This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (Or: More on Creepers)

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It’s sad but not terribly surprising that the topic of avoiding creepy behavior and the relative “fairness” of calling dudes out for being creepy are among the most controversial topics I write about on the blog. After all, guys don’t like being told that, hey, here are all the ways that you’re weirding women out. And in fairness, I can understand; nobody likes being told that they’re causing someone discomfort, especially in ways that he doesn’t process as being creepy. After all, he means well and didn’t mean to trip her Spidey-sense.

However, there are still folks out there who don’t seem to get the point.  To them, it’s simply not fair that she can’t see past her own fears and expectations and malign these poor and clearly innocent men who only have the best of intentions at heart. Or else they cry “Hey, it’s only creepy if an ugly guy does it! Brad Pitt would never get called creepy!”

Yup. This is totally a face that you can trust when he says “Hey, would you mind coming with me back to my windowless van that I parked back in the alley?”

So once again for the cheap seats: to be a woman is to live in a world where you are at risk simply by virtue of being born a woman. I’m running out of ways to phrase the statistics, but here they are again: 78% of the victims of sexual assault or sexual violence are women. 1 in 12 women will be stalked in their lifetime. 1 out of every 6 women has been sexually assaulted or endured an attempted assault. But for every time I tell people this, I hear from the folks who insist that they are that special snowflake who may be a little socially awkward or a little inexperienced and this shouldn’t be held against them. Women, it is argued, should be willing to overlook behavior that corresponds with being a potential threat to her person.

Well, unfortunately, a few stories got posted this week that provide sterling examples of why no, they really shouldn’t.

The PAX Penis Incident

So if you haven’t heard of this already, Ky – who blogs over at ExplodedSoda – posted the story of an assault that happened to her at a party during Penny Arcade Expo Prime1.

To sum up the incident: She was taking a breather from the party, sitting alone on a couch in the VIP section of the club and checking the Internet on her phone. A stranger came up, sat down next to her and started trying to strike up a conversation. In Ky’s words:

I don’t exactly know what it is about a girl sitting alone that just screams “YES I TOTALLY WANT TO BE BOTHERED BY YOU, RANDOM GUY” but it does. And I’m usually (always) too nice to say “Hey, fuck off” so when they start small talk I’ll reply, but keep trying to ignore them while looking at my phone.

So while she was willing to make token small-talk, her entire body language was saying “No, I’m not interested in you.” This gentleman2 continued to talk to her, turning the conversation to the topic of breasts… apparently specifically the breasts of fellow party-goers, since he had been snapping pics of said party boobs and then decided to show them to Ky. From there the conversation turned to penises. Specifically: his.

Again, quoting Ky’s blog:

At some point he raised a concern about being Asian and women not wanting him cause of some stereotypical view of penis size, and I was like “most women will agree size doesn’t matter” and went back to my phone.

Then he grabbed my free wrist and put it on his crotch and asked “Is this big enough?”

Oh, and he had unzipped his pants and yanked his cock out before forcing her hand onto his crotch.

She was rather understandably upset about this, and well she should be. She was sexually assaulted in a place that by all rights should have been a safe space. The security guard her friends tried to alert responded with a “So… what do you want me to do about it?” Fortunately, she apparently has awesome friends who were there to help and support her but still: she was assaulted by a guy who was exhibiting increasingly creepy behavior.

Why He Was Being Creepy

So let’s break this down and look at what this guy did, leading up to the actual assault:

  • Approaching a woman at a party:

    Not creepy. Parties are social occasions, its generally expected that you’re going to talk to people you don’t know already. This wasn’t the problem.

  • Ignoring signs that she wasn’t interested:

    Possibly creepy, definitely boorish. It’s one thing to talk to someone who’s showing signs of interest; it’s another to keep talking to someone whose body language and behavior says “I’m really not interested in talking to you, thanks.” And make no mistake: when the woman you’re talking to is paying more attention to her phone than to anything you’re saying, that is a very big sign that she’s tolerating your presence at best. A woman who is paying more attention to her phone and repeatedly bringing up the fact that she has a boyfriend is trying very hard to give you as socially acceptable a “fuck off” as possible without being rude. A response does not equal interest, and women are socialized not to be rude or direct – especially to men. At this point, the guy in question is showing that he is already willing to ignore her wishes and boundaries.

  • Taking the conversation in an unwanted sexual direction:

    We are now into full-on creepy territory. It’s one thing to be making a sexual innuendo when you’re flirting with someone who’s flirting back. It’s another when you start forcing the topic towards sex with someone who is, once again, showing no signs of being interested. This, in fact, is a common tactic used by sexual harrassers, especially the predatory types who get off on humiliating and intimidating women.

  • Showing inappropriate photos:

    Again- big time creepy. And once again, it’s a case of context. In my circle of friends, we’ll frequently find and share disturbing images amongst ourselves as a joke. I used be an illustrator and would do photography as a hobby. I shot and/or painted a fair share of artistic nudes and pin-ups and would show examples of my work to women I was flirting with… except I would tell them in advance that some of the images were racy. If they let me know they didn’t want to see them, I wouldn’t show them anyway.

These are not behaviors of someone who is good at heart, but maybe a little awkward or unused to reading social cues. These are not little things that should be ignored because it’s possible that she’s misreading things or possibly even being too suspicious of someone. This is not a case of “overreacting” or “blowing things out of proportion. These are the escalating behaviors of a predator – and make no mistake, he is a predator – who is repeatedly pushing a stranger’s boundaries leading up to an actual assault.

Oh, and hey: that progression of creepy behavior leading up to actual assault? Happens to guys too.

  1. And just to make this clear: this was a private party that occured concurrently with PAX weekend, not a PAX sponsored party []
  2. I use the term ironically []

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  • Seriously Mr. Security Guard? What are you supposed to do? Your fucking job and throw the asshole out. Unfucking real.

    • Taekro

      These things happen an unfortunate amount of times, really. A lot of security guards (or better yet, bouncers in this case) are nothing more than "goes-to-the-gym-a-lot" buff guys whose main problem-solving strategy is to flex their muscles and say "Is there a problem here?"…

      That doesn't mean that there aren't good security enforcers. Just that the bad ones exist in a way too big amount…

    • jenfullmoon

      Hey, it's not his problem. He's not a woman. Why do anything?

      But seriously now, what an ass. Unfortunately, there's a lot of guys like him around, and most women learn early on that we're unlikely to have another dude ride to our rescue when this happens to us.

      • Max

        From what I heard via word of mouth while I was at PAX Prime, the creep had run off by the time the security guard was alerted of his misconduct.

        Even with a good description of the guy, how the HELL would they be able to pick that creep out of a crowd as big as the one that was PAX?

        Still, he could have said as much, or at least TRIED.

    • Max

      Came here to post this. Security guard dropped the ball.

    • I was on a night train from Sydney, Australia, to Brisbane. There were several unaccompanied female passengers. One guy kept coming around and trying to climb on top of us, one by one. When we complained to the conductor, he threatened to throw the WOMEN off the train!

  • Gman

    Wow, that last story there sounds like the begining of some horror story of sorts – I mean seriously, WTF is wrong with people?! That was very disturbing to read, so I can barley imagine how that felt. If I was her I would have problems sleeping for at least two weeks after that…. damn!

    What I get from this is that trying to hit on women in public places isn't recommened, at least for me. It's hard for me as is to hit on a girl, so I don't think I'll do any better where girls are naturally more suspicous or guarded (and from reading this, for good reasons too!). I think I'm better off trying my luck in places where it is socially expected to talk with people – like in party's, bars, activity groups or university classes.

    Though seriously, these cases make me feel disgusted – I belive that punishment for these kind of cases must be way more strict and serious than what it is today.

    • Gman

      oops… forgot to spell check and the post I was refering to was the one with the crazy metro….. kind of missed that there was a 3rd page…. LOL XD

    • Xenu

      That's not true. You can certainly approach women in public places, but the Doc's point is that you have to be aware of how your body language, her body language, and other factors are affecting the interaction.

      At the party, creepy-guy didn't hear the word "boyfriend" and notice the ignoring-you-with-my-phone mannerism, taking things WAY too far as a result. What you should take away from this is that if she says "I have a boyfriend" in any capacity, or doesn't make eye contact with you and plays with her phone, then its time to end the conversation and try someone else.

      On the train, the Doc isn't saying never to talk to a girl in this situation, but definitely back off if she says she doesn't want to be talked to. NEVER put your arms around or near her either. Don't try to sit next to her on purpose, or worse, sit directly behind her. Your approach in this situation should be more "over-the-shoulder" or at least from the front. Instead of using a leading (overused) question like "what are you reading?" go for "Hi, I'm _. Do you want to chat for a minute?" Now she can say "Yes" or "No." The difference is that there is no false obligation to carry out conversation because of the leading question.

      tl;dr: Yes, approaching women in public is fine. Just be careful about it. Be direct instead of using leading questions and roundabout discussion, don't invade her personal space, and learn to take the subtle hints to move on.

      • Dr_NerdLove

        To expand on what Xenu's saying, look at the article I posted about approaching April. I approached a woman in public, engaged in sexual innuendo, even had my hand on the back of her chair and on her back… and it worked out well. We ended up dating for months afterward

        Why? Because I was willing to gauge her responses and act accordingly. She wasn't hunched over her sketchbook and avoiding eye contact with everyone. I kept my distance until I got permission to move a little closer. If she had given me "go away" body language, I would've said "Cool, have a nice night" and moved on. If she hadn't come back with her own zinger at my joke, I would've dialed it back. If I had felt her tense up or give other signs that she was uncomfortable with where my hand was, I would have moved back until she was comfortable.

        I took the time to feel things out – as it were – and was willing to take "go away", slow down" or "move back" as an answer. It's a matter of respect for her wishes and boundaries rather than pushing at her limits in the hopes that I could get her to accede to my desire if I just hung in there.

        • Gman

          Now, just to be clear – I know the obvious limits in these areas. When a girl says "I have a boyfriend", turns the other way or simply kind of ignores me from the get go, I totally get it and move on because these are the "obvious" cases.

          My problem personally lies in reading body language. I have a mild learning disability known as NVLD (Non-verbal learning disorder), which causes me to constantly misinterpret subtle body language (and on rare occasions some big ones too). For example, I sometimes find myself taking a teasing flirt seriously – which makes me blush and not knowing how to respond or come back too strong than what the other side was expecting. Plus, I find myself especially frustrated when I feel like I am getting conflicting signs from a girl – because I can't seem to figure out what they all mean.

          Thing is I am learning to improve, slowly but surely. This is the reason why I have started taking salsa dancing lessons – it's both fun AND a great way to learn how to communicate using mainly body language through the dance. This is the reason why I think that hitting on girls in a more controlled environment is better for me personally. It's not that I won't try to talk with a girl in public if I feel like trying, but my point was that for me, I usually feel like I will feel more comfortable in a more controlled environment of some sort

          • Gentleman Horndog

            Kudos, sir, for knowing your limitations and both working within them and working to overcome them. You seem to have a very healthy attitude.

          • Jessica

            Good for you for trying to learn to work around your limitations. And yes, even to people who are good at reading body language and social cues, signals can sometimes register as conflicting.

            Heck, sometimes they absolutely *are* conflicting, especially for women when it comes to expressing disinterest. I have a hard time not smiling and nodding to feign polite interest at a creep even as I've hunched away from him as far as I can get and am staring at the floor. I absolutely know that I should just say, "Please leave me alone," and stare coldly at him, but it's hard to explain how ironclad social conditioning to never make the other person lose face can be. I've had the words die in my throat more times than I can count.

            So, yes, the signals are often conflicting. If you're not comfortable reading them, absolutely I think you should approach women at parties or other controlled, safe environments where you have friends who can help you read the signals you might be missing. You'll feel more confident with backup, and the women will likely feel safer and less likely to refuse you out of hand. (In a public environment where you don't feel safe, your willingness to take risks decreases.) I met my boyfriend, and all of my trusted male friends, in social situations with mutual friends.

            The other thing you might try is just telling the women you're interested in, "Hey, I really enjoy talking to you! Just wanted to let you know, I have a mild learning disorder that sometimes makes it hard for me to read body language. If you need to get going or go talk to someone else, don't worry that you'll hurt my feelings by telling me straight out."

            Giving them "permission" to just say they have to go without hurting your feelings and letting them know about your disorder a) lets them know that if you're missing their signals, you're missing them and not ignoring them; b) removes the threat of rudeness/your angry response if they want to get out of the conversation, and c) shows that you're genuinely concerned with their comfort level and that you'd rather lose the conversation than force them to be polite.

            It's a risk — some women might be uncomfortable once they realize you have a disability. But let's face it — anyone who gets to know you is going to realize, sooner or later, that you have some sort of social issue. And the ones who can't get past that aren't women you had a chance with anyway, so you may as well offer them a polite, honest out from the beginning.

    • There is nothing wrong with approaching a woman in public as long as you do it in a way that doesn't make her feel unsafe. Places: Don'ts: Bus, subway, any place where I woman does not have an OUT. Dos: Bars, coffee shops, crowded stores.

      If she is not interested, just leave her alone. Wouldn't you rather be with a woman who wants to be with you back?

  • chadposey

    Awesome post Harris. Well said.

  • Taekro

    It amazes me how some guys have such a lack of empathy towards women… How in the world would one consider these behaviors acceptable?
    The first and last cases are obviously people that have serious mental issues (though it's no excuse), but the first dude that approached her in the sub as well as the three kids (and they are clearly kids even though they are only 2-3 years younger than me) are just… damn, no amount of alcohol or drugs could make me that much asshole-ish.

    • Squirrel

      Saying that the first case obviously has mental issues is very dismissive of what is clearly very calculating and predatory behavior. He didn't suddenly turn into a creeper. He gradually tested her boundaries to see what he could get away with. That's not someone who can't tell the different between right and wrong. That's someone who knows that what he plans is wrong and is testing to see how far he can push her. I have absolutely no doubt that if her reaction had been to freeze instead of flee, he would have done far worse.

      • My sense is that this wasn't calculated. I could totally be reading more into this situation than is warranted, but that guys who do this sort of thing are desperate to feel validated by the attention of the lady. It's not like he went into the situation saying "I'm going to get a stranger to touch my penis". It was that he just kept pushing, imagining that because she was still talking to him his behavior was acceptable (and accepted). Each time he raised the stakes (pulling out the dirty, making innuendo, etc…) the more validation he got when the girl didn't run away screaming, and the more he felt like he had to push it further.

        Make no mistake, I'm not trying to justify his actions. But if you want to give advise to men, it's not that helpful to say "don't be a calculating predator out to pressure women into impromptu hand jobs". Nobody actually does that. If you don't want to be a creeper, don't approach people in a mindset that needs personal validation. For the woman, it's dehumanizing and exploitative; she doesn't exist to help men feel desirable, charming, and manly. And it sets up the guy to be hurt really badly, since it turns even the most casual, innocuous rejections into attacks on his personal worth. It's why the penis guy was so determined to ignore the signals that his victim wasn't interested. It's why the guy on the metro had a psychotic breakdown when a cute stranger wouldn't talk to him. If you go into a situation with this mindset, the best you can hope is that you're going to be gently rebuffed before you do anything abusive.

        • Squirrel

          it's not that helpful to say "don't be a calculating predator out to pressure women into impromptu hand jobs". Nobody actually does that.

          I'm glad that you live in a reality where this is true. I live in a reality where men get on subways wearing clothing specifically intended for them to easily corner and sexually assault a woman.

          As for the rest of it… Wow. Way to derail into "But it might hurt a man's feelings!"

          • Max

            Maybe you're both right? It sounded to me like the pants guy had planned to do something like that, while the subway guy just has some serious rejection and stability issues.

            I wasn't there, though, so I could be wrong.

          • AngelCakes

            *Disclaimer: None of the following is in any way meant to excuse the behaviour of the attackers or shift responsibility for their actions. I'm just trying to figure out the kind of head-space that would have caused them to believe that their actions were reasonable.*

            To be honest, like with most human behaviours there are a probably a bunch of underlying reasons why people act in a creepy or threatening way. For the more predatory creepers, it might be a display of power or dominance, like the teenage assholes on the bus. For others it might be desperation for validation combined with low social intelligence and/or alcohol like the creepy guy at the party. For others it might be some kind of emotional instability or lack of emotional intelligence combined with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and an inability to take a "no" gracefully, like Bike Guy.

            For the latter two scenarios, Daniel is, I think, right (although he could have made it clearer that the onus is on the guy to change his mindset which is the point I think he was trying to make), but like Squirrel said, this approach is unlikely to work on the more predatory creepers.

      • Taekro

        I didn't say that his behaviour was in any was excusable, and I do agree that his actions were calculated. I still believe that he has some severe mental issues to behave like that, the same way someone would have to have some mental issues to be a serial killer.

        This is just me, my own way of thinking, but I can't imagine one going that far and without being considered mentally sane (though there can certainly exist some malice behind his actions).

        • Squirrel

          I dislike assigning any element of mental disorder to this sort of thing because I feel that it is at once dismissive of the behavior and detrimental to those people who have genuine mental disorders and still manage to not sexually assault a stranger.

        • kmf7

          Actually, non-neurotypical people are FAR more likely to be victims of abuse than perpetrators. That dude made a conscious decision that his erection was of more importance than another human being's comfort or safety. These guys, creepers, rapists, harassers- they are NOT a different species, and they're perfectly sane. They are men who know they won't be held accountable for their actions and have been told their entire lives that they're entitled to women's time and bodies. They know they'll get away with it because of all the bullshit excuses our culture makes for horrific male behavior, and how it consistently punishes women who get into confrontations or speak up (many women have been murdered simply for turning down an invitation, and nearly any woman who writes about feminism will receive numerous graphic rape and death threats).

          And whether you mean to or not, using 'mental issues' as reasoning for his behavior removes some of the responsibility of his actions. He made these decisions to corner a woman who wanted to be left alone, he decided to mock her, he decided to scream and threaten her. No one made him, no one egged him on, no one put a fucking gun to his head. The men who act this way aren't somehow fundamentally different from you- I'd bet good money that multiple men you know have either assaulted or harassed a woman. Any man is capable of this behavior. The sooner you realize how prevalent these attitudes are in men (even if they don't voice them aloud, even if they'd claim they didn't feel that way at all) , the better off you'll be as a person. You can't trust what someone claims- you have to see how they act around women.

          Hell, one of my rapists is considered a fine, upstanding young man. He ran the Young Republicans club in college, went to law school, wants to run for office, loves his family, fiance, and kid. He possesses high social intelligence and empathy. Yet he still made a conscious decision to disregard my lack of consent and do whatever he wanted.

  • Nana

    Well, I'm six feet tall and usually walk around in baggy tees, straight jeans and a bad-day face. People tell me I'm intimidating and that's why guys don't think I'm attractive (even if they say that, indeed, I am), but honestly? I've suffrered this kind of assault even walking around "like a boy", so isn't it fair to believe that I'll suffer MORE of it when going out "normally"? Heck, every time I see a man stare obnoxiously to a woman's ass while she walks away I feel like punching them in the face; imagine how powerless and humilliated I feel when some jerk passes by my side saying "hey, juicy" and you ca't react because you're afraid THEY'LL HURT YOU?

    Once, I was wearing nothing special (jeans pants just above knee level, an orange top tank and my hair up in a bun) while walking down the street to the shopping mall at 11:30 am, and not less than three man who I crossed path with said something gross ("whoa, precious butt" "Juuiiicy" and "Wanna go to my home, baby?"). I wans't wearing anything "innapropriate" (not that it'd justify anything). I wasn't out flirting, I was at top walking speed. But I don't feel like going out alone wearing those clothes. It's disheartening.

    • Dr_NerdLove

      The whole point of the people who do this is to intimidate and disturb you. They're not trying to hit on women, they're trying to get a rise out of them and make them uncomfortable for yuks.

      • Nana

        Yes, and that's why it's disheartening.

    • guest

      Punching them just for checking out a girl's ass? Really?

      • greydawnbreaking

        Nothing whatsoever wrong with checking out a girl’s ass. The point that you’ve gone to some effort to avoid is that there is something majorly wrong with FORCING a woman to listen to you check out her ass.

        Checking out a pretty female stranger is human. Letting her know you’re doing it, in a way that’s impossible for her to ignore, when absolutely no social relationship exists between you, is dehumanizing and creepy.

  • Amber

    When I lived in new york city shit like this would happen to me ALL THE TIME.
    Being from the suburbs it took me years to get used to it, while my friends from new york didn't even notice.

    Now that I'm living in a smaller town on the west I deal with harassment WAY less, and it's usually someone I know rather than a stranger.

    Maybe it's hard for guys who are from smaller towns to understand what it can be like in bigger cities where public transportation is the best way to travel (as it should be everywhere!) and the many people creates the bystander effect where you just KNOW that no one is going to do anything about it if you are harassed.

  • Inala

    I can attest to "freezing up." When I found out my stalker came to the country I was in, I avoided public spots I've been known to frequent (aka, campus), and went through dozens of scenarios in my head of what I'd do if he found me. I made sure to look around as I walked and be aware of my surroundings, planning my next course of action if he came up to me. Inevitably, I had to go to campus to meet my advisor and couldn't get into the department building at the time, so I went into a university coffee shop and skype messaged with my boyfriend. I had positioned myself in an area where I could see out the window, I thought I did everything I could. I looked up all of a sudden (something changed, the lighting maybe?) and OMG WTF – everything went through my brain, and nothing went through my brain, all at the same time. I sat open mouthed, barely breathing, no words forming. It was terrifying, even if all he did was whisper a few sentences. After he left all I could do was cry.

    Everyone really does need to realize that no matter the amount of planning you put into being prepared, this shit hits you blind-sided. And if you are prepared, don't let that lull you into a false sense of security.

  • Shanonish

    I could give you dozens of stories… Thers’s the nice guy best friend who constantly offers to do favors and help run errands then one day out of nowhere starts ranting about how doing nice things for me was a waste of time because he never gets anything out of it (going on to make it clear that while gas money and being treated to lunch were appreciated, he had hoped to get laid. I hadn’t known that sexual gratitude was an expected response to being occasionally picked up from work or for a mutual friend’s party or to run errands.. We had already had the “just friends” talk and I was foolishly under the impression that he was ok with being friends without benefits…)

    I have several stories involving both cross country Greyhound and local transit incidents. A greyhound customer service employee deliberately told me the wrong connection, causing me to have a 6 hour wait for the next bus headed to the next leg of my destination… Then when I realized I missed my bus, offered to take me to his place since he was off in a few minutes… When I refused, he hung around the station, off duty, for the next hour, openly watching me. Another passenger noticed this and made a point if striking up conversation and staying next to me until the guy finally went away. On greyhound trips I’ve learned to amplify the “f&$@ off” vibe, stretch out on both seats so they can’t sit beside me unless the bus is packed, glare, listen to headphones, ignore attempts at conversation, sit directly behind the drivers… And still been harassed, insulted, groped in my sleep (by both men and women, who took offense to my waking and shoving them away)… On local transit I’ve had guys scream at me, and several times had them get off at my stop and attempt to follow me home (instead I go to the nearest well lit place, convenience store, or once walked to a stranger’s door and loudly asked them to call the police for me).

    No, I’m not some drop dead gorgeous model type figure. I’m a moderately attractive female with an impressive bust size that draws attention whether I’m exposing cleavage or trying to hide it under baggy sweatshirts.

    • Denny

      “Nice Guys” = Creepers In Waiting

      • Paul Rivers

        Ridiculous. Is the guy who comes up and says "nice rack baaaaby!" on the street overtly somehow less creepy? Is the guy who in-your-face follows you walking for half a mile somehow less creepy?

        The difference between a guy who's nice and a guy who's just pretending to be nice is the nice guy doesn't tell the girl that she "has" to date him, and/or refuse to back off if he gets explicitly turned down. He'll probably be sad, he may be frustrated, but "why won't you date me bitch" is never, ever the kind of thing he would say – ever.

        I've kind of grown to appreciate where women are coming from – the number of homeless people that I run into on the street now makes me jumpy (as a guy) whenever someone I don't know says anything to me on the street. These guys act all nice, then when you turn you down they curse at you and run off. My friend had one of them slam his body into his car then run off when he told him to get lost. When the ratio becomes 10 to 1, it's not really that 1 person who's actually just asking a question or being friendly's fault, but you just get so overwhelmed by the "pretending to be nice" people that you can't even differentiate any more.

        Still though – if the trend towards dissing being nice continues, these kind of guys will just change tactics, if being a jerk gets them an opening that's what they'll do.

        • Denny

          I really wasn't trying to make it a versus thing…

          Although the case with The Bicycle Man story turned into the Very Worst Case Scenario, I still think the comparison is apt. Heck even the three guys story. They acted like a perfectly normal ho-hum folks until they got denied, which made them rant and rave and bitch and hurl insults at the females that DAAAAAARE deny them the ever coveted Holy Vagina that they so rightfully deserve. Same thing when the "Nice Guy" figures out that all his Nice Guy Tokens he put into a relationship with a girl won't equal Sexy Sexs Time.

          Trust me, they do it ALLLLLLL the fucking time. That's why they made up the ever-popular "Friend Zone" phenomenon in order to call girls that deny them "bitches and sluts that only date assholes and not us poor FZ'd Nice Guys OH WOE IS US!!!"

          It's that kind of guilt-tripping entitlement bullshit that makes me lump them in with them. I guess the difference is that the "Nice Guys" are Creepers in established relationships with a person rather than a stranger. But to me they pretty much say the same shit.

          P.S. Yeah, I am aware of the difference between a guy who is nice and "The Nice Guy", which is why I keep putting it in quotations…

      • Goldfinch

        Sometimes yeah, but that's a sweeping generalisation. Most "Nice Guys" probably just have latent sexual shame.

        • VintageLydia

          What do you mean by “latent sexual shame” and how does that excuse treating women like commodities they can buy with favors and smiles and not as individuals?

    • Goldfinch

      Those sound like some really horrible experiences with messed-up people. And I can understand if now you're wary when strangers try to talk to you. But remember most people aren't predatory creeps, so if they start a conversation they're probably just trying to be sociable and outgoing.

      • Jess

        Even if that is the case, ALL people should be aware of when it is appropriate to start a conversation, and when it is rude to interrupt what they are doing.

        • Goldfinch

          Absolutely, this is a very difficult skill for some people to learn though (I'm still trying to master it). So when someone gets it wrong, I think it's important not to quickly judge them as rude, or imposing or threatening, but first to politely and clearly tell them not to bother you. It's a Hanlon's Razor kind-of-thing:'s_razor

          • Jess

            As long as people get the message that their presence is not wanted at some point, and then LEAVE with an apology instead of intensifying the behavior, or escalating dangerous behavior, then that is okay. It may be a little irritating, but lots of people are irritating as we deal with them from day to day. It's only irritating. What we need to stop is THREATENING.

            I don't think women are asking men to never make a mistake with this stuff ever. We're asking you not to harass us to the point where our safety is violated. That means learning what no means, how people say it, then respecting it and making yourself scarce when you hear a no, even if you don't like it.

            Women have mental issues too. Women have trouble reading body language just as often as men. Women somehow learn not to verbally berate and badger people just fine even in spite of those issues. They may struggle socially, but I'm not seeing any epidemics of women standing up on any buses and screaming at the tops of their lungs. "You Asshole! You are such a skeeze. Why are you looking at that girl over there? I'm right here. I've got bigger tits than her. You must be gay you sick freak."

            Assuming social awkwardness runs across both sexes, you'd see that happening. And so far, I haven't seen that story pop up anywhere. I know for a fact women can be psychotic and scary. They can batter their family and murder their children, so that amount of "evil" is in us. So, why isn't it showing up in public in the same way that it is frequently showing up with men in certain situations, (like public transportation)

            That seems to indicate to me that there is a cultural and social thing going on here, so I'm just not buying the "Well what about our mental problems" defense.

            I'm more inclined to believe men need a new lesson on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior, and they need to learn it well.

            It seems like the time for that lesson is now.

          • Jess

            BTW I want to apologize to the GLBT community for my comment. I just gender switched things I actually heard, but it is never okay to use you as a standard of scorn. I love you guys and I hate how nastiness like this comes back around to hurt you obliquely.

      • Did you read Dr. Nerdlove's post?

  • ICanFly

    I love being reminded that I'm nothing but a potential rapist in the morning. Thanks Dr. nerdlove!

    • Dr_NerdLove

      Don't like the fact that women live in a more dangerous world than men do? Help make a safer world.

      • Marth

        While I totally I agree with your article (there are lot of reasons women have to be vigilant ), and allthough his comment is very passive agressive, I do have an idea where ICanFly's sentiment comes from (assuming ICanFly does not engage in the creepy behaviour described in the article).
        I do not mean to belittle the problems of women. In fact this problem is caused by the men who are dangerous to women or harress them and not the natural reaction of women to that behaviour.

        In the last paragraph you give the following advice to us guys: "If you don’t want to be seen as being creepy, the onus is on you to develop some self-awareness …"

        One of the big problems I have is that I am TOO self-aware.
        I ALWAYS think a girl will find it creepy if I come up to her.
        And I constantly fail to initiate physical contact with girls I like and date, because I think they would not like it.
        I am bad at noticing social cues in this situation so I interpret everything as being negative (at least I hope I am bad at it, otherwise no girl ever wants me to progress the interaction, and thats a bit sad).
        I guess ICanFly feels simmilar.

        What I mean to say is that guys like me (and most likely ICanFly) actually need to feel like we can not be creepy instead of confirmation in all the ways we might be creepy.

        • Dr_NerdLove

          That's not self-awareness, Marth, that's self-doubt and and low self-esteem. There's a difference.

        • It’s not about initiating contact or not initiating it’s about reading the responses you get to each level of social guestures. If you start at the harmless end of the spectrum (Hi, I’m…) and follow up positive responses with the next appropriate level, or react to negative responses by backing off to the previous levels until she’s comfortable and keep reacting to cues, you’ll be fine. Don’t be aggressive bar guy who follows up “hi, your smile is sweet” with “here let me tickle your tonsils.” The hyperspace jump is bad news and can turn a lady’s positive “I think you’re cool” response into a negative nutshot

          • It’s not about initiating contact or not initiating it’s about reading the responses you get to each level of social guestures. If you start at the harmless end of the spectrum (Hi, I’m…) and follow up positive responses with the next appropriate level, or react to negative responses by backing off to the previous levels until she’s comfortable and keep reacting to cues, you’ll be fine. Don’t be aggressive bar guy who follows up “hi, your smile is sweet” with “here let me tickle your tonsils.” The hyperspace jump is bad news and can turn a lady’s positive “I think you’re cool” response to the first, into a negative nutshot (what I wish I’d done), or fleeing (what I did) reaction to the second.
            This respectfully testing the waters goes the same for dating too: it doesn’t matter what you two did together yesterday, it only matters whether you are getting a warm or a cold reaction today to a shoulder touch or kiss.

          • Goldfinch

            All women are individual in their social cues though. There's no magic one-size-fits-all method for detecting interest. And the onus is almost exclusively on men to make all the advances.

            So unless men are going to start asking weird questions like "Earlier you let me touch your arm, would you now be comfortable with me touching the small of your back?" There's always going to be a risk of misjudging.

            Of course it's only sensible to be wary of people you don't know well. But it isn't nice to be branded as some sort sexual predator just because you misread someone slightly.

            Perhaps we need to try and find some way of fostering clearer communication without ruining the romance.

          • Mel

            Women don't call men sexual predators for misreading them slightly. Did you read the examples in the article and in the women's comments here? These aren't subtle indications that were open to misinterpretation. It's about men ignoring blatant cues that the women aren't interested in continuing to interact with them (turning or pulling away, focusing their attention on an object, frowning, outright asking the guy to back off) and either respond with anger toward the woman and/or keep pushing the interaction. If you touch a woman's back after she seemed fine with you touching her arm, and she flinches and pulls away, and you apologize and don't try to touch her there (or anywhere more intimate), that's fine. If you aren't aware that pulling away or frowning or avoiding all eye contact are signs that someone doesn't like something, then you should probably do some reading on basic social communication before you're trying to interact with other human beings.

          • Dr_NerdLove

            Not true on both accounts. It's just easier to throw up ones hands and say “Women are so goddamn complicated” than it is to really pay attention. I've written about signs that a woman is interested in you before and there will be another article about reading her signs (both positive and negative) coming up on Monday.As for the “onus is on men to approach” – that's cultural as much as anything. In my recent conversation with Clarisse Thorn, we talk about *why* women are less likely to approach – most of it involves men reacting badly when women approach them.

          • ChrisC

            Here is the bigger problem –it isn't about failure to read cues or social awkwardness–it's the choice a lot of men make to do what they want no matter what the woman wants.

            I'm in my mid-forties. While I looked like a model in my 20's and 30's, I don't anymore. I look like a middle aged woman with lupus.But I am still subject to sexual advances and unwelcome sexual touching not by strangers, but by men that I know and trust. Even by men who claim to be feminists, with wives who *are* feminists. Why? Because men havea position of superiority in the world, have a status of privilege that let's them get away with sexual assault (which, while not murder of the body, IS murder of the psyche…trust me…been there). And while I appreciate the vocalizations of men who claim to be women's allies, I am always suspicious, because of my experience with the misogyny and pro-porn stance of progressive, leftist males. Further, every male–EVERY male–benefits from the low status of women, including the "nice guys", so I'm probably not going to trust you if you are male. That's not because I think all males are bad. But you can thank the 95% of the males on this planet who act badly, and benefit richly from my personal subjugation, the assaults against my person, against my body, and from the subjugation of every single woman on this planet.

            We need a women's uprising. That's the only way this will ever get better for women. Because men refuse to see the value in equality with women, in our safety and our prosperity. I'm done with playing nice. And many thousands of women are just as radicalized as I am. This shit has an expiration date, fellas.

          • Terre Spencer

            I agree, ChrisC. Men have had 6000 years to figure it out and political/social events of this year have amply revealed that covert misogyny is now overt in-your-face, science- and statistics-denying, full-on woman-hatred.
            Clearly men will not figure anything out. Women have become radicalized but you cannot see that. You are blind and deaf to us. You are oblivious to the injustices, cruelties, torture and murders that you blithely carry out in the name of your entitlements.
            We women are done with this patriarchal crap.

          • mgm531

            Repressed anger much?

        • Paul Rivers

          "One of the big problems I have is that I am TOO self-aware."

          lol, yeah, this blog pretty much gives decent advice for fashion, approaching, etc, but when it comes to "feminist issues" it pretty much ignores the 50% of the geek population who's *actually* constantly way overconcerned about not offending women emotions.

          I've found that you basically just have to stop accepting any feeling of guilt or shame about what "men" do whenever "men" are doing something that completely obviously doesn't apply to you. It kinda sorta makes sense – if you rant about how women are flaky or extremely inconsiderate, do you really mean for that girl who always returns your phone calls and listens to you to feel guilty about it? No – by "women" you only really mean "women except for the ones who aren't doing this stuff I hate".

          This blog – and these rants – seem to be more directed at the "I'm aggressive and I don't understand why what I'm doing is considered rude or horrible" kind of nerd (supposedly they exist, though I've only known a very few) rather than the kind of nerds I've far more commonly known which are the "I've spent so much time worrying about offending women that I'm paralyzed about actually approaching" kind of nerds. At least when it comes to the "feminist topics".

          Seriously – as someone who's far to sensitive to how you're perceived, and practically unable to approach women without a really, really good reason – you're just not even on their radar. They don't even notice you. When they say "men" need to do something or other – you're so invisible you're not even in that group. You gotta just filter these things out as "doesn't apply to me". Otherwise, you become horribly unbalanced – what you should not do has to be balanced with what you *should* do or you just freeze up.

          As you can see – funny enough – then they'll come back and actually insult you for caring to much about the topic that they're often complaining men don't care about. "self-doubt and low self-esteem" they'll say – they're kind right, actually – you've just been conditioned to care far to much about accidentally hurting a girls feelings or creeping her out.

          Contrary to the claim quoted above, another way to be seen as creepy is to be *to* careful not to offend someone's feelings. But those comments seem to be mostly directed at the "wait, I *wasn't* supposed to pull out my junk in public? I'm surprised to hear that!" crowd, not the nerd kind of crowd I hung out with growing up, which was the "I can't even say hi to this girl for fear of offending her accidentally, and I'm deathly afraid of doing that" nerd crowd I was used to.

    • Gentleman Horndog

      Why? Do you make a habit of invading women's personal spaces, ignoring their body language, and harassing the living shit out of them when they dare to respond negatively to your advances?

      No? Then try taking yourself out of pre-offended mode and read again. The point is not All Men Are Foul. The point is Women Put Up With Shit Most Guys Can Barely Imagine.

      Yes? Ooh, you know, there are some really GREAT seats under the bus. The hottest, sluttiest babes hang out there. But the door to those seats only opens while the bus is moving. Just toss yourself in front of it, and you'll get there!

      • ChrisC

        "Hottest, sluttiest babes"? Are you fucking kidding me? How dare you objectify women on a blog that is about defending women's rights to autonomy and safety. "Gentleman horndog"…disgusting is what you are. Women do NOT need your kind of "white knight" in wolf's clothes.

        • Becelec

          ChrisC I think you've misread what Gentleman Horndog is saying. He's not objectifying anyone, he's telling anyone who thinks that way to get run over by a bus basically.

        • Thortok2000

          Oh subtlety, whereart thou?

    • You're only a potential rapist if you choose to be.

      • Mike

        Exactly. You can choose to not be a rapist. You can't choose to not be a victim.

    • Denny

      Well you sure are talking like one, so….

    • rachelmack

      Try waking up and being reminded that you're a potential rape victim a million times a day.

      • A million times this.

        I just moved from New York City to a small town in the Midwest. While the harassment is WAY less (aside from the relatively frequent catcalls from moving cars) I've noticed that random older guys often tell me, "Be careful," especially if I'm alone at night and/or wearing a short skirt. I know they probably mean well, but even something like that comes off as a weird kind of threat. Like "Honey, if you're wearing that/walking alone you'd better be careful because that means someone's gonna try to rape you."

        I'll take these little reminders over the more-terrifying encounters on public transit or walking down the street in New York (I've had the yelling and the following and the groping and all of it), but still. I can't seem to get away from the fact that my anatomy makes me a target.

    • Max


      WOE IS US

      • Perivale

        I have to point something out here. The stuff that women have to go through on a daily basis, no matter who they are, how tall they are or what they're wearing is horrific and virtually always seems to be of a sexual nature, so it is no wonder many women are on guard. However; for some guys, such as myself (I'm fairly small, ie 5 foot 6), we also have to be on guard when groups such as those boys on the train approach.

        From my experience such situations are rarer, at least anecdotally, but, I've been verbally abused just for being a short guy and attempting to walk past, I've been held back and threatened by groups of drunk guys in the street on my way home from the office and have been attacked by random men on more than one occasion in "happy slapping" incidents. While the worst I've ever got from women is slightly over-flirtatious behaviour.

        I don't really know what the solution to this is, but some men (definitely a significant percentage) think that abusing people, be they male or female is an entirely acceptable thing to do and perhaps the reason women tend to be attacked more isn't necessarily a sexual thing, merely a belief that "women are weaker" running through their twisted brains. As all of this evidence is anecdotal of course, it's basically worthless, but I do wonder what it is that drives these people.

    • Gentleman Johnny

      Here's all you need to know to go from being a potential rapist to a non-rapits:

    • An Engineer

      I'm afraid there is no help for that.

    • piny

      You know what? Women are reading this and being reminded that they're all potential rape victims. Bite me, okay? BITE ME. And I know this comment was written a month ago, and that you'll probably never see this, but still: BITE ME.

  • devicat

    That's it. This blog should be elevated to mandatory reading for high schoolers/young adults learning to be in the world. I can't think of any clearer choice of words or clearer examples to make men of all ages aware of what sexism/misogyny does to us as human beings. Very well put, very easy to understand (and yet you still get trolls bleating about being blamed for called a 'potential rapist'. Oh, internet, never change). You are one awesome dude, Doctor Nerdlove.

    • Agreed. The reason why I read this blog is because I'm a mother of two young male adults. I encourage them both to read this ALL THE TIME. These are issues they need to be aware of and to understand.

  • On the topic of why women often don’t explicitly say no: if it’s ignored often enough (or actually escalates the situation, as in UnWinona’s case), why would that feel like a safe option? If someone is ignoring all my non-verbal no’s (as with Ky), why would I think that risking actually telling him to buzz off would be respected? Not only are we socialized to be as accommodating as possible, we are continually taught that standing up and saying no will likely be ignored and, potentially, result in *more harassment*. Not great odds.

    • Lee

      And then when the assault happens, it magically becomes your fault for NOT bluntly telling the guy to get lost. Standard no-win scenario.

    • I've had several experiences with street harassment were it only got worse when I politely but firmly told someone to leave me alone.

      One time, I was walking across a busy street and a man crossing the other way stepped into my path, blocking me in the middle of the road, looked me over very theatrically, and said something along the lines of "Damn, girl." I said "Please leave me alone," and had to walk out of the cross walk–where there was traffic–a ways to avoid him. He turned around and called me a cunt and a whore, but thankfully didn't follow me.

      Another night, I was catcalled four times in between my apartment, the subway, and another apartment where I was meeting a friend. The fourth guy was on a bike and actually started following me on his bike. When I asked him, again, to "Please leave me alone," he called me a whore and rode alongside me on the sidewalk for the rest of the block yelling insults at me.

      I've become afraid of saying anything for fear of escalating an already very uncomfortable and sometimes frightening situation. It really, really sucks, because I'm left with no good way to respond.

      • ChrisC

        I am so sorry you had to endure such horrific experiences. But should something like this happen again, do not worry how to respond. Go straight to a police station or grab an officer in uniform and report the guy who is following/harassing you. Women are socially conditioned that we are supposed to be "nice" and accommodating to men. This is a phallacy, part of the errroneous culture that has for thousands of years perpetuated the notion that women are the property of men and that we aren't "fulfilled" as women unless we are owned by a man. It's bullshit, and it's time women stopped buying in to it (one of the many reasons I fucking HATE Disney). A fulfilled woman is an autonomous and powerful one who is complete in herself, and has a strong community of sisters who include her.

        You are not alone. You stand in a company of thousands, and hundreds of thousands.

  • Denny

    I can’t think how the point can be made any crystal clearer. You’ve outdone yourself with this one, good sir.

    Moan and bitch and cry all you want. After you’re done, just face reality. Realize the reality for women and at least ATTEMPT to process and understand their POV, instead of writing off everything that darrrrrrres criticizes the male perspective as “evil male bashing feminism” (as if feminism is some curse word).

    No one here has ever, ever, EVER IN EVERDOM has went on a blind hatred man bashing tirade and said we were all mustache twirling serial rapists. With articles like these, Harris is shedding light on the more uglier underbellies of our culture/way of thinking and showing how ugly it can get if we don’t get a handle on it or just excuse such deplorable behavior as “Tee hee guys will be guys”. There’s no excuse for what those dirtbags did, PERIOD. And again, it is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT an inditement on you personally, and at the same time these aren’t isolated incidents that only happen in the movies. These are behaviors built on bad belief systems and bad habits that need addressing in order to eradicate them so dangerous situations like these stop happening. And it starts with YOU.

    So if you DO feel a bit offended by articles like these, chances are you just might share some of the same traits and have the same mindset of the ones who went further down the rabbit hole. If you do feel like it IS a personal inditement, you just might need to do some serious self-evaluation so you can reach a point where you DON’T relate to what you read above. Truth hurts, so put a band-aid on and take some responsibility for YOU instead of blaming third-parties for your woes.

    • Kyle

      I really lolled at "mustache twirling serial rapists."

    • Paul Rivers

      "No one here has ever, ever, EVER IN EVERDOM has went on a blind hatred man bashing tirade and said we were all mustache twirling serial rapists."

    • Paul Rivers

      "No one here has ever, ever, EVER IN EVERDOM has went on a blind hatred man bashing tirade and said we were all mustache twirling serial rapists."

      I don't think you've been reading this blog that long, as some commenters have indeed toed to the line of saying stuff that like. I'm reminded of one commenter in particular who wrote how she had arranged her life so – thank god! – she pretty much never had to interact with men, because all men were pretty much horrible human beings.

      It's not terribly common for commenters to go that far, but you wrote "ever, ever, ever…", and actually, some commenters do say stuff that borders that.

  • One thing you've left out is the societal conditioning of men. Women are conditioned to be "polite", and men are conditioned to expect us to be that way. That if we are not open to whatever men want, there is something wrong with us, bitch being a common response. Conditioned to believe we are there for their pleasure. To believe that they have a right to not be interested in our friend, but we have no rights on who we choose to talk to/sleep with/date.

    It's the entire conditioned response of entitlement. It's just as difficult for men to break free of that as women breaking free of being "nice." Contrary to what most men are led to believe, it's not about you. It's not about if you are being called a rapist. It's not about if you think it's unfair to be called a creeper because in your attempt to get into our pants, you've crossed some boundaries. It's not about you. It's about protecting our safety. I'm not sorry at all about it, but our safety is far more important than your feelings.

    (possible trigger)
    Women blame themselves because society blames her. An 11 year old gets repeatedly gang raped by 20 men – mostly adults – and she got blamed. As if wearing make-up is just asking for adults to gang rape an 11 year old, video tape it, and at some point use an effing beer bottle.

    We have to take rape defense classes to protect ourselves, but is there a single class for men on how not to rape? Or how to treat women? Of course it's our fault, we did something to provoke it and didn't fight back hard enough. We have to deal with the backlash. We have to deal with cops that won't do anything about it. We have to deal with it every single day. We can't just sit back and have fun, we have to assess every single situation. Because every woman knows someone who has been through it.

    Crossing boundaries isn't just about sexual assault either. That also raises a red flag for domestic violence – including emotional abuse without the beating. That statistic is even higher: 1 out of 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence. A number that I think is smaller than reality due to standalone emotional abuse is typically unreported.

    To those upset at being called creepy,
    You want fairness? So do we. Let's work together to put a stop to our current rape culture. Part of doing that is checking your entitlement and following the brilliant advice on how to not be a creeper.

    • Max

      To be fair, the vast majority of men do know how not to rape, and we are very good at it. What a lot of us don't know is what we can do about the other guys.

      • Jess

        It starts with this discussion and hearing what women are finally screaming because the Internet has helped give us a voice.

        After that, you have to start to see it around you.

        Then we all have to act.

        What would have happened if the businessman on the train stood up and interrupted those boys? I don’t know. Would it be safe? I don’t know. But it only takes one person acting to break the “bystander” effect.

      • chrisC

        To be fair, it doesn't matter what the "vast majority" of men do or don't do when it comes to rape. Oneis too many. You know what the vast majority of men actually do? They objectify women. They may not rape them, nor touch them inappropriately, nor even insist on hugging them just so they can get that feel of breasts pressed against them (ask me how many men do that–just ask me).

        Hearing men constantly voice this knee-jerk "but I don't rape" every. single. time. there is an article about assault, is tiresome. But worse, it is belittling and devaluing of what is happening to the vast majority of women on this planet. So with all respect, unless you have something constructive to do, like share with us the anti-rape clinics that you're holding for the men in your community, you are not contributing to this discussion nor are you helping end rape culture. You are part of the problem, because men who read your "but not all men rape" can go back to convincing themselves that their unwelcome sexual touching is actually okay, because after all it wasn't rape. And the women who now won't make eye contact or who lean away from them at the unwelcome hug are just stupid, over-sensitive bitches who can't tell a rapist from a "nice guy".

        So just stop being an enabler and apologist–not just Max, but all of you "nice guys". Women need you to stop that. Please.

      • Jessica

        You can become aware of the many ways in which women's voices are marginalized, and in which they're objectified, and speak out against it. Unfortunate as it is, men who already don't respect women aren't likely to listen to us saying, "What you're doing is not okay," (and less likely to believe no means no). They might, however, listen to another man (someone whose opinion does matter to them) saying, "What you're doing makes me respect you less, not more."

        I was one of 3 women on the production side of a 65-person software company. (There were other women at the company, but they were administrative assistants, the office manager, etc.) Any time we spoke up in meetings, we were talked over, and ideas we brought up were immediately attributed to male members of the team.

        This was not because the men we worked with were bad people. It was because they had a heaping helping of male privilege that was reinforced by working in an almost all-male environment.

        We spoke to our managers about it, and got nothing. We spoke to some of the men who were doing it, and were told that they didn't know what we were talking about, or that we were oversensitive. (Again, this was without hostility — they seemed genuinely confused about the whole thing.)

        Finally, one day, I'd had it when I was trying to run a meeting, and the guys wanted to talk about their hockey game and completely ignored me. My producer didn't participate much, but when the other guys would ask him questions, he engaged in the discussion about hockey. I called an end to the meeting, took him in a different conference room, and told him, "Look, you're failing me as friend by ignoring it when I'm ignored and talked over because of my gender. You're failing me as a coworker for the same reasons. But most egregiously, you're failing me as my producer. Your job is to facilitate getting my department's work into the pipeline and ensuring things go smoothly between departments. You're not doing that when you enable them to talk about a hockey game instead of our deadlines, and you're also contributing to silencing me."

        He didn't really get what I was talking about at first, but then he noticed the same thing happening to one of the other women in a different meeting, and from that day forward, he made it a professional goal to ensure that he wasn't part of the problem. He didn't become a crusader for women's rights — he just did simple things like ensuring that when he was talking with someone (male or female) and someone else interrupted, he asked the interrupter to wait until he was done. If the speaker (male or female) in a meeting was interrupted or talked over, he directed attention back to them. And so on.

        And while he said that 9/10 times, he ended up defending the women at the company in this way, it worked out better for the younger men at the company, too.

        Best of all, the other guys at the company started realizing when their behavior was rude, because he was calling them on it. He didn't make it about gender, but since it was a man saying, essentially, "Look, it's not cool when you silence people, period, and if you want my respect, you'll show respect to everyone in the company, whether it's the intern or the office manager or your female colleagues," they took it seriously.

        Moral of the story: you don't need to be a white knight. You don't need to be a FEMINIST MAN HEAR ME ROAR. You just have to help enforce the idea that treating anyone as voiceless, as an object, or with a lack of respect, makes you less of a man, not more.

        It's not going to stop rape. But it is going to erode the idea that it's ok to not listen to women, or to treat us as less human than men, and that empowers us to speak up, and convinces people to help when we do.

        Not every rapist is a sociopath. There was a disturbing — but enlightening — HuffPo article in which a bunch of rapists were interviewed on why they did it. And in a lot of cases (especially among college guys) they seemed to really not believe that no meant no, and most importantly, *they thought that all other guys thought the same way they did,* and that what they were doing was therefore ok.

        Your voice is louder than ours. Please use it.

    • Can we get internet married? I've been saying this for years!!

  • wow these stories baffle the mind I would think guys would be taught what is acceptable behavior around women, that train one confused me how someone can get so angry about being told you want to be left alone. This is a great article as more people should know this

  • Tea

    A little more on the topic of "Why not make a fuss/shout/scream/punch some asshole in the face"…

    Women, as a general rule, are less physically strong then men and VERY aware of this fact. For every guy who getting up in your space, making intimidating gestures or saying threatening words, even strong, aggressive women who tend to "fight" rather than "flight" are faced with the question– what if she starts something she can't finish? What if she pushes him away, and this begins a physical escalation that leads to him overpowering her? What if she knees him in the groin, and he punches her out? What if she talks back, shouts at him, and he takes this as an invitation to start shouting back at her, or worse, trying to physically silence her? It's easier to think that enduring the current situation, however uncomfortable, awkward, or scary it is, is a better option than opening the can of worms that is physical confrontation.

    • hirojin

      As former trained martial artist and occasional, accidental, street fighter, I assure you: The very under appreciated kick to the groin is extremely effective. Don't believe the movies where guys get up after it and brush it off like it didn't happen: It ENDS escalation. (If you overdo it, it may end other things too)

  • Max

    I agree with the article 100% (as any reasonable person would), but I sort of resent the idea presented by the last quote and in the comments that this is a Women's Problem that a Man could never even begin to comprehend. As the doc even pointed out right at the beginning, this stuff happens to us, too. We do know what it's like. To say otherwise doesn't do anyone any good.

    • Dr_NerdLove

      I think you're missing the point of the quote at the end. It's not that a man could never understand. It's a response to everyone who insists that she's overreacting or that women should be willing to give strangers the benefit of the doubt when the “Creep” alarm starts going off.

  • Anonymous

    If I was a friend of #2, I'd think about making two suggestions:

    1) Drop the fake wedding ring. The only people who notices those kinds of things are other women and (some) married men. Single men (and some married men) either won't notice it or won't care about it.

    2) This one is one I'm not so sure of, but I'll throw it out there anyways. Double up with the book, and with an iPod or Mp3 player or phone that plays music or whatever with earbuds plugged in. Don't have actual music playing so they can still hear what's going on around them. You can't get more closed down body language than "I can't hear you and am not looking at you." Might get a tap on the shoulder and such, but you could always say "Sorry, this is my favourite song" or "Sorry, I'm really into my book right now," with or without removing the earbud.

    • Tea

      2) isn't a bad suggestion, but I've heard from other women who've tried it that it often doesn't work. Lots of people will try the 'tap on the shoulder' trick and then just talk over them or get bad when they want to get back to their music. Some people– get this– will even reach over and pull out their earbuds so they can get a word in.

      • Anonymous

        Jesus, there's just no winning sometimes.

        These articles really, really open my eyes to a girl's point of view. I'm 6'4" and can intimidate well enough with my height and a stone-face, I've never really worried about public harrassment (at least outside of a grade school situation).

    • omskivar

      Hey, I know you're trying to help, but responding to a story of harassment with "Here's what you should do to avoid it next time" kind of comes across as victim-blaming.

      As for headphones, a lot of these guys will ignore them, talk to you anyway, and get pissed off when you don't drop everything to pay attention to them. (Or try to take them off so they know you can hear them. Or use them as an opportunity to sneak up on you.) People who don't respect the fact that you're reading and don't want to talk aren't going to respect the fact that you're listening to music and don't want to talk.

      • Anonymous

        I knew victim-blaming was gonna come up when I posted that.

        This may be an unwinnable position since not-a-girl, and no, it's not the victim's fault because they can't control the actions of other people, but you've gotta figure out how to play defense, especially in a situation that's as regularly threatening as that one.

        • Jess

          Hey, you're a nice big guy! Keep an eye out now that you know what to look for, and if you see a guy forcing a conversation on the girl, go force a conversation on him. It doesn't have to be threatening, but a "Hey buddy, can't you see she wants to be left alone? Why don't you come talk to me." Can go a long way.

          It would be such a relief if we felt heroes were out there who "got it."

        • Get your focus off of "here's what you should have done" and onto "here's what he should not have done" or "here's what I should do."

          There are rape classes. There shouldn't have to be. You don't need to be handing out rape-defense advice.

          And honestly, for someone who doesn't want to talk at all, even to guys who aren't creeps or threatening? The wedding ring is just fine. If it makes even one guy not talk to her, that's one less she has to deal with. She's not interested in only talking to non-threatening guys, she doesn't want to talk to guys at all.

          Would I be miffed if I asked "What are you reading" and got "leave me alone" as a response? I probably would've been before reading this post. Depending on the aggression in the response I might've thought she was having a bad day or even as much as "what's her problem?" But I would've left it at that and moved on and left her alone, other than perhaps a 'sorry to bother you'.

          Now that I'm slightly more aware, I will try to pay more attention to body language (and wedding rings, they're so small I often don't see them and usually forget to look anyway since I'm concentrating on all the other things to try to remember about respectfully approaching a woman.) And I won't be so frustrated at being turned away when all I want to do is talk.

          And if I had been on the train, I would've done what I could to get attention off of her and onto me instead.

          Honestly, I think someone should do a documentary or something. Hidden cameras. Record some of this stuff. Post it on the internet or something. It's not like you have to go out of your way to find it. Although I can understand if nobody's interested in actually doing that considering what they'd have to go through to do it. =/

    • MSJ

      None of that stuff works if the person thinks they're entitled to a conversation with you.

    • Squirrel

      I *regularly* have people try to talk to me when I have my headphones in. Not just guys looking to flirt, either. Sometimes people just decide that their right to make conversation with you is more important then your right to listen to your music/audio book in peace. A guy who is intent on forcing a woman to interact with him is going to do it regardless of any signs that she is not interested. He ignored a wedding ring and a book. Adding on the headphones isn't going to suddenly make him not a creeper.

    • Gentleman Johnny

      [begin sarcasm] While you're at it, wear clothes that hide your figure, maybe sunglasses or a scarf to hide your face. In fact, fuck it, just wear a burkha. Crazy guys never hit on a woman in a burkha. [end sarcasm]
      That's what they were made for in the first place, to keep women's bodies from unintentionally exciting men to inappropriate acts. Let me say that again: the culture that puts women in burkhas presupposes that men can't control their urges so women must keep themselves hidden. Yes, its a silly example, but its also the logical conclusion of "things you can do to avoid getting hit on".

      • Anonymous

        It is, but not realistic in our society.

        Simple fact, there are creepers who can't control it and people with poor social skills and guys who are just having a bad time with women that will come out when it doesn't normally. There's gotta be ways to cut down on or lower it that aren't asking for a lot. Sometimes shit happens, but not actively taking part in your defence when you have regular evidence that you need to is silly.

        • Robert

          Except that when the guy is determined, no amount of defence will deter him.

        • Gentleman Johnny

          Its pretty realistic in any moderately free society. You can get one for less than $50 on ebay and can wear whatever you want under it. There's a difference between saying "if you're going to walk down dark alleys you should carry mace" and saying "you should dress to avoid unwanted attention every time you go out in public". See the italicized part of my post above.

          Or take a non-gender example. Imagine a large protest, a peaceful one, where the participants get pepper sprayed, arrested en masse, or some other version of the police exceeding their authority and trampling rights. Would you say "some cops are going to overreact. Maybe you should try not gathering in such large groups or just keep your opinions to yourself"?

          • Anonymous

            But it's not every time they go out in public, it's any time they go out in public ALONE for any length of time, especially a place not easily escapable like public transportation.

          • Perivale

            You're creating a false equivalency here, between putting in a pair of earbuds (that may or may not be attached to anything inside the pocket they're in), which takes no time at all and has a very limited impact on you to completely changing what you wear. Yes, it's crap we live in a society where taking precautions against other people being jerks has to be done, but, unfortunately, there isn't very much that can be done to deal with these guys, I don't think any of them will ever read a website such as this or any feminist writings at any point in their lives as they do not care very much at all about people. The earbuds may only deter <10% of them, but that is still an improvement.

            If I leave the office after 11 I make sure I take the route back that minimises interactions with people leaving the pubs, as in my experience I am more likely to get hassled by groups if I don't do this. I'm not blaming myself for being hassled (ie. victim blaming), I'm merely minimising risk in an imperfect society.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            Equivalent, no. Opposite ends of the same scale, yes. Its a deliberately silly example but it IS the same thinking. If earbuds reduce problem by 10%, then why not reduce problems by 100% and wear something that completely hides you?

            Again, I get the "don't walk down a dark alley" aspect. The problem is that in these examples and the comments, we've pretty much established that any place with a decent number of unfamiliar males is a place where women are at risk. The examples are not run down bars and dark alleys, they're a corner of a large party, public transportation, Greyhound buses, and walking down the street to the mall. "Minimizing risk" when all public spaces are a risk involves no going in public spaces.

            As was said elsewhere, it falls to all of us to make it clear that such behavior is not cool and will not be tolerated. To make sure the guy at the party gets kicked out, that the crazy guy on the train gets out at the next stop and waits for the next one, that the molester on the Greyhound gets off at the next stop. To make sure that if someone needs police or wants to press charges that we do our part. . .our civic duty. . . to give our statement even if its a little inconvenient.

            Or I can open a burqa store. There's an article, I wish I could find it, where a Muslim woman praises the garment precisely because it has the effect of making her non-sexualized in a western society that commoditizes women. Its sad when completely hiding yourself behind a shapeless robe is liberating because its the only way you can avoid harassment any time you're in public.

          • Skelly

            I read an article once in an anthropology classroom which described how non-Muslims sometimes wore some local variety of head-scarf (not as long as a burqa, but still masking the entire upper body) to and from work to avoid not only outright haranguing, but simply to avoid being looked at in that way. I actually sympathize pretty strongly with that sentiment, despite never having had to deal with that sort of thing.

            Just from a social standpoint, fading into the background is a very lovely tool, unfortunate gender implications aside.

        • Victim blaming. "The victim should do X to lower the chance the crime occurs."

          Actual blame. "The criminal should not do X in the first place, otherwise there'd be no crime."

          The desire to help the victim should be focused on catching the perpetrator and/or preventing perpetrators from having the ability to perpetrate, not on helping a victim avoid the chance of being a victim.

          Yes, it is true and valid that things like "don't walk alone in a dark alley at night" unfortunately do lower your statistics of being a victim. It is, after all, a fact, that not walking in an alley at night reduces your chances of being assaulted in a dark alley at night by 100%.

          Not taking the train reduces your chances of being assaulted on a train by 100%.

          Not leaving your house reduces your chances of being assaulted outside of your house by 100%.

          It's a slippery slope. The more you focus on even the 'helpful' things a victim could do to help herself, the less you focus on anything that matters.

          You know what, in a perfect world, do you envision rapists that can't find anyone to rape because the victims are doing all the right things to prevent rape from happening, or do you picture a world without rapists and you can totally enjoy that dark alley at night all you want without fear?

          Shift your focus.

          • Tehanu

            "Not leaving your house reduces your chances of being assaulted outside of your house by 100%."

            … plus …

            Not BEING IN your house reduces your chances of being assaulted IN your house by 100%.

            Your progression was spot-on, but you missed one … and a lot of women are assaulted in their houses, by men who say they love them, no less.

    • Becelec

      Trust me, headphones don't work. I still use earphones almost as a security blanket, EVERY time I leave my house I put headphones in, even if I'm not listening to any music. It is useful for stopping random salespeople and charity workers approaching you on the street, but if a guy is set on bothering you, he'll start bothering you regardless, usually pulling one out and asking you "What are you listening to?"

      Plus in #2's situation, it would have changed absolutely nothing. Bike man was crazy, nothing would have stopped that shit from going down.

      • Cadi

        " but if a guy is set on bothering you, he'll start bothering you regardless"
        Amen to this. I had a chugger completely ignore my lack of eye-contact, purposeful walking and headphones by waving his hands right in my face as I walked past 😐

  • Trying to legalistically argue women down is also about the dumbest thing I've ever heard.You can say it's not "fair" and she owes you a chance until you're blue in the face, and the result will be…..that she sees you as a bully trying to argue her out of her feelings. It's about the dumbest fuck thing a dude can do.

    • LeeEsq

      Its the just world fallacy applied to romance and sex in its purest form. This is incidentally why I'm really not a fan of the term sex-positive, it comes to close to the assumption that sex and justice have something to do with each other. Nobody knows anybody anything.*

      *That being said, I still maintain that most people of both genders and all sexualities have completely unrealistic expectations when it comes to romantic love and are looking for (Insert Honorific of Choice Here) Right rather than (Insert Honorific of Choice) Good Enough. Its their right to do so but I'd really wish that stopped complaining about how they can't find anybody. Its because a lot of people have really unrealistic standards.

  • ARC

    Dr. NL:
    Example 1, I'm surprised you didn't list "covertly taking photos of partygoers' breasts" as a reason he was creapy.

    • Dr_NerdLove

      I was keeping things specifically to his behavior with Ky, in this case.

  • LeeEsq

    A lot of the behavior exhibited by the creepers seems so obviously evil and bizarre that I wonder why anybody with a slight capability of thought would consider it as a good idea. Being at best a pest or an outright threatening criminal at worst is not a way to attract positive attention from women, especially at fannish conventions where its fairly safe to assume that most women attendees are more likely to have feminist as opposed to traditional views on gender and relationships.

    • Anonymous

      You'd be surprised how many people grow up in a social-less vacuum, or have a touch of autism or something similar, or just don't learn social cues and graces because everyone thinks they just naturally happen. I had to read about body language to learn it, as an example, because it otherwise made no sense to me.

      Or likewise how many guys get tired of not getting any and then stop caring if they come off as creepy or not because it'll be the same either way for them. I have an online friend like this who works at an airport and is always taking pictures of cute girls without their knowledge and brags about it.

      • Cthulhu's Intern

        Yes, but that social-less vaccuum/autism thing you're saying about is different. They simply don't know the social rules and don't realize they're creeping women out. I went to a special education high school for learning disabilities and from my experience, when an autistic person creeps someone out, they get embarrassed and try to apologize. The people in this article know what they're doing. They're clearly just trying to get a rise out of the women. Notice how I said about the embarrassment thing for autistics, and now notice how these people reacted with anger to her being creeped out. That, I would say, is the main difference.
        As for the not getting any, I believe that if they would do anything like that, it's not just sexual frustration, it's just that they were never nice to begin with.

        • Skelly

          A lot of children with aspergers or high-functioning autism react with anger because of their frustration that others don't understand them and can very easily develop a bullying relationship with others because it is the only way for them to maintain a social standing and make it very clear to others what they want.

          This being said, I am only talking about children, and with good reason.

      • LeeEsq

        I spent a good chunk of my life as an outright nerd with not so good social skills and I still know better than to engage in this sort of behavior. Growing up in social-less vacuum or having a touch of autism/something similar is no excuse.

  • Cthulhu's Intern

    After reading this… goddamn, I'm glad I'm male.

  • Becelec

    I still have the shakes after reading the second story, I've had similar things happen to me so many times on public transport, which I am always on because I don't drive. One instance was almost EXACTLY the same – I was sixteen and on the train home from school, reading a book. There had been other people in the carriage, but it had slowly emptied out until it was just me. A man came into the carriage, and looked around, and decided to sit down DIRECTLY OPPOSITE ME pressing his legs into mine. Now I know the smart thing to do would be get up and leave but I just froze and kept staring at my book, no longer reading it, just thinking "ignore him and he'll go away". He sat there for a few minutes, staring at me while I continued to stare at the page in front of me. He then stood up and sat down next to me, almost sitting on me, and I was just in shock. It sounds so stupid but I just couldn't move, and I kept thinking, he'll get bored and go away. He then started trying to read my book over my shoulder, and then he grabbed the bottom of my school skirt and started to lift it up. At which point I finally managed to unfreeze and piss-bolt out of the carriage. It was my first real experience with being harassed on public transport, but it was by no means the last or the worst.

    My point is, sometimes you really don't know what to do, and you freeze. Or worse, you think by ignoring them they'll go away. Plus I later learnt from experience that ignoring them can be a lot safer in the end then saying something. That sometimes results in actual assault, which is what happened to me. (Not that I recommend ignoring threats, just pointing out that sometimes a reaction can make things a whole lot worse.)

  • Goldfinch

    What I still don't get though, is why socially awkward, sexually reserved guys get branded as creeps. (Perhaps because being shy about your sexuality makes it look like you have something to hide.)

    When surely suave, charming, manipulative men are equally (un)likely to be sexual predators?

    • Mel

      Creepy doesn't necessarily = sexual predator. You can be a sexual predator without being outwardly creepy, and be creepy without being a sexual predator (in any conscious sense).

      Many guys of all sorts hold problematic ideas about women and what they're owed from woman. The thing is, guys who aren't socially awkward tend to be better at hiding their problematic feelings. They don't want to set off women's warning instincts, so they act cool and collected and make a show of respecting the woman's boundaries, even if they'd be happy to break them later when they feel they'll get something out of it.

      Socially awkward guys, because they're socially awkward, often let their problematic ideas show. They act upset or defensive if a woman gives them any sort of negative response. They keep pushing for more conversation/physical contact/whatever even after they've gotten obvious signs that it's not wanted. So it's easier for women to pick up on the fact that they have creepy expectations and intentions.

      I don't think most women assume that socially awkward guys are all creepy and suave men are all good-intentioned. If fact, someone being too suave and "perfect" can set off alarm bells too. And if a socially awkward guy *doesn't* have problematic ideas like that every woman should give him a chance, or that if he keeps pushing a no will become yes, and backs off politely when the woman shows she's not receptive, no one thinks he's a creep. If you're socially awkward *and* respect women as autonomous human beings who exist for their happiness, not yours, there's no problem.

      Unfortunately I think a lot of socially awkward guys who have those problematic ideas aren't aware that they do, and assume that they're being rejected because of their social awkwardness, not because of what they're revealing about their feelings on women.

      • Goldfinch

        I guess it depends how you define a creep. I think of it as someone who doesn't care that they're sexually imposing themselves on unwilling people, or even actively enjoys it.

        I suppose it's possible to feel creeped out by someone who just makes you feel sexually uncomfortable, even if their intentions aren't sinister.

        I really think it's vital to make this distinction though: between the imposing guy with the sense of entitlement, and the well-meaning guy who just misread the signals.

        I don't think most women get it wrong either, but enough to make flirting a bit of a minefield for guys who aren't so great at detecting social cues.

        And yes, the entitlement mentality has really got to be quashed. I can't say I've ever felt or understood it. Although I think sometimes it gets conflated with basic sexual frustration.

        • Mel

          Well, I'm going by the definition of creepy that most women use, and that DNL has used: creepy behavior is any behavior that makes the other person feel uncomfortable. Intentions have nothing to do with it. People aren't psychic–they don't know whether you're being deliberately imposing or you just don't know better. How exactly are they supposed to make that distinction?

          And the thing is, just don't know better can be dangerous too. If you don't know how to follow another person's signals while talking to them casually, it seems likely you'll overstep their boundaries in more intimate settings as well. Whether you meant to impose or not, it still feels just as bad for the other person. So why shouldn't they get themselves out of that situation? Why should anyone feel obliged to put up with you making them feel uncomfortable just because you "mean well"?

          It's really not that hard to avoid imposing on other people. Anyone who calls you creepy simply because you misread one small signal is a jerk. But if lots of people are calling you creepy, you're doing something really wrong, and it's up to you to fix that.

          • Goldfinch

            The thing I still don't get is that I rarely receive the creeped-out response these days, now that I'm a lot more forward and confident. I used to get it far more when I was shy, reserved Mr. Nice Guy. Which seems paradoxical, because I was a long way from overstepping anyone's boundaries, and tried ever-so-hard never to make anyone uncomfortable.

            And this is the pattern I notice with other people. Imposing, testosterone-soaked semi-neanderthal blokes might get called jerks, but I never hear them described as creepy. That seems reserved for guys that are a bit strange.

          • Dr_NerdLove

            A lot of shy behavior, such as hovering or staring, can be seen as creepy. I break down exactly why here.

          • Skelly

            What bothers me, also, is the mentality that *I'm bad at reading social cues, so she should have to read all of mine and correctly ascertain my intentions.* What gives her the OBLIGATION to invest that much effort in you? As a woman who has no ability to read people and has to continually overreact — backing off first but then asking a trusted party present to give their opinion — I resent the fact that people assume that because I have feminine gonads I am somehow inherently "better" at this whole social thing than they are.

            It shows a level of sexist presumption (*women are networkers, so if I can't meet her halfway than she should have to do all the work even though I approached her*) and entitlement (as in, what makes you think I need to make that sort of an investment on you?) that I find moderately alarming and acutely hypocritical.

            Speaking as a female, for a moment — I am not your social-ideal-of-a-mother-figure. I have no obligation to you. I have no obligation to understand you any better than anyone else I deal with. And if your capacity to come across well in a short period should not be judged, then my inherent capacity to understand you on short notice should be given equal consideration.

          • hirojin

            To accentuate Mel's point: If you're put yourself into the public space the people who inhibit it will be your judge. It is their right for one, and, for the other: in the interest of their own safety to do so.
            If after 5 seconds of interaction you come off as a complete prick, you'll be in my asshole book, and I'll probably not want to have anything to do with you.
            If after a 90 seconds staring contest I decide you're a complete creep, you'll be in my creeper book, and I'll probably not want to have anything to do with you.

            There are 7 billion people on this planet, and if I were to give every single one of them the benefit of doubt, I'd get old, but probably not happy.
            Others people have decided for themselves, after painful experiences, that giving certain types the benefit of doubt might prevent them from getting old.

            If you don't respect that decision, you're being a jerk. Please make an effort to actually learn from your inter-human experiences. And this blog.

    • KMR

      Because creepiness is a subjective measure that is based both on context and the feelings of the person on the receiving end. Even if a guy is (or thinks he is) not being creepy, if something he does or says in a particular interaction with someone happens to make that person feel uncomfortable, they may well label him as creepy. It doesn't matter if the guy is socially awkward or suave and charming. Generally, it's the behavior that gets someone branded as creepy, not the person himself.

    • trooper6

      If you don't think women label suave, charming, manipulative men as creepy, that is because you must not be listening enough to women talk.

      I'm a professor at a University, and let me tell you, the female students I have, when they talk about creepy dudes, most of the time they aren't talking about socially awkward, sexually reserved guys, they are talking about suave, charming, manipulative men…usually frat guys.

      The vast majorities of rapes on campus happen during fraternity rush weeks, and a *lot* of the rape prevention lectures given to female college students involve being careful at parties…not of the nerd probably not at the party in the first place, but of the suave guy bringing you a drink that might be possibly roofied.

      The rapist frat guy is a huge, huge discourse that is floating out there. Don't worry, women are as wary of the frat dude or the jock as they are about the obsessive stalker awkward dude.

      There is concern enough to go around for everyone.

    • Jessica

      Really? This one's pretty easy: insecurity is the root of most interpersonal evil among non-sociopaths.

      Non-sociopaths don't want unwilling sexual partners. This isn't to say that you have to be a sociopath to persist where you're not wanted, however, because desperation/confusion can overcome that. But if you're not a sociopath, it's a given that you're going to prefer a willing sexual partner to an unwilling one. Confident men register as safer, because they're not desperate. Their confidence suggests they can have willing sexual partners. (It's sort of like the "pre-approved" signals you get when a guy has female friends.)

      So, I'm talking with a charming, confident guy. I am not afraid of him, because this dude knows he's going home with someone tonight, and if it's not me? No problem. It will be someone else. If I indicate I'm not interested, he will stop wasting his time and move on. He knows he can have someone willing, and he's not going to waste a lot of time trying to move someone from unwilling to willing. He may push a little bit to see how serious my initial refusal was, but he's not likely to persist if I keep giving off the "not interested" signals. If he does persist when I indicate I am not likely to change my mind, then the "oh, this guy likes the thrill of the chase/is possibly someone who gets off on coercion" red flags go off, and I go elsewhere. Most likely, though, we have a fun, flirty conversation and then either take it further or one of us signals that we'd like to end it and we both move on. The social scripts work like they're supposed to, no one is scared or angry, no harm no foul, everything's good. Maybe we'll run into each other again sometime, and I at the very least don't dread that prospect, and maybe even look forward to it.

      Ultimately, what it boils down to is the confident, charming guy and I are speaking the same language. He has to be able to read signals in order to be charming. So I'm relatively confident that if I signal "no," either he'll read it and leave me alone — problem solved — or he'll read it and choose not to leave me alone, in which case I know he's potentially dangerous (and since sociopaths are fairly uncommon, this is the less-likely scenario). Either way, though, I know he's read the signal, and I know what he's saying in return.

      Versus a guy who's not confident? I'm not sure whether we're speaking the same language. If I signal "no," and he doesn't leave me alone, is it because he didn't understand? If I up the obviousness of the signals, am I risking embarrassing some poor dude who just can't read signals well? How explicit will I have to get before he reads/believes me? Will I have to make a scene? Or did he read it but just doesn't care because he's desperate? Or did he read it and not care because he's a sociopath?

      If I do get away from him, do I have to leave the event or spend the rest of the evening trying to avoid him? Has he just turned my pleasant evening into one something stressful?

      I don't know, but it's not worth the risk. With the charming, confident guy, there are way fewer unknowns.

  • SantiCazorla

    I think Dr Nerdlove has a wrong definition of creep. It seems that he assumes that women use the word creep to describe people who engage in behaviours that are threatening to women. From my experience it seems that women merely use the word creep to describe someone who engages in behaviours that are socially ostracised or undesirable or odd. For example I have a friend who is a neko and for a while used to wear cat ears and contacts all the time who was called creepy (he also had a bad habit of talking to himself). Is wearing cat ears odd? yes. Could it be reasonably construed as threatening to women ? No. And I've heard blanket statements like "weaboos are creepy". Is being overly enthusiastic about Japanese culture odd? Yes. Is it threatening to women? No.
    Of course threatening behaviour is a subset of creepy behaviour but there isn't any equivalency. Perhaps dr should use a different word to describe behaviours that are odd and threatening as opposed to just odd.

    • Squirrel

      he also had a bad habit of talking to himself

      See, now you're just being deliberately obtuse. Your friend wasn't getting called creepy for wearing cat ears or being overly fond of Japanese culture. Your friend was being called creepy because he had a bad habit of talking to himself. I don't know about you, but if I see someone I don't know who is talking to himself, regardless of what he is wearing, I'm going to nudge my personal evaluation of his threat level up a couple of notches, because TALKING TO YOURSELF IS CREEPY.

      • leon

        oh, because you never did?
        you never hit your toe on a cupboard and started swearing?
        you never forgot something important and upon realization exclamed to yourself "what an idiot I am"?

        people talk to themselfs all the time

        • Robert

          This is just conjecture, but maybe Squirrel is not talking about that kind of talking to yourself, because those are just single phrases uttered in the spur of the moment. Whereas someone who appears to be conversing with their imaginary friend or just spewing a stream of consciousness from their mouth … actually, I'm not entirely sure why that's creepy. Can someone help me out here? Or is it something else altogether?

          • leon

            here's the thing, it's not.
            like there is no limit to how many words one can mutter to himself to still be considered soacially acceptable:
            "oops, you said 21 one words to no one in particular, this week's limit is 20, you're now deemed creepy by everyone else"

          • There is a major social taboo against talking to yourself extensively in public. I'm not exactly sure why, but it's definitely there and most of us know this and tend to restrict talking to ourselves when we're around other people. Ever been embarrassed because someone heard you talking to yourself? That's because you're aware of social rules and social cues. I talk to myself all the freakin' time when I'm in my apartment alone, but very rarely when I'm in public.

            I think this comes off as creepy because people who aren't aware of or don't care about major social taboos have the potential to be dangerous. Maybe you're mentally different in some way which leads you not to notice social cues generally, which is a warning sign that you'll miss or ignore the social cues that say "leave me alone" or "don't touch me." If you don't care that you're not supposed to talk to yourself in public, maybe you don't care that you're not supposed to touch other people without their permission.

            You could indeed apply that logic to anything that seems outwardly "odd." I'm all about self expression and consciously breaking stupid social rules, but there are just consequences for it. I know that I'll sometimes get odd looks because I don't shave my legs, and that some guys won't be interested in me. It's the same kind of situation, except that I don't need to be aware that guys might feel threatened with violence by my unshaven legs.

            I do have to occasionally work harder to explain some of the things I do that aren't normative. I think it's the same if you're invested in breaking any social convention, especially one which might make you seem creepy and/or dangerous. You'll have to work harder, pay more attention to other social cues, and be extra respectful of people's boundaries so that you can show that you're merely unconventional and not threatening. Them's the breaks in a world where women (and some men!) can't leave home without being harassed, threatened, and/or assaulted.

          • Robert

            Ah, that explains a lot. Thanks for the helpful reply.

          • SantiCazorla

            So just to make it clear, you're saying that any man who engages in any kind of non-normative/subculture behavior is considered creepy?

          • I don't think it's that simple. There are some odd behaviors that are more likely to be linked to threatening behavior and therefore come off as creepy. Talking to oneself in public is one of those. Partly because legitimately mentally ill people also do that, and (for better or worse) we have a cultural association between the mentally ill and the violent. Wearing cat ears is odd, but less likely to be seen as creepy.

            But, if you boil it down all the way then you're right. Anything that's way outside the norm makes people uneasy, at least if they're the kind of people who've bought into the norms.

            I'm not saying it's awesome. It sucks, in fact, for those of us who can't or don't want to be "normal." Doesn't mean you should push past the creepy-dar and try to force normative girls to like you in spite of your cat ears. That's where the truly creepy behavior starts. You don't have a right to any one given person's attention or comfort around you.

            Thankfully, there's the flip side. If you're a charmer and you're wearing cat ears, then you'll probably have no issue hitting it off with the kind of people who don't give a shit about norms. You'll scare off the folks who buy into the bullshit–who you didn't really want around anyway–and be more likely to attract the people who like what you do. We get back to what the Doc describes as finding your archetype and playing to the people you want to meet.

            None of that negates, though, the need to have the social skills to read people's cues and respect their boundaries. That's the prerequisite for any of it. If you've got social skills and you're weird, you will find someone to date. Period. End of story. If you don't have social skills, weird or not, you'll probably creep people out and it'll be a lot more difficult. And that's the point of all this; the onus is on everyone to develop their own social calibration and ability to play nice with others. Thankfully, the Doc is here to lead the way.

          • No, just the ones that imply mental deficiencies or have the social stereotype that the behavior goes along with a mental deficiency. People with certain types of mental problems can include violence and violence is threatening. So threat by association, basically.

            Keep in mind this all falls under "you don't know this person." Your friend you know very well has this quirk and you understand why he does it, it's weird, but it's not creepy. Another guy you've never met before does his 'quirk' and you're freaked out. That's creepy.

          • Jessica

            No, any man who engages in behavior that is typical of schizophrenics or other people with potentially dangerous mental disorders (like talking to yourself extensively) is creepy.

            I avoid the homeless guys who talk to themselves too. Not because they're being sexually creepy, but because the chances that they have a mental illness that might make them decide to randomly attack me are higher than normal.

            The term "creepy" isn't reserved for guys who don't take "no" for an answer when approaching women, and to the best of my knowledge it never has been. Horror movies, old houses, abandoned subway tunnels, and spiders are also creepy.

            The common element is that they make you afraid, and as Dr. Nerdlove (and most of the people who patiently explain to men who try to justify creepy behavior) keeps explaining, if you're doing something in your interpersonal interactions with women that makes them afraid of you, you should stop.

      • SantiCazorla

        Well I only heard second hand about it from the person who called him creepy., but I can't imagine it was more than a couple words. (Sometimes I list out stuff I have to do out loud to myself when I'm alone.) I don't think he was monologing or carrying on a conversation

      • SantiCazorla

        How do you define creepy?
        Why is talking to yourself creepy? If you aren't monologuing or carrying on a conversation (which may indicate mental instability) how can it be construed as remotely threatening? Sometimes I verbalize to-do lists when I'm making plans (admittedly only in private).
        I would place this behavior under the ones I pointed out as odd/taboo but not threatening.
        I would say creepy is a word people use to judge people who engage in behaviors that are odd/taboo and not primarily threatening behaviors.

        • Dunbar

          Dude, you can't faux-critically think your way out of the need for basic social skills. On some level, you *have* to play ball if you want to interact with the broader outside world. If you feel like that means your being harshly judged or you're being forced to act in a way that's inauthentic, you need to take a good, long hard look at yourself and think about which of these "battles" are really worth fighting tooth and nail over because chances are, a lot of what I conjecture you're trying to defend isn't worth fighting for and I say that as somebody who's had, and continues to have, struggles with my own awkward tics and hang-ups.

          And that takes a lot of courage, because its easy to try to rationalize. I mean you mentioned your friend having "a bad habit of talking to himself", meaning he does it often and he does it regularly, but now you, and others, are back-peddling and equivocating on the clear implications of that statement, especially combined with the cat-ears thing: he's usually off in his own little world, even in public. That's what's weird and off-putting about it because when you're in public, you're supposed to be IN public.

          Its too goddamn easy for nerdy guys to assume that women think everything about them is creepy so they lash back and try to argue the whole notion of creepy is problematic, but that kind of all-or-nothing thinking gets us nowhere on this issue. The Doc is trying to help folks like us not fall into that unproductive dialogue by taking on the "creepy" issue and breaking down specific situations and analyzing them to show what was and was not creepy. Admittedly, he's looking at some situations where the boundary violations were so extreme, they were newsworthy, but you've got to start your understanding somewhere and the fact that they were extreme situations made them important opportunities to talk about some other, closely related issues.

          On that note, don't treat other people's (read: women's) real life, flesh and blood, day to day difficulties as some abstract thought experiment to philosophize over. You've skirted dangerously close to doing that and if you don't see how or why it's a problem, then that's a bigger fish to fry.

          • SantiCazorla

            Let me state that a I agree that violating people's boundaries is wrong and unsettling and makes women uncomfortable and is threatening.
            What I was arguing is the word creepy conflates these kinds of behaviors with behavior that is simply odd, or offputting.
            Th guy wearing cat ears or an outlandish outfit is odd , but he isn't violating anyones boundaries. The guy hunched over in the corner at the party not talking to anyone is odd and may be off-putting but isn't violating anyone's boundaries.

          • Dunbar

            Yeah. They're being off-putting and odd. So they're going to get treated as such. What's your point about that?

          • SantiCazorla

            Of course it's a free country and if there's anyone you think is odd , you're free to respond to them how you like. And people might thing one of your hobbies or personality traits is odd or off-putting and respond in a certain way.
            But I think lumping these 'creeper' behaviors in with legitimately threatening/boundary crossing behaviors is wrong.

          • Dunbar

            That's the problem though: deciding *for* women what is and is not threatening behavior.

          • Jessica

            Except that you don't get to decide for us what makes us not want to spend time with a guy.

        • Tzki

          Odd behaviours ARE ones that can lead to unstable behaviour and eventually violent behaviours. Maybe it's unfair. Maybe your friend is the nicest person in the world. But I, as a woman, do not have to give him the benefit of the doubt. If I'm afraid that this dude talking to himself in public is going to later exhibit other signs of mental instability, I'm going to protect myself and not his feelings. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

    • Christine

      producing a nervous shivery apprehension <a creepy horror story>; also : eerie
      : of, relating to, or being a creep : annoyingly unpleasant
      — creep·i·ly adverb
      — creep·i·ness noun
      See creepy defined for English-language learners »
      See creepy defined for kids »
      Examples of CREEPY

      There's something creepy about that guy.
      <a fascinating but creepy stage show by an offbeat magician>
      First Known Use of CREEPY

      Related to CREEPY

      Synonyms: eerie, haunting, spookish, spooky, uncanny, unearthly, weird
      Antonyms: calming, comfortable, easy, peaceful, quiet, quieting, tranquil

  • Calling you out, just a little bit Dr. Nerdlove….

    The man you are using has what is called "Frotteurism" and it is a criminal offense.

    So yeah, creepy much, but Pee Wee Herman got arrested for less. The security at the venue failed in their jobs and this dude should have gone out in handcuffs. Yes Dr. Nerdlove you were correct in the fact that she was sexually assaulted in a public place.

    I think there needs to be more and deeper conversations about how women are commonly sexually assaulted from childhood in our culture and we are conditioned to accept it at a certain level.

    I've been groped by males starting when I got boobs, singly and in packs (in school). I've had males say incredibly inappropriate things at best (I'm not going to list them here, just imagine the most vulgar thing you can, and it's all been said over the years), I've had more than one strange man in public expose his errection to me in public… (and for most of my life I lived in the suberbs of Sacramento…. not in a yert in the mongolian desert)

    Creepy is the guy who won't leave you alone, or showing you boob pictures on his phone and keeps talking when you don't want to. Talking about the size of his penis is starting to become harrassment, and grabbing her hand and making her touch his exposed penis, that is assault (the fact the his zipper was undone when he sat down shows he was "locked and loaded" for the flash.

    I think you're close, but you missed the mark on this one a little bit, Dr.

    • leon

      Tell us more about the yert in Mongolia is it normal to walk around with your wanger out there? Are you being mean to the mongolian men? The guy was a drunk idiot but girls have more power in "sexual society" then men so look at eachother for why we struggle to get it right

  • Mel

    You know, I'm getting really tired of the whole "poor socially awkward guys, why won't women cut them some slack?" refrain.

    Guess what! People who are socially awkward have more difficulty in all areas of like that require social interaction, not just dating. That's what the label *means*. Social skills are just that–a set of skills–and some people are more skilled than others. The people who are more skilled have an easier time. It's not unfair for people to prefer interacting with other people who are more socially skilled any more than it's unfair for an orchestra to prefer to hire a more skilled violinist or a restaurant to prefer to hire a more skilled chef.

    Is it frustrating, when you have trouble reading social cues and expressing yourself, and you feel you've done all you can to improve? Of course! But you know what? There are just as many socially awkward women as there are men. And we have just as many problems. We have trouble getting hired (ugh, job interviews), trouble making and keeping good friendships, trouble getting things we need from other people. No, we generally don't have to worry about guys labeling us as creepy because we're generally not expected to do the approaching. But we do have to worry about whether we'll attract any guys at all, whether we'll show we're interested when we are or accidentally give the impression we're not in our awkwardness, and how we'll keep a relationship going smoothly once we're in one. Women tend to gravitate toward socially confident men, sure. But men also tend to gravitate toward socially confident women.

    That's just the way it is. Do your best to develop your social skills and to work around your deficits, and stop expecting other people to make special allowances for you. No matter how good your intentions were, you wouldn't expect a company to hire you if you flubbed the interview, or some guy you started talking to to want to be best friends after you made a mess of the conversation, so why would you expect a woman to want to date you after you've made her uncomfortable? Oh well, cut your loses, try to learn from your mistakes, and move on.

    • Becelec

      You go Glen Coco! Look, I'm not socially awkward myself, not at all. But I have plenty of socially awkward friends, both male and female, and you know what? Life is just as hard for both of them.

      Really. It is.

      This attitude of "women should make it easier" is kind of ridiculous. They're not being difficult on purpose, they're just not interested. Period. The only girls I know who literally sit around waiting for a guy they like to talk to them are the ones who are socially awkward themselves! Most girls I know have no problems approaching a guy that they like, I did it all the time and so do the majority of my friends. Then again, I don't live in the U.S so maybe it's a little different there in regards to how comfortable girls are with approaching guys safely. If she's not interested, she's just not interested, and she doesn't owe you anything.

      Actually that being said, I'm talking about approaching in a social environment such as a bar or a party or something, I would never go approach a random on the street while they were going about their day to day business in an attempt to pick up, I personally just feel it's rude to bother someone like that. If you're cool with doing that, fine, but don't expect them to welcome it is all I'm saying.

    • Goldfinch

      I don't think anyone is owed attraction. If they want people to be more attracted to them, they have to work for it and improve themselves.

      But I do think people deserve to have their sexuality accepted and respected, not dismissed or mocked or condemned. Yet I've seen this happen to people all too often for being a bit eccentric or nerdy.

      • Mel

        I'm not sure what your complaint has to do with the article we're discussing. No one is talking about mocking or condemning people. We're talking about why women are cautious to give guys a chance if the guy starts to make them uncomfortable. If someone mocks or condemns you for being a little odd, they are a jerk. It's not something women do specifically to men–jerky women mock other women, and jerky men mock men and women. People being jerks is a completely different subject, which is a separate issue from women's right not to be hassled by random men.

        If you're worried about being seen as creepy, here's a tip I'm giving you because as a woman I do actually want men to get better at this stuff. What you're doing here is called derailing. Google that term if you want a full explanation. Basically, you're coming into a discussion about a problem women have and trying to shift the focus to a problem men have. It makes you come off as if you don't really care how women feel, and that your chances of getting a date are more improtant to you than the harassment that many women put up with every day. I suspect an attitude like that is a lot more likely to cause you problems in the dating world than a little trouble reading social cues.

        • Goldfinch

          It just seems prevalent to the point of normality to me that people presume: "This individual has social idiosyncrasies, therefore they are also some sort of sexual deviant." And I just don't think that's right.

          (Unless of course, there genuinely is truth in that presumption, and I just haven't picked up on it? Like you were saying about so many nerdy guys having an embittered, misogynistic sense of entitlement.)

          But personally I care a lot about the harassment women have to put up with, it's shameful. Which is why it's so unpleasant to be pre-emptively suspected of it, when that's so far from what I'm like.

          But admittedly, I do come to this website for my own benefit, by improving my own habits, and I hope to try and pick apart this thinking so that guys who are in the position I have been in can find a way to communicate: "Yes, I am unashamedly a nerd; but no, that doesn't mean I'm a creep."

  • Guillermo

    "I’ve said this over and over again, but women are still taught from a young age to be less assertive, less aggressive then men. They’re taught that they should be more passive and more considerate of other people’s thoughts and feelings, even at the expense of their own. They have been taught to not draw undue attention to themselves."

    I don't think it's *only* a social imposition. I have an 8 year old daughter; she's really smart and friendly, but she also have all the characteristics of the quoted paragraph. I *struggle* to make her more assertive, *less* considerate to other people's thoughts and feelings in favor of hers, but she's just like that! She listens, and she makes an effort to follow his father's advice, but she's too sensitive, and being aware of other people's feelings is totally in her nature.

    It's nice to criticize society for its bad traits and try to raise the bar a little each time, but I think it's also nice to think of women as generally more sensitive, and be considerate to just that. Some situations are simply more intense to them than to us men.

    By the way, this is a GREAT blog, and I deeply thank Dr. Nerdlove for all the love he puts in it.

    • MelaggressiveM

      How do you know that's just the way your daughter is, and not how she's been socialized? Regardless of what messages you're giving her, she's getting other messages from all sorts of sources (teachers, friends, strangers on the street, TV, movies, toys, even clothes–you notice how girls clothes tend to be covered in hearts and rainbows and boys clothes are all trucks and dinosaurs?). From when they're toddlers, boys tend to be encouraged to be rambunctious and assertive, whereas girls get more negative responses to any action that's remotely pushy or aggressive. It can be overt ("Now, that's not nice") or more subtle (a behavior that gets a laugh for a boy might get a frown for a girl), but it's happening.

      • Mel

        Um, my name got messed up in the posting. Silly iPad. 😛

    • KMR

      I second Mel's comment above. I would also add that there's a difference between "gender differences" and "individual differences." Some people's personality and "natural tendencies" match the stereotypical behaviors associated with their genders; other people… not so much. This goes for both men and women. Socialization skews this so that the number of people who exhibit their culture's "traditional" gender role is relatively high. But if our culture did not have such a polarization of gender stereotypes [in certain areas], we may well see a very different distribution.

      In truth, biological and societal influences on behavior are so intertwined that it is very difficult to differentiate them. However, recent research seems to suggest that the biological differences between the sexes (note: I'm talking about behavior here) are probably smaller than we think and that socialization plays a large role.

  • Perivale

    The problem is I’m not convinced that a society where people like this don’t continue to act like complete jerks is really possible. Challenging them seems to have little impact other than convincing them to also start yelling at the challenger too. Granted I find that slightly more tolerable, I’d rather they were yelling at me for a genuine (well, sort of) reason than the random woman they initially started on, but it doesn’t stop them

    just doing it again later on to someone else. Some humans are complete fuckweasels and short of drowning them (which goes against the tolerance I usually support) the only other solution I can see is minimising risk.

    • There are a LOT of reasons why it doesn't happen, which I frankly don't have the energy to enumerate, but I think what needs to happen is that the predator assholes who do this stuff need to be publicly exposed and shamed at least, and jailed at best. The onus of blame needs to be on them and not the victim, and it needs to be a lot easier to report and prosecute these kinds of crimes.

      Like I said, there are about a million reasons why that's not the case, but that is the actual solution we should be aiming for.

      And yeah, I'll carry pepper spray and wear my headphones on the bus, but the conversation should not be about those kinds of things after someone is assaulted. It should be about how best to stop and/or punish the person who did it, and how to prevent other people from doing the same thing. Full stop.

      • Incidentally, that's one reason I love this blog. DNL is really trying to put the onus for safety on everyone and helping people be aware of what a big problem this is. Major, major props.

  • Beth

    Thanks for this post, Doc.

  • Ellen

    I live in Long Beach and I swear to god I've encountered 'bicycle man' on the bus more than once. Maybe not, because it didn't escalate, and there is certainly more than one unstable entitled dude with a bike around, but in my case the following happened:

    Dude approached me on the bus on my ride home while I was reading my Kindle, and immediately had all kinds of questions about Kindles. I interrupted my reading and answered his questions, and then every time I tried to return to my reading he had something else to say, which meant that my entire bus trip was taken up with tending this guy who was purposely ignoring my cues that what I really wanted to do was read, not give a workshop on the wonders of the Kindle.

    And then when we got to my stop he got off the bus with me and tried to walk me home. I went into a business instead and they agreed to let me exit through the back, so I lost him… that day. But he was on my bus again the next evening and was put out because I wouldn't stop listening to my iPod. So he sat nearby, looking at me woundedly, as if he couldn't understand why we weren't going to continue our incredible acquaintance. He didn't exit the bus with me that evening, which was a relief. I thought we had an understanding.

    But then the next morning he was waiting at my bus stop. I saw him down the street, turned around, and immediately devised a new transport route to and from work.

    And you know what? Any question about whether I should have done this or that or another thing that would have made it clear to this dude that we were not intended to be soulmates is bullshit, because everyone on that bus knew I didn't want to talk. Every reasonable person knows that a person walking quickly away from you and ignoring you as you try to continue a conversation is Not Interested in your conversation. Everyone knows that if a girl sneaks out the back of a coffee-shop, she probably isn't eager to continue the acquaintance. Everyone knows that, and I have to assume that anyone willing to ignore such transparent cues is a potential threat to me, especially when he is suddenly and conspicuously hanging out in my neighborhood.

    And the main reason I didn't shut him down more aggressively is because I've witnessed the transition from Nice Guy to Raging Psychopath on more than one occassion, and I try to avoid that as much as possible. I am not going to meet my soulmate on the damned bus. I'm going to listen to music and read my book, and I would appreciate being left the hell alone.

    • Becelec

      This. This is exactly why people who say "Oh you should have just told him the title of your book and been polite" don't know what they're talking about.

  • Bowmn

    On the issue of fighting back – I also have to speak up about how often the resulting of doing that often makes other feel a lot better than the victim.

    Recently, a guy on the street came up to me and grabbed my breast. In my flight/fight response, I grabbed his hand and hit it into a nearby stone wall. He ran away, and I was left with a very badly cut finger. I got to spend the rest of the day in the emergency room, followed by a number of doctor's appointments to deal with the cut. Additionally, I have been left with a very visible marker of the assault that most people assume is a bad knife cut from a kitchen "oops". Every time people saw the initial bandage or the subsequent scar I have to make the decision of reliving the incident or making up a story (kitchen cut, slammed in a car door, etc). When people hear about it, I always get the "good for you, fighting back is important" – but it honestly doesn't make me feel much better. Because it also comes with questions "was it during the day or night?", "were other people around?", "what is the racial/ethnic composition of the guy?" – and then after all of that I get the "aren't you brave/awesome".

    I also feel like what I did was more wreckless than badass. My fight back strategy (for all I know), may have only resulted in hurting myself. And what if he had had a knife/bottle/sharp stick that he was willing to use as a weapon? Fighting back can just lead to a more violent assault. At the end of the day, the whole experience has not made me feel better because I fought back. But it does seem to make others who hear the story feel better.

  • SarahGryph

    Reading through the posts here and on other articles, myself and most girls I know DO try to give guys the benefit of doubt "oh maybe he didn't mean it that way." The issue comes when someone says or does something not ok, we say no, and the behavior continues anyway. (or if the initial behavior is already incredibly threatening/uncomfortable, of course)

    For the record, I accidentally creeped out a friend of mine (guy) at least once. We had been flirting (over a long period of time) and I was convinced he was sending out signals he wanted to be closer. Or so I thought. I went to put my arm on his shoulder, and he froze up immediately. I did not leave my hand there, I did not insult him or ask what his problem was…I simply removed my hand and said "oops, I'm really sorry, I wasn't trying to make you uncomfortable." He made it clear that he was fine talking, he just wasn't comfy being touched, and life was fine. So I do get making an accidental goof bc the person you're with has completely different boundaries than you thought…part of "creepy" comes from how you *react* once all signs point to "No."

  • 8th

    When quoting the statistics about stalking you provided a link to a previous blog entry, but did not provide the actual source for your information, thus I had to ask for it in the comments section. Why is this? Wouldn't it make sense to provide links to your sources in a footnote or something, so people can verify the information and perhaps educate themselves further, instead of just taking your word for it?

    • Beardy

      That is a rather aggressive and accusatory way of asking for the link.

    • Jessica

      I suppose, but you can also just google these statistics.

      • 8th

        If Mr. O'Malley fancies himself an author, he should provide his sources. By not doing so, he's saying he is a source. Using footnotes to make jokes and one liners is totally fine, but even on a blog footnotes should still be used for their originally intended purpose.

        This is an internet pet peeve of mine. I call people out on making statements without sources when discussing things that don't ultimately matter in the grand scheme of things, such as comic books and cartoons. I would be remiss not to do the same when the information being provided actually *is* important.

  • Jay

    Harris I get and agree with a lot of what you say. Men do need to be more sensitive to the dangers women face. There are steps and precautions men can take to avoid behavior that might make women uncomfortable. However skits like this one from SNL, illustrate a reality that you nearly seem to be denying:

    So obviously the scenarios in the above were exaggerated, but the point they are trying to illustrate is spot on. My male friends that are considered attractive can get away with all sorts of behavior that would be labeled creepy by a less attractive man. Of course even Brad Pitt or Tom Brady can go too far, but the guys you're responding to in the opening of this post are making a real point that you're not giving enough credit too. I also think, you deny the large number of women who label guys creepy for trivial or absurd reasons. I remember hearing a woman in one of my classes "whisper"(not very quietly) that she found a guy who sat by himself in the back creepy because he didn't talk to anyone. This guy didn't look the least bit threatening, and usually had his nose buried in a book, but her friends agreed with her. You seem to write women like this off as being rare, when I see this sort of thing happen all the time, heck its happened to me. I heard you briefly acknowledge in your podcast that women like this do exist, but you almost made it sound as though they were incredibly uncommon and not worth talking about beyond a brief mention.

    • Dr_NerdLove

      I'm always amused when folks pull out the SNL sketch (and it always comes up in these discussions) as though it were some sort of truth handed down from on high engraved into stone tablets rather than, say, a comedy sketch.Shall I assume you also deliver your dick in a box on Christmas?

      • Jay

        Apologies. I wasn't aware that SNL was frequently appealed to as a great arbiter of truth. I am aware however, that comedy is often used to reveal and make fun of certain social truths. I brought up the skit because it was relevant, but I didn't leave it there I made an argument and if I had known that bringing that skit up would cause a disregard of everything else I said I would have left it out.

        • Dr_NerdLove

          Comedy is also used to play upon and poke fun at people's beliefs. But I could either write a book in the comments section, or I could discuss this up on the blog itself. So looks like you're getting a full bonus article on the subject.

          • Jay

            "Comedy is also used to play upon and poke fun at people's beliefs"

            Very true, and I suppose its personal interpretation as to which was being done with that skit. I look forward to your follow up article and how your response to the 2 points that I and others have made. I think most sensible men would agree with the general points you make, but I think people get upset when they get the sense you may be writing off some of their personal experiences. A lot of the responses I saw to your article was basically "Hey, I don't do any of those things and I and other males still get labeled creepy". Theres also a lot of "Well, I see other guys who are good looking do those things and get away with it".

            At the end of the day, I think my main point would be that men should do everything they can to avoid being labeled as creepy and that means following some of the guidelines you've posted. But thats not going to stop droves of other women from labeling them creepy anyways or the fact that attractive men can often get away with said behavior. As others have said you're appealing to what certain women may constitute as creepy behavior, but leaving out or marginalizing what others are saying.

          • Vic

            "Comedy is also used to play upon and poke fun at people's beliefs."

            Exactly. And what the clip is poking fun (in a hyperbolic way) at is the obvious and recognizable reality that attractive (broadly defined) men can get away with far more sexually aggressive behavior than other men.

            It's not funny because people think it's a ludicrous situation that is somehow beyond belief. (Comedy like that seldom works outside of truly absurdist contexts). It's funny because people recognize that there is some truth to it.

    • meagain

      you nailed it. birds of a feather flock together. women who are victims of random rapists are less prominent than people who just fuck up and get hurt as a result

  • Lois

    I've always doubted how effective a mace or a knee to the balls would work. I have a mace that my dad bought me from the time we were living in Ohio, but I never used it. However, if a situation ever required me to use it, I doubt I would be able to pull it out of my backpack in time, as an assailant would probably know that I'm pulling out a cellphone or a mace and stop me. As for a kick to the crotch, I tried it on my brother once, and he caught hold of my leg easily. I think that trying to scratch an assailant's eyes would be more useful(assuming he or she hasn't already gotten your wrists pinned)…but I'm a bit too squeemish for that, because I'm afraid I might blind someone.

    So in conclusion: martial arts. Martial art classes are definitely needed.

    • Tzki

      I'm assuming you mean mace as in pepper spray, but I just imagine you carrying this around:

      That's a hell of a deterrent.

      • hirojin

        I'm very sad that I can give this post only one thumbs up 😉

  • Skelly

    I sometimes wonder if I was agender for too long. I am definitely not socialized like a woman. I had to take classes on reading these warning signs (call it "overt socialization," if you like), because Aspergers ensures that I have limited capacity to read others' intentions, regardles of the situation. In some ways, this wards people of. On the one hand, I do not have any passive behavioral issues to overcome. I come across as quiet and extremely intense, friendly only in the most professional sense of the term. That is just my observation, however, and it is worth noting that — between having not been interested in guys for a rather disproportionate amount of my life and having a rather schizoid attitude toward social expectations, in general — I simply cannot see that sort of thing coming.

    When I was eighteen, I was approached on the university bus by a man of between 50 and 65. I was writing in Sanskrit and he asked me about it and we started talking about "sand-script" (and he thought it was from Egypt *facepalm*). His choice of topic made it PAINFULLY fairly clear that he did not even have a frame of reference to grasp that sort of thing and that we had nothing further to talk about.

    So I didn't.

    At eighteen, one does not put that much worry into speaking to a person of that age.

    Well, he haltingly started conversation with me a couple more times, during which I SHOULD have noticed that he asked if I had a boyfriend (I said no, rather resoundingly, which to me meant "Yeah, I lack a sexual orientation, whatsoever, but it gets awkward trying to explain this to strangers" but to him must of translated that I was "fair game" or whatever).

    I had no idea what was going on until he asked for my number so we could go out, sometime. I froze. It was very clear (even to me) from the words he used that he was not talking about a "conversation over coffee" sort of outing.

    Luckily, I was able to pull the minor card. As in, "Oh, I can't do that. I only got a cell phone so my parents know when and where to pick me up. My mother would be upset if I gave out my number." / "How old are you?" / "Sixteen." And then proceeded to inform him that I had been in college since I was fourteen. Which was close enough to the truth I had to explain to everyone, at the time, that I was very open in my manner and very convincing.

    The combined shock was enough to shut him up (I know this because after an awkward pause he moved down the bench from me on the pretense of getting into his bag), but this was simply a sane person with unreasonable expectations. I don't know what would happen if I had run into a crazy. I probably would have unintentionally escalated the situation by staring them down. :[

    These are not pleasant speculations.

  • leon

    Far as I can figure your saying is that is women weren't so needy and could stand up for themselves like every man has to learn to do, they wouldn't be such easy victims?

  • An Engineer

    One weird thing is that these people generally made incredibly brazen attacks. I kind of wonder why many awkward men who would never do anythign like this feel so much apprension over being creepy. It's strange. I'm one of them.

  • hirojin

    I'd like to share some "sweet" memories that sprung back to my mind when I was reading this:

    We all like to think that we’re secret bad-asses; when confronted with danger, we’ll react with steely-eyed resolve and perfectly clear heads. We’ll punch, scream, whip out our phones… anything besides freezing up. And it’s a nice fantasy, one that lasts right up until someone punches you in the face. Or leans in and starts screaming at you from out of nowhere.

    Three weeks ago I was visiting my parents, when my brother swung by, reeking of booze. He set down for dinner, and I thought I'd use this rare chance to talk to him. He tried to involve me in discussion on two topics, but wasn't interested in my opinion: He shouted me down, and interrupted me, dismissing everything I attempted to say, screaming right in my face from no more than a metre away.

    Now, I've trained martial arts, and I'm no stranger to violence. I run The Internet, so I'm no stranger to stress, either.

    But this was different: Although it's familiar ground (my parents apartment), this was confining. Although there were only people I knew (and mostly trusted) this was absolutely estranging. My heart was racing, and my body was in full on fight-or-flight mode. With my head pounding I was trying my best to think clearly.
    He kept interrupting me and shouting me down, even after I had carefully explained to him that I don't like to be interrupted. That I cannot finish the argument he so vigorously is demanding if he shouts me down.

    Now, I could have punched him in the throat: That would've stopped his shouting, resolved the fight-or-flight tension, and given me the opportunity to broadly elaborate on the subject he was interrogating me on. But maybe my mother would've disproved of that kind of behaviour.
    I also could've shouted him down: I wouldn't have to shout any louder than he did, just make sure my words pierced deep enough to hurt him so much, he'd shut up.

    But no matter what, I grew up to love that stupid little fucker, so I didn't want to hurt him.

    All I saw myself able to do was get up and leave.

  • james

    You guys use "creepy" in the dumbest fucking ways. Everything you describe is not creepy. It goes from "not good at talking to girls" immediately to "criminal". There's no creepy in the middle.

    Creepy is someone leering at you from across the room then screaming like a pod person. Creepy are children in horror movies who don't seem to mind there are ghosts and elevators of blood around them. That's fucking creepy.

    What this guy did was ASSAULT. Assault does not equal creepy.

    You all sound stupid when you use words like creepy. It's like calling a gun shot "rude".

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  • Christine

    I feel physically ill right now. And very teary. I went through nearly the exact same thing so many times on the LA Metro train. I have been harassed so much in my life that I don't like leaving my house anymore. I am nervous as hell of the whole world. I used to be the one who would punch you out, but now I just want to be left alone, FFS.

    • Becelec

      You should consider seeing a therapist. I am exactly the same as you, I used to feel so comfortable going just about anywhere, but years of being constantly harassed in public took such a toll on my self esteem and confidence that I never wanted to leave the house or go anywhere, I was just afraid all the time. I'm slowly getting better, thanks to her.

      • Christine

        That is advice I have actually never received or thought of. Whenever I can afford insurance, I will look into that. Thanks!

        • Becelec

          You're welcome! I would recommend choosing a woman, and if you don't feel comfortable with her you should find someone who makes you feel comfortable, it makes all the difference. Anxiety is a horrible thing to live with, you just need to find someone who listens to you and takes you seriously. Good luck!

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  • kmf7

    There is absolutely no excuse for this behavior. None, zero, nada, zip. The people you should be working to identify with and help are THE VICTIMS OF THIS BEHAVIOR. THEY need to be reminded that this was unacceptable and they are in no way to blame for the actions of terrible fucking people.

    Rapists and harassers don't have signs stamped on their forehead, they don't all have fucking windowless vans. Literally all it takes to harass or rape someone is more regard for your satisfaction than another human being's comfort and safety. That's IT. You probably know someone right now who's guilty of this behavior.