An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping

The last couple of months have been a really interesting time for geekdom, as its had its face rubbed in the fact that there are a lot of creepy assbags among its number, and that geekdom is not always the most welcoming of places for women. Along that line, this e-mail from a con-going guy popped into my queue a few days ago:

Any tips on how not to be a creeper? I try not to be, but I don’t know that I’m the best judge of that.

Let’s define our terms here. Let’s say that for this particular conversation, a “creeper” is someone whose behavior towards someone else makes that other person uncomfortable at least and may possibly make them feel unsafe. A creeper may be of any gender and may creep on any gender, but let’s acknowledge that a whole lot of the time it’s guys creeping on women. Creeping can happen any place and in any community or grouping of people, but in geekdom we see a lot of it at conventions and other large gatherings.

Let me also note that the reason I stress this is an incomplete guide is because a) there’s no way to cover every contingency and b) I’m writing this from the point of view of someone who doesn’t get creeped on very much (it almost never happens to me) and when it does happen I am usually in a position, by way of my gender, age, personal temperament and contextual notability, to do something about it. Other people who are creeped on — particularly women — aren’t necessarily in the same position. So the advice I give you here is informed by my point of view, not theirs, and as such is almost certainly incomplete (but hopefully not wrong). This is just a start, in other words, and others will have different and probably better perspectives on the subject.

That said, these are the rules that I use when I meet people, particularly women, for the first time and/or to whom I find myself attracted in one way or another. Because, yeah, I do meet a lot of people and/or I do find many of the people I know in a casual way to be attractive in one way or another. The very last thing I want is for them to feel that I am a creepy assbag. These are the things I do to avoid coming across as one.

Bear in mind that following these recommendations will not make you a good guy. They will just hopefully make you be not so much of a creeper. These are preventative measures, in other words, and should be viewed as such.

Fair enough? Okay, then. Let’s start with some biggies.

1. Acknowledge that you are responsible for your own actions. You are (probably) a fully-functioning adult. You probably are able to do all sorts of things on your own — things which require the use of personal judgement. Among those things: How you relate to, and interact with, other human beings, including those who you have some interest in or desire for. Now, it’s possible you may also be socially awkward, or have trouble reading other people’s emotions or intentions, or whatever. This is your own problem to solve, not anyone else’s. It is not an excuse or justification to creep on other people. If you or other people use it that way, you’ve failed basic human decency.

2. Acknowledge that you don’t get to define other people’s comfort level with you. Which is to say that you may be trying your hardest to be interesting and engaging and fun to be around — and still come off as a creeper to someone else. Yes, that sucks for you. But you know what? It sucks for them even harder, because you’re creeping them out and making them profoundly unhappy and uncomfortable. It may not seem fair that “creep” is their assessment of you, but: Surprise! It doesn’t matter, and if you try to argue with them (or anyone else) that you’re in fact not being a creep and the problem is with them not you, then you go from “creep” to “complete assbag.” Sometimes people aren’t going to like you or want to be near you. It’s just the way it is.

3. Acknowledge that no one’s required to inform you that you’re creeping (or help you to not be a creeper). It’s nice when people let you know when you’re going wrong and how. But you know what? That’s not their job. It’s especially not their job at a convention or some other social gathering, where the reason they are there is to hang out with friends and have fun, and not to give some dude an intensive course in how not to make other people intensely uncomfortable with his presence. If you are creeping on other people, they have a perfect right to ignore you, avoid you and shut you out — and not tell you why. Again: you are (probably) a fully-functioning adult. This is something you need to be able to handle on your own.

Shorter version of above: It’s on you not to be a creeper and to be aware of how other people respond to you.

Also extremely important:

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 woman who is wearing a steampunky corset to a convention is almost certainly wearing it in part to enjoy being seen in it and to have people enjoy seeing her in it — but she’s also almost certainly not wearing it for you. You are not the person she has been waiting for, the reason she’s there, or the purpose for her attendance. When you act like you are, or that she has (or should have) nothing else to do than be the object of your amusement/interest/desire/use, the likelihood that you will come across a complete creeper rises exponentially. It’s not an insult for someone else not to want to play that role for you. It’s not what they’re there for.

So those are some overarching things to incorporate into your thinking. Here are some practical things.

5. Don’t touch. Seriously, man. You’re not eight, with the need to run your fingers over everything, nor do you lack voluntary control of your muscles. Keep your hands, arms, legs and everything else to yourself. This is not actually difficult. Here’s an idea: That person you want to touch? Put them in charge of the whole touch experience. That is, let them initiate any physical contact and let them set the pace of that contact when or if they do — and accept that that there’s a very excellent chance no touch is forthcoming. Do that when you meet them for the first time. Do that after you’ve met them 25 times. Do it just as a general rule. Also, friendly tip: If you do touch someone and they say “don’t touch me,” or otherwise make it clear that touching was not something you should have done, the correct response is: “I apologize. I am sorry I made you uncomfortable.” Then back the hell off, possibly to the next state over.

6. Give them space. Hey: Hold your arm straight out in front of your body. Where your fingertips are? That’s a nice minimum distance for someone you’re meeting or don’t know particularly well (it’s also not a bad distance for people you do know). Getting inside that space generally makes people uncomfortable, and why make people uncomfortable? That’s creepy. Also creepy: Sneaking up behind people and getting in close to them, or otherwise getting into their personal space without them being aware of it. If you’re in a crowded room and you need to scrunch in, back up when the option becomes available; don’t take it as an opportunity to linger inside that personal zone. Speaking of which:

7. Don’t box people in. Trapping people in a corner or making it difficult for them to leave without you having the option to block them makes you an assbag. Here’s a hint: If you are actually interesting to other people, you don’t need to box them into a corner.

8. That amusing sexual innuendo? So not amusing. If you can’t make a conversation without trying to shoehorn suggestive or sexually-related topics into the mix, then you know what? You can’t make conversation. Consider also the possibility the playing the sexual innuendo card early and often signals to others in big flashing neon letters that you’re likely a tiresome person who brings nothing else to table. This is another time where an excellent strategy is to let the other person be in charge of bringing sexual innuendo to the conversational table, and managing the frequency of its appearance therein.

9. Someone wants to leave? Don’t go with them. Which is to say, if they bow out of a conversation with you, say goodbye and let them go. If they leave the room, don’t take that as your cue to follow them from a distance and show up wherever it is they are as if it just happens you are showing up in the same place. Related to this, if you spend any amount of time positioning yourself to be where that person you are interested in will be, or will walk by, for the purpose of “just happening” to be there when they are, you’re probably being creepy as hell. Likewise, if you attach yourself to a group just to be near that person. Dude, it’s obvious, and it’s squicky.

10. Someone doesn’t want you around? Go away. Here are some subtle hints: When you come by they don’t make eye contact with you. When they are in a group the group contracts or turns away from you. If you interject in the conversation people avoid following up on what you’ve said. One of the friends of the person you are interested in interposes themselves between you and that person. And so on. When stuff like that happens, guess what? You’re not wanted. When that happens, here’s what you do: Go away. Grumble to yourself (and only to yourself) all you like about their discourteousness or whatever. Do it away from them. Remember that you don’t get to define other people’s comfort level with you. Remember that they’re not obliged to inform you about why they don’t want you around. Although, for God’s sake, if they do tell you they don’t want you around, listen to them.

Again: Not a complete instruction set on how not to be a creeper. But a reasonable start, I think.

Update, 8/10: A tangential personal note.

680 thoughts on “An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping

  1. Damn it. I should have put a trigger warning on that entry because there are some descriptions of harassment that might be triggering to others. Apologies.

  2. As a woman who has been creeped on (and has ceased going to certain otherwise enjoyable, regular social functions because I knew the creeper would be there), I applaud you, Mr. Scalzi. That is not only an excellent start to a How Not To Be A Creeper list, but also an excellent list, period. Especially #5. Sheesh.

  3. Regarding the personal space issue in #5, be aware that it varies among cultures. When I worked on student exchange programs with students from the former Soviet Union in the 90s, we always incorporated a discussion of personal space into orientations as, very generally speaking, acceptable “interpersonal distance” is/was closer in those students’ home cultures.

  4. Thank you. I’m still having to make a conscious effort to remember to think of those things. Thanks for writing this piece, it’s good to see this from a man’s perspective as well.

  5. Dave S:

    It’s reasonably safe to assume the large majority of people who are reading this have similar personal space boundaries, as 95% of my readers are in North America, Australia/NZ and Britain,

  6. An excellent primer for those who care to better their human interactivity! As a woman who has experienced creeping I’ve sometimes attempted to diffuse the situation with the unhelpful old saw, “I’m sorry. It’s me, not you.” After several (thousand) intermediate epiphanies I had a fully blown affirmation assert itself: “It is USELESS to seek validation from the perpetrator of the violation.” Relating this back to your suggestions, just because a says s/he’s sorry it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. S/he is being a) polite b) feeling unhappy at having to deal with the whole mess c) feeling unhappy at causing even an assbag distress d) other e) all of the above.

    Will check out Captain Awkward link after this sentence. :)

  7. I’m thinking of printing this off and handing out to people before I interact with them at cons. Especially #4, #8, and #9. Especially especially #5. Yeah, I know you think laying your hand on my shoulder isn’t creepy or weird. Guess what? It still is. Even when I’ve known you for my entire life (acutally, more so then, because one of the few things worse than being creeped on by a guy – being creeped on by a guy who you consider a father-figure).

  8. This is clear and useful, and obviously necessary. But it’s also sad. #10 especially reminds me of how often being at a con feels like being in a highschool lunchroom.

  9. I think this would be a good addition to every Con program: Basic Rules on How to Act Toward Your Fellow Con Attendees.

    And I think most, if not all, of your suggestions work both ways. I have seen ladies be creepy to guys who were attractive and not socially awkward where the whole situation turned into a mess.

  10. Only thing I would add to that awesome post, John, is that once you’ve violated someone’s creepmeter, you’ve lost the right to be emotionally fulfilled by having your apology acknowledge or accepted. Apologizing should be simple (as in your point 5) and honest, but you should be prepared to have lost the chance to make it. Further attempts to apologize are “nice to have”, not mandatory, and trying to create them is just extending the creeperism.

  11. one thing to remember: never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity/incompetence/bad social skiils.

    ie: some guys may be nice but totally clueless. I see that the above guide is to help people gain more clue, but what if the person doesn’t know they need more?

    granted; once a person is told explicity to go away, and then they do not, that is a real problem. but there are a lot of people in geekdom with poor social skills.

  12. I wonder behavioral litmus test might be to ask “Is this something you would do or say to your mother? If not, you shouldn’t do it to a stranger or an acquaintance.” Clearly that won’t cover personal space issues if one comes from a touchy-feely family, but it might make people stop and think, maybe? Or am I being naïve and simplistic, and assuming that these creepers are able to be appropriate with their moms?

  13. On #5: my mother told me the correct response is to say “excuse me”, or “pardon me,” or “sorry.” In a pinch, “oops” may have to serve.

    I can’t imagine being on an embassy ship en route to an interstellar diplomatic conference and, having mistakenly touched the untouchable Forshan attaché, saying “I am sorry (that) I made you uncomfortable.” People don’t say this; we shouldn’t expect them to.

    Broadly speaking, a conference can’t hope to make everyone comfortable all the time. When we’re at a conference we’re not at home, we’re not comfortable, were not safe. We’re in a new and temporary space to which we’ve journeyed, often at considerable expense, in order to meet with famous and important people and to discuss things that matter to us all. http://www.markbernstein.org/Aug12/OnConferences.html

  14. Know what else is creepy? When someone you don’t even know orders you, in front of a group, to “Smile!” I used to wonder why I got this a lot, when I wasn’t looking or acting particularly frowny, and then I realized it’s a game that certain creepy, aggressive guys play with women who are quiet. It’s a total dominance play, meant to put you on the spot, and meant to make them feel powerful in front of whoever they’re trying to feel powerful in front of. Creeps.

  15. I shouldn’t have to put this, but I’m a woman (at least, that’s how people read me) who sometimes gets bothered by creepers, and I’d like to say that I’d go so far as to say that most creepers probably AREN’T fully functioning adults, but rather are partially or mostly functioning folks w/ mental disabilities/mental illnesses/neuro non-typical of some sort who genuinely can’t tell when they’re being creepy. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge & attribute to malice or douchebaggery what may well be something the person struggles with. Maybe it’s partially our place to try to be patient (but always firm about our needs) with people with mental issues… we’d be patient with someone with different mental issues or someone with a physical issue or with a developmental issue. That being said, if you do have social issues (I know I do… I try very hard not to be a creeper meself) then it IS good to be aware of them & to try to work on them. (However, if you also have anxiety issues, this can make you go from blissfully unaware to someone who has a fear of social situations because they’re terrified that everything they do will be wrong somehow.) So work needs to be done on both sides, perhaps, both the creepers need to work on their behavior & we need to work on the way we respond to creepers so that we treat them with basic human respect (even though they aren’t giving it to us… be the better person) but also make our needs clear.

    That’s a great practical list. I’d also put in #10 that if someone’s making short, pat, gruff or abrupt 1 word or sentence answers, especially if they’re not making a hell of a lot of eye contact with you and ESPECIALLY especially if they were previously chatting with you normally and making a decent amount of eye contact, there’s a good chance they want you gone. I use this one all the time and you’d be surprised how many folks that I’m not interested in talking to do NOT pick up on it.

  16. NPD (Narcissistic personality disorder) may be the root cause, in some instances, of what you describe as creepy behavior. Narcissists tend to lack empathy, have low self esteem, and are dismissive of the abilities of other people; and those are just some of the less obnoxious traits.

  17. “Creep” is the symantic female equivalent of calling someone a “slut”.

    [Additional massively derailing nonsense deleted -- Ian, please see my comment below. Other folks, don't bother responding to this -- JS]

  18. Only thing I would add to that awesome post, John, is that once you’ve violated someone’s creepmeter, you’ve lost the right to be emotionally fulfilled by having your apology acknowledge or accepted. Apologizing should be simple (as in your point 5) and honest, but you should be prepared to have lost the chance to make it. Further attempts to apologize are “nice to have”, not mandatory, and trying to create them is just extending the creeperism.

    YES to all of this! Apologies should be about the person to whom the apology is directed toward, not the person who wishes to make the apology. If someone does not wish to hear your apology or does not respond the way that you wish them to, it is not their responsibility to make you feel better by giving you the response you want. No one is under any obligation to receive or accept an apology attempt, even when it’s a sincere one, and in those cases, the best apology you can make is by respecting the wishes of the person you have wronged and just going away.

  19. Who doesn’t benefit from getting more clue?

    I think I you believe you never performed a social error, ever misread body language, or would never do it again – well there’s the problem.

    I think knowing what impairs your ability to be non creepy is important. If alcohol brings out your creepy – don’t drink.

    I worry I’ve been creepy on occasion because esp after panels I turn into a vulnerable limpet who feels a need to attach to whoever seems friendliest and nicest. I’m sure that’s generally fine, but there have been times when I’ve thought afterwards ‘was that creepy?’ did i know that person well enough to trail after them like a los puppy? Enough of a worry and a panel debriefing need for me that I think I’ll try to formally organize spending time with people immediately after panels. Mitigating creeper possibilities and giving my brain the support it needs.

  20. Mark Bernstein:

    “On #5: my mother told me the correct response is to say ‘excuse me’, or ‘pardon me,’ or ‘sorry.’ In a pinch, ‘oops’ may have to serve.”

    I find it doubtful that’s what your mother told you to say when you are intentionally going out of your way to touch someone, as it is this sort of touch that is being described here, as I think is sufficiently obvious in the context of the entry. And if that is what your mother told you to say when you’re touching someone intentionally and they tell you not to touch them further, then your mother is wrong.

    Ian Ironwood:

    “‘Creep’ is the symantic female equivalent of calling someone a ‘slut’.”

    It most certainly is not, and I made it sufficiently clear that anyone of any gender can be a creeper. You are either positing a definition which has no relation to reality, or intentionally trying to derail the conversation, or both.

  21. I want to wallpaper my daughter’s high school with this article and for good measure, put one on the windshield of every car in the parking lot.

  22. When it comes to personal space, the other factor to consider is that it’s the creepee’s personal space that’s important, not the creeper’s – and so it’s better to err on the side of distance, so even though some cultures have shorter personal distances, basing it on a culture that allows more personal space makes more sense. After all, a person from a culture with a smaller personal space will probably not be bothered as much that strangers are too far away than someone from another culture will be if they are too close.

  23. Judy – my sentiments exactly. Seems like a lot of these activities could be someone thinking they are attempting flirtation. If so, they are failing, badly.

  24. I disagree somewhat with point #3. If someone’s bothering me, and I say “Please stop, you’re making me uncomfortable,” and they ask “Why?” it might be useful to explain. It’s possible they’re asking me that question because they’re just that much of a douchebag that they get off on listening me recount the reasons. But I think it’s just as likely that they really are clueless but wanting to learn from their mistake. Okay, so maybe I’m not “obligated” to explain the reason(s) for my discomfort. But if a guy (or girl, for that matter) is always shunned in social situations for some aspect of his (or her) behavior, yet nobody ever explains to him *why* his behavior is unacceptable, how will he learn (assuming he wants to)?

  25. Jill: Actually, I am pretty comfortable attributing all creeper behavior to malice, unless it’s coming from someone I know well enough to have seen them having the same social skills issues in other settings (including, and this is important, with people who are not in their preferred romantic demographic).

    Creepy behavior all comes down to a demonstrated willingness to violate boundaries. I generally assume everyone who demonstrates that willingness is a potential threat and avoid them as much as possible. There’s not a downside to this, as far as I can see: if someone is a threat, and I avoid them, then yay! I have successfully stayed out of danger. If they really are well-intentioned and willing to respect my autonomy, and just so socially clueless that they give the exact opposite impression, and I mis-categorize them as a threat and avoid them, then I’ve… successfully avoided spending time with people who make me feel uncomfortable.

    …those both look like win conditions to me. I’m really entirely okay with restricting my social interactions to people who don’t make me feel nervous and threatened.

  26. @jill:

    malice intended or not, I don’t think the victim of creeping should ever need to worry about whether or not the creeper is “creepy” or “clueless”. If they’re clueless it will hopefully give them a clue. If they’re creepy, going easy on them gives them the very validation that makes them dangerous.

  27. “Creep” is the symantic female equivalent of calling someone a “slut”. If a woman doesn’t like a man’s sexual presentation, he’s a “creep”. If a man doesn’t like a woman’s sexual presentation, she’s a “slut”.

    Nope. I have had women be creepy to me less frequently than men, but I have had women do it to me (and I am a woman). Creepy behavior is creepy behavior no matter who is doing it, as John said at the beginning of the article. When I say someone or something is “creeping me out”, I mean just exactly that — their behavior toward me (or, in one instance, toward a friend of mine) is sending that crawling sensation along my nerves. Is making me feel threatened. They could be the hottest person on the face of the earth, the person who hits all of my physical attraction buttons, and if their behavior is the sort of creepy John is speaking out against in this post, I won’t want anything to do with them.

    And it doesn’t have anything to do with social awkwardness or inexperience/difficulty with reading social cues — there have been several excellent posts about this (I think Jim Hines had one, but I can’t get to my masterpost list from work). My friend’s autistic four-year-old daughter knew enough to ask me if she could hug me the first time we met.

  28. Mr. Scalzi, may I quote you as follows in a chapter that I drafted today?
    Batshit Crazy
    by
    Jonathan Vos Post
    Incomplete Draft jjj of 9 August 2012, 350 pp., 94,700 words, adds 650 word Ch. 57 “FIAWOL”

    57.0 FIAWOL

    “You said that FIAWOL was a science fiction fan acronym for ‘Fandom Is A Way of Life.’ Isn’t it part of Braggart’s problem that he’s too loony to fit into fandom?”
    “Fandom makes great claims of tolerance and inclusivity, but it does have its own ways of dealing with creeps. As John Scalzi said in his ‘Whatever’ blog on 9 August 2012:
    ‘The last couple of months have been a really interesting time for geekdom, as its had its face rubbed in the fact that there are a lot of creepy assbags among its number, and that geekdom is not always the most welcoming of places for women. Along that line, this e-mail from a con-going guy popped into my queue a few days ago:
    “Any tips on how not to be a creeper? I try not to be, but I don’t know that I’m the best judge of that.”
    ‘Let’s define our terms here. Let’s say that for this particular conversation, a “creeper” is someone whose behavior towards someone else makes that other person uncomfortable at least and may possibly make them feel unsafe. A creeper may be of any gender and may creep on any gender, but let’s acknowledge that a whole lot of the time it’s guys creeping on women. Creeping can happen any place and in any community or grouping of people, but in geekdom we see a lot of it at conventions and other large gatherings.’”
    “However, as I see it, me, not SFWA President Scalzi, you are correct that Braggart would not fit in geeky fandom, because of his lack of paracosm. He just doesn’t ‘get’ science fiction, Fantasy, or Horror literature, film, or television. How can the lack of cognitive ability to process ‘escapist literature’ actually make him worse at coping with mundane reality? In a nutshell, you become what you read.”
    “In the sense of ‘you are what you eat” combined with Francis Bacon’s epigram: ‘Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested’?”
    “Pretty much, doctor. Psychologists Geoff Kaufman and Lisa Libby, at Ohio State University, assigned 78 heterosexual males to read one of a trio of fictional stories, of which two had a homosexual protagonist, and one a heterosexual protagonist. In test instrument later administered, the readers reported no difficulties in identifying with the ‘straight’ character. Interestingly, their ability to identify with the ‘gay’ protagonist depended up[on when that character’s sexual identity was disclosed. For example, if the character was introduced in the opening paragraph as gay, they did not as strongly connect with that character as when the orientation was revealed near the story’s end. Even more importantly, those heterosexual males who showed the strongest engagement with the gay character used fewer stereotypes when describing the character to the researchers. Further, those heterosexual males who connected with the fictive gay character self-reported consistently more positive attitudes towards homosexuality as such. ‘Readers can emerge from a reading experience seeing the world, other people, and themselves quite differently,’ concluded Dr. Kaufman. So prose has power. Critical thinking can be influenced. One hopes that such power is harnessed for the good of humankind.”
    “So you feel that Braggart is doomed, there in Ho Chi Minh City, to be spiteful to you by email, because he resents your being not only a fan, but an actual published author?”
    “Yes, doctor. You’d be shocked by what some fans have done to each other, and to authors of great repute.”
    “Not really,” my shrink said, quoting Terence. “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.” Which is to say: ‘I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.’”
    “Alien is,” I said, before going back onto the streets of Bangkok, “as alien does.”

  29. Ian -

    Calling a woman a “slut” and calling a man “creep” are not equivalent terms.

    The former is meant to shame a woman for embracing and enjoying being sexual, behavior that is not inherently negative. Both men and women share equal capacity for sexual enjoyment and expression and it’s unfair to shame only women for engaging in either in order to control their sexuality.

    By contrast, the latter refers to men engaging in behavior that *is* negative – ignoring nonverbal or verbal cues that a person is uncomfortable or doesn’t wish to engage with you, inappropriate touching, all the things John laid out clearly in his post, and which one should be ashamed of engaging in. Men are not naturally prone to these sort of behaviors* – they are not inherent attributes of men and shaming *anyone* who engages in such behavior is a fair method of social control. The only reason it would be unfair to shame men (or anyone) who engages in creepy behavior would be if that behavior were something they had no control over, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to subscribe to the belief that men should get a pass for creepy behavior because they can’t help it, they’re just naturally creeps.

    *Obviously creepy behavior isn’t limited to men only, but the social reactions to and treatment of men who are subjected to creepy behavior by women is disproportionate to the social reactions to and treatment of women who are subjected to creepy behavior by men. In the case of the former, the concerns of men regarding creepy behavior by women is almost always taken more seriously and men are less likely to have their concerns brushed off or suffer as many social consequences if they become victims. Women complaining of creepy behavior by men, however, are more likely to be told they are “overreacting” or “being hysterical,” that they should “just ignore it because he’s harmless.” And if they are so unfortunate as to become victims, are often subjected to a litany of victim-blaming: “Why didn’t you report it sooner?” “You should have been more firm with him and told him to go away.” “You liked the attention before and now you’ve changed your mind.”

    This stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum outside of cultural context, folks.

  30. “Don’t stare, don’t touch, don’t crowd, don’t corner” has worked pretty well for me over the years.

    Later on I figured out a version of #4 above: don’t come at other people with intent that ignores their agency. Don’t have preconceived notions of how you would like an encounter with another person to go, because it assumes they owe you a favorable response. Don’t blame the other person if they don’t follow your ideal script, because it is your fault for dehumanizing people by assigning them a role without their permission or input. Sometimes it doesn’t “go the way you want it to” but why would you really get to decide for someone else how they should react to you?

    You can avoid being a creeper but not having a goal that you are creeping towards. It is OK to have interactions with other people and let them take the lead, let them guide how things go, enjoy the moment and don’t put any pressure on it to be anything else but what it is. In my experience, I’ve found that once I stopped trying to make things happen, to FORCE things to happen, lots of good things started happening. I started feeling more comfortable in social situations, because I took the pressure off of myself. I found that other people were more comfortable around me, because I wasn’t on “high alert” and I wasn’t obviously trying to get things from other people. And NO, it didn’t magically make me a “chick magnet” and it wasn’t a great way to meet and hook up with women. What it did was make it OK for me to not make “hook up with women” my goal in life, and I made a bunch of great friends and I was happier and healthier overall.

  31. John, personal distance varies even within North America. I’ve found it’s smaller in New York than in Michigan, where I grew up. It also varies to some extent by ethnicity and economic class, but those differences are subtler.

    Note that if someone leans close in, especially if they tilt their head to one side, this isn’t necessarily an invitation of any kind; they could just be hard of hearing, like me. If YOU’RE hard of hearing and need to get closer than normal personal distance in order to hear, say “I’m sorry, I’m a little hard of hearing” before leaning in. And that head-tilt is a good distancer to remind them that you’re not looking down their cleavage! (If you are, cut it the fuck out. They’ll know.)

    My only actual (mild) criticism of this writeup is that your rules work for men interacting with women they’re attracted to (and old gay men like me interacting with young men they’re attracted to). But frex two gay men about the same age and so on would stand there waiting for each other to initiate touching, which could (could!) be a bad thing. But you’re nearly always right, even among gay men, in waiting for the other person to initiate touch. (I’m only mentioning it because there were times in my young, cute days when I and someone else kept that tension going for a really long time and when one of us finally initiated touching…well, let’s just say it was like someone pushed the fast-forward button. Come to think of it, that was kind of fun.)

    One other thing: sexual innuendo is also a slightly more acceptable form of humor at a gay party. Note that “at a gay party” != “among gay men at a straight party.”

    I guess a rule of thumb might be: If it’s obvious you’re attracted to them, tone it down. It’s more fun if they have to figure it out and aren’t quite sure anyway. This also makes it easy for them to pretend they don’t notice.

  32. @Ellen, YES! I also second the recommendation of the Captain Awkward link. It does a good job of explicating how excusing creeper behavior on the basis of “but he’s a good guy, really” perpetuates creating safe spaces for creepers and unsafe spaces for women. (Yes, it can go the other way. The vast majority is men creeping on women.)

    It would be great if clueless or skill-less creepers were given a clue by someone. That, however, is not my job, and it’s not my job to further perpetuate my discomfort to make someone else, sometimes someone I don’t even know, comfortable. Why is it more important to make creepers feel comfortable than it is to make women feel comfortable?

  33. It is not incumbent on the victim to educate the victimizer. The victim’s priority is simple: stopping the behavior before it escalates to a higher level of threat. If they’re the better kind of person who can do that *and* toss in some personal education, good on them, but that’s above-and-beyond kind of behavior. To expect that from everyone put into an uncomfortable creeper situation is the equivalent of saying, “You must assume good intentions.”

    No. Assuming good intentions for bad behavior leads to very, very bad places. Far better for socially awkward people to get rebuffed and have their feelings hurt than for someone to get raped or abused. Let the unintentional creepers’ friends do the educating, or let the creepers finally figure out they have shitty friends who are part of the problem and get new ones who actually will reinforce good behavior.

  34. A resounding “Yes!” to #5 and #6. I’ve heard the excuse that certain places (like cons) are crowded and so you pretty much have to touch and/or stand very close to someone. However, most women will notice and appreciate the difference between “I’m using this crush of people as an excuse to get closer to you” and “I’m trying to respect your personal space but I’m being bumped around a lot.” Similarly, if it’s loud and you’re having trouble hearing someone, it’s less threatening to lean your head down rather than moving your whole body closer. John, I’m glad you brought up the issue of sneaking up behind someone – that’s a predator behavior. Try to approach from the front or the side so the person you’re trying to talk to can see you coming. If the only way to approach them is from behind, say hello as you get close to their space so they’re not surprised by a man suddenly looming over them.

  35. Xopher: if you’re attracted to someone, the best course of action is to tell them, in a manner that gives them the option of responding back how they honestly feel, and then honoring their response.

  36. @Xopher: I was around a man who was mildly hard of hearing last weekend at crowded convention parties, and also he was obviously heterosexual, and I was trying to identify what about his body language made him so obviously Not Hitting On Me Just Trying To Hear. And then it hit me that he pulled his hips/lower body away whenever he had to lean his head forward to try to hear. Pro tip for those interested. This probably did not raise his Looking Like A Cool Dude quotient, but he wasn’t there to look like a cool dude, he was there to have a conversation and hear what I had to say as a person. Go figure.

  37. Devin, nothing could be further from the truth. I conclude from your ability to make that statement that you did not grow up gay in America (unless you are from a large city and were born in 1991 or later).

    These days if I’m attracted to someone I do everything I possibly can to conceal the fact. Flirting would mean letting them figure it out if they’re interested; since I can now safely assume that they won’t be, I just conceal it entirely to avoid any chance of making them uncomfortable.

    I have been crept on by women, btw. One woman in the SCA seemed to think it was her prerogative to squeeze the ass of any man she felt like conferring such attentions on. One of the differences between women and men in our society: when I told her not to do it any more, she never did it again. (There was  a bit of attitude given about being a “spoilsport,” but she kept her hands off me.)

  38. In regards to the personal space thing… I once had a friend define that space as their hula hoop. So imagine a person with a hula hoop around their waist (http://goo.gl/bp3QZ) and do not pass that invisible boundary so as not to be “in their hula hoop”.

  39. Mris, yeah, that’s what I mean by “leaning in.” It’s not at ALL the same as just moving closer! There are various gestures to accomplish this, but you point out the crucial fact: the crotch is kept well back. :-)

  40. I like #5. There’s some awkwardness at times when someone sort of does the “…hug?” gesture while standing carefully back so that it’s not too threatening, or working out if it’s polite to offer a hug, or outright asking… but dear god I will take that awkwardness any day over the times when I’ve been hugged by creepy people I didn’t want to be hugged by, and didn’t feel like I could say no without making a scene.

  41. This is why nerd culture sucks. It rakes 10 steps to explain how to treat people decently and takes a tour through 19th century ideas about feminine power. Eventually the destination is some hyperliberal distopia where nobody gets laid. How about just treating women as equals and quit complexing up the whole situation by pretending they need some dude to write up a rulebook to help out clueless losers that haven’t figured out what equality means.

  42. Good list. I would only slightly disagree with the idea that joining a group to meet someone is creepy – sometimes your looking for an “in” and that’s the opportunity that presents itself. However, if you’re asked to leave, then get thee gone

  43. Roland, I bet you also think we should just stop talking about race and treat everyone the same.

    Also, it’s ‘dystopia’. ‘Dis-’ means “not” or “negating.” ‘Dys-’ means “bad.” The word ‘dystopia’ comes from a misunderstanding of ‘Utopia’ (“noplace”) as *’eutopia’ (“good place”).

  44. Another thing to keep in mind. If the person you are trying to approach is in a closed circle facing each other, chances are they do not want to engage with you or talk to anyone who isn’t in that circle. Trying to force yourself into the group is not acceptable behavior.

  45. @Jennifer – I agree that in an ideal world we could help the creeper understand the error of their ways. However, in practice, I don’t think it’s possible. I made the mistake (one time) of trying to explain – to a guy who admitted he was clueless about girls – ‘how things work.’ Most of you can probably see how ambiguous a situation THAT leads to. Yeah. Never again.

  46. Xopher: no, I didn’t grow up gay (although you wouldn’t know that from all the accusations I got because I wasn’t masculine enough), and I did grow up homophobic. The incident that led to my atttitude changing was precisely because a wonderful man politely let me know he was interested and asked if it was reciprocated. My reaction was the problem — not his proposal — and eventually I was self-honest enough to figure out and cope with the implications of that.

    I understand what you’re trying to say, though, and I suspect we might be talking past each other at this point. I’m less interested in how the “telling them” happens — verbal, cultural behaviors, whatever — and more interested in the honesty and respect for the other person as a free agent.

  47. Roland Martinez:

    “Eventually the destination is some hyperliberal distopia where nobody gets laid.”

    This is in the running for the most stupidly tiresome thing someone’s said on a thread in a while.

    Also, news flash for Mr. Martinez: Just because I focused on geek culture does not mean it is only geek culture that could benefit from it.

    Now, go run off and be tiresome elsewhere, Mr. Martinez.

  48. Oh, and Xopher? If I met you, I would be made far more uncomfortable finding out that you had to suppress attraction rather than just let me know and have us work through whatever relatively minor discomfort might result.

  49. You know, could we maybe not have people jumping in to defend creepers as people who don’t know any better in a thread explaining how to not be creepy? I mean, we’ve fought this battle a dozen times, but saying that people don’t know any better defeats the point of this post.

  50. I appreciate your point of view, Devin, but for gay men who grew up in the 1970s, like me, it’s a matter of personal safety. Yes, that means I don’t trust straight men not to assault me (or just verbally abuse me) if I express attraction, no matter how politely I express it.

    If we became friends I would tell you eventually. I’m talking about the initial encounter (in the con suite or whatever).

  51. @ Devin L. Ganger: Very well said. And particularly appropriate when the target is a woman, given that women are socialized to be polite, more’s the pity. I have friends who are cops, and if I’ve heard them say it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times: if more women would trust their instincts when they feel that something or someone is off, there would be fewer female crime victims. Caveat: at least among my cop friends, this is said not as blaming the victim but as an indictment of the fact that our society routely socializes women out of taking their gut responses seriously for fear of being “rude”.

    John, this is well said. On a personal note, my oldest son has some social challenges. He is definitely awkward and sometimes makes people uncomfortable even though he has no intention of doing so. My husband and I have tried very hard to impress upon him exactly the sorts of things that you said, that he was the one who had to be aware of his presentation. When he was a teenager, he was pretty angry with us – why was it HIS responsibility to make sure that other people were comfortable?! Fortunately, he outgrew that, but I fear that a lot of the people who could really stand to take this to heart are probably stuck with that teen mindset.

  52. I love that people continue to try to use the “my culture has a different definition of personal space” as an excuse for begin rude. No one cares. When you are back home or among you own, you are culturally allowed to do what is normative. When you are at a con in Chicago, it is reasonable to expect visitors to understand that they are visitors and will need to change their behavior to the accepted norms of that gathering.

    Your culture ends when it enters my personal space. No one cares that you are uneducated, unintended or malicious. Get out of my space.

  53. I would like to point out that not all creeper behavior even comes up because of some kind of sexual intent. I am a very introverted 30-something who is chubby and looks younger than she actually is. This somehow makes me very huggable. Men, women, and small children love to hug me. Old people love to hug me. Strangers at streetcar stops have been known to randomly try to hug me. Nine out of ten times, this results in me physically recoiling and giving the awkward “Please get this over with as soon as possible and out of my space” hug/pat. Even if it’s totally nonsexual and nonthreatening and the other person knows it, you still don’t have the right to invade someone else’s space, and if that means awkwardly standing around not hugging, then so be it.

  54. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of your response here. One
    thing that really resonated with me was how you spelled out ways to
    interpret other people’s nonverbal signals to stop: stop engaging,
    pursuing, or interacting. It’s made me realize that, as a woman, one
    of the main reasons I fear “creepers” is their inability to recognize
    such signals. Although I know some people are just not very socially
    apt, your response me understand that I fear their inability to
    understand the limits and “no.” If they can’t understand this kind of
    “no,” my fear must be, how will they understand if I actually say the
    words? Will they not? And does this obliviousness actually mean they
    have no concern for me, again, making them more likely to hurt me
    physically? That was a pretty interesting discovery for me, and I
    wonder if sharing it, while acknowledging it is not entirely rational,
    might help people understand why it is so important not to complain to
    a subject of your attentions who does not want to receive them about
    their lack of interest, or why it is important to walk away when you
    realize they are not interested. I do think the people who are
    genuinely socially awkward are often genuinely confused about what
    this is not okay. And then, of course, there are the actually threatening people, who just don’t care. And I don’t have a way to tell those two apart, so I’m not going to take the risk of making the wrong decision.

  55. I’m a nerd girl so I find myself at conventions, D&D games and SCA events so I get to meet a wide variety of people. Most of the ‘creeper’ type people I have met turned out to mostly be socially awkward but I have met the whole range from harmless to having to have the cops intervene to protect my safety.

    For the harmless ones it seems they just need to pay a little more attention to other peoples body language and verbal cues. I try to be kind but firm about what is unacceptable if they cross a line. If they seem to respect my limits I have no problem continuing to be friends with them.

    For the other, they don’t believe they have a problem and the best you can do is avoid them.

    I do have sympathy for those awkward types (I’m pretty awkward too) as it can sometimes be hard to judge as everyone seems to have a different senses of humor, bubbles of personal space and desire to be touched.

    Some of it also seems to come down to someone I don’t know being overly familiar with me before I get to know them. I suspect trust has something to do with this as an older friend who I trust can give me a hug but someone who is a stranger better not touch me!

  56. I’ve been a victim of “creeping” at cons before – every con I’ve ever attended, in fact, from my early teens onward, which is why I rarely if ever attend anymore. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the convention staff at the most recent convention where I suffered from unwanted attention, and was able to direct the con’s security to the individual in question.

    It’s unfortunate for *all* people that we need a set of guidelines to illustrate how not to be a creeper, but this is a very good start and certainly something worthy of consideration. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing. These rules apply every bit as much to public transportation, crowded stores, and airports as they do to geeks at cons.

  57. @CableFlame…yes, there are many non neurotypical types within fandom. NO it is NOT my job to give them extra space to behave in a socially unacceptable manner. If they can afford to show up at worldcon ($200+ for membership, $700+ for room, $300+ for flights, $150+ for food + whatever for spending) and they can make it there on their own…getting to the airport, making it through security, making their flight, finding their way to the hotel, etc they should know how to behave in society…if they CANNOT do these things without a carer, then that carer had damn well better be keeping a close eye on their charge.

    I can’t even begin to explain how difficult and exhausting it is to negotiate polite society when you can’t discern people’s reactions to you. It takes a LOT of work to not be seen as a person no one wants to be around. Does it mean I’m quieter and may not make as many connections as others? Yeah, totally…that’s why I volunteer in Ops at Worldcons, I can run the radio system and interact with just a few people at a time and have made some amazing friends among those who volunteer at cons.

    My work requires that I interact with a lot of people and I have to work to make sure my behavior/comments/etc are appropriate for the situation…going to a con does not negate those rules.

  58. I posted this in full on another thread, but it’s directly relevant here, and gives some specifics of incidents that happened to me (or in which I happened to someone else):

    “When I was in college, sometimes I gave boys the wrong idea. Part of this was that I was at the U of C, a notoriously hyper-geeky school. I suspect many of the boys I interacted with hadn’t spent a lot of time with girls before; they hadn’t had much of a chance to learn how to interpret social cues.

    Specifically, what happened, more than once, was that I would be friendly, I would smile, I would happily chat with them. I liked these boys fine, as people, as friends. I wasn’t interested in them romantically, and I didn’t say or do anything that I meant as flirting. And I certainly wasn’t the prettiest girl around, or the most attractively / seductively dressed. I think I lived in grubby jeans and baggy t-shirts back then. But nonetheless more than a few of those boys interpreted my smiles and cheerful chatter as flirtatious.

    Sometimes their responses were awkward, inappropriate. A few tried to kiss me, entirely out of the blue, as far as I could tell. When I, flustered, avoided the kiss, they stopped, and tried to apologize. It was messy and terribly awkward, but it also wasn’t the end of the world. None of those boys were persistent in their attempts to gain my affections — we clarified the misunderstanding, and moved on. We stayed friends….”

    More here: http://www.mamohanraj.com/journal/show-entry.php?Entry_ID=6831

  59. Roland Martinez missed what is probably one of the most important aspects of this conversation: no one has any bit of a right to “get laid.” Period, end of discussion. People have an absolute right to not be bothered by Roland Martinez while he’s trying to get laid, and Roland Martinez has zero right to bother other people with his libido.

  60. “6. Give them space. Hey: Hold your arm straight out in front of your body. Where your fingertips are? That’s a nice minimum distance for someone you’re meeting or don’t know particularly well (it’s also not a bad distance for people you do know).”

    Protip: Don’t do this when actually engaged in a conversation. You’ll probably end up touching the person, and will likely come off as creepy regardless. If you do hold your arm out, your best chance is to play it off as zombie cosplay. Moaning is contra-indicated, however.

  61. YES @ christy. Women should not ‘assume good intentions’ for creepy men. Women should trust their instincts and get out of any situation where they feel unsafe. Probably he wouldn’t have hurt you. Probably you’re hurting his feelings instead. That DOESN’T MAKE IT WRONG to do what it takes to stop the behaviour and protect yourself. Unless you are his parent, teacher, or therapist, you do NOT owe him free education on how to not be a creep.

    But if you still think you do, then consider that your rejection is, in itself, an education.

  62. My personal favorite rule of personal interaction: Pay attention to body language, especially hands. People will tell you exactly how they feel by the way they sit/stand (Stiff & a little apart? They want to get away.) & how they use their hands (gestures are good). The more relaxed the posture & gestures, the more comfortable they are.

    I would add that if you hold the power position in the interaction (and guys, this is almost always you if your communication partner is female), always err on the side of formality. Always. No exceptions. Pretend the other person is your boss – keep your distance, ask permission, watch your language. Your comm partner will tell you what is ok, & what is not.

  63. It’s weird, where as a feminist I think that I am, end of day, responsible for my own space and my own welfare and well-being.

    It doesn’t change how unbelievably, utterly, completely a relief it is when I find evidence that the community of men is, and can be, self-policing.

  64. Part of my gig as a worker bee in the video games industry is talking to strangers. I *initiate* contact. And I have (repeatedly) had people take that to mean: “This guy thinks I’m fascinating/interesting/attractive/smexy! I’m going to hang out with him!”
    I’m printing Number 9 on a t-shirt.
    Either that, or: “I just wanted to know your thoughts on the game… not go out for dinner & drinks.”

  65. I’ve been having lots of conversations about creepyness lately, and posting various links over in LJ land. Thank you for this contribution.

  66. Why would you assume I act that way Joe? The rules are simple. Treat women as equals. Realize that any kind of sex or inuendo of sex is inappropriate in most relationships and most places. Ask permission before you engage in any kind of touching. Realize you have a right and responsibility to speak up when anyone makes you uncomfortable. Support laws and policies that make harrassment consequential where power cannot be equalized. You don’t have to run up the word count to make those points. Xopher, a genuine thanks for the spelling tip.

  67. @wendylbolm: That must be difficult for you – I spent a long time thinking my need to hug people I like was more important than their need to feel comfortable, and I regret it. Now I always ask and only if the person seems open to it. One suggestion for you is, when you see someone coming in for a hug, swiftly put your hand up between you and the hugger and say loudly with a smile, “Sorry, I’m not a hugger.” Hopefully this will stop some of the unsolicited hugs in public. Good luck!

  68. It seems like good advice to me. And I agree particularly with sentiment that we ought not be defending creepers. That is pretty clear from points 1-3 and elsewhere. If you’re creeping, you need to own it.

    That said, as someone who has at times been socially awkward, I do think it would be humane to add: if you detect that your company is not wanted, it is normal to feel disappointed and sad. Rejection is never fun. And while it is something you need to deal with on your own, rejection by itself does not necessarily mean you are a bad or undesirable person. It may mean you made some mistakes that you should genuinely regret and try to learn from. It may also mean that fate was simply ungenerous. Or both. Acknowledge your hurt without indulging in self pity. Tell yourself to be honest, to do your best, and move on. The future holds endless opportunity. Don’t miss out by getting stuck on something that didn’t happen the way you hoped.

  69. There’s a book titled “The Gift of Fear”. It was recommended to me by a cop friend. I, in turn, recommend it to women, men, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri — anyone who gets creeped on but is pressured to “be nice” or “be understanding”.

    And yes — if you can get to the con by yourself, you are a functioning human being. You have no excuse to be creepy, and you do have an obligation not to be. If you cannot manage minimum social behavior, you’re going to need to go out with a carer. Perhaps in addition to “Kid-In-Tow” memberships, Worldcon could sell “Creeper-In-Tow” ones?

    Remember, creepers, some people carry pepper spray. Some people know martial arts. And some people carry guns. Pretty much everyone knows how to give a kick to the family jewels.

    (Not that I’m encouraging violence against the socially dysfunctional, but the creepers who are motivated by narcissism might only be teachable through self-preservation.)

  70. As far as whether a victim of a creeper is responsible to for telling the person to go away or stop doing something, I think they are. Not immediately, but once the subtle social cues are ignored. Because not doing so is ridiculous. It’s part of the ingrained social rules (particularly for women) that we don’t say nasty things to someone’s face. That directly telling someone they are doing something wrong is rude and therefore a social death sentence.

    But in the end, these are merely social norms. And there are situations where breaking them, and telling someone to go away is only assertive self defense. It makes you feel in control and it gives a clear guideline for the socially stupid. And in the event that it doesn’t work, following up with complaints to authorities should also never be considered an awkward, socially demeaning thing to do.

    We can defend the position that it’s not the victim’s responsibility by saying it just makes the victim even more uncomfortable, but being temporarily uncomfortable is not the end of the world. Taking control and acting assertive is far more likely to deter future bad behavior than just being passive. It also makes the victim feel less victimized and if everyone did it, we would have a culture in which creeping couldn’t thrive. In the end, the only thing you can control is your ability to react to someone else’s behavior.

  71. itsathought2:

    “Because not doing so is ridiculous.”

    Actually, it’s not. I would agree it’s useful to be told. But it’s not the harassee’s obligation, and placing an obligation on the person being harassed means that we’re back to giving the harasser a pass as long as he’s not directly confronted. And, you know. That’s crap.

  72. As to personal space and genre writers, I recall hearing from a mutual friend that Mickey Spillane owned two homes, one for him, one for his wife, about a block apart. They took turns sleeping over at each other’s pads, and could each have parties with friends who did not necessarily get along with the spouse or friends of the spouse.

  73. I’d also add, about the recent unpleasantness: trying to bug the person into accepting your apology, or trying to apologize when someone clearly doesn’t want to talk to you — that’s also creepy. If someone’s said they don’t want to talk to you, then silence and distance is the only acceptable form of apology. Remember, it’s not about making yourself feel better.

  74. Thank you. At times I’ve wanted to have “these are not my eyes” printed on a T shirt, but never had as it might well have made things worse. I hate being stared at, some (thankfully not many) blokes seem to think we don’t notice where they are staring. We do. Yes, I accept that a few men are very socially awkward, but that’s not the same as being creepy, that’s just being awkward. Creepy is being creepy, just stop it!

  75. Actually, it’s not. I would agree it’s useful to be told. But it’s not the harassee’s obligation, and placing an obligation on the person being harassed means that we’re back to giving the harasser a pass as long as he’s not directly confronted. And, you know. That’s crap.

    Not to mention that odds are good — not 100%, but good — that the harasser’s already been told, by multiple people, and is choosing not to listen.

    Which is also crap.

  76. In addition to +1ng John on the ‘placing obligations on the harassee’ is balls (not a direct quote), I would say, to me, it is more than social norms that I, as a woman, do not tell people directly to “go away” if I am feeling uncomfortable. Because, if I’m uncomfortable, it can mean I don’t trust them to respect any boundaries as per my comment above – and if that proves true, I am more likely to be hurt in some way, perhaps seriously, through direct confrontation at odds with social expectations of women. I don’t see that as my accepting those norms, but as my approach to risk mitigation. Everyone’s MMV, but I think it’s not an uncommon idea, though it may be an unconscious one.

  77. Well written. Especially #2 which I often find to be the thing that creeps have problems understanding. I have linked to this in two places so far, because I think that it needs to be read by more people. It needed saying and you said it well!

  78. Given that the article above maintains that we are not responsible for each others well being it would be more useful to start with advice that is aimed at the well being of the creeper rather than those that they creep out. The article starts with the assumption that the person reading it (a male heterosexual) is a creeper and tells them what they should not do. The advice is so extreme that anyone who needs it has serious basic social problems probably with people generally as well as women.

    It would be useful to give advice on how to charm (or at least not repel) people.

    Such as:
    -picking up unspoken social cues.
    -importance of hygiene.
    -learning to listen to women. Having female friends who are not potential sex partners so that you become comfortable around women.
    -striking the balance between being ingratiating and rude when dealing with people generally and women in particular. I have seen guys be too polite around women in a way that makes them uneasy.
    -don’t be yourself 100%. Not with people you don’t know well anyway.
    -learning to lie socially.

    Any other suggestions ?

  79. Xopher – this is somewhat a case of topic drift, but my experience as a gay man who grew up in the 80s – and who didn’t come out until 2001 – seems to be very different from yours; it would never occur to me that i needed to hide the fact that i’m attracted to someone.

  80. Any men out there who are grumping about being picked on should keep in mind that I read this list and winced in recognition a few times myself. Particularly Improbable Joe’s addendum, which deserves reiteration:

    Later on I figured out a version of #4 above: don’t come at other people with intent that ignores their agency. Don’t have preconceived notions of how you would like an encounter with another person to go, because it assumes they owe you a favorable response. Don’t blame the other person if they don’t follow your ideal script, because it is your fault for dehumanizing people by assigning them a role without their permission or input. Sometimes it doesn’t “go the way you want it to” but why would you really get to decide for someone else how they should react to you?

  81. Horace:

    “Given that the article above maintains that we are not responsible for each others well being”

    Actually, it says that we’re responsible for our own actions, which is an entirely different thing.

    Beyond that, I’m not obliged to write the article you appear to think I should be writing. If you want that article written, by all means write it yourself.

  82. I can only think of one thing to add to this list off the top of my head, but it’s late and I’m tired. If you feel the need to say “but I won’t do anything bad to you” in response to someone declining your offer for company, that is a warning sign that at some level you recognise you are being creepy. Just stop and let them go. There are other fish in the sea. Someone said this to me once in this situation and it didn’t make me feel less creeped out because they were a complete stranger to me and whether or not they had good intentions, they would have denied having bad intentions, so the statement didn’t tell me anything useful.

  83. I like this, and you’re spot on, but in the end I think it’s mostly futile. IMO, if you are (like the guy you quote) worried about being a creep… you’re probably not a creep. Most of what you talk about is common courtesy, stuff that we learned in kindergarten, and it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for these dudes outside of this specific environment. Most of the guys who creep on people are, well, I won’t say they don’t give a shit, but I think they’re just invested in willful ignorance. There are a million and one dubious contextual excuses you can make for yourself in any given situation. The only solution is a zero-tolerance policy. One that’s actually enforced.

    The only point I’d take issue with is #2 – you’re not a creep if someone just doesn’t feel like talking to you. That’s personal preference, context, etc., and you’ve done nothing wrong by approaching someone and finding yourself incompatible for whatever reason. You become a creep when you insist upon imposing yourself on this non-receptive person. That’s sort of another thing, for people asking how they can know they’re acting creepy without a signal- and I do understand that complaint- so IMO, you should only pursue a conversation if the other person responds with enthusiastic participation and actively positive body language. I think it can be safely assumed that a neutral or guarded response isn’t an invitation to keep trying, it’s a sign that you should probably go away. And then you’re not a creep!

    Yeah, it’s possible that someone could be playing coy, or whatever. But that’s stupid, and it’s their problem, not yours.

  84. John,

    In response to your two points:

    1-”Acknowledge that no one’s required to inform you that you’re creeping (or help you to not be a creeper)” I read that as “You have a problem. It is your problem and it no one elses responsibility to solve it”

    2-Write what you want but given that you want to change creepers behaviour I think that it would be more useful to appeal to their own self interest, particularly in the light of point one.

    Perhaps your article is more useful in helping creepees discuss what happened to them. A different if useful goal.

  85. @Horace:

    >The advice is so extreme that anyone who needs it has serious basic social problems probably with people generally as well as women

    Nope. The creeping addressed here isn’t extreme; it’s common as dirt and women have been talking about it and comparing notes for ages, quite publicly. If you think the behavior described beyond the pale, you’re not paying much attention — and you don’t *have* to pay attention, since men are rarely on the receiving end of a creeper’s behavior.

    It’s tempting to pathologize creepers, because it makes it sound like creepy, predatory behavioris an uncommon rarity, which is flat-out wrong.

  86. Arlette,

    do you think that most men creep some of the time or is it a problem of a few men continually behaving this way ?

  87. Horace:

    “I read that as ‘You have a problem. It is your problem and it no one elses responsibility to solve it’”

    Which in itself is still not the same as “we are not responsible for others’ well-being,” however.

  88. Waxley… I completely disagree. As a woman whose personal space has been both violently and subtly violated, in various situations, having these basic things put out in public serves many purposes including to validate to me that my basic sense of what my physical space rights are is, in fact, both fair and defensible.

    Not in terms of women, and my world.
    But men, and a man’s world.

    For a man to say to other men “this is how we must behave” in this way is powerful. Men reading it will check themselves, because John is a figure of respect. For me, it is validation as I said that I do not have to take the burden of this defense on for myself, even though I choose to.

    It means the society of men, as I said, will maintain their own codes, ethics and look out for each other’s behavior in this matter, so that I may (and will), but am not forced to.

    Also? Walk a day in any woman’s shoes and you will see how often innocent ignorance makes for discomfort and how often you ignore it at your own expense to be nice, polite, compassionate or just because it’s the path of least resistance.

    No, from my perspective it’s both useful and necessary.

  89. “4. Acknowledge that other people do not exist just for your amusement/interest/desire/use.”

    Thank you for considering this. I go to cons/shows/etc. because I like stuff, some of that stuff guys like too… I know, its crazy!

    Its extremely frustrating to have interactions (aka. normal discourse between fellow human beings), misconstrued as flirting just because we are of the opposite sex. I understand its a let down when you’re into someone that way, and they aren’t into you, but you can’t blame them for speaking to you. If I find someone thats passionate about something cool, I want to talk about it! Its not an all signs point toward my vagina just because we’ve talked about the handheld weaponry on Firefly for half an hour. I know it can be complicated navigating the world of social situations sometimes, but I wish more guys looked at interaction with women with the same regard as their friends, or just other humans, and if something else ends up sparking for each other, thats a hell of a bonus, right?

    But its also about being respectful both ways. If a guy I’m talking to starts hinting around to romantic interest, and the feeling is not mutual, I immediately drop hints (subtle towards not so subtle), because it is a crappy thing to lead someone on. But once you’re in that situation and have gotten the hint the feeling isn’t mutual, the proper response is to either bow out of the interaction if thats what your goal is, or continue just enjoying the conversation. NOT to assume she’s some evil succubus who has tricked you with her feminine wiles while you could of been out actually scoring with a chick. We just like stuff man, sometimes that stuff isn’t your penis… and we shouldn’t have to apologize for that.

  90. Waxley… I completely disagree.

    Okay, that’s totally fair. I misspoke a little bit- I wasn’t trying to insinuate that this discussion shouldn’t be had, or anything like that. It should be. I was just expressing some general frustration in that I think a lot of the guys who are the problem are just going to continue their self-justifications, and we need to accept that, and also accept that there are always going to be a few bad apples who need to be dealt with more forcefully. Posts like this make it harder for them, and bring to light the problem to the rest of the community, and make people/women feel more welcome, and all that. And that’s completely awesome. I’m just saying it’s not sufficient, which I’m sure everyone agrees with.

  91. I like this a lot.

    I think I rarely come across as creepy, but I wouldn’t say “never.” Most of the time these rules are pretty nearly instinctive for me (and most women, I’d say), having been drilled into me practically from birth. Our socialization process for girls includes a lot of Making Other People Comfortable. That totally has good and bad sides.

    I’m a lesbian who looks like a lesbian, and I had a fairly recent experience in which I was unintentionally creepy. I met a bunch of people that day, including a young, pretty straight girl. I was not even vaguely interested in the young pretty straight girl as anything but a pleasant, casual acquaintance. She approached me at one point and we chatted a while. She was obviously shy, and I like shy people. No problem there. Later, we were at a drag show / dance event. We were in the same group of people and I was dancing near her (with a group of other people). When I smiled at her, she smiled back wanly and shifted her eyes away. When I (goofing off with everyone in the group) tossed her my hat, she played with it a while before handing it on, but seemed uncomfortable.

    It stung. Seriously. I wasn’t getting in her space or demanding her attention or checking her out. She’s very very far from my type, but even if she was, I don’t spend a lot of time checking out straight women. I had to kind of sit on my reactions, though; because whatever it was I intended (friendly! Nothing more!) that clearly wasn’t what she was perceiving. And there was nothing I could do to fix that. So I backed way off, was visibly silly with some other people who didn’t mind in hopes that she’d notice I wasn’t hitting on them any more than I’d been hitting on her. And that was that.

    Later she sat down next to me. I mean, there were no other chairs available, but I was concentrating so hard on not making her uncomfortable that I hadn’t even noticed she was walking over until she asked if the seat was taken. I still didn’t talk to her except when she initiated, though. At that point I was trying to figure out how to stay friendly and approachable but non-threatening. I didn’t want to come across as icy and distant, because that can also be threatening.

    My point, I guess, is that even those of us who are reasonably socially adept can be seen as creepers, even if we don’t think we’re doing anything wrong, and even though it kind of sucks and feels like shit it’s still our responsibility to quit making someone feel uncomfortable. I walked away from there feeling odd and kind of crappy, questioning what I could have done differently; but with any luck, she didn’t. I mean, she friended me on Facebook later, so my back-the-hell-off probably worked. :)

  92. Improbably Joe — “You can avoid being a creeper but not having a goal that you are creeping towards” is one of the best lines I have read in a *long* time. (And I read good stuff!)

  93. Seems to me it’d be easier if folks just assumed that in the vast majority of public spaces, people are not there to get hit on. People who do want to get hit on will go to spaces or events built around that sort of thing. Everyone else should be considered off limits.

    This doesn’t preclude friendly conversation over topics of mutual interest. You simply treat everyone the same way you would someone you’re not attracted to. If you can’t honestly say the behavior in question would be the same for someone of a gender you don’t sleep with, then don’t do it.

  94. Various thoughts.

    1. That piece was triggery… our SF group had one of those guys. He’d be hounded out of various bits of fandom. While I was away on business he shacked up with my ex. (generally, my friends tell me I was lucky, I believe them)

    2. I am loathe to blame too much on Aspergers Syndrome because I have a few friends who are fairly well along the spectrum and they are strange but not creeps. Creeping requires a much better developed sense of emotional affect and they know damn well what they’re doing

    3. Being British, personal space can and should include the room to swing a cat, reverse a bus and possible park an aircraft in. I used to work with a person who believed that 3-4cm was acceptable. It was not.

    4. Being good at “picking up women” and being a creep are not the same things. I have friends who, shall we say, are very good in that department and generally speaking have good relationships with all their exes even if the liaison was, shall we say, limited to a few nights. One of the reasons they were so successful was because they weren’t creeps. I don’t know what they had but I suspect Bill Clinton had it too. Married female friends would explain to me that they had something they just liked and if they were single they would act on it. Another feature was they didn’t hit on married female friends.

    That said, I strongly suspect that if you don’t know that you’re in category 4 very early in your life, then you are almost certainly not, and behaving like you are is going to be creepy.

  95. I think if I were going to boil it down to one piece of advice, I would say that if you find yourself having to trick, distract, or ignore the signals of the person you’re trying to woo, you’re creeping. There’s nothing wrong with being attracted, and there’s nothing wrong with showing you’re attracted per se, but it shouldn’t have to involve extensive subterfuge and slight of hand. Lurking while the person ignores you, having to initiate touch by sneaking up or doing that hoary old yawn-and-stretch move, having to fail to notice the overly-polite laugh at your jokes or the fact that the person seems to be scanning the room instead of looking at you in order to continue the conversation… those are red flags. When the other person is interested, you don’t have to do that stuff. If you do, they aren’t, and you aren’t going to change that by trying to sneak in under the radar. All you’re going to do is make it plain that you don’t actually care what the other person thinks. You’d be far better off with a cheerful, direct, “Want to grab a bite with me?”. If you get a no, even an indirect one, say, “Sure, no problem,” and move on. It’s sexy to be confident enough to ask, and it’s also sexy to have enough going on that a single no obviously doesn’t ruin your whole year. Sneaking and trickery? Not sexy, and also increasingly slimy and evil as you up the deception levels.

  96. Let’s face it, geeky guys tend to the creepy. Oh, they don’t mean to, but “geeky” is highly correlated to “Creepy”, due to the former groups bad social skills. Which is why “geek” has such a bad connotation even among adults.

    Having said that I can’t wonder if this guide wasn’t caused by increased incidents where girls (and guys) felt uncomfortable. The increased number of incidents is probably highly correlated to the increased interest by non-”geek” or quasi-”geek” girls going to the events which formerly were almost exclusively geek. Which means they’re encountering geek culture and clashing with it.

    Which brings up a saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do”. Well, that’s not the best phrase to use here. Maybe it’s more “When in Saudi Arabia, and a woman, understand that the denizens of that country are going to freak out if you don’t cover your hair and dress modestly”. Now, are they wrong if they stone you to death (as does happen often)? Sure. Could you avoid a rock to the head by being a little more sensitive to their culture? Yup.

    So, what I really advocating here is a compromise. If you feel uncomfortable by a creepy geek, please pull him/her aside and let him/her know. Trust me, if you do it in that way 8-1/2 times out of ten he’ll blush and say “I’m sorry” end of creeping.

  97. Hi John Scalzi,

    If I am not responsible for helping you with your problems then you are not responsible for helping me with mine. How does that differ from we are not responsible for each others well being ?

    My impression is that most heterosexual men can act creepily occasionally but there is a socially inept minority who are like this continually. This is only based on what women have told me and what I have seen of my own behaviour and that of other men, perhaps there is a lot that women don’t normally say.

    By creepy I mean someone who makes women uncomfortable and is unsuccessful. There are plenty of men who are successful with women and completely amoral. A different problem though ?

  98. Actually, I just realized a non-hitting-on situation that requires non-creeper behavior: women who think other women are open to physical contact or other intimacy just because it’s not sexual.

    I am a huge cuddle slur with the people I know and love. Strangers, however, do not get to touch me.

    Also: for the love of FSM, please stop talking to me in bathrooms. I’m there to do some personal business, not chitchat about the damned weather.

  99. Scorpius:

    “Let’s face it, geeky guys tend to the creepy.”

    Meh. I’d say geeky guys tend toward awkward, but awkward isn’t the same as creepy. I spend a lot of time with geeky guys and most of them don’t press my “creepy” buttons (note, mind you, that as noted I have a different perspective of geeky guys than women do — but then, so would you, Scorpius).

    I don’t think the rest of your post is accurate, either. Many of the recent high-profile cases of creeperism are not about “non-geek” women entering the geekosphere; Genevieve Valentine, whose harassment precipitated the Readercon incident, has been part of the science fiction community for some time. It’s more the case that women and others in geekdom have gotten to the point where they don’t feel obliged to tolerate creeps any further. They are the Romans, they’re just pissed at the other Romans who are creepers.

    Again, it’s nice when people go out of their way to let someone else know they’re being creepy, and I think it’s probably a mitzvah when they do. But it’s not obligatory, and there shouldn’t be even a hint of censure if they don’t.

    Horace:

    “If I am not responsible for helping you with your problems then you are not responsible for helping me with mine.”

    Actually, from a logical point point of view, that doesn’t necessarily follow.

    Which is me busting your chops, but reinforces the fact that you are continuing to make inferences which are not in evidence.

  100. I wanted to add something about the other cultures and personal space issue. What an earlier commenter here said about many cultures/countries having different standards is true. I’m Canadian, I’ve heard it said we generally have the biggest desired personal space area going. I live in Korea where, because of a combination of culture and population density, expected personal space is much smaller. This is something someone in my situation has to learn to deal with, to a degree.

    HOWEVER, all of the rules in this post still apply. It is nobody’s responsibility to parse out why someone is violating their personal space or making them feel uncomfortable. Despite cultural differences everyone is capable of realizing when they’ve made someone uncomfortable and backing off. Rules 5 and 6 might get violated because of cultural differences but if all the other advice here is in play then it should really only happen once, maybe twice. After that, the person from the different culture who accidentally creeped should realize there’s a problem, figure out what it is and avoid doing it in the future. And if the 1st or 2nd occasion causes an opportunity for a specific friendship or social interaction to be lost forever? Too bad, so sad. Life isn’t perfect and there are a lot of people in the world. They don’t all need to like you.

    Finally – it must be said that the differences in personal space and acceptability of touching in other cultures are often used by men in those cultures as cover for deliberate creeping and worse. I’m not saying any culture/country is better or worse about these issues but there are bad people in every culture and they always use whatever cover and excuse is available to them to get away with their behavior. Sure, some innocent meaning folks might get burned when crossing cultures, but no woman (or man) should have to give up their right to be comfortable and safe to play cultural ambassador or teacher.

  101. Diera,

    I think the problem is educating guys about indirect cues. That is why I mentioned polite lies, learning to give them as an excuse to get out when you are not interested or start to realize that the person is not interested in you, trains you to hear them.

    What you say about being direct about your sexual intentions contradicts all my instincts about behaviour around women. I have always looked for indirect positive cues before trying anything. Which is a bit worrying actually, perhaps some women have found me creepy ?

  102. @Xopher

    I think there are definitely different social norms and rules among gay people or in gay/straight interactions (kinda like I mentioned above). I’m very careful not to creep on straight women. I mean, I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but my gayness can make straight women uncomfortable all by itself, and I know that. And like you, I’m nearly always nervous around straight (cis) men who aren’t well-known to me. The violence risk is somewhat different (trigger ahead): you’d be more likely to be killed for appearing to show interest, and I’d be more likely to be raped for not doing so. Either way though, straight men are likely to be read as potential threats.

    I was a child in the 80s and came out in the 90s, so it’s not just generational. I’m glad there are gay people out there now who aren’t walking around with that extra burden of fear, though. Someday maybe the “gay panic” defense will be seen as the ridiculous thing it is and we’ll be as safe as anyone else…

    In lesbian spaces I’ve been in, well, we’re notoriously handsy – but with one fairly nasty recent exception, every woman I’ve ever been around has responded well and quickly to being asked to back off. Asking if one can touch is common. Asking for a hug isn’t “can I have a hug?” most of the time, it’s “would you like a hug?” or “do you do hugs?” Those put the other person’s comfort front and center, not one’s own. I like this. Sexual conversation is common but tends toward the matter-of-fact (lube and toy comparisons, kink disclosures). The points in the guide would still be good starting points, but some of them are probably less necessary. And the bit about initiating things – always leaving it to others – would totally backfire. I think in that context would it would be better to talk about how to express interest nonthreateningly, giving the person in question ample space and comfort to reject you without it being a huge deal. And knowing when it’s okay to do that. It’s a good skill for anyone to have, really. :)

  103. Thanks for this. May I add (based on a set of events in another community) that elevators at night are not good places to test how friendly someone might be. So, for example, following a woman who has not given you her room key or other just as blatant signal of her desire for more contact out of a bar and into an elevator — especially if there are no other occupants — and then focusing attention on her is probably going to make her feel uneasy.

  104. Scorpius,
    I think an important point you, and others, are missing in this conversation is that just because many cases of creeping might be driven by awkwardness doesn’t mean all are, and the times when it is deliberate predatory behavior its a dangerous situation for the target. You can’t expect a woman (or man) to decide whether this stranger bothering them is safe or not – because that’s how the predators hide. It’s that attitude they count on and exploit. I’m not saying no one should take your advice, but John’s right. The choice of how to deal with the situation lies with the victim (intentional or not) and they are not obligated to play guidance counselor for the benefit of strangers.

  105. Scorpius:

    “Trust me, if you do it in that way 8-1/2 times out of ten he’ll blush and say “I’m sorry” end of creeping.”

    What do you envision happens the other fifteen percent of seemingly awkward social encounters when he doesn’t blush?

  106. awkward isn’t the same as creepy

    YES! As I said, I have good ‘aspie’ friends and creeping isn’t really a part of the problem.

    Other thoughts have occurred reading to the bottom.

    Sexual Innuendo and Double Entendre – this can be regional. The British have entire very mainstream humour based on this and yet manage to also be quite stand offish and repressed about things. It’s not an immediate clue, but if combined with invasion of personal space and eye contact gets ‘wrong’ really quickly. Also: Flirting does not involve sexual overtones… in fact if it does you’re probably doing it wrong.

    Somebody linked to a piece on LJ recently which struck home. Treat people like you would treat an unfamiliar dog. I came to dog owning late, having been bitten as a kid. I learned a lot getting used to living with a relatively self aware mammal in the house. You don’t go up and touch a dog. Never. They don’t like it. Fortunately, being dogs, they are allowed to put their hair up, their tail down and bite you. You stand close to them, you speak softly, you reach and if they are interested they say hello.

    Treat female people better than you would treat a stray dog. Please.

  107. Other Bill:

    “What do you envision happens the other fifteen percent of seemingly awkward social encounters when he doesn’t blush?”

    Well, you know, if only 15% of uncomfortable encounters end in assault, we lose all right to complain! ;)

  108. (types… types…) thinks better of it, hits CTL-X and waits for John to wield the mallet.

    Get HELP dude.

  109. Let’s face it, geeky guys tend to the creepy. Oh, they don’t mean to, but “geeky” is highly correlated to “Creepy”, due to the former groups bad social skills. Which is why “geek” has such a bad connotation even among adults.

    I think there’s a difference between awkward and creepy. I think most women over a certain age can tell the difference. One can be irritating, but it is not in any way threatening. The other feels dangerous.

    For instance, a twenty-minute monologue about Kingdom Hearts when you have no interest at all in Kingdom Hearts can be a trial. It is twenty minutes of a hyper-focused person’s incredible monomania about a video game. It is an obvious attempt to share an enthusiasm decoupled from an ability to accurately pinpoint an audience who cares.

    But…it is not creepy. It might be twenty minutes of a day we’d like back, but it’s not creepy. In most cases, it’s clear that the person is, in fact, socially clueless, and we’re kind of trapped in place because we don’t actually want to kick a puppy in the face, in part by telling them that the object of their incredible delight is not, in fact, delightful to us.

    Most of the overt geek behaviour at conventions falls into this category. Since people are picking up the whole “socially awkward” and “neuro-atypical” threads, I want to make clear that yes, IMHO, many people at conventions are these things. But the vast majority of awkward interaction is not also creepy. We’ll hide in the bathroom because we want to get away without being a crushing, normative blow. Should we have to? No. But almost all of my friends – male or female – have done this. We don’t actually want to hurt a total stranger’s feelings.

  110. “That’s actually almost entirely off point.” — unless one or more of Mickey Spillane’s friends creeped out his wife, or vice versa — which is possible, but I lack evidence. My point being that authors who earn enough money can construct de-creeped environments, which I apologize for failing to convey. The rules and recommendations in this fine thread exist because person A and person B meet in a con environment structured by person C. Unlike what Facebook would have you believe, a friend of a friend is not necessarily a friend. “Friend” is a nontransitive relationship. After all, my wife is my relative (by marriage)( but my wife’s relatives are not my relatives; they are my in-laws, which is a different kind of link. Non commutativity is at work in the pathologies being guarded against here: A is attracted to B most assuredly does NOT mean that B is attracted to A. The noncommutativity and nontransitivity are being presented here in a geeky way, for asocial people who grasp Math batter than they intuit social dynamics.

  111. Awww, I had a good response to the most recent troll!

    Actually, it kind of stands by itself. If you’re a man, and you think it’s ridiculous that you’re read as creepy for doing innocent things, and you blame the women in question and not, say, the fact that so many of us are raped and sexually assaulted by men? Well, then, you probably are creepy, even when you’re doing innocent things. You certainly aren’t thinking in a way that respects other people’s different life experiences and their agency.

    If it comes down to “poor me! I can’t even talk to a woman without her thinking I’m awful!” then you’re probably at least a little bit awful and should refer to the post above to figure out how not to be. You could start by remembering that strangers don’t owe you attention and affection.

  112. Following on from the excellent points Michelle made. My friends with Aspergers are not awkward. They will unintentionally monopolise the conversation (Formula 1 anybody? Lap by lap explanation of what Hamiliton did wrong?) They will get upset if they are interrupted and go straight back to a point that they had been making 20 minutes before about obscure TV from the 1970s without noticing that the conversation has moved on quite significantly.

    They are not creepy when they are doing this. The two things are not the same.

  113. Quoting Xilon, for Scalzi

    >The choice of how to deal with the situation lies with the victim
    >(intentional or not) and they are not obligated to play guidance
    >counselor for the benefit of strangers.

    John,

    The above is what I mean by “If I am not responsible for helping you
    with your problems then you are not responsible for helping me with mine.”

    Perhaps we are talking past each other ? I define a creep as someone who
    puts the victim into this situation unintentionally, not as a predator.

  114. For most women of my generation, bringing sex into the conversation when you are a total stranger is creepy. It just is. There is way too much ego and way to much overt aggression associated with sex. I know that many people don’t mind if a stranger point blank asks them if they’re interested in sex, but frankly, I consider it creepy. Even if you are polite and you go away immediately when I say No. Because: what the hell?

    Women are conditioned not to say No. It starts in childhood. It continues beyond that. No is a b*tch word. We’re not expected to say No, flat out – that’s mean. We’re expected to find socially acceptable ways of saying No. Most of us don’t learn how to say No in a reasonable way until we’ve gone through No in a f*ck off and die, a**hole way first. When you drop something like that on my head out of the blue, failing to notice that I am wearing a wedding ring, you are doing two things. First: you are immediately turning the interaction into a gendered one, a sexualized one–which is definitively not why I go to conventions–and second, you are putting me in the position where I have to say No.

    Honestly, to be comfortable with No as a statement of preference requires more comfort with the person to whom we’re saying it, not less.

    Because of the differences in socialization, most women will say No in a variety of ways. Most of them will be subverbal. They will – by the lights of many creeps – “lie”. But think about it: women don’t feel like they have the power in a sexualized interaction like that – so they are trying to say “nice doggy, nice doggy” when they make excuses or change the subject. They are saying No in a way that is socially acceptable and hoping the “nice doggy” works to prevent you from becoming a frothing rabid danger. When they are out in public among people they do not know well, they are all on Best Behaviour. Mostly. So it is even less likely that No is the comfortable response.

    Because I am old and cranky, I will say flat out No, and probably despise you for the rest of your life unless you miraculously save one of my children from a fatal accident later in our history. If you fail to take that bald, flat No, I will probably say a lot more. Because in the end, I don’t really care if I raise a big stink and suck all the fun out of the room; at that point, I’m not having fun, and I’m willing to share.

  115. Thank you for spelling this out, especially #4. I’m tired of seeing men be utterly astonished that any woman they take a shine to is not, in fact, obligated to worship them or give them any attention at all, just because they are breathing

  116. tessuraea: Indeed. Indeed. And, honestly, how many socially awkward encounters does one have in their life? That fit this issue? Ten, twelve? I mean, I’m SWM, so my guesstimate might be low.

  117. Horace @10:12pm: If you didn’t see it, Anna Leckie posted this in the earlier thread on Readercon/harassment, on the topic of men and indirect cues: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/

    Shorter version: Communications researchers suggest that both men and women use indirect communication and cues all the time, in all sorts of interactions, and understand them just fine; a subset of people ignore those cues (at least some of the time).

  118. Other Bill:

    tessuraea: Indeed. Indeed. And, honestly, how many socially awkward encounters does one have in their life? That fit this issue? Ten, twelve? I mean, I’m SWM, so my guesstimate might be low.

    You’re off by a couple of orders of magnitude. You’re being sarcastic, right?

    (Even as an obvious dyke I get creepy-man-ick about once a month, and I don’t spend a ton of time around unfamiliar straight men.)

  119. And, honestly, how many socially awkward encounters does one have in their life? That fit this issue? Ten, twelve? I mean, I’m SWM, so my guesstimate might be low.

    Dude, it is way low.

  120. Horace:

    “I define a creep as someone who puts the victim into this situation unintentionally, not as a predator.”

    This, however, is not how I defined it in the entry. Moreover, I believe your definition is limiting and, perhaps unintentionally, attempts to minimize the fact that many of the people (particularly men) who make others (particularly women) feel unsafe do so because those others are unsafe around them.

    You seem to keep wanting this entry to do something other than what it does. What I am not seeing is why it should, or whether what you appear to want it to do has better value than what it does do.

  121. [Deleted for responding to a deleted comment. Wendy Whipple, it's not you, I just believe that not feeding the troll anything is the way to go, especially after I've deleted their comment. If you want to repost the gist of your comment without addressing it to said deleted troll, go for it -- JS]

  122. tariqata,

    Couldn’t get to the paper but I read the blog post. I don’t think that the paper applies to creepiness,
    it seems to be about rape.

    I read that blog as saying that most men can understand muted nos, so in the case of
    rape the problem is not misscommunication.

    >It is also clear that the men can hear both ‘little hints’ and ‘softened’
    >refusals as refusals.

    In the case of creepiness I think that we are talking about the minority of men who do not hear these hints as soon as they should, although they do eventually, as these men do not commit rape.

  123. Yes…I still remember the con when someone who really, REALLY should have known better snuck up behind me while I was attending a friend’s reading and decided to hug me from behind. I was thisclose to elbowing him in the gut, but I was raised to be polite so I simply recoiled forward and broke his clutch. He then decided to stand right next to my table when I was doing a signing and hover. That? Was creepy.

    The other problem is, I suspect some of these guys (not all, granted, but a certain percentage) get off on being creepy. If they can’t get admiration, respect, or attention from their targets, they’ll settle for disgust and, in some extreme cases, fear.

  124. Hi John,

    as you were responding to someone’s request for advice (see below) I took your definition of
    a creeper as someone (usually heterosexual male) who unintentionally makes a woman
    uncomfortable.

    I think that it is useful to separate the case of the guy who asked you for advice from
    someone who is a sexual predator.

    will drop by tomorrow.

    >>Any tips on how not to be a creeper? I try not to be,
    >>but I don’t know that I’m the best judge of that.

    >Let’s define our terms here. Let’s say that for this particular
    >conversation, a “creeper” is someone whose behavior
    >towards someone else makes that other person uncomfortable
    >at least and may possibly make them feel unsafe.

  125. Jeez. After reading this comment thread, I have a better sense of why I’ve not been motivated to go to any fan event since the (January 1975) Star Trek convention in New York City.

  126. Horace:

    “I took your definition of a creeper as someone (usually heterosexual male) who unintentionally makes a woman uncomfortable.”

    And yet you copy in your last comment what I actually did write, which neither specified lack of intentionality nor women as the sole targets for creeping.

    It’s useful to assume that the definition of the thing I am discussing is actually defined by the words I use. Otherwise you are likely to have poor results.

  127. Horace,
    No. We are talking about people who make others feel uncomfortable or unsafe. They very well might be rapists. Or perhaps they’re *just* going to settle for sexual assault. Or perhaps not. The point is the person feeling unsafe has no way to know for sure. Again it has to be pointed out that the true predators use the attitudes of folks like you to hide.
    “Oh, he’s just trying to flirt.”
    “Oh, he’s just awkward,”
    “Oh, he didn’t mean anything by it.”
    “Oh he didn’t hear the hints as soon as he should have,”
    That’s sexual predator camouflage. Not every bit of too-old food is going to make you sick if you eat it, that doesn’t mean you should take the chance. Put another way: Sorry socially inept guys, but the predators have ruined it for you and your feelings aren’t more important than the safety and well-being of others.

  128. I’m probably a bit of an Aspie, though I lack a formal diagnosis. I’m horrified of being perceived as a creep, to the point that I’m deeply reluctant to talk to women if I don’t already know them, and that’s going to be particularly true at cons, moving forward. Sometimes women feel the need to send me a “go away” vibe, and I try to pick up on it as quickly as possible; I think it’s likely that I’m sometimes getting false positives. In general, it’s my impression that being asked out by undesirable men, and I tend to count myself among their number, is sufficiently traumatic to women that I pretty much never bother asking.

  129. I know lots of nerdy/geeky guys that are quite well-adjusted and fun, not creepy at all. They like women and respect them, and are liked and respected in turn. The key there is RESPECT. When they treat us like people, we treat them like people, and everyone is happy.

  130. “Let’s face it, geeky guys tend to the creepy.”

    Several people have already said that ‘awkward’ is not the same as ‘creepy’, and I have something to add to that. My brother is one of those awkward-but-not-creepy types. He doesn’t pick up conversation nuances easily, he has absolutely no idea when someone is flirting with him, he is equally bemused if someone is being aggressive toward him. He simply doesn’t pick up a lot of social cues.

    But he’s not creepy. And people like him. Lots. People acknowledge that he is awkward, but ‘he’s such a nice guy. You can count on him. He’s a good friend.’ Etc.

    Here’s why he’s not creepy: while he is definitely trying to figure out how to engage with other people in conversation, and he is trying to make friends, and he is not especially adept at either of those things, no one is weirded out because behind his awkward attempts at being friendly there is absolutely no sexual undertone. He is never trying to be friendly with the hope of getting into someone’s pants. And I think that’s the major difference between awkward and creepy. Awkward guys just aren’t sure how this whole social interaction thing works, and they’re like to figure it out so that other people will like them. Creepy guys aren’t sure how the social interaction thing works either, but they want to figure it out specifically for the purpose of getting laid. This is their primary motivation.

    And it shows. It always shows. I would argue that it shows even if you’re not the kind of creeper who invades personal space or explicitly talks sex all the time. Creepy guys are creepy even if the conversation they’re having would be completely mundane if transcribed. They’re creepy because I can tell every word out of their mouths is an attempt to have sex with me – and I can sense that.

    I think that human beings have a pretty good gauge for when someone is trying to have sex with them. Body language, hormones, sexual energy in the air – whatever, we’re good at picking up on it. And when someone opposite us is solely motivated to interact with us because they want to have sex, and they keep pushing that attempt forward too quickly and too aggressively, I think pretty much everyone finds that creepy.

    (I just spent five minutes trying to figure out why, if that’s the case, people occasionally spot one another across the room and happily interact with the sole intention of hooking up with one another, and I think that the difference is that casual hook-ups can see that their subtle vibe is being picked up and reciprocated by another person – which is to say, they are good at social cues – and they escalate that vibe according to the other person’s interest. A creepy dude cannot tell whether his subtle vibes are being picked up, and he pursues the contact regardless. I think that’s the difference, but I’d be interested in what other people have to say about that difference. It’s a little more vague than the creepy/awkward difference, to me.)

  131. Scalzi/Xilon,

    someone wrote to John asking how not to be a creeper.

    To me this indicates that being a creeper is a question of social inability that can be cured with advice rather than a case of a predator. Now John is saying that a creeper is defined by whether or not he makes women or men feel uncomfortable. So a creeper can be someone lacking in social skills or a predator who gives off bad vibes. But a predator who is more accomplished and does not give off bad vibes is not a creeper.

    I would say that a creeper is someone who makes women uncomfortable by not picking up obvious cues that there attention is unwelcome and so who continually pesters women (or any sexual target). If they do this and rape, I would call them a predator or rapist. Being creepy seems trivial compared to sexual assault.

    All I can say to this is that I think my definition is more useful than yours John, although perhaps I have misunderstood you.

    which leads me to your point Xilon,

    Women may have no way of distinguishing between creepers (i.e. socially inept men, in the sense of the word as I use it above) and rapists. I think that this reinforces my first post. If non-rapist, socially inept men can be mistaken for rapists by acting like creepers they have to learn to take care of their own interests by learning some social skills so that they don’t creep women out and get mistaken for rapists.

    I think that I have made too many posts in too little time already and I need to sleep, Good night all.

  132. I don’t know, John. In my rather extensive experience with “creepers,” they know exactly what they are doing and know the rules before they break them. I think here you may be reinforcing the myth of the well-intentioned but clueless creeper and giving ammunition to people who make excuses for them. These are good rules, but the people who break them do so because they don’t believe the rules apply to them, not because they simply don’t understand. I’ve had my boundaries pushed by men (and women) over the years, and can’t think of a single one that did so accidentally. Every single one relished the thrill of rulebreaking until they were shut down. I also just want to go on record here and say that the creeper quotient at a typical frat party is astronomical compared to sci fi conventions. Nerds are orders of magnitude less creepy than mundane men. (And that’s how they would say it, too, “orders of magnitude,” because nerds are awesome that way.) Science fiction conventions don’t have a special problem with creepy dudes hitting on women. They are just rather inept at dealing with it. All this talk of banning people from con membership doesn’t make me half as safe as it would to see guy stopped stone cold in his tracks at 2 AM and thrown out of the event immediately.

  133. Horace,

    It’s really tough. I’m female and heterosexual and although I have been the initiator a number of times, I have done so with relative confidence that I am at least not likely to scare or upset the person I’ve been approaching. I have a great deal of sympathy for people with my lack of social skills who also have the responsibility not to be frightening.

    I think… and I’m feeling my way here, and of course keep in mind that I am not all women… that there are different layers of being direct or indirect. My recommendation, “Want to join me for a bite to eat?” isn’t THAT direct, It’s not “I would like to have sexual intercourse with you, how do you feel about that?”, but it is direct about there being interest, even if it’s only for a meal. It’s not just latching onto the group I’m standing with and kind of accompanying us to lunch without being asked, as if I’m not going to notice. It allows me to say no, but it does it in the face-saving way that indirectness is intended for, because all I’ve said no to is lunch, after all. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with looking for indirect positive cues, but the guys who fall into the creeper category aren’t actually doing that, they’re taking advantage of the lack of direct negative cues which is an entirely different thing. Providing the other person with an easy opportunity to give you a mild but direct negative, like turning down a lunch offer, means you’re not content to operate in a vacuum because at least it’s not a no. It means you’re really hoping for an enthusiastic yes, and if you don’t get one, you’re fine to move on and find another lunch partner, which bespeaks a degree of respect for both yourself and the other person that’s attractive. IMHO, YMMV, etc.

    Once I was at a big event with two guys who had each expressed some interest in me. There was a meal being served, and I took a seat at a table with multiple seats available. I noticed one of the guys sort of hovering around me in my peripheral vision, maybe trying to catch my eye and see if I motioned him to a seat, I don’t know? I remember thinking something like, “Oh, c’mon now, it’s not eighth grade here.” At about that moment, the other person saw me sitting by myself, gave me a friendly smile, and walked right over to me and asked if the seat next to me was taken. Reader, I married him.

  134. Awkward guys just aren’t sure how this whole social interaction thing works, and they’re like to figure it out so that other people will like them. Creepy guys aren’t sure how the social interaction thing works either, but they want to figure it out specifically for the purpose of getting laid. This is their primary motivation.

    I think this about nails the distinction between “awkward” and “creepy” – someone who is awkward is likely going to be so regardless of whether or not one is interacting with anyone, regardless of gender. Awkward people are generally trying to find a balance between their comfort and the comfort levels of others so that everyone is happy. Someone who is creepy, however, is going to come off that way because the creep in question is specifically targeting a particular person or kind of person. Creeps prioritize their wants over the comfort levels of others and aren’t going to care if they’re making others uncomfortable because hey, it’s all about THEM.

  135. Horace:

    “All I can say to this is that I think my definition is more useful than yours John”

    It’s not, outside of the special case of you wanting to define it in a particular way in order to make a point you want to make, which is not the same point I wanted to make, by all indications.

    Again: You’re entirely free to write your own piece using your own definition, for your own aims. But complaining that the piece I’ve written doesn’t address the points you think it should make using a definition I didn’t use and don’t particularly agree with, doesn’t seem to be an especially fruitful course of action.

    Catherine Shafer:

    “I think here you may be reinforcing the myth of the well-intentioned but clueless creeper and giving ammunition to people who make excuses for them.”

    Well, except for the part where I say, “Now, it’s possible you may also be socially awkward, or have trouble reading other people’s emotions or intentions, or whatever. This is your own problem to solve, not anyone else’s. It is not an excuse or justification to creep on other people. If you or other people use it that way, you’ve failed basic human decency.” Which pretty explicitly is the opposite of that.

  136. From the perspective of the “object,” the difference between some guy who’s creepy because he doesn’t understand that you’re not comfortable and some guy who’s creepy because he gets off on your discomfort isn’t particularly clear. That first guy isn’t overly likely to commit assault. The second guy is.

    It’s so not my job to judge whether someone is actually planning to assault me just because he’s acting like he doesn’t respect my boundaries. So I’m going to go with John’s definition here. Creepy behavior can be unintentional and well-meaning or intentionally predatory or anywhere in between. Creating distinctions that can’t be distinguished in the moment? That’s not helpful. I’d go so far as to say it’s actually harmful.

  137. Horace, I re-posted the link because I think it’s relevant to the broader discussion about ‘creeping’ as well; the article explores how people say ‘no’ in different situations.

    Your comments seem to suggest that you see ‘creeping’ as a communication problem – not a misinterpretation, but a slowness to perceive indirect or subtle cues that indicate a rejection of contact (“In the case of creepiness I think that we are talking about the minority of men who do not hear these hints as soon as they should“). The point made in that article is that most people *do* perceive and understand these kinds of cues, and as many commenters have already noted, ‘creeping’ behaviours, like unasked-for touching or persistent attempts to initiate contact with someone who is signalling that they don’t want that contact, don’t seem to reflect how ‘socially awkward’ people tend to act in social settings (it certainly hasn’t been my experience, anyway, for what that’s worth).

    This is also anecdotal, but at least in the experience that I had with a ‘creeper’, it was really, really obvious that he heard and understood that I was telling him I didn’t want to engage, because his response was to try to *argue* with my statements.

  138. I’m horrified of being perceived as a creep, to the point that I’m deeply reluctant to talk to women if I don’t already know them, and that’s going to be particularly true at cons, moving forward.

    This.

    I’m terrified of presenting creeper behaviours without knowing I am doing so, and I’m actually a little scared of saying so because of the large number of people in this thread who’ve said that every creepy behaviour is the deliberate manifestation of malice by a creeper.

  139. Tessuraea:

    “Creepy behavior can be unintentional and well-meaning or intentionally predatory or anywhere in between.”

    This is what I was trying to say before with my woefully ambiguous sarcasm. Given that this is a frequent and regular encounter for women, even if only 15% (if only?!) of the instances are at the behest of the genuinely creepy, those numbers stack up so quickly it’s alarming. And, given the risk/reward for teaching in the moment, I can’t imagine a realistic point of view founded on the person being creeped on being transformed into the heroic selfless teacher of the clueless/sexual assaulters.

    This is a very real danger that is notoriously passively enabled in our culture. I think that anything that makes people more…informed…or put more thinking into what is a reasonable expectation of the parcipants in this scenario is good. It makes it harder to passively enable this creeping behavior.

  140. Since creeper behavior is in the eye of the beholder, anyone can be an unwitting creeper, and the only absolutely certain way of avoiding being perceived as a creep is to avoid all social contact. John’s tips may help, but they can’t be 100% effective.

  141. 49th,

    It’s not that every creepy behavior is the deliberate manifestation of malice by a creeper, its just that the person feeling creeped out can’t be expected to distinguish. I’m sure plenty of people talk to women very successfully every day at these cons and everywhere else without making them feel creeped out. Listen to what some of the women in this thread are saying: It’s creepy when they think you’re hunting them for sex. Talk to women to talk to them, not to try and pick them up, then you probably won’t have any problem at all. If you absolutely must try to gauge your chances with a women don’t be persistent. I’m sure even polite hitting on or flirtation will be quickly forgotten/forgiven if you don’t persist when it’s obvious it’s unwelcome. And if things are going all downhill? Follow rules 5-10 above and go about the rest of your day.

  142. Being female and a RPG player throughout high school (back when “RPG” meant face to face around a table, and very little else), I carefully cultivated a number of “i’m just one of the guys” body language / behavior patterns and speech stylings, specifically to be able to deal with any number of clueless gamer boys without ever giving them any ideas about me at all. Oddly enough, that means that the creepers I occasionally got latched onto were almost never remotely sexual, but they wanted to talk to the gamer person because I “would obviously like to hear (and will understand) everything about their gaming character/experience/world ever.”

    However, when it does turn into being hit on (or when I am hit on by another woman), I found that most of the time IF THE PERSON ISN’T a real predator, or you’re not sure, and you don’t want to hurt their feelings, a phrase like “I really appreciate the compliment, but I’m honestly not looking right now.” (or, for women, “…but it’s just not my thing”) In a friendly and neutral *but very definite* tone will end it, but not be hurtful. That is one way to sort out many of those who just don’t get it from those who are just going to push.

    If someone is genuinely interested in me as a person and wants to pursue, a right answer for him would then be “Maybe we can chat again sometime.” which leaves the door open for interaction away from the convention/gaming table/etc., under less chaotic and pressurized circumstances – but at the same time does not include any pressure.

    As to your article – very very good. Don’t underestimate the power of providing a rules structure (again, “hangs with gamers” here) that is very clear. It may not be 100% useful for 100% of the people – but the folks who WANT to learn, and NEED to learn, need a guide to learn from.

  143. I’m genderfluid, bio-male. I’m told I’m attractive as a female. That’d be nice, I’m not especially fond of mirrors, so I don’t tend to judge my own appearance (also, fear of being vain, has I). But the attractiveness statement does get reenforced by the creeping I am targeted by (We’ll ignore the outright violence as that’s [sort of] entirely a different subject). No, you’ve no right to touch me, no right to corner me, no right to even attempt to monopolize my time, attention, or interest. I’ll direct these as I please. NOTHING anyone says, at any time, for any reason, acts as justification. EVER. If you want to create a justification, please kindly ____ off in any direction away from me. Into traffic would be nice. Try not to get it by someone without good insurance.

    If you’ve got aspergers, I’m sorry. I’ve spent plenty of time around this, I’m adept at handling it, you’ll be treated with respect, but dealt with regardless. I am not your keeper, and don’t have time to be anyway. I wish you the best, but I’m not gonna coddle you. Speak respectfully and clearly, yes, but you’ll live if I just walk away when nothing I try works. If what I try works, awesome. Maybe we can even be friends. That’d be keen. But I’ve done my bit for Ghu and Country, and still am. Not even a disease can entitle a person to my time. (Fully aware most would never say they are around here, but I’ve encountered this as an excuse for untenable behavior before, and it’s just not my duty.)

    Maybe I’ve seen too much violence, maybe I’m just not as good at being still at heart as I’d like. Regardless, I reject any attempt to excuse behavior of a capable adult. And anyone who can argue why they -totally- aren’t and there’s a special reason for them, probably is fully capable, and trying to cover their ass.

    I think I and many others have simply had ENOUGH. That is, to say, any of this crap. When you act as if you have claim over another person, or force your self into their time, you’re being awful and irritating. At best. This shouldn’t be a discussion or a debate or even a question. This is MY space, MY person, MY worth. You’ve no acceptable clause to breach that. You have every right to be annoyed if I blow you off. Be my guest. Seeing as I’ll be walking away, you certainly won’t be upsetting me. But I have every right to disengage from a person I don’t know at any time. With or without warning.

    I can FEEL someone getting ready to ype about how rude that is.

    Pop those keys off your keyboard right now and suck on ‘em. “Rude” and “Infringing on my person” are completely different ballgames, and one is an acceptable response to the other, but not the other way around. When I encounter a creeper, I don’t start rude, but I will finish that way if need be. Then I’ll probably treat myself to something unhealthy and enjoy my event. Because my behavior means I do not lack for mutually respectful social partners. That, perhaps, says something.

  144. The responses of “since I cannot achieve PERFECTION in lack of creepiness I must eschew all human contact” with the secondary implication of “as you awful people clearly want me to” makes me wonder if people respond like that to all other advice on ways to reduce the chance of erring in some manner.

    “These tips on vocabulary memorization won’t implant all of the words of French into my brain permanently and without error. I guess I’d better give up on learning foreign languages.”

    “Defensive driving? It’d still be possible for me to have an accident! I’ll just stay at home. In the dark. Forever.”

    “All this information on how to make a better smoothie could still result in me offering a smoothie to someone who’s lactose intolerant. You must want me to stop all contact with beverages and die of dehydration.”

    This is a starter guide. It gives some useful guidelines. Many of them are good, useful guidelines. But there is no guide on heaven or earth for interaction with other human beings that will provide completely one hundred percent positive successful interactions under all circumstances. If there were, we’d all be using the damn thing. Until then… good advice is a useful thing.

  145. Are other men out there really so worried they’re going to come off as creepers? Seriously people…

    I can’t help but thinking what’s really being said here is “I want to get laid and go on dates and have pretty girls pay attention to me, but I don’t know how!”

    And what’s being said back is: “Maybe you need to find a better reason to engage with other people than your sex drive and ego.”

    But the people in the first group just can’t seem to understand that perspective.

  146. Thank you, John Scalzi!

    I’m a not-so-geek-culture woman who married a dyed-in-the-wool geek man. Seriously, the man could run a game of D&D in his sleep. And quite possibly has. Because of this, I have been around his geeky friends, most of whom are nice, but there always seems to be That Guy. ALWAYS. In our case, he’d been part of the group for several years, and decided that because his friends were pairing off and getting married, that gave him the right to hit on his friends’ wives. Until I came along, the wives and girlfriends just put up with him, because they were told by the rest of the group, “Oh, that’s just the way he is, he’s harmless and doesn’t mean anything by it.”

    That worked out until I came along. The other women wouldn’t say anything because the guys wouldn’t back them up or didn’t care, or didn’t think that Assbag McCreeper was a threat. When he tried it on with me, and by that I mean when he decided to corner me in my kitchen (dude….there are SHARP OBJECTS IN HERE) and grope me, he didn’t get the reaction he’d come to expect, which was fear, and an unwillingness to say or do anything. No, he got me reaching behind me, grabbing a kitchen knife, and yelling for my husband to come get this asshole away from me. I held up my knife and told him to get the fuck out of my house, or I would kill him. Assbag decided that he was going to tell me I couldn’t talk to him that way, he’d been part of the group longer than me, and he told my husband to control his woman. My husband looked at him in utter disgust, and said, “Dude, you should probably run while you have the chance. I won’t ‘control’ her, and I’m not going to hold her back.” That was the point where the other guys finally figured out that yes, he was a creeper, and that he was getting particularly bold….and needed to no longer be a part of the group.

    The point is, until these creepers are told, by the men around them, that their behavior is unacceptable, they will continue on as they have been. It’s easy for them to ignore what we women say, after all, we’re not really human, we exist solely as sex objects for their gratification, and if we resist, that just makes it more fun. I don’t believe at all that it’s due to being on the autism spectrum, or because they’re socially awkward, or any of that nonsense with nine out of ten creepers. No, it’s due to never being told to knock that shit off, because here in Polite Society Land, women are actually people, and yes, they do have the right to tell you to fuck off. Until the men are willing to say, “This is socially unacceptable behavior, and it’s not okay to dehumanize someone because they are not the same gender as you are, and thus subject them to verbal harassment, and unwanted physical touching leading up to and including sexual assault,” this will continue to be the norm.

  147. This might not be the most salient comment (I only read the first half of the comments), but I found it interesting the #4 links strongly with Kant’s assertion (in his Ethics) that we should treat people always as an end unto themselves and never as a mere means. This statement works well with the other ‘rules’ as well. Always focus on the agency of the person you are interested in.

    As a woman who had had numerous creepy run-ins, both of the innocent unaware sort and the overtly excercising power over another person sort, I think it is fair to say that these two things feel distinctly different. The first will most often inspire unease, agitation, discomfort but the latter frequently causes fear and anxiety.

    Yashar Ali wrote a post on The Current Conscience that links to these ideas as well; he’s writing specifically about undermining feelings in the context of a relationship, but I find it applicable across genders and across social contexts.

    http://thecurrentconscience.com/blog/2011/09/12/a-message-to-women-from-a-man-you-are-not-“crazy”/

  148. tessuraea says: August 9, 2012 at 9:37 pm (* story about accindentily maybe being a little creepy*)
    There is this strange place, where your identical action will be perceived differently by different strangers. Some will not even notice, some will be put off, some will jump right in.

    I have noticed with some people who have had bag events in the their past are more likely to be put off. This leads to the the whole trigger thing. (I lived with a PTSD sufferer recently and got to learn way too much on the subject.) Triggers create an almost impossible situation for the rest of us. You tossed a hat. Which might have set off a trigger. But there is no way in the universe to prevent all of them. So what are we to do?

    For people who have been victims, even accidently entering their space can trigger.
    It is easy enough to back off when warned off. But other things become impossible to control. Other than leaving when asked. Which is the easiest thing in the world to do.

    A Mediated Life says: August 9, 2012 at 9:54 pm
    “People who do want to get hit on will go to spaces or events built around that sort of thing. Everyone else should be considered off limits.”

    Except that the problem with this is that the list of acceptable is different for everyone. From an early age, we met and dated people at school, friends of friends and then work. In the olden days, there were singles mixers.

    So wouldnt it be easier to list the places where hitting on was forbidden? Church, funerals and bathrooms?

    tessuraea says: August 9, 2012 at 10:38 pm
    Actually, it kind of stands by itself. If you’re a man, and you think it’s ridiculous that you’re read as creepy for doing innocent things, and you blame the women in question and not, say, the fact that so many of us are raped and sexually assaulted by men? Well, then, you probably are creepy.

    This, this and more THIS! If you really think that you should defend what you have done, then you are already wrong.

    to Sclazi’s replies:
    It is amazing and amusing watching your verbal kung fu in action.

  149. Hey, if you’re worried about being a creeper, and willing to admit it, there are two things that are most likely to me: Either you A: Aren’t a creeper, just a bit awkward, and I was too! Then I spent a LOT of time awkwardly socializing, apologizing a LOT, and LEARNED*. Now I’m not awkward! Success isn’t guaranteed, but the above bullet points (bullet paragraphs?) are a great starting point and I wish you great luck! Hopefully, you’ll find people less aggravated by harassment than I -_-;; OR B: You’re a creeper who wants to play the innocent victim of society pity card. In which case, You bore me.

    If the answer is A: Then DON’T FEEL BAD! There’s hope and there’s Fendom, and combined, life can be awesome! <3

    *Socialize with non-geeks. About non-sci-fi/fantasy things, if you can! You'll broaden your scope and learn much about how society works outside our magical realm (I say that without sarcasm-I ADORE Sci-Fi/Fantasy with a great loving passion!)

  150. IMHO, creep/creeper/creepy cover way too much ground to be useful: Jared Loughner has been described as creepy. “He was creepy” might just mean you felt his otherwise inoffensive attention was unwanted, or it could mean he said he wanted to build furniture out of bones while staring at your arm.

    This I think leads to an increased fear or anxiety of stumbling into the creep zone, because that is such a vague term that covers a huge range of misbehavior.

    Maybe when discussing creeps we need a scale with gradations, DEFCREEP 1 (older guy innocuously flirts with woman who isn’t interested, but doesn’t persist) through DEFCREEP 9 (bone-chair)

  151. If someone’s bothering me, and I say “Please stop, you’re making me uncomfortable,” and they ask “Why?” it might be useful to explain.

    @Jennifer Davis Ewing: But you DID just explain. “Because it’s making me uncomfortable” is an explanation. I am baffled by the idea that it’s not OK to just tell somebody that you don’t like what they’re doing and you would like them to stop, but must then set aside whatever you were doing to offer them an explanation (justification, let’s face it) for why you did not find their conduct thrilling.

    “How else are they going to learn”? Well, hey, you know, even creepers have friends, and social circles, and access to the Internet, which is full of places (like, say, Captain Awkward) where one can seek advice and input on why strangers are reacting to one’s perfectly well-meant random hair-petting with “Please stop, you’re making me uncomfortable.”

    Re the whole “socially awkward guys are nerds can’t help but seem creepy” bullshit: It is bullshit. Ditto “oh, but what about Aspies”, which has already been deconstructed at a link posted above in this thread, and written by someone who is an Aspie. People who are socially awkward have trouble making small talk. They may find it difficult to avoid talking about the Mars landing well past the point where everybody is glazed. They may spend the entire party standing in a corner, terrified that nobody will like them. What they are not is, so stupid and oblivious that they are incapable of understanding “no” or “please stop” or “do not give lingering caresses to strangers”.

    Also, as has been noted until we are blue in the face, creepers who touch and lean in and corner know perfectly goddamn well what they are doing. The whole point of uninvited hugs and touches is to push past someone’s boundaries in a way that is difficult for them to stop. (That’s why PUA how-tos suggest this technique, after all.) The goal of physically boxing someone in is to make it difficult for them to remove themselves from your presence.

  152. Particularly in the milieu of sci fi conventions/fantasy events/ any sort of role-playing opportunities, you find a lot of people who haven’t matured socially – people who want to live in fantasy and who want things to be like books.

    May I very clearly point out – these events do not CAUSE this behavior. They ATTRACT people who are looking for what they perceive as an outlet.

    What Jeff says about the disconnect in communication between the “wannagetlaids” and the “lets have a conversations” is a clear step up the maturity ladder. wannagetlaids (regardless of their age) are basically teens who can’t (or choose not to) think past their hormones. You can’t FORCE them to. You can sometimes encourage them to, or show them by example the benefits of taking that step. A lot of them stubbornly refuse to “grow up”.

    Still not an excuse.

  153. I want to add a note, as a person who has attended conventions for over 20 years as a party goer, a fan, a cosplayer, a sales person, and a professional: The person behind the booth is not the merchandise.

    Just because there is an attractive person hanging around at a booth in the exhibit hall does not mean they were hired for the sole purpose of you awkwardly staring at them and making sexual innuendos and/or criticizing their appearance*. Chances are, they are working at that booth, doing retail or product demonstrations, and your uncomfortable attempts at flirting are taking away their time and attention from that work. They are polite as they can be with you *because they are in a public position, attempting to do business*. If you want them to call you after the show, leave a card; don’t expect anything though. “Industry types” often have busy schedules during conventions; they’re unlikely to go to dinner with a stranger out of the blue when they have VIP passes to several parties, a meeting with people who could help their career, and two long-lost classmates in town. Who knows, you MIGHT rate an ice cream cone or something if they aren’t monogamously married; stranger things have happened. But don’t fritter away the time they or their bosses spent getting them there to sell product in; that kind of entitlement is not a turn on to anyone, no matter how flattering you think your attention is.

    [Further, never guess a person's profession or involvement in something by their appearance; that "cute chick in the costume" or "hot guy with strange hair" might be just a sales person but they also might be the company's art director, a writer, the owner, etc; assuming someone is stupid, vacuous, or just there for your pleasure because they are "attractive"/"interesting" is godawfully shallow]

    *Don’t ask me, I’ve never clearly understood the desire to insult a complete stranger to their face.

  154. Listen to what some of the women in this thread are saying: It’s creepy when they think you’re hunting them for sex, even when you’re not and have abandoned trying.

    Added phrase for context. This isn’t “It goes badly when I hit on women at cons and I wish it didn’t”, Jeff, and to paraphrase the host, it feels like you’re giving me an answer to the post you wish I’d written and not the one I actually did. The one I actually did write is “I have, whether it is rational or not, a paralyzing fear that I might come off as predatory and sexual and unwelcome, and as such am trying to abandon flirting altogether and treat everyone as a potential platonic friend and nobody as a potential romantic interest. It scares me that sometimes this still isn’t enough and I don’t know what to do about it.” Please don’t decide on my behalf that I’m just a horndog who won’t admit he’s only in it for the poontang.

  155. katyisbutthurt says: August 10, 2012 at 12:21 am
    The point is, until these creepers are told, by the men around them, that their behavior is unacceptable, they will continue on as they have been.

    I have been moving more and more in this direction the last couple of years. Tacit acceptance allows these people to continue. We would step in to stop an adult from beating a child, but we wont step in to stop an adult from verbally assaulting someone? Yes, there are lines and it is dangerous out there. But it is pretty easy to ask the victim: “Are you ok?” and “Do you need some help?”

  156. @Jeff Xilon: No, I think it’s plain old selfish dramatic tantrums. I mean, we’ve all seen (or, er, been) moody teenagers doing this, right? Dad says hey, you know it’s garbage-collection night, could you please take a break from the Diablo III marathon and take the trash out – “GOD, DAD, WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO DO ALL THE WORK AROUND HERE, YOU NEVER WANT ME TO HAVE ANY FUN” *stomp stomp stomp*. Or mom explains that, sorry, you’re only fifteen and it’s really not okay for you to go to that unsupervised party with college boys and probably alcohol and nobody’s parents are home, “MOM why do you want to ruin my social life and you think I’m a child, so maybe I just won’t ever leave the house again in my whole life” *doorslam*.

    Same damn thing: if you suggest that I behave in a reasonable way that takes anyone else’s needs into account, I’m going to turn up the drama setting to eleven, pretend that you asked me to do something horrible and unfair, and cry to the uncaring heavens that I might as well never get within ten ells of doing anything like what I want to do, ever ever.

    This is a little understandable in teenagers, who are after all in beta-stress-test mode for adulthood. In actual adults, it’s just bullshit.

  157. Excellent piece, John.

    As the mother of a (now adult) autistic man, with more than two decades of experience with people on the spectrum and with other developmental neuro-non-typical stuff…these people are instantly recognizable if you’re familiar with either. Creepers are different. If it is a diagnosable condition, it’s not autism or Asperger’s or Down Syndrome. Socially awkward (the person who wants to tell you endlessly every detail of a book he read, or list every tiny error in something you wrote) is not the same as creeper, and the true socially awkward–though perhaps being clingy with a group–will go away sad (but go away) if told “No, we have reservations for dinner, for this many and no more. Sorry.” The creeper is like the person who I found waiting outside my hotel room at one convention, the one who came up behind people and put his hands over their eyes. The creeper gets too close, intrudes on conversations when not invited, won’t go away, pouts and whines if corrected, shows every sign of being a control-freak.

    At any rate, thanks for this blog post. Well said.

  158. “Please don’t decide on my behalf that I’m just a horndog who won’t admit he’s only in it for the poontang.”

    This.

  159. The one I actually did write is “I have, whether it is rational or not, a paralyzing fear that I might come off as predatory and sexual and unwelcome, and as such am trying to abandon flirting altogether and treat everyone as a potential platonic friend and nobody as a potential romantic interest. It scares me that sometimes this still isn’t enough and I don’t know what to do about it.”

    @49th: You kinda answered your own question there. When that fear is paralyzing, you can’t figure out anything that would help to act in a way that doesn’t make you fearful and you don’t know what to do about it, the fear is the problem.

    I don’t in any way say that as a criticism. Nor do I mean that you should just, like, stop being afraid. But I do think you need to figure out why you have this paralyzing, irrational fear. I’m guessing, and of course only you know if this is the case, that you are afraid you lack the social skills to interact in a non-creepy way, you have trouble reading signals that will tell you “This person is being creeped out”, and you are afraid there will be dire consequences if you make a mistake. Yes?

    It’s really pretty easy to avoid being non-creepy. The whole original post above was about ways to avoid creeping. If you, despite being well-intentioned, find that you have creeped someone, the remedy is very simple: apologize briefly and then leave them alone.

    If you’re still paralyzed by fear, then seriously? Talk to friends and people who know you well. They are the ones who are able to say “Takashi, you’re a great dude, but you lean in too close when you talk to women.” Or “No, it’s perfectly fine that you shook hands with her; that wasn’t creepy at all.” If your fear is friend-proof then that is time to talk to a professional (therapist, say) who can work with you on this. Running away form simple social interactions because you are terrified even basic social guidelines will fail you then, genuinely, there is a bigger problem than having Charisma as your dump stat and you should find out what that is.

  160. 49th,
    Ok, I apologize for any assumptions I made.
    I get fear, and I think your last post there had a really important conditional on your part, “[You] have, whether it is rational or not, a paralyzing fear…” Ok. Personally, I’d say that the fear is irrational. I don’t say that as an insult or put down in any way! I’ve suffered from some sevre irrational fears myself. Not this particular one, but fear is fear.
    I don’t know what anyone can say to you about that other than, if you’re really not doing anything malicious I’m sure most people will get that and if they don’t, then try to move on without worry. I really think “don’t persist” is an important definer here. If you do accidentally upset someone and immediately back off, and just let it go probably no serious harm to your image or reputation will ensue. Again, sorry for the offense and know my second post about men worried about being creepers was not directed at you in specific, but at many people in general both in this particular conversation and in the one that’s been going on in the community at large.

  161. @49th – Mythago, the original piece and Jeff have some valuable input. I’d add emphasis to the “back off” portion. If you do cause offense, don’t let your fear complicate the offense by causing you to persist in ‘fixing it’ in any way other than vacating the space.

  162. I can attest that these rules work. And it’s important to remember that they apply to non-sexual situations too. I once accidentally boxed in an agent at a Con – she said something to me, my brain went “OMG! AGENT I want to represent me” and I stood there talking to her, blocking her path out of the room. Fortunately, a lightbulb went off because she got that ‘eek’ look in her eyes and I stepped aside, saying “I just realized I’m blocking your path. I am so sorry.” Then I made sure I didn’t appear to be following her out of the room. The upside? When we met again a year later at another event she remembered me as “that woman who made the feminist comments” not “stalkery writer.” We had a very pleasant conversation and she gave me some good professional advice.

    As for Mark who said that you don’t have a right to expect to be safe at a Con – No. You have every right to expect and demand safety. Period. Where ever you are, but especially at a Con. Cons are, ideally, gatherings of like minded people who may be isolated in their likes and dislikes in their daily life. When I go to a con it’s like homecoming. We should make our fellow con-goers especially safe.

  163. I present my opinion respectfully: I don’t think using the term “creeper” or the verb “to creep,” whether a definition is offered or not, takes us in any productive direction.

    We have more useful definitions for inappropriate and undesirable behavior, including but not limited to: stalking, sexual assault, sexual harassment, (non-sexual) assault and harassment, objectification, All people have the right to not be subject to any of these things. No one has the right to never be approached by an individual he or she finds unappealing. Let me be clear that I am NOT suggesting that represents the majority of cases labeled “creeping,” and I am NOT suggesting that represents the recent high-publicity events that may have instigated this discussion. I realize this is the Internet, but I would appreciate if anyone who wants to yell at me (and there will likely be some of you) disagree with what I am actually saying and not with a straw man of their own creation.

    I believe there exists an onus on the victim of “creeping” to make clear, just once, as briefly as desired but in no uncertain terms, that the approach is unwanted. This must be done verbally (or, if the “creeper” is deaf or does not speak English, in another clear way) so that the “creeper” is made aware. No explanation is needed, nor apology. “Please go away” is sufficient, as are “Stop,” “I don’t want to talk to you,” “Leave me alone,” or any variation thereof.

    After that, any further approach may fairly be labeled as harassment, sexual or otherwise, and any touching as assaults, sexual or otherwise, which are much more clearly defined.

    I’m sorry, but I do not believe the lack of eye contact approach is sufficient, nor the turning away, nor the ignoring in favor of friends. This is discrimination, in my mind, against those without the social skills to recognize those signals. YES, those people represent a small minority of the populace, that is absolutely true. But so do people in wheelchairs, and we are still legally required to build ramps. (For the record, I think that’s a good thing).

    Don’t get me wrong – I am not denying that there are cases where it is clear to all involved that an individual absolutely DOES understand eye-rolling, or whatever other non-verbal signal. I realize that constitutes the majority of these incidents, and I am NOT defending those individuals or suggesting their targets are obligated to speak with them. I realize men (predominantly) often play on the baggage society has imposed on women (predominantly) to be agreeable and polite at all times, and I am not defending that behavior.

    What motivates my statement here is that, sometimes though perhaps not often, the individual who sees him or herself as being “creeped” may lack some social skills, and may think he or she has a right to never come in contact with any person he or she sees as unattractive or otherwise disagreeable. I refuse to find anything transgressive (and I will reiterate that I am NOT suggesting this represents anything resembling a majority of cases, so please note that in your angry reply) in one person very politely approaching another stranger to attempt a conversation, and lingering for a bit if they find the other person is occupied or has perhaps not noticed them. When I was young we called this “lurking,” but nowadays many call it “creeping.”

    The very instant it is clear and unambiguous that the lurker/creeper knows they are unwelcome (whether through their obvious reception of nonverbal signals, or a simple and clear statement to that fact), they are 100% guilty of “creeping,” though I still prefer “stalking,” as it is has a clearer shared definition.

    So that’s my take. Feel free to commence hostility – or, I suppose, you could all agree that my opinion is well considered and seems fair. Which would be a first for me on the Internet.

  164. Also, really, somebody who on being told “Please stop” stops what they’ve been doing looks genuinely embarrassed, says “Oh geez, I’m sorry,” and then quietly exits the scene? Almost certainly not a creeper.

    To bring up Hershele Ostropoler’s excellent metaphor from the other thread: If you’re stepping on my foot, and I tell you to get off my foot, you say “Sorry, my bad!” and stop stepping on my foot, then I am going to figure it was an accident. Even though my foot hurts, it’s clear you didn’t mean to step on it, and you apologized sincerely and stopped doing it. Accidents and clumsiness happen, no biggie.

    Waaaay different than the foot-stepper who continues to stand there while asking “But why do you want me to get off your foot?” or who tells me it’s my fault for having such step-on-able feet or who seems to be stepping on rather a lot of feet at this party, some feet more than once. That dude? That dude is a doucheloaf.

  165. Peter Cibulskis:

    I have noticed with some people who have had bag events in the their past are more likely to be put off. This leads to the the whole trigger thing. (I lived with a PTSD sufferer recently and got to learn way too much on the subject.) Triggers create an almost impossible situation for the rest of us. You tossed a hat. Which might have set off a trigger. But there is no way in the universe to prevent all of them. So what are we to do?

    For people who have been victims, even accidently entering their space can trigger.
    It is easy enough to back off when warned off. But other things become impossible to control. Other than leaving when asked. Which is the easiest thing in the world to do.

    Yeah, the point of telling the story was that from my perspective, I was genuinely not doing anything wrong. This woman has gay friends (I’m sorta dating one of them now, heh) and met me at an event that was lgbt-friendly. I wasn’t flirting intentionally, I was just trying to smile. The hat – well, I’d already shared it with other people. Part of the fun of wearing a fedora to something like that is getting to let other people play with it.

    So from where I stood? We’d had a conversation, which she initiated, and then she acted like my smiles were unwelcome, and I didn’t understand why. It sucked.

    But really – that doesn’t matter, and it didn’t matter in the moment, because my oh-gods-I’m-making-someone-uncomfortable-ick was WAY more of a big deal than my hey-what-the-hell-I’m-nice reaction. I would like everyone to have that same response; if someone doesn’t want to talk to you, you sit on your own feelings of “but I’m NICE!” and give them space. Period.

    Plus, and this is something all the people worried about unintentional creepy should really pay attention to: we’re friendly acquaintances now. If you pay attention to someone’s “go away” signals and actually go away, that person may actually decide hey, you didn’t mean to be pushy. If you’re genuinely a decent person, the best way to show that is to respect people’s boundaries. Sometimes, then, the people in question end up being your friends.

    Of course, if you’re just pretending to be respectful to get laid, you’re still a creep.

  166. Sorry, I know I already went on too long, but one more thing:

    I do think a statement by, let’s say, con organizers that the con is a safe space, and there is zero tolerance for any kind of harassment DOES qualify as the clear and unambiguous statement. It doesn’t always have to come from the “target.”

    That’s not to say that good-looking boy or girl at the con would NEVER appreciate you going over to hit on him or her… but if you already know you’re on thin ice, and one strike is all it takes? Just don’t do it, brah. If you simply MUST, then politely hand that person a card with your e-mail or phone number on it, say “I’d really like to speak more in another setting,” and walk directly away. Then leave that person alone for the rest of the con (and forever after!) unless they contact you.

  167. What jill said at 5:04 reminds me of another good general rule, which is that you should not assume someone’s attitude, mood, or apparent reaction to you has a whole lot to do with you.

    For instance, if someone you don’t know is grinning when they come out of a hall costume parade or off a stage, or around a corner or whatever, and happens to meet your eye, that grin should not necessarily be taken as a personal reaction to you — they are quite possibly high on the moment, or just got a promotion, or fell in love with someone else — you can’t know. Return the smile if you like, to let them know you take joy in their happiness, but try not to make assumptions that would otherwise guide you to view their expression as an invitation to touch them, make sexual innuendos, or any of those other behaviors John was talking about above. If you converse with them, and they initiate such things, yay, green light means “go”. But a shared smile alone is not an invitation. I know people who avoid smiling at strangers because of this risk, which is really a bummer when you have joy inside that wants to get out.

    Similarly, of course, if someone is glowering, they might not be reacting to you. They might have a headache, they might have just had a bad moment with someone else, etc. Don’t take it personally and decide to kvetch that they’re over-reacting to your innocent behavior — if they are having a bad moment, it is an ESPECIALLY bad time to try to make everything about you. Everything isn’t about you. Just give them space and time.

  168. You know, there’s another thing to all this. If you are innocent of any malicious intention, and the other person is upset by you, either because you’ve unknowingly set off a trigger for them or they themselves have poor social skills it still comes back to just back off. I mean, if the other person is the problem why would you want to engage further with them? There are a lot of people in the world and if you really think the problem lies with the other person then why wouldn’t you want to find someone else to spend your time with? If you display maturity and respect in your handling the situation others aren’t going to judge you badly even if the one person does. And again, if they do then perhaps these are not people you want to be spending your time on anyway.

  169. Chris:

    “I believe there exists an onus on the victim of ‘creeping’ to make clear, just once, as briefly as desired but in no uncertain terms, that the approach is unwanted.”

    And you’d be wrong about that. One, “onus” is a pretty strong word — it’s an obligation or duty. No one should be obliged to have to deal with someone who is making them uncomfortable in any way other than to have the right to avoid them. Requiring someone to confront the person who is causing them stress and possibly even fear in order to have their stress or fear officially validated is a bullshit maneuver. You may not think so, but, oddly enough, it’s not about you.

    “I refuse to find anything transgressive (and I will reiterate that I am NOT suggesting this represents anything resembling a majority of cases, so please note that in your angry reply) in one person very politely approaching another stranger to attempt a conversation, and lingering for a bit if they find the other person is occupied or has perhaps not noticed them.”

    Did you go through the previous comments here, Chris? This sort of thing has been already pretty well knocked down. Please go read through thread.

    “Feel free to commence hostility – or, I suppose, you could all agree that my opinion is well considered and seems fair.”

    Or there’s a third option, which is to tell you in a non-hostile fashion that your opinion isn’t a particularly useful one. There are other options, too, but that’s the one I’m going to go with.

    I’ll also note that the “Feel free to commence hostility” rhetorical maneuver is strictly amateur hour, and you’d be advised not to do it again here. It makes you look a little silly.

  170. In Michigan, cons do frequently have items on the program that include tips on how to be social without being creepy. Titles of such items often resemble “Flirting 101″ but are sometimes more specific. If you’re going to a con and would like them to offer such a thing, contact them about it. I’ve been on such panels multiple times. Once even with John’s wife, Krissy. :)

    One of my favorite examples to use on such occasions is a member of our community named Chuck. Chuck is a hug person, which has some potential to make him creepy. Yet he is also brilliant at offering hugs without intimidating people or creeping people out. He does this in part by standing in his own space, and leaning *backward* a little when saying something like “Can I offer you a hug?” –Speaking without moving toward them, without getting in their personal space, and in a way that makes it clear it is absolutely all right if they do not share his inclination to share a hug at that particular time. And then he follows through on that and treats everyone great, whether they were pro hug or not.

    He also, now that I think about it, tends to offer hugs when *parting ways* with someone he’s been talking to, and not as part of an agenda to segue into either initial or continued contact.

  171. I agree with mythago. In my experience, it is the self-entitlement and immaturity that a creeper make. It’s not even necessarily sexual intent. I have a gamer friend that has been unsuccessfully trying to get into my pants for almost three years. He is very charismatic and open sexually and has never made me feel uncomfortable. I think that every time I have hung out with him since I met him, he has come on to me in one way or another but in a way that has never made me feel unsafe. I always turn him down, and he always shrugs and moves onto something more interesting to talk about. He goes through life with the philosophy, “Hey, if you have it, use it” but I also know that if he ever did make me feel uncomfortable, we could talk about it like adults and move on.

    I have another friend who isn’t quite in creeper territory but is stuck in a “nice guy” rut. We went on a few dates, in which he flaked out and would cancel without notice or show up up to an hour late. Then, when I casually introduced him to a friend, he decided she should give him a chance after meeting him once and proceeded to talk about her constantly with me and everyone he knows. About how she should just give him a chance, and nobody gives him a chance, and why won’t someone just date him, already? He just needs a chance to show someone how awesome he is. Even months establishing first contact, in which he never really talked to her or saw her, he still was unhappy she didn’t give him a chance. When she started seeing another friend of mine who actually talked to her like a human being and told her he was interested in her, the first friend started complaining about how our mutual friend was breaking the bro code, since he obviously saw her first, and it just isn’t fair because it’s always asshats like mutual friend (who is just as nerdy and much sweeter than the friend with problems) who get the girl.

    Entitlement has a lot to do with it. The guy who hits on me is very open in that he believes that women are awesome. All women are beautiful. Big women, thin women, nerdy women, older women, whatever. But he doesn’t come off as feeling entitled. A lot of guys I know treat gaming events like “chances to get laid” and expect to get someone to sleep with them. Preferably someone society would deem a hot chick dressed in skimpy clothing, but a sure thing like a nerdy, shy girl is guaranteed, amiriteguyz?!?!? Flirty guy goes through life thinking “Wow, that girl is awesome. We’re both adults, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to convince her to have some adult fun with me. Oh, not interested. Oh well, maybe she’ll play Munchkin for a while and we can chat about our RPG characters.” Other guy is like “That girl is fat and shy, I bet I have a chance. If I hang around long enough, she’ll get desperate enough to give me a go. Oh, it’s been a couple of weeks. Why isn’t she paying attention to me? She probably just likes assholes. Nice guys like me don’t have a chance.”

    Somehow, outgoing flirty guy got me, the most awkward girl in the world, to open up and flirt back at him, both of us understanding that nothing’s going to come of it. The other guy often complains, when I see him at games, that I never text him or call him or hang out with him any more.

    This was way longer than I intended, but in my experience creepers want what they feel should be owed to them but have little self worth so can’t actually come out and tell women what they want. If they don’t get what they want, they have to try to maintain their status with their male peers. This results in their creepy behavior, both in trying to get girls and in trying to prove their elevated status above them.

  172. I’m going to bed. This thread has the potential to sprout trolls overnight, so if it does, please take my following advice: Ignore them and leave them to me. I’ll cull them out in the morning. I thank you in advance.

  173. @mythago,

    You can totally stand on my foot anytime.

    Wait, that’s not where you were going with that, is it… ;)

  174. Peter Cibulskis at 12:22:
    Except that the problem with this is that the list of acceptable is different for everyone. From an early age, we met and dated people at school, friends of friends and then work. In the olden days, there were singles mixers.

    So wouldnt it be easier to list the places where hitting on was forbidden? Church, funerals and bathrooms?

    I believe you may be confusing the concept of “meeting people and getting to know them in a venue of mutual interest” with “hitting on total strangers for the purpose of getting it on.”

    There are very, VERY few spaces in which everyone, or nearly everyone, there is interested in hooking up for sex with someone they don’t otherwise know. Singles-oriented nightclubs, after-hours “social” events, etc. can be assumed to be places intended to facilitate hooking up like that.

    A general con floor? No. Not remotely. There may well be some people there who are on the prowl and looking for some short-term action with someone they don’t know, but the vast majority will be there for the event itself. They want to go to panels. They want to get autographs. They want to buy merch. They are not there because they’re looking to get laid.

    This is not to say that genuine relationships–short or long-term–can’t come out of those spaces, but those develop gradually, out of mutual interest in each other as people. They are people who hit it off after chatting in a line outside Hall H who then follow each other on Twitter, and two months later meet up in Fresno for a few dates. They are not people who hooked up after some leering assgasket walked up to a total stranger and said, “Nice costume. Wanna fuck?” (Seriously: When has this EVER worked? I really want to know.)

    The general rule of thumb should be this: If you’re not in a hookup-oriented space, no-one there wants to fuck you, so don’t ask. If you are in a hookup-oriented space, only a handful of people there might want to fuck you, so ask politely, and take rejection with class.

    As for what constitutes a hookup-oriented space? If there’s anything more to it than booze and dancing, chances are pretty good it’s not.

  175. Re. “Amateur Hour”: Fair enough, sir. I stand rebuked. Shouldn’t have done it, won’t do it again. Thank you for taking that third option.

    I’m not even going to go on elaborating on my point (FYI: just deleted about 500 words trying to explain my thinking) because I think what raises my concern is the one-in-a-million case: The well-meaning stranger approaching the hyper-vigilant sociophobe who responds by bringing down some hammer (legal prosecution, lifetime ban from con, etc) without warning. I’m picturing the tourist in Calgary, writing the nasty letter to the local paper because he can’t shoot the friendly strangers who dared speak to him and his wife in a public park. (Google this if you don’t know what I’m talking about – it’s a whale of a tale.)

    Some of the logic from comments may appear to head down that path, but it’s clearly not what the real concern is about. There is inarguably an epidemic of “creeping” in the society I see, and by defending that one-in-a-million case I’m imagining, I’m taking the side of the jerks. Not my intention, and I will attempt to stop doing that.

    And I do understand, by the way, that it’s not about me. Or rather, that it’s only about me exactly as much as it’s about any other individual.

  176. Catherine Shaffer:

    I think here you may be reinforcing the myth of the well-intentioned but clueless creeper and giving ammunition to people who make excuses for them. These are good rules, but the people who break them do so because they don’t believe the rules apply to them, not because they simply don’t understand.

    Ah, but how many of the rule-breakers stay in the good graces of others by relying on the pretense that they didn’t know better? Look how many times (to paraphrase) “the person being creeped-on has a duty to inform the creeper what’s wrong” has come up in this thread alone. It’s a desperate attempt to preserve deniability. By making clear, and spreading far and wide, how not to be a creep, we leave rule-breakers without that crucial defense. It’s hard to keep playing the well-intentioned clueless dude while standing ankle-deep in clues.

  177. #1 is pretty hostile. Are socially awkward people supposed to isolate themselves and hide away from the world, just so that other people don’t have to feel uncomfortable? Even if we abandon the possibility of socializing, sooner or later we have to interact with other people. If they’re creeped out, that’s too bad for them.

    The rest of the list is great advice, but the bigotry contained in #1 is really disheartening.

  178. You don’t need to be taught social cues. You don’t need to be taught how to read body language before you can do basic behavior. The “Don’ts” that Scalzi gave are stuff that we were all taught in grade school: don’t touch, don’t cuddle up to someone, don’t follow people around, don’t talk to them about sex, don’t bully, don’t pester people. Ninety percent of us learned this as older children. One hundred percent or just nearly so of adults attending a convention or event were taught this as older children. Quit blaming the autistic and those with mental challenges as an excuse for your behavior. Quit the “worry” that women particularly are being oversensitive to every little gesture of friendliness — which is a power play — and quit castigating people for not educating others as the source of the problem — which is another power play. Unless you brought your significant other with you, stop thinking that you might get laid. It’s a public event. You know how to act in public events. You went to school. You probably have a job. You probably have been to a party at least once in your life. You have had to interact with many people and not had sex with them and have had to remember the basics of don’t touch, don’t cuddle up, don’t follow, don’t talk about sex, don’t bully, don’t pester. If you are socially awkward, if you are shy, you still know these basic behaviors. Unless you have been living in a cave, you know them. Unless you have a medical problem that effects your ability to be in control of yourself at a public event, you know them. If you have a medical problem, you should avoid going to the public event until you can get assistance to be able to control yourself or have someone with you to help you. (We’ve done this dance on the Readercon threads.) But the guy who asked Scalzi the question didn’t have that. Most of us at a convention do not have that. And so you already do know what to do. So if a person is not doing those basic behaviors, then that person is a threat. Doesn’t matter if the person is nice to his mother, kind to her dog, and has many, many friends. You are a threat because nobody has time to psychoanalyze you. Follow the basic behaviors or be prepared to be considered a threat. Because you’re not a kid anymore where when you messed up, it was cute. You’re an adult who should know the minimum level of social interaction with others, and if you don’t, then be prepared to be seen as very likely dangerous, especially if you talk about sex.

  179. An explicit, concrete suggestion:
    I’m prone to enthusiasms, and not necessarily sensitive to subtle social or emotional cues (yes, John, we’ve run into each other at a couple of cons), so when I get into a conversation with a woman (oh, yeah, I’m male), I try to get by back toward the wall so that she’s between me and the door. If she chooses to walk away, it’s that much easier and explicitly unobstructed.

  180. “Are socially awkward people supposed to isolate themselves and hide away from the world, just so that other people don’t have to feel uncomfortable?”

    Are people supposed to potentially put their personal safety at risk so that ‘awkward’ people don’t get their feelings hurt?

    Did you actually read the post? It’s giving practical, realistic ways in which you DON’T have to isolate yourself or hide from the world to not scare people.

  181. Hey Mark,

    Telling socially awkward people you’re responsible for your own actions isn’t hostile or bigoted. It’s just a nice statement of reality with a side dose of respect: the respect you give someone when you say “yeah, this is your problem to solve, and I trust that you have the ability to solve it.”

    You apparently think you should take your social awkwardness into the world, and if it (say) includes your mistaken belief that the best way to make women comfortable is to firmly grab their breasts as part of an introduction, the rest of us are supposed to go ahead and be okay with that because otherwise we’re saying you can’t socialize. And that’s bigoted of us.

    In fact, it’s more that we’re saying: yeah, that’s not okay, stop doing that. Learn to socialize without breast-grabbing because you are SO SO SO wrong about the okay-ness of breast-grabbing. And it’s not our problem; it’s yours. You’re the one who thinks grabbing strangers’ breasts is appropriate. The owners of those breasts disagree and it is not their job to tell you so.

    Now, you’re going to say you’re socially awkward but you’d never grab someone’s breast while introducing yourself. Good! I’m glad. Go ahead and read the rest of John’s suggestions for what not to do, they are similarly useful and you probably already do most of them. Learning is fun.

  182. One way of thinking about it:

    Unless you’ve established some sort of positive rapport with someone, you represent a potential bodily threat by your mere physical presence. The other person literally can’t afford to discount the threat, so you’ve got an obligation to not do things that might amplify the perceived threat level.

    (Sometimes it’s hard to register that you yourself can be a threat, especially if you were the threatened one when your self-image was being formed. I’d bet that someone who was a shrimpy little kid in school but found himself on the tall and massive side as an adult would find it particularly hard to understand – it wasn’t until the past few years, when I was amiably chatting with a colleague in an elevator, that the realization came to me that I wasn’t five-foot-nothing, a hundred-and-nothing any more, and that if she hadn’t known me well, she would have been fully justified in considering me a potential physical threat, no matter what was being said.)

    Even if you know deep down that you don’t intend anything malicious, the other person doesn’t know that, and has every reason not to trust you.

  183. I’m finding it funny (read: highly fucking irritating) that there are excuses being made for the creeper, and quite a bit of victim blaming. People…..we learn in preschool to keep our hands to ourselves. Lord knows I impart that bit of wisdom EVERY DAY to my preschool students, and believe it or not, they all learn, eventually, to keep their hands to themselves. Even the boys who are interested in video games learn this. We learn by first grade that it’s not polite to touch someone without consent, it’s not funny to come up behind someone and grab them, and by middle school, we ought to have learned that it is never, ever, ever okay to attempt to sexually assault someone.

    And yet, here we are, presumably all adults, and there are some of us blaming the victim for not explaining herself when she tells the creeper to leave her alone, he’s making her uncomfortable. I ask, in all sincerity, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Victim blaming and shaming is part of how creepers get away with that shit, because apologists will tell you, the victim, “Well, he just can’t help it, he’s socially awkward/I think he’s an Aspie/YOU led him on,” and tell the creeper, “It’s okay, man, she’s just another bitch who doesn’t think gamers are good enough for her.” Really? How about telling the creeper, “Dude, BACK OFF. She GAVE you a reason, now LEAVE HER ALONE.” Or, “Let me make this crystal clear to you, dude, if you keep this creeper shit up, then we will feel no need to invite you to other events.” Or, “Hey, someone call con security to get this guy out of here. Dude, it’s not cool to act like that at all.”

    I said it once, and I’ll say it again: Until other MEN start calling these asshats out on their behavior, it will continue. Until other men start telling the creepers among them that they are socially unacceptable and their behavior is out of line, it will continue. I shudder to think what would have happened to me had the creeper in the group not been called on his shit by my husband, or had I been too afraid to stand up to him. The guy had me cornered, and he’s considerably larger than I am, it could have ended quite badly. Had the other men in the group not finally stood up for someone else, and stopped taking up for him, well, the creeper would have been part of the group longer than I would have. And God, what would I have had to do had he been around when my daughter hit puberty? Jesus, it would have gotten UGLY, because I probably would have killed him the first time he tried to assault her.

  184. Hi all.

    A few things occur to me:

    Gentlemen, please understand something. Women, on a daily basis have to perform unconscious threat assessment (and conscious threat assessment) to a level that no matter who and what and where you are, men simply do not. We call this “existing while female.” By the time a woman is an adult, really- I promise you, we are very, very good at assessing “creepy”. Which as many have said here, is not the same as awkward.

    I also find the whole “creepy vs. awkward” discussion frustrating. See, awkward people? They know they’re awkward and go way out of their way not to cause offense. When they do and know it? They never do (whatever it was) again- going WAY out of their way to not repeat the behavior and are horrified with themselves.

    Considering the number of times that any adult woman experiences creepy behavior at the hands of (almost always) men, not just in a geek setting but in every setting, every where, every day, just by existing as a female carbon based life form, it’s really tiresome to hear the same excuses being whipped out for why the responsibility should be on women to tolerate this behavior. We are told we should be rationalizing the motives of the aggressor as “harmless”. It’s not harmless. Period. It simply isn’t. It’s a sexual power play, and I’m tired of being told I need to give it a free pass for even a nanosecond.

    Further, it’s simply not our job to have to constantly accommodate the fee-fees of people who make us feel unsafe. Even if we were to say that say 10% of the male population acts in a way that does this, can we back up for a second and do the math on that and realize how many people that *actually* represents, and make a fair extrapolation of just how often women have to deal with one form or another of this behavior? It’s *FAR* more than some of the men who have commented here believe it is. Truly.

    Besides, it’s toxic behavior- and like any other form of toxicity, it builds up until you reach a critical mass of sensitivity to it. When I was 20, i made excuses for this stuff, because i was taught (like women are) to do so. No more. and I wish I could go back and tell my 20 year old self not to tolerate it for one moment. Frankly, if I can convince even *one* 20 year old woman not to *ever* tolerate it? I will have saved her from years of crap she never should have had to take. I’m perfectly content to do that at the expense of the feelings of otherwise adult men who should, and I think in the overwhelming majority of cases do know better.

  185. @Mark: Just read the rule itself:

    1. Acknowledge that you are responsible for your own actions

    There’s nothing in the rule that is hostile. It’s basic adulthood. While compassion is a good and decent and highly commendable thing – it’s a gift. It’s not an act of indenture. It’s not emotional welfare, to which the benighted are entitled. It’s a gift.

    What this means in practice, is you don’t get to say “but you made me horny” or “but you didn’t tell me no clearly enough” or “but given what you were wearing” or “but you were so nice to that other guy, I thought you’d be open to this”. None of those things justify encroachment of boundaries.

    They may explain it – but they don’t justify it. Just because we understand someone doesn’t mean they are not in the wrong.

  186. To anyone who hasn’t read it I’d recommend Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. My GF gave it to me and it was an eye opener for me about the different world women live in when it comes to feeling unsafe. The guy who wrote it is a security expert who works with politicians and celebrities so he knows what he’s talking about

  187. See, this is why I love whatever.scalzi: at any time a comment by someone named katyisbutthurt might immediately be followed by a discussion of Kant.

    And in other phrases I never thought I’d type, I think katyisbutthurt makes an interesting point that gets to the heart of why today’s post is so excellent. With the noted exception of actual jerks/predators this post can help nearly everyone else. It likely helps the targets of creepiness feel heard and supported. It also offers great advice for the sincerely well-meaning but heretofore clueless. And, most importantly it speaks to EVERYONE ELSE.

    What’s overlooked in most of the creepee-vs.-creeper / fear-vs.-awkward death match above is that y’all are both right: neither the creepee nor the creeper is best suited to be the educator in this situation Yes, it can sometimes be hard to get a clue and yet it’s also not a stranger’s job to teach someone manners. That’s what friends and family are for. But as anyone who’s seen these situations go down (or read the great Captain Awkward linked above) can tell you, friends and family are often the biggest enablers.

    I forget which commenter above picked You’re Teachin’ It Wrong as his hill to die on, but he did have one small salient point in that this post may not convince a lot of offenders to change their ways. What he overlooked is that it may not be the only reason to write it. A lot of bystanders will read this post, most of whom are not as likely to judge their self-worth based on whether or not someone else is a creeper. That makes it much more likely that they are better positioned to hear its message. Conveniently, they’re also much better positioned to help a creeping friend or family member see the error of their ways and make a change for the better.

    That is the best part of this post; it’s written by a bystander and it speaks to bystanders. Because ultimately it’s bystanders who hold the greatest power to change the culture of creepiness.

    Excellent, excellent post, John Scalzi. Thank you so much for writing it.

    (@Jonathan.Hendry: I’m totally stealing the DEFCREEP 1 idea. From now on all my creepers will be mentally narrated by Dabney Coleman. Though I hate to break it to you, but in my experience flirty old men are usually at least a DEFCREEP 3.)

  188. On the topic of social awkwardness and Asperger’s — something very pertinent was pointed out in one of the many LJ discussions I read about the Readercon incident (I can’t find it now or I’d link to it).

    The Aspies/socially awkward people in our communities aren’t all men, and aren’t always the ones doing the boundary-crossing. Sometimes they’re the targets, too. If you’re a socially awkward woman, and a guy comes at you in a way you can’t handle, it really sucks. It sucks twice as hard if, as the approachee, the social norm is that you are expected to be the one to police and manage the interaction.

    I’ve had awkward female friends be overwhelmed by guys, either using good social engineering or serious cluelessness, and it’s a horrible place to be. If it’s exasperating and upsetting for a woman with lots of social tricks to fend someone off, imagine how it is for someone who hasn’t got those tricks, or the skillset to diagnose the problem. All they have is the overwhelming feeling of being trapped, with no way out.

    Speaking of people whose fault things are not.

    It’s something to think about, when considering the role of Asperger Syndrome and other social awkwardnesses in this context.

  189. @Wendy Withers: While I agree with you agreeing and also the non-specifically-agreeing parts of your post, Gamer Dude #1, while charismatic and not-creepy, is a doucheloaf, as you describe him. Three years? What part of ‘no’ does dude not understand– oh, right, the part that he doesn’t want to understand. If he just accepted your ‘no’ and said hey, bummer, but let me know if you ever change your mind, then he has to wait on you to actually change your mind. Whereas if he treats your ‘no’ as ‘ask me again next time you see me’, hey! Maybe he’ll wear you down, or maybe you’ll be in a emotionally rough place and less likely to say no, or you’ll figure he’s never going to stop asking you so might as well say yes, and then he gets the sexytimes he wants that you have already declined, over and over, for three groudon years.

    (It’d be one thing if you explicitly left the door open; “Sorry, I’m dating somebody. But if I’m ever single again check back with me.” Well okay then! But, as The Gift of Fear puts it, ‘no’ is a complete sentence, and a person who does not accept your ‘no’ is telling you that their desire to get into your pants trumps your opinions on the matter.)

    I know we’re a little off topic here, but creepers are not the only variety of predatory jerk. Many predatory jerks are perfectly capable of being friendly, positive in their approach to women, and so on. But ignoring “no” or treating it as the opening salvo in a negotiation? The guy may be friendly, he may be charismatic, he may be a great gaming buddy, but he is not really that much more respectful of your opinions about your sexuality than the guy who says “But why don’t you want a hug from me?!”

  190. It’s really pretty easy to avoid being non-creepy. The whole original post above was about ways to avoid creeping.

    If everyone really did find it pretty easy, none of the original post would be here, because that’s how easy it is.

  191. I’d like to reiterate the mention of Gavin deBecker’s A GIFT OF FEAR (made earlier and now probably lost in the thread). http://www.amazon.com/The-Gift-Fear-Gavin-Becker/dp/0440226198

    Those who wonder why people are weirded out by creepers need only read how sociopaths manipulate the way we were raised to “be nice” “not make waves” “let him down gently” to get us into situations that are not healthy or safe.

    If a creeper makes you feel unsafe, even if you can’t figure out why or what reason you might have, you have every right in the world to just get out of the situation and never deal with whoever is making you uncomfortable again. Ever.

    @katyisbutthurt, your husband is awesome.

  192. Random thought: when I see some dude going off about how, if he’s not allowed to be creepy, he’ll never get laid, I always think, “uh, exactly how well is that approach working for you now?”

    Of course then again, I always find myself underestimating the number of messed-up women who do respond to that stuff. And I spose all it takes is one success for creeper dude to think that approach should be his lifetime m.o. and gawd-given right forevah.

  193. Gretchen Ash says (August 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm)
    I would add that if you hold the power position in the interaction (and guys, this is almost always you if your communication partner is female), always err on the side of formality.

    This is, IMO, a useful tip. One thing that I find helpful is sitting down. Mainly because that can help create a different power dynamic. The height difference it part of it, but it also says that you’re not going to be chasing anyone around, so people can choose how close to you they get. I discovered this by accident since most women are shorter than I am so I often find myself either bending down or sitting on something. If you’re at an event where the few women are being chatted up relentlessly, but all seem to mysteriously end up clustered around the one guy who’s sitting down, that’s possibly part of why.

    Also, anything else you can think of to reduce the power imbalance (naked, BTW, does not count). Listen more, talk less. Respond to what she says, rather than just waiting for her to stop talking so you can have a go.

    Other men:
    I’m horrified of being perceived as a creep, to the point that I’m deeply reluctant to talk to women if I don’t already know them

    If you wander up to a woman who’s not otherwise engaged and stop about a metre away and say “Hi, I’m Bob, how’s it going?” you’ll probably be fine. If she says “go away”, that’s pretty straightforward. The whole post above is aimed right at people like you, you know. Read it a few more times. If it helps, imagine that the woman really is a green-tentacled alien from Formaldehyde. Maybe it’s just me, but if there was an alien I’d be right up there trying to have a chat. Coz, aliens!

  194. Give them space. Hey: Hold your arm straight out in front of your body. Where your fingertips are? That’s a nice minimum distance for someone you’re meeting or don’t know particularly well (it’s also not a bad distance for people you do know).

    I encounter very few people of any gender who follow this most excellent advice. I’m usually the one backing away from someone getting up in my grille, trying not to make it look like I’m trying to get away from them for any reason they might take personally (which is true unless they’re among the sizeable majority who evidently don’t know what a toothbrush is). Generally I avoid people who don’t respect personal space. In a crowded room I make allowances, but inveterate space invaders in wide open areas are truly obnoxious.

    I think personal hygiene needs to be on the list too.

    Slut is a reference to how other people interact with other people. Creep is a reference to how other people interact with you. Only you get to determine if someone is creeping you out. Any busybody sticking their nose in other people’s affairs can determine that someone is a “slut” (i.e. doesn’t follow arbitrary sexual social mores borne from sexual insecurity, body-shame and other moronic irrational cultural baggage).

    I have been crept on by women, btw. One woman in the SCA seemed to think it was her prerogative to squeeze the ass of any man she felt like conferring such attentions on. One of the differences between women and men in our society: when I told her not to do it any more, she never did it again. (There was a bit of attitude given about being a “spoilsport,” but she kept her hands off me.)

    I tend to think a few more broken wrists would stem the tide of people who continue to do it after they’ve been told to stop. But I’d feel awful I actually broke someone’s wrist, even if I was justified.

    @ Roland Martinez

    Eventually the destination is some hyperliberal distopia where nobody gets laid.

    Respecting people’s sovereignty is libertarian, not liberal. It doesn’t matter if you come from Chicago or Jupiter. Your liberties end where mine begin.

    @ paranoyd

    Good list. I would only slightly disagree with the idea that joining a group to meet someone is creepy – sometimes your looking for an “in” and that’s the opportunity that presents itself. However, if you’re asked to leave, then get thee gone

    I agree. The rest of the list is spot on. But wandering over to a group of people in a crowd to talk to someone is practical human behavior. I’d be really surprised if John has never done this. In fact, I doubt many people at all have never done this. That said, if there is any indication, overt or otherwise, that you’re unwelcome, scram.

    @ Xopher Halftongue

    I appreciate your point of view, Devin, but for gay men who grew up in the 1970s, like me, it’s a matter of personal safety. Yes, that means I don’t trust straight men not to assault me (or just verbally abuse me) if I express attraction, no matter how politely I express it.

    Entirely understandable. That said, I personally am flattered when a guy hits on me. But I’m secure enough in my own sexuality not to need to prove it.

    @ Christy

    And particularly appropriate when the target is a woman, given that women are socialized to be polite, more’s the pity. I have friends who are cops, and if I’ve heard them say it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times: if more women would trust their instincts when they feel that something or someone is off, there would be fewer female crime victims. Caveat: at least among my cop friends, this is said not as blaming the victim but as an indictment of the fact that our society routely socializes women out of taking their gut responses seriously for fear of being “rude”.

    So very this!

    @ Peter Cibulskis

    Your culture ends when it enters my personal space. No one cares that you are uneducated, unintended or malicious. Get out of my space.

    Yup. Culture isn’t some borganism to which one is entitled to outsource responsibility for their actions. It’s nothing more or less than the net total of its constituents’ behavior. And no one’s culturally shared beliefs override the just liberties of anyone else.

    @ Kathleen

    I spent a long time thinking my need to hug people I like was more important than their need to feel comfortable, and I regret it. Now I always ask and only if the person seems open to it.

    Thank you, sincerely. If it’s not obvious by now, I have personal space issues. I don’t mind people in my personal space, as long as it’s on my terms. Coupled with the fact that I know how to apply pain without physically injuring transgressors and the knowledge that I would feel shitty if I acted on that knowledge, I always give space invaders one opportunity to take don’t do that again for an answer. If I sensed they were actually hostile, I’d dispense with the warning, but that hasn’t happened to me yet and hopefully never will. I don’t consider this an obligation. I’ll stand up for anyone’s right to kick the ass of anyone who touched them without permission, up to an including depriving the attacker of their life. But I’ll also stand up for their right to deal with it any other way they choose, and their right not to have to deal with it in the first place.

    @ socorpius

    Which brings up a saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do”. Well, that’s not the best phrase to use here. Maybe it’s more “When in Saudi Arabia, and a woman, understand that the denizens of that country are going to freak out if you don’t cover your hair and dress modestly”. Now, are they wrong if they stone you to death (as does happen often)? Sure. Could you avoid a rock to the head by being a little more sensitive to their culture? Yup.

    So, what I really advocating here is a compromise.

    No compromise with tyrants.
    No truce with kings.
    Not a penny for tribute.
    Not even one-night flings.

    @ Diera

    I think… and I’m feeling my way here, and of course keep in mind that I am not all women… that there are different layers of being direct or indirect. My recommendation, “Want to join me for a bite to eat?” isn’t THAT direct, It’s not “I would like to have sexual intercourse with you, how do you feel about that?”, but it is direct about there being interest, even if it’s only for a meal.

    One thing I always tell guys who ask me for advice on asking women out is to make sure they’re offering something and asking if the woman wants to partake, putting the ball in her court, so to speak. For example, ask if she’d like to go out with you instead of asking for her number. Or give her your card and tell her she can call you if she’d like to go out sometime.

    @ 49th

    I’m terrified of presenting creeper behaviours without knowing I am doing so, and I’m actually a little scared of saying so because of the large number of people in this thread who’ve said that every creepy behaviour is the deliberate manifestation of malice by a creeper.

    I’m missing the part where your insecurities are anyone else’s problem.

    If you can’t tell the difference between being creepy and not. Learn. Get help from your social circle and anyone else willing to help you, but learn. That’s your job as an adult.

    And if someone misconstrues your behavior toward them as other than you intended, too bad. You have no claim to their liking, understanding or associating with you in any way.

    @ GBCCm

    Since creeper behavior is in the eye of the beholder, anyone can be an unwitting creeper, and the only absolutely certain way of avoiding being perceived as a creep is to avoid all social contact. John’s tips may help, but they can’t be 100% effective.

    You’re missing the point. You have no say in whether someone is creeped out by your behavior toward them. Association is a privilege, not a right.

    @ mythago (re: Jennifer Davis Ewing)

    But you DID just explain. “Because it’s making me uncomfortable” is an explanation. I am baffled by the idea that it’s not OK to just tell somebody that you don’t like what they’re doing and you would like them to stop, but must then set aside whatever you were doing to offer them an explanation (justification, let’s face it) for why you did not find their conduct thrilling.

    To be fair, Jennifer didn’t say it wasn’t okay or that you must do so; only that she thought it was useful. Which is true insofar as it goes. It still doesn’t mean anyone should have to explain jack.

    The whole point of uninvited hugs and touches is to push past someone’s boundaries in a way that is difficult for them to stop.

    I’ve had people touch me to get a rise out of me (I described the details in a recent thread here). But I’ve also had strangers touch me without realizing they were crossing boundaries. It doesn’t make it okay, and I do tell them not to repeat the behavior, but I do not believe they were intentionally violating my boundaries.

    The goal of physically boxing someone in is to make it difficult for them to remove themselves from your presence.

    For the sake of clarity, this part I agree with you.

    @ Elizabeth Moon

    The creeper gets too close, intrudes on conversations when not invited, won’t go away, pouts and whines if corrected, shows every sign of being a control-freak.

    That’s the crux of it. Anyone who believes they have a claim to interaction with another seeks control over their target.

    @ Chris

    What motivates my statement here is that, sometimes though perhaps not often, the individual who sees him or herself as being “creeped” may lack some social skills, and may think he or she has a right to never come in contact with any person he or she sees as unattractive or otherwise disagreeable.

    John’s point, and the point of many here including me, is not that anyone should have a right never to encounter someone they dislike, but rather that they have a just right to end that association at their will for any reason or no reason however arbitrary or intolerant.

    So that’s my take. Feel free to commence hostility – or, I suppose, you could all agree that my opinion is well considered and seems fair. Which would be a first for me on the Internet.

    You must not get around much. I guess it’s my privilege to be the first person to consider your opinion fair and considered, while disagreeing with the thrust of it. Because, you know, someone can disagree with you and not be hostile, so either no one ever has, or you conflate disagreement with hostility. I’ll assume the former.

    I’m not even going to go on elaborating on my point (FYI: just deleted about 500 words trying to explain my thinking) because I think what raises my concern is the one-in-a-million case: The well-meaning stranger approaching the hyper-vigilant sociophobe who responds by bringing down some hammer (legal prosecution, lifetime ban from con, etc) without warning.

    Where in the original post or any of the comments here did anyone say retaliation was an appropriate response to someone trying to start a conversation? I’d say you’re presenting a strawman argument, but I think you’re sincere in your concerns and didn’t realize it was on the other side of the moon from what every else here was discussing.

    @ tessuraea

    If you pay attention to someone’s “go away” signals and actually go away, that person may actually decide hey, you didn’t mean to be pushy. If you’re genuinely a decent person, the best way to show that is to respect people’s boundaries. Sometimes, then, the people in question end up being your friends.

    + 1 Million
    There is nothing more attractive (romantically or platonically) than someone who treats you with respect, and nothing less attractive than someone who doesn’t.

    @ Wendy Withers

    We went on a few dates, in which he flaked out and would cancel without notice or show up up to an hour late.

    Sounds like your female friend dodged a bad date with a guy who lacks the consideration to keep simple promises. If being given a chance was really so important to him, he’d make it to the date on time. Emergencies happen, but serial tardiness is a sign of gross disrespect and demonstrates that however much the individual may claim interest, that interest isn’t enough to behave as an adult.

    Preferably someone society would deem a hot chick dressed in skimpy clothing, but a sure thing like a nerdy, shy girl is guaranteed, amiriteguyz?!?!?

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or, to be cliché, everyone’s sense of aesthetics is personal. I like strong, self-confident braniacs who dress elegantly (e.g. not skimpily), but another guy may be totally unattracted to the type of woman to whom I’m attracted.

    Flirty guy goes through life thinking “Wow, that girl is awesome. We’re both adults, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to convince her to have some adult fun with me. Oh, not interested. Oh well, maybe she’ll play Munchkin for a while and we can chat about our RPG characters.”

    That’s a pretty unflattering stereotype. I flirt with women without thinking about sex. There is a lot more to romance than sex, or even physical intimacy.

    @ Mark

    #1 is pretty hostile. Are socially awkward people supposed to isolate themselves and hide away from the world, just so that other people don’t have to feel uncomfortable? Even if we abandon the possibility of socializing, sooner or later we have to interact with other people.

    You’re supposed to learn. If you can’t learn or haven’t learned, then, when in doubt, err on the side of caution by giving people their space and leaving them alone.

    If they’re creeped out, that’s too bad for them.

    No, it’s too bad for you. One more time: You have no just claim whatsoever – zero, zip, zilch, nada, none – to the interaction or appreciation of others. End of story, get off my foot, back off, complain or seek advice, but do it with someone else.

    @ Bruce K

    Outmassing someone isn’t necessary to be a physical threat to them. The human body is fragile. One reason I don’t let people touch me without permission, and would defend myself without hesitation if I thought the intent of someone doing so was hostile, is because once someone is in physical contact with you, they could potentially inflict injury before you could act to defend yourself. If you wait for a transgression to become a violent attack, it may already be too late. That most bulky men feel unassailable is a conceit that mostly goes unchallenged because most potential attackers operate on the same assumption. Also, for better or worse, our society does not encourage the teaching of the body’s vulnerabilities.

    @ He is still Moz

    Maybe it’s just me, but if there was an alien I’d be right up there trying to have a chat. Coz, aliens!

    No, it’s not just you.

  195. I could put the title essay in a lot less words – “Watch ‘Big Bang Theory.’ Observe Howard. Don’t be like him. At all.”

  196. @mythago: Thank you for acting like there might be a question there worth answering. I’ll try.

    It can be difficult for someone who has trouble reading facial expressions or body language to navigate #10, particularly if they never did get the entire rulebook about eye contact. Double particularly if their childhood involved being socialized by their peers to break eye contact the moment it’s made.

    (What’s it like when you don’t have the rulebook? Here’s a fun game! The next time you are talking with someone, force yourself to be aware of how much eye contact you are making, and force yourself to make it happen exactly 35% of the time. Keep a running count. Don’t break the conversation. If you do break the conversation, you lose. If you do lose count, you lose. If you go above or below 35%, you lose. For the advanced game, you get to realize that this means you’re spending 65% of your time not making eye contact, and now you also have to measure the discomfort caused by where you’re looking instead, and keep a running track of that, too, and make sure to minimize the discomfort, but don’t make a pattern of where you look, because that’s weird and you lose.)

    (I’m not kidding, by the way. I’m sure that the whole eye contact thing is super easy for you, but you find it easy because you find it instinctive. Once you have to do it consciously, and you play the game for real and break off every conversation where you lose….)

    It’s really difficult to not violate #7 in some small rooms. I also wish I knew exactly why my brain can’t figure out how much space my body takes up. Put those two together and your plenty-of-room can be the other person’s barely-squeeze-past or oh-god-I’m-trapped even if you’re not in a corner. Sometimes even if you’re not near a wall. (I have been gobsmacked by people telling me that I’m bulky. No I’m not! I’m just below average height! And then the voice in the back of my head reminds me: “For a guy, 49th, you’re just below average…”)

    Which leads into #6, which I honestly have just stopped trying to figure out because I never get it right, and the only times I notice are when I’m over the line. I now just place myself about a quarter-step too far away from the other person to feel connected, because then I can be sorta kinda sure I’m not intruding in their comfort zone. Not “sure”, of course. Just that this works most of the time.

    And that leads to #5, and the fact that of all the items in the prescriptive list, that’s the one that you can violate the quickest. (Not the worst of them, I think. I think the worst to violate would be #9, which I have never had much of a problem with. I’ve learned that assuming I always get cut off because I am No Longer Welcome So Get The Hell Away may not be true, but it doesn’t hurt to act like it’s true. At worst I look cold or flighty because I don’t talk with anyone more than once in a night, depending on how cheerful I am.) I’ve similarly just stopped trying to figure out this one. If I “know” that touching someone means game over, all I have to do is keep my hands at my sides. Doesn’t matter if it’s true. At worst, I come off cold.

    Of the rest, I either already overcame them (#4 is a hell of a drug, though) or it just never occurred to me that they’d be stuff that needs to be put on a list (hi, #8!). But yeah, there are things on that list that are just Not Decipherable for some people, and figuring out how to do it is not easy, and once you think you’ve got it down doing it and still being pleasant enough company to make it relevant that you are can be incredibly tiring. There’s a reason that if the party goes until two I’m home by midnight and it’s preceded by a half hour of the slow realization there’s nothing fun here anymore.

  197. Dear John,

    I’ve noticed that little watermark hiding in the lovely green background of your replies. This is perhaps the most perfectly opportune moment to point out to the world that I find it creepy. Oh yes, it is most creepy!

  198. 49th — Without knowing you, I can’t say for sure how you come across in person, but I will say this: a vast percentage of creepiness is driven by guys objectifying women, trying to get something (usually sex) from them, and resisting/arguing back when told their behavior isn’t cool. If you’re chatting up women like they’re people instead of tits, not trying to get anything from them other than a mutually enjoyable conversation, and you apologize if somebody says you’ve gone too far, then odds are good you’ve already avoided 90% of creeper behavior.

    As I was saying in the comments on my own journal, I often think what matters the most is the attitude, not a set of physical cues to be performed — because the cues will follow the attitude. Sure, you may be making too much/not enough eye contact, or you might be standing a little too close or too far, but that’s awkward more than it’s skeevy. And when in doubt, ask. “Please tell me if I’m standing too close” may be super-awkward, but it will label you as “trying to get a clue,” and that’s something people can tolerate pretty well.

  199. I believe that telling someone clearly that their behaviour is making you uncomfortable generally immediately separates the creepers who are abusing social norms and those that aren’t paying attention. I’m of the opinion that while no one receiving unwanted attention is obliged to clearly state so, if you feel capable of doing so you should. This helps the genuinely socially awkward identify problematic behaviour, signals to everyone around that creeper behaviour isn’t acceptable, and helps overcome that horrific ingrained behaviour of tolerating unpleasantness just to be polite. While I’ve found the cathartic self-improvement of permitting myself to be impolite to increase my comfort level a lot, the real benefit is from affecting people around you. It demonstrates another way for others to deal with creepers rather than just tolerating, warns people around to be aware that further creeping behaviour from this individual is a sign of willfulness, and encourages people to step in when their friend is creeping or being creeped.

    Saying “I’m not interested” or “You are making me uncomfortable” is a social good that can help transform the problematic bits of con/geek culture. If you don’t have the energy, don’t feel safe, feel socially awkward, or any other reason you don’t want to then you shouldn’t – but if you think you can handle it your are helping out the community by doing so.

  200. I don’t mean to tone police, but could folks please be really careful NOT to casually equate harassment with mental illness, physical/intellectual disability or neurological deficits? A hell of a lot of behaviour I’d most definitely define as “creeping” is coldly rational and calculated, and I sure as heck don’t recognize “obnoxious male entitlement to make other people feel like shit for their personal gratification” as a medical condition. It really is a lifestyle choice, people.

  201. 49th:

    About Rule 7: He is Still Moz had a good suggestion: find a place to sit down. Then you’re stationary, and the other person can make their own choices about where they go in relation to that. Also, it’s easier for them to not feel boxed in if you’re immobile.

    Another solution might be to seek to be the one boxed in. Occupy the corner. Lean against a wall. Let the other person stand between you and the door.

  202. Thanks for a really helpful post, John – it’s clarified a couple of things for me.

    And Daveon: “Being British, personal space can and should include the room to swing a cat, reverse a bus and possibly park an aircraft in.” Yes!!! [punches air] (er, yes, I’m British, how did you guess??)

  203. Good lord…I’ve never gone to a con (not comfortable being geeky in public), but after all I’ve been hearing lately about the way guys act at cons, I’ll never set foot in one now, even though I’m a straight male. Who’d want to be around people like that?

  204. Brian Mac:

    If you think this sort of crap happens only at science fiction conventions, you are sorely mistaken, I have to tell you. Don’t confuse us talking about this at conventions with this not being a problem elsewhere. As noted in the entry, creeping can go on anywhere (and does).

  205. As Abi points out upthread, women are just as capable of being socially clueless as men.

    However, feminine expression of social cluelessness is often different to masculine expression of same. Women are, in Western culture, still socialised to consider the needs and comfort of the other party or parties in a conversation or social setting over their own needs or comfort. A socially clueless woman is more likely to express her social cluelessness through not knowing how to gracefully escape from a conversation with a bore. A socially clueless woman is more likely to express her social cluelessness through not knowing how to state boundaries firmly (instead of saying “don’t touch me” to someone who lays hands on her, she’s more likely to just smile nervously and try to back away). A socially clueless woman is more likely to express her social cluelessness through not being able to stand up to bullying from someone who is of a higher social rank or knowledge.

    A socially clueless woman, when confronted by the type of creep who likes to pretend to be socially clueless (when in actual fact they’re more of a social rules lawyer) is more likely to wind up being harassed, being bullied, being abused, or being raped, and not reporting it because she feels it’s her fault for not knowing what to do in order to deal with the situation gracefully.

    John has supplied above some very helpful tips for persons who want to avoid being regarded as “creepers” in social situations. If we reverse them, they’re very helpful for socially clueless women (such as myself) because they help us to have a sense of what our expectations of other people should be.

    So here’s a version of the above from the other end – what socially clueless women (and men) should be able to expect from correctly socialised persons in mixed company, and in public.

    1) We should be able to expect other people to take responsibility for their own actions, or to be properly supervised by caretakers[1] if they aren’t willing or able to do so.

    2) We should be able to define our own comfort level in a situation, rather than having someone else define it for us.

    3) We should not be required to police the behaviour of another person (or persons) in order to participate in a social environment.

    4) We should be able to participate in social environments without having to constantly consider what other people want, expect, or think, to the detriment of our own enjoyment.

    5) We should be able to expect any touch to be both consensual, and consciously solicited (for example, people should ask whether or not one wishes to receive a hug or a handshake in greeting).

    6) We should be able to expect to have personal space boundaries respected, rather than violated (and any violations of those boundaries should be considered to be both temporary and unusual).

    7) We should be able to leave a space without hindrance if we feel the need.

    8) We should be able to expect people not to make sexual suggestions or innuendos where we don’t make it clear that these are welcome.[2]

    9) We should be able to leave a space without being persistently followed, pursued or stalked.

    10) If we express a wish not to be in company with another person, this wish should be honoured both by the person concerned, and by all other persons.

    [1] This stays. If you can’t consistently behave in a civilised fashion in a public setting, you don’t need my understanding, you need a keeper.
    [2] It shouldn’t have to be said: sex, politics and religion are not appropriate topics of conversation for either short acquaintance or polite company in a public space[3].
    [3] Blogs and blog comment threads are private spaces, before any smart arse asks.

  206. @ megpie71

    Good enough to nail to the doors of churches…er, conventions. I mean that as a compliment, in case it’s not clear. Luther was a person of his times, but he was a radical and fearless reformer focused on empowering individuals.

    The only part of the list I disagree with is the thing about politics and religion being inappropriate topics as a general code of conduct. Then again, if I even suspect that a topic is making people uncomfortable, I’ll ask them and drop it if it is. Sex I just assume it would unless otherwise indicated, but then sex is kind of boring as a conversation topic, so I don’t think I’ve ever had to avoid it.

  207. Waaay back from up there:

    scorpius: “If you feel uncomfortable by a creepy geek, please pull him/her aside and let him/her know. Trust me, if you do it in that way 8-1/2 times out of ten he’ll blush and say “I’m sorry” end of creeping.”

    What might happen the 1-1/2 other times is a good part of what keeps me very very indoors a lot of the time.

  208. John:

    I can’t disagree with any of your “rules” on their own merits. Most of us learn this sort of thing early by the end of the ninth grade. I have spent a lot of time in the corporate world, too, where these same rules are reemphasized again and again. Every adult should be aware of these issues.

    Furthermore, based on what I have read about the Readercon incident, it sounds like the woman had a legitimate complaint; and that banning her antagonist from future events was (probably) the right thing to do.

    I do have a few issues with all the sound and fury that has been generated by this, however, both here and elsewhere.

    You assert that either gender can be a “creeper,” and you’re technically correct. In practice, however, sexual harassment is *almost always* a male-on-female issue. As you also state, middle-aged guys like us aren’t on the receiving end of sexual harassment very often. So despite the carefully gender-neutral language used above , the implication here is that men are sexually harassing female participants at these events in droves.

    Is this the truth? It seems that what we have here is a relatively isolated case of a socially inept oddball who behaved inappropriately. Therefore, the appropriate course is to deal with him and move on. All of this online kvetching about a “culture of rape,” etc., seems a bit overwrought.

    It would also appear that among the “proudly beta-male and feminist” wing of the sic-fi community, there is an eagerness to make more of this than it really is. Jim Hines, for example, has a permanent section of his website that is dedicated to “rape.” I’ve also come across some less-than-attractive female bloggers (I’ll refrain from mentioning names here) who have seized upon this incident to publicly complain about how much they are ogled at these events by guys whom they have no interest in, and would never have an interest here.

    In short, it seems that we have wandered a bit from the original incident into what looks suspiciously like an AGENDA. Given the undeniably left-wing tilt of the current leadership in the sic-fi community, this is not an unreasonable conjecture.

  209. Ok, I’ve read maybe half the comments and, well, to be honest, I’ve always considered myself socially awkward. I’m not very good at small talk (a lot of my conversation these days seems to be ‘fair enough’ and ‘yeah’ and other platitudes unless I’m the one expounding on a topic), and I never really feel all that comfortable in groups or crowds.

    And yet I’d never dream of touching in any way someone I did not know. Let alone hugging them.

    But I have to admit, it can be VERY easy to creep someone out without meaning to. Without actually going near them, even.

    Some years back, I would catch the bus to work. And for a while there was a pretty girl on the same route. And I checked her out a few times… lonely guy, introverted, not even confident enough to try and get up the nerve to say hi. And at some point she noticed I had been looking at her. And I could see that she looked a bit freaked out… and I knew saying hi was no longer an option.

    I don’t remember what exactly happened after that, whether I saw her on the bus again a few times, or if I just never did see her again. My hours might have changed, I might have started catching a different bus… or she could well have changed her habits to avoid a potential stalker. Which I wasn’t, but she had no way of knowing.

    Especially after the day I went looking for watch batteries at the local mall, walked into a jewellry store, and she was working behind the counter. I had the strong impression that she fled to the back room and asked her workmate to deal with me… either that, or the workmate was habitually grumpy.

    So, yeah. Even if you’re not actually a creeper, even if you’re just too shy to say hello… it can creep people out. Only thing to do is recognise it and move on. Own up to it.

    And I do not for one second believe there is anyone so socially awkward that they fail to recognise cues that indicate someone doesn’t want them around. In my experience, a truly socially awkward person will be hyper-sensitive to those cues, paranoid that they’ll do something wrong and be shunned for it.

    Touching or hugging someone without permission, especially if they’ve made it clear they’re not interested, isn’t social awkwardness. It’s wilful ignorance.

  210. Gulliver: thank you.

    The bit about politics, sex and religion being inappropriate topics of conversation could probably be further abstracted as “don’t start topics of conversation which are contentious, highly personal, likely to be misinterpreted, or likely to cause arguments”. The “politics, sex and religion” bit is just a very old set of topics which fit into those categories.

  211. Well, to all, and John.

    My BIG concern is that “social awkwardness” and totally innocent, non-stalking, not over-the-line behaviour can be viewed as “creepy” to a lot of people whose frame of reference are “normal” social interactions.

    When they come to geekdom they tend to think, and do say, “what’s wrong with these people” and get very uncomfortable.

    So, my advice to them is: be tolerant, be very tolerant. Geeks tend to be weird and if you freak out because of people acting highly socially awkward you’re going to be a pall over the geek event, disrupting everything.

    Now, not ALL geeks are socially awkward, and not all behavior is acceptable even given geekitude. But you have to go in knowing who you’re meeting.

    Just be mindful.

  212. @ megpie71

    Riffing on a previously mentioned theme, it’s as much about how you say it as what you say. I’ve had many, many conversations about politics with people I knew only slightly better than strangers (i.e. interacted with them more than once, but didn’t really know them as friends) and never run afoul, but I know this is not a universally shared experience. Ultimately I think the best policy is to simply change subjects if the person you’re talking to shows signs of distress, whatever the topic.

  213. Todd: May I assume that you are male? As a female, I know of many events like this. I personally learned many coping techniques to avoid it, so it seldom happens to me, but I see a few and hear about a LOT. Don’t pooh-pooh the existence of the issue, since that pooh-poohing is exactly what creepers depend on for their defense. It’s right up there with “oh it’s not that bad” and “you’re taking this way too seriously” for the sort of response too many people have, and which makes the whole thing SO uncomfortable for women – we fear our issues being ignored almost as much as we fear the issues themselves.

    And even one instance is too many.

  214. scorpius:

    What, like the women who attend cons, for example, who might themselves also be socially awkward?

    I resent the hell out of the fact that a lot of people seem to think that a man creeping on me automatically obligates me to educate them. Women should not have to be on-call etiquette teachers whenever they go outside. Women do not owe men anything beyond basic courtesy, and personal safety trumps basic courtesy every time. If a man is worried that he might creep, he can go to a therapist; he doesn’t need to harass women into Gently Educating Him. That’s a different face on the same concept: that women owe men something, and that men don’t have to consider what women want.

  215. Todd:

    “So despite the carefully gender-neutral language used above , the implication here is that men are sexually harassing female participants at these events in droves.”

    Well, that’s your implication, which I am not responsible for, because among other things you have explicitly chosen to disregard what I wrote in preference to your own interpretation, because apparently you’re fine with throwing out what I say when it doesn’t conveniently fit into your world view. It’s also a poor implication, as in a general sense noting that harassment is a problem does not imply that droves of men are harassers.

    But yeah, Todd, when your point boils down to “Are you really saying what I’ve decided you’re saying after choosing not to consider what you’ve actually said,” you’re gonna have a bad time.

    “Jim Hines, for example, has a permanent section of his website that is dedicated to ‘rape.’”

    You mean the Jim C. Hines who has (to paraphrase him) gone through hundreds of hours of training, become a crisis counselor, educated himself on rape and society, and written articles, stories, and a novel about the subject? He has a section on his personal Web site about rape? Really. I wonder why that might be.

    As for your condescending attempt to minimize Jim by calling him a beta male, and putting into scare quotes a phrase which if you put it into Google appears precisely nowhere, followed by standard-issue boilerplate sexism about ugly female bloggers: Dude, you should know better to bring that sort of pathetically weak sauce to this site.

    “In short, it seems that we have wandered a bit from the original incident into what looks suspiciously like an AGENDA.”

    Well, yes, Todd. When you disregard what people say in preference to what you imagine them saying because it fits your pre-established worldview, go out of your way to attempt to insult men who have gone out of their way to learn about and actively combat sexual assault, and minimize the reports of women who have been harassed by suggesting they are too ugly for men to have bothered to harass them, then of course it looks like there’s an AGENDA. Funny how that is.

    Todd, normally I would have simply deleted a comment like yours, because it’s just so appallingly dumb that it’s not worth allowing into the discourse. But I’ve decided to let your comment stand as testimony to the sort of kindergarten-level “thinking” that goes on around this subject in certain quarters of mandom. Congratulations. However, don’t bother responding, since one A+ crap post from you on this thread is rather more than enough.

  216. @Gulliver: I think you’re right. I’ve been unconsciously putting this discussion in a context other than that for which it was intended. My brain just connected this directly to the recent controversy and turned it into a list of behaviors that will get you banned, which clearly wasn’t the idea. My fault. Several of us have raised concerns about the innocuous and well-meaning person who is labeled “creeper,” but on closer reading I’m confident that’s nothing resembling what people here are discussing.

    I would point out, in response to several of the comments about the nature of “creeping” and manipulating people’s deep-seated social mores, is neither limited to sexual interactions nor to sociopaths. These behaviors are taught every day to sales trainees. Get close, hammer past your target’s defenses, don’t take no for an answer, keep them talking as long as possible, assume a position of intimacy and familiarity. It’s all based on the knowledge that most people have been taught to be deferential and polite, and that makes it difficult to say no. Teaching is not necessarily required – a lot of people intuit these things themselves, but others are taught – that’s essentially what “seduction techniques” are, and people have made a bunch of money from teaching seduction. Some humans are terrible people.

  217. John–I saw you trying to make that distinction, I did. In the end, though, I think you might be preaching to the choir. :-) I do see a lot of people in comments struggling to justify or debate the rules, though. I hope all of those people will experience a moment of clarity, stop arguing with the rules, and just follow them.

    For those who are afraid to “talk” to women they don’t know for fear of being perceived as creepy: yes, you got it. You are not entitled to just go up and “talk” to strange women. You have to do a careful dance of introductions first. You can’t skip the steps. Some of creeping comes from wanting to skip steps and get straight to the sex part as quickly as possible. Being at the convention for business purposes and NOT to hook up, and then having to deal with people who are singlemindedly trying to get laid is very upsetting.

  218. There is something that I think socially awkward guys may be misconstruing. People know there is a difference between intentionally ignoring people’s boundaries and cluelessly overstepping them without realizing it. John didn’t write this list for the the former group. They already know what they’re doing wrong, and simply don’t see it as wrong because they’re self-centered spoiled sociopaths who feel entitled to the attention, appreciation and sometimes more of others. The list is for the well-meaning but socially clueless latter group. And it’s an easy to follow list for how not to accidentally make others fear you might be one of the former. Following it is a way of letting others know you’re not a threat. It will increase your social capital, not cramp your style. As others have pointed out, most of us learn this at an early age. Some don’t, and there’s no shame in that. Some people do partial differential equations in their head at an early age, others do not. But if someone gave you an easy How To FAQ for becoming a math whiz as an adult, you wouldn’t be ashamed because you weren’t a child prodigy, you’d just be glad someone made it so simple. Don’t you want people to know you’re not a threat to their safety?

  219. Thanks, John. As per usual, when it comes to feminism, it’s nice to see a male ally who gets it. For anyone who wants further reading on the topic of “Don’t Be That Guy,” with bonus excellent, heavily-moderated comments, I recommend synecdochic’s Dreamwidth entry,

  220. Are attractive people even capable of creeping? Seems every situation described involves the overweight male with unkempt facial hair and a lack of deodorant. Horace does raise a good point that this article doesn’t really apply to the intentional creeper. Not because it isn’t good advice, but because they don’t care. Seems the hints are really only useful to the socially awkward types that just don’t know what is and is not appropriate.

  221. > now that I think about it, tends to offer hugs when *parting ways* with someone he’s been talking to

    I’m also a hug person, and I think this is critical.

    I’ll hug people I have a hugging relationship with when I see them for the first time on a day, or when saying goodbye. But I’d *never* hug someone new upon meeting them, unless they initiated it. And I’d *offer* a hug on departure to someone I didn’t already have a hugging relationship with … but I would want it to be their choice, whether to take me up on it or not.

    This strikes me as just being basic etiquette. The notion that there are people who don’t behave this way horrifies me.

  222. @ Kilroy

    Are attractive people even capable of creeping?

    Yes. Being a knock-out doesn’t entitle you to harass others.

  223. @ Gulliver: The idea of creeping involves giving unwanted attention and ignoring the clues that it is unwanted. Brad Pitt is probably not capable of being a creeper without stepping into criminal activity to make the attention unwanted.

  224. Kilroy:

    “Are attractive people even capable of creeping?”

    You appear to be making the assumption that attractiveness is purely defined by physical characteristics. Conventionally good-looking people can be profoundly unattractive based on their personalities or other personal traits; people who are not conventionally good-looking can be intensely attractive for the same reasons.

    As for whether good-looking people can be creepers: Yup.

  225. If you define attractive as attractive personality, that person never creeps. If you define attractive as physically attractive, that person rarely if ever (never) gets the blow off. But physical appearance is a huge part of creeperdom and usually a prerequisite. And I’m sure Brad Pitt has a beautiful personality and is not just superficially attractive.

  226. @ Kilroy: “Are attractive people even capable of creeping?”

    Oh, hell yes. There’s a whole sub-set of creepiness that involves attractive people who think everyone wants whatever attention they want to give them.

  227. As the commenter who brought up the issue of different concepts of personal space, I should have included something along the lines of “But that’s no excuse,” because it is not. I apologize for the omission, and wish to plead incompetent.

    (closes barn door gently, resumes lurking)

  228. Kilroy:

    “But physical appearance is a huge part of creeperdom and usually a prerequisite.”

    Says who? I mean, other than you? I’ve seen my fair share of creepers, at conventions and outside of them; they’ve run the spectrum of physical attractiveness, as far as I could see. Likewise, decent humans are arrayed across the entire physical attractiveness spectrum as well.

    In any event, you’re making a category error, in assuming that people who are “attractive” — however one wishes to define that term — cannot engage in creepy behavior simply by dint of being attractive. This is entirely false. Someone can be good-looking, charming and generally a delight to be around, and also offering entirely unwanted attention to someone who wishes they would go away. If that superattractive person doesn’t go away, they’re creeping just as much as Unwashed Yeti Dude would, should UYD be engaging in the same sort of activity.

  229. Watching an actor I found amazingly hot (before that point) joke about sexual assault in an interview?

    Ayup. That was pretty damn creepy.

    Attractive people are totally capable of being creepers, and I think trying to draw the conversation towards “It’s just about whether or not someone is attractive!” is another one of those attempts to move the blame away from the people doing blame-worthy things. I’ve been hit on by unattractive men in a non-creepy manner. There is a hell of a lot more to “creepy” than “received signs of potential sexual interest from someone I’m not attracted to” or we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  230. @Gulliver: The issue of whether an explanation is mandatory or advisory, again, misses the point that “because it makes me uncomfortable” is an explanation. The person who says this has already gone above and beyond to provide an explanation of why they politely told the other person to cut it out. The argument that the creeper can learn no other way besides on-the-spot Social Skills 101 from the creep-ee is ridiculous. (And it’s also back to thinking the #1 problem is carefully protecting the feelings of the socially awkward, rather than stopping creepers or protecting people from being creeped on.)

    Also, “Why?” is an ambiguous question. It’s not clear whether it means “Why am I making you uncomfortable?” rather than “Why should I stop?” Refusing to accept another person’s right to say ‘no’, requiring the other person to justify their ‘no’ and making oneself the judge of whether those justifications are acceptable, demanding that strangers justify their refusal to interact with oneself – creepy.

    @49th:

    1) Of course it is a real problem. Keep in mind, though, there are also people who aren’t well-meaning but anxious, who hide behind “Gosh, I just can’t possibly figure out how to behave!” when called on actual, deliberate creepitude, people who sigh dramatically and ask “Is flirting at cons not okay anymore?” at criticism of deliberate creeping. In other words, people who pretend to be like you as a cover for justifying their actions, not for changing their situation.

    2) People who are socially awkward, inexperienced or impaired benefit from clear social rules that they can apply quickly in a majority of situations. That is why Scalzi, Captain Awkward and others discuss such concrete rules. “Give the other person enough personal space” can, by itself be confusing (what’s ‘enough’?), but “Stand an arm’s length away” is very clear and easy to judge. Similarly, “don’t touch” and “see if the other person has a path to get away from you” are pretty straightforward. None of these require eye contact, reading social cues or guessing at the other person’s reaction.

    3) If you are not innately good at social stuff, you will need to devote part of your brain’s processing power to keeping an eye on these things. This is true well beyond the “creeper” issue; it’s something socially-awkward people have to deal with in everything from business meetings to waiting in line. It’s not a lot of fun, but it gets easier with time and practice.

    4) If you find yourself so anxious that you cannot, without terror, imagine interacting with others in a non-likely-to-be-creepy way, then get assistance from friends, professionals, good sources on the Internet or other people who can help you with specific problems.

    Also?

    5) Please don’t make assumptions about how good I personally am at eye contact, small talk, reading social cues or innately understanding rules of behavior. When you say that I clearly must have all these boss-level social skills you lack, you’re not just making poor assumptions; you’re putting yourself in the role of Nobody Understands Me. That is going to get in the way of your fixing the problem, and it’s going to get in the way of your positively interacting with others who have had your problem and found ways to solve it.

  231. Dont know if it’s come up yet, but there is a very simple and very important rule to remember:

    NO means NO.

    Not “yes”. Not “maybe”. Not “Chase me”. Not “Touch me”. Not “Follow me around until I lose my temper or break down crying”. It means NO

  232. +1 @Bearpaw. And in this case I’m thinking of people with attractive personalities who may or may not be good-looking.

    I keep running into That Guy who’s a really fun, smart, interesting, witty person when he’s talking to the group at large or to friends. And the moment he notices someone who makes him go “oh, shiny!” *gleam in eye*, BANG. The attractive personality is replaced by the creeper. It’s flattering for the exact amount of time it takes for the target to realize that boundaries are being ignored.

  233. @Kilroy: I would say if that someone is attractive to me personally, they’re going to get a larger degree of latitude in boundary-crossing, but it’s not infinite, and “attractive to me personally” != “a winner in People’s yearly Most Attractive Life Form In The Universe reader survey”. I can recall several specific incidents in my past where I was utterly turned off by very attractive guys because they came on way, way too hard without any regard to whether or not I seemed to be responding. People who are both very conventionally attractive AND are very socially adept do have a huge advantage and probably get more tolerance for the few mistakes they do make, but it’s a tough old world.

  234. Of course I’m just going off of my own personal experience. Isn’t everyone here? At least I haven’t seen citations to detailed case studies that lend support to anyone’s arguments. But the point has already been beaten to death. Think it is pretty well established that men are more visually stimulated than women, so I can limit the argument to attractive women are likely unable to be creepers and that attractive men need to be a lot creepier than unattractive men in order to be considered a creeper.

  235. Kiroy: – you are so off the mark. Do you imagine that all the creepees are simply playing hard to get, and simply waiting for an “attractive” person (however defined) to stick their hand down their shirt and say “how about it”?

    It’s not about the apparent desirability or otherwise of the creeper – its about the creeper insisting that their needs to talk/hug/stroke/get jiggy outweigh the needs, wishes and priorities of the creepee.

    If the most beautiful, witty and wealthy creeper in the world tries to monopolise my attention in the coffee shop where I write, even after I have told them that I am working to a 3pm deadline, they are demonstrating that they have no real interest in me or my wishes or my comfort or my safety.

  236. @Kilroy, I don’t remember which comedian originally made the crack about “women wouldn’t be complaining if it were Brad Pitt doing the same thing” (Chris Rock possibly?), but you know, to the extent that joke was ever funny, it was a lot funnier when they did it. You’re now in the position of That Guy at the party trying to repeat some joke he kind of remembers hearing in a Tosh.0 routine and mangling it so badly nobody could get why you thought it was funny.

  237. Preface: I am lazy and impatient, so I have skipped the vast majority of comments already posted. If you made my point already, thank you. If someone made a point somewhat-almost-barely similar to mine and got yelled at, please do not yell at me for their comment, and thank you.

    I think that there are two groups of people who should read this guide: the socially awkward and actual, genuine creeps. I also think it’s impossible to understate the fact that those are two different groups of people. I believe that those two distinct groups exist because I place myself firmly in the first, and want to visit violence and lecturing upon the second for all the grief they have caused others and the stigma they visit upon geekdom by pulling their stupid crap at geek events. I also think that an important difference between those two groups is that the socially awkward *want* help and want to read this guide, while the genuine creeps will refuse.

    Throughout my schooling years I was a bumbling idiot when it came to social, well, everything. I was shy, quiet, awkward, into all the weird things that you got picked on and beat up for being into, and generally just didn’t have many friends. Oh, and being the youngest of three, my folks dediced they pretty much knew what they were doing and totally phoned it in most of the time they were raising me. And did I mention that this was before the Internet was the big, almost-universally-available thing that it is today? Figuring out how to interact with other people with the optimal result of “don’t hate/hit me for being a nerd” was a messy, not-fun, long trial-and-error process.

    I mention all of that because I want to make it clear that I had a somewhat rough go of interacting with people for a while, and it would have been nice to have some sort of guide or list of pointers or maybe just somebody nice enough to sit me down and say “hey, you’re doing it all wrong, quit being a spaz and do [list] and you’ll make friends in no time.” I wanted that. I’m not going to say that I needed it, because I managed to work it out eventually, but it could have saved me a few disappointing moments here and there.

    At this point in time, I don’t really care for social interaction beyond my wife and my handful of close friends. Being happily married, I treat women in most situations exactly like men – I’m not courting and I’ve got enough friends that I don’t have to go bugging people to like me. So in any given situation I’m going to ignore most of the people around me unless I need to interact with them. At conventions, I’ll admire cosplay from afar, but I’m mainly there for swag and to maybe – just maybe – briefly meet or even get a signature from somebody really famous and really cool whose works I admire.

    Like I said, I’ve pretty much got the basics down, and my personal system of “speak only when first spoken to” with strangers is a good catch-all, but boy, younger-me sure could have used some guidance to not be a fumbling idiot. Sadly, I don’t think this is quite it. Keep reading before you react with the snarkiness and the all-caps-typing and whatnot. Maybe it’s the well-documented fact that text doesn’t carry subtlety and nuance as well as spoken word, but some of this guide came off as condescending, and I think it’s important that for the truly awkward, bumbling goofs like young-me, that we don’t speak down to them. These are the folks who genuinely want something like this guide because they really want to learn how to interact with other live, in-person human beings, and they’re probably genuinely afraid of coming off like complete jerks in addition to being awkward, and when their learning process has been like mine was, it really isn’t any fun for them, either. Maybe a gentler touch is needed, and I really don’t know if that kind of thing is out there, and I guess if it’s not then maybe somebody (maybe me, who knows) should write up a more pleasant social primer for the truly socially inept who want help.

    But I got the sense while reading this that even if it was written in response to someone asking sincerely for advice coming from the position of an awkward geek, it turned into something that was written *to* the creepy jerkwads. It’s your blog, John (may I call you John?) so I’m not saying “you shouldn’t have written it that way!” My concern is that it might have been an exercise in futility, because insomuch as I feel like it was addressed to creepy jerkfaces, I think we all know that those creepy jerkfaces aren’t going to read it. They know they’re being creepy jerkfaces and they either don’t care or they outright revel in how crappy they make other people feel. These are the same kinds of people who bullied me for years, and their most common reaction to “you shouldn’t act like that” is to say “I’ll act however I want to act” and keep right on being bullies.

    Basically, I think that we should all maybe keep in mind that socially-inept nerds are not the same as actaul creeper jerks. We can take these creeper jerks out of these geeky settings and drop them into offices, sports bars, charity functions, whatever, and they’re still going to be creeper jerks. If we want the world to take geekdom seriously as a community then I think it is on us to take our awkward young nerdlings and make sure they’re properly socialized, in much the same way as you’d make sure a puppy gets plenty of time around other dogs. If, as a community, we can provide positive guidance, then we can also eventually maintain a safe atmosphere at our gatherings and when a creeper rears its ugly head everyone (geek or not) can be sure that that creeper doesn’t represent geek culture, and that being a creeper is not a thing that geek culture is OK with. I think taking those awkward nerdlings under our wings and teaching them without punishing them for what actual creepers do is key, though, because conflating the two and presenting it as “if you don’t know how to talk to people you’re a creep” seems dreadfully counterproductive.

  238. When I was a young tube-traveller in London in the 70s, there was a spate of gropers. It was almost a given that any young or youngish woman not firmly sitting on her butt would have it fondled by some arsewipe type on the tube every time it was crowded.. There was no overt campaign, but the behaviour that killed it for some years was very simple – if you felt a hand, you reached round and lifted it up, while calling in a pleasant but LOUD voice “Groper”. At this, all the people who were quick, in the know, or could follow a lead, would clap and whistle loudly.. I have seen people (sorry, men) lie on the floor to get away from this.. I think it must have worked, because I seldom got groped after a while..

    We need to back each other up, folks, nice people need to look after the other nice people when the not-nice are in town…

  239. @ mythago

    The issue of whether an explanation is mandatory or advisory, again, misses the point that “because it makes me uncomfortable” is an explanation. The person who says this has already gone above and beyond to provide an explanation of why they politely told the other person to cut it out.

    Sorry, I took Jennifer’s meaning to be that it can be helpful (though not the least bit obligatory) to explain to a socially awkward person what they are doing that is creepy, not why it creeps the creep-ee out, which no one should ever have to explain to anyone ever because it’s none of their damn business. Perhaps I misunderstood Jennifer’s meaning and you are correct about what she meant.

    Let me put it this way: if a friend of mine is doing something that is creeping me out without meaning to, I’ll tell them what they’re doing that’s making me uncomfortable. I’d be well within my just rights to tell them to simply leave me alone, but that may not be what I want. Creep-ees should feel free to be left alone or to correct the behavior as they see fit. I don’t buy the idea that their only moral choice is to say nothing or shun the creeper completely. Those are options, but they should not be the only options a creep-ee is told they can exercise.

    @ Kilroy

    Think it is pretty well established that statistically men are more visually stimulated than women on average

    Fixed that for you.

  240. Kilroy:

    “I can limit the argument to attractive women are likely unable to be creepers”

    I have knowledge in my own personal sphere of actual humans I know that directly contradicts this argument.

    Beyond this, you appear to be making the assumption that heterosexual men are so turned around by a woman’s physical attractiveness that all other considerations fall to the wayside. This is an interesting hypothesis, and as I note, one that in my own immediate realm of experience is provably false.

    I think you’re probably better off simply not trying to correlate physical attractiveness and creeperism.

  241. Tanya: walking up to you and sticking their hand down your shirt isn’t creeping, that’s sexual battery. I don’t think that is the level of activity that this story is geared towards.

    As far as the most beautiful, witty, and wealthy guy to comes up to you in the coffee shop when you have a deadline… really?

  242. @Gulliver: Nobody has said that the creep-ee’s “only moral choice” is shunning or saying nothing (at least, if they did, I missed it). I’m a little puzzled that your take-away was the idea that it is morally wrong for someone to choose to try and explain why they don’t like something. (I do think you are misreading Jennifer’s comment, particularly given that her last sentence offers a false dilemma that puts all of the responsibility on creep-ees and none on creep-ers.)

    Re your second paragraph, you’re talking about social interactions between friends, which is different than social interactions between strangers. With a friend, you already have a social bond and willingness to interact. The context is quite different. For one thing, if you cease all interaction with them you’re ending the friendship; ceasing all interaction with a stranger is simply refusing to progress one’s acquaintance with that person beyond what it already is. Giving advice to friends is different from giving advice to strangers, particularly strangers who are behaving badly.

  243. Not all other considerations. Obviously doesn’t apply to the loyal married male. And I’m also not talking correlation, but causation. Take the Readercon situation and replacement victim with average single male and replace creeper with 8 or higher attractive female. The situation never unfolds.

  244. I am in physical therapy from the student throwing a 4-foot by 6-foot metal table onto me, in retaliation for my reporting him in writing for sexually harassing one of the young ladies in my classroom. The student-creeper would show up in class stoned, and grab her and kiss her while she shouted “No!” That was in May 2011. I am still in serious pain. I did the right thing. I would do it again.

  245. @ mythago

    Nobody has said that the creep-ee’s “only moral choice” is shunning or saying nothing (at least, if they did, I missed it). I’m a little puzzled that your take-away was the idea that it is morally wrong for someone to choose to try and explain why they don’t like something. (I do think you are misreading Jennifer’s comment, particularly given that her last sentence offers a false dilemma that puts all of the responsibility on creep-ees and none on creep-ers.)

    I think perhaps I misunderstood the gist of the discussion between Jennifer and yourself. It was twelve hours ago, during most of which I was working on math problems that have fried my brain, so I have to admit I don’t clearly remember, but sorry if I defended a position you weren’t criticizing.

    Giving advice to friends is different from giving advice to strangers, particularly strangers who are behaving badly.

    I agree. I just wanted to make sure the message wasn’t that creep-ees who choose to edify unintentional creepers are somehow enabling their behavior. If that’s not an issue, then I retract me argument.

  246. Kilroy:

    The fact that you have to keep retreating and qualifying your argument to make it viable should be a very strong indicator to you of its inherent weakness. You’ve already narrowed it to the point where it would apply only to very few people in a highly contingent circumstance. And even then, if you think a normal single dude could not find a random albeit hot woman he doesn’t know putting her arm around him and propositioning him with no previous interaction between them unsettling or creepy, you’re flat wrong. As a single man, I would have definitely found that shit creepy.

    Kilroy, inasmuch as you’ve now whittled your point down to irrelevance, this is me telling you it’s time for you to let it go, please.

  247. I like to use the analogy of selling t-shirts.
    Let’s say you are at an event, in this case, an event you paid good money to attend. There are vendor booths and if you want, you can go up to them and buy things. You might be there to spend money, you might not be. That’s great, either way.
    But let’s say you pass up the vendor booths and you are, instead, trying to listen to a speaker, or talk with some people, and someone comes up to you and starts trying to sell you t-shirts. You politely decline. They persist. They start showing you the craftsmanship, the printing, the wide range of sizes. You more firmly say no, maybe walk away. What if they start following you, maybe somewhere away from the crowd?
    Now imagine this happens repeatedly, by different vendors, in different places and maybe your friend has the same thing happen to him only one time, the vendor decided to just take your friend’s wallet when he said no. And what if, some of the times you say no, the vendor starts getting mad, asking why you are so cheap and why you think you are too good to wear t-shirts and you can’t quite tell if they are just letting off steam or about to take your wallet?
    Even if the people doing this represent 1% of the attendees, or less, do you really feel comfortable at the event? Would anyone argue that we really need to protect that vendor’s right to make a living even if it’s driving people away from the event?
    We are all grown ups here. We constantly tailor our language, dress and behavior for the situation we are in. We don’t act, dress and speak the same way at a funeral that we would at a pool party. We speak differently in a job interview than we do at a family gathering. Pretending that sexual pursuit is the one area where people cannot be expected to consider other people’s feelings is just insulting to all parties involved.

  248. I just wanted to make sure the message wasn’t that creep-ees who choose to edify unintentional creepers are somehow enabling their behavior.

    I may not have expressed it well, but correct, that’s not the argument. I personally think it’s a counterproductive strategy in the face of intentional creepers, or those who will react defensively rather than consider whether they were in fact unintentionally creepy, but if somebody wants to make the effort, hey, that’s not my business.

    Though I do strongly disagree with the idea that edifying creep-ees is not simply optional, but the best option and one exercised by all right-thinking, kindly people, because otherwise unintentional creepers are doooooomed. That particular idea is simply a euphemistic version of “God, don’t be such a bitch, he didn’t mean it.”

  249. Gulliver: the bad news is that the school’s assistant principles told me: “You don’t have to press charges.” The good news is that I did, and the creeper was convicted of criminal Assault & Battery.

  250. I didn’t read all the comments — but its not just males. Outside of fandom — the stereotypical “cougars” who are out to prove their face lifts and boob lifts are justification for hitting on guys, grabbing at guys, etc. who really aren’t into banging women their mom’s age. In fandom — the “kilt checkers” and “faux femdoms” who grab at guys and do stuff that a male would be arrested for. (By “faux”, a person who is actually in the BDSM community knows about consent and is respectful of boundaries). Serioulsy…how is the excuse of “he’s wearing a kilt, if he didn’t want me to check his gear he wouldn’t wear a kilt” somehow acceptable. If you ask, sure, but that is respect and consent. It all boils down to keep your damn distance and remembering the world doesn’t revolve around your wants and needs. Ask.

  251. Thank you.

    The only thing I’d add to the list, but it’s been a fairly important thing to me, is this: there is no transitive property with people. Don’t assume that someone’s willing to banter or touch or sleep with you just because they’re willing to do the same thing to others.

    Some of my male friends can, indeed, make really lewd comments to me, pull me into their laps, pick me up, and so forth, and it’ll be fine and fun. This isn’t because I’m sleeping with them or want to–in some cases, I am or do, in some cases, I don’t–but because I’ve known them for a while, and our particular friendship supports working blue, or flirty, or even the odd one-night stand. And also, because I like doing that sort of thing with them, and I don’t like doing it with you, and YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO DEMAND OTHERWISE.

    This is important. Because A can come up behind me and put his arms around my waist, and B can make “oh, bend over, baby” jokes when I tie my shoe, and I’m really not concealing my positive reaction there, but if C breaks out the stupid innuendo or randomly puts a hand on my back because he wants attention, I want him to fuck off and die, and odds are decent that I’ll say so. And if C starts getting whiny, all “…but those guys…” then there’s going to be a shitstorm, because…no. No transitive property. Figure it out.

    And the “because he wants attention” thing has brought up, Spanish-Inquisition-style, another point: for the love of God, do not poke people when you want attention. Not even non-sexually. If you need someone to move and you’ve tried a vocal request a few times, maybe a light touch on the shoulder; otherwise, no.

    First of all, I don’t owe you attention. If I’m reading, or napping, or talking to someone else, I pretty obviously don’t want to *give* you attention, so don’t demand it. (Don’t demand it verbally either, for that matter: jumping into a conversation all “Oh hi let’s talk about something else now” or calling someone’s name repeatedly when the situation isn’t time-sensitive might not be creepy, per se, but it’s sure as hell not making anybody like you. In fact, “stop demanding stuff from acquaintances” is a pretty good principle to go on.)

    Second…well, second, keep your hands to yourself, because we are not four years old here.

    /rant

  252. Serioulsy…how is the excuse of “he’s wearing a kilt, if he didn’t want me to check his gear he wouldn’t wear a kilt” somehow acceptable.

    It isn’t, and happily, conventions and social gatherings that have strong anti-harassment policies and treat harassment as a serious offense don’t accept those excuses. See, the thing about not tolerating creepers and respecting boundaries and expecting people to be decent instead of making excuses for them? That applies to women, too.

  253. @ mythago

    Though I do strongly disagree with the idea that edifying creep-ees is not simply optional, but the best option and one exercised by all right-thinking, kindly people, because otherwise unintentional creepers are doooooomed.

    I too disagree with that, and if I gave any impression to the contrary, I apologize.

    @ Johnathan Vos Post

    the bad news is that the school’s assistant principles told me: “You don’t have to press charges.”

    I wish that surprised me.

    The good news is that I did, and the creeper was convicted of criminal Assault & Battery.

    That is a relief. And it’s sad that we live in a society where that is a relief and not the minimum expected outcome.

  254. @ Kilroy. Yes. Really. NOTHING is a bigger turn off than someone – anyone – whose ego can’t wait an hour while I turn in a piece of work that I have spent 3 years researching and crafting.

    This is not hypothetical. This is reportage.

  255. John, you wrote this:
    itsathought2:

    “Because not doing so is ridiculous.”

    Actually, it’s not. I would agree it’s useful to be told. But it’s not the harassee’s obligation, and placing an obligation on the person being harassed means that we’re back to giving the harasser a pass as long as he’s not directly confronted. And, you know. That’s crap.

    I think you’re way off base on this one. The very first rule you post says:

    1. Acknowledge that you are responsible for your own actions. You are (probably) a fully-functioning adult. You probably are able to do all sorts of things on your own — things which require the use of personal judgement. Among those things: How you relate to, and interact with, other human beings, including those who you have some interest in or desire for. Now, it’s possible you may also be socially awkward, or have trouble reading other people’s emotions or intentions, or whatever. This is your own problem to solve, not anyone else’s. It is not an excuse or justification to creep on other people. If you or other people use it that way, you’ve failed basic human decency.

    The converse of this would seem to me to be:

    1. Acknowledge that you are responsible for your own actions. You are (probably) a fully-functioning adult. You probably are able to do all sorts of things on your own — things which require the use of personal judgement. Among those things: How you relate to, and interact with, other human beings, including those who you have NO interest in or desire for. Now, it’s possible you may also be socially awkward, or have trouble reading other people’s emotions or intentions, or have difficulty with confrontation. This is your own problem to solve, not anyone else’s. It is not an excuse or justification to not insist on what you need from other people.”

    Autonomy must work both ways, or it’s meaningless. In situations (e.g. most of Western Civilization) where the power differential is too great between women and men, women have the right to bring other people into given situations to even things up: “While you take in the sight of my six foot four bodybuilder friend here, allow me to let you know that if you don’t back off, there will be consequences.”

    This is not to say that women have an obligation to mentor creepers into civility, only that women are obligated to express their needs themselves by any means necessary. Everyone is obligated to express their needs, and expecting others to simply know those expectations and needs is a sure way to set up negative outcomes. Most times, there is a reasonable expectation of everyone having a common standard of behavior, but in the event that this is demonstrated to not be the case, people have an obligation to call the bad behavior out. If a person incorrectly believes they are acting right, or thinks they can get away with it, they must be disabused, and no one can do that for anyone else.

  256. @Scott, sorry, you’re not making sense. Is the problem that the creep-ee has an obligation to be clear? If so, then “please don’t touch me again” is enough, right? I don’t need to haul in a huge bodybuilder boyfriend to emphasize the point?

    And isn’t it curious that the ‘socially awkward’ and clueless suddenly, miraculously can read the social signal of a looming bodybuilder dude. Somehow, their inability to read people vanishes, and they are absolutely capable of perceiving the social message of the bodybuilder dude glaring at them, or putting an affectionate arm around the creep-ee, or moving to stand between the creep-ee and creep-er.

  257. @Tanya: Yep.

    I mean, if I found the person attractive *and* he’d approached respectfully and charmingly (which I guess feeds into the first bit), he’d get a “Sorry, I really need to finish this–will you be around in an hour or so?” and someone else would get “Sorry, busy.”

    And if I were Stephen King, I wouldn’t have to write book synopses. What’s the point?

    Also? Think it is pretty well established that men are more visually stimulated than women,

    Sigh:
    http://listoftheday.blogspot.com/2011/03/8-sex-myths-you-shouldnt-believe-of-day.html
    http://aloftyexistence.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/men-more-visual-than-women/

    Would you like to cite a study or something, rather than throwing around sexism with an “it’s pretty well established” prefix?

    The men-are-more-visual angle is based almost entirely on reporting, which ignores societal pressure to report one way or another, as well as the fact that society caters far more to men physically. It’s Dr. Phil bullshit (…like most Dr. Phil things) which gets used to excuse harassment by men (…as you’re doing here, thanks) and to shame women into “not being shallow” or “giving him a chance, because he’s a nice guy and a great provider.”

    It offends me, and it pisses me off.

    For the record.

  258. @ mythago

    It’s remarkable how many of these little misunderstandings clears right up when the risk tables are turned, isn’t it?

  259. As far as the Asperger’s/socially inept excuse – I know some people who have Asperger’s and have worked with people that had schizophrenia. While both these groups lacked social skills, they could be told (and in fact, the Aspies I know like to be told) when they were doing something that made people uncomfortable or was annoying. It can be a little awkward at first, but they’re pretty nice about it. I think the problem people have is you gotta be fairly blunt and our (. These people don’t take hints or social cues, so you have to actually day “Please don’t do X” or “Could you please step back a couple steps? You’re crowding me”. By telling them nicely, you’re actually helping them learn more social skills.

    As a woman about the size of our Olympic gymnastic team who looks like she’s 18, I have been in plenty of uncomfortable situations where I didn’t stand up for myself cause I was shy, scared, or didn’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings (never mind my feelings of course). I’m working on that though, because while I might briefly feel a little badly about hurting someone’s feelings, I feel a lot worse about myself for a lot longer when I don’t stand up for myself.

  260. Scott:

    No. Human interactions are not bound by the laws of physics, by which every action is required to have an equal and opposite reaction, and your “converse” requires someone at the shallow end of a power dynamic to invest equal energy into assuring someone else leaves her be. Again: That’s crap.

    No one should have to invest energy into making it clear to others that they shouldn’t harass them. Not being harassed should be the ground state.

    “This is not to say that women have an obligation to mentor creepers into civility”

    Then stop saying they do, please.

  261. @ isabelcooper

    It offends me too, but I didn’t have the studies to back up my intuition that I wasn’t just a statistical anomaly. Thanks for bringing the artillery to bear.

  262. The problem I have with #1 is that awkward people have behaviours that they aren’t in control of. Like appropriate levels of eye contact, like body language, all that kind of thing. Those things can be intensely creepy.

    Socially awkward people tend to go out of their way to NOT be creepy or offensive, but that can be creepy in and of itself. Too much eye contact is unpleasant, but too little can send the wrong message too (and avoiding eye contact can easily be mistaken for staring at someone’s chest).

    Ultimately, for socially awkward people it doesn’t matter what they do or how hard they try – they’re going to make other people uncomfortable. The only way around it is to sequester themselves away from society.

  263. The Captain Awkward post has a premise that I disagree with, along with #3 of your post (partially). The Captain Awkward premise is “we have this friend.” Not just a “a guy at a con”, but “a friend.” In fact, in the “creeper” story, its a guy that’s divorced, having issues, etc. If this is “a friend”, then instead of nodding and laughing in front of him and then bitching behind his back, you should snatch him up by the stacking swivel and say “dude, this is how people see you, if you keep don’t change this behavior we’re not going to have you hang out with us.” That is what FRIENDS do. I fully agree its not everyone’s job to tell a creeper to stop being a creeper. But if this guy is a friend and people are being “too polite” or “too nice” (ie, “weak, stupid, and petty”) to tell the guy (or girl) to their face they are screwing up, they are failing at the large print of the term “friend”. Further, if you are laughing or otherwise going along with it to their face, then you are sending a clear message that you are ok with the actions and he’s doing fine. After all, what that person sees is what he has for feedback. Being “too nice” or “too polite” is lying to the guy, encouraging him, and reinforcing the behavior.

    Stuff happens. A guy that is used to acting a certain way in one setting may find its not acceptable in another. A person can just be reading signals wrong (especially in fandom). The person *is* responsible for their own actions, but this applies EQUALLY to everyone else. If you are laughing along, you’re approving it no matter what you say later. If he is a friend, then be a friend and say something.

    Besides, in reading some of these comments here and on the Captain Obvious one, it seems that some people consider a person a “creeper” if he is unattractive/undesired but is doing the same behavior as someone else that is attractive, in which case the “creeper” is just messing with the mating dance for that person. If (*IFF*) the guy or girl is looking around, seeing what others are doing, and is trying it…and is just not wanted by that person, that’s not “creeping”. Its “striking out,” at least as long as they take the rejection and move on. Being socially inept in not limited to males. Women in fandom can also be awkward with respect to responding to attention or lack of attention.

  264. To Dave S and everyone who has brought up the issue of acculturation and personal space:

    That is all the more reason we need posts explaining what that arm’s length or more is the SAFEST course of action in any interaction with a person you don’t know, because people from other cultures generally actively seek out advice on how to behave in a new one, and it makes life easier for all of us if the information is accessible.

    Besides, it’s not always that simple. I had to work with a guy and everyone kept telling me that he just stood so close to me because he was Russian–but I’m pretty sure his being Russian had nothing to do with the way he’d position himself behind my desk at the perfect angle to look down my top. When I found out he was a member of a synagogue I really wanted to join, I mentioned some of this to the Rabbi, who laughed and said nobody really liked this guy. I didn’t join; I would have, if the Rabbi had actually done anything about this jerk.

    re #5 – It’s nice to let the other person control whether or not touching happens, but a lot of people (especially women) have encountered too many people (usually male) who think that once YOU initiate something, you have to keep going along with it until the other party wants to stop, and if you try to get out of that and you get raped, well, you started it. (Hello rape culture.) So, I would advise just asking, especially if you think the other person might like to be touched–because it’s better to know for sure, and because anyone who finds this offensive is someone who probably wants to play games you don’t want to play. Most women (in particular) feel safer; I always thank people for asking first, whether or not I say yes. (Even if I say no, the likelihood that I will say yes after I get to know the other party is much higher after being asked, because this person has just told me that s/he respects my bodily autonomy.)

    Isabel C. – Sadly, guys who believe in “transitive property” are not going to be helped by this essay; they believe that women are either the personal property of one guy/waiting for that guy, or the property of all men everywhere, and they don’t care if they’re creepers! It’s the old Madonna/Whore complex. Even if they apologise, I’m not going to ever be alone with (or let anyone I care about be alone with) someone like that, because harassers are really good at being sorry and terrible at stopping harassing. :(

  265. @Scott: What other people have said.

    To analogize: Say that I’m rooming with someone. I entered into an agreement to share common space. There are certain things in that situation where, yeah, I need to express my preferences. If I need to get up super-early on Wednesdays and thus need Tuesday nights quiet, or the smell of Doritos makes me retch so please don’t eat them in the living room, or whatever, yep, the obligation’s on me to ask.

    I should *not* have to ask Hypothetical Roommate to refrain from 3 AM yelling matches with his girlfriend, downloading weird attachments onto my computer, or pissing on my couch. The dark day might arise when I do need to either ask these things or move out, but first of all, I’m under no obligation to have that conversation rather than going “…okay, I’ve talked to the landlord, enjoy your new ALL OF THE RENT, couch-pisser,” and second, even if I do have those conversations, it does not make my roommate anything but a horrible trainwreck of a human being.

    @Gulliver: Hey, no problem. It’s a topic that comes up occasionally in romance circles, so I have a passing familiarity with the wrongness.

  266. Kilroy:

    Thank you. I appreciate it!

    Mark:

    “Ultimately, for socially awkward people it doesn’t matter what they do or how hard they try – they’re going to make other people uncomfortable. The only way around it is to sequester themselves away from society.”

    Oh, bah. The implication that socially awkward people cannot learn to manage their interactions and/or makes others aware of their circumstances so there is context is absurd, as is the implication that all socially awkward people are socially awkward, or have the same result with their attempts to manage their social interactions. You’re being unduly fatalist here, Mark; I know bunches of socially awkward people who manage this stuff.

  267. An interesting set of conditions:
    * Assume a generally well-behaved geek.
    * Who is socially awkward, additionally with a low charisma score.
    * Who would like to have, as a part of their evening, some adult fun.

    There is a lot of media emphasizing active consent as a part of adult activities (great). But this conflicts with the points listed above and in the comments about avoiding sexual innuendo (or explicit requests). Thus, it seems that there is no way for somebody in such a position to be able to realize their goals.

  268. John, I think you’re mistaking the obligation to say, “I need to be safe, and you’re not making me feel safe.” with saying “Here’s how you can be a better person.” I am specifically, here and now, saying that no one is obligated to make anybody a better person. But every person is obligated to set their own boundaries, and express them. Period. No other definition of autonomy is possible. If you have to be responsible for your actions, then so do I. If my expectations for safety and comfort are violated, then I have to say so. If I don’t say so, and those violations continue, I am responsible. If I have to get other people involved to even up the power differential and correct the situation, that’s perfectly acceptable, but that’s a form of expression, and I have to be the one who does it. No one can do it for me.

    I’m not sure how you can see it any other way. I’m not trying to be difficult. You don’t have to explain if you don’t want to, but I really can’t see it not being a two way street. It either applies to everyone, or it isn’t valid (cf. Kant).

  269. @isabelcooper – I hear you, but I think the idea is that, if the schmuck pisses on the couch, I have to say, “Hey! I thought you knew how to behave. You obviously don’t. Don’t piss on the couch. And by the way, I can’t live with any couch pissers. Get out.” That’s setting boundaries. If the couch pisser pisses on the couch, and I don’t say anything, that’s on me.

    Any of course they’re still a bad person, but I have a responsibility for a given situation if I can’t stand up for myself.

  270. @Gulliver: I will further note that the oft-cited Nature study has a number of flaws, chief among them the selection of “identical sexual stimulus”. But we’re getting off-topic, I suppose.

    @yaeltiferet: Alas, true. And the ones who aren’t creepy gropers tend to be creepy sex-life-policers, too. Sigh.

  271. Scott, at what point is it my responsibility to say to someone “You are making me feel unsafe”?

    Is it when they walk into the room and I feel like there’s something off about them, but they haven’t interacted with me yet?

    Is it when they’re in the same group as me and I feel uncomfortable but they haven’t addressed me directly?

    Is it when they’re speaking to me and I’m uncomfortable?

    Is it when they have me cornered and I’m uncomfortable?

    Is it when they’ve approached me in a location with no one else around and blocked the exit?

    Is it when they start touching me?

    Is it when they start aggressively groping me?

    Is it when they start doing violence to me?

    I would actually like to know at what point you’re saying it’s my responsibility to inform someone that they’re overstepping my boundaries, and at what point they should already know. I’m pretty sure that we’d agree that “aggressively groping” is in the camp of “They should already know not to do this” and that “They just walked into the room” is in the camp of “Probably it’s not worth bringing up,” but how dangerous do things have to get before it stops being MY FAULT that I haven’t expressed my boundaries clearly enough? How much credit do I get if I have social anxiety that makes it hard for me to express boundaries? Do I need to inform people that I have those social anxieties so that they know I may not be able to express myself clearly about boundary violations? Do I have a responsibility to put up a card detailing my boundaries before I go to sleep, so that someone doesn’t assault me in my sleep when I am unable to express my distaste for those actions?

  272. @mythago – Sorry if I was unclear. Yes, once should be enough, but some people don’t get it/think you don’t mean it/think they can get away with it. Occasionally, the threat of violence works wonders. it doesn’t have to be specifically violent, though, just appropriately convincing. Also, in my hypothetical, the bodybuilder was a friend, not a boyfriend per se – more a stand in for any institution/group (i.e. the police, a con board, a group of friends).

  273. @Scott: I don’t think so. I mean, if that happened and I didn’t want to have that conversation, for whatever reason–Couch Pisser would throw a big old whiny fit about his inability to control himself, Couch Pisser is the retaliatory asshat type who would refuse to move out and make my life hell until I got the legal or financial means to make him do so, Couch Pisser also makes meth in his spare time and I think he might stab me–then going to the landlord, explaining the situation, and either moving out in the middle of the night or moving CP’s things out and having the locks changed while he was away seems like a perfectly reasonable option.

    And then telling people on blogs or in person about Bob, oh my God, don’t room with him ever, is totally fine.

    If you don’t know what normal boundaries are by the time you’re an adult, you need not to interact with people unless you have a mediator. They exist for much of society. Explaining them to you is *not* my responsibility unless I’ve signed on to teach Things We All Should’ve Learned In Kindergarten, The Adult Education Class.

  274. Scott:

    “I’m not sure how you can see it any other way.”

    That’s of course fine, but that’s not the same as “there is no other way.” You and I are not in disagreement that it is beneficial if others can articulate boundaries, so you know where they are, and I would encourage people to do just this. But they are not obliged to do so, and in the absence of such guidance, it falls to the individual to be observant and tread lightly.

  275. I don’t think Mark is being “unduly fatalist” at all. That kind of crap is flouncing and it’s victim-blaming. It’s meant to shame people who dislike being creeped on by telling them they’re destroying the lives of the socially awkward.

    And it’s despicable. It’s refusing to own “But I want to act that way without consequences!” It’s using genuinely awkward people (who, you know, WANT to do the right, non-creepy thing) as a human shield. It’s placing the responsibility for fixing social awkwardness not on the socially awkward, but on strangers who don’t even know them and, you know, might themselves not be extroverted social mavens

    @GK: Speaking as someone who is socially awkward yet has hooked up rather a lot at cons? You’re full of shit. It’s not a binary choice between “other people must put up with my behavior, no matter what that behavior is” and FOREVER ALONE. There is context, and there is a process of getting to know people, and there is approaching people in an informed, courteous way that doesn’t push people’s boundaries or force them to be rude to you. If you don’t understand this process? It’s learnable. Mastering the basics, like “don’t touch people just because you have pantsfeelings for them”, is a prerequisite, though.

  276. Somebody threw out what appeared to me to be a red herring saying that prohibitions against sexual harassment covered this issue. They don’t. The issues are related, but a convention isn’t a workplace with 15 or more employees so those rules don’t apply (although some of the training might be useful.) http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-sex.cfm

  277. @Mark: I don’t think John said that the socially awkward should never go out in public or make anyone uncomfortable ever for a fleeting moment. I agree with you, if that was the standard I’d have to stay home for the rest of my life. He specifically said that you cannot use your social awkwardness as a justification for creeping. Personally, I can’t always make appropriate eye contact, my natural speaking voice is overly loud and it’s hard for me to always lower it consciously, and I have the kind of sense of humor where most of the time you not only had to be there, you had to be me. Plus I stand funny, dress funny, etc. These things are only intensely bothersome to others if I insist on remaining near the people who they bother, otherwise people seem to recover from the trauma of my presence pretty quickly. This is where recognizing that “Sometimes people aren’t going to like you or want to be near you,” and acting on “Someone doesn’t want you around? Go away!” comes in.

  278. GK: We aren’t guaranteed to get what we want. That’s sad, but it’s also true. The socially awkward person who wants adult fun but doesn’t know how to go about getting it has two choices: (a) learn, (b) do without.

  279. To further articulate: yes, I *have* to do something, in the sense that letting the couch-pissing continue is the least desirable result ever.

    But there’s “have to do something” in that way–the morally-neutral “this sucks, but inaction is the worst option for me” way–and then there’s “have to do something” in the sense that you’re morally obligated to take a particular route.

    I mean, to de-analogize: I think an eyeroll and “…I have to wash my…space station…” followed by edging away, followed by Cordelia Chase-ing it (“Excuse me, I need to call everyone I know right now.”) with your preferred form of social media *is* setting boundaries. Not directly, and perhaps not nicely, but I don’t think either directness or niceness is obligatory in these situations.

  280. @Andrew Hackard: Right.

    I’ll say it before, and I’ll say it again: I am not wearing a ribbon or attending a rally to support That Guy getting his dick wet. Nor are most people I know. Bringing his lack thereof up as an OMG POTENTIAL TRAGEDY when discussing creeperdom or harassment is, therefore, unlikely to actually help anyone.

  281. @fadeaccompli – I can’t set that for you. If you’re uncomfortable, you should say something. You set your boundaries. Hypothetically, I don’t like to be touched. It makes me feel unsafe. If someone touches me, and I don’t say anything and no one else knows about my aversion, then my feeling unsafe is my responsibility. No one can be expected to read my mind.

    I think I see your point, though. There are some community norms. If those are your norms, and you see them violated, either for yourself, or for others, and you don’t say anything, then that’s a problem. If I see someone being made uncomfortable, and I don’t say anything, that’s a violation of my own standards, because I don’t want to be in an environment where people are made uncomfortable. But I can’t really be certain that I’m doing it for the person being made uncomfortable. I can only say with certainty that I’m doing it for myself.

    Please don’t think that I’m an apologist for creepers, as that’s not my intention. I’m only saying that everyone in a given situation has rights and responsibilities. Sorry if I was unclear.

  282. I think it also bears saying that (as has been pointed out earlier) there are levels here and that ‘your problems aren’t my problem’ goes both ways as long as everyone stays within reasonable social norms. If you’re in a public area and join in an ongoing conversation and something you do or say hits a trigger for someone in the group, you back off and make yourself scarce. You’ve potentially made someone deeply uncomfortable (perhaps you look like someone they’ve had history with or you hit some triggering comment or action that they are particularly sensitive to). I believe that as long as you leave them alone once it becomes clear that things have veered into creepy (from their perspective), their problem isn’t your problem. You do need to have some moderate amount of sensitivity to social cues, but the straw man suggestion that an inadvertent initial action that makes someone uncomfortable goes straight to ‘actionable’ creeptastic doesn’t hold water for me. Interact with people, stay within social norms (see John’s list above), accept that on rare occasions you’ll still hit someone’s problem spots and be sensitive about it when you do and I don’t think you can go too far wrong. Deciding that you can’t go to public events and interact with other humans because you might inadvertently (should be a very rare event for most folks I think) make someone uncomfortable (unless you have a known serious mental health issue…then see carer comments above) is not a reasonable course of action in my mind.

    Of course if you become aware that you’re bothering someone and keep on going (even if the rest of the group is still happy) then you’ve started to climb the creep-o-meter…

  283. #4 is key, in my estimation. Especially as it relates to geek culture. Anyone who has spent enough time trawling through escapist media (with it’s marty sues, and it’s pretty consistently skewed gender politics) as opposed to having real social interactions, and is shoved into a large space full of cosplaying members of the opposite sex is likely in for a hard landing on this lesson.

  284. @Scott: No one can be expected to know that they shouldn’t just touch you? Seriously? The fact that you are talking about how creep-ees should behave and just about zero regarding how creepers should behave is why you’re coming across as an apologist.

    Re the bodybuilder boyfriend: So, again, the problem isn’t that the creeper is incapable of understanding their actions are unwelcome; the problem is that the cost of their actions needs to be escalated to make them stop.

  285. @mythago: I was gonna say: I really don’t think most people go around touching others without some kind of invitation. (Please join me in Verse 3 of “We Are Not Four Years Old (And You Don’t Touch Your Boss, Do You?)”, the extended dance mix.) For anyone who functions as an adult in normal society, that’s a relatively easy concept. Like, look around. Do you see people–even on really crowded trains–touching other people they’ve talked to for a minute and a half? No? Then don’t do that shit.

    Basically: it is not my responsibility to set boundaries that any functional adult can figure out from three minutes of observing the world around them.

  286. @isabelcooper – I hear you. Not that you need my approval, but I think that counts. In my hypothetical, landlord=bodybuilder. Sometimes direct confrontation is a difficult option if violence is possible. But I still have to set the boundaries, and expression can take a lot of different forms. The important part is that I take responsibility for acting. I can’t expect anyone to read my mind/pick up on my social cues. If only for my own safety (in the harassment hypothetical) I have to make sure that the person knows they can’t do that to me. Otherwise, silence equaling consent in the minds of some creepers, they might think they can do it again.

  287. @isabelcooper: Yes. And as others pointed out in the other thread, it’s funny how the ‘socially awkward’ nonetheless manage to pick up on some of those social cues. Say, the straight-guy creeper who nonetheless does not touch other guys. Huh! It’s almost like he’s absorbed a social rule!

    I once was in a trial against an opposing lawyer who, while mostly pleasant, had a habit of touching my shoulder or arm when we were standing in proximity (say, to review a document). I couldn’t figure this out – the guy wasn’t hitting on me, and seriously, as anyone who saw me in my role as Who’s The Dork Who Showed Up In A Suit at one of Scalzi’s readings can attest, pinstripes do not magically turn me into an irresistible sexpot. Then I saw the guy doing the same thing to a male associate who worked for him. Issue cleared up: it wasn’t sexual, it was an unconscious dominance thing. He sure didn’t put his hand on the judge’s or court clerk’s arm.

    Malicious? No. Sexual? No. Completely inappropriate and for all the wrong reasons? You bet.

  288. John Scalzi says:
    Brian Mac:
    If you think this sort of crap happens only at science fiction conventions, you are sorely mistaken, I have to tell you. Don’t confuse us talking about this at conventions with this not being a problem elsewhere. As noted in the entry, creeping can go on anywhere (and does).

    This is almost definitely a TL;DR post, but it’s relevant to John’s comment about creeping going on anywhere, I promise.

    As John says, this does happen anywhere and unfortunately, has happened to me–repeatedly, and from the same person–at work. I’ve been here 9 ½ years, working in the office of a produce company in a rural area. It’s a family-owned (not my family) business and I work for very good people for whom I have a great deal of respect, despite the rampant nepotism I encounter daily and the ‘I hates the gub’mint!’ mentality.

    Let me preface my story by explaining that I’m a single mom with a 17 yo daughter who will be attending college in a year and that after my years at this job, I make more money than I have the ability to make at pretty much any other job in my small town/rural area with the limited skill set that I posses (read: no college education, used to be a waitress). So I MUST keep my job. Also, the creeper in question has worked for the company for some 20 years, perhaps longer. He is an extremely valued warehouse employee and can do no wrong in the eyes of my bosses. NO wrong. I am not exaggerating. Last bit of explanation, I’m a SWF and creeper-man is Mexican by birth, and speaks just enough English to get by but not enough to actually hold a conversation, despite his decades in the U.S.

    So, he’s always been very friendly but also has always done a boob check when he either comes into the office or I go into the warehouse (which I avoid nowadays, if at all possible). Always. No matter what kind of top I’m wearing. Now, I’m in my early 40s and have never been what you might call a knock-out. Or even beautiful. I’m rather plain Jane and have been mildly to moderately overweight since I was a child. Despite my obvious physical deficiencies (tongue-in-cheek), I’ve been hit on a lot at bars and such and have had my disinterest met with a variety of reactions ranging from incredulity to hostility. Sometimes my dissenting responses were just flat ignored, in which case the creepiness continued, increasing as the creeper drank more… which is one reason why I don’t frequent bars anymore. But I digress… this is about my work creeper.

    Being Mexican-born Mexican (being called ‘Hispanic’ is an insult to them, in case that isn’t a well-known fact), my creeper comes from a culture that’s very touchy-feely. They hug, they kiss, they touch. It took some years for him to start trying to do this kind of thing with me, but he has always, IIRC, stood too close and touched my hand too long when handing me something. Eventually, it turned into standing close enough for our shoulders to touch when I was going over a warehouse order with him, or hovering so close behind me as to nearly touch me when I’d dig through bins in the parts room to find something for him. He even got to where he’d block the door to the parts room so that I had to either shove him out of the way or squeeze by him to get out.

    Now this wasn’t every day, all the time… it was now and again and sometimes weekly, but it did escalate over time. Having been raised to never “make waves” and frankly, not wanting to lose my job, I never commented on it to the bosses. Then he hugged and tried to kiss me at Christmas a couple of years ago. Then he followed me home after work though I managed to lose him in my small town so that he didn’t discover where I live. Before anyone asks, I know he was following me because when leaving the office that day, he turned right to go to his house which is very near the office and I turned left to take the freeway home. I noticed him turn around in my rear-view mirror and then he had to pretty much haul ass to catch up to me in order to get on the freeway just after I did. 15 miles later, after driving 90 all the way in an attempt to leave him behind, he was still there in my rear-view when I exited, before I eventually lost him in town.

    So… I casually mentioned to one of the bosses (owner’s daughter, who hired me) that creeper guy was kind of creepy and too touchy-feely sometimes. The reaction was that he didn’t mean anything by that! He’s a good guy, surely he didn’t realize he was making you uncomfortable!! The ‘that’s just how he is!’ attitude made me realize that I wouldn’t get any understanding or action from the bosses. Even my American-born Mexican boyfriend of many, many years brushed it off, assuming that I must have done something to encourage the guy. Which made me feel fantastic, let me tell you!

    Some internet friends suggested I explain to him that he was making me uncomfortable but that’s not really possible to do without a translator. And really, I felt like I was being vain in thinking that this man was possibly attracted to me and (IMO) borderline stalking me… so telling anyone about it rather felt like bragging. Even though I know that’s not what it IS, that’s what I feared people would THINK it was. Capice?

    Finally, one of my dear friends said, “Just say ‘NO!’ and back away… ‘no’ means ‘no’ in Spanish, too.” So, der… I did just that when he actually put his arm around me as I was going over an order with him one day in the warehouse. I said “NO!”, I backed away, then I wordlessly handed him the order and left. I got a smile that I interpreted as, “Aww, come on… you know you like it!” But he did mostly back off after that, about a year and a half ago. Though he has started getting friendly again, with the hand touching and boob-checking. So I might need another strongly worded denial of his unwanted attention again soon.

    Apologies for the novelette, there was a lot to explain. And this goes to show that not everyone has the ability to completely escape or even avoid their creeper.

  289. @Daveon:
    Being good at “picking up women” and being a creep are not the same things. I have friends who, shall we say, are very good in that department and generally speaking have good relationships with all their exes even if the liaison was, shall we say, limited to a few nights. One of the reasons they were so successful was because they weren’t creeps… Married female friends would explain to me that they had something they just liked and if they were single they would act on it. Another feature was they didn’t hit on married female friends.

    I am not surprised. It is my belief that women find desirable men who genuinely like women and treat them like equals that they want to talk to and respect the opinions of. Respecting boundaries is all about respecting the other person as a person. Not respecting boundaries is about treating the other person as an object that exists for your convenience. Guess which attitude the other person prefers?

  290. [Deleted because responding to a deleted post. Folks, when you encounter a post that's obviously a troll and/or complete misogynistic bullshit, best to leave it to me -- JS]

  291. Thus, it seems that there is no way for somebody in such a position to be able to realize their goals.

    The best comment I’ve read on this particular topic went something like “it’s easier to not be a creeper if you don’t have a goal you’re creeping toward.” As many have said, someone’s “goals” don’t place any obligations on anyone else, social awkwardness or no. If you’re viewing a social event primarily as an opportunity to hook up rather than to socialize, you’re probably doing it wrong. Even if some of the other people there to socialize actually do hook up.

    I agree with Avril Korman’s point that if a socially awkward person makes an honest faux pas — hey, it happens even to people who *aren’t* socially awkward — he or she can also make a serious effort not to repeat that mistake. Creepers may pretend they make a mistake, but it’s all about a pattern of behavior. And if you’re usuing social awkwardness to excise a pattern of offensive behavior — yours or someone else’s — that’s just creepy.

    Thanks for the post, Mr. Scalzi. I’m about to attend a Big Nerd Culture Event in Indianapolis next week, and I’ll have this post, as well as other recent ones on related topics, very much in mind.

  292. Other Bill says:
    tessuraea: Indeed. Indeed. And, honestly, how many socially awkward encounters does one have in their life? That fit this issue? Ten, twelve? I mean, I’m SWM, so my guesstimate might be low.

    Your guesstimate is ridiculously low. My 17 yo daughter can’t stop at the gas station without attracting unwanted, creepy attention from guys, young and old, who seem to think that complimenting her car is creeper camouflage. She knows that they’re admiring more than her 2 year old Nissan and it’s creepy as hell for her.

  293. Wow. This conversation is amazing. I have always said that anyone who has a friend who is displaying creeper or proto-creeper behavior needs to say something. Not saying something just promotes the culture. I’m good at doing this with friends, to the point that some people are no longer my friends. They were so wounded by me calling them on their crap, that they avoided me forever after that.

    I do have a confession to make, though. I am a huge coward when it comes to confronting a close family member who is both: 1. Probably Asperger’s. and 2. Definitely a creeper. I think the Aspergers contributes to the creeper behavior but it is NOT the cause and it is NOT an excuse. I think that perhaps no one has told him how bad his behavior is. I know that he responds well to rules, like “I will go to dinner with you, but only if we only change our table once”. This was put into place after once changing tables three times during a meal because there was a draft at one table, the light was in his eyes at another, and people were loud at the third. So perhaps if he can learn the dinner rule, it will work to tell him rules like “You can never talk about “pretty nurses” in front of your nurse who is taking care of you in the hospital.” Or, “turning and staring at a very attractive woman in the elevator is considered rude and harassing. It is not allowed, ever.” Hell, if I could tell him “it is inappropriate and makes me uncomfortable when you tell me dirty jokes, no more dirty jokes ever”, it might improve my life a bit. But I’m scared to do this, this is the one person I have trouble confronting because they are a family member and I don’t want to lose them from my life. Then again, if he doesn’t change his behavior, maybe I don’t want him in my life.

  294. [Deleted because responding to a deleted post. Folks, when you encounter a post that's obviously a troll and/or complete misogynistic bullshit, best to leave it to me -- JS]

    Phew! I managed to avoid posting a response to the deleted post, if only because I couldn’t come up with a way to phrase the response to my satisfaction. Sometimes my inability to write good saves me from myself.

  295. I more meant: don’t assume that the person is malicious;
    but I do agree that staying away from uncomfortable people, whether they are clueless or not, is a win.

    I’m not trying to defend creepers….I had a creep hit on me last month! but I am not going to hate him, just avoid him.

  296. John: I appreciate your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

    It’s been very interesting reading all the comments. Obviously with all the justifications and excuses, this topic really needs to be out there more. Please guys (and kilt-raising female friends), help each other out. If you see a friend crossing boundaries, say something. Trying to be better human beings, or helping others do the same, is never a waste of time.

  297. Todd, this “beta-male” business, as far as I can tell, comes from the nastier and more fringe elements of the MRA. Not everyone is interested in being the boss-wolf. Be that as it may, John Scalzi and Jim Hines are not displaying beta behaviour. They’re taking a strong and principled stand and letting the vulnerable members of their community know that they stand with them in trying to prevent sexual aggression against them. That’s the polar opposite of weak, and I thank them for it.

  298. Yeah, 10-12…a year, maybe. And I don’t go to a whole lot of events with people I don’t know, which helps, and I give pretty good Fuck Off eyes, so I’m probably on the low end of the scale.

    @Scott: Thank you; I do appreciate that. The thing is this, though:

    I’m not expecting anyone to read my mind.
    I’m not really even expecting anyone to pick up on subtle social cues.
    I’m expecting people to recognize and abide by nearly-universal standards of behavior. (Cue some guy coming in to complain about how I’m being imperialist because Montreal is the Gropiest Place on Earth, or something, and I cheerfully invite that guy to get bent.) Standards which most of them manage to abide by in ninety percent of their lives. That’s a very different expectation. And it’s sort of frustrating when you don’t seem to recognize that, so please stop invoking the read-my-mind/pick-up-on-subtleties thing.

    As far as the need for action and the silence-means-consent thing goes…well, acting is *good*, don’t get me wrong, if you can manage it. But a lot of people can’t, either for circumstantial reasons or because, honestly, a lot of the really weird sorts of harassment can catch you flat-footed. I’ve had several situations where my ten-minutes-later response was “Die in a fire, dipshit,” but while the incident was going on, I had a SAN loss moment of “…he what? He huh? But people don’t say that. That’s not a thing people say. OH GOD THE ANGLES ARE ALL WRONG.”

    Also, I’m not really sure what you’re trying to achieve with the “you’re responsible for setting boundaries” thing, or what it’s meant to help. Seriously. You seem pretty reasonable, and not like MRA troll guy or anything, so…why are you saying all of this? What do you think it will achieve? What’s your goal here?

  299. @Jill: Sure, you don’t have to. But that’s *your* choice. My choice to regard another guy–or even the same guy–as a waste of good hydrogen, and to be angry about what happened, is not wrong either.

    “Don’t assume they’re malicious”–at a certain point, willful ignorance *is* malicious, for one thing, and for another thing, it’s really not anyone else’s place to tell me what I should assume about someone harassing me. From where I sit, it sounds like a milder version of “Don’t be such a bitch, he’s just trying to be friendly.”

    Being a bitch and assuming that tool-appearing guys are actually tools has improved the quality of my life pretty substantially, thanks.

  300. @Scott: No one can be expected to know that they shouldn’t just touch you? Seriously?

    Pretty much. The fact that they are touching shows that any expectation of not being touched is incorrect. Just because I don’t want people to touch me doesn’t mean they won’t. If I don’t want someone to touch me, and they do, that means they don’t have the same expectations that I do, and I have to use my words to communicate that they crossed a line, and they shouldn’t.

    I hear you on the sounding-like-an-apologist front. Let me be clear – creepers suck (though I’m not crazy about the labeling – that’s for another time). Part of the idea of my responsibility to communicate my boundaries is that if I don’t communicate clearly what I will and won’t accept, I in effect enable further bad behavior towards myself and others. If I need to gather a group together and clearly explicate those boundaries because I don’t feel safe (because of the violator’s perceived or actual power over me), or approach a group that already has these values and the power to enforce them (i.e. the police, in the case of rape and assault and the whole range of awful things that people are capable of doing to each other) then I should do so. The bodybuilder friend was meant as a stand in for any person or group that could balance out a perceived or actual power differential.

  301. Paige Turner said: John Scalzi and Jim Hines are not displaying beta behaviour. They’re taking a strong and principled stand and letting the vulnerable members of their community know that they stand with them in trying to prevent sexual aggression against them. That’s the polar opposite of weak, and I thank them for it.”

    As do I. John Scalzi, Jim Hines, and other such men have long been out of beta. They are Adult Male V.2, at the very least.

  302. katyisbutthurt says: August 10, 2012 at 2:47 am
    I agree with 99.99% of what you wrote, with a tiny modification.

    Until other MEN and WOMEN start calling these asshats out on their behavior, it will continue. Until other men and women start telling the creepers among them that they are socially unacceptable and their behavior is out of line, it will continue.

    And NO, I am NOT talking about the victims, the people being creeped and preyed upon. I am talking about all of the rest of us. When we see this happen, it is our job to point this out. As long as asshats are allowed to continue being asshats with no consequences, they will never, ever stop.

    Eternal vigilance.

  303. Andrea says: August 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm
    I am lucky to have a large family. So shunning 1/6th of them is not so much of a hardship. In the end, life is much happier when you are not around these people. Learning to build those boundaries only took 50 years of practice.

    Should you confront your family member? Yes. Will it be hard and potentially hurtful? Yes. While there is a chance for a bad outcome, there is also a chance for a good outcome. It is possible that this person truly doesnt know that their behavior is wrong. But as most people hear seem to think, asper improper behavior and creepy improper behavior are almost always separate and different.

    Maybe this is the case where they truly don’t know that they are in the wrong because everyone has been afraid of confronting them. Maybe letting them know that their actions and continuing said actions will have consequences. That you wont be able to be friends with them.

  304. isabelcooper says:
    From where I sit, it sounds like a milder version of “Don’t be such a bitch, he’s just trying to be friendly.”

    This is EXACTLY what I’ve gotten in response to putting down guys hard in the past. It’s exceedingly insulting to a woman, or anyone who’s frustrated with being considered “fair game” and/or “rude” for not swooning at unwanted attention.

  305. Peter Cibulskis, I agree about the addition of women. I am a woman. Some years ago, I knew a guy who was a creep, we all knew he was a creep, yadda yadda. I mostly avoided him as much as possible, warned my female friends about him, but never confronted him. I now wish I had. I wouldn’t have changed him, but it would have been the honorable thing to do to say, “This is not okay.” He left his wife for a woman he met online. After he left town, his wife started hearing about his creepy behavior from other people in their social circle and was bewildered and hurt that no one had told her. I knew his wife even less well than I knew him, which wasn’t well at all, and to this day I don’t know that I would have told her, but I do wish I had called him out. I wish my brother had too, who was employed by the same company and who is an Adult Male V.2 who was raised with a lot of sisters and likes and respects women a lot. But that was 20 years ago. Maybe now, he would say something to the creep. I like to think we have made some progress. Still more to make.

  306. Oh yes, an open invitation from all of us assertive types to everyone else. If you know us, ask us. We will always step in and let asshats know that they are being asshats. Politely.

  307. @ Johnathan Vos Post –
    Gulliver: the bad news is that the school’s assistant principles told me: “You don’t have to press charges.”

    Disgusting. Revolting. Sickening.

    The good news is that I did, and the creeper was convicted of criminal Assault & Battery.

    The cowardly Assistant Principal should have been done for aiding and abetting after the fact, and attempting to conceal a crime, but a prosecutor probably wouldn’t present those charges unless you were an elected official. Heal quickly and completely, please.

    @49th –
    I suspect that part of your problem is like mine. We either did not learn the skills that pre-schoolers learn, learned them incorrectly, or have forgotten or repressed them. There are actual reasons that those things happen to people; therapy can help. Social skills training can help. John’s list has a lot of good ideas, I’ve learned them over the years and try to practice them. Sadly, it’s obvious to some that I am trying to practice them, rather than doing them instinctively, and there are people who object to that. The normals can’t tell us how to be social, because they don’t know how to teach being social, they only know unconsciously and instantly, without conscious thought, how to be humanly social, and many (most?) of them refuse to believe we don’t know. You can learn and become better at being a social human, even if you were raised by wolves or humans who were unskilled socially, and you’ll be unlikely to complain that the functional trichromat people aren’t looking properly.

    @”No means No” –
    Yes, it does, sometimes to the speaker’s regret. “You never called again!” “You said, quite firmly, ‘No’, and slammed the phone down.” “You should have called again!” “After you said ‘No’ like that? You could have called me.” “I didn’t say ‘Never call me again!’” … I don’t think it would have worked out back then either, from other conversations with her then (conversation snipped from a 25th college reunion.) The normals don’t always get it right, either. If they tell you — or you infer — to go away, go away. Part of social human is “Tag, you’re it!”

  308. BW, Paige Turner:

    The “Men’s Rights” definition of “beta male” appears to be “any man who does not loathe and fear women.” Which is instructive, I suppose.

  309. Right, and a lot of guys exploit the hell out of that “just trying to be friendly” thing, too. A major reason why Nice Guys never actually make a damn move is that making a move would confirm their intentions and give the woman something to say no to. As it is, if a guy is just sort of…around, all the time, and just a little inside the boundaries, and a little hinky, and you God forbid say “Just so you know, I’m really not interested,” then dear Lord you are so bitchy and presumptuous and why do you think all guys who try to be friendly are hitting on you, you’re not even that hot?

    Eventually, you get jaded and tired enough of it to say that no, you have male friends who act nothing like that, and regardless of your intentions, you’re *acting* like you want in my pants, so stop. Or to throw a drink in his face. But that takes a while, and even I’m more reluctant to do it if the guy is part of my social group and is likely to cause drama.

  310. Peter: This is also known as the “women need to stop fucking rotten men” principle.

    There are genuine reasons why some women enable rotten behavior in men–low self-esteem, cultural conditioning, fear of consequences–but there are also a lot of women who simply don’t care what these guys do to other women. They believe that it’s normal male/female power dynamics, or that it’s actually sexy when a guy pushes past boundaries, and thus think women who complain about that are anti-sex harpies. And as bad as it is when dudebro’s male buddies support–or don’t call him on–his rotten behavior, it’s even worse when that enabling comes from women.

    Of course, the dude in question needs to know that even if one women–or a dozen–lets him treat them like shit, that doesn’t give him carte blanche to do so with other women. But I can pretty much guarantee that dude’s creeper m.o. would change if it ceased being successful at all, and only women can make that happen. When the goal you’re trying to reach is compelling enough, even a little incentive is enough to wipe out a whole heckuva lot of roadblocks. I honestly think that one woman saying “yes” to a creeper wipes out two dozen telling him to fuck off. In his experience, that’s still a pretty good success rate, so he’s going to keep doing it. As angry as it makes me when I see dude getting his creep on, it makes me even more angry when I see women responding to it. Just … ugh. Stop.

  311. Oh, and “my stalker”, the one who was locked up, was a hottie. Rabbit-ear magazine centerfold hot. There were some on the dorm floor who wondered which of us was crazier, her, or me for not taking advantage of her “willingness”. People.

  312. John –

    Great post, great weigh-in on the topic, and as always it’s a pleasure to see you wield the hammer. You have such a talent for homing in on the essence of an argument (good or bad).

  313. @isabella – I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt. I’m really not trolling.

    I think part of it stems from not having set boundaries for myself in situations that I should have, and recognizing that I bear responsibility for my inaction. I also don’t think it’s right to hold myself to a certain standard, and other people to a different standard. So, if I’m expecting a creeper to act like a responsible adult and recognize that other people are autonomous, and that he or she has control over his actions, then I’m also responsible for my own actions. I am responsible for how I choose to let the world interact with me, insofar as I can act. One way that I can act in the hypothetical of some creepy person is by telling them to quit creepin’.

    And lest it sound like an abstract point, I think it’s pretty important. I’m not responsible for how other people act, but only for my responses to their actions, and I have a responsibility to myself to act in my own best interests as best I can. Saying that I don’t have to say anything absolves me of a responsibility that I don’t think I have the right to give up, since my actions effect other people who might come into contact with this person, as well as myself (if I might come into contact with this person in the future). If I need to circle around and communicate with this person at a later point (perhaps with the backing of a group or authority of some kind, to make sure I get what I want), then that’s what I would do.

    I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect people to act right. I can’t speak for you, but my experience living where I live has been that expecting folks to do the right thing is a sure-fire path to disappointment. I don’t expect the worst, mind you. I just try to suspend judgement. It’s not easy.

    I hear you though that, in the moment, some things just catch you flat footed. If I suddenly recognize, “Hey, I’ve been taken advantage of/harassed/insulted/rick-rolled,” even after the fact, I might have to really consider whether I need to do something, or let it go. Nothing is cut and dry, and I’m not a fanatic. Timing is everything. Sometimes the time to do something has passed, and I have to let it go.

  314. ” John, I think you’re mistaking the obligation to say, “I need to be safe, and you’re not making me feel safe.” ”

    This is NOT an obligation. I do not need to explain myself.

  315. @ John Scalzi:

    Yeah, that definition sounds about right. Although I’m leaning more toward their definition of “beta male” being “a man who doesn’t validate my mistaken image of myself as an alpha male by behaving like I do”.

  316. @Jess – You definitely don’t have to explain WHY you feel as you do, and no one should expect you to. All I’d like to do is remove the ability for the disingenuous or actually clueless to say, “Well, I didn’t know he/she didn’t want me to….” Whereupon I could say to them, “You knew, because I told you. So cut it out.”

  317. @Scott: I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t agree. I don’t expect myself to read anyone’s mind or necessarily pick up on cues, but I *do* expect myself to follow basic social rules, and I hold other people to the same standard.

    Which is not to say that I’m surprised when they fail. I wouldn’t be *surprised* if someone breaks into my house and takes my TV, either, insofar as I know that some people do these things, but I’d be pissed. And I don’t think that I would be responsible for, say, putting a sign on my house that says PLEASE DO NOT TAKE MY STUFF, because…thief guy should know that already.

    As far as confrontation keeping a creeper from further creeping…well, it might. It might make him subtler. And if I don’t confront him, the next girl he sleezes at might call the cops, or break his jaw, or some other action that makes me happy inside. (I also take the position that most of these asshats don’t change–if they wanted to, they would have–and the best thing one can do regarding them is warn everyone and/or try to remove them from various social circles.) Either way, calling someone on his behavior is good, but holding victims responsible for his further behavior is a pretty shitty thing to do to someone who’s just been victimized, and that’s what “you’re responsible for setting boundaries OR ELSE WHAT ABOUT THE NEXT GIRL” boils down to.

    Frankly? Most of these guys know what the boundaries are good and well. Most of them just don’t care.

  318. @Scott: How about saying some version of, “Well, you should have known, because you weren’t raised in a cave. Now stop your whining and don’t do it again.”?

  319. I know that a lot of what Scott’s been saying feels like a head-scratcher, but …

    As bizarre as it sounds when people assert that “don’t touch strangers” isn’t something everyone learns, it’s actually true.

    Common sense isn’t all that common, and when you’re surrounded by a sexist culture that reinforces the idea that women enjoy being “conquered” by macho dudebros, yeah, that’s what people are going to learn. Men learn that that’s an appropriate way to seek sex, and women learn that that’s a flattering expression of attention, and a reinforcement of their value as a person.

    It’s really only been the last few decades that women have, en masse, started believing that an ability to provide sexual pleasure for men is not the only or primary thing of value about them, and that men pursuing them only on that count is a not a flattering reinforcement of their value to the world. And the forces of evil that depend on that power imbalance have fought back pretty damned hard, trying to get women to believe otherwise again. So, yes, there are a lot of people who genuinely believe that the hands-off admonishment either doesn’t apply to them, or doesn’t apply when they’re trying to get some.

    This doesn’t mean that people who are victims of this stuff have a responsibility to gently educate the assgaskets doing it. But it does mean that things like this post are useful, in that they help reset the social standard to the hands-off state it should be in. It does seem like people should know better than to hit on total strangers in a non-hitting-on space, but there are millions of people–including women–who sincerely believe that only sexless prudes believe that, and therefore such admonishments don’t or shouldn’t matter. Until the rest of the culture starts reinforcing the other standard, they’ll go on believing that.

  320. JOhn, I appreciate what you’ve done here, this is indeed a good start. Where I think it needs to go from here is to deal with the culture of support that enables creepers to prosper. In other words, I think we need a “These are the signs of a creeper- don’t support it” for the men around creepers. Creepyness will only really be combated when it’s no longer tolerated by the people who witness creepyness.

  321. @A Mediated Life: That I agree with.

    I still think the best response to “…but but but I didn’t know…” is “Well, you should have known, and now you do,” or “Really? Because you don’t try to give *me* random backrubs,” or “How do you not know that?” because I believe in the value of shame, and because adults have plenty of resources other than trial-and-error, and because that response puts the responsibility of educating him or herself back on the creeper, who has tried to make it someone else’s via ignorance-as-excuse.

    But yeah, that’s why posts like this one are valuable.

  322. Yeah, what ericthetolle said.

    Victims alone shouldn’t be the only ones responsible for getting creepers to stop creeping. Just as in criminal law, there’s the concept of accomplices, accessories, etc., so, too should there be that concept in social “law.” So long as creepers are getting more reinforcement than blowback from everyone except their victims, they’ll keep doing what they do.

    Like it or not, we are a social species, and life is not a series of isolated, one-on-one interactions which no-one else can influence or be affected by. We don’t go through life in hamster balls. It’s corny but true that evil flourishes when good folks do nothing.

  323. One of the scenarios I’m picturing with respect to Asperger’s more or less boils down to this:

    An Aspie at a con, pretty far along the spectrum, is walking down a corridor from point A to point B. He’s flapping his hands and walking awkwardly. I note this because these are actions, behaviors. Without speaking to anyone, without making eye contact with anyone, without touching anyone, without coming within arm’s length of anyone, he’s making some people uncomfortable. This is one of those cases where some people would just prefer fifty feet of personal space.

    I think he has an excuse. I think this is entirely forgiveable. I think if anyone complained to me about this behavior, assuming there’s nothing worse than what I describe, and asked me to have the person removed from the con as a creeper (not that I have any such authority), I’d tell them to go to hell, and if I were accused of “blaming the victim,” I’d make the language more explicit.

    Now, from all I can tell, this isn’t what John is talking about, but I have to wonder whether this is part of what people have in mind when they ask whether Asperger’s is any sort of defense. Really, for such trivial offenses, it is.

    Another example: suppose the most socially skilled person in the world is in an incredibly realistic zombie costume. He looks like he just woke up from a six-week dirt nap and hasn’t had a shower yet. Animatronic maggots swarm about the slab of raw meat where half his face used to be. Without being sexual, his costume makes people uncomfortable, entirely by design. Again, suppose he’s not touching, not following, not boxing. At what point is he a creeper? Eye contact? Suppose he does a bit of flirting, just to get reactions. He leers, asks women for a kiss, they shriek, and he goes away. Or he gets a kiss on the prosthetic latex Is it clear that his attempts at flirting are facetious, and the shrieks he receives in reply are an expected part of the game? Granted, maybe the people in the more impressive costumes can let the attendees come up to them rather than the other way around.

    Another example, as removed from cons as possible: picture a diner in a small town in rural Texas. A stranger walks in the door, a Mr. Singh, with beard and turban. Everyone in the diner is uncomfortable. The diners no doubt suspect Mr. Singh is a suicide bomber. Mr. Singh wonders whether he’s going to be dead in a ditch in an hour. Now, Mr. Singh might be foolish for going into a diner in rural Texas, but is he a creeper?

  324. @Scott, I think where you’re having a bit of a problem is with the different consequences of “setting boundaries”. Women can and are assaulted for just politely refusing a male’s attention, where a guy politely refusing a woman would not likely face the same severity of response.

  325. @isabel – hahaha. “At the risk of offending the perfectly well socialized animals that were raised caves….”

    Well, there’s reasons to not confront. Somebody’s threatening violence, get out and live to fight another day, and make sure you’ve got a lot of those body builders (the law) with you when you eventually do confront. Don’t want to cause a scene? Okay, maybe take it outside, as the saying goes, or do something later. Just because it won’t necessarily help doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. There’s a question there, and I’m genuinely asking here: if I don’t help in a situation where I could, am I responsible for the outcome of that situation? I don’t know. I tend to think yes at least in some way, but that doesn’t mean that I’m right.

    @Mediated – Exactly. I don’t have to educate them, gently or otherwise. I just have to tell them, for me, to stop, if I can.

    Alright. I’ve talked enough. Thank you all for discussing this. I’ve got to pretend to do work today.

  326. @GBCCm: Creeper = making other people give you personal, often physically or emotionally intimate, attention because you feel you’re entitled to it.

    It’s kinda like religion: you’re free to practice your beliefs in any way you like so long as it doesn’t require the unwilling participation of others.

  327. @GBCC: Points A and C fall under “the right to swing your fist ends at my nose”, and C has a side of “also, people should stop being goddamn racist motherfuckers.” Thus, nonapplicable.

    Point B…depends. Is the con a horror con? If so, then as long as the “hey, gimme a kiss” things are toward people who are clearly enthusiastic about interacting with him (and ideally spaced equally among genders) and he’s not bugging anyone…sure, fine. If not, I’d say the costume’s inappropriate, especially somewhere with younger kids, some of whom love that sort of thing but some of whom will have three weeks of nightmares. Deliberately trying to gross out an audience who didn’t sign up for that sort of thing is an asshat move, really.

  328. A Mediated Life says: August 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm
    Peter: This is also known as the “women need to stop fucking rotten men” principle.

    Oh, dont get me started on this one. I saw this all through college. The women dating the Smooth Asshat, and then complaining to their nice male friends about how all men are asshats and where are all the nice men. Mostly not dating you … Having older sisters and no older brother helped me by never having an asshat set a bad example for me and sisters to want to protect from those asshats.

  329. @Scott… I mean this kindly, but I feel like it’s very easy for you to say what women must do because you are male and you don’t have to do it. Stop for a moment. Think what it’s like for the *norm* of your day to day life to be boundary violation.

    The norm. Not an isolated incident or two. The norm, where I – you, as a woman, find that headspace a moment – must constantly, constantly check her physical surroundings to be certain that she has completely accounted for any assault – minor to major – and done everything she can to prevent it.

    I am hypervigilant as it is.

    Are you suggesting that I – you, that you and I as a woman in the world, if you are in my shoes – must always, always be in that state?

    Because it’s not one day, Scott. It’s not one moment.

    It’s twenty moments in hundreds of days, to so many varying different degrees that it would make your head spin how many times your space, desires, your *person* is disregarded because you’re female.

    The issue with your argument isn’t a practical one. Sure, practically speaking yes. It helps if I say “this is making me uncomfortable.”

    You are telling me that I must do that a hundred, three hundred, ten thousand times. Or it is my fault if it goes any other way.

    The problem is larger than my saying what my boundaries are. The problem is, as John has clearly said, that the culture is one in which boundary transgression is the norm for women, and that we need to re-educate what the actual norm should be so that women are not defending what should be an obvious boundary CONSTANTLY.

    I play hockey. I fight. I lift weights. People who know me joke about “not messing with me.” I still spend a lot of my life feeling unsafe. As I’ve said, three times now, men taking responsibility for not transgressing my space – and seeing to it that other men don’t either by education and example – is a huge thing for me.

    Please don’t undermine its importance. You seem like a rational, nice person. I think you’re also capable of thinking compassionately.

  330. @Peter, 2:46 — The assumption you’re making here is that men and women occupy the same positions socially. They don’t. Yes, it’s great when women can ALSO call people out and create safe space, but often the consequence of that is *becoming the target of the creeper*. Other consequences tend to be things like being told, by your male “friends,” that you’re overreacting, or he’s really a nice guy, or whatever. Which is a whole ‘nother problem and should result in the finding of new friends, but the point is that creeper behavior happens in part because the greater culture allows it by making excuses for it. (See: many of the posts in this thread.)

    So yes, let’s all try to help cleanse the culture of the assumption that this behavior is okay and will be tolerated. And let’s not put the onus of it on women, even this way.

  331. @GBCCm: Your exacmples all boil down to “someone makes others uncomfortable because of their conspicuous difference.” But that in and of itself isn’t creeping; simply making people uncomfortable isn’t creeping. As A Mediated Life pointed out, creeping is focused on the deliberate drawing of an individual’s focus to oneself, often by taking advantage of some kind of power imabalance — even if it’s just other people’s politeness or unwillingness to stage a confrontation. It isn’t about “trivial offences”; it’s about a pattern of behavior that deliberately discounts other people’s feelings. A Sikh walking into a diner has nothing to do with it.

  332. “random back rubs”
    The video of Bush 2.0 touching Merkel’s shoulders, her reaction and his facial expression as he ran away were priceless. Bush KNEW immediately that he should NOT have done what he did. This was not the first time he had done this to someone. His facial expression as he walked away was fear. Fear that he had been caught.

  333. @Michelle Sagara: I love you, in an abstract Platonic non-creepy way. Well said.

    @Everyone who seconded my recommendation for “The Gift of Fear”. Thanks. I don’t think that book can be recommended highly enough to A) Women to protect themselves and B) Men to realize just how huge this problem is in our society.

    I know of so many women who buy themselves costume jewelry rings to wear on their left hand, ONLY to conventions. It doesn’t stop all the creeping, but it reduces the frequency.

    I suspect that serial creepers also park in handicapped spaces and talk at the theater. It’s all about feeling entitled.

    Mrs. Scalzi and Mrs. Hines are very lucky women indeed. Were John and Jim not so openly happily ridiculously married, they would, frankly, get more women than they’d know what to do with. ;)

  334. GBCCM @ 3:40 p.m. (Hey, I’m writing in the future, it’s only 12:51 here…)

    I see your real problem is with the word “uncomfortable.” Well, I think that’s part and parcel of trying to be polite. We are downplaying what’s really going on by using “I feel uncomfortable” when we should probably be using “I feel threatened.”

    I am not threatened by the guy with Autism/Asberger’s walking down the hall trying to get from Point A to Point B. If said guy traps me in a corner and flaps his hands at me, preventing me from leaving that corner, I am going to feel threatened.

    I am probably not threatened by Zombie dude as described, though he would annoy me. But I have friends who would be threatened by him.

    Real Life Example: At RenFaire and someone asked if they could re-lace my corset, I felt threatened. Creepy behavior. (OTOH, at RenFaire I once invited two young gentlemen to unlace my corset, and that was different. And still not an invitation to go have sex somewhere, nor did they take it as such. Not creepy, except possibly on my part.)

    If alone in an elevator with a strange man who will not stop staring at me, I will feel threatened. That is creepy.

    Creepy behavior is threatening behavior. Whether you (the generic you) mean it that way or not. Being threatened makes humans of all genders, nations, and creeds feel uncomfortable. And uncomfortable is a less loaded word, so we use that.

    Go back through and re-read the original post and the comments and read “uncomfortable” as “threatening.” This may help.

    Or it may not.

  335. GBCCm:

    I think it’s worth it to you to go up and down this thread and look at the posts of people who either have Asperger’s or who live with people and note what they have to say on the topic.

    What keeps happening here is folks trying to carve out highly specific counterexamples. I think it’s worth asking what the intention is behind doing so.

    Also, as regards the second example: What? I’m not following this at all. As regards the third example: GBCCm, if you really believe a minority citizen being exposed to the hostility of the majority is actually a reasonable comparison to a man creeping on a woman, with all the power dynamics of that particular incident, I think you need to go back and examine your initial premises.

  336. First off I want to say that I have never been to a Con. I have watched a few videos on youtube. I see that some women dress up in skimpy outfits for these things. I see people like that as attention hogs. I probably wouldn’t want anything to do with them. Dressing up to look like a character is one thing, but wearing next to nothing is done just to get attention. I find people like that kind of annoying. I am not religious nor a conservative. So it is not a ‘values’ thing to me.

    Why would I want to be the umpteenth guy to go up to talk to them because of how they are dressed?

  337. John: I think sistercoyote addressed my concerns about “uncomfortable” pretty well. The third example retains some validity, though, even if we apply sistercoyote’s alternative “threatened” language; in both cases, there’s fear. Where I’ll grant there’s a major difference in the third example is that most people in rural Texas have never met a Sikh, and much of their reaction is going to be due to unfamiliarity, whereas men aren’t going to be such a novelty to women at a con.

    I’m not trying to argue against your points here; I’m trying to find some additional clarity in areas that I thought weren’t clearly defined.

  338. @Julie
    I did not put the onus on women. I especially didnt put the onus on the victims. But I will put the onus on everyone else. If we do nothing, we are guilty of misprision.

    Occupy the same position socially? All of my friends are equal. If I saw any of them acting wrong towards any of the others, I would say something. Yes, women have more to risk, but not all women. But the only way that we will change society is for some women to stand up. We are here to day talking about this because two women stood up, the internet exploded, and John, as always, gave us a place to civilly discus this!! I have watched my stronger friends stand up and I have watched others see this behavior and learn from it.

    Overreacting? Isnt that just yet another way that we blame the victim?

    What was amazing in the original write up, was reading about the authors friends and acquaintances stepping in and helping her. They didnt worry that she might have been overreacting. They didnt care that he just wanted to apologize.

    Is it dangerous for women to stand up to creeps? Hell yes. But history is full of bullies who were finally stood up to. And yes, some of the people who stand up get hurt. But the lesson is that if we all dont stand up, the bullies win. We pick our fights, but in the end, if you saw a small child being beaten, would you stand up and risk getting hurt, or would you just do the right thing.

    As John pointed out in his SWM article, I have it easy. Straight, white, male, tall, large frame, dark sunglasses. It is trivial for me to stand up. All we can do is continue and let you know that we have your back.

    Sorry this is getting long, the question isnt are men and women equal in out current society (hell, we have it easy compared to Saud Arabia or Iran or or or ) but what are the steps we need to take reduce the inequality. And this conversation is one of many that will continue to move us in that direction.

  339. Guess @ 4:21

    I see people like that as attention hogs. I probably wouldn’t want anything to do with them. Dressing up to look like a character is one thing, but wearing next to nothing is done just to get attention.

    Actually, the odds are incredibly good that they’re not dressed that way for the people viewing them. The odds are they’re dressed that way for themselves — because it makes them feel good, because that’s their interpretation of the character, because they decided to do it and to hell with whatever demons dressing that way helps them fight. They are, admittedly, probably not surprised when they get attention, but even so that doesn’t by any stretch mean they’ve dressed that way in order to obtain that attention.

  340. Then I saw the guy doing the same thing to a male associate who worked for him. Issue cleared up: it wasn’t sexual, it was an unconscious dominance thing. He sure didn’t put his hand on the judge’s or court clerk’s arm.

    I work in retail, so I see a lot of people. I don’t particular enjoy being touched by any of them. I was working one day and a man came in with his son; his son was probably twelve, but very large for his age. This boy had asked for book recommendations, and I found him books and because he was *not quite a teenager* I did not kill him, because swear to god *any* time I looked away, he’d grab my elbow. I was, by the end of it, doing a slow burn.

    And then he took his books to his father, and they came to the counter together and I rang them in and told them the price – and the kid grabbed his father’s elbow in the exact same way… and his dad turned to face him. The boy started to sign. The father signed back.

    The father was deaf. Clearly, when speaking to the adults around him, the boy had learned to: grab elbows to make sure that the person was looking at him. I felt… about two inches tall. I was so grateful that I had not actually snapped at the kid, because, I’ll tell you, I was close.

    But the thing is: I was irritated. I didn’t feel threatened. I sometimes wish I had subsequently said something to the kid, because it was a rule that was a necessity in his household – but it was going to sink like a bloody rock outside of it, and he clearly didn’t understand that he was transgressing boundaries. I don’t think it’s something his parents could teach him with any efficacy, given the context.

  341. @Scorpius:

    So, my advice to them is: be tolerant, be very tolerant. Geeks tend to be weird and if you freak out because of people acting highly socially awkward you’re going to be a pall over the geek event, disrupting everything.

    I’m just saying no to all of that. You might really want to have a think about how badly you’re missing the point, and being a bit of a creeper yourself, by insisting that it’s the harassed who just need to STFU and stop ruining every else’s fun by making a fuss. That kind of attitude is a bigger “pall” over my social life; and no, I just don’t accept that Geeks “tend” to harass women. I’ll say this one more time – sexual harassment is not part of the base code of the universe, a genetic imperative or natural law. It really is a lifestyle choice, and the responsibility for changing it is all on the perpetrators not the victims.

  342. @ sistercoyote: “They are, admittedly, probably not surprised when they get attention, but even so that doesn’t by any stretch mean they’ve dressed that way in order to obtain that attention.”

    [nod]. And even if they *did* dress that way in order to get attention, it’s still their call about what kind of attention they want and from whom. They don’t give up their right to set personal boundaries.

  343. @Peter:

    “Overreacting? Isnt that just yet another way that we blame the victim?” Exactly! This is part of my point.

    I think we’re speaking past one another. Let me back up and see if I can untangle where we/I got lost.

    Here’s what I think happened. I conflated two different experiences: being creeped on by someone you don’t know, and being creeped on by someone you do know and hang out with, and I didn’t signal that I was broadening the conversation a touch.

    In the first case, it’s more common to get backup: from friends, from nearby witnesses, etc. This is largely (but not exclusively) the set of examples we’ve been talking about here.

    What I wanted to point out was relevant because of the second case. In the second, when someone is already part of the social circle (comes over for game night, gets invited to all the parties, etc.), it’s sadly much more common for people to react by protecting the creeper. Doing so lowers the perceived drama, and it doesn’t ask anyone else to stick their neck out.

    Katyisbutthurt’s story is a case in point, but not because her husband and friends actually reacted that way. Her creeper EXPECTED the men to take his side. He was using the dude-code to try to enlist them on his side. In another situation, he’d probably have gotten away with it, because in more situations than we’d like to believe, the men (and often women) side with the creeper. (And worse.)

    That’s why I wanted to point out that *in the larger society*, men and women aren’t positioned equally. I love that it’s not true in your social circle, but it’s true so so so often, especially when people are younger. (I hope to beezus this gets less common as we get older.) And in that situation, women speaking up likely doesn’t change anything, but men speaking up absolutely does, because it changes the rules of engagement.

  344. @isabelcooper said “Frankly? Most of these guys know what the boundaries are good and well. Most of them just don’t care”

    THANK YOU.

    In reading these many comments, I see so many people trying to pin this behavior on social awkwardness, being an Aspie, geek culture. Folks, seriously. I mean it- if 1 in 10 men I have to deal with in any given day is a creepy little douchecanoe(and sadly, that’s fairly accurate.), trust me- only one in ten of THOSE has any of the problems that have been used as excuses in these comments. The other 9? They know FULL WELL what they’re doing. They know what appropriate boundaries are. They are perfectly capable of *not* treating people they don’t want to see naked (either physically or emotionally- because it’s really about the power play here.) in this fashion. They do it because we, as a culture, decided a long ass time ago that they could *get away with it*.

    The number of times women have to do a threat assessment *every day of their lives* is staggering. Men *do not* have any concept of what it’s like to have to make those same assessments *every single time* one leaves their own house. But like anything else you have to do 100,000 times, you get very good at it. So really, when the women here are saying “we can tell the difference between creepy and awkward”, we really can, and considering the consequences to being wrong? I can live full well with being wrong in the side of caution.

    A few months ago I was at a concert, alone. I was being creeped on pretty hard by a guy standing next to me. Understand that by leaving, I wouldnt be able to see the show anymore- I was up front, and I’m short, so once I wind up in the back, I may as well go home. Long story short, what brought this guy up short was NOT my telling him to cut it out and go away, but the fact that he saw I was wearing a ring on my left hand. In essence, the only reason he stopped was because he believed I was the property of another person with an attached penis. Women are not *people* to guys like this and seriously, it’s not social awkwardness, It’s predatory behavior. Can we call it what it is, please?

    The fact is that until recently (and I mean really recently, as within the past five years or so) there’s been a movement toward men standing up against this stuff as regards women who are *NOT* their SO/wife/whathaveyou.

    It has *always* been “don’t do that- because she’s mine.”, effectively reducing the woman to property and perpetuating the cultural belief that women aren’t really people. it is only very recently that that’s even *begun* to switch to “don’t do that- that behavior isn’t okay.” when applied to ANYONE, ANYWHERE. Make no mistake, the difference between these two things, whilst ostensibly producing the same result (the creeper goes away) is vast and wide, gang.

  345. Good list. Also disagree with the joining a group part though- if the group is welcoming and you’re interested in the group too, that’s fine people have to meet somehow. But definitely only IF. I have had MOUNTAINS of creepy people in my day. Hard rules are tough though. Two people of equal attractiveness levels can say the exact same thing as a pick-up and from one it can be complementary, funny, etc. and from another it can be a disgusting “run!” moment. Delivery is everything. If they are respectful of me and my personal space that’s a huge part of the difference.

  346. Scorpius asks for tolerance of “be[ing] weird” and Craig Ranapia sees this as defending sexual harassment and accuses Scorpius of being a creeper.

    This is why I wanted to paint such a detailed portrait of someone being innocuously weird in my first example. People here are talking past each other, arguing about completely different things, one speaking in defense of underspecified, possibly harmless behavior, the other attacking the perceived tolerance of clearly offensive behavior.

    Craig, go back and read my first example at 3:40. That’s a very explicit example of what I mean by “being weird,” and it may well have been what Scorpius meant. I’m sure you’re a fine White Knight, and some women pat you on the back for it, and I’m sure that makes you feel good, but with your ad hominem attacks, you come across as a bully to the rest of us.

  347. @GBCCm:

    1) I know from long experience that Scorpius is entirely capable of taking issue with me on his own behalf. Please pay him that courtesy, especially when you’re sneering at my alleged “White Knighting”.

    2) As far as I’m aware, you don’t have moderator privileges on Whatever. While you’re busy pontificating about “bullying” and “ad hominem attacks” (both clear breeches of this site’s commenting policy), you might want to leave the mallet-swinging to Mr. Scalzi.

    3) It’s also really helpful if you’d bother engaging with anything I actually said. But I won’t hold my breath waiting.

  348. Craig, go back and read my first example at 3:40. That’s a very explicit example of what I mean by “being weird,”

    Others, including John Scalzi, have explained why they think your “examples” are essentially bullshitty – and I agree. But here’s another example you might like to think about.

    I’m slightly hard of hearing, and in large crowded rooms I have engaged in “creepy” behaviour — getting into people’s personal space, initiating uninvited physical contact. It wasn’t at all “harmless” or “innocuously weird” to the people who told me (quite rightly) to step the fuck off. And I thought it was actually my absolute and unconditional responsibility to immediately comply in the first instance, and think a bit about modifying my own behaviour. And, yes, part of that is I tend to either avoid crowded rooms where I can’t follow conversations, or explicitly say up front that I need people to either speak up or come closer.

    What I do not accept is that my (mild) disability means other people should just be “very tolerant” of my social misconduct.

    Hope that clarifies a few things, because it really isn’t rocket science.

  349. GBCCm,
    Forgive me, but I might get a bit meta here…
    I have a lot of sympathy with how you seem to be thinking. I know I have some mannerisms that can be slightly offputting, such as maintaining proper eye contact across the whole range of social situations (I’m working on it). So a question that interests me is “there’s a line out there, but it’s fuzzy and contextual, and it varies based on who’s drawing it – how do I be sure I never inadvertantly cross one?”. And you’re (justifiably) confused when you get thrown in with the genuine creepers and seemingly accused of making up hypotheticals to weasel out of the consequences of your behavior.
    And you know what? It’s because the latter is the kind of thing that real creepers do. It’s a trigger. It’s threatening. And persisting with a threatening action is what creepers do.
    I think it’s an interesting hypothetical, and important to some of us. But it might be better asked in a different room, where things aren’t as charged, and everyone can breathe.

  350. @GBCCm
    John defines a creeper as “someone whose behavior towards someone else makes that other person uncomfortable at least and may possibly make them feel unsafe.” Note what I italicized there. Creeper behavior is targeted behavior. If you’re still insisting on the Sikh example then you still haven’t grasped the importance of this. Being a Sikh may make bigots feel threatened, but it’s not really behavior and it definitely doesn’t target the bigots.

    (But then, given the way you quack like an MRA duck about white knights, I’m suspicious of the sincerity of your misunderstanding.)

  351. I apologize if this has already been said, but if you’re physically big – I’m 6 feet tall and pretty powerfully built – you have to be that much more careful about physical space and boxing people in. Size is intimidating, and you have to keep that in mind.

  352. I’d like to expand on the point about personal space (6) and not boxing people in (7). Specifically, if you are trying to flirt, following (6) and (7) is a great subtle first move: start at arms length, or wherever the conversation was before, make sure they are not boxed in — there’s more room on the couch you’re both sitting on, or they’ve got space on the other side of them to step into — and then shift towards them by about 2 centimetres. If they’re not comfortable with that, they’ll move, perhaps even unconsciously without realising what you did. If that happens, congratulations, you’ve successfully learned that they don’t want you in their space without actually offending them in the process. You can now proceed to give them the space they want and be a decent human being.

    More broadly, the best pick-up line in the world is the one to which it is easy to say either ‘no’ or ‘yes’ without feeling you’ll offend the other person. And no, I don’t know what the best pick-up line in the world would actually be, because it depends strongly upon context. In fact, context is part of it — don’t ever ask at a time when (s)he would feel more unsafe than usual when answering. But I do know that I found that principle really useful, even as a woman, when I started flirting more often in an effort to get laid. Because goodness knows I wouldn’t want to accidentally do to some guys what a few too many guys have done to me over the years.

    To the nervous guys who are worried they might be creepers even if they probably aren’t, just focus on finding the easiest ways to make people feel like they can indicate either interest or disinterest without facing bad consequences. The principle is that simple.

  353. @GBCCm: Actually, at this point, I don’t actually care WHAT major malfunction is behind a given creeper’s behavior- that’s the problem for the creeper to deal with, and Scalzi has given a good guide for the few innocent creepers to use to alter their behavior. Nor do I really give a shit any more about whatever edge-case example of “See? See? You could be rejecting an innocent fill-in-the-blank” the apologists for creepers dredge up.

    The only thing I care about is that there are harassers who create an uncomfortable and unsafe environment for women. PERIOD. And these people need to stop, or be stopped. PERIOD. I’m sorry if you think that’s bullying, but from my perspective, I’m just seeing excuses for encouraging an environment where sexual harassers can flourish.

  354. Helen Howe, that is an awesome story!

    Grabbing someone’s hand, pulling it into the air and saying “groper.” perfect.

    How witnesses react if someone identifies misbehavior in public is indeed very important. And to all those who are commenting that this won’t help the issue of creepers who know their behavior is wrong, and don’t care, well, I think it can help, if the rest of us read the list and also study up on how to intervene or help someone who is the “creepee” or otherwise a victim of harrassment. Jim C. Hines has posted some very helpful material in the regard, and you can also google the Back Up project for advice.

    If you aren’t comfortable stepping in, an easy rule is to inform your host that something is going on. If you are at a party, that’s the party host, but anywhere at a con your host is the concom and the best way to contact them is through ops. The hotel front desk should know how to contact ops, if you don’t (note to conrunners: always make sure the hotel front desk staff are informed how to contact ops. Also: ops should always have a phone number. And training on how do deal with this stuff).

  355. You’re being unduly fatalist here, Mark; I know bunches of socially awkward people who manage this stuff.

    If someone is socially awkward, but manages to be normal when they feel like it, they’re NOT socially awkward. They are just being different by choice. Awkward people can’t control it — that’s what makes them awkward. All they can do is try to recognize when they’ve made someone uncomfortable and back off. But awkwardness is often coupled to difficulty reading social cues, so it can take a while to recognize that something is wrong.

    My problem with #1 is that it implies that socially awkward people are responsible for how others respond to them. When you can make people uncomfortable by your very nature despite doing nothing wrong, you can’t take responsibility for it. That road leads to isolation and self-hatred, and that cycle is a reason that some socially awkward people don’t learn better social skills.

    The socially awkward are just as responsible as everyone else for doing #2 – #10. But beyond that kind of thing, there’s no reason for them to take responsibility for the discomfort of others. And if they legitimately don’t realize they’ve made someone uncomfortable, the responsibility is on the discomforted to end the encounter rather than standing there futilely using non-verbal communication to express their discomfort.

  356. Mark:

    “If someone is socially awkward, but manages to be normal when they feel like it, they’re NOT socially awkward. They are just being different by choice.”

    Yeah, no, Mark. That’s not actually what “socially awkward” means at all to anyone other than you (also, you’re confusing “when they make an effort” with “when they feel like it”). You’re doing what other folks have been doing here in this thread, which is to narrow your argument to the point of uselessness for the sole purpose of being right. You’re not right, you just don’t want to cede the point.

  357. @Mark

    My problem with #1 is that it implies that socially awkward people are responsible for how others respond to them. When you can make people uncomfortable by your very nature despite doing nothing wrong, you can’t take responsibility for it. That road leads to isolation and self-hatred, and that cycle is a reason that some socially awkward people don’t learn better social skills.

    No, it doesn’t. #1 says you are responsible for your own actions.

    If you and I are talking and for whatever reason (given that it’s me, the reason is probably that I’m “peopled” out but that is neither here nor there) I tell you “I really need to go now” or “excuse me” or even the rudeness of “go away” — it is your responsibility to let me go or go away. That’s it.

    My not wanting to talk to you is not your responsibility. Your insistence on talking to me — particularly if I’ve been driven to the point of being blunt about it (and therefore risking anything from being called a bitch or having my life outright threatened, both of which have happened to me) — is your responsibility.

    If you choose to continue talking to me, cornering me, or engaging in the behavior — particularly when explicitly told to stop that or go away — then you are responsible for that choice.

    No one else made you do it.

  358. What irritates me the most about the whole “aspie” defense is knowing how much effort folks on the autism spectrum put into accommodating neurotypicals—with no expectation of being accommodated, or even understood, in return. Then someone comes along and excuses douchebag creeper behavior as “autism,” claiming the creepers can’t help it, which erases the hard work of those with genuine social disability and misrepresents them as unteachable, empathy-devoid incompetents.

  359. Well, it took me a long time to get through all these, and I didn’t read absolutely every one in detail, but: Let me just say that when an “attractive” woman pushes herself on me, it’s always creepery. I’m not interested in women that way. And many a man, watching this happen, would think I’m being very unreasonable to object. “That was JESSICA FUCKING RABBIT, man!! What the hell is wrong with you?!?” Nothing’s wrong with me, jerkoff. I’m gay. That’s not something wrong.

    The point is not just to point out the casual heterosexism of saying “attractive people can’t be creepers,” but to point out that you don’t know what’s in the creepee’s mind.

  360. katebachus @8:56, sdamot @11:24 — you both win the internet. Please indicate where you would like it shipped.

    Something that I’m seeing a lot of men here not understanding, as far as whether women have an obligation (we don’t) to deliver a clear, firm, polite “no” or “knock it off” — that can actually be DANGEROUS. You are apparently evaluating other men by what you think your own responses would be. We can’t do that. There was an assertion that 85% of the time the response would be a blush and an apology. It’s possible that’s true in some social circles, but it’s not true in the world at large. My life experience is that a clear, firm, polite “no” gets the desired response (the guy leaving me alone) less than half the time.

    Other responses range from:
    1. Becoming immediately physically threatening. How scary this is depends on location, time of day, number and nature of onlookers, and whether the guy is, or might be, armed.
    2. Becoming threatening in a covert, plausibly-deniable-before-a-jury-of-his-dudely-peers way. Go to the Captain Awkward link. Look for a comment by elodieunderglass, wherein she tells the story of Luminous, Awkward Dude, and Dr. Glass. That’s the kind of threatening I mean. This response is downright terrifying.
    3. Becoming verbally abusive. It’s amazing how quickly a woman can go from being the object of some guy’s interest to being a fat ugly c*nt who shouldn’t flatter herself, he was just being friendly.
    4. Most common response — persisting. Not accepting my “no” and trying to continue the interaction. (If it’s unclear to you why this response actually counts as threatening, please Google “Schrodinger’s Rapist” and read the essay that appears at the first link.)

    If he goes with option 2, 3, or 4, the odds are that any bystanders will NOT back me up. In situation 2, they’ll say I’m overreacting. In situation 3, they’ll ignore it as unpleasant but harmless. And in situation 4, they’re more likely to be on his side than on mine. “C’mon, give the guy a break.” “He’s just being friendly.” “Why do you have to be such a bitch?”

    So, before I deliver that clear, firm, and polite “no”, I have to do a threat assessment: how likely is this guy to berate, beat, rape, or kill me if I tell him to go away? No matter who he is, the answer to that question is NEVER non-zero. And all of this is assuming I manage to overcome the massive social conditioning (TW on that post, by the way) that says I’m not allowed to say a direct no.

    (Bart @12:16 — you need to re-read Capt. Awkward if you think those women are talking about men who are actually their friends. They’re talking about members of a common social circle. The second letter writer had already told her boyfriend that the creep in question sexually assaulted her; that apparently wasn’t important enough to make up for the fact that he’s so much fun to hang out with.)

    Guys who are concerned about accidentally being creepy: re-read this list. Read Schrodinger’s Rapist, mentioned above. Read Dr. Nerdlove. Read this post by a former female creeper. And, for God’s sake, keep your eyes above my shoulders.

    (Also, regarding the British need for enough personal space to reverse a bus in, my grandfather was career Army, and had a diplomatic posting for a couple of years. He said the most entertaining part was going to social functions and watching the Arabs chase the Englishmen around the room in slow motion, as each tried to establish a culturally comfortable level of personal space.)

  361. @julie – “That’s why I wanted to point out that *in the larger society*, men and women aren’t positioned equally. I love that it’s not true in your social circle, but it’s true so so so often, especially when people are younger. (I hope to beezus this gets less common as we get older.) And in that situation, women speaking up likely doesn’t change anything, but men speaking up absolutely does, because it changes the rules of engagement.”

    I think it is changing. If you look at the insanity that happened around Miranda Pakozdi and the hate that was leveled against her and THEN look at the follow up. This would never have made the NYT 10 years ago. Now everyone is talking about and certainly all the gamer girls I know are all over it. They wont stand for this kind of insanity.

    You are correct, that in smaller “social circles” the group continues to protect its own, rather than do the right thing. You watch the police and firemen do it over and over. And now we are seeing that the nerds were not immune from the same behavior. They called in character witnesses in Genevieve Valentine case? Really? It was awesome to watch the final verdict come out and the incredibly heart-felt apology. Others will look to this event and learn from it. People who might not have talked about it before are talking about it now.

  362. @paigevest:

    “Your guesstimate is ridiculously low.”

    I am aware.

    “My 17 yo daughter can’t stop at the gas station without attracting unwanted, creepy attention from guys, young and old, who seem to think that complimenting her car is creeper camouflage.”

    Which serves as a great example of how this creepy behavior is, in fact, deliberately calculated and calibrated to creep in under the socially acceptable wire. And that it is not, in anyway, because they aren’t sure what to do with their hands while they’re talking to someone.

  363. As others have expressed, I do feel sympathy for people who lack self-awareness, or who only belatedly realize they have stepped over a line. I’ve been there. But here’s an angle I haven’t seen mentioned yet. Protecting someone from the consequences of their actions is not, ultimately, a kind thing to do. Feedback is how people *learn*. Banning someone is a good, emphatic kind of feedback. Hitting bottom is *good* for you! It means you’ve got nowhere to go but up! If you take the opportunity to learn the lesson.

    All of this is not to say that helping people learn to avoid unacceptable behavior should be the preoccupation of anyone who doesn’t voluntarily take on that job. Bans exist so that the people who remain are safer and happier. But my point is that someone should not be spared because they “mean well” or are “a nice guy.” If they’re nice and mean well, they will learn something from the incident, and the rest of their lives (and the lives of the pretty women they meet!) will be better because of it.

  364. When I attend my first convention in 1978 in New York City I was backed in to a corner by Isaac Asimov. He wanted to “check on the quality of my breasts” I almost escaped when two people grabbed, me, spun me around and held me in place while I was assaulted. I was told, it’s not personal he does it to everyone. I wonder how many male fans still think if they do it to every woman than it’s not wrong.

    I also wonder if the victim at Readercon had been a 20 something nobody we would not be having this conversation. Was René Walling’s biggest mistake harassing someone with a name and a following? Will he be more careful next time to harass a nobody, as he and many other like him have in the past?

    Why are we still having this conversation in 2012? Is the only protection against harassment going to be a programing badge?

  365. If you choose to continue talking to me, cornering me, or engaging in the behavior — particularly when explicitly told to stop that or go away — then you are responsible for that choice.
    I agree 100% about that. But a conversation usually has to degenerate substantially before people actually say “stop”, or walk away. By that point a situation can be very creepy, and a person can feel very threatened. When you trouble reading social cues, it’s not hard to reach that point without realizing there’s something wrong. Without realizing it, a socially awkward person can blow right past the point when a more socially-aware person would have politely walked away.

    The implication of #1 is that the “socially awkward” person is at fault in that scenario, that they are responsible and shouldn’t have let it happen. That’s how I interpreted it, and that’s why I stated that it’s hostile.

  366. I think a good visual example in terms of treating other people’s immediate perimeter is to imagine that personal space is like a SAMSE (Space Age – Mobile – Smoker’s – Environment)*

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih-r2MRlfpA

    That is at least until we all have the option of purchasing our wearable force field projectors to keep unwanted others out of our personal space. Of course, this video also illustrates just what not to do when interacting with people once you have annoyed them, or whose space (personal/business/etc) you’ve intruded upon. But then that is Tom Green’s schtick and part of the joke, so maybe not the most real world example.

    * Please be aware that this post is not meant to mock the serious subject of creepers, but is offered to give us all a nice visual example to conceptually imagine the concept of personal space (the SAMSE), as well as to add a bit of light humor to give us all bit of a breather for just a second. I say this just incase anyone got the wrong idea, as I think this discussion of creepers and social interactions is an important and interesting matter.

  367. other becky says:

    ” So, before I deliver that clear, firm, and polite “no”, I have to do a threat assessment: how likely is this guy to berate, beat, rape, or kill me if I tell him to go away? ”

    EXACTLY. I tend to err on the side of telling people off, but the whole point is I shouldn’t even have to, let alone worry about if doing so will make the situation worse.

  368. @ Jan Dumas:

    At least there won’t be “next time” for Mr. Walling at *Readercon*. And hopefully, Readercon’s belatedly correct example will mean that Readercon will be a better experience for more people.

    It’s not even remotely enough, but it’s something.

  369. Well, there goes my social life! I have Asperger’s and am a functional adult but am unable to wrap my head around #s 1 & 2. I take great care to avoid social interaction. I’m looking for a job that doesn’t require much of it and take great pains to live as close to alone as I can afford. I’m not being a troll here. I’ve been exiled from most social groups for being a creep. Maybe it is time to “close-up shop” and stop trying altogether. Thanks for letting me know I’m not welcome anywhere.

  370. Lorne:

    “I have Asperger’s and am a functional adult but am unable to wrap my head around #s 1 & 2.”

    Really? What part of “you are responsible for your own actions” is difficult to understand? Likewise, what part of “you don’t get to define others’ comfort level with you” is difficult?

    Presuming you are serious, this is a serious question. This is particularly the case because several others have attested that those with Asperger’s are able to incorporate the idea that they are responsible for their own actions.

  371. Lorne, or you could continue down the list, learn those rules or similar ones, and then #s 1 and 2 have more context.

    Each of us IS responsible for our own actions. If we aren’t, who should be responsible for them?

    We do NOT get to define other people’s comfort level with us. And arguing with someone who is not comfortable with you is not going to make them comfortable with you.

    That’s pretty much what #s 1 and 2 say. I’m still not seeing the problem with those ideas.

  372. I admit it – I have been an unintentional creeper. I caught on in my mid-twenties that my behavior with some girls appeared needy and aggressive. When I heard a girl I liked wouldn’t come to a show because I was there, it devastated me. I confided in a friend who dispensed the best advice for meeting women, almost zen like in it’s simplicity: “Find something more interesting in your life than girls.”

    From that day forward, I invested my time in building my career, volunteering with artistic events and learning web design. After some time, girls were giving me their number. I’m no looker, but women like men who have drive and passion. Also, I had things to do that were more important than them, and I think this drove them a little nuts. (Is this true, ladies?)

    The big problem is that men have little instruction when it comes to meeting women. It’s amazing the human race perpetuates at all.

  373. @Anthony Elmore – I think that it wasn’t that it drove them nuts that you had things that were more important than them, it’s that you were a more well-rounded, interesting person over all. And since you weren’t laser-focused on getting into their pants (or inadvertently imitating behavior that looked like that) you probably seemed less threatening and they got to know you.

  374. @Anthony

    Also, I had things to do that were more important than them, and I think this drove them a little nuts. (Is this true, ladies?)

    No, but.

    1) That is my immediate, subjective answer.
    2) That you (the generic you) have an interest, something you are passionate about, gives us the possibility of connecting over that thing. Forming that connection is interesting.
    3) Knowing that you have something to do other than wait around for me is a huge boost for me, because that means I can do the things that interest me, and not have to worry (hopefully!) that you’ll be jealous of my hobbies/interests.

    Not sure that makes sense.

  375. @Judy and @sistercoyote. Good points. Not to say I didn’t bungle a few meetups, but there’s just some things only bad experience can teach. I think when men grow older, they tend to listen more and earn more confidence and women appreciate that.

  376. @Lorne, if you hate social contact and prefer to be alone, why are you complaining about ‘there goes my social life’? You didn’t want a social life with other people, right? Because it sorta sounds like you’re complaining about a restaurant because the food is terrible and the portions are so small.

    @aelmore: Not entirely sure how you mean that. Are you talking about making it clear to women that you have way better things on your plate and they’d damn well better prove themselves worthy of your attention? Or just of having your own life, and they’re welcome to be part of it, but you’re not going to curl up and die if they choose otherwise? The former is kind of a dick move; the latter is simply being a confident human being, and that is attractive.

  377. Mr. Scalzi has posted some good pointers on “not creeping.” As someone who is socially awkward, I’ve learned from the post and the ensuing discussion. I’d agree most adults would have a lot of this down already, but more context is always welcome for people who have to think about how to socialize rather than understanding it instinctually.

    Sadly, I think our entertainment usually reinforces the opposite of what most posters here are saying. How many “romantic comedies” have you seen that convey the so-called virtue of trying and trying again after being rejected? How many geeks watched Star Trek DS9′s sympathetic treatment of Odo’s skulky “Nice Guy” obsession with Major Kira and then rejoiced when the two of them astonishingly became romantically involved? I certainly did.

    Many TV shows and movies are practically instructions in creeperdom. People grow up with this crap seeping into their minds. I didn’t really understand it as such until I reached adulthood. Many others who are less introspective or who don’t get wakeup calls might not learn the lesson until later, if they ever do.

  378. And beloved comedy Sleepless in Seattle is about a woman who stalks (there really is no other word) a guy she just heard on the radio talking about his bereavement. It’s a stalker fantasy from the point of view of the stalker, and turns out the way every stalker expects his (or, more rarely, her) stalking to turn out. Watch it again if you don’t believe me. I watched it right after Nora Ephron died, and boy did the Suck Fairy (and the Creep Fairy) visit that movie while I was gone.

  379. I haven’t gone through the entire long page of comments yet, but this cannot be emphasized enough:

    If you ask out a girl and she says no, LEAVE HER ALONE. If you cannot react gracefully, leave the room. Don’t check back to see if she’s changed her mind. She hasn’t, and she’s not any more likely to change her mind the more you badger her. No Means No applies to you too, Nice Guy.

  380. I’ve been reading the rest of the comments and what really stands out is people are getting pretty stuck on finding a rule (outside of Scalzi’s excellent ones) that can be applied across the board. That would be much easier, if you could always count people to do or say the same thing in a given situation.

    Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Some people will feel comfortable speaking up bluntly, others will hint and still others not at all. You can’t even rely on people’s actions being the same. I’m a case in point – my maternal grandparents were Eastern European and I was raised in a very touchy feely environment. However, I generally do not like to be touched, with exceptions. With the exceptions, I’m very touchy, so if you were to observe me with one of my friends, you would assume that I would have no problem with physical contact or people getting way into my personal space. You would be very wrong though, something that others in this thread have said as well. That’s why #2 is so important – I may be fine with Person A and not fine with Person B, which is why Person B needs to pay attention.

  381. @MrsArkban,

    That’s the thing of it – there does have to be a rule that is clearly understood by all involved (including onlookers) because there are predators out there who will take advantage, and people’s safety is at stake. True creepers are very good at wriggling through loopholes, that’s part and parcel of what they are.

    I’m torn – the Innocence Project is one of my pet causes, and I know that the combination of a bright-line rule and a zero-tolerance policy is inevitable somewhere, and someone not deserving will get a lifetime ban for being as awkward as, well, me.

    But at the same time, there is a culture where a massive subset of the population fears for their safety in public places. Maybe it isn’t just that I should fear a permaban for an awkward conversational approach to someone in a bad place. But it isn’t just that all those people who have testified fear every conversation.

    There is no best answer. There is no good answer. We need to look for a least-bad answer.

  382. I’m distressed by the repeated refrain that people are obligated to express their boundaries clearly. It’s ridiculous. It falls into the “person A can do something as long as person B doesn’t say not to” category. That’s a creep apology right there. You do not get to touch me if I didn’t invite you to. You don’t get to talk to me if I don’t actively consent to talking to you. My existence as another human being does not give you the right to expect anything at all from me. It is not my responsibility to tell you that you’re making me uncomfortable. If I do tell you so, I’m doing it as a courtesy.

    Here’s a thing. When a woman like me is targeted sexually by a man, she has a few options. The easiest and sometimes most effective is just to out myself – “dude, I’m gay.” However, if this one backfires, it can backfire all the way to so-called “corrective rape” or plain physical assault. Whether I’d prefer being stabbed, shot, beaten, raped, or all of the above is not the sort of internal argument I enjoy. So when precisely should I make this boundary clear? When I’m certain, really really certain, that this dude is not going to stab, shoot, beat, or rape me?

    If you want someone to engage with you in any way, invite. Do not assume you can do whatever you like unless they say otherwise. This is a really, really good basic rule – so basic I feel like it could replace some of the above.

    An example of talking-to-strangers-appropriately: this one’s probably culturally specific in some ways, but here’s how it goes where I’m from (Northern New England). Two people are sitting near each other at a bus stop. They make casual eye contact and neither looks away immediately; this is an “acknowledging shared humanity” moment. A slight smile or nod is exchanged, perhaps with a simple greeting like “hey.” After this, a casual and public topic of conversation can be introduced by either person: the weather, the lateness of the bus, a nearby art exhibit. After this has been negotiated and both parties are still engaged, topics of conversation can become somewhat more personal: I love your hat, I’ve seen / never seen you here before, did you just eat at that place? But you cannot (where I’m from) jump straight to “I’ve never seen you here before” without at least doing eye-contact-and-nod first, or you will be creepily inappropriate. And if the person nods and looks away rather than smiling, you’ve had acknowledged-humanity followed by do-not-talk.

    This way of doing things – so normal it’s unremarkable and I do it every day, often multiple times – is all about invitations. At each stage of this proto-conversation, whoever initiates is inviting the other to participate, and giving the other every chance to back out. You can have a brief conversation about how late the bus is and then turn away and it’s over; or you can extend the conversation from how late the bus is today to how it’s usually not too bad, perhaps it’s the weather… etc. This is the purpose of small talk: creating a social space in which people can begin to trust that the other is also a human with some social ability who is therefore unlikely to do something unpredictable and unpleasant.

    The most important part of this – the reason I’m even bringing it up – is that if you invite someone to speak to you (by smiling, making an innocuous comment) and they don’t answer, or answer in brief and turn away, your invitation has been declined and you stop talking. You do not go on talking because they didn’t say “leave me alone.” It isn’t their responsibility to say “leave me alone.” It’s yours to notice that your invitation was not accepted.

  383. …that last should have had trigger warnings. I’m tired enough that I forgot that not everyone lives with the same set of risks and fears I do – and that those who do don’t always navigate that reality in the same way. My apologies.

  384. The more I think about this, the more I realize this isn’t about sex, and it’s also not about a desire for genuine, meaningful human contact. It’s about people who want their ego validated by getting intimate attention (preferably from someone with high social currency value.)

    People who simply want to get laid know very well that there are dozens of appropriate venues for hooking up with others for that purpose. People who are looking for real friends are happy to invest the time necessary to actually get to know someone through mutual activities and interests.

    Only people who are merely seeking the ego boost of getting attention will want to try this on in general spaces, and skip the getting-acquainted phase.

    Truly, such attitudes don’t come from being socially awkward or having an ASD. They come from narcissists and sociopaths. They come from people who want to socialize with others not because of genuine interest in that person, but for some self-focused other purpose. They come from people who see others only as a means to an end.

    And honestly? I’m totally not interested in catering to people like that. Anyone who will actually feel wounded or offended if other people don’t want to give them personal attention on demand isn’t worth accommodating. No concession to their “needs” is ever going to be enough, because they’re incapable of recognizing the needs of others as real and valid.

  385. @Anthony – It could also be that, once you began displaying drive and passion for particular interests, you became more attractive to people who shared those particular interests.

    I mean, me, I have more respect for a well-rounded person than for a needy guy who whines “BUT I WANNA GET LAAAIIIID!!” on every available frequency, but if the well-rounded person’s sphere of interests has no overlap with my own, I’m not going to particularly seek out their company. Whatever would be talk about?

  386. In re: various ‘Well, I’ll just go sit at home, then. Alone. IN THE DARK.” responses: please get off the cross, we need the wood.

    Also, in general? It would be kind of awesome if, when expressing support for anti-harrassment statements/causes/etc, men could avoid framing that support either in terms of “I don’t even like scantily-dressed women; girls with brains are much more interesting!” or outrage at girls who date guys of whom you disapprove (and not you). The discussions of slut shaming and Nice Guy fuckery are kinda off-topic, but suffice it to say that those sorts of statements come off less as awesome feminist ally support and more as sexual policing and extremely sour grapes, respectively.

    @tessuraea: I’ve never seen this broken down so well before, and it’s totally true. I sometimes also can either give or receive an immediate “Hey, awesome dress,” while walking somewhere, without sketchiness. I think it helps that neither person slows down, and also that I/they are generally female, and the tone is very much one of “You have inspired my fall clothing purchases!” rather than “Hey, baby.”

    In general, yeah. Working up to things is good.

    @Nicole: Ugh, yes. Self-pity is one of the less attractive traits out there, especially the Bridget-Jones-esque Oh No I Am Incomplete Without an SO WOE AND ANGUISH crap, which I get from men as often as women. I, as Happy Single Chick, may be biased, but…God, join a book club. Volunteer someplace. Learn to waterski. Accept that marriage and children is no guarantee that you won’t die alone and have cats eat your face, and that being single is not going to automatically condemn you to that fate. Go buy a damn vibrator/fleshlight/whatever. In the words of Dot Warner, please, please, please get a life.

    I mean, everyone needs to vent, and “Lassie, send help! NOBODY’S DOWN THE WELL!” (stolen blatantly from Sarah Bunting) is fine…with close friends who vent about similar problems. Once in a while. Not on FB, not on public Internet forums, and for the love of God, not with people you’ve known for a day and a half.

  387. I have a rule of thumb I’d ask everyone to consider.
    In intimacy of any kind, only YES means yes.
    Surely even socially awkward people can remember that much.

    @ A Meditated Life

    As bizarre as it sounds when people assert that “don’t touch strangers” isn’t something everyone learns, it’s actually true.

    Unfortunately, I think you’re correct about that. And while unsolicited touching/hugging can be about sex and/or dominance, sometimes I think it’s just because the person thinks it’s an acceptable way to demonstrate they’re focused on the person they’re touching. It’s not, and it’s no excuse, but it is I think sometimes the explanation.

    Years ago when someone would touch me without asking, I would snap at them, as I had a just right to do. But having a muscular six-foot-one self-assured dude go from cordial to yelling at you in a split-second is more likely to make you afraid of guys than understand that you’ve violated his boundaries. So I stopped doing that. It wasn’t even cathartic because I’m very self-conscious about intimidating people, my body being much more intimidating than my personality.

    I still tense-up, but my verbal replies are directed at letting the toucher know that what they’re doing is unacceptable. I don’t see it as my responsibility to let them know, and I fully acknowledge that it’s almost never the same when a man does it to a woman (because a woman is rarely the more physically imposing of the two). Also, it’s pretty obvious to me whether someone is touching to signal focus, dominance or sexuality (though I get, because I had to work to learn it myself, that such things are not obvious to everyone, men or women). When it’s the latter two, my replies are, shall we say, much more frigid to let them know they aren’t going to get anywhere trying to intimidate or seduce me. Four out of five times there’s nothing sexual about it, but I suspect the statistics might be a little different for women simply because most women are conditioned to see sexual aggression as “slutty” behavior whereas in guys it’s widely considered normal.

    The dominance-motivated incidents might be a little more even, and I suspect a lot of dominance-signalers don’t realize that’s what they’re doing. The prevailing social conditioning there is that dominance is masculine, and some women I think (often without explicitly realizing it) try to emulate that “masculine” trait in order to avoid being seen as weak. None of this conditioning is worth anything, and I’m careful to note that it doesn’t mean that everyone who does something does it because society conditions them to do it, but the trends are clearly present. People are individuals and trends are just that.

    Nor am I suggesting that this is even a wise way for everyone to handle creepers. As has been aptly noted several times, but bears repeating, instructive responses can be dangerous for many people in many situations, but most often for women dealing with male creepers.

    @ Guess

    First off I want to say that I have never been to a Con. I have watched a few videos on youtube. I see that some women dress up in skimpy outfits for these things. I see people like that as attention hogs. I probably wouldn’t want anything to do with them. Dressing up to look like a character is one thing, but wearing next to nothing is done just to get attention. I find people like that kind of annoying. I am not religious nor a conservative. So it is not a ‘values’ thing to me.

    Actually, it is. It’s the value that you see in women who dress up in skimpy outfits, namely that they do it exclusively for attention. Has it occurred to you that people might dress a certain way likely to get them attention without that being their (only) motivation?

    Why would I want to be the umpteenth guy to go up to talk to them because of how they are dressed?

    Once again, this is a value judgment. What stops you from going up and talking to them for some other reason? Why do you assume that is why people are talking to them? And lastly, why do you assume their lack of modesty is their primary motivation for the outfit they’re wearing? At what area-of-fabric/skin ratio does it become a foregone conclusion that they are interested in showing their skin instead of the outfit or doing it because they like how they look regardless of appreciation from others? Do you dress only for the benefit of others? If not, why assume women do?

    @ A. Noyd

    What irritates me the most about the whole “aspie” defense is knowing how much effort folks on the autism spectrum put into accommodating neurotypicals—with no expectation of being accommodated, or even understood, in return. Then someone comes along and excuses douchebag creeper behavior as “autism,” claiming the creepers can’t help it, which erases the hard work of those with genuine social disability and misrepresents them as unteachable, empathy-devoid incompetents.

    Hell yeah! As a diagnosed HFA, this human shield, as someone else put it, has been ticking me off since it began. I do and have since childhood put extra effort into learning social cues, body language and facial expressions. I’m an actual human being with healthy relationships and a successful career and I sure as shit don’t appreciate neurotypicals unwilling to learn self-control using me and others with actual mental disabilities as an excuse to violate other’s boundaries.

    But even if you’re unwilling or unable to learn these things, how frakking hard is it to follow John’s list of clear, concise, unsubtle behaviors?

    @ Anthony Elmore

    From that day forward, I invested my time in building my career, volunteering with artistic events and learning web design. After some time, girls were giving me their number. I’m no looker, but women like men who have drive and passion. Also, I had things to do that were more important than them, and I think this drove them a little nuts. (Is this true, ladies?)

    Many people, men and women, prefer friends and partners we can regard as equally (though not necessarily in the same way) accomplished, so that we feel that we’re not starting a one-sided relationship. Also, someone with more meaning to their life than dating is a more interesting person to date, and is less likely to be needy/clingy/draining than someone who has nothing else to be passionate about.

    @ spacegoat1701

    How many geeks watched Star Trek DS9′s sympathetic treatment of Odo’s skulky “Nice Guy” obsession with Major Kira and then rejoiced when the two of them astonishingly became romantically involved? I certainly did.

    I don’t remember Odo creeping and in fact I seem to remember him going out of his way to not creep despite his low self-esteem and fear of rejection. But admittedly, it’s been many years since I saw the show, so perhaps I’m forgetting some creeper scenes. Now Quark, who had self-confidence in droves and no fear of rejection did plenty of creeping.

    @ Xopher Halftongue

    And beloved comedy Sleepless in Seattle is about a woman who stalks (there really is no other word) a guy she just heard on the radio talking about his bereavement. It’s a stalker fantasy from the point of view of the stalker, and turns out the way every stalker expects his (or, more rarely, her) stalking to turn out. Watch it again if you don’t believe me. I watched it right after Nora Ephron died, and boy did the Suck Fairy (and the Creep Fairy) visit that movie while I was gone.

    Once was enough, thank you. There are better Nora Ephron films if I’m feeling nostalgic.

    @ isabelcooper

    In re: various ‘Well, I’ll just go sit at home, then. Alone. IN THE DARK.” responses: please get off the cross, we need the wood.

    To quote Xopher, I’m stealing that just as soon as I can file off the serial number.

    Also, in general? It would be kind of awesome if, when expressing support for anti-harrassment statements/causes/etc, men could avoid framing that support either in terms of “I don’t even like scantily-dressed women; girls with brains are much more interesting!”

    Just to be clear, when I said:

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or, to be cliché, everyone’s sense of aesthetics is personal. I like strong, self-confident braniacs who dress elegantly (e.g. not skimpily), but another guy may be totally unattracted to the type of woman to whom I’m attracted.

    …in reply to Wendy Withers saying:

    Preferably someone society would deem a hot chick dressed in skimpy clothing, but a sure thing like a nerdy, shy girl is guaranteed, amiriteguyz?!?!?

    …my purpose was not to frame my support in those terms, but rather to point out that presuming guys are only attracted to women with unconventional beauty because we think they’re easier to sleep with was a less than flattering stereotype. I sincerely apologize if I seemed to be saying anything else.

    I sometimes also can either give or receive an immediate “Hey, awesome dress,” while walking somewhere, without sketchiness. I think it helps that neither person slows down, and also that I/they are generally female, and the tone is very much one of “You have inspired my fall clothing purchases!” rather than “Hey, baby.”

    Being something of a fashion plate myself, I do frequently compliment women’s and men’s couture which I find unique. I don’t think the occasional cool earrings or nice shoes or awesome tattoo in passing comes off as hey, baby, but I will try to keep that in mind in the future when gauging people’s reactions to me compliments.

    Self-pity is one of the less attractive traits out there, especially the Bridget-Jones-esque Oh No I Am Incomplete Without an SO WOE AND ANGUISH crap, which I get from men as often as women.

    You said it. I’ve had far more male friends/acquaintances ask me for relationship advice that female ones, though women might be less bold in asking a guy for advice. I try to be understanding, but their tripping over their own self-pity is their biggest handicap.

    I, as Happy Single Chick, may be biased, but…God, join a book club. Volunteer someplace. Learn to waterski.

    I spent most of my mid-20’s so focused on my career and so not ready to invest the time and energy which I would have considered adequate in a long-term relationship, that I dated only causally. Added to the fact that I don’t sleep with people I don’t know pretty well, this resulted in me being voluntarily celibate for about half a decade. If you think guys don’t look at other guys askance when they don’t date with sex as at least one of the goals, you’d be mistaken.

  388. @Gulliver: Nah, not you–I was responding to the “scantily dressed women just want attention” guy. Sorry for the confusion.

    And thanks! I think I stole the get-off-the-cross thing from someone myself, possibly my mom, so it might actually be a saying somewhere.

    I hear you about the askance-looking thing, really, though I get that in a different way. There are people out there who just don’t get that someone might honestly not be looking for a relationship or sex or whatever.

    I think passing compliments also depend a little on body language and tone, too. I’m likely to be much more okay with “I really like your earrings!” or even from a guy who sounds enthusiastic but casual and who doesn’t come up and loom at me while he says it–the continuing-to-walk thing is the best, there, because it means he’s not pressuring me to respond at all.

  389. On a completely technical note, I would like to thank Gulliver for aggregating his replies into a single post, rather than making multiple sequential posts. Much easier to read, in my opinion (which in this case is the opinion that counts).

  390. @ isabelcooper

    Nah, not you–I was responding to the “scantily dressed women just want attention” guy. Sorry for the confusion.

    No worries. Thanks for letting me know. And yeah, that guy was annoying. I wouldn’t even have brought up the thing I did, as it was slightly off-topic, if not to reply to the perpetuation of an obnoxious stereotype.

    There are people out there who just don’t get that someone might honestly not be looking for a relationship or sex or whatever.

    Yup.

    I think passing compliments also depend a little on body language and tone, too. I’m likely to be much more okay with “I really like your earrings!” or even from a guy who sounds enthusiastic but casual and who doesn’t come up and loom at me while he says it–the continuing-to-walk thing is the best, there, because it means he’s not pressuring me to respond at all.

    I ordinarily do it in passing, or when I’m about to take my leave. Partially this is to preempt thank you’s. I know it’s sort of irrational, but I always kind of feel like compliments don’t need a thank you because I haven’t actually done anything for them, just made an observation. I know it’s irrational though because, on the not infrequent occasions when someone compliments what I’m wearing, my polite instinct is to say thanks :-/

  391. Thanks to all the women who have posted here and given their perspective. Reminders are always good. I thought I’d throw a different angle in here. As a single male college teacher, I have to be exquisitely careful when dealing with my female students. They are all off-limits, period. Not a single one of them registered for my class in the hopes that their instructor would hit on them. To that end, I have some ironclad rules that I follow with my female students:
    1. Never. Touch. NEVER. And never give off body language that invites touch.
    2. Never look at anything but their face.
    3. Never compliment their appearance.
    4. Never remark on their clothing, unless they are violating lab procedures/policies.
    5. Always give plenty of personal space. Let me give an example. We use microscopes a lot. Much of the time, students have a hard time finding what they’re supposed to, and ask me to look through their scopes. I always move to the scope, say, “excuse me”, giving them the opportunity (and a hint) to move away. Then when I’ve found what they’re supposed to be looking for, move away and then say, “OK, now, take a look at this.” I always maintain space, even in a crowded classroom.
    6. It’s OK to be pleasant. It’s OK to be kind. It is OK to joke around. It is NOT OK to flirt. It is NOT OK to be interested (and honestly, I couldn’t drum up interest for a 20-something anyway, but I have to account for nontraditional students). Always be cautious in conversations and err on the side of boundaries.
    7. It’s not OK for students to not follow these guidelines, either.

    I’ve had students criticize my teaching – like writing, you’re never going to make everyone happy – but I’ve never had a hint of a problem with creepy. It’s a major goal of mine to have and maintain a safe classroom. With women who aren’t students? When meeting someone new, I follow the same guidelines (that’s also practical in that I don’t have to shift gears when I get into class). I may be lonely, but I don’t have regrets.

  392. @A. Noyd at 6:00 PM

    @GBCCm
    John defines a creeper as “someone whose behavior towards someone else makes that other person uncomfortable at least and may possibly make them feel unsafe.” Note what I italicized there. Creeper behavior is targeted behavior.

    OK, yes. That’s an important distinction. So long as we stick with those criteria, I have much less of a problem. I guess part of what’s been making me anxious is that fandom is traditionally seen as a place where people aren’t required to be completely normal, a place where weirdness is not merely tolerated but celebrated, and I’m worried about losing that, because I didn’t always have that. I’m not trying to defend misbehavior; it’s that some of the rhetoric makes it sound like fandom is going to become a very hostile place to anyone who doesn’t fit into mainstream society, where people like Craig are going to be climbing over each other searching for weirdos to beat up.

    (But then, given the way you quack like an MRA duck about white knights, I’m suspicious of the sincerity of your misunderstanding.)

    I’m sorry; that was a bad move on my part. It was mostly a rhetorical device, to demonstrate that questioning of motives can cut both ways. Craig was pushing my buttons. “Hey, ladies! Is this geek bothering you? I’ll take care of him.” A really, really strong schoolyard bully vibe, a Charles-Atlas-cartoon scenario.

  393. Only because it’s come up in the thread more than once, the Onion actually has a good response to anyone doubting how many creeps women have to put up with on a regular basis: [TW for many, many examples of disgusting things women put up with on a regular basis] Weird, Area Woman Wasn’t Harassed Today

    And THAT is why the assertion that women should confront every single person who makes us uncomfortable is unhelpful. Well, one reason, anyway.

  394. @Gulliver:

    “In intimacy of any kind, only YES means yes.”

    Sometimes, not even yes means yes. Someone can feel too uncomfortable to appear to reject you and so say yes, but keep putting you off hoping you’ll take the hint she REALLY means no.

    I had trouble understanding that a few years ago and wound up learning a hard lesson that people don’t always mean what they say; they might give indications they actually mean the opposite. I resented that at the time, but now I get it.

    So maybe a better formulation of the rule would be, “In intimacy of any kind, only an [unequivocal and enthusiastic] YES means yes.”

  395. @ spacegoat1701

    I take people at their word. But then I don’t coerce them into lying for their own safety. As has been established in numerous legal proceedings over harassment, rape, forced police confessions and various other forms of coercion, a coerced agreement has no legal standing. I submit this version:

    In intimacy of any kind, only an uncoerced YES means yes.

    If someone is not free to say NO without fearing for their safety or the safety of others who might be used against them, their consent is meaningless. So unless you’re certain you haven’t even inadvertently threatened someone, don’t accept even an enthusiastic YES until you’re certain otherwise.

    There. No subtle shades of enthusiasm. No disenfranchising anyone’s prerogative to say YES of their own free will. No latitude for third parties to decide when someone can say YES or NO. Just a bright-line of caution for everyone to err on the safe side of.

    That said, if you have any doubts that someone means what they say, don’t take the chance, for your sake and theirs until you confirm that they do.

  396. As bizarre as it sounds when people assert that “don’t touch strangers” isn’t something everyone learns, it’s actually true.

    “Don’t take things that belong to other people without asking” isn’t something everyone learns, either, but as was alluded to before, nobody would defend the guy who shoplifted books out of the dealer’s room, or who kept harassing the guy selling Star Wars replicas to let him just take one badge, or who started screaming at dealers because they thought their crappy merchandise was worth that much money. Nobody would argue hey, maybe the guy came from a culture where stealing from outsiders is allowed, or he has a disorder that prevents him from being able to understand the social conventions about making purchases, or you know, if we ban him from the dealer’s room how is he ever going to get his Spock ears.

    I know you didn’t make that statement to justify or excuse harassment; but it does illustrate how thoroughly fandom has incorporated very non-progressive, mainstream concepts.

    @GBCCm: Some people can’t enjoy that celebration of weirdness because they’ve been pushed out by harassment and bad behavior.

  397. @isabelcooper

    I’ve never seen this broken down so well before, and it’s totally true. I sometimes also can either give or receive an immediate “Hey, awesome dress,” while walking somewhere, without sketchiness. I think it helps that neither person slows down, and also that I/they are generally female, and the tone is very much one of “You have inspired my fall clothing purchases!” rather than “Hey, baby.”

    In general, yeah. Working up to things is good.

    Thank you! And yes, I can frequently get away with ignoring some of what I wrote, because I’m female (sorry guys, it’s one of the benefits of being part of the half of humanity WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY less likely to commit stranger-assault), and because I understand situations and body language and all that fairly well, because I’ve practiced for years. I have been known to catch someone’s eye and smile and told her that she looks amazing. Gotta gauge this stuff carefully, though; it’s like Advanced Personal Interaction. And yeah, it helps if that encounter is intended to be be fleeting. Oh, and I don’t do it unless my genuine desire is just to make someone feel good: I’m going to say the compliment and book it. It’s not about ME getting anything, even a response.

    I remember sitting in the sunlight once (at a demonstration, actually). This woman with a cloud of the most stunningly blond curly hair kept walking past me. Her hair was rich blond and kinky – almost nappy – and there was tons of it, standing out from her head in a fluffy cloud. The sun kept getting caught in it and making it glow. I was enraptured. Eventually I flagged her attention – I don’t remember how – and said “I just want to tell you that your hair is amazing.” She smiled brilliantly and thanked me and that was that. We didn’t talk, I didn’t get her name, I wasn’t trying to.

    I think some people (usually but not always men) who get upset because they feel they “can’t compliment women without getting in trouble for it” are missing this piece. A genuine, heartfelt compliment with no strings attached at all may be well-received, particularly if it’s delivered in a way that makes it very clear nothing is expected. It’s just that you have to really honestly not be trying to get into her pants.

    The gayer I look, the more careful I have to be – there are plenty of straight women out there who find me threatening. So I do understand where some of the straight men are coming from. I have to consider, before I say anything, whether someone is likely to feel threatened by me. The difference between me and a slew of people in this comment thread is that I’m not mad at the women who feel threatened, I don’t think they owe me anything, and I happily do my best not to make anyone uncomfortable. And if I do it well, I get to have positive social interactions with strangers.

    As for the what-about-the-autistic-people thing… Like some others here, I know people on the spectrum. In my case, I have worked supporting people with various disabilities including autism. While people who are socially strange due to a disability may make others uncomfortable, usually because a lot of people have no idea what to expect from them and get spooked, they are capable of not being creeps. Anyone profoundly disabled enough to be unable to learn some version of John’s rules is profoundly disabled enough to need staff support out in public. And the autistic people I’ve known have put careful, concerted effort into learning how to interact socially with neurotypicals, deliberately learning the skills that I acquired as a child, and doing so quite successfully. I wish (as others have said) that assholes would quit hiding behind autism; it cheapens the actual efforts of autistic people, who deserve all the credit in the world when they communicate with us neurotyps, because most of the time they’re doing all the work at crossing that gulf.

  398. @Gulliver there seems to be a misunderstanding here. I didn’t coerce or intimidate anyone. And there was never an interpretation on the part of anyone involved that I did.

    Some individuals just don’t like rejecting other people, and I suspect that might be especially true with some women who have been socialized not to cause offense. And it is not wise to take them at their word alone; you need to pay attention to other indicators.

    So, here’s how I handled the situation I’m referring to then: Upon being told something came up, I asked about rescheduling, because I didn’t suspect what I was being told wasn’t completely true. Here’s what I would say now: “If you’re ever free again and would like to meet up, email me.” In my mind, that would remove the expectation for an immediate answer, thereby not putting the other party on the spot for a yes or no answer, and put the ball in the other person’s court to decide what to do with at a later date.

  399. @mythago 11:33

    Some people can’t enjoy that celebration of weirdness because they’ve been pushed out by harassment and bad behavior.

    I understand that. I’m sincerely sympathetic, and I hope things can improve. I’m just worried. Frankly, being anxious about social situations is just characteristic of me. Much of my lashing out was that I feel personally attacked when some suggest that people with social anxiety are, ipso facto, Bad People who should be taken out back and shot.

  400. @ John Scalzi

    My pleasure. You can thank BoingBoing’s excellent senior mod Antinous for training me. He’s even more OCD about threadiquette (it’s a word now) than you are, if you can believe it :)

    @ spacegoat1701

    there seems to be a misunderstanding here. I didn’t coerce or intimidate anyone. And there was never an interpretation on the part of anyone involved that I did.

    I realized after I replied to you that it might sound like I was insinuating that, which was not my intent.

    So, here’s how I handled the situation I’m referring to then: Upon being told something came up, I asked about rescheduling, because I didn’t suspect what I was being told wasn’t completely true. Here’s what I would say now: “If you’re ever free again and would like to meet up, email me.” In my mind, that would remove the expectation for an immediate answer, thereby not putting the other party on the spot for a yes or no answer, and put the ball in the other person’s court to decide what to do with at a later date.

    Ah, I see what you were talking about now. Yes, people can be evasive when they’re afraid of offending someone or hurting their feelings. I agree with your approach.

    In one instance many years ago where I asked a woman out for coffee and got the I have a prior commitment reply, I gave her my card and told her if she changed her mind or wanted to get together some other time, I’d love to hear from her. That way I put the ball in her court while also:
    1) making it apparent that I realized that she may have made of her mind not to go out with me and just didn’t want to say so for whatever reason,
    2) that I wasn’t offended if it was a rejection, and
    3) that I would not consider her too forward if she did decide to get in touch with me.

    She contacted me two weeks later and we’re still friends.

    @ GBCCm

    Much of my lashing out was that I feel personally attacked when some suggest that people with social anxiety are, ipso facto, Bad People who should be taken out back and shot.

    Since the only thing anyone on this thread has suggested is that everyone, including people with social anxiety, are responsible for doing whatever they have to in order to ensure that they don’t violate other people’s boundaries, I submit that your fear is misplaced and you are lashing out at the wrong people. And just so were clear, boundaries aren’t making too much or too little eye contact, or dressing unconventionally, or speaking too loud or soft, or any other of a millions such things. Boundaries are keeping your hands to yourself unless otherwise indicated, not getting up in people’s face or looming over them, not boxing them in, not following them when they leave unless invited to do so, and other easy to recognize behaviors that infringe on their space, autonomy and ability to get away if and when they choose.

  401. I’ll chime in with support of the idea that, generally speaking, the autism spectrum and/or mental illness does *not* cause the true creeper behaviors Mr. Scalzi’s talking about. In fact, it’s highly more likely that people with those conditions will be victims than victimizers. I’ll also lay down a trigger warning, as I’m about to describe the consequences of a creep-okay society.

    I am female, and have autism. I avoid social situations, quite often, because of the sheer number of times I’ve been creeped on and had no clue how to get out. I’ve been raped, and had other encounters I wouldn’t call rape but would call “sex I didn’t want but had no clue how to say no to.” And in most cases, I was being creeped on in a general social setting, had no idea how to get out, and all too often my so-called “friends” *encouraged* the behavior. This happened on my birthday once, in a completely non-geek setting–I was forced into getting “birthday kisses” and “birthday spanks” and eventually coerced into sex, while my “best friend” encouraged. And nearly all of these behaviors happened in the course of that and other encounters.

    So to guys who think this is somehow unfair: it’s not. This stuff *is* threatening, and it needs to not be seen as okay. I can’t speak to every single person’s experience, and I wish it was more acceptable for folks with autism to go “I have autism, please excuse/explain social faux pas” because I’d see that as similar to someone hard-of-hearing going “excuse me, I need you to come closer so I can hear you.” But for the most part, as others have noted, it’s not autistic behaviors that lead to being truly creepy.

    So, thank you to Mr. Scalzi and others, for standing up for people like myself who wind up victimized by creeps. If the culture changes (and this isn’t just a geek thing, at all) and it’s seen as normal for people (yes, men and women both) to act non-creepy and be aware of themselves, then the truly predatory ones will stand out. One hopes.

  402. Don’t touch? Really? I can think of plenty of situations where touching a stranger or someone you’ve just met is entirely inappropriate. You just need to be sensitive to social mores and to body language (and to your own motivations). Not excusing inappropriate touching at all — generally men touching women they don’t know without an invitation is rude, but not always. Women have much more leeway with men, as do men with men and women with women.

    As for creepiness generally, I think the word is too overloaded. Someone being impolite or too forward or friendly (or gauche, or overly familiar, or making someone feel ‘uncomfortable’) is completely different to groping and assault. The latter are wrong and should be stamped on hard. The former are just life. People are _always_ going to behave in ways we don’t like.

    (And when did making people feel ‘comfortable’ become the goal of social events? Sounds pretty boring to me. I’d rather people were excited or nervous or joyous or something)

  403. I’m too new here to have a good feel for whether or not Geo is best left to our host, so I won’t address his comment for now.

    For everyone who’s saying that a lot of people don’t learn that you shouldn’t touch strangers: I disagree. If you watch people who give off that impression closely, you’ll notice that almost all of them exclusively touch people who are equal to or lower than them on whatever hierarchy is applicable. They seem to understand just fine that you don’t touch your school principal, your boss, or the cop who’s giving you a speeding ticket.

  404. Geo:

    ” Don’t touch? Really? I can think of plenty of situations where touching a stranger or someone you’ve just met is entirely inappropriate.”

    Well, yes. Now, I recognize that you meant to say something else here, but your Freudian slip is instructive.

    If you are going to an activity where touching is part of the activity at hand, then that’s fine. As a general rule, however, a hands off is a good idea UNLESS otherwise specified in the nature of the event.

    Also, of course, if your impulse is to willy-nilly touch people you don’t know regardless , please post your social schedule so I know how to avoid you.

  405. John, an excellent list, and as you say, it’s not sex- or sexual-preference-specific.

    I want to question an idea I think I’m seeing in the comments, though. Some people seem to be saying that someone being harassed shouldn’t be expected to object out loud to the person harassing them. I understand and respect that harassment victims may feel too frightened or uncertain to do that, and that being required to may seem like punishment.

    But in order for the law to act on their behalf, they have to say, aloud, ideally in front of witnesses, “Don’t talk to me.” “Don’t touch me.” “Don’t approach me.” The harassed person’s unmistakable objecting statement protects them from the harasser’s excuse that he or she didn’t understand, or that the victim never objected at all. If the victim calls the police or even convention security, they can take legal action against him and be secure in their right to do so.

    And if worse should come to worst, and the harasser escalates to physical violence, the harassed person, if able to, can defend him- or herself, and be relatively safe from a charge of assault.

    I agree that until the community in general, whatever their sex or sexual orientation, makes it clear that harassment is not acceptable, it won’t be adequately addressed. But I don’t want my community to think that women shouldn’t need to speak up for themselves and defend their rights and interests. If the laws are going to protect us all equally, we have to use those laws as equals, and believe that women are strong enough to accept the requirements of them.

  406. Emma Bull

    You seem to believe that the legal requirements for a successful criminal prosecution must dictate the actions of someone being harassed; I think you have completely lost the plot. There is no obligation for someone to endanger themselves in order to get evidence which will stand up in court, and your attempt to justify this by throwing in the need for a self-defence plea is ludicrous.

    Also, would you please ientify the location of your community so I can avoid going there.

  407. This and a lot of the comments got me motivated to pay more attention to other people’s feelings. Now, caring about other people’s feelings without paying attention to them suddenly feels malignant and manipulative. Making other people’s feelings the first thing I consider seems more like a key to success in life than a self-negating chore.

  408. I’m a mom of a precocious six year old. (This is relevant, I swear. Please bear with me.) She’s six and as such, she is constantly testing boundaries. If I say “Don’t be too loud, please,” she often will then spend five minutes saying “Is THIS too loud? AHHHH?” Yes. “Is THIS too loud? AHHHHHh.” Yes. And so on, until I’m ready to weep with frustration. Sometimes, she’ll start banging a drum and when I tell her that hey, that’s being loud, she’ll point out that *she’s* not being loud, it’s the *drum* that’s being loud. (Like RIGHT NOW, when I’m trying to type this…)

    Often, when she’s doing this, I will have to set an arbitrary boundary that is probably much much lower than if she’d just been quiet the first time I asked. I might take away her frigging drum, too.

    Now, she’s six. Pushing boundaries is her job, developmentally speaking. Setting them, enforcing them, and teaching her to understand them is my job, as a parent. That’s fine. I signed up to be a parent. She needs to learn. It’s cool … if annoying, sometimes.

    If you’re on this thread and arguing “What about this? What about that?” in regards to creeper definitions, then you’re doing that same thing she is — testing boundaries. But you’re not six. You’re an adult. And I’m not your mom, I’m a woman in a geeky space. Since enlightened folks in this article and this thread have explained that a creeper is someone who violates, tests, and treads over boundaries, then you need to understand this: What you’re doing? Yeah, if you did it IRL at a con, that would make you a creeper.

    Sadly, I cannot take away your drum. I’m not your mom. But I can point out that we — Geek Society — may have to respond to this with hard-line rules set a bit further out than we would otherwise.

    If you’re noodling at the borders of the definition of a creeper as an intellectual exercise, then I guess I have to applaud you for trying to learn. Which is not to say you’re not — like my six year old — annoying as hell. But if you are *ever* pushing these boundaries IRL, you are very likely a creeper.

  409. Further to my observations on Emma Bull’s post above I have tracked down the police advice in my community which is London, England:

    “If you know or find out who is stalking you

    Do not confront your stalker or even engage them in conversation.
    Do not, under any circumstances, agree to a meeting to talk about how you feel about them constantly bothering you.
    Do not respond in any way to calls, letters, or conversations. If you ignore the phone nine times and pick it up on the tenth, you will send the message that persistence pays. Once they have your attention, they will be encouraged to carry on.
    Ask friends or solicitors to contact them if you want to get a message to them.”

    You will note that the police advice is the complete reverse of that suggested by Emma Bull…

  410. GBCCm

    I’m not trying to defend misbehavior; it’s that some of the rhetoric makes it sound like fandom is going to become a very hostile place to anyone who doesn’t fit into mainstream society, where people like Craig are going to be climbing over each other searching for weirdos to beat up.

    Look, you need to do better at acknowledging that fandom is already a very hostile place to many people—primarily women—and that’s why people are advocating change. There’s an assumption in your (and Scorpius’) position that women are “normal” outsiders experiencing culture clash when they dabble in fandom rather than being social misfits and full participants in fandom themselves. Stop doing that. This isn’t an attempt by outsiders to change fandom to be more mainstream.

    You seem unduly concerned with possible misunderstandings making trouble for innocents, but you’re overlooking the non-hypothetical harassment, creepage, and douchebag behavior that’s already plaguing a large percentage of fandom. Not only that, but you’re assuming the people looking out for misbehavior will be irrational about it and will act in bad faith, which is insulting. That’s one reason why you come off as trying to defend misbehavior.

    Craig was pushing my buttons. “Hey, ladies! Is this geek bothering you? I’ll take care of him.” A really, really strong schoolyard bully vibe, a Charles-Atlas-cartoon scenario.

    If that’s what you think, you have all the reading comprehension of a gopher wrapped around the tire of an 18-wheeler. Scorpius’ point, much like yours, depends on treating women as outsiders. It’s what underlies the notion that “geeks tend to be weird” and anyone who objects to weirdness is a buzzkill out to ruin geek events. You don’t need to “paint…a detailed portrait of someone being innocuously weird” because those objecting to creeps are the innocuously weird ones. We’re trying to get our weirdness buzz going without creeps killing it.

    The anti-creeps are part of fandom. The anti-creeps like fandom because we’re weird and fandom’s a good place to be weird. We’re objecting to creeps because creeping on people is not “weirdness” but anti-social behavior. When you and Scorpius defend the creeps to the anti-creeps, you are not sticking up for the underdog against meddling outsiders; you are defending things like harassment done by douchebags to their fellow misfits. Craig telling off Scorpius isn’t white knight behavior and it’s not bullying; it’s an attempt to protect fandom from becoming a haven for douchebags.

    If creeps think being asked to take responsibility for their creeper behavior is hostile to them, then that’s a good thing. Being a creep isn’t a necessary part of being a geek, nerd, gamer, whatever. Belonging to a subculture of misfits isn’t an excuse to pretend anything goes. If we drive away creepers who refuse to shape up and respect their fellow misfits, that will make fandom better.

  411. @tessuraea here, such a good description. Thank you.

    @ jokes about raised in a cave, etc. Everyone usually thinks they’re “normal”. One of the great things about this conversation for me is that it’s driven home to me how far my early childhood was from most people’s normal. It was a -great- early childhood, really it was, for a kid, on an isolated working ranch in northwestern Montana. But there were few humans in it for the first three and a half years; my mother, my dad on alternate weekends, when he came home for a day or two. A handful of various neighbors, all adults, all but one Native American, one a Nazi concentration camp survivor. Very rarely other children for a couple of days at Christmas or in the summer. I socialize really well with dogs and horses. Humans are trickier, but I’m learning.

    I suspect most of the creepers are not reading. They may have read John’s opening post, but that’s all. The only change I see he might make is to extend the bit about fairness. Life isn’t fair, period. You may being rejected while you’ve done everything perfectly. You ask everyone else what you did wrong, and they say “I don’t know, nothing, must be her/him.” The person rejecting you may not even know what it is. A passing scent triggered something in their mind and it was ascribed to you. Arguing about it is hopeless. You can’t know. That’s hard to deal with. So is dealing with the idea that sometimes you shouldn’t apologize when you know you’ve hurt someone.

    A week ago I was picking up a prescription, asked the clerk if it was possible there was a good way for me to tell the young lady over my right shoulder than the hem of her skirt was so high her panties were showing. “Not for you, but I can …” she began and interrupted herself to mumble into her headset. She and the two pharmacists erupted from behind their location, surrounding the young lady, another young lady, and a guy with them. All went off to security. Today I heard the rest of the story. The guy, who was the boyfriend of the other girl, was snapping photos of the “Glamour DON’T” for future distribution to his classmates. He didn’t get to do that. He now has no girl friend. And no cell phone. And no car. And a senior year in high school with probably of those things. Probably other social penalties. The other girl, standing beside the fashion victim, had not seen that the dress was climbing up.

  412. Hmm. A couple of people have said “in intimacy of any kind” and gone on to say ‘no’ means “no,” and only a sufficiently enthusiastic ‘yes’ means “yes,” and so on. This is true when the level of intimacy is being negotiated, as between strangers or light acquaintances, and in most cases in public. These are the situations being discussed in this post.

    But I have personally been in situations where ‘no’ means “yes,” and in fact where ‘please don’t do that!’ means “please do that some more, only harder.” Yes, I have. And what meant “no” was ‘safeword’.

    I’m only bringing this up because it’s possible some of you may hear someone tell a story, or overhear an interaction thought to be private by the participants, and get completely the wrong idea. Normally this sort of thing happens in private behind closed doors (or in certain very limited venues where such things are understood)…but I do know one couple who decided they needed better soundproofing on their bedroom after their two-year-old took to saying “yes, SIR!”

    These types of intimacy are carefully arrived at and usually discussed explicitly beforehand. You will not run into them just meeting people at a con (at least not with YOU as one of the principals). Just be aware that the rules can change almost without bound when people are in an intimate relationship.

  413. Stevie, thank you for posting the police advice on stalkers. It’s very helpful. After I’d posted, I came back to clarify that no one should feel required to do something that seems unsafe at the moment or in that place. The best response is going to be a bit context-sensitive.

    The community I meant, but failed to clarify, is the SF convention-going community, but even that’s too diverse for me to generalize about. Still, I think that Genevieve Valentine’s actions (to object to her harasser’s actions, to continue to object, and finally to report the incident to the convention runners and the community at large) were good choices to make in her circumstances.

    I’ve lived through decades in which the conviction that women needed protection led to robbing them of agency and self-determination. This makes me sensitive–oversensitive, maybe–to ideas that sound like special circumstances for women’s protection. I didn’t mean to suggest that anyone, male or female, should disregard her or his own safety, and I’m sorry I sounded as if I did.

  414. @ Xopher Halftongue

    People can, of course, consent to the BDSM play among kink communities and between couples. I wouldn’t, but many do. But there has to be an unambiguous consent before hand. Indeed, in the BDSM scene, open and public negotiation, before play commences, is a key step, and things have been known to go very wrong when that step is skipped or unclear or, in the case of demonstrations, not done in front of the audience. Kink spaces have creepers like any communities, and consent is still central to keeping them in check. I’m not interested in limiting what people can say yes to, even when it’s saying yes to no meaning yes for a prescribed time and place. I’m only interested in making sure uncoerced consent is given so that body sovereignty is maintained.

  415. But then the participants have already established between themselves the situations in which no actually means yes, thus rendering it several miles outside the boundaries covered by John’s post.

    And whilst I am sure that you really don’t wish to provide cover for idiots I am equally sure that some of the idiots will use your post as justification for their “but I thought that no meant yes” whinges…

  416. Stevie, I doubt it. And if they do…well, if they do it at a play party they’ll be among people many of whom have a) whips/riding crops/etc. and b) an unusual and strong reaction to people who whine.

    Not to worry.

  417. @ Stevie

    I’m sure Xopher was just making certain it was understood that people could consent to things that would not look like consent out of context. And I don’t believe he would have raised the issue had I not brought up my rule of thumb for only yes means yes. Anyone who tries to use that as an excuse for ignoring consent is looking for any excuse and is going to find it (in their own warped mind anyway). We can’t go through life censoring ourselves from saying anything anyone might deliberately misinterpret with the logic of a four-year-old. Remaining silent lest we say something they could twist into an excuse only panders to the idea that there are any valid excuses to ignoring consent.

  418. @GBCCm says (August 11, 2012 at 10:41 am):

    where people like Craig are going to be climbing over each other searching for weirdos to beat up.

    Please, just stop it. Even on the level of internet hyperbole, it’s pretty fraking offensive hearing you (and others) insinuate that anyone is calling for anyone else to be “beaten up” or “taken out and shot”. I’d prefer you start posting direct quotes, with citations, the next time you feel inclined to attribute creepy b.s. like that to me.

    Craig was pushing my buttons. “Hey, ladies! Is this geek bothering you? I’ll take care of him.” A really, really strong schoolyard bully vibe, a Charles-Atlas-cartoon scenario.

    Here’s a modest proposal, GBCCm. Don’t like people thinking you’re a harassment apologist/enabler? Stop making it so damn easy! Otherwise, I don’t think any of that is worth a serious response.

  419. Having read the comments to this post and to many other posts on the Readercon debacle (and many other debacles of a similar bent) it becomes apparent that a significant percentage of the SFF reading, writing and convention-attending fraternity take two things as self-evident, namely:
    a) raping, sexually assaulting or otherwise harassing women is conclusive proof that the harasser is on the autism spectrum; and
    b) being on the autism spectrum is a complete defence to any moral, legal or social consequences which would otherwise attend being designated a rapist or other sexual offender.
    That being so, we seem to be left with two choices, assuming that as a community we wish to reduce the incidence of rape and sexual assault. Given the majority of such crimes are committed against women, given that by the definition given above all rapists are on the autism spectrum and (equally) it is unreasonable (and ableist) to expect them to change their behaviour to “not raping” clearly banning all women from SFF spaces is the appropriate way to reduce incidences of sexual assault.

  420. Emma

    Thank you for clarifying; I too have lived through those decades and modified my views somewhat since we originally sought to take back the night. Now I will take help from anyone who genuinely offers it because I think we need to recognise that we are all in this together.

    The difficulty with your compliments about Genevieve is that it rather leaves Kate out in the cold; judging from your second post this is completely unintentional but there are plenty of people around who have made profoundly unpleasant claims about her. People who have been intimidated into silence may never be able to overcome their fear; the fact that she did so in support of another person is remarkable and in my view deeply honourable.

    I think we can agree that it is sensible to follow the advice of the police on how to deal with stalking and harassment, which is more than can be said for quite a few commenters who have claimed that Genevieve had a moral duty to listen to Walling’s ‘apology’.

    What John and others are doing is trying to find ways of educating people as to what is, and is not, acceptable behaviour to others. There will, I think, always be a hardcore of people who are uninterested in anything other than what they want, but that still leaves quite a few people who need help on how to grow up. If that can be provided via a website that’s great; what isn’t great is the suggestion that women, and it’s almost always women, should be landed with that job…

  421. Xopher and Gulliver

    Duly noted, with thanks; I may have been somewhat overheated because of Mo Farah winning the 5000 metres, and I was certainly overheated having watched Jamaica win the 4×100 metres relay.

    In a purely sporting manner, of course!

  422. I was quite heartbroken when I learned that Isaac Asimov (though he was probably not the only one back then,) groped young women at cons and other people excused or even cheered him on, saying, oh that’s just his way, you should be flattered. The young women then were expected to put up with it and not make a fuss because of society at the time. Translate to 2006 and when Harlan Ellison grabs Connie Willis’ breast on the awards podium in a nasty power play, it’s a scandal, Ellison is forced to apologize though his 70-something ass escapes most punishment and any friendship he had with Willis is gone. Because women and men back in the seventies started saying, No, this is not okay and you should know that, things have changed if slowly and inconsistently. Now we have harassment policies at cons with the understanding that there is such a thing as harassment. Now women don’t have to accept being treated as dolls, not people, and it’s not considered ridiculous if a man makes a complaint of being sexually harassed. Kids are taught — in school or by their mom on an isolated ranch — and adults learn not to touch, loom, stalk, pester, bully or talk dirty — to respect others as people who have rights of personal safety. This is necessary to be able to operate in public, at work, in school, etc. Grabbing the female employees in the office is no longer okay (but not that long ago, it was and many women still have to put up with abuses of it.) But change in abuse being less tolerated produces social anxiety and a desire to have the issue go away for many. So we have several prongs of disgruntlement with the idea that sexual harassment at cons is treated as a serious problem and that attendees and staff have to not touch, loom, stalk, pester, bully or talk dirty.

    1) The Asperger’s Harassment Brigade — As numerous people with Aspergers or who work with them have explained, this brigade does not actually exist and trotting it out is really insulting to people with Aspergers and other mental challenges in their lives. But we do have people like Lorne, who have these conditions and say that compulsive behavior they have from them paints them as harassers and thus excludes them from social settings. Lorne did not specify what compulsive behavior he had — compulsive touching, compulsive sexual outbursts (such as someone suffering from Tourettes.) Maybe he just feels that he seems odd and this will be misinterpreted somehow as stalking, looming, etc. As we’ve discussed, folks like Lorne have a challenge and have to take steps to deal with that challenge in life, such as therapy, medication, escorts, etc. These can be understandably hard to come by as the resources and the money for them is continually taken away now in our society. But for a convention, someone like Lorne can contact convention staff, explain the specific difficulty and it’s entirely possible the convention can supply a volunteer to escort the person and help them and allow them to participate. A solution may be found — and sometimes may have to be that it’s not a good idea for the person to attend the event — and it doesn’t require scrapping the basic social behavior of don’t touch, loom, stalk, pester, bully or talk dirty for everyone at the convention.

    2) The Socially Awkward Brigade — Those who are socially awkward are also facing challenges to interacting in society, at work and elsewhere. They worry that their behavior will be misinterpreted. But as has already been discussed, the socially awkward of all stripes are able to learn basic social rules for interaction at work, school, elsewhere. If those challenges are keeping you from participating in certain social interactions, then again, doctors, therapists and what resources you can gather are necessary steps for you to be able to function in life. And again, conventions can be contacted for possible help with challenges in attending the convention. Your special needs, though, again does not mean that we treat everyone at the convention as having special needs, nor does it mean that the other attendees have to put their need for personal safety before your desire for the particular social interaction. And because you have special needs, you need to make that clear to event organizers beforehand, not wait till something happens and cry out that you are an exception — which is something that harassers without special needs often do as an excuse. In the case of all behavior special needs that cause behavior that can impact other people, the person with the special needs is responsible for getting and asking for help with those needs. And they may get help, but there is a difference between that help and letting everyone run amuck, which doesn’t really help those with special needs and social anxieties either.

    3) You’re Cramping My Style Contingent — Sometimes combined with the socially awkward brigade argument, the cramp my stylers want to get laid and would like to go back to the 1970′s when male SF authors could grab female’s breasts at convention so that they don’t have to worry about any obstacles to their quantity not quality pick-up attempts. This was Walling’s philosophy — he treated Valentine as if he was Isaac Asimov in the 1970′s. But we’re not going back to the 1970′s (no matter that some folk try to drag us back there kicking and screaming,) so those in the contingent will have to accept no, it’s not okay and you should know that or get bounced until they learn it, as the one guy in the thread related he did when his friends told him he was being creepy. Think of harassment policies as your sexual tutors — until you start seeing the men and women you are targeting as people rather than targets, you are a lousy lover (yes, even if you’re gorgeous.) And don’t you want to avoid that?

    4) The Women Harrass Too Diverters — These object to an argument that no one has actually made in these discussions — that women never sexually harass; that men are never harassment victims — and insist on stressing it again and again because they’re sure all this harassment talk is just to persecute men as a gender and therefore, we should just go back to the 1970′s when we didn’t have the words sexual harassment. This approach is an attempt to stop victims and others from talking about harassment issues, about the obstacles men still face when they are harassed oddly enough, and the obstacles women face over harassment every day in every social interaction. It’s a shut up argument. People will not shut up, so you might as well give it up on this one.

    5) The I’m Scared Friendly Will Be Creepy Contingent — This would be the guy who asked the original question and Scalzi helpfully gave the guidelines. It’s a social anxiety about changes in equality status that postulates that women are oversensitive and so will feel threatened by innocuous behavior, not just the do nots, and that there will be men who want to beat them up as harassers to show off. And so, wouldn’t it be better to go back to the 1970′s, when females would have their breasts grabbed and so nobody would be analyzing friendliness? (Except we always are analyzing friendliness.) And the answer is no, it would not. The guy who scared the woman on the bus and again when he accidentally ran into her in a jewelry shop (and who is an enlightened guy, don’t get me wrong,) was actually oogling the woman on the bus. And she caught him. He did actually sexually harass her, and consequently, sexually threaten her, because, as he noted, she couldn’t know that he’d not harm her. Just oogle her. And he accepted that she took steps to protect herself thereby. Likewise, if someone mistakes your friendliness for a threat, instead of focusing on your need not to be blamed, focus on the other person’s need not to feel threatened by you further. Like not following the person around (stalking) trying to apologize. Like saying excuse me and going away from that person who is threatened and following the basic rules of social interaction. You’re not going to get thrown out of a con for slightly long eye contact. You aren’t even going to get thrown out for oogling. But touching, looming, stalking, pestering, bullying and talking dirty? That’s not okay and you should know that.

    (Sorry for the length; I’m catching up with the conversation.)

  423. Wow. Massive, massive typo in my first comment. Regarding performing a threat assessment before delivering a “no”:

    No matter who he is, the answer to that question is NEVER non-zero.

    Should read “… is NEVER zero.”

  424. Okay, long-ish story follows, but it’s on-topic, I promise.

    I just spent several hours in a public space, at a Pride festival (yeah, we’re a couple of months late here), talking to a bunch of strangers while being gay gay gay gay gay. This whole conversation was at the top of my mind for a great deal of it. In particular, there was a young woman who sat near my friends and I pre-march when there was no one else around. She was attractive to me, which is what first caught my eye – but then after that, it was just that she was alone and we would gladly have added her to our group. We’re a bunch of sometimes socially awkward, shy, geeky/dorky/nerdy introverts, after all. We always want to make room for the lonely shy people.

    So I sat there, afraid to approach her in case she wanted to be alone or wouldn’t appreciate my attention (scary older dyke and all). I didn’t want to invite her to join us and be rebuffed, but I really didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. I caught her eye a time or two and smiled, but got only a wan smile in return. I thought she was deeply shy, but I wasn’t sure that was all, so I walked away.

    Then, after the march, at the Pride celebration, I bumped into her while chatting with a familiar-faced stranger with a dog. Dogs are great icebreakers… anyway, this young woman made a comment to me about nothing in particular (the snacks on the table I think?) and I was finally able to grin at her and talk. She’d invited me to, with that little line. I mentioned that I’d spotted her on the bench alone and had wanted badly to invite her to join my friends and I but that I’m always worried about making people uncomfortable so I’d chickened out. She allowed as how she would have been pleased but she’s awfully shy. I mentioned the sudoku she’d been doing, and she said that she finds that if she does that she gets fewer concerned questions from older people who think she’s 12 and her parents have abandoned her, heh. A few minutes later she suggested we wander toward a more shady spot to chat and I said “Oh good, I like you!” and then fell all over myself being blatantly embarrassed.

    She met a few of my friends, we made a lot of comfortable small talk, then we wandered around a while. Eventually she found some of her friends and said she was going to join them and I waved her off. She’s something like half my age but if I’d thought to get her contact info I’d be adding her on Facebook right now – she’s sweet and I think she could use older gay friends. Of course, I always think that.

    So how does this all fit with John’s rules? Well, I think I did it right. I followed all the rules (without really thinking about them) and clearly made her comfortable. I managed to look approachable enough that she got over her shyness enough to talk to me, and we had a nice social encounter. I was not hitting on her or trying to; I wanted to make sure she had friends and had a pleasant day. I hope she went on to enjoy herself with her friends.

    Oh, and bonus: the woman from my previous story was there, and said she’d see me tonight and we could dance together. For those of you not reading along, I unintentionally creeped her out a couple of months ago and scrambled to fix it. Apparently I succeeded.

    So: confirmation that John’s guidelines are indeed a good starting point! Granted I’m not particularly socially awkward (or, when I am, I mostly manage to make it endearing rather than horrifying), but she was shy, alone, and vulnerable. I’m older, confident-verging-on-arrogant, kinda forceful. It would have been easy for that to go very badly. If I’d broken any of those guidelines it probably would have.

  425. Eesh. To anyone who thinks this is only a problem in the geek community, or at cons, or who’s trying to make any kind of excuse for the creepers, or to conflate them with the merely socially awkward: go to that link in the very first comment, to the Captain Awkward post. Read *every single comment* before you open your mouth (or type on your keyboard) again. Yes, it’ll take a while. But you need it.

    I found it eye-opening even as a woman. I mean, there are a lot of comments about things that “every woman” knows or has had to deal with, but there seem to be several of us who start out with, “OMG, I’m so lucky *I’ve* never had to deal with __,” only to remember, as we read all these recent posts and comments, “Oh yeah, there was that time…” possibly with variations of “I’ve been trying not to think about that,” or “I explained it away as ‘not so bad’ at the time, because __.” (The blank, in that case, often has to do with the huge prevalence of rape culture, and all the socialization and pressure on women to be so f**ing *nice* all the time.)

    I’m thinking of writing a blog post about my own experience of this, but for now, hmm, quick summary of salient points… I was pretty sheltered growing up, and privileged in a lot of ways. Lucky in some others. So in my first job out of college dealing face-to-face with the general public, I had no idea of what to do or how radically unacceptable it was when a “customer” (I use quotation marks because I was working at a used bookstore and he was selling, not buying), um, mastered the use of the single entendre, as Oz would put it. I told him a couple times in the conversation that I was married. He didn’t care. In retrospect, if it had happened to my slightly older and wiser self, I would’ve attempted to kick him out of the store, and I *certainly* wouldn’t have bought his books, but I was young and sheltered and intimidated. I’d just been trained at this job and it was one of my first days ever working alone in the store. I was extra confused because he had two friends with him, one of them female, and she was so Very Not Helpful in any way. I saw her again later, and apparently that *was* her idea of flirting, but… :shudder: Yeah, it’s a bad sign when you can’t even bring yourself to repeat the words that were said to you. Of course I am so glad, looking back now, that it was only verbal, disgusting as it was. Oh, did I mention that he was at least twice my age?

    I’m not even sure why I’m writing this now. Other people here have addressed the excuses. The Captain Awkward thread is so great, though, and I wanted to get my story off my chest, I guess, especially when I see comments that seem to think this is only a geek problem. Yes, Scalzi specifically starts out this post talking about geekdom, but don’t use that as a derailing tactic. Blech. The guy who harassed me was about the farthest thing from a geek, and as a quiet sheltered nerd myself, my younger self was that much more vulnerable. (Going a little further in that direction, as one awesome commenter pointed out over there, if you want to whine about the Aspies, maybe you should think about the female Aspies who are even more likely to be harassed or assaulted.) I really wish I’d already been exposed at the time to threads like the one on Captain Awkward’s post.

  426. @Kat Goodwin

    Your point #5 is interesting to me. I’m not actually always scared my friendliness will be creepy, but I do keep it in mind, and it’s a concern – and I’m not a man. I’m also not trying to derail the conversation. I’m genuinely interested in making sure that people are comfortable or at least that I am not contributing to their discomfort. I think there are definitely others in this category, men included, who are genuinely well-meaning and doing their best not to be awful, and have some anxiety about that. Which is, of course, precisely what the original post is about – how to not be a creep, for those genuinely worried about it. They don’t all want a return to outdated social rules. Some of them want badly to be able to socialize with people without making them uncomfortable, and aren’t confident about their ability to do so. I sure as hell don’t want to go back in time. So maybe there’s a subsection of category 5 – well-meaning people who are honestly working on learning to navigate the social world.

    The gender stuff is fascinating for me, too – as a butch lesbian, I’m a woman, but one who is some