; they may mean well, but their meaning well actually puts women in danger because they isolate the woman with men who are actively trying to harm and also blame the women for being harmed.

This conundrum - this internal conflict that anyone in a position of privilege struggles when given a glimpse into the less privileged position - is the same whether it's over a relatively semantic argument like "mansplaining" (which has a very specific meaning, and yes whitesplaining, cisplaining, and straightsplaining are also used) or over how women are left vulnerable to predators because everyone is pretending/ignorant of their predation.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:09 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


A companion piece describing the difference between social awkwardness and creepiness-as-entitlement.

"The Captain's advice for telling people to knock it the fuck off when warranted, incidentally, is not victim-blaming. The point of it is not to see if you can hit upon the super-secret Easter egg combination of button presses that make you throw a Hadouken at your opponent/get the creepers to miraculously stop creeping. Bad people are bad, and if one of them is determined not to be put off by words, he won't be, no matter what those words are. The point of telling people to KITFO is to help you sort out the various kinds of people who do things that displease you. If you're not sure if someone's just clueless or is potentially dangerous, then stating your wishes and getting an answer that boils down to him jamming his fingers in his ears and going LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU WHEN YOU SAY THINGS I DON'T LIKE is a very big red flag..."
posted by Sayuri. at 6:42 PM on August 17, 2012


nonasuch: Guys like that, I don't see social awkwardness. I see someone who is very socially acute, and uses that skill to manipulate and target others. Those are the creepers I am worried about, and the creepers we need to remove from our social circles and communities.

This, so much. It's easy to spot the socially awkward guy, and feel like you're in a position to help, difficult as that conversation may be. It's a lot harder to confront the guy who, hey, is just a lot luckier with the ladies, and maybe you should take some tips from him, amirite?

I'm part of a community that has a problematic member. This guy is not socially awkward; he's predatory. He immediately starts hovering around any new woman who joins the group. But because he's cheerful and playful and energetic and--this is important--someone with a role of authority in the community, it mostly gets laughed off. "Oh, that's just how Billy is. Like a big puppy." He often has a girlfriend, although he's known for not keeping them for very long. Your typical playboy type, right?

He's an instructor and board member. When I started, there was a very attractive young woman, just out of college, in my group who was the focus of his attentions. She gave him no encouragement, but that didn't stop him. She moved away shortly after, but I suspect she would have left, anyway, because he was embarrassingly persistent in his attentions. Nobody said anything, myself included. I was new and figured that, as a beautiful young woman, she probably had plenty of practice shutting down unwanted advances.

Being older, I generally have tended to assume that I was invisible, and thus been oblivious to certain attentions (or assumed I must be imagining things). Shortly after I started participating in the group activities, he offered to give me a ride home at night. I said I was fine walking; he insisted on giving me his number so I could text him when I got home. I assumed this was just him being a good guy, concerned for the safety and comfort level of someone new to the neighborhood. I later learned that those watching recognized this as part of a strategic action. Most of the women in the community have slept with him at some point, and most of those admit it with something between regret and self-loathing, because at the time they didn't know him well enough to realize his patterns. But that's just Billy: he's the "lovable man-slut," everybody knows that about him, and knowledge is power, right? Easy enough to keep him a bit at arm's length if you don't want to be one of his conquests.

For the next couple of years, he occasionally made some boundary crossing remarks and invaded my space a bit, but nothing that made me too uncomfortable. I, too, figured "that's just how Billy is"--he flirts with everyone, is very huggy and sometimes inappropriate, but I felt in control. I'd had conversations with a few people about how I would never be one of those women, because I had no interest. And being older and semi-invisible, I didn't see him as much of a threat, anyway.

You can guess where this is going, right? On New Year's Eve I was having a very bad night for various personal reasons, and had way too much to drink at the community's holiday party. I hadn't been that drunk since my senior year of college, and on that previous occasion I (reportedly) threw myself at my best friend's brother who was visiting from out of town. Thankfully, my college friends were able to gently extricate me from the situation and take me back to my dorm room before I did anything I really regretted. I don't remember any of it. One of those college moments.

This time, I wasn't so lucky. I realize I'm a grown woman and responsible for my own bad decisions, but the fact that everybody--my friends--knew what was happening, and no one tried to intervene, is something I'm still struggling with months later. They probably didn't realize I was so drunk I wouldn't remember any of it, but they definitely knew I was sad and extremely intoxicated and very vulnerable. They could see someone who was a known predator take advantage of my vulnerability. And they all just turned around and said to themselves, "Well, that's Billy. He always gets the ladies in the end." The community as a whole skews heavily toward the geeky side, so I suspect there's a certain degree of envy there as well.

I only learned what had happened through an increasingly horrifying exchange of text messages with Billy in the days following. When he realized I didn't remember any of it, he said, "Oops! I guess I should've paid more attention to your mental state." Then proceeded to try to "jog my memory" with some graphic descriptions of what and where it had taken place.

I've had a lot of conversations with my closest female friend in the community since then. She is one of those who had her own regrettable moment with Billy, and at first she laughed off the situation as, "well, we've all been there, join the club!" But when she realized that I have no recollection of it, which places this event in a grey area in terms of consent (although I have no doubt I was fully participative at the time), she was forced to acknowledge that the situation with Billy had gone too far. She says it's hard for her, a feminist who has been sexually abused and assaulted, to realize that she would not be surprised if this person--her friend, someone she's known for years--were someday accused of rape. A sobering idea to accept. Thanks to her efforts, at least he is no longer allowed to teach newcomers; luckily, he has had a lot of other pursuits that have led to him spending less time in the community in general. When I do run into him, he acts the same as always, and although I recoil in horror I don't want to make a scene, you see, because that would both make other people uncomfortable, god forbid. The instinct to play fucking cruise director even when I'm dying inside just will not go away. I also don't want to reveal just how upset I am at what happened, which would make me vulnerable.

That's the biggest loss, to me: I no longer feel comfortable letting myself be vulnerable around my friends. I don't blame them, but I don't fully trust them anymore, either. I'm furious at myself for letting my guard down, I'm angry at Billy for being such a boundary-ignoring ass, and I'm disappointed that there's now a wall between me and the others in this community that I really want to tear down, but am afraid to. They could have stepped in the way my college friends did, but instead they chose the path of least awkwardness in the moment. Avoiding embarrassment and protecting the status quo took precedence over my personal and physical boundaries.

That's what I think is important about these conversations. It's not just about what individuals can do to make sure they're not creepers, but that everyone who shrugs off events as "just how so-and-so is," maybe with a dash of envy at their ability to score, allows the situation to perpetuate itself. In my case, the only fallout was some severe embarrassment and my sense of alienation from the people around me; in other cases, like the Dr. Glass one, the potential consequences of looking in the other direction are much more severe.
posted by Superplin at 1:08 PM on August 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


Thank you for sharing your story, Superlin.
posted by Green With You at 2:04 PM on August 22, 2012


Very interesting discussion.

I tend to use skeevy where others mean creepy. But yeah, behaviour like this needs to be pointed out and stopped.
posted by Val_E_Yum at 3:25 PM on August 24, 2012


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