One of the evergreen topics when it comes to dating advice – especially dating advice for men – is about being creepy. Whether it’s about what makes someone a creeper, how to tell if you’re being creepy, or how to flirt with someone without creeping them out, dudes worry about getting hit with the creeper label.
However, one of the issues with creepy behavior is that we tend to see it in absolutes. Once we see something as creepy, it’s hard to see any way that the actions in question could be fixed or redeemed that doesn’t involve 1.21 gigawatts of lightning and a willingness to cross your own timeline.
This week, we’re going to do something different. We’re going to take two incidents of dudes being turbo-creepers, break down where things went wrong… and see how they could have done things differently to get the results they might have been hoping for.
What Makes You Creepy?
One of the first things that needs to be discussed when talking about creeps and creepy behavior is to define our terms. After all, “creepy,” and “creeper” tend to be loaded words, especially for guys. Bring up the idea of someone being creepy and there is the inevitable argument about whether they were actually creepy. Other people will be quick to excuse their behavior under the aegis of being “socially awkward” – they shouldn’t be judged because they couldn’t have known what they were doing was weird or upsetting. Still more will argue that it wouldn’t be creepy (or harassment or…) if Zac Efron was doing it.
Except… yes, it would be. Creepiness has little to do with looks. Handsome people can be incredibly creepy.
Talking about people’s looks, however, misses the point when it comes to creepy behavior. So, too, does bringing up awkwardness or whether someone is neuroatypical. Creepiness is all about making someone feel unsafe. When people have reason to worry that you represent a threat to their safety, they’re going to get uncomfortable in your presence. Sometimes it can be about behavior. A person who invades another person’s personal space in an unwelcome manner, for example, is showing a disregard for that person’s comfort. Same with someone who insists on flirting with somebody who doesn’t want to talk to them, or making sexual comments to a stranger. Martin Shkreli’s ongoing comments about Lauren Duca, for example, are uber-creepy.
Here’s my statement on Martin Shkreli: I would (still) rather eat my own organs. So much as touch me, and I’ll gladly chop off one of yours. pic.twitter.com/4jHNWGWanQ
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) July 28, 2017
Context can change whether someone’s creepy or not, too. A friend making sexual comments to another friend is inherently different than if a stranger does it; the friend’s comments may be annoying where the stranger’s would be threatening. A flirty guy may seem sweet and adorable… until you find out that he has a history of spousal abuse and stalking. Principle Rooney’s pursuit of Ferris from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off takes on a very different tone when you realize that the actor playing him was a pedophile.
All that it takes to be creepy is to make someone feel unsafe. Ignoring boundaries, behaving in a manner that suggests you don’t understand what is or isn’t appropriate… these are all ways that you suggest that you might be a threat to their safety.
But the flip-side of this particular coin is that being socially well-calibrated helps you not be creepy… while still achieving your goals.
So let’s look at some specific examples of creepers and how they could’ve done things differently.
Searching For SugarBaby
In Daytona, Florida, a 73-year old man was banned from all beaches in Volusia County for 6 months. The reason? He was approaching young women in hopes of getting a sugar-baby – that is, a relationship predicated on a pre-arranged financial arrangement. Richard Basaraba would approach young women and hand them business cards that said “SugarDaddy Looking For His SugarBaby”. On the other side was a picture of a young woman with an older man, an email address and the words “Ask Me About Your Allowance”.
Among his other attention-getting accoutrements, he would wear a shirt saying “Accepting Applications 4a Sugar Baby”.
Women apparently found the shirt amusing and would ask to pose for photos with him – photos that would be incredibly popular on Facebook.
He would also carry a bra pad as a conversation starter.
When asked about his approach, Basaraba responded:
“I would go up to a group of women of all ages — 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s — (and say), ‘Honey, I’m looking for my Cinderella. I did not find a glass slipper on the beach but I did find this.’”
He said he would hold up the bra pad to “busty” women and say, “Obviously this isn’t you,” and then turn to a smaller woman and say, “This might fit you,” he said.
While he reported that 95% of the women he talked to found it hilarious, it only took one mistake to get him banned from the beach. He approached a 16-year old Oviedo girl and her two 18-year old friends. Upon hearing the girls’ ages, he held up the bra pad and said that he was looking for someone to fill it. Turning to the 16-year old, he added that “she would be perfect” and that she should contact him when she turned 18.
Basaraba insisted that he wasn’t trying to entice the women into anything illegal and has since ditched both the cards, the Facebook posts and the attached email address. According to the Daytona Beach News Journal:
If given the opportunity, he said he would like to apologize to the teenager and her mother. “I am so embarrassed,” he said. “I’m still getting over it. I understand the mother getting upset.”
So… is there any way that this couldn’t be disturbing?
What Should He Have Done Instead?
It’s unquestionable that Basaraba’s behavior was insanely creepy. Approaching strangers and basically saying “I would like to pay you to date me” is, at best, going to get you strange looks. This approach is, incidentally, part of why the infamous Clarke-Hatfield study failed; approaching strange women and asking them to go to bed with you is not normal behavior.
But is there a way that he could have gotten what he wanted without being The Creepy Old Pervert At The Beach?
Let’s start by assuming that Basaraba was sincere in that he wasn’t actually soliciting sex-work and was just trying – in an incredibly awkward way – to connect with people and cure his loneliness. In that case… he almost had the right approach. The “Looking 4A Sugar Baby” shirt was tasteless, but it was reportedly drawing positive attention. People wanted to get something for their Facebook or Instagram profiles, he got a few moments of human contact. It’s not impossible that he could’ve gotten a conversation started at that point and maybe kept a conversation going – assuming, y’know, he didn’t then tell them to reach into his pocket and pull out a Werther’s Original.
However, his approach with the bra pad was a huge mistake. Not only was he going sexual incredibly early, but it’s going to weird people out. Yeah, he says that 95% of women laughed at it, but laughter doesn’t necessarily mean they liked it. A lot of women will smile or laugh when they’re deeply uncomfortable. It’s a placating gesture, a way to defuse and disarm an uncomfortable situation. Uncomfortable laughter is going to be brittle and short and their smiles won’t reach their eyes. And let’s be real: Basaraba hasn’t exactly shown that he’s the greatest judge of how someone actually feels.
If he wanted a conversation piece… well, a dog might have been a better idea than a sugar baby shirt. Not only would it have been less of an inappropriately sexual situation, but he would also have had the emotional connection of his dog to ease his loneliness. Plus: adorable dogs are babe-magnets.
Now if he really did want a sugar baby? Then it would have been far better for him to find people who’d already opted-in to being open to sex work. An online dating profile or even signing up for sites like SeekingArrangement meant that he would’ve been contacting people who’d clearly signaled that they were on the same page he was. By approaching random women, he was soliciting sex-work from people who – in all likelihood – were not interested. At best, he was lucky to just get banned from the beach. At worst… he’s even luckier he didn’t get arrested for solicitation of a minor.
Too OP (Or: How NOT To Run A Panel)
At this point, stories of creepers at conventions are almost de rigeur. From badly-behaved fans to worse-behaved pros, the stories of people turning conventions into profoundly uncomfortable experiences are all too common. Even panels aren’t immune to moments of sublime what-the-fuckery; in one notorious example, a high-profile comic professional sexually harassed a fellow panelist during the panel.
But occasionally moments happen that are so over-the-top in their majestic creepiness that you almost can’t believe they happened.
Such was the case of the Too OP – Ladies ONLY panel.
Metrocon is an anime convention in Tampa, FL.1. Like many conventions, they hold a mix of panels – fan discussions, pros talking about their craft, even social issues. Metrocon, like many conventions, even had panels on dating and socializing for geeks.
However, one panel on the schedule drew some special attention. It… well, it’s easier to let the panel write-up speak for itself.
Everything about the write-up, from the creative grammar to the random capitalization, promised a trainwreck. And – judging from one poster’s report – it was exactly as cringe-inducing as you might expect.
What was, theoretically, about “what do women want” seemingly turned into equal parts performance art and… trying to get girls to agree to date him? It’s hard to say. Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool talked to the panel organizer, who had this to say:
“It was to help guys be able to talk to girls better. Just as an example, nerdy guys have a hard time finding and talking to girls, so the panel was to help understand what girls are more into. Such as, how to approach a woman – don’t just run up and ask for their number. Talk to them first, get to know each other. My first question as the note card said was weird but had a point. It was to show that if looks play a huge part in how ladies perceive you before knowing you. I feel bad for offending people iI didn’t want or mean it to. I tested these questions before I brought them, with other females to make sure it was appropriate. But the people left before the statement was made. Showing don’t judge a book by its cover.
I want to bring communication back to men and women and help the little guy find a date and connect. A lot of people come to con for love, but too afraid to speak up cause how they look or afraid of messinng up. They turn to friends who say, just ask them for their number. But it’s not that simple, there were a lot of people who gave me a chance to continue but the others instead of knowing what it truly was, stormed out.
I feel bad, I do, and won’t do it again. I love the con and would never wanna hurt anyone, just help.”
(All spelling and grammar are unchanged.)
While the organizer may have had the best of intentions, he ended up making many, many people feel deeply uncomfortable. The problem is that intentions do exactly two things when it comes to execution: jack and shit. And Jack left town.
What Should He Have Done Instead?
Well the obvious answer is call in a professional instead of letting an amateur try to do the job.
But more to the point is that the organizer made a mistake that many, many people have made (myself included) when it comes to dealing with questions of “what do women want from guys?” He centered the discussion on himself from the jump. The idea of having a stranger ask the women in the audience “Would you date this guy?” is, to put it mildly, fucking weird. This put people on the defensive to start with; they were expecting a discussion and got dragooned into being part of a bizarre social experiment.
Plus, there’s the constant use of “females” instead of “women”.
It’s intensely dehumanizing. It may not be what he intended, but see that previous part about intentions.
Having a panel of women – especially names from the community – share their thoughts, experience and advice would have made for a great panel. Simply acting as the moderator and facilitating the conversation – toss a starter question, manage questions from the audience, and so forth – would have avoided pretty much every issue that came up.
If he wanted an actual discussion about issues like approaching women, understanding concerns when it comes to dating and so forth, it would’ve been far better to, y’know, listen to women instead of engaging in these weird theatrics.
men: women are very hard to read
women: actually, we just want-
men: such complex creatures
women: if u just liste-
men: so mysterious
— Sassy (@ugh) October 26, 2016
In both of these cases, the guys were profoundly creepy. They may have had the best of intentions and purest of motivations, but they still tripped over their own metaphorical dicks. But these were times when creepy behavior could have been avoided. With some simple consideration and some minor changes, they both could have gotten the results they wanted… without getting hit with the Creeper label.
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