After posting what was certainly a poor generalized scratch on the surface of the discussion about what it means to be a creep and how that term is beginning to influence gender dynamics, it occurred to me that I didn’t include any anecdotes.
(Actually, it occurred to me while a stranger was shaking me like a chilled cocktail, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…)
Although I was speaking on the issue as someone who’d despise the behaviors I warned against even if I weren’t confronted with them on a regular basis, I’m revisiting the subject to give you a quick peek into what I personally deal with on that front to better illustrate how some of my “creep rules” play out in real life.
I was walking down the street, minding my peppers and onions, when I noticed a car idling behind me. Whenever that happens, it’s usually a guy giving me a look over, so I did what I always do in that situation: I sped up.
To be clear, I didn’t assume the driver was a creep or even a male. It could have been a lost soul inching along to get their bearings or someone in the passionate throes of an alien abduction. I reacted as if the driver were a potential threat simply because the probability of that outcome given my past experiences made it the safest call.
Moving on, I’ve said this before and it’s worth saying again that if a woman breaks the fucking sound barrier to get away from you, she probably doesn’t want to engage. But creeps often struggle with that kind of logic. Some are so predatory, in fact, that they’re incited to chase you because you’re running away as if your attempt to escape further identifies you as prey.
So as I double timed it, I wasn’t surprised the driver sped up.
Reaching my side, he beeped his horn, rolled his window down, said hey, and made kissy-face noises at me. I kept walking and he said hey again.
I turned briefly with a stony frown to acknowledge that I know he’s there. I’m not deaf. I just don’t give a shit. Then I continued walking, crossing the intersection into the parking lot of a grocery store.
He left the turning lane and went straight to enter the lot behind me, beeping at me again, tailgating me. So I cut across the parking lot at a diagonal, weaving through the parked cars to prevent him from following me directly.
In response, he sped ahead to the next available aisle and screeched his car to a halt about two feet in front of me to block my path as I emerged from between the cars. He smirked and said hey sweetheart, looking me up and down.
I quickly walked around his car and continued my journey while calculating the odds that I was gonna have to beat a man’s ass in the next five minutes.
He sat there a moment staring at me and eventually made his way back to the road he was on, which I knew because I make sure creeps are completely gone before continuing about my day. I don’t need any surprises that don’t include ice cream and cake.
What did the stranger do wrong?
A) Followed me in his car.
B) Made kissy-face noises at me.
C) Attempted to block my path.
D) All of the above.
If you answered D, congratulations! You’re a star!
I’d like to point out that this encounter, like the majority of encounters I have with creeps, happened in broad daylight. So it wasn’t necessarily that I feared for my safety in the same way that I would if I were alone at night in a secluded area. I’ve just had enough negative experiences with random men on the street to be mindful of specific behaviors I find questionable. Situational awareness is my middle name!
Hold on, woman! Guys don’t follow chicks like that for no reason! You were probably dressed like a slut or he was just plain crazy!
One, guys follow me like that on a regular basis. It wasn’t an isolated case. Two, it’s more likely to happen to women like me who walk everywhere and take public transportation. Women who drive everywhere are better shielded from it, so it may not be the norm for them to the same extent.
Three, creepy and crazy aren’t mutually exclusive and we don’t need a lot of either running around, so I don’t much care about that distinction where my well-being is concerned.
Four, I don’t condone victim blaming, but I also object to the willfully obtuse using victim blaming as a knee-jerk response whenever someone touches upon the reality that it is indeed possible to increase (or decrease) the odds of being harassed. You just can’t predict if and when your efforts will make a difference.
Putting it another way, the fact that a man can harass you for any number of reasons outside your control doesn’t mean every man will.
Never assume that you have no control over what happens to you in life just because you aren’t to blame for it.
It’s a very dangerous message to send to those who become powerless – that they were powerless from the start – and that’s something I feel strongly about in a society so desperate to affect positive change in the lives of women that it’s fine playing dumb to make a point.
Not to get off track here, but I find it sad that we put forth such concerted effort to make women feel “empowered” by taking their clothes off or being sexually provocative while shirking our responsibility as a culture to make women feel empowered by taking their personal safety into their own hands.
And yes, I said responsibility.
We need to get past the sticking point that the only one to blame for a woman being attacked is her attacker by telling women yes, you can take steps to protect yourselves and that does not mean it’s your fault if you’re assaulted anyway. It just means your preventative measures weren’t enough to combat that particular evil.
So to the dismay of those who’ll say that bringing my attire into the discussion is just an extension of ignorant victim blaming, I think it’s valid commentary and worth mentioning that I wasn’t dressed in a way one may consider likely to provoke unwanted attention or otherwise give a man the impression that I can be picked up off the street like a hooker. I was in sneakers, sweats, and a sweatshirt.
But doesn’t that prove the argument you’re against? That you can be harassed regardless of what you’re wearing, for example?
No – because that’s not what I’m against. I’m against the notion that if you can be harassed regardless of what you’re wearing, then what you’re wearing is always irrelevant. That’s terrible logic.
I’ll also point out that anyone who thinks my attire couldn’t be a factor simply because it wasn’t what we’d deem salacious is a testament to the belief that certain attire is inherently “inviting” – a concept we need to explore more and don’t.
I was working at a store and I was scanning some merchandise when a customer walked up to me and said, “Hey, sweetie. Where can I find the belts,” while slowly and deeply stroking the length of my arm several times. What’s wrong with this picture?
A) He called me sweetie.
B) He slowly stroked my arm.
This one is tricky!
I both understand and acknowledge why men oughtn’t use terms like sweetie and baby when addressing women they don’t know, but I also think men shouldn’t be condemned for calling you that simply because they’re men.
The problem with these words is the underlying attitude motivating their use, and it’s sexist to assume you know what that attitude is based solely on gender. You should have a little more to go on than that and I’d say the creepy way this guy was touching me while nearly pressed up against my body qualifies as “a little more”, so the correct answer is C because of B.
I went into my local grocery to grab some tasties from the buffet. A man on the opposite side of the buffet came over to me and said something innocuous about the food. I laughed politely and agreed. Then this happened…
Your food has onions in it. Guess you won’t be kissing your boyfriend after eating it, hmmmmm? Or you’ll be kissing him, just not deeply with your tongues in each other’s mouths, hmmmmm? On the couch? Maybe you’ll be on the couch and you’re kissing each other deeply with your tongues, but only for, maybe, fifteen minutes, hmmmmm? Or will it be all night? Will you be kissing deeply on the couch all night? You will, hmmmmm?
What went wrong?
A) He started talking about me deeply kissing my boyfriend.
B) He kept saying hmm in a disturbing way.
C) He was commenting on my choice of food.
D) All of the above.
The answer is D because I don’t need people all up in my food’s business, thank you. Moreover, I think I covered this in my original post, but it’s creepy when a stranger talks about you doing physically intimate or sexual things. Especially when they’re even mildly descriptive. In my finest British accent, it simply isn’t done.
I was doing lats at the gym when a guy came up behind me and said something like, “You’re working hard,” while massaging my shoulders. It was all downhill from there.
Me: Can you stop touching me, please?
Him: You look like you need a massage, though. *still massaging me*
Me: *releasing the bar* I’m pretty sure I asked you to stop touching me.
Him: I like a girl who takes care of herself. You look good. What’s your name? *still massaging me*
Me: *standing up* If you put your hands on me again, we’re gonna have a fucking problem.
We had everyone’s attention by then since it was a very small gym, though no one intervened because humans. I was standing “nose-to-nose” with him and he didn’t say anything, so I pushed by him and went to another machine.
As I was setting it up, he came up to me again and took my hand, asking again for my name. I pulled my hand away, turned around, and said, “What the fuck did I just say to you?”
I was so enraged in that moment that I don’t recall what he said back. I just remember it being ignorant and me leaving the gym because one or both of us was about to end up in the hospital. Where did this guy fail?
A) He massaged me without my permission.
B) He ignored my objections.
Correct! The answer is C. You’re getting good at this!
Understand that while I personally have little qualms about fighting a man if it comes down to it because you never know when you may not have a choice, I believe we should all avoid physical confrontation – male and female alike – instead of responding to inappropriate behavior with threats that could escalate the situation.
So if a guy is putting his hands on you in a public space, don’t do what I did and get in his face about it. Make a scene and get management or the authorities involved. In this case, the former wasn’t there and the latter would have taken longer than it took me to walk away, so I didn’t practice what I preach.
I included this example to remind you that above all, the creepiest creeps are the ones who completely ignore you telling them outright that their advances aren’t wanted or that what they’re doing isn’t okay. Those are the ones most likely to need a punch in the nuts because nothing less works.
Other Store Creep
I was at work at the same store previously mentioned when a customer approached me and asked if the item I was standing near was on sale. I said it wasn’t, at which point he grabbed me by the arms and started shaking me violently while saying in a fit of laughter, “You heard her! She said it’s an extra 20% off!”
A coworker witnessing this said, “Um… do you need me to come over there?” I shook my head as I pulled away from the guy, who was still laughing. Once he calmed down, he asked where something was, I answered, and he thanked me, walking off with a final, “Have a good day, sweetheart!” Why was this not okay?
A) He was touching me.
B) He was shaking me.
C) What the fuck?
The answer, of course, is C.
Did that encounter make him a vicious predator? No. He just struck me as a happy, outgoing guy having a little fun. He even resembled Santa Claus.
Maybe he was Santa Claus.
But you can’t overlook or be unaware of your culture’s social graces, like the fact that you don’t go around shaking the living daylights out of complete strangers. His failure to abide by something so obvious, especially where a female is concerned, raised too many questions with potentially creepy answers, making him kind of creepy by extension.
The length of time he shook me was also creepy. It wasn’t a quick haha shake. It was a prolonged let’s see if I can get her tits to launch into the atmosphere shake.
The lesson to be learned from this one is that someone can be a creep without being scary, violent or mean. Creepiness isn’t defined by hostility or aggression so much as by invasion of privacy, body, and space. In short, there are nice creeps.
They’re still creeps.
I met a guy during an event and he told me he wanted to crawl inside my skin. I won’t even quiz you on this one. While that may be the kind of “poetic” thing some find moving and romantic on paper and on screen, in real life, someone you just met telling you they want to crawl inside your outermost organ is creepy as hell.
Disproportionate intensity always makes something otherwise harmless come across as unsettling. In this case, the guy seemed too emotionally intense, and people who “feel too much” are a lot more appealing in theory than they are in practice. They’re the kinda folk who kill other folk over love stuff, then kill themselves.
Not a fan!
While I’d love to finish this post off with the comedy of horrors that was a stranger’s extended harassment of me at the pool, including the slice of pizza he tried to force into my mouth, I’d rather skip to the shocking truth that I gave him a pass for a few reasons.
One, he was so drunk (and high) that it was clear his ability to stand up, let alone control himself, was severely compromised. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t remember anything that happened when he woke up the next day.
Two, he wasn’t threatening. I didn’t feel at any point during his harassment that I was in danger and he didn’t put his hands on me. He was just being highly inappropriate and it was obnoxious because he wouldn’t (see; couldn’t) stop. Note that him trying to get me to eat pizza doesn’t count as putting his hands on me since his hands were on the slice.
Three, several people were trying to rein him in, including his friends and a lifeguard who kept checking on me to make sure I was okay whenever he saw any guy come up to me. That concern was sweet.
So while I certainly didn’t condone his behavior and continued to make it clear that it was unwanted, I fully understood that I was trying to negotiate with someone who lacked the capacity for restraint while heavily under the influence.
In light of that, I tried to manage it the same way I’d manage someone who’s mentally ill until his friends were able to get him home to sleep it off. I remember him apologizing to me as they dragged him off in a floppy, slurring mass. Definitely someone who needs to cut back on the “recreational” activities.
I could go on with more – and incredibly worse – examples considering I amass them on the regs, but I think I’ll end it here with a thought instead: Men have been sexually harassing, stalking, and generally being creeps to me since my pubescence, and that truth is echoed by the overwhelming majority of women I’ve met in my life.
It’s so frequent that it’s fairly normalized. As a female, you expect it to happen at some point – and it does. The good thing is that we’re in a time when we can speak up about it and speak against men (and women) who try to justify it. Even better, we have the opportunity to educate men who genuinely don’t realize that what they’re doing bothers us or is wrong because it’s been normalized for them too.
Regardless, while all of this unwanted attention hasn’t “screwed me up”, it’s given me a duel perspective. The fact that so many men think they can walk around imposing themselves on women at will or being gross and sexually explicit as they see fit with little to no regard for how we feel or how it affects us is so astonishing that I ceased to be astonished.
I now exist in this weird state where every time it happens to me or anyone else, I’m both surprised and not surprised because I shouldn’t be surprised and that’s surprising.
And don’t even get me started on the creeps who’ve said they have the “right” to treat women however they want by virtue of being men because women were “put here” for them. That’s a kettle for another stove…