Keeping Creepy Under Control

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.

Categories: relationships, Sociology

Tags: , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. I wondered if Captain Awesome Awkward was ruthlessly moderated or if they just have a wonderful commetariat. That comment thread was fab when I read it the other day. Felt kinda sad for the woman with the boyfriend who was more interested in protecting his mate than her though.

  2. Mindy, the answer would be both don’t you think? I imagine you don’t get the latter without the former.

  3. Just blowing my own horn here – I posted a comment on the Scalzi thread basically reversing the guidelines he gave for “how not to creep” to formulate what I think turns out to be a pretty good set of overall social expectations for interacting with adequately socialised adults in a public setting.

  4. Very impressive post and thread. I tried to leave a “Yes! Seconded!” comment but login wasn’t working.
    As others there said, it struck me that the bar was being set too low. Safety should be taken for granted fergawdsake. Friends — and lovers — should be caring enough about each other to be considerate, what used to be called polite, to show respect, to stand up for each other. To see each other as real members of the group, not party decorations.
    We’re going backward. Next people will start quibbling about exactly how much safety is enough safety. Grrr.

  5. The second letter writer in the Awkward thread checks back in later on with an update.
    Later on, there’s a poster called elodieunderglass who says this – the story she tells, and The Question, is a must-read for all us guys who are too quick to mistake predatory for awkward.

  6. Mindy, Captain Awkward and her team (Sweet Machine formerly of Shapely Prose now writes there, and a few others) do indeed moderate comments ruthlessly. I don’t have any insider knowledge but she talks on occasion about the usual rape threats whenever she denounces rape, and similar things. will show a lot of pile-of-comments related stress if you skim the last week.

  7. Magpie, thanks for the link to your comment on the Scalzi thread. Would you be so kind as to reproduce it in full here? It would be a fine addition to my OP.

  8. Megpie, my iPad autocorrected sorry

  9. Ugh, yes. The touching bit reminds me (not in the sense of a trigger) of a creep I knew slightly years ago: he was one of my closest friends’ BiL. He wasn’t exactly Mr Popular in the family, being bossy to my friend’s sister and foul-mouthed (the sort of adjectival swearing without bothering or maybe caring if it offended someone) to everyone else. One time he came up and in a ‘friendly’ way planted his hand on my back. I reacted instinctively with “Keep your hands to yourself,” even as my skin crawled. And guess what: HE then got all Hurt and Wounded and complained (not to my face) that “nobody had talked to him like that since his first wife.”
    More power to her, I say.

  10. Awesome Sauce is the word for that thread! Just spent a few hours reading it. Eyes are now somewhat Sahara-ish but so worth it.

  11. I loved it – but Mindy, I’m afraid that commetariat must have been ruthlessly moderated. I posted it here as comment #5257 and got some blowback because apparently the ‘tone’ was too critical of men.

  12. If you read that section, what’s even more sad is the one guy who seems to be the only one really getting it is the autistic fellow.

  13. While I’m sad these conversations are so constantly necessary, I’m also glad that we’re having them. A couple of guys in my social circles ran across Scalzi’s post and obviously had a lightbulb moment as they linked it on FB with comments along the lines of “I think this has been me in the past, and I am so sorry. I will try to keep all of this in mind, and please never be afraid to tell me if I slip up”. So I am glad that it has got through to at least a couple of people, and it it’s got through to a couple, surely it has got through to more.
    Also, on the ‘enough on the Aspie thing already’, so many times yes! Going on a purely anecdotal level…my younger sister and I are both diagnosed Aspies. Our father and one of our cousins are almost certainly undiagnosed Aspies. One of my best friends, and a couple of other friends, are diagnosed on the spectrum to varying degrees. The father and brother of my sister’s best friend are diagnosed Aspies. I am part of some online communities for people with an ASD. And I can tell you that for all of us, we know we have trouble with social cues. We have trouble reading them, we have trouble giving the appropriate ones in a given situation, and we are all-too-painfully aware of this. Not one of the Aspies (diagnosed or suspected) in my life just sits back and expects to be given a pass for breaching social conduct just because we have trouble reading/reacting to it – we work damn hard at trying to learn enough of the signals and the appropriate responses to them to be able to behave properly. Some of us are more successful at this than others, but, in my experience, we all at the very least try as hard as we can. We appreciate it when people go “hey, your behaviour here is not cool”, because then we know about it and can work at fixing that behaviour. People who ignore that? They’re douchecanoes who know damn well what they’re doing, if for no other reason than that they’ve just been told and have chosen to continue. We appreciate posts like Scalzi’s, because it sets out a clear and structured set of ‘rules’ for social interaction, and explains what particular non-verbal cues mean.
    If anything, my personal experience is that Aspies (especially Aspie women) are more likely to be preyed on by predators than be these kind of predators/irredeemable creeps themselves, precisely because of our difficulties in reading those signs and knowing how to react. I realise I’m preaching to the choir here; I’m just so damn sick of predatory behaviour being pinned on “oh, he’s just Aspie”. Because 90% of the time, no, I’ve got pretty good at picking fellow Aspies and I’m pretty fucking sure he’s not (the other 10% being my acknowledgement that just because someone’s an Aspie, that doesn’t mean they can’t also be an entitled asswipe. That’s a whole ‘nother rant).

  14. Merinnan – exactly. That’s what gets me angry too. (about pinning it on aspies).
    It’s interesting – mental health is no different than physical health. You have to care for it, and if you have extra obstacles, you approach those as well. I have two family members who both have huge health obstacles to face, but, because of those obstacles, in the end they seem to take better care of their physical health than the healthy folks.
    The supposedly “mentally healthy” people don’t take care of their mental health and actually make themselves sicker sometimes, and it spills over and causes many of us a lot of grief. That’s why I find it necessary, but sad, that such a guideline to civil behavior at a convention needs to be written in the first place.

  15. Just noting that there’s a follow-up to the Creepy Dude posts at Captain Awkward which is also very much worth a read, responding specifically to some of the reactions to the first post.

%d bloggers like this: