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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