Update: new link added – see foot of post.
Some links that neatly bookend aspects of a problem that many people experience, either as targets of creepiness finding that their social group is not stepping up to back them up, or those worrying about their particular social habits being perceived as creepy when it’s the last thing they want to be.
Firstly, this Captain Awkward post: My friend group has a case of the Creepy Dude. How do we clear that up?, where she presents two letters describing rather similar situations from women seeking advice on how to deal with feeling so unsafe because of one person and so unsupported by the mutual male friends. One of the letter-writers appeared to be describing a Creepy Dude who might possibly be able to grasp clues if presented adamantly enough and eventually improve himself by changing his behaviour, the other letter-writer appeared to be describing a Creepy Dude who seemed alarmingly predatory and thus unlikely to change no matter what. CA lays out exactly how this distressingly common social dynamic is a toxic driver of rape culture, with a great set of links included in the post. The discussion thread is Awesome Sauce.
Then John Scalzi published An Incomplete Guide To Not Creeping which contains 10 tips. The first three tips are summed up as
It’s on you not to be a creeper and to be aware of how other people respond to you.
4. Acknowledge that other people do not exist just for your amusement/interest/desire/use. Yes, I know. You know that. But oddly enough, there’s a difference between knowing it, and actually believing it — or understanding what it means in a larger social context. People go to conventions and social gatherings to meet other people, but not necessarily (or even remotely likely) for the purpose of meeting you.
The next 6 tips are practical: don’t touch, give people space, don’t box them in, “amusing” sexual innuendos are a really bad idea, don’t follow follow someone when they leave or plan to “just happen” to turn up where they will be, and if they don’t want you around then go away (Scalzi includes basic body language here as well as verbal requests). Various readers chime in with further tips.
And a sidebar: Enough with the Aspie bit already! addressing the constant “explanation” offered that the creepers are probably just non-neurotypical whargarbl [cue creeper apologism], which of course happened yet again in the wake of the ReaderCon harassment incident. Dr. Kvetch described the social skills training that her 5 year old son with ASD is undergoing in order to prepare him for mainstream schooling:
If you would expect no less from a minimally-verbal, moderately-to-severely impacted 5 year old who has had an official diagnosis for most of his life, why are you willing to be lenient towards a charming, friendly adult man who has chaired a Worldcon, is well-known in fandom, is a father, has good friends, writes for Tor, owns a business, – in short, has shown himself competent in complex social situations – just because he might be an Aspie, even though there is absolutely no indication that he might be? Perhaps it would be more convenient for you if he was, because you want to make excuses for him?
And even if he is an Aspie?
If he learned how to run a convention and a business, he can make an effort to learn not to pressure a woman who repeatedly told him no.
I know plenty of people on the spectrum. They make an effort. They might be awkward in public, but they make an effort, because they know there might be an issue with reading cues. But this is not a case of social cues. Valentine told him NO on multiple occasions and he kept pushing and pushing and pushing. By excusing such behaviors with an imaginary and completely unsubstantiated diagnosis, you are doing a huge disservice not only to victims of harassment – you are also strongly othering people on the spectrum who are working so hard to function in a neurotypical society.
Addendum: A follow-up post on Captain Awkward – The C-word – responding to various reactions to the Creepy Dude post.