Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

The Word Creep Serves a Purpose

Photo of an eye by rlcasey on flickr

photo by rlcasey on flickr

Clarisse Thorn wrote an essay about how the use of the word creep, in some instances, demonizes the sexuality of men who may not actually be creepy.  And I have to say that I’m with Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, because the way some men express their sexuality is creepy.  Full stop.

Thorn goes on to describe an email encounter that she at the time, and I now, would categorize as creepy.  I’m sorry, but if someone I don’t know and have never corresponded with suddenly emails me out of the blue about how he’s guessed what I want sexually and he’d be happy to oblige, that’s creepy.  At least toss out a, “Hey, saw your post on the board, and I was wondering if you wanted to talk about it more?” email first. Seriously, etiquette, people.

The thing is, I don’t think we do blanket demonize men who are honest about their sexual needs.  I think we demonize men who express their desires poorly, or creepily if you will.  And this has nothing to do with a man’s conventional attractiveness quotient, because I’ve been creeped at by some GQ looking dudes (they’re usually the worst, because they expect you’ll fall all over yourself to do whatever they want, ’cause, they’re hot, duh) and I’ve been creeped all over by unattractive guys and every level of attractiveness in between.  I’ve also been approached respectfully by guys across the spectrum, too.  So, let’s just shut down that Nice Guy ™ train of thought before it even leaves the station, kay?

And the thing is, I think Thorn is attacking a straw man in her thesis.  I don’t know anyone who thinks any man ever expressing his sexual needs is icky.  I know plenty of women who think Nice Guy ™s are icky, and who think that guys who won’t take, “No,” “NO!” “Fuck No!” “Get the fuck away from me before I mace you, asshole!” as an answer are icky.  I know plenty of women who think guys who stare at them without ever saying a word are icky (bonus points if you can tell he’s looking at your tits or crotch).  I know plenty of women who think men who think, “Whoa, must be jelly, ’cause jam don’t shake like that!” is a compliment are creepy.

I could go on with the list of bad behavior.

I do not, however, know many women at all who think someone they’ve spoken with and flirted with respectfully expressing sexual interest is icky.  I have also been involved in situations where, “Nice shoes, wanna fuck?” was a perfectly non-creepy and successful pick up line, but with that one you’ve really got to know your audience. It all boils down to people, of any gender, recognizing when their advances are not wanted.  And where the creep comes in, is there are a lot of guys who don’t recognize that, because they think they’re entitled to express those needs to just anyone.

Thorn goes on to say that in order to stop the demonization of male sexuality, that we must discourage these negative expressions of male sexuality.   The word “creep” is part and parcel of doing just that.

“Creep” is what women say when they’re too non-confrontational to say, “What a fucking, asshole,” primarily because women are conditioned to two things:
1.  That “nice” girls aren’t confrontational and you mustn’t be rude.
2.  Sometimes guys who “compliment” you on the street, or other places, turn violent and shoot you, or worse.  So you must be as “nice” as possible while trying to get away.

As proof of the demonization of male sexuality, Thorn also says that as a woman she can talk explicitly and overtly about her desires, while a man can’t without seeming creepy.  There’s a couple of things to consider here, though.  One of them is that what women consider explicit and overt is different from what most men consider explicit and overt.  And two, women have a tendency to pay more attention to their audience when speaking explicitly and overtly, because the idea of our free and open sexuality has been so “othered” by society.

I don’t think calling creepy guys creepy is “othering” their sexual needs and desires, and I don’t care how “honest” they are by emailing me, based solely on my IM profile without any other prelude whatsoever, about what they think they would like to do to me based on my stated sexual proclivities.

Also, invariably, someone will bring up socially awkward nerds when this subject comes  up, and how the ladies should cut them some slack because they’re trying and it’s an uphill battle, and Revolutionary Girl Utena wasn’t this difficult to figure out.  However, I would like to  point out that men do not have the market cornered on being socially awkward nerds.  There’s a ton of women out there with anxiety disorders, on the Aspberger’s spectrum, or who just plain didn’t interact with their peers, and I don’t hear anyone crying about how they can’t land a Chippendale’s Dancer for prom.

The word “Creep” fulfills a necessary function.  It’s what you say when a guy freaks you out by boundary pushing, but doesn’t do anything that could be considered a crime.  The guy who stares at you, the guy who calls you “Sweet tits” when you walk down the street, the guy who keeps asking and asking and asking until you either cave (which I advise heavily against) or you get a restraining order.  None of those guys are doing anything legally actionable, but they are doing a whole lot of creepy shit.  And until we get more pro-active about saying, “Hey, that thing you just did is creepy as fuck and you need to stop it!” they’re going to keep doing it.

Actually, maybe she has a point.  Or rather I think we should take it the other direction, and be more “honest” ourselves and start using words we really mean when we say “creepy.”  You know, like “Stalker.”  Or maybe the word “Asshole!”  How about “Douche!?”

ETA:  Ok, I actually got out of bed to add this.  So one of Thorn’s other examples of a man’s behavior being wrongly accused of being creepy was someone who was volunteering with a woman at an event, and she tells him she’s not into the dudes.  He responds by saying he knows how she feels, because he feels that way about coming out as being kinky.  Later on the volunteer coordinator tells him that it wasn’t appropriate, and for some reason something about this example bugged me.

Then it dawned on me.  There are two times I can think of when you’ll tell a relative stranger about your attraction to “not their gender:”  A. is you’re in a safe place or you feel there’s a shared experience and because of that you can trust them or B. you’re trying to get them to quit hitting on you.  Given how the rest of that scenario played out, I’m guessing the woman involved was doing option B.

Now, as someone who has been accused of being flirtatious when I’m just being friendly, I know that sucks, but I’m guessing that he either wasn’t being honest with Thorn about his interactions prior to that exchange, or that he’s just one of those folks whose friendliness gets mistaken for flirtation.  Like I said, my friendliness being mistaken for flirting happens to me fairly frequently, and it sucks when you realize your normal friendliness has made someone uncomfortable.  But you apologize,  suck it up and move on.  You don’t accuse other people of denying your sexual agency over a misunderstanding.

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This entry was posted on October 6, 2010 by in Featured Articles, Sexism and tagged .

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