You Never Know Just How You Look Through Other People’s Eyes

In my piece on how not to be a creeper, I made a point that today I’d like to expand on just a little; I’ll explain why in a bit. Here’s the point:

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.

This apparently has struck some to be dreadfully unfair, with the implication being that other people responding to folks (usually men) as creepers when in fact they’re trying to make an effort to be charming and witty and fun (or whatever) is some sort of special case in the interaction of human beings, and that such mismatches between intent and reception hardly ever happen in other situations.

To which my response is: you have got to be kidding me. Outside of the realm of possible potential creepiness, you don’t get to choose how other people respond to you, either. In any context. Indeed, regardless of your efforts to present yourself in a certain way, it is almost certain you will come across to some other people as not that way at all, and possibly the opposite of that way entirely.

Let me, as I so often do for matters such as this, use myself as a good anecdotal example. You know, generally I try to be amusing; some people don’t find me amusing in the least. I try to write engaging books; there are people who can’t stand my writing. I often speak up on issues that are of concern to me; there are people who wish I would shut up about them, including some folks who are nominally on my side of an issue. I try to be pleasant with people; to some people I come across as insufferable, glib or insincere. I try to be open and upfront about most of my opinions; some people see that as me being an arrogant asshole. And so on.

I’m not gonna lie, here: I don’t really see myself as a glib, unamusing asshole who writes awful books and doesn’t know when to shut up. But despite my best efforts not to be any of those things, there will be people who think at least one (and possibly all) of those things about me. Because in their heads, that’s how they see me. It doesn’t mean they’re having a psychotic break with reality. There’s enough room for variation in basic human interaction for this sort of thing, even before you add in everyone’s own personal life experience to the mix — their own personal reasons for thinking a person acting like I do might be glib rather than pleasant, as an example.

What can I do when I try to be [x], and I come off as not[x] to some other person? In the very short run, not much of anything. People are going to respond to me the way they’re going to respond to me, for all the reasons they have that response. I’m not going to know all those reasons unless I try to engage them in a Quest for Context, which may not be convenient or appropriate at the time. I’m best off accepting that to them, that’s how I’ve come across.

The next thing I can do is ask myself, well, do they have a point? Am I being glib/unamusing/an asshole? Because sometimes they’re right and I am wrong. In which case, fair enough. I’ve learned something and will work to fix my behavior. Note that this requires a certain amount of personal honesty and willingness for critical self-examination that everyone says they have but lots of people actually don’t. On the other hand, If I decide they don’t have a point, then I generally chalk it up to people having differences of opinion and let it go.

What I don’t generally do is demand that the other party see it my way and believe that if they don’t then there’s something wrong with them. One, who has the time, and two, I’m not sure it’s really important that everyone respond to me in precisely the same way.

(If one does have time and the other party has an interest, one could talk to them about the variance and see where the disconnect is. But sometimes one party or the other doesn’t have that interest or time; that’s fine too. If one does that, however, one probably shouldn’t do it with the underlying thesis of “let’s discover why you’re so very wrong in your opinion about me and how we can fix that.” Most other people won’t sign up for that.)

Bottom line here: Your self-image is not the same as the image of you others receive. People will often see you entirely differently than you want them to. No one’s required to see you the way you see yourself, and you probably can’t make them do that even (or often especially) if you try. If you try to insist that they must, the likelihood of you coming across as petulant and unpleasant rises significantly.

So, no, in this respect, some people (often women) seeing other people (often men) as creepers when those other people are trying to be interesting and engaging and fun is not actually an unusual reaction dynamic at all. What is different about the creeper scenario is that there is very often a physical and psychological dynamic that has threatening possibilities to it. Which to my mind makes it more important for people to realize in that situation that they don’t have the ability to dictate how others respond to them, and to accept that as part of the ground rules going in.

One final point: If your takeaway from all the above is to think “If I can’t control how other people respond to me, then I’m relieved of my duty to be concerned about how I come across,” then you’re doing it wrong. People may respond to you differently than you intend; you should still make an effort not to be a grasping, self-centered assbag.  In my experience, being a grasping, self-centered assbag is one of the very few times where how you present yourself is exactly how other people see you, every time, without exception.

659 thoughts on “You Never Know Just How You Look Through Other People’s Eyes

  1. I think a lot of the disconnect on the prior thread was due to people getting the impression (or willfully misunderstanding) that someone being creeped out by you means you must leave the party, bus, town or planet you share with them. All it means is that you must stop interacting with them, and that you may only resume interacting with them at their pleasure. If you fail to respect their right not to interact with you, that’s when you get the boot.

  2. I think Gulliver is right. But my therapist had a hard time getting my mind around this idea, so I can see why it can be challenging (using MYself as an anecdotal example). Thanks for this, John. REALLY. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about creeps, assholes, and bullies for years now. You’re awesome.

  3. Actions have consequences, and we cannot control outcomes. However we often attempt to “influence” things in order to maximize the chances of our desired outcome actually occurring. Our success or failure rate at these attempts define our overall happiness with this approach. This tends to divide people into the “the heck with it!” camp or the “it’s working!” camp — both of which have issues. On one hand, as the article insinuates, it’s not very social to simply give up and act however you want, possibly incurring lots of negative social reactions. On the other hand, it’s also dangerous to take on responsibility for other people’s reactions and to constantly feel disappointed when you don’t get the results you’re expecting. As in all things, moderation is the answer — it’s okay (and right) to try to influence things, but at the same time, don’t get too hung up if things don’t turn out the way you plan. Such is life.

  4. There’s an interesting discussion going on in Geek Feminism that’s somewhat related to this, as well as a conversation about hacker manners at DefCon. A friend I have who goes there, and is invested in the culture but upset by the creepers says that it’s a case of “fuck you, you don’t gell me what to do” that’s embedded in hacker culture.

    I can sort of see that, but I also think representatives of a dominant culture refusing to change to accommodate a minority is sort of universal.

    The guys John is seeing claiming they’re offended are similar to white folks in the US who’re uncomfortable with criticism of endemic racism from non-whites, straight people who get hackles up about QUILTBAG folks “shoving it down our throats” (usually by existing outside of a closet and speaking up) and so on.

    They don’t want to have to think about complicated issues of oppressions, and the inherent complicity that they have in that oppression. It’s part not wanting to feel like a bad person when they don’t think they did anything wrong, and part feeling like someone is attacking something they identify as a part of.

    This is usually cause (IMO) by an inability to separate criticism of one single action IN a culture with ravening hordes seeking to destroy everything about that culture, salt the earth, and have a party on the ashes.

    Why? Because once in a while an individual that culture has offended will inevitably get angry enough to wish, in public, that the culture be burned to the ground. And suddenly that person becomes a representative of all criticism, just opposite from the way that a creeper is painted as a lone-grope-man, not at all representative of this culture and HOW DARE YOU YOU VILE… FEMINIST!

    That, in a very large nutshell, is what I think is motivating the reaction to ‘point 2′.

  5. I’ve been following along on this and the original post for several days. I hope that a few people who learn something from your observations. I have a lot of thoughts about this, but I’m not sure they’re unique enough to share here in an efficient manner. Thanks for your words.

  6. OY VEY. Some people need to get a hold of themselves. Were the complainants all white males, too? The saying that you can’t make people think what you want them too came up in a thread on a far off topic but it bears weight here, too. I mean… really. Caucasoid, please!

  7. One thing I’ve been trying to come to terms with in this debate is how it works in the other direction. I’ve always kinda thought it was my problem that I was uncomfortable around women and men that were overly touchy and dressed in a way that seemed innapropriately provocative for a given situation. Seeing your chest at the beach is fine if your are a guy or a girl – not so much in certain social situations.

    My take on my reactions is that I’m sort of in the clear on feeling uncomfortable about the guy (though I need to keep in mind that I might be reacting in a way that may seem homophobic) but that I’m not in the clear about my reaction to the girl (as I’d be being judgemental about her choices of self expression).

    I’m not a tall guy and that seems to give an implicit permission to some types of people to be a lot more “friendly” with me than they would be with someone taller standing next to me. I do find it kinda creepy – but I’ve always assumed that it’s something that I need to get over.

  8. I think part of the misunderstanding here is that people are conflating being “Perceived as a Creeper” with being “Guilty of Sexual Harassment”. So the instinct is to say “Hey, how can you call me that, even if I’m playing by the rules?”

  9. What I don’t generally do is demand that the other party see it my way and believe that if they don’t then there’s something wrong with them.

    If your takeaway from all the above is to think [X] you’re doing it wrong.

    Putting lots of paragraphs in between these points was good camouflage for the irony.

  10. Thank you for this. I plan to point to this the next time I have an argument with my son over intention vs outcome and responsibility of self actions. [Not that we have those arguments very often anymore. Sometimes he just needs reminding.]

  11. Roystgnr:

    “Putting lots of paragraphs in between these points was good camouflage for the irony.”

    There’s no irony; I’m not going to demand they see it my way. They are perfectly free to disagree with me and act like grasping, self-serving assbags if they wish. I hope they are happy in their choice.

  12. Graciously accepting the other’s feelings gives you a chance to show generosity and leave people with that as their last impression in the interaction.

  13. Thanks John! I have been watching in amazement at the Geek web has gone bat-shit crazy this summer about all of this. Look, people, it is not hard. Most of the guys getting upset need to remember the days of nerd and geek abuse. Did it feel good when someone set off your inner alarm? Just use about one ounce of empathy and if someone is creeped out by something you do, you apologize and move on. It is not rocket science. The sexual harassment issue in our community is real and the anger that emerged needs to be listened too. I have a little girl that loves Con’s and the thought of her becoming scared and intimidated makes me want to bitch-slap all of these apologists. Do not let this serious discussion become overwhelmed by the Nice Guy syndrome (thanks Captain Awkward!) and keep it focused on real abusers and not some guys working through their refusal to admit male privilege. Oh and boys, when male rape is depicted in every genre and screen that I have to sit through, then you might really get our fear based reactions.

  14. Years ago I heard an interview where Carl Reiner was talking about Mel Brooks. He said that when Mel’s jokes were funny, they were hysterical but when they missed they were just offensive. That sprang to mind reading this post this morning. We all have those moments when we just miss for whatever reason, whether it is just the wrong audience, the wrong timing, trying too hard, whatever. Being self aware means catching the clues that tell you it is time to pack up and move on from the situation. As Gulliver so astutely points out, this generally doesn’t mean you have to flee the room (note: generally; been in situations where fleeing the room was actually a good idea…) but it does mean move along, find a more sympathetic audience. It does require actually being self aware; figuring out the the universe doesn’t revolve around you. The conversation from yesterday showed a distinct lack of that sort awareness.

  15. Also worth noting that how people perceive you isn’t static. They can find you charming one day, but a pretentious/annoying/whatever git another. Might be because they’re having a bad day, or even a bad moment; might be that your attempts at being charming (or witty) aren’t coming off today, like a pitcher who doesn’t have his stuff that particular start; might be some less effable* combination of factors. Hell, even best friends/loved ones will find you grating sometimes. Still (always!) a good idea to back off/moderate your behavior if you’re annoying those around you. This is something a lot of young people, and geeks, and especially young geeks don’t get. I speak from experience, so take heed. Also note that things don’t swing symmetrically: if people find you generally annoying, it’s possible they might find you fun to be around at some specified point (consider Stephen Baldwin in The Usual Suspects versus Stephen Baldwin in the entire rest of his life), but it’s hard to pull off and generally a waste of everyone’s time and patience (and worse, if creeperish vibes are involved). Something about first impressions, second chances, and the lack thereof. It’s a handy thing to consider when meeting someone new — Christ, if I behaved around people I just met the way I frequently behave around my friends, I’d probably never get the pepper spray off.

    Also, I challenge your final statement. In theory, there’s a lid for every pot, and people do exist who consider assbags to be diamonds in the rough. Women who marry dangerous life-sentenced murderers, for instance. Also Charlie Sheen gets dates. Such cases are rare exceptions, however, and CLEARLY no reason to actually adopt the “hey, I’ll be a constant assbag because I gotta be me” attitude. Constant Assbag will now become the name of my next band in Rock Band, however.

    * Suspicion: not a word.

  16. But what if I am a charming, amusing assbag???

    Seriously, I am stunned at the amount of effort it is taking to explain these rather simple concepts. I have never been to a comic or an SF con so I have no idea what the environment is like. I have, however, been to many IT technical cons that are heavily weighted toward geeks & nerds of the male gender. Many of us are not socialized as well as we should be (its probably what made us geeks & nerds in the first place). Yet I have never seen or heard of this sort of thing being a problem. Now, it is possible I was just blind to it but working on panels and in breakouts with women who complained about their own under representation and often dismissive attitudes (something I did see frequently) I never heard them complain about creepers. Is this just something particularly bad in the comic/SF world or what?

    Even if it is how can the idea of how to deal with people be so difficult for so many?

  17. I think John has nailed this one. How you perceive yourself is not necessarily how others perceive you.

    For instance, I was a small child. I distinctly remember my grandmother on several occasions wondering if I was going to make it to puberty, etc. All of my siblings were large. I grew up thinking of myself as a small person.

    Then I hit the 11th grade and I exploded physically but my mental perception took YEARS to catch up. The defining moment was during a game session when a young woman, new to gaming, took something I said in character completely wrong and started screaming at me, incoherently. I, stunned, packed my stuff and left so that the rest of the folks could continue their evening.

    It wasn’t until sometime later that I learned I that had set off several of her triggers. One of my friends explained it to me and brought it home for me.

    I don’t think of myself as large. In my mind I am the same small 12 year old in love with gaming, RPGS, Tabletop games, etc. However, I am 6feet tall and weigh in at 325lbs. I rarely shave so I am very scruffy looking. I AM a large man and I speak emphatically. That makes some people VERY uncomfortable and some people find me intimidating.

    So, as a result, I constantly gauge my behavior and watch those around me. I maintain a strict no-fly zone around myself. I never approach new people closer than handshake distance and always move at a mosey. Seeing a 300lb scruffy dude marching towards you can be scary. I know it makes me nervous.

  18. Frankly:

    “Is this just something particularly bad in the comic/SF world or what?”

    I don’t think it’s particularly bad in this world; it happens in a lot of other places as well. We just happen to be talking about it a lot the last couple of months.

  19. Jeepers-creepers, I did not know that some people considered other people interacting with them on a friendly level to be potential stalkers or just plain weird /creepy. That shows how naive or possibly self satisfied and smug I have been in my social interaction with the people around me, I never knew that someone could take me to be one!
    Seriously , Mr. Scalzi, anyone who does not take communicating with another person in a matter of fact and normal manner, but instead spends her time analyzing your down to earth and ordinary witticisms as “What did he mean by that?” “Is he flirting with me?” “I am so not ready for this” and then “man this guy is creeping me out, is there any underlying motive behind what he said just now?” has serious psychological issues. You are not responsible for her cerebral meanderings. So just relax and be yourself because you definitely cannot “read” what is going through someone else’s mind at a given period of time and if she is “talking” to herself mentally on a totally different level altogether, you, being a Mere Male Do not know about it. So don’t let that worry you.
    Also, just for fun, next time you try to communicate with any one of the opposite gender, I guess you’d want to laugh over this URL beforehand!

    http://voices.yahoo.com/how-communicate-effectively-1943760.html?cat=60

    Enjoy!

  20. I wonder if the impulse to prove the other person is wrong about you is the same impulse as “Someone Is Wrong on the Internet.”

    In the latter case, you’ll spend a lot of time in comment sections, blockquoting and howling about the context in which your remarks should have been taken, but you’re not actually in anyone’s face, demanding that she admit her error and express her admiration for your vast command of Wikipedia and superior linking skills.

  21. The other way to look at it (and I really shouldn’t have to spell this out, but creepers generally don’t even consider other perspectives) is that other people certainly can’t control how YOU feel about them, so thinking you can do the same is completely silly.

    People can’t just make themselves suddenly attractive, witty, whatever in your eyes–why would you be able to do the same?

    One of the most important things to learn in interpersonal relationships is this: some people just won’t like you, and you just won’t like some people… that That Is OK.

  22. To me, this comes over as being about people who, if they get an adverse reaction from someone else about their behaviour, think it is that person’s fault rather than (just possibly) their own. It’s these people who have to develop greater self-awareness, or, as a minimum, follow John’s guideliness even if they don’t agree with them.

  23. @Josh Jasper, excellent points, but I suspect it ‘s also a big helping of plain old entitlement: people are only allowed to reject me for the reasons I think are appropriate.

  24. Guys do not have a monopoly on being wierdos. There are plenty of crazy, annoying women out there.

    That post read like you were mixing apples and oranges. You start by talking about a guy doing his leisure suit Larry routine and hitting on a woman and she is clearly not interested. Agreed. If she isn’t interested, the guy should move on.

    Then you move into a completely different category where someone is just talking and the other person just decides they don’t like them. Some people won’t like you. If I don’t like someone, I tend to just avoid the person. If you don’t like someone, then it is your responsibility to go away. If I am at a party and one person doesn’t like me, I am not going to leave. The flip side being, I am not going to walk up and hang out with the jerk who just wants to talk about himself either. The bottom line is if you don’t like someone, then its on you to go away.

    I have found that as people get older, they tend to care less what people think about them.

  25. Reply to Matt please.
    I understand how you feel, all about the intimidating part. No wonder a number of we 6 footers try our best not to talk to people tinier than us (98% of the general population) for more than 60 seconds at a time, because they think us scary! Accept my commiserations, pal. Also now I understand why some people instinctively flinch when they come face to face with me for the first time. Mr. Scalzi, it would have been better, if I had not read this post. I’ll need to start monitoring my voice, gestures and body language. Awww heck that takes out all the fun out of real honest to goodness communication!!!

  26. This quoted section is exactly the opposite standard when applied to race. How are you squaring the circle when it comes to the accepted standard concerning gender interaction and the accepted standard concerning racial interaction?

  27. I think that the reason that this is on topic in the fantasy/SF world is in large part because it just happened to happen at this particular con, but also because of what someone described as “Geek Social Fallacies”. http://www.plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html Or, put shorter, not everyone has to like everyone else, and they certainly don’t have to justify liking or disliking.

  28. Guess:

    “Guys do not have a monopoly on being wierdos.”

    I invite you, Guess, to point to the part where I have said any such thing.

    While you’re at it, Guess, I invite you to examine why you seem to be thinking that any such thing has been said when it has not.

  29. “Your self-image is not the same as the image of you others receive. People will see often see you entirely differently than you want them to.”

    I don’t disagree with your post; however, I think it leaves out one significant component: Most of these judgments are superficial in nature.

    I am, btw, speaking within the context of a someone (usually a man) approaching a member of the opposite sex with the obvious intent of starting some sort of a (hopefully) personal relationship.

    If you have a “look” that a particular man/woman likes, then *almost anything* you say/do (within reasonable limits, of course) will be perceived as witty, charming, appealing. On the other hand, if he/she does not like your “look,” then no amount of conversational skills are likely to convince the other person to talk to you beyond the minimum required for civility.

    If you don’t immediately take the hint, then every second you linger will increase the odds that you are labeled “a creeper.”

  30. I’ve been following this closely in the atheist/skeptic community over the past year and it’s obviously bubbling up on other traditionally straight-white-male-centric communities as well.

    I’d like to address the Nice Guy issue, e.g. the guy who complains that being a Nice Guy hasn’t gotten him laid and women are all liars and bitches because they ignore the Nice Guy. I can’t recall where this came up recently (probably a podcast, maybe not) but there is a real semantic difference to ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ which I’d never really considered which is that nice has a subtle implication of artifice to it whereas kind carries a connotation of sincerity. This seems consistent to me with Nice Guys who aren’t actually nice but act in what they consider to be nice ways because they think that women will then owe them sex.

    I’ve always considered myself to be a nice guy (note lowercase). I’ve had plenty of trouble connecting with women over the years and in fact been told by some that I’m “too nice” What I take from this consistent issue is:

    1 – I’m attracted to women who aren’t into guys like me
    b – This is my problem, not theirs

    I can continue to pursue women who have no interest in me, but it would be absurd for me to then complain about them not being interested in me. One’s reach should exceed one’s grasp etc etc.

  31. @mythago

    I’m dealing with a creeper issue right now (not creeping on me, but on several female friends of mine). The attitude of creepers tends to be more that they wont’ accept being rejected at all, because that implies agency on the part of their target. They don’t view their targets as actual people.

    I will clarify that I refer here to serial creepers rather than just the casually socially awkward who can sometimes be creepy without realizing it.

  32. Think the dude dressed as a Jedi might be creeping on the girl dressed as the girl from Hunger Games right now. No wait, she just handed him a huge halberd. I can’t figure out GenCon, but love watching it.

  33. First, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find this blog (I plead 2 kids + full-time job for my web ignorance).

    Second, thank you. This whole discussion is wonderful and I’ve been using pieces of it to discuss boundaries and trusting your feelings with my pre-teen daughter who, owing to being tall and developing early, has been mistaken a few times for being a number of years older than she actually is. Sadly, the ‘Hey, don’t get upset. I was just playing around.’ response is already well-established among boys 12-15 in our neck of the woods, as is the implied message that the girl ought to be one to feel guilty if she calls a guy on creepy behavior because she’s somehow insulted him or hurt his feelings by saying that she doesn’t appreciate the way he’s behaving.

    It’s also made me think seriously about the mixed messages I’ve probably unintentionally modeled. I’m an introvert and, to put it mildly, not a touchy-feelly person. However, I know that I’m not exactly normal in that regard, esp. in terms of what is considered normal for women. So I endure, as graciously as I can, unwanted hugs and little touches from acquaintances who consider those things to be normal, friendly behavior. (I’m already enough of an anti-social weirdo among the set of other mothers associated with my kids’ school. No need to make that worse). So I’ve found that I really need to explain threatening vs. non-threatening, creepy vs. too-extroverted-to-get-how-introverts-feel, etc. All of these are things are not easy to think though or explain, so I am very grateful for someone as articulate as you (and many of the commenters here) to help me formulate those explanations.

  34. @ Nina – Nice. Bitchez be crazy, right? (I read your linked article – your point, other than “Crazy bitchez” is?)

    I think you need to re-read that article a little bit – for someone with all of your “degrees” I wonder at your reading comprehension.

  35. Karina:

    Let’s holster the “reading comprehension” cracks, please. In most cases it crosses the line from civil to something else (says the guy who uses it himself from time to time, but whose site it is and therefore has slightly more leeway on these things).

  36. Something that we all need to learn even though it’s hard and can hurt: Not everyone will like you. No matter how good your intentions or how hard you try. And that’s ok. But when you keep pushing because you feel slighted that they “haven’t give you a chance and they’d just change their minds if-” NO. That’s where you stop right there, because no one is obligated to do anything of the sort. And the thing is, that works both ways – you’re not obligated to “like” someone or give a person more allowances than you’re comfortable with, either.

  37. @Nina: if you normally don’t pay attention to how people are reacting to your language, gestures or body language, you haven’t been communicating in the first place.

  38. @dersk – you said it much more politely and helpfully than I have.

    With the risk of getting off-topic, If anyone is interested in a bit of reading on what Nina appears to consider to be typical interactions with women – read her link.

    It is still headdeskingly frustrating that the rule – you don’t get to dictate other people’s opinions of you – seems to be hard to get.

  39. @ Nina

    “Seriously , Mr. Scalzi, anyone who does not take communicating with another person in a matter of fact and normal manner, but instead spends her time analyzing your down to earth and ordinary witticisms as “What did he mean by that?” “Is he flirting with me?” “I am so not ready for this” and then “man this guy is creeping me out, is there any underlying motive behind what he said just now?” has serious psychological issues. You are not responsible for her cerebral meanderings.”

    I have to take issue with this. The reason pieces like this, Scalzi’s original post, and the multiple posts covering these topics on Dr. Nerdlove, Pervocracy and Captain Awkward exist are because there are LOTS of people out there for whom communicating in a “matter of fact and normal manner” is difficult and confusing. Human beings do not spring into being automatically understanding social norms or behaviors – we have to LEARN them and not everyone learns the same way (some people are not neurotypical and there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT) or even has the opportunity to learn how to navigate the complexities of social interaction.

    Your implication that women who analyze context of people’s (often male) words and behavior only due so because of “psychological issues” demonstrates a disturbing amount of ignorance about the space women occupy in our patriarchal culture, in which women, when victims of harassment/assault/rape, are often subjected to “Didn’t you think something was wrong because of X?” “Why didn’t you notice A,B and C?” “What were you thinking?!?” Whether that’s willful or naivete, I don’t know, but given the “Bitchez be crazy” tone of your posts and the piece you linked to, I’d have to lean toward the former.

    No, a person is not responsible for the “cerebral meanderings” of another person, but it’s basic common courtesy to be CONSIDERATE of how your actions are being received by another person and respecting the boundaries and comfort level of others. It’s called empathy.

  40. @Todd: And if I were JK Rowling, I wouldn’t need a day job. I’ve used a similar response before, but it’s an old line, and, as our host noted, a rather pointless one if true.

    Which brings up another good point: even outside of the actually-creepy realm, as The Pint says, nobody is obligated to like anyone else. Nobody is obligated to hang out with anyone else. In giant common spaces like cons or even in smaller mutual social circles, I’m going to tolerate Guy With Zero Volume Control or Every Conversation Must Be About Family Guy Girl, but I’m going to look for polite excuses to avoid them, and I’m generally not going to invite them to my own parties.

    I think that’s fine. Everyone has the right to select their own company; they can moderate their habits, or find people who don’t mind Loud Howard or really really like Family Guy too. I wish them well. At least, I wish them well until they start getting all guilt-trippy and resentful, or using words/phrases like “superficial” or “friend zone”*, at which point I hope they get eaten by bears.

    *Seriously, that phrase, if you use it non-ironically, pretty much marks you as someone I have no interest in talking to, ever.

  41. I’d love to print this post out and give it to someone I know… but even then they probably won’t get it. If one is firmly of the notion that one can and should be able to control another person’s thoughts about one, then one is likely to require more psychological help than can be provided through an eloquently-worded blog post.

    Also, I love the Butthole Surfers quote for the title of this post.

  42. In a way this is really a marketplace issue. You can offer what you have (your friendship) and others are free to accept it or ignore it. If you’re smart, you will learn from these interactions how to make your product appeal to the customers (friends) you want to attract. Hectoring them and telling them why they are wrong is not usually going to result in more effective and satisfying transactions.

    Sometimes it’s easier to see the outlines of the interactions if you consider a different venue, for example a job interview. Normally you would prepare yourself by trying to find out what the employer is looking for and presenting yourself in a way that would make them want to hire you. If they don’t hire you, do you think it’s really going to help for you to keep telling them what a big mistake they’ve made? It’s not a way to win friends, either.

    People are free to choose who they want to interact with and who they don’t, just as they are free to choose who to hire and what kind of shampoo to buy.

  43. Given this is a writer’s blog, I’m surprised that no one has brought up the (to me) obvious analogy. The issue in question is very similar to the writing principle of “You don’t get to choose how your readers interpret your prose,” right down to having similar corollaries. (“But you are still responsible for what you wrote,” “But if you don’t try to say something worthwhile anyway that is your failure, not your readers,” and “No matter how hard you try or how skillful you are, there are inevitably going to be people who take your intention not just wrongly, but outright WRONGOMFGWTFBBQLY.”)

  44. This quoted section is exactly the opposite standard when applied to race. How are you squaring the circle when it comes to the accepted standard concerning gender interaction and the accepted standard concerning racial interaction?

    Comparing race to the creeper behavior as Scalzi has outlined is a false comparison – race is part of who a person IS and is immutable, creeping is a BEHAVIOR that can be changed.

  45. One fundamental problem I have with this post. Yes, I cannot help how other people react to me. However, we can insist on mutual respect and compassion, regardless. You can’t help how people react to: your funny accent, your choice of cologne, how you dress, the nationality implied by your last name, the unfamiliarity of your first name, your profession, your religion, your gender, your weight, your sexual orientation, your choice in jewelry, your choices in body art and piercings, your lack of body art or piercings, etc., etc.

    I deal with people every day that have some characteristic I am uncomfortable with for my own reasons. That does not give me the right to treat anyone with disrespect. I can’t tell how other people see me, unless they tell me. However, I can make an effort to see things from their perspective, I can strive for some empathy and compassion and respect.

  46. My point in the above comment: my being uncomfortable with someone doesn’t make them a creeper. If they don’t respect me, my privacy, my boundaries, and act like they have some right to my attention, then they are a creeper.

  47. Lorenzo – I agree with the sentiment about how we should treat others with mutual respect and compassion, but I think you’re conflating “no one is obligated to like you” with giving people a license to be disrespectful to people you don’t like. Choosing to not to interact with someone is not automatically disrespectful – often, choosing not to interact with someone can often be respectful because you are *respecting their apparent desire not to interact with you.* People can move in the same social circles but not interact without being disrespectful to each other. We can acknowledge that there are people with whom we want nothing to do with and still acknowledge their humanity. Not wanting to interact with someone and treating others with respect and compassion are not mutually exclusive.

  48. Lorenzo Farris:

    “However, we can insist on mutual respect and compassion, regardless.”

    Well, no. You can choose to treat people with what you believe is mutual respect and compassion, and I would encourage that. You cannot insist that they interpret what you offer exactly as you intended to offer it. And if they reject what you offer or interpret differently than how you intended to offer it, you can’t insist they see it your way.

  49. It doesn’t hurt also to consider the possibility that you have no idea of the context of what a particular person may perceive you under. You may make a joke that a week prior would have been funny, but this week something has happened that makes that same joke incredibly distasteful, insensitive or hurtful to a person. You may be entirely unaware of that fact, but it doesn’t matter to the receiver. You might be the tenth or hundredth person to hit on a person at the con that day who is rather tired of it and you just crossed their threshold of ‘getting creeped out’. You don’t get to decided how they react or why. You can only be responsible for your own part of the equation and how you handle yourself during the interaction.

  50. @ Lorenzo – I don’t think you’re disagreeing with anything here! You hit the nail on the head with “that does not give me right to treat anyone with disrespect”.

    That above thought includes allowing others NOT to engage with you if they choose to, even for erroneous (aka – unintentionally to you off-putting) reasons!

  51. Scalzi: This apparently has struck some to be dreadfully unfair, with the implication being that other people responding to folks (usually men) as creepers when in fact they’re trying to make an effort to be charming and witty and fun (or whatever) is some sort of special case

    I was thinking about the previous thread comparing “Alice thinks Bob is a creeper” to “Charlie shoulder checks Dave, calls him a prick, and laughs”. It was the “and laughs” part that stood out as a psychological tell. The perception from Bob’s point of view of being called a creeper when he misunderstood Alice’s signals, is that it’s an attack on his honor.

    And for the folks already winding up their spleens to vent at me about how it doesn’t matter that it’s honor, yes. you’re right. When trying to deal at a systemic level with creepers and harrassment, it doesn’t matter what the motivations are. Jeebus. I get it.

    But at the same time, when trying to address creepers and harrassment at a systemic level, there is nothing to be gained by attacking people for being driven by fairness and are heavily motivated by honor. Because by themselves, fairness and honor do not make someone a creeper.

    This is one of those situations where I think Gulliver’s tweak to the definition of “creeper” makes a huge difference. If you define creeper as someone who makes someone else feel uncomfortable/unsafe, then folks who get wound up because someone “laughed at them” are going to get wound up about the definition of creeper. Because the definition says they’re a creeper if any other person in the world thinks they are. If someone is motivated by honor, then this definition is about the worst possible thing in the world.

    And what happened on the other thread was someone compared the unfairness of the definition of creeper with the unfairness of someone walking down the street, calling you a prick, shoulder checking you, and laughing.

    If you tweak the definiton to say someone is a creeper if they make someone feel uncomfortable and they don’t do anything to make the person feel comfortable again (apologize and leave, usually), then who is and is not a creeper is not entirely in someone else’s hands, it’s not entirely defined by any individual anywhere in the world. The person accused of being a creeper by someone can prove they’re not by apologizing and leaving them alone.

    If they’re a creeper only based on what the other person thinks, then they’re motivated to try and change the other person’s mind, to hang around, to persist, to try and convince them otherwise. If the person is motivated by honor, what what other people think of him, then this feeds into it and makes everything worse.

    If they can avoid being a creeper by leaving the person alone, then their isn’t the motivation to try and change the other person’s mind. They just leave the other person alone, and they’re not a creeper. If the person is motivated by honor, then they can keep their honor by simply walking away, proving they’re not a creeper.

  52. I can’t believe that some people need to have this explained to them. And that there are still others who think they have a leg to stand on when they argue against it. It’s embarrassing.

  53. Lorenzo,

    If you want to respect and feel nice things towards everyone, that’s your choice. Sometimes people’s actions make me angry, or uncomfortable, or otherwise not respectful or compassionate. I’m not a defective person because I feel that way, and my actions are not defective if I choose to confront that person in order to remove the source of my discomfort, and am not particularly interested in seeing things from their perspective.

  54. Josh: Sometimes people’s actions make me angry, or uncomfortable, or otherwise not respectful or compassionate. I’m not a defective person because I feel that way, and my actions are not defective if I choose to confront that person in order to remove the source of my discomfort

    And sometimes, you’re wrong.

  55. Greg

    Just to let you know, the use of the word ‘hono(u)r’ in any conversation about the way in which men and women interact sexually is a trigger for a lot of women, me included.

    So called ‘honour killings’ in which women are murdered because they seem not to comply with religious doctrines are depressingly familiar and it really does not help when someone tries to introduce that concept into an area which has hitherto been free of it…

  56. I will respond to:

    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.

    with this quote:

    Are there any queers in the theatre tonight?
    Get 'em up against the wall.   -- 'Gainst the wall!
    And that one in the spotlight, he don't look right to me.
    Get him up against the wall.   -- 'Gainst the wall!
    And that one looks Jewish, and that one's a coon.
    Who let all this riffraff into the room?
    There's one smoking a joint, and another with spots!
    If I had my way I'd have all of ya shot.
    
  57. @Nina

    I believe that you and I have vastly different interpretations of the same article we just read.

    Here is what I didn’t read: I didn’t just read a piece wherein an author bemoaned having to care about what other people think of him.

    I did just read a piece that seemed to merely explain that we (with the author using himself as an example), as mere humans, cannot choose how other people see us, regardless of our intentions. And, as a part of being a human, he accepts that some people won’t want to hang around him. Even if that’s not his fault (read: not his intention to give someone the creeps or the ughs), that’s still OK if they don’t want to be near him.

    Yeah, it does kinda suck when someone doesn’t get you as a person. That doesn’t mean they have to give you the time of day or to be “fair” and let you explain until they get you. *

    I found your initial reply to be harshly dismissive. This article was not centered upon someone’s “cerebral meanderings”. That phrase alone is dismissive in that context. And coupled with the rest of your reply seems to imply that the only time a woman finds a man’s company unpleasant is when she’s reading too much into the situation. (Oh, gee, those women thinking too much…)

    Also! That a woman has to be held to a standard where she can fully see the intentions of another person approaching her (the whole “but he was only being friendly” to someone who doesn’t attack her, but if someone does attack her then the comments become “but why didn’t you get a creepy vibe and then leave?”), and those other people who are doing the approaching aren’t made to examine their own behaviors let alone appreciate the fact that their intentions don’t matter if someone doesn’t want to be around them for any reason.

    This article, and the other ones it’s connected to, stem from cases (and a general vibe in the community, if you will) of women’s boundaries not being respected, and heck in some cases not even being acknowledged as a thing that exists. Specifically this happens to be about what’s going on in the fan convention world, but also less specifically everywhere that women are, which is… everywhere.

    (*general yous in places where general yous are needed.)

  58. I am wondering where this fictional creeper is who would actually read this article and cure himself of creepitude. Any man who can read this article and say “Yeah, that’s me” and desire not to be so, probably isn’t even labeled a creeper by others. You can’t reason with a creeper; that’s why they are best avoided by women or their other potential victims.

  59. @Josh Jasper: I think Lorenzo is looking at this this from the wrong angle. Your comment about people’s actions sometimes making you angry, or uncomfortable, or otherwise not respectful or compassionate is what this is about. It’s the *action* that is (sometimes) the problem… the failure of people to realize that their actions may be a problem and their failure to *stop* their actions and back away.

    What it’s *not* about is, as Lorenzo thinks, your funny accent, your choice of cologne, how you dress, the nationality implied by your last name, the unfamiliarity of your first name, your profession, your religion, your gender, your weight, your sexual orientation, your choice in jewelry, your choices in body art and piercings, your lack of body art or piercings, etc., etc.

  60. @NotKelly – EXACTLY!!!! Most guys get drunk and can act creepy but will apologize and stop. A real predator goes into the whole defensive act and somehow the victim is now the bad guy. They don’t see women, or their victims as having the right to say no.

  61. @NotKelly: It’s not like creepers go scouring the internet for self-help articles on how not to be creepers. The way I see it, people spread the word on articles such as this and someone pops over here and reads it and maybe thinks, “Holy crap, *I* do that sometimes!” And hopefully they stop, or at least, dial it down a bit. It can also educate people who know someone who, intentionally or not, acts like a creeper… and possibly prompt them to point out to the creeper what he/she is doing wrong.

    Also, it helps those of us who have been creeped on, male or female, to understand what we can do to avoid creepers and/or dissuade them from creeping. I do have a work creeper that I deal with and some of the things John has written *have* helped me decide how to deal with any creepy situations in the future.

  62. Okay, I’ll throw in my two cents. As a woman who’s been around for awhile and who’s been creeped upon too many times to count, I can say that it’s a problem of respect, or lack of it. The men who have creeped on me have simply not respected me as a person, and that is the central issue. I don’t care what you look like, when you bathed last, where you come from, what your marital status is … any of that. Respect me. That’s what I demand from fellow humans. There’s not enough of it to go around these days, IMO.

  63. Back on the portable keyboard with the backwards apostrophes…

    Nina, I‘m going to give you the benefit of the doubt for a moment and assume you have no idea of the context of this post, you didn‘t read the previous posts or the comments on them. I‘m not sure why, because I couldn‘t even get through your link. It was offensive, not funny. And he explains the context extremely well in his opening paragraphs… Maybe I just fell in love with the response in my head. Anyway.

    Let‘s take your opening sentence: “Jeepers-creepers, I did not know that some people considered other people interacting with them on a friendly level to be potential stalkers or just plain weird /creepy.“

    No, it‘s not terribly common, not if they‘re REALLY “interacting with them on a friendly level.“ That‘s sort of beside the point, but let‘s go with it for a moment. It‘s POSSIBLE that people won‘t want to interact with me because they think I seem like an axe murderer. It‘s sure as heck not very likely, but it‘s possible. (Women tend to be good at being “nice,“ but I‘m especially good at it and non-threatening. Any time a customer got mad at me when I worked at a certain bookstore, my coworkers generally took it as a sign that the person must be completely out-of-their-heads crazy.)

    Now, if it‘s not very likely to happen, why belabor the point? It‘s very true and valid, but it‘s so obvious, why even bring it up? That brings us back to the guys saying, “But I‘m just being friendly!“ Do you really trust them on this? It might be true, and it actually doesn‘t matter, people have the right not to associate with them either way, but…

    When I was working at that bookstore, I frequently bought used books from people. Sometimes they would call ahead of time, trying to get a guarantee over the phone that we would buy them. That would‘ve been incredibly stupid on my part. Someone with this sort of vested interest, and zero expertise or empathy for the store, cannot be trusted to have the right perception of their books (let alone themselves…!). There was actually an inverse relationship between the number of times a person would say, “They‘re in really good condition!“ and the actual condition of the books. The more times they said it, the worse the books would be. If they thought the books were rare and valuable, I probably wouldn‘t be able to even GIVE the crap away. And so on.

    So the more times people trot out the, “But I was just being friendly!“ defense, the more suspicious I get. Do not, I repeat, do NOT take such protestations at face value.

    Not that it matters. Even if they‘re telling the truth, then they shouldn‘t have a problem just walking away. Exactly as Scalzi already explained.

  64. I often think people willfully mistake the reality that “you can’t make everyone like you” as permission to absolve themselves from responsible social interactivity. As a former weird kid–not a paste eater, but weird enough–I can attest that it’s plenty attractive to apply the mental balm that your perceived creeperdom is someone else’s fault. Sometimes that’s true. But there’s also something to the idea that 50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong and when EVERYBODY thinks you’re weird/creepy/difficult to be around…maybe it’s you. And, inaction is an action, so if you realize you generally come across as a creeper and don’t try (or don’t want to try) to figure out what you can do to create a better impression, then please don’t complain about it. Though acceptance is less creepy than external blame, so maybe that’s an impossibility..?

  65. The Pint says:
    “Comparing race to the creeper behavior as Scalzi has outlined is a false comparison – race is part of who a person IS and is immutable, creeping is a BEHAVIOR that can be changed.”

    Creeping, as defined by Scalazi, is entirely driven by the other individual’s assessment (EG opinion). There is nothing that says this opinion is or must be driven by any particular behavior.

  66. you don’t get to choose how other people respond to you

    I’d say there’s a lot of ironic truth to this on the part of Scalzi. The people, usually women, in question don’t get to choose how the creepy guy responds to them. And unless he violates some clear legal boundary (such as trapping you or repeatedly touching you when you’ve said “no” at least once to touching) you don’t get to use the hammer of authority to destroy those who make you “uncomfortable”.

    I teach, own a business and go to school and I meet several people daily who make me uncomfortable, so uncomfortable I want to run. But, I know what is expected of me as an adult and deal with them in a civil fashion and gently remind them if they’ve violated a boundary.

    But, we as a society have grown to coddle women. So instead of expecting them to deal with the creepy guy in an adult fashion we excuse them to run off to the nearest authority figure and report to him or her like a 4-year-old that “he’s making me uncomfortable”. And we as a society don’t listen to what she has to say and say “oh, grow up” in some cases; we twist our faces in determination, pick up our metaphorical torches and go destroy the creep.

    And it does happen. I don’t know how many socially-awkward guys I’ve seen destroyed (sometimes all the way to prison or suicide) because they made some girl “uncomfortable”.

    Grow up.

  67. Scorpius:

    “So instead of expecting them to deal with the creepy guy in an adult fashion we excuse them to run off to the nearest authority figure and report to him or her like a 4-year-old that ‘he’s making me uncomfortable’.”

    Scorpius, there are many ways in which your comment is just sexist and stupid, but this particular bit — the one in which you suggest a woman should not avail herself of an existing system designed to help her deal with unwanted attention from a guy rather than handling it herself in a manner which you have determined “adult” — is probably the stupidest, framed, of course, in the most belittling way possible.

    The admonition to grow up certainly applies, here, Scorpius. The person for whom that admonition would best apply may surprise you.

  68. Stevie, Just to let you know, the use of the word ‘hono(u)r’ in any conversation about the way in which men and women interact sexually is a trigger for a lot of women, me included.

    If you have a positive synomym for honor that is not triggering to you, I’ll use that instead. I did a quick check of the thesaurus and didn’t find anything that really fit and was a positive term.

    Terms like “the honorable Senator John Smith” and referring to a judge as “your honor” point to an idea that is hard to point to with any other word.

  69. John,

    If I in my capacity as a student, teacher or businessman went to an authority figure to report that a student was “making me uncomfortable” (and not being disruptive or in other ways making it impossible to do what I had to do) I’d be told to just “grow up and deal with it”. And they’d be right!

    Why is it men are told “deal with it” and women are coddled like children?

    But I don’t expect much from you. You don’t seem enlightened enough to understand the sexist double-standard that exists in society today where men are expected to be adults and treated with scorn if they do not where women are expected to be children and praised if they act like adults.

  70. @Scorpius – yes, let’s totally ignore rape statistics and women’s accounts of creeping and how abusive behaviour escalates.

    As for socially-awkward guys going to prison for making some “girl” uncomfortable?? Really? I’m sure if jail time was involved, there was MUCH more than some transient, superficial “discomfort” suffered by the woman.

    As for being “coddled” – men have been able to sexually harass women with near impunity for AGES. I think it’s men who are finally having to face their privilege and the bad acts perpetrated by some now that people are finally speaking up. So really, it’s MEN’s behaviour that is no longer being coddled and catered to at all times.

  71. I keep seeing folks seeming to confuse serious creeping with baseline uncomfortable. I think that following the suggested rules works out just about right. No touching, no looming, blocking, following. If your initial interaction with someone makes them uncomfortable then either you notice and leave or they’re free to leave. Up to that point I see no issues. There are always going to be pairs of people who don’t get along (sometimes for extreme values of don’t).

    You do need to pay attention to the social situation. You do need to react to things you perceive. You don’t need to go crazy trying to post-mortem or fix an interaction that didn’t work out the way you intended. If I interact with someone new who doesn’t seem to enjoy the conversation or interaction then I move on. It doesn’t make you a creeper if some folks are uncomfortable with your mannerisms or appearance. It does make you a creeper if you continue to force your presence on folks who you know feel this way. If this sort of things happens often you may want to look at changing how you interact with folks (otherwise if you follow the rest of this advice you’ll find your range of possible friends narrowing down to nothing over time) but that is really up to you. As long as you’re not forcing your attention or presence on others, their problems are their problems…

    All of the above being said, there’s also a point (for the nerdy and clueless) that you should probably figure out basic social interactions (i.e. idle small talk and chatter about subjects of common interest at arms length distances with no attempts at personal stuff) before escalating to intermediate and advanced social interactions. Take things slow and calm until you get better at reading people and situations (and as has been pointed out, anyone can learn this stuff…just that in some cases it takes effort where other folks get it instinctively).

  72. @ Scorpius – Encouraging women to report harassing behavior to authority figures and taking their reports of such seriously is not coddling. Especially not in a culture that has historically denigrated women for having the unmitigated gall to not put up with unwanted attention because “they ought to be flattered” and then turning right around and telling them it’s their own fault for not saying “no” “the right way” or loud enough if they’re assaulted, harassed or raped.

  73. This post and the sentiment it espouses would have been very valuable to me in my twenties (a long time ago!), because I remember feeling hurt that not everybody liked my witty and erudite personality. Over the years, I’ve come to accept the truth that not everybody is going to think my jokes are funny or get my multi-lingual double entendres. Or think that my attempts at wit/erudition are anything other than arrogant pomposity.

    Some people don’t like me and they are not going to like me, and that’s the way it is. I have to deal with it. I now realize that I do much better with people when I dramatically tone-down the funny (or what passes for “funny” to me.) As my friend says, “I don’t care if people get my jokes or not; I’m just happy when they realize I was trying to make a joke.”

    Scalzi’s post succintly summarizes a couple of decades’s worth of life-lessons for me.

  74. @Scorpius Dude….I don’t even know what groups you hang out with but you need to move. Most girls do NOT want to make a scene (yes I acknowledge there are crazies out there), so when a girl says something, she tends to make light of it. (I on the other hand have punched guys who thought they had the right to touch me. For some reasons guys respect that more????)

    When a girl complains that a guy has made her uncomfortable what she is usually saying is that he has invaded her personal space repeatedly or made incredibly scary comments like rapish shit that she is starting to get the idea are not actually jokes. Look, if women were coddled then this discussion wouldn’t even come up. I would estimate that half (1/2) of the women I know were molested, raped, or physically attacked in some way by a Man. HALF!!!!! You, as a man, do not have the built in fear that every woman on this planet has to deal with. So when someone says they are uncomfortable with something, then the guy should man up and walk away!!!!

    Seriously, think about real life for someone other than you in your safe bubble.

  75. Scorpius:

    “But, we as a society have grown to coddle women.”

    A survey recently reported in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexual-assault.html) reports that one in five women had been raped or had been victims of attempted rape, one in four have been beaten by an intimate partner, and one in six have been stalked.

    Tell me more about how we coddle women. It’s really amusing.

  76. Scorpius:

    “If I in my capacity as a student, teacher or businessman went to an authority figure to report that a student was ‘making me uncomfortable” (and not being disruptive or in other ways making it impossible to do what I had to do) I’d be told to just ‘grow up and deal with it.’ And they’d be right!”

    Well, no. If you went to an authority figure to complain about harassment and their response was to offer no assistance whatsoever, then they’d be wrong. And depending on the circumstances, open to civil liability.

    So that’s two bits of abject sexist bullshit for you on the thread, Scorpius. You don’t get a third. Run along, now.

  77. Karina: I’m sure if jail time was involved, there was MUCH more than some transient, superficial “discomfort” suffered by the woman

    As much as I think Scorpius is off his rocker, I really wish you wouldn’t assume perfect infallibility in the legal system.

  78. Good lord, you turn away for a second and they just get worse. It’s the weird anger/aggression over the idea that someone may perceive you differently than the way you intend, and not always in a flattering way at that, that’s the real kicker.

  79. “So instead of expecting them to deal with the creepy guy in an adult fashion we excuse them to run off to the nearest authority figure and report to him or her like a 4-year-old that ‘he’s making me uncomfortable’”

    While I dislike the sneering attitude of this quote, the truth is that respect is the key for women remaining safe. I think most women have learned to take the “respect temperature” of a room, although it can take a while to figure out. If you are surrounded by men who don’t respect women “He’s making me uncomfortable” complaints may just make the situation worse. That’s sometimes not much better than the useless “order of protection” a woman can get from the police to ward off a stalker who will eventually kill her.

  80. @ James

    Creeping, as defined by Scalazi, is entirely driven by the other individual’s assessment (EG opinion). There is nothing that says this opinion is or must be driven by any particular behavior.

    And assessments/opinions are often made in part by observing another person’s behavior. So I fail to see how that invalidates my point that you can’t compare an inherent, immutable aspect of a person like race to a subjective, changeable aspect of a person such as behavior.

  81. Apologies, that’s an incomplete thought. What I meant to say was So I fail to see how that invalidates my point that you can’t compare an inherent, immutable aspect of a person like race to a subjective, changeable aspect of a person such as behavior, on equal grounds.”

  82. James: Creeping, as defined by Scalazi, is entirely driven by the other individual’s assessment (EG opinion).

    The Pint: And assessments/opinions are often made in part by observing another person’s behavior. So I fail to see how that invalidates my point

    Because saying those assessments/opinions are often based on behavior does not mean they are always based on behavior.

    What I’ve noticed is that when someone comes up with a rule, and someone else points out a problem with the rule, the person who invented the rule responds with something like “Of course we don’t mean that, we’d never use it that way.” The problem is that the person inventing the rule isn’t the only person who gets to use the rule.

    It’s kind of like going along with something the president does because he belongs to “your” political party, and not considering the ramifications of what might happen when the next president is from the other party, and uses the same rule “your” president just used.

  83. @Greg – I don’t assume infalliability, I just take into account the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard as well as the general reluctance to prosecute sexual assault crimes. It’s possibly wrong, but it is a fair assumption to consider someone guilty of something (whatever that was) when a court determines it’s so. I don’t feel obliged to do backflips and assume someone DIDN’T do what jury of their peers found the actually DID.

  84. Greg

    I suggest that you use the word pride instead; that has the double virtues of being accurate and demonstrating that you are not an insensitive creep…

  85. @MNmom, who said: “Most guys get drunk and can act creepy but will apologize and stop. A real predator goes into the whole defensive act and somehow the victim is now the bad guy. They don’t see women, or their victims as having the right to say no.”

    Hrmmm. This may be true, but you have to be careful about how ‘the whole defensive act’ is defined, and you also need to be careful about the incompleteness of the classification. Other people, who are not predators – or drunk for that matter – can get defensive. Generally speaking they shouldn’t, but simply getting defensive doesn’t make them a predator. That’s a very strong word.

  86. Goddamn, now I have the awful MRA version of “Howl” starting in my head:

    “I have seen the most socially awkward minds of my generation destroyed by uptight feminazis…”

    And then it gets to “starving, hysterical, naked” and I need all the vodka to counter that mental image.

    So I thought I’d share. ;)

  87. Yes John, we don’t get to choose how others perceive us. I teach seminars all over the country, and we get evaluations. The feedback is often helpful and almost always positive, but sometimes an attendee will make a comment on the evaluation that really takes me aback. There is nothing I can do after the fact. It is just a fact of life – not everyone is going to like you, or think you are smart or handsome or witty or funny, or whatever. The important thing, as you said, is that you don’t get to choose. Sometimes a person just doesn’t like you for whatever reason, and it is their right as a human. So, learn to live with it and accept it. The funny thing is, I could have 29 people say they loved my seminar, and 1 person say they hated it. Which response do I think about the most? I finally had to learn to accept that not everyone is going to like me. It isn’t necessarily my fault and is certainly not theirs. I think life is a wonderful experience and we shouldn’t let little disappointments ruin our appreciation for that great smorgasbord available to us.

  88. I live in a town where, the definition of creep is, anyone who does not vote Tea Party, does not think the Earth was created in six days, believes in global warming or has an IQ over 60. I gave up on the idea of dating when I was 12. If someone thinks I am trying to pick them up, all I can say is, please stop with the drugs.

    The best solution is to keep all conversations on the friendly/professional level. (Yes, I have been accused of being a creep for attempting to barge into a conversation. It was only to tell a woman that her car was smoking and I thought, it might catch on fire.)

  89. Creeping, as defined here, seems to me to be analogous to those sales people who won’t give up – regardless of how you tell them you’re not interested, they persist in trying to sell you something. My attitude is, you’re allowed to ask; but if the answer is “no” give it up.

    Someone earlier said they hadn’t seen the kind of behavior at business-oriented meetings. As a woman who’s worked in a male-dominated field, I have some ideas of why a business conference is different from a con. First of all, people go in in “work mode” – they’re there to do something involved with their work; even the social events at such meetings are geared towards work. Second, a lot of businesses now have rules regarding harassment. Unlike a con, an attendee’s actions will have an impact on their ability to earn a living.

  90. Karina: I’m sure if jail time was involved, there was MUCH more…

    Karina: I don’t assume infalliability

    OK. First time around landed a bit differently for me than the second time.

    Stevie: I suggest that you use the word pride instead; that has the double virtues of being accurate

    Well, I’m not sure how accurate it is. Pride is listed as one of the seven deadly sins. The dictionary definition of “honor” doesn’t have nearly the negative baggage that “pride” has.

    and demonstrating that you are not an insensitive creep

    Hmmm… interesting way to frame the options you present…

    I’ll tell you what. If you want to actually discuss what I posted at 11:42, use the word “pride”, and I’ll keep my replies to using the word “pride” as well.

    If we’re not going to talk about the stuff I mentioned in 11:42, then disagreeing on what word we use in a conversation that isn’t actually happening, probably isn’t a fruitful disagreement to be having.

  91. Many places where honor could be used, you can replace it with respect. Replacing it with, “Respecting a mutually understood code of conduct, even when it results in personal loss or risk”, might be a bit long winded.

  92. Let’s talk about a fictional example: Howard Wolowitz, from The Big Bang Theory.

    He is kind of earnestly, puppydoggishly charming in his own way. He’s not a bad guy. He seems pretty harmless.

    But he is a creeper. At total, total, total asshat creeper. Every way in which he interacts with women, from Penny, to his mother, to Bernadette, is awful.

    Why? Because he doesn’t perceive them as human. He clearly perceives them strictly as creatures who exist for his convenience: Penny and other women as something pretty to look at, have sex with, or boost his status by decorating him (arm candy); his mother as his servant and food-provider; and Bernadette as both (fortunately she stands up to him, but why she went out with him again after they first broke up is a bit of a –oh, wait, he kept stalking her until she gave in. UGH. Bad TV writers. No cookie for you!).

    And that–not perceiving women as human–is the root of the problem.

    Not perceiving men as human creates similar problems. Sheldon, for instance, doesn’t perceive anyone as human. But in his case it’s so exaggerated that it can be played for laughs much less offensively. Wolowitz’s behavior is too damn close to truth.

    If you are the sort of person, male or female, who believes that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus (or any other “men are X and women are Y” essentialism), then you are part of the problem. Stop thinking of people as “other.” They are people. They are humans. They are not very different from you.

  93. I had an uneasy feeling about your original “Don’t Be a Creeper” article that I couldn’t quite put my finger on and it returned with this post. I think the problem comes from a lack of perspective on the difference between “You make me uncomfortable. Please leave me alone” – which is an entirely fair and reasonable expectation – and “You are defective and you should feel bad about yourself.” While there are some creepers who are genuinely bad actors, there are also many who are simply awkward and oblivious to social cues. I don’t think the community owes the first group anything, but there’s often a fair bit of nerd-shaming that goes on with the second.

    Pop culture reinforces this notion that it’s okay to treat people who are socially maladroit worse than people who are less kind, but more adept. Take some time to watch Big Bang Theory with an eye towards this some time. It’s quite revealing. Howard is definitely a creeper and Koothrapali often is. Leonard is not, but he gets excluded or used just as often as the other geeks, if not more so. The way Raj’s sister uses him is especially troubling.

    I have a friend who is in his early 30’s who will almost certainly die a virgin because, even though he doesn’t do any of the things associated with creepers, his crippling shyness still makes him ping as abnormal. It has been heartbreaking to watch him be routinely ostracized because women lump him in with the actual creepers.

  94. @Michael, you seem to be conflating and reading some things into this that aren’t there, but let me just break down the last paragraph. “I have a friend who is in his early 30′s who will almost certainly die a virgin because, even though he doesn’t do any of the things associated with creepers, his crippling shyness still makes him ping as abnormal. It has been heartbreaking to watch him be routinely ostracized because women lump him in with the actual creepers.” That’s sad and all, and I’ll believe you that he isn’t a creeper, but I’m not going to sleep with him because of it. There really are options between “you’re a creeper” and “I don’t want to sleep with you.” I agree that at times people, especially pop culture, “nerd-shame.” That’s neither here nor there.

  95. @ Michael Lee – unfortunately a lot of people won’t accept “please leave me alone” as a reason, or be respectful of that wish. That wish may also be interpreted as “you are defective” by the person hearing it; well that’s too bad.

    Too bad about your friend – he may not be creepy (I’ll take your word for that), but shyness can come accross as being aloof, disinterested or boring… none of which are particularly attractive.

  96. Ralf: Many places where honor could be used, you can replace it with respect.

    Doh! Looking at the previous thread, when the objection came up from Timmy that it’s not fair for someone to think something about you that’s not accurate, he used the word “disrespect” four times.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/09/an-incomplete-guide-to-not-creeping/#comment-351077

    So, yeah. Substitute “honor” for “respect” in my original post and I think it still points to the issue. And “respect” (or honor) is can be a very positive thing, so no reason to engage it if we don’t need to.

    Josh: Greg, other than derailing, I have no idea why you need to point out the blatantly obvious that people are sometimes wrong.

    Because I quite often make a point of saying stuff like “I could be wrong”, of using the word “maybe” or “probably”, or “I think”, and people who don’t get the difference it makes to be accurate that way scare me. And they scare me exactly the same way people who think its OK for “their” president to pass some law and not consider what it means when a president from the other party gets in power and gets to use the same rule their way.

    And you know what? Sometimes the person making the accusation of “creep” is wrong. Pointing that out in response to a post that plays fast and loose with absolutes, shouldn’t be a “derail”.

    What you said was this: Sometimes people’s actions make me angry, or uncomfortable, or otherwise not respectful or compassionate. I’m not a defective person because I feel that way, and my actions are not defective if I choose to confront that person in order to remove the source of my discomfort

    You’re not “defective”, because you’re describing how humans work. But sometimes humans are wrong.

  97. Michael Lee, what is your friend doing to address his crippling shyness? Sounds like a very unhappy way to live.

  98. Sorry, the above should read, “…options between ‘you’re a creeper’ and ‘I *want to sleep with you.'” Because “I *don’t want to sleep with you” doesn’t mean “you’re a creeper.”

  99. Greg

    Perhaps you could spend a few moments searching on honour killings; you will rapidly discover that your dictionary definition is somewhat outdated. You could even read some of the reports which your search will pull up…

  100. Frankly and John,
    I would also posit, without any good documentation mind you, but with some degree of confidence, that the creeper issues from this summer in the ScFi/Con world are not statistical outliers. Nor are the specific creeper problems in the geek/nerd community from this summer any more or less prevalent in other communities with similar demographics. What I do think is different is the number of people from this community who take the time to follow threads of discussions across the net and who are willing to comment on those discussions.

    Just an idea, as stated before, not well documented.

  101. @Gregg, yes, we can be wrong about labelling someone a creep. However, here is the point about being correct or incorrect: you weigh your response according to the cost you suffer if you’re wrong.

    If I’m right about the creep and call them out and avoid them – I potentially avoid murder, assault or rape, and the creep GOES AWAY. Or not, but that person is aware that there is less of an easy mark there.

    If I’m wrong and call a person with innocent intentions a creep (whether it meets your standards of creepy behaviour or not), and avoid them – that person is sad, possibly offended and GOES AWAY upset.

    Why should I put my personal safety at risk to make someone else feel better?

  102. @Greg at 12:37 p.m.

    The word you are looking for is not honor. It is “face”. As in “He (or she) will feel they have lost face.”

    @Greg at 12:53

    …I really wish you wouldn’t assume perfect infallibility in the legal system.

    In order for there to have been jail time:

    1) the woman had to be brave enough to file a complaint.
    2) the woman had to have a sufficiently spotless reputation for that complaint not to be dismissed out of hand.
    3) the man had to have a sufficiently negative reputation for the woman not to be told she should “appreciate” the attention
    4) the woman had to be willing to go through a jury trial, and the subsequent damage to her reputation when the defense brought up every single thing she might have done that could even vaguely be considered to have “encouraged” the man
    5) the jury had to believe that despite the woman’s tendency to be even slightly friendly to men in general she did not invite the behavior of the man
    6) the judge/jury had to believe that a simple warning, slap on the wrist, or community service would not be enough to “correct” the man’s behavior — in other words, they had to overcome “boys will be boys”

    So I wouldn’t say Karina is overestimating the infallibility of the U.S. legal system at all.

    @drachefly

    Other people, who are not predators – or drunk for that matter – can get defensive. Generally speaking they shouldn’t, but simply getting defensive doesn’t make them a predator. That’s a very strong word.

    The key difference between what you are responding to and what MNmom said is and somehow the victim is now the bad guy. If anything, I’d say the word misused is not “predator” but “defensiveness.” If the person one is talking to wants to leave the conversation, and one not only doesn’t let them leave but does everything in their power to make that person feel guilty and/or recruit others to make them feel guilty — congratulations. One is a creeper.

    One’s desire to talk to me — barring very specific situations that actually don’t apply in this discussion — does not trump my right to walk away.

  103. @IsabelleCooper: And if I were JK Rowling, I wouldn’t need a day job. I’ve used a similar response before, but it’s an old line, and, as our host noted, a rather pointless one if true..”

    There is a difference: You might someday be able to transform yourself into the equivalent of JK Rowling. It is at least possible.

    A man (or, for that matter, a woman) who is short and unattractive is not able to rise out of that station–at least where interactions with the opposite sex are concerned.

    I took the liberty of Googling you, and you are quite physically attractive yourself. So no, that is a problem that you have never had to deal with, just as neither of us has had to deal with being African-American or gay. You do not know what it is like to be chronically unattractive to the opposite sex. It is therefore comparatively easy for you to take a dismissive attitude toward the problem.

    @John: “So what?”

    The point is that socially awkward, unattractive people are unlikely to ever be the beneficiaries of any sort of affirmative action program. Even in comparatively liberal and open-minded circles like this, there is little sympathy for the guy who is chronically rejected by women because he is short or just plain unattractive. Basically the attitude seems to be rather Randian: Too bad, deal with it.

    So you get a guy who has for all of his life been consistently put in the “friend zone” (to use Ms. Cooper’s term). Then he attends a sci-fi conference where he mistakenly believes that his physical attributes will not be an impediment to attracting women. Then he is rejected there, as well. So the guy behaves inappropriately in response.

    Is the man’s inappropriate reaction justified? Absolutely not. However, I think there is room for acknowledging that many of these men *are* in a difficult position. And unlike other disadvantaged groups, there are generally treated with derision rather than sympathy.

    This is why I disagree with your assertion that these interactions [are not] “some sort of special case in the interaction of human beings.” People who pride themselves on their open-mindedness in other areas of life will be extremely superficial when selecting or rejecting romantic partners. It *is* a special form of interaction, and there are vast inequalities in the way people are treated.

    ****Isabelle brought up the MRA issue…I am not beating that drum. This is an apolitical issue. A short ugly guy who is an avowed feminist will be summarily rejected by women along with the short ugly guy who is a Bible-thumping Republican.

    Finally: I am speaking here to the issue as it affects men, because that is the context of the Readercon discussion. There is a female side to this as well…but that is another discussion.

  104. @Susan: “Someone earlier said they hadn’t seen the kind of behavior at business-oriented meetings. As a woman who’s worked in a male-dominated field, I have some ideas of why a business conference is different from a con. First of all, people go in in “work mode” – they’re there to do something involved with their work; even the social events at such meetings are geared towards work.”

    The thing is, a science-fiction convention is a mixed space. Fans attending are usually there to have fun. For invited speakers, writers, editors, artists, dealers—they are in the end there for professional reasons and the con is a work space for them. For the fans who are involved in the running of the con in some way, it’s also a work space when they are on duty. When these people get creeped on at a science-fiction convention, it is a problem of the same order for them as being creeped on at any other professional conference.

  105. In good science mode, I suggest a gedankenexperiment that might mitigate some of the MRAishness/triggerishness. Instead of making this an issue about gender (same or different, regardless of which one is the “receiver” and which one is the “actor”), pretend for a moment that we’re dealing with the following three situations:

    A has PTSD, R does not
    R has PTSD, A does not
    A and R both have PTSD with different presentments

    and in all three situations, the cause of the PTSD is “honorable” (e.g., combat), or at least not viewed as “pure victimization.”*

    As an illustration of the first example, let’s say that A’s PTSD presents itself as refusing to make eye contact, but instead staring at the base of the neck while constantly trying to get his/her back covered. Under some circumstances — indeed, under a lot of circumstances — if A is male and R is female this is going to involve A sidling around and appearing to stare only at R’s, umm, chest. Even though there is a “medical explanation” for A’s behavior, that medical explanation is only an explanation. Competent therapy will involve teaching A to understand how his/her condition influences others’ perceptions of him/her, and how to account for its presentment and deal with it in social situations.

    As an illustration of the second example, just swap roles. This time, though, R’s presentment is going to look like an attempt to avoid “reasonable” conversation and “escape”. It’s also going to appear very “disrespectful” to A (remember “Look at me when I’m talking to you!” from authority figures?). Again, even though there is a “medical explanation” involved, therapy involves R both understanding and take responsibility for his/her own presentment.

    As an illustration of the third example, consider a conversation between a vet just back from a war zone and a family member of a rape victim. Cringe for a while imagining all the possibilities. Realize that A’s compensations for his/her condition may be precisely what aggravates R’s own presentment.

    The key point here is that moral blaming/preaching/ideology doesn’t change the underlying condition whatsoever. Each individual’s responsibility is twofold:
    (1) Accept his/her condition (including so-called “normalcy”) and take responsibility not for the condition, but for managing its presentment to the best of his/her ability under the circumstances**
    (2) Don’t make things worse by presuming to understand someone else’s condition based solely upon presentment

    Ultimately, anyone can be, or be perceived as, a “creeper” under the right combination of circumstances. Trying to pretend that either (a) it’s always an intentional power-relationship impulse or (b) there’s a universal and correct response to “creeperness” isn’t just stupid — it’s counterproductive.
    —————-
    * Yes, I know that sometimes PTSD arises precisely in gender-relation contexts. I’m trying to make a broader point here.
    ** There are going to be times when “objectively” that’s still an epic fail. Get over it and move on… which is not to say that considered steps to prevent the epic fail from happening again — such as barring certain As from having the opportunity to epically fail — aren’t appropriate. It’s only to say that mandatory, unnuanced consequences aren’t appropriate.

  106. @Todd

    All those guys probably have hands, if they’re so desperate to get off. They don’t have a right to get off with the person of their choosing, regardless of their appearance.

    And yes — if I, as a woman, can tell that that ‘short ugly guy’ — avowed feminist or bible-thumber — is only interested in me as tits to touch and a vagina to have sex with then YES. I am going to reject him. But I’ve got news for you — if the same ‘short ugly guy’ treats me as a person, not as an object, his chances are one hell of a lot better than the Hollywood Handsome Dude who’s treating me as an object.

    The key problem, which you and others before you refuse to acknowledge, is that your guy who attends a sci fi conference strictly because he “believes that his physical attributes will not be an impediment to attracting women” is, to use someone’s phrase from the original post, “creeping toward a specific goal.” He’s not at the con to enjoy the con, he’s at the con by your definition to get laid. Therefore, he was acting inappropriately long before he was rejected.

  107. Stevie, are you interested in discussing my post at 11:42 if we substitute the word “respect”? It doesn’t have the “Seven Deadly Sins” baggage that “pride” does and it shouldn’t trigger you the way “honor” does. And it has the added advantage that “respect” as an idea is generally considered a positive thing. And, as it happens, “respect” was the word actually used by the person on the other thread.

    So, to do a search and replace, it looks something like this:

    there is nothing to be gained by attacking people for being driven by fairness and are heavily motivated by respect. Because by themselves, fairness and respect do not make someone a creeper.

    If they’re a creeper only based on what the other person thinks, then they’re motivated to try and change the other person’s mind, to hang around, to persist, to try and convince them otherwise. If the person is motivated by respect, what what other people think of him, then this feeds into it and makes everything worse.

    Does that read OK for you?

    Then the idea would be that if “creep” is defined as someone who makes someone feel uncomfortable and continues to make them uncomfortable, then the definition doesn’t hinge on “respect”, on what someone else thinks about you. If the definition hinges on “and once you know they’re uncomfortable, you DO stuff to continue making them feel uncomfortable” then it isn’t just about what the other person thinks, and it isn’t just about respect. it’s about the person DOING something to make the person not feel uncomfortable any more. Which is the thing we want to happen, isn’t it? We want the person making someone feel uncomfortable to stop doing that behavior.

  108. @greg

    If they’re a creeper only based on what the other person thinks, then they’re motivated to try and change the other person’s mind, to hang around, to persist, to try and convince them otherwise. If the person is motivated by respect, what what other people think of him, then this feeds into it and makes everything worse.

    That actually makes less sense to me than the original.

    Because if the person is operating based on respect, then there wouldn’t be that creeper vibe in the first place.

    I see it as the difference in the following two situations:
    Person A wishes to talk to Person B. Person B does not wish to talk to Person A. (Person B’s reasons are immaterial in this sense: the only thing that matters is Person A is unwelcome.) Person A respects Person B’s decision, and leaves Person B alone. No one loses face.

    as compared to:

    Person C wishes to talk to Person D. Person D does not wish to talk to Person C (Person D’s reasons are immaterial in this sense: the only thing that matters is Person C is unwelcome.) Person C does not respect Person D’s decision, and Person D either spends the rest of the event actively trying to avoid Person C and/or being pressured by Person C to explain their decision or change their mind. Person C loses face, and Person D loses the ability to feel safe at the conference.

    Be Person A, okay?

  109. (That should be “Person D loses the ability to feel safe at the conference/party/social event”)

  110. Todd: “A man (or, for that matter, a woman) who is short and unattractive is not able to rise out of that station–at least where interactions with the opposite sex are concerned.”

    Oh, baloney. One of the biggest crushes I had in my life was on a guy who was homely and geeky, with a big nose, horse face, and stringy hair. He was nobody’s idea of physically attractive. He was also smart, imaginative, witty, and willing to interact with all kinds of people and take his chances with the opposite sex. We had a fling when his on-again-off-again relationship was off, and I was sad when he and his girlfriend got back together. She was an up-and-coming theater arts person (in the craft area, not an actress) whose name was soon seen in movie credits. So on at least a superficial level, he had enough going for him to attract smart and reasonably accomplished women (I was starting my own business right around then).

    I know a ton of short people, overweight people, and homely people who interact just fine with the opposite sex, find a long-term partner, have kids, etc. I find it hard to believe that the only people you know who interact well with the opposite sex are conventionally attractive.

    What’s not attractive is low self-esteem, regardless of looks, and that’s not something anybody else has the obligation to fix for you. If your self-esteem is low, work on it, alone or with the help of a professional.

  111. @ Marcy and Katrina – I wasn’t talking about his attempts to get laid, which are nonexistent. He doesn’t flirt at all because he’s been trained to believe that his advances will be, at best, ineffective. That’s beside the point.

    Scalzi is describing a social dynamic that is very, very complex. When someone makes someone else uncomfortable, we should absolutely respect that feeling. What’s less straightforward is how we should respond to the problem. Obviously, unwanted physical contact, harassment and the like get absolutely no sympathy. But, at the other end of the spectrum, we see people who are ostracized for simply not being cool enough. As a society, we sometimes catch the dolphins with the tuna.

    I think my problem with these posts is that it presents a very black and white ideology. If someone else thinks you’re creepy, you are. But, barring the absolute no-nos (physical contact, harassment, stalking, etc.), I think there’s a conversation to be had about whether or not it’s always incumbent upon the supposed creeper to bow out of the situation.

    My girlfriend and I make an excellent example. We’re both relatively uninhibited and highly outspoken. A few nights ago we met at a restaurant. She had gotten there before me and was standing in the waiting area. I walked up to her, slid my hand around her hip and gave her a closed-mouth kiss. I didn’t touch her breasts or buttocks. There was no spit swap. The kiss lasted significantly less than a second. Yet, when we went to find seats while we waited, we both noticed a fair number of people who disapproved of our display. Now, if I accept Scalzi’s interpretation of the social contract, am I obligated to change my behavior?

  112. Sistercoyote

    I completely agree, and creeping towards a specific goal sums it up. Perhaps we could direct them to Dan Savage for a second opinion; he would be a great deal ruder about it but the answer is going to be the same…

  113. Todd, there are many, many short, ugly guys who have girlfriends and/or wives. Most of them aren’t even rock stars or multimillionaires! Imagine!

    It’s called “having a good personality.” Remarkably, people seem to get better-looking when they are genuinely interested in and considerate of other people.

  114. @Greg, so what’s the solution to your first scenario? Is it to have the ‘unreasonable’ or ‘only in their thoughts’ creeped out person explain to the ‘respectful’ person why they’re creeped out? How is the creeped out person supposed to tell the difference between innocence and potential rapist?

    In acutal life events THAT HAPPENED TO ME the person that stuck around, trying to convince me he’s a good guy, trying to get me to stay somewhere I clearly want to leave gets a very strained smile and me slowly backing away and looking for all of the emergency exits & security as well as me changing my hotel room. I can no longer trust that person won’t manage to corner me by my room (which happened while I was moving rooms, good thing someone was helping me with my bags!) to convince me he’s not a creep.

  115. @BW Sadly, not much. At this point, it’s a kind of programmed helplessness. I’ve taken it as a mitzvah to help him break the cycle, but it’s very deeply established.

  116. @Michael Lee
    Two things:

    I think my problem with these posts is that it presents a very black and white ideology. If someone else thinks you’re creepy, you are.

    1) If someone else thinks you’re creepy, you are to that person. I’m sure you have friends, family, and quite possibly pets who adore you and find you charming and agreeable.

    But, barring the absolute no-nos (physical contact, harassment, stalking, etc.), I think there’s a conversation to be had about whether or not it’s always incumbent upon the supposed creeper to bow out of the situation.

    2) The moment someone expresses discomfort with you — and they don’t owe you an explanation for that discomfort — YES. It is incumbent on the creeper* to bow out of the situation. This would be the exact opposite of creeping behavior as it shows respect the person creeped out.

    External responses to public displays of affection are a poor choice of example. Both people involved in the display are likely interested. If, however, your girlfriend did not want to put on that kind of display in public and you forced the issue? Yes. You** are a creeper.

    * I’m not going to say supposed creeper, because that’s softening language.
    ** Obviously, your girlfriend did.

  117. Michael Lee: “If someone else thinks you’re creepy, you are.”

    But no one has argued that. The point being made is that if someone else perceives you as creepy, even if they’re wrong and you haven’t done anything creepy, leave them alone. Don’t try to change their mind for them. If you believe you’re not creepy and that you didn’t behave in a creepy manner, then fine. Walk away and do something else.

    Your example of you and your girlfriend doesn’t apply. You’re not obligated to change your behavior unless the restaurant staff asks you to. Because your behavior is between you and your girlfriend. If Person A in the restaurant thinks it was disgusting, they get to think that. Only if you made it a point to go to them and try to change their minds would you be doing something that violates Scalzi’s point 2.

  118. Michael Lee, sorry to hear that about your friend. But nothing is going to change in his life without his making some effort to change it. I understand about learned helplessness. But it isn’t the responsibility of other people to see to it that he gets laid. It’s not going to happen until he finds someone who enjoys his company, and if he hates himself, that may never happen.

  119. @Todd

    Except for the part where a number of short, ugly men of my acquaintance somehow managed to meet people, strike up friendships, have sex, form relationships, even *gasp* get married without any form of “affirmative action” necessary. Seriously. Happens all the time.

    But no person — short, ugly, tall, attractive or otherwise — is owed interaction with a specific person, or even in a specific circumstance. If the short, ugly man of your example attends a non-sex-themed event with the singular goal of somehow obtaining sex… that’s creepy. It will affect how he interacts with people, and we will notice.

  120. @sistercoyote

    I once had a woman- to whom I was a superior in a business setting, no less – say to me, “Can you not use so many big words when you talk? It makes me feel stupid.”

    I’m curious what you think my social obligation to her was.

  121. I think some of the defensiveness comes from entitlement and cluelessness.
    I also think some of the defensiveness comes from how the label is changing, and the failure to differentiate between a person who does a creep thing and a person who is inherently creepy. Or more generally between a person that does a bad thing and person that is bad. To be clear, I think this failure is internal to the people who are doing the objection.
    Back when I dated I know I came on too strong and was creepy towards a woman that I liked. It’s easy to admit that because creepy mostly means ‘annoying in a way what makes someone uncomfortable.’ But it feels like the definition of creepy is changing in this context to imply far worse behavior.
    One of the original cases at captain awkward was about a creepy guy that had sexually assaulted/tried to assault 2 different women. I’ve never done anything like that and don’t want to accept a label that would imply that I have. I’m willing to admit that I was creepy when I sent roses after one date and called her 3 times to see if she got them. There was no second date and I get why. I was creepy and way too intense. Creepy seems to apply to that situation. But if creepy is a bigger crime, if creepy means I harassed a person to the point where I was banned from readercon, if it means I sexually assaulted someone, if it means I’m a threat to others, than I want another word to describe what I did. If that other word isn’t available than I might want to argue if my behavior didn’t count as creepy, of that if it did it wasn’t my fault.

  122. Please explain to me what your request has to do with the conversation we are having about creeperness.

    What she said was rude, certainly. But we’re not talking about rude. Miss Manners could probably give you an appropriately scathing and still polite response.

  123. @Todd: Uh, tha…anks? I mean, I assure you that I’ve been turned down on a few occasions myself, probably for physical reasons. Disappointment is disappointing; news at eleven.

    I can be more successful than I am, possibly–but most people can take measures to make themselves more attractive to a wider variety of people. Most people can’t change their entire appearance, but there the parallel is again: Rowling’s success is partly the result of hard work, partly the result of natural talent, and partly the result of hitting the right note at the right time. I can work as hard as I want, but if the latter two don’t happen, they don’t happen.

    And yes, romantic relationships often depend on sexual attraction, which is often physical. Shaming someone, especially women, as “superficial” for that reason just reinforces the tired old saw where men are allowed to have physically-based sex drives and women aren’t, and also is annoying.

    Because…okay, let’s posit for the moment that some guy’s difficulty in getting laid is one of life’s greater tragedies, comparable in any way to the widespread societal oppression that people of color or LGBTA people face*. Exactly what am I supposed to do about it? Start running a charity organization in my pants? Unlikely. Feel horribly guilty about who I’m attracted to? No thanks: women get enough shit for that already.

    So why are you bringing this up?

    Also, frankly? If someone is being obnoxious at me, I don’t care why he’s being obnoxious at me. I want him to go away, and I don’t much care what happens afterwards.

    “Friend-zone” is not my word; it’s the word usually used by guys who, much like you, want me to feel the terrible tragedy that is white guys not getting to third base.

    *…and I will let someone else deal with that equivalence, because damn, there’s only so much I can say here.

  124. I am greatly enjoying the repeated use of the word “assbag.” I intend to use it daily, until it is my own, and offer no credit for where I got it, in true assbag tradition.

  125. Karina: @Gregg, yes, we can be wrong about labelling someone a creep. However, here is the point about being correct or incorrect: you weigh your response according to the cost you suffer if you’re wrong.

    I agree completely. Walking down the street at night, better safe than sorry. Label the person following you a creep and remove yourself, call the authorities, whatever, to keep yourself safe.

    But I was talking about the words you used on this thread. And we can afford to be a little more accurate with our words here on this thread.

    Why should I put my personal safety at risk to make someone else feel better?

    Again, we’ve been talking about the words you use here on this thread. There isn’t someone lurking behind you in the shadows who will assault you if you are a little more accurate in your choice of words.

    sistercoyote: In order for there to have been jail time: … So I wouldn’t say Karina is overestimating the infallibility of the U.S. legal system at all.

    if they’re in jail, it must mean they’re guilty? Without a doubt? Beyond question? Somebody call the governor of illinois and tell him to reinstate the death penalty.

  126. @Michael Lee:

    I think it is, unfortunately, the duty of the perceived creeper to back away. Your friend isn’t stalking or harassing anyone, of course, but it sounds like many people don’t enjoy his company. It doesn’t really matter if it’s because he’s perceived as frightening or simply unpleasant. If he senses people don’t want to talk to him, he should excuse himself and find other people to talk to, just as someone who’s alienated others with political statements or poor manners should.

    It’s not the obligation of the general public (in particular, the female half of the general public) to be volunteer social workers instead of enjoying the party or the convention themselves. It’s kind of you and other friends to do so, of course, and he should practice with you to the extent he’s able to.

  127. @sistercoyote:

    I partially agree with you. The con should be about the con. A Readercon isn’t a “singles venue” and should not be treated as such. These men are responding badly to a bad situation.

    Where I disagree with you is in your assumption that all of these men as simply out for sex. I would be willing to wager that the majority of them are looking for actual relationships with women. They have not been able to achieve this in other places, so the con is sort of a “last resort” for them. Their “creepy” behavior (awkwardly attempting to talk to women who are clearly not interested in them) is a product of being constantly rejected.

    As the flow of my comments might suggest, I was one of those “constantly rejected” men in my younger years. I won’t bore you with a biographical sketch; let’s just say that I did manage to move past it. But I remember those days: they sucked. Big time.

    I recall that every time I approached a woman, I came across as “nervous,” because women had continually rejected me in the past. I was, in fact, nervous. I was always thinking: “Here comes another rejection.” And I was usually right. When you are in this position, simply saying “hi” to a person you find attractive can be monumentally difficult.

    Was I looking for sex? I was a young man; I wouldn’t have been opposed to it. But in the short run, I would have settled for a platonic first date, for being treated nicely by a woman. I believe that many of these so-called “creepers” have similar motives. They just want someone to give them a chance.

  128. Michael Lee, in re the woman who asked you not to use big words: Remember that the topic of this thread is this point from John’s list: “2. Acknowledge that you don’t get to define other people’s comfort level with you.”

    So if this woman isn’t comfortable with your use of big words, you know that about her now. It doesn’t obligate you to refrain from using big words, but if she reacts negatively toward you, you’ll have some clue as to why that is. What you don’t get to do, per John’s point 2, is try to *get her to acknowledge* that you weren’t trying to come off as her intellectual superior. I believe that you weren’t doing that (I’m someone with a large vocabulary that I tend to use in all kinds of situations without paying attention to the size of the words, so I understand the situation). She may believe that you were. Your obligation toward her, under the terms of John’s point 2, is not to try to make her agree that you weren’t.

  129. Greg

    And having done the search and replace it still does not make sense, just as your first attempt didn’t make any sense. That’s why I merely pointed out the ‘honour killing’ trigger; there was nothing of substance to engage with.

    The insurmountable difficulty you are facing is that you are trying to construct an argument on behalf of somebody who didn’t actually have an argument; what he has is a completely distorted view of his own importance which he expects others to share, and is outraged when they don’t. Telling John how to run his blog is merely a reflection of that.

    In addition to that you are gliding over all the nasty little jibes about women in general, and women in particular, which riddled his posts; I appreciate that this is necessary for you to advance your views but you really cannot expect the rest of us to conveniently develop myopia…

  130. @ Karina, who said: “In acutal life events THAT HAPPENED TO ME the person that stuck around, trying to convince me he’s a good guy, trying to get me to stay somewhere I clearly want to leave gets a very strained smile and me slowly backing away and looking for all of the emergency exits & security as well as me changing my hotel room.”

    Then this is not one of the people Greg was talking about! Some people, with no ill intentions, can be creepY, in the usual sense. But if they get your signal and back off, they are not creepERs in the sense of this post. That was the distinction he was trying to draw, and by adding this information you have placed your scenario well outside what he was talking about.

  131. @Greg

    My point was that Karina’s assumption should not be glibly dismissed as an example based simply on the fact that there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial. Yes. Mistakes are made. But in the case of sexual harassment/rape/sexual assault cases, I suspect they are made far more often on the accused’s side than the accuser’s side of the ledger. (And death penalty cases are an entirely different animal and not the subject of this post).

  132. It applies because the overarching argument here is that, when someone expresses discomfort, you have a social obligation to accommodate them. Maybe I wasn’t clear, but she wasn’t being petty or mean in her request. She was expressing a genuine feeling of discomfort. Now, I was young and stupid when the incident occurred, so I handled it badly, but I’ve spent a lot of time since thinking about how I should have responded.

    Also, I’m concerned with how the term “creeper” is being used in this discussion. If you replace it with “slut”, it leads to some interesting thoughts.

  133. @Todd: And once again…nobody owed you that.

    If I don’t want to spend an evening, an hour, or five minutes of my time talking to someone in whom I’m not interested, romantically or otherwise, I really don’t think I have any moral obligation to do so. It’s not about being Sensitive Guy Who Really Really Wants a Relationship–hell, I relate much better to men who just want one-night stands at this point in my life–it’s that life is short, you’re not doing anything for me, and if I want to be charitable, I give to the Red Cross.

  134. @Todd:

    I’m not really on board with the distinction between jerks who are looking for casual sex and nice men who are seeking platonic first dates. I know plenty of perfectly nice fellows who are only looking for short term and mostly sexual relationships at given times in their lives, and I know men who want longer term relationships who are pushy and disrespectful. And if I don’t particularly like someone, it doesn’t really matter if he’s seeking a few chaste hours of my time on a Saturday night or angling to invite me back to his hotel room.

    The real issue is treating convention spaces, which are for business and learning and platonic socializing, as dating spaces. To the extent some people have been socialized to think they are, we should work to correct the misimpression. They, in turn, should realize that they’re expected to tone down their overtures and be very receptive to other people’s cues, just as they are in other areas of life.

  135. @Greg – I have a hard time getting your point. Are you assuming the only place to feel threatened is somewhere like a dark alley at night?

    THis phrase I don’t understand at all…
    “Again, we’ve been talking about the words you use here on this thread. There isn’t someone lurking behind you in the shadows who will assault you if you are a little more accurate in your choice of words.”

    WHAT? Let me explain my point – I have no idea if the person I think is a creep is someone who really wants to do me harm, or someone who just comes accross horribly wrong and I find incredibly disagreeable and who sets off my alarm bells.

    How am I supposed to tell the difference between these two? Why should I even care to make the distinction?

    Too bad some dude gets butthurt. He’ll survive – I’m not risking a scenario where I won’t.

  136. @Michael: Oh, Lord, again?

    ‘Hokay. “Slut” is used as a pejorative to condemn women for actions that involve two or more consenting adults–to wit, violating some random and arbitrary “standard” of sexual behavior–and thus aren’t really worth condemnation.

    “Creeper” is used as a pejorative to condemn people of either gender (but mostly men) for actions that disregard consent on the part of the other person or people, or that deliberately dance around the whole issue (the Nice Guy attempts to Stealth roll his way into bed by never quiiiite doing anything that the woman he wants can turn him down for). Thus, it’s worth condemnation.

    This is not hard.

    Sorry for the double-post; saw Michael’s after my first had gone up.

  137. John,
    I saw this just happen in the skeptic community too so I know it is not just com/SF.
    I would assume the creeper quotient for technical conferences would be pretty similar (except perhaps for age) as they are male dominated and filled with nerds and geeks. I often hear (clearly justified) complaints from women engineers about issues of representation and respect but not about harassment at technical events. If these things happen at the same frequency I would be ashamed to not have noticed and sad that it was not brought up. So I wonder if it is that the fact that these are “work” events could have an impact on behavior.

    Are there women out here that can provide data one way or the other on this? I will say the next tech con I have a role in there will be an anti-harassment policy published just in case. Nobody should have to deal with this crap.

  138. @Todd

    Where I disagree with you is in your assumption that all of these men as simply out for sex.

    You said

    Then he attends a sci-fi conference where he mistakenly believes that his physical attributes will not be an impediment to attracting women. Then he is rejected there, as well. So the guy behaves inappropriately in response.

    The implication I read in your statement is that he felt women at the conference would be obliged to respond to him regardless of his appearance. That he is somehow “owed” the attention he feels he cannot get among the general population.

    He is not. You were not. I am not (and believe me, I am as socially awkward as they come to the point that I just don’t, generally speaking, interact with other people unless I absolutely have to). His rejection — even if it is a rejection for something so simple as a first conversation — does not excuse any behavior he exhibits afterward.

    You’re right that it might not be about sex. And if I misread you there, I apologize.

    In the end, though, that’s not the point. He is still treating those women as objects that he is entitled to, rather than as people who have interests and desires that are simply not going to intersect with his. He is “creeping” toward that goal of a conversation or a “kindness” or a first date.

    They just want someone to give them a chance.

    One does not get to look at a particular person and decide “aha! That person is the person who will give me a chance.” One can approach the person of interest and see if maybe the chance will be given, but if it is not it is incumbent on one to try again elsewhere. Not try to force the attention/interest of the person.

    The way to meet the person who will give them that chance is to treat people as people.

    @Michael Lee

    It applies because the overarching argument here is that, when someone expresses discomfort, you have a social obligation to accommodate them. Maybe I wasn’t clear, but she wasn’t being petty or mean in her request. She was expressing a genuine feeling of discomfort.

    Okay. Once again we are running into trouble because people are using “discomfort” instead of “threatened.” Yes, I’m sure she was genuinely uncomfortable, particularly if she was having trouble understanding you. I find it highly unlikely she was threatened. As such, no, no one is saying you had to accommodate her. However, if she clearly felt threatened by your behavior (and you seem a sharp enough guy to figure out if she was), then yes — you would have had an obligation to NOT THREATEN HER.

    Why is this so hard? (Not directed at you in particular, Michael and Todd, just wondering.)

  139. “Creepy” can generally be taken to mean “you have done something that made someone uncomfortable.” Being creepy in itself is not a crime, but that’s the point where someone who feels creeped out will disengage with you, because we can’t tell whether you are or are not capable of taking things further. Let them disengage gracefully, and no harm is done.

  140. Todd, I tend to agree that they’re looking for relationships and not just sex, but the same situation applies. It’s nobody’s responsibility to offer that to them.

    I get your point: They just want someone to give them a chance. I was a shy, socially awkward woman when I was in my teens and 20s. Never dated in high school, never invited to the prom, and so on. My early and mid 20s were a social wasteland. I couldn’t connect no matter how hard I tried, and I was lonely and miserable. But none of the guys I met (at bars, in classes, at parties, etc.) were obligated to give me a chance. If they didn’t enjoy my company, for whatever reason, they didn’t. They were looking for people to connect with too, and I wasn’t connecting. They had no responsibility to me to do anything other than be respectful toward me as a human being.

    I don’t know what changed things for you. What changed things for me was taking some real chances that didn’t involve trying to get in a relationship but boosted my confidence in other areas. I wasn’t at all sure I would be able to do the things I was trying. New things–new places, new people, getting a new job–hell, even walking into stores and restaurants I’d never been to before– were always areas of fear and anxiety for me. So I went somewhere where the stakes were low (a tourist town where I knew no one and didn’t have to stay once my money ran out or the tourist season ended, whichever came first) and tried doing things I’d never done before or was uncomfortable with–getting a certain type of job, talking to strangers, etc. My confidence grew enormously. I came back to “real life” and continued to do things a bit outside my comfort zone. It wasn’t a quick process and not always easy, and I didn’t overcome my shyness or become fully self-confident for a long time, but in my opinion, that’s the only way it works: Find some areas that you can succeed in, build up your confidence in those areas, push the envelope into other areas, and you’ll become a more attractive person and thus more likely to attract other people, including romantic partners. If your self-confidence is low, trying to boost it by getting into a relationship is doing it ass-backwards, IMO. Self-confidence first, then relationship.

    The mistake I see some guys making is using cons as “last resort” venues for making a relationship connection without doing the self-work first.

  141. @isabellecooper:

    You seem determined to fit this into an MRA vs. feminism envelope. Once again, that isn’t my agenda. I could care less about either of these. Also, you are wrong to assume that this only about sex. (See my response to sistercoyote.)

    And to speak to this as a women’s issue: Google a researcher named Satoshi Kanazawa. He caused a controversy earlier this year when he published a study purporting that African-American women are not as attractive as women from other races. Other studies have noted that African-American women receive far fewer responses on dating websites than women who are white, Asian or Hispanic. (This material is also out there on the Internet.)

    Women over 40 face a difficult time in the courtship market, as do women who are overweight. And if you do a bit of Googling, you’ll find plenty of blogs written by older and/or overweight women who are lamenting these stark facts.

    Like you, I am attracted to who and what I’m attracted to. Within a certain range, most people are attracted to the same sorts of physical characteristics. This isn’t MRA backlash or feminism at work, but simple human nature.

    “So why are you bringing this up?”

    To paraphrase a recent Scalzi essay, I think that we need to acknowledge that being attractive is “the lowest difficulty setting.” Folks who are unattractive, conversely, face a “high difficulty setting.”

    This doesn’t mean that you need to “run a charity organization in your pants.” However, a bit less derision and dismissal of these individuals might be in order.

  142. @Michael, sorry, when you start with “will almost certainly die a virgin” and end with “women lump him in with the actual creepers,” it sounds like you’re just talking about sex, whether he’s actually *trying* to get laid or not. Sorry if that wasn’t your intent.

    “Now, if I accept Scalzi’s interpretation of the social contract, am I obligated to change my behavior?” Not particularly, no, I don’t think so. You’re not really trying to interact with these people in the restaurant. You’re not following them around trying to change their minds. Maybe the problem is “them not you,” but you’re not arguing with them about it. Accept that some people won’t like you and move on. (Just as he said.) I can see how painful scenarios with your friend etc. could you make you extra-sensitive to this issue, but it seems like you’re imagining people are saying and including what they’re not.

    You say, “It applies because the overarching argument here is that, when someone expresses discomfort, you have a social obligation to accommodate them.” No, not quite. You have a social obligation to not follow them around. You have a social obligation to not try to control their opinion of you. Given that this post is specifically addressing “2. Acknowledge that you don’t get to define other people’s comfort level with you,” that’s about all that’s being said. There’s no social obligation to use smaller words for someone who expresses discomfort, though you could if you wanted to.

  143. Michael Lee: “It applies because the overarching argument here is that, when someone expresses discomfort, you have a social obligation to accommodate them.”

    No, that is not the overarching argument here. Read John’s point 2 again. If someone expresses discomfort, they have no obligation to change their opinion and you have no right to try to make them change it.

  144. A) Kudos on the Butthole Surfers reference. I had another song in my head that was driving me crazy and now their song is in my head and it is much more tollerable. Thank you! :)

    B) I absolutely and 100% agree with the idea that people do not get to control how others react around them. If someone is creeped out for whatever reason, legitimate or not, then that is their right. If legitimate, then perhaps some soul searching should be done to try and fix whatever it is you are doing to creep others out.

    The only thing I would add to the list would be that it is possible that while many times the “creep out factor” is the fault of the person doing the creeping out, sometimes people are oversensitive and crazy and get creeped out for no good reason and there is nothing you could do, right or wrong, and they would still be creeped out. And if that is the case, then why would you (the person who is creeping out the other person for no perceived good reason) want to hang around that person for any more time than necessary.

    Of course, in very rare instances, there is just bad communication between the two people. I had a friend who, because of another person who was jealous of our friendship, decided to sabotage our friendship. She was creeped out by me now. However, seeing as her friendship was important to me, I called her and we talked it out. So I guess that would add in something else.. that sometimes it is not a good idea to let yourself get creeped out by one person based only on that persons interactions with another person.

  145. @Todd and @Michael Lee
    It is kind of disheartening to see how much people feel entitled to my time, attention, and vagina. I am not obligated to give anyone access to these things. Why would you object to me saying this? Why does removing my autonomy mean so much to you?

  146. @Todd: Believe me, I know. And have as little patience for the female equivalent of Bridget Jones as I do for the male. Join a book group; learn to waterski; adopt a dog; get, in some manner, a life. There’s a time and a place for whining about not getting laid, but it’s briefly and occasionally and to friends, and someone who thinks he or she is incomplete without an SO is not someone most people want to be around.

    As far as derision and dismissal go, I haven’t noticed anyone deriding *or* dismissing unattractive people for being unattractive. Not on this thread, and not on the others. We have derided and dismissed people who think they have a right to the time and attention of others, who try and sneak or guilt their way into a relationship, or who respond to disappointment with either childish temper tantrums or blind persistence.

    I think deriding and dismissing those people is *absolutely* in order, thank you.

    I know it’s not entirely about sex–see my response to you, earlier–and, again, I don’t care.

  147. I’ll use myself (a woman) to provide another example. I am extremely introverted, and I was once very shy. After years of either hanging on my husband’s arm at every party or standing alone in a corner wishing someone would speak to me, I decided to try to get over my shyness by approaching people at meetings and parties and starting a conversation. But I was so scared and nervous the first few years of doing this that people would talk to me for only a minute or two before saying “excuse me” and leaving me alone again Several times I had people just turn around and walk away.

    I persisted, and as I became more comfortable talking to people at events, they became much more comfortable talking to me. Now I actually have conversations with people at events instead of spending the evening being serially rejected.

    My point (there is one) is that some people are socially awkward and give off vibes that make other people nervous or creeped out. My only intention in all those years was to have a conversation. I stood at a socially appropriate distance and used standard conversational openers. Yet event after event people left me as soon as they could until eventually I had endured enough rejections that I stopped being nervous, thus not making other people nervous.

    If someone creeps you out, consider whether they are actually being a creep (touching you, standing too close, following you, saying inappropriate things) or whether they are just setting off your warning alarms with their shy, nervous attempts to have a normal conversation.

  148. Like many women here, I’m so tired of all this rhetoric urging women to have sympathy for the poor socially awkward guy who just wants to meet a nice girl and doesn’t understand social boundaries. I’m not autistic, but I do toe the spectrum a bit. I don’t see the point of participating in conversation with someone I’m not interested in talking to just to be “polite” or “nice,” as women are often socialized to be. My time is precious, to be used in ways in which I want, to spend with the people whom I like, or alone in quiet contemplation if I choose. If a socially awkward man interacts with me and I don’t want to respond, what would be the point of continuing that interaction? Am I obligated to give up pieces of my life in the name of charity? Am I obligated to chat for a minimum of five minutes, to join him for coffee, on a date?

    @Todd, sorry that you just wanted a woman to “give you a chance,” but you know what? Women don’t owe anyone that. Maybe these men come to conventions because it’s their “last resort” to not be rejected, but likewise, a convention is my “last resort” to wander around by myself without being bothered or harassed. How would your need for companionship possibly trump my need for NO companionship? Don’t you realize that I would be as miserable at being approached as you would be miserable at being rejected?

  149. @Frankly, if you’re still reading: trust me, this problem exists at IT conferences, too. Also scientific conferences. Over the years, I have had a few truly scary experiences, lots of kind of skeevy experiences, and one case of outright assault. I do not generally discuss it with my male colleagues. I think the angry/denying responses of some of the men on these threads should give you a hint as to why. Imagine how well that conversation would go if it turned out that the male colleague I was talking to thought like some of the men here.

  150. Well, duh. When you express it as the distinction between “uncomfortable” and “threatened”, then there isn’t any sort of argument. I would never expect anyone to tolerate a situation or behavior that made them feel unsafe and I will vigorously defend their right to feel safe. That’s not even remotely an issue. I also take a hard stance against stalking and harassment. Finally, I would suggest that, as a general policy, we should be advising against anyone treating a convention or gaming environment as a pick-up spot. It’s just bad mojo.

    I still think, however, that there’s a discussion to be had about the social obligations surrounding discomfort and dislike. I used to own a game store with a large open-play area (http://www.manta.com/c/mmdzs8v/blue-dragon-games because this is the internet and people lie), so I’ve seen this process in many forms. Excluding dating-type behaviors, I don’t think you can reduce it to just “If they feel uncomfortable, you should just leave.”

    Also, while I’m aware that there’s a huge difference between “slut” and “creeper,” considering the mechanics of slut-shaming is helpful in understanding negative labels in general. It was frustrating to see so much bigotry based on nothing more than what games people play.

  151. Jen: “Like many women here, I’m so tired of all this rhetoric urging women to have sympathy for the poor socially awkward guy who just wants to meet a nice girl and doesn’t understand social boundaries.”

    Well, you CAN have sympathy for the person who is socially awkward. Nobody is forcing you to nor should you be expected to react in any way other than what you feel comfortable in doing. But the point where social awkwardness because a violation of your boundries* (screw social boundries, your boundries are yours and yours alone) then it becomes much worse that social awkwardry.

    * Sometimes people do have some very strict boundries, like an aversion to anyone (or anyone from a certain gender identification) just approaching them and saying hello. So I find it hard to fault someone at the first violation of an unanounced strict boundry such as that. However, upon ignoring the initial hello or any other obvious signs of non-interest, if the boundry offender does not go away, then that person absolutely falls into the realm of creeperdom.

  152. It still doesn’t matter.

    It is not my responsibility to tell you why you make me uncomfortable, if all you’re doing is making me uncomfortable. But if you do make me uncomfortable, and I walk away from the conversation, it is not my responsibility to explain to you. You do not have the right to pursue me and try to convince me that you’re a really great person. Once you do that? You’ve crossed the line to threatening, because you have disrespected a clear boundary: I do not want to talk to you. And my only sensible response is to be afraid, because I have no way of knowing what other boundaries I try to establish will be ignored.

  153. @Jen

    Your point about Todd wanting someone to give him a chance is so dead on. Many of these guys do indeed think women are obligated to at least give them a chance. No. No they aren’t. It’s again the casual assumption that the wants and desires of men trump any concern the woman may have.

  154. Luke: “I’ve always considered myself to be a nice guy (note lowercase). I’ve had plenty of trouble connecting with women over the years and in fact been told by some that I’m “too nice” What I take from this consistent issue is:

    1 – I’m attracted to women who aren’t into guys like me
    b – This is my problem, not theirs

    I can continue to pursue women who have no interest in me, but it would be absurd for me to then complain about them not being interested in me. One’s reach should exceed one’s grasp etc etc.

    THIS!

    When I was in college, I didn’t necessarily have problems dating but I would lament why I couldn’t date certain ones that I wanted to date. I think figured out that people have the right to be attracted to whomever they are attracted to (just as I have the right to be attracted to whomever I am attracted to) and that i should not feel in any way slighted or insulted by their feelings because they cannot control who they are attracted to anymore than I can and I shouldn’t hold such things against them. I also realized that because all people have different tastes that there will be plenty of people who will be interested in me.

    This got me to be much less nervous about dating and, ironically, I wound up dating more of the women who I previously would not have dated because I had more self confidence and they found that attractive.

  155. @Michael:

    But that’s the fundamental problem — speaking as a woman here, “creeper” behavior isn’t undesirable because it makes its targets uncomfortable, but because it makes them (us) feel threatened, or, at least, concerned that the situation could easily escalate to threatening. If your equivalent situation doesn’t come with an equivalent level of threatening, then it isn’t equivalent at all. It’s not that women want to police the behavior of people around them, it’s that they’d like to be able to socialize in a pleasant, public setting without other people engaging in threatening behavior towards them.

    And a person might not even realize they’re being threatening at all, which is (as I read it, anyway) basically the whole point of Scalzi’s original post on this topic, which points out some behaviors, like standing too close, that often read as threatening but may not be intended that way.

  156. sistercoyote: Agree with you on that. Once you gave a clear sign of no interest then for them to continue is harassment.

    Unfortunately there are some people in the “approach or not approach” debate who would say that saying hello to a stranger for any reason is wrong. For example, if you and I are on a train and you are reading a newspaper and I notice you are finished with a section. If I ask to read if if you are no longer using it, that shouldn’t be taken as being anything bad in any way. However, I have spoken with some people who say that I am potentially violating some boundry and so I shouldn’t even ask to do that.

  157. @isabelcooper

    “it’s that life is short, you’re not doing anything for me, and if I want to be charitable, I give to the Red Cross.”

    *slow clap* Nicely said.

  158. @Liberal Dan

    I think the situation you posit is one of the more complicated; most of the time I, personally, wouldn’t mind you asking for a section as long as you left the conversation at that. Other people might mind.

    Although if the person you’re thinking about asking is huddled up on the train seat with an iPod on, their elbows tucked close to their body, and the paper up close to their face, I’d say they’re pretty intentionally giving off “do not approach” vibes as loudly as they can.

  159. As far as derision and dismissal go, I haven’t noticed anyone deriding *or* dismissing unattractive people for being unattractive. Not on this thread, and not on the others.

    Pretty sure either would result in the Mallet being taken off the shelf.

  160. @Liberal Dan:

    THIS SQUARED. I went through the gay version of being infatuated with guys who always seemed to be drawn to the biggest assbag in the room, like moths on meth. My moment of social satori was this: You can’t help who you’re attracted to, but if you’ve got to be that guy to get with the object of your affection — with all the drama and unpleasantness that inevitably follows — time to think hard about what you do with it. After all, the only person in the world you’ll have to live with every day of your life is YOU.

  161. Re: a socially awkward fellow who would like a genuine relationship with a woman* but doesn’t know how to go about it:

    1. It’s not incumbent on the women of the world to give you lessons in social interaction. You have been receiving these lessons all your life, from the first time your mom or dad taught you to say “please” and “thank you.” If you could learn that, you can learn more. See below for suggestions.

    2. You should definitely avoid taking lessons from strangers on the internet. PUA** tactics are strictly about getting laid. If a man follows them, then he is by definition a creeper. Don’t be that guy.***

    3. Learn how to be less awkward. This is hard, I agree. Start by acknowledging this truth: that you are missing a fundamental human skill. True change and learning begins with acknowledging you have a problem. If no one wants to talk to you, the problem is you. This doesn’t make you a bad person, but failure to acknowledge the problem doesn’t magically make it go away.

    The next points are intended constructively.

    4. Be polite. Google “how to teach your children manners.” Seriously, these are simple rules; and armed with rules, most people can navigate basic social interactions. If you can politely ask a waiter for a meal, you’re halfway there. If children can learn these things, so can you (though see point 7, below).

    5. Google “how to have social skills”. Read the directions. UNDERSTAND them. Try to comprehend why they work the way they do. Hint: it’s about being interested in the other person more than yourself.

    6. Make changes incrementally. You are not going to go from shy wallflower to life of the party in a week. But you can probably get to “people seem interested in continuing to talk to me” in 6-12 months. It is important that you acknowledge progress may be slow.

    7. If you really can’t get past your shyness and awkwardness even a bitty-bit, then you should talk to a professional counselor. Your problem may be neurochemical, or too deeply rooted for you to sort it out on your own.

    Additional thoughts:
    If you have friends who seem socially skilled, it might be a good idea to seek their guidance and instruction. I assure you, they already know you’re socially awkward, and probably would like to help you. They may have been trying to help you already.

    If you are the friend of a socially awkward person, it would be a mitzvah if you help them. I don’t know what I would have grown up to be if the guys on my college fencing team hadn’t made it a project to help me. (And they did it without telling me. I figured it out years later.)

    *or perhaps a man; I imagine gay men have this problem, too, with added bonus “if that guy is hetero, he might take a swing at me” to worry about.

    **pick up artist. Google if you need more context.

    ***the female counterpart to the PUA is the golddigger. Both sorts are pathetic. That they so often find each other is a relief for the rest of us, but tragically reinforcing of their horrible perceptions of the opposite sex.

  162. @Liberal Dan, I would argue that the newspaper example may not be the best one to use, because that person may be taking the paper home to his or her family, and so asking for their purchased property might be considered rude. But it does direct us toward a useful question to ask before initiating any encounter: What is the desired PURPOSE of the encounter? I would certainly respond to a man who approached me and asked for the time because he’s not wearing a watch, or who saw me holding a newly-purchased T-shirt and asked where he could find the vendor so he could buy one, too. But if he keeps talking beyond that, AND – this is the key point – AND it doesn’t seem to naturally follow from the initial question, that makes me nervous, because I find myself asking: What is this person’s true intention?

    An example of natural conversation:
    Me: The table is that way, but I wouldn’t bother – they don’t have this shirt in men’s sizes.
    Him: Oh, that’s too bad. Do you know if they have anything interesting for men, or is it just a women’s clothing booth? Should I even bother going over there?

    An example of unnatural conversation:
    Me: The table is that way, but I wouldn’t bother – they don’t have this shirt in men’s sizes.
    Him: Oh, that’s too bad. By the way, I’m [name]. Have you been to this convention before?

    The former interaction will be taken by most women as a friendly back-and-forth with a like-minded stranger. The latter interaction will be understood as a pickup, and the woman will react accordingly.

  163. @Todd: Kanazawa did not “publish a study”, peer-reviewed or otherwise. He wrote an opinion piece in his online column for Psychology Today. His opinion was that, because on a longitudinal study black women were rated ‘less attractive’ this had something to do with their having naturally low estrogen levels – which was not only something he pulled out of his ass, but a result of misreading the study. You would know this if you had bothered to take your own advice and Google him.

    Somebody is indeed trying to turn this into a big MRA vs feminism debate, Todd. I think if you look in the mirror you might get a glimpse of him; he’s a guy who uses “friend zone” unironically.

    That said, I don’t understand why we’re talking about the Plight of the Short Plain Guy, unless we’re back to the “lying bitches wouldn’t say it was creeper if BRAD PITT” nonsense. Being short and plain does not make one a creeper. Being underfucked does not make one a creeper. Being creepy makes one a creeper. Being desperate may, some conclude, justify creepiness as an emergency penis-wetting measure, but that conclusion is wrong: still creepy.

  164. sistercoyote says: “Although if the person you’re thinking about asking is huddled up on the train seat with an iPod on, their elbows tucked close to their body, and the paper up close to their face, I’d say they’re pretty intentionally giving off “do not approach” vibes as loudly as they can.”

    Well yeah, in that case they might as well be wearing a billboard with neon lighting saying as such because both would pretty much give off the same idea. :)

  165. Jen: Well, the simple answer on the newspaper issue could be “no” or “as long as I can have it back”. And then, of course, if there was any other motive other than actually reading the paper they would present themselves.

    I agree with your two scenarios and how they are presented. One is an actualy query and one is a pick up line desguised as a query.

  166. “O wad some Power the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us!
    It wad frae monie a blunder free us
    An foolish notion:
    What airs in dress an gait wad lea’es us,
    An ev’n devotion!”

    Full poem here.

    Also: don’t be a louse.

  167. I thought of a time where a female at a gaming store was uncomfortable and it actually was her fault.

    I heard her ask her friend, if a very exasperated way, why everyone kept staring at her chest. She seemed annoyed and uncomfortable about this attention she was receiving.

    The reason why her chest was causing that much attention? She was wearing a t-shirt with some funny saying written across it and people were reading it.

    Moral of the story, if you are going to be creeped out by a room full of people staring at your boobs, don’t wear a shirt with writing across the boobs of the shirt.

    Were any of the people in that store creepers? Perhaps, but not because they read someone’s shirt for an appropriate amount of time it takes to read what was written.

  168. @Xopher: Yes, exactly! Or “my female friend” or “my sister” or “my wife.” If you start sending off “I’m not looking for additional female companionship, I’m just going about my life and being polite” vibes, women will generally relax around you.

    I find it curious that so many of these guys are insisting that they’re “just trying to be nice” when they strike up conversation with random women. There are, of course, people who try chatting with everyone, male and female, with no ulterior motive, and then get flagged as creepers because of their inability to grasp social interaction, and I do feel sympathy for them and their struggles. But I find it hard to believe the constant pleas of “just being friendly, why are you calling me a creeper?” from someone who’s initiating the bulk of these “casual” conversations with attractive young women. Try getting involved in a fifteen-minute conversation with one of the lovely 60-something or 70-something ladies walking around or sitting behind a booth selling old science-fiction paperbacks, and THEN try approaching a nearby young woman, and chances are she’ll be more likely to believe that you’re just a “nice guy being nice to everyone” and not just another jerk trying to get in her pants.

  169. That is true. None of the people, men or women, I approached at a New Orleans Comic Con to commend them on their costumes seemed bothered by me at all…. and that is probably because I was not only being an equal opportunity commender but I was also with my wife and son. :)

  170. “It’s not that women want to police the behavior of people around them”

    Not to sound crass, but that’s not always the case. The most obvious example I can give you is that of Tracy Hurley, who does the “Sarah Darkmagic” blog for Wizards of the Coast and who is rapidly establishing herself as a prominent voice regarding gender issues in gaming. Earlier this year she went on a tirade about how she felt “unwelcome” at a convention because a barker was attempting to drum up enthusiasm for their Warmachine tournament by shouting Privateer Press’ slogan.

    The offending line? “Play like you got a pair.”

    Now – and I can’t stress this enough – harassment and stalking are never acceptable, but let’s not pretend that the very nature of gaming conventions is chaotic and jumbled. People go to them with very different expectations. And this isn’t just about women. I can’t remember the last time I went to a convention where the roleplayers and the cosplayers weren’t growling at each other like cats.

    Actually, something from PATV’s Extra Credits is applicable here: http://www.necessarygames.com/my-games/loneliness/flash

    No one should be expected to tolerate feeling unsafe, but part of what is being discussed here is the institutionalization of the idea that the person who merely makes someone uncomfortable has a moral obligation to remove themselves from the situation. I’ll accept that this is true in the vast majority of circumstances, but I think we should be leery of saying that it’s always true.

  171. Jen/Isabelle, et al:

    To summarize your main ideas:

    1.) People who are disadvantaged by nature/circumstances are not entitled to help/sympathy from others.
    2.) One person’s “need” does not trump another person’s right to be left alone.
    3.) Discrimination based on physical characteristics happens, and that’s just the way it is. Get over it.

    I feel confident, based on reading the above, that all of you will be voting Republican (if not Libertarian) in November. I would also expect to find a well-worn copy of Atlas Shrugged on your bookshelves.

    Just kidding…I think we all know otherwise :)

    * * *
    To answer BW’s earlier question: The way I worked my way out of it was by suffering through my 20s and making a lot of money. Once I had a professional degree, a six-figure salary, and numerous “toys,” women suddenly found me to be a lot more interesting. Nothing transforms a short, ugly guy from “creeper” to “cool” like money and material success. (This is especially true once you reach the age of 35 or so.)

    And lest this be misinterpreted as a lopsided condemnation of women as the shallow ones: Men are even *more* superficial, we are just superficial about different things (youth, a slender build, etc.)

  172. Todd,

    “Jen/Isabelle, et al:

    To summarize your main ideas:

    1.) People who are disadvantaged by nature/circumstances are not entitled to help/sympathy from others.
    2.) One person’s “need” does not trump another person’s right to be left alone.
    3.) Discrimination based on physical characteristics happens, and that’s just the way it is. Get over it.

    I feel confident, based on reading the above, that all of you will be voting Republican (if not Libertarian) in November. I would also expect to find a well-worn copy of Atlas Shrugged on your bookshelves.

    Just kidding…I think we all know otherwise :)”

    Seriously? I’m a Republican, and you’re not funny. No one is saying that it’s “racism” if you don’t sleep with every minority race that’s ever been wronged. For crying out loud.

  173. @Todd: You are entitled to professional, educational, cultural and governmental assistance and freedom from discrimination. You are not entitled to those same benefits from ME, personally, or you are infringing on MY freedom. Why does that idea disturb you so much? If I see you bleeding in the street, I will most certainly help you, because that’s my duty as a human being. If you ask me out on a date, or even demand my time without good cause, it’s not my moral imperative to give you anything.

    I will fight for your right to achieve any benefits you lack. Provided that *I* am not included in that list of benefits. You are not entitled to other people.

  174. mythago: First of all, please take a moment to chill. Deep breaths.

    Now: How do you figure that I am turning this into an MRA vs. feminism debate when I explicitly note that women, as well as men, can be disadvantaged by superficial standards of beauty?

    *I* wasn’t the one to introduce the term “friend zone” into the conversation. And who did I call a “lying bitch?” Geez…give me a break.

    As for Kanazawa…I didn’t intend to write a dissertation on him and his theories. I was merely noting that some women–as well as some men—face challenges due to superficial standards of what is attractive.

    Please go find someone else in this thread to debate MRA vs. feminism with you. I have made it clear that this is *not* my agenda.

  175. Michael, you said, “No one should be expected to tolerate feeling unsafe, but part of what is being discussed here is the institutionalization of the idea that the person who merely makes someone uncomfortable has a moral obligation to remove themselves from the situation.” While discussing it on a blog is hardly “institutionalizing” it, I think how we’ve used the word “leave” has been unclear at times. Context should make it plenty clear, but nonetheless, I’ll attempt to make it clearer.

    You’re at a con or a party and you walk up to a group of people uninvited and start making one of them uncomfortable. It is not on that person to leave the group to get away from you. You should leave. That doesn’t mean you have to leave the entire con or party.

    You’re at a con minding your own business and someone in the hall is uncomfortable with you, though you haven’t had any interactions with each other. It is not on you to leave the hall.

    You are at a restaurant. You’re sitting at your table minding your own business, but other people at the restaurant are uncomfortable with you. It is not on you to get up and leave the restaurant.

    Does that help at all?

  176. @Todd: And to summarize your main idea…women’s time and attention are commodities, to which every man in the world is entitled to a fair share.

    So, to clarify: I’m obligated to sleep with any man who asks? To date them? Or just to smilingly endure repeated passes?

    Tell me, how many minutes do I have to spend listening to totally uninteresting conversation to qualify as a good person in your world? Or do I actually have to spread my legs for anyone with a sad enough story?

  177. “mythago: First of all, please take a moment to chill. Deep breaths.”

    Oh, that’s rich. Arguably, she’s been far more logical and less emotional than you have. Where there’s been frustration, it’s been a 100% warranted reaction to people trotting out the same tired lines that were offensive the first time they were torn apart.

  178. Thought experiment:

    Our Genial Host mentioned a few posts back that he has been the target of creepers on occasion. So, while he’s not exactly typical of the class “people who have been targetted by creepers,” he is a member of that class.

    All y’all who are talking about how targets of creepers should be understanding and kind to the creepers – what happens if you replace the generic (young, female) target with specific example John Scalzi? It’s at a convention. Some stranger comes up to Mr. Scalzi and starts talking. Mr. Scalzi says he has to go. The stranger ignores Mr. Scalzi’s words, keeps talking, and is somehow always between Mr. Scalzi and the door. Does Mr. Scalzi owe it to this stranger to let them down easy? How much time does Mr. Scalzi have to put in to being careful of this stranger’s feelings before Mr. Scalzi can walk away with your approval? Does your estimation of what Mr. Scalzi owes this stranger vary depending on the stranger’s gender, race, age, degree of fame, or other demographic factor?

  179. @Todd

    “1.) People who are disadvantaged by nature/circumstances are not entitled to help/sympathy from others.”

    In general, no, I am not obligated to help or give sympathy to someone who is disadvantaed by nature or circumstances. Depending on the nature of the help and/or sympathy, and the nature of how they are disadvantaged, I may help. For instance, offering someone who is differentially abled with a physical task that they may need assistance with IF they request that help. But I do that because I’m nice, not because I feel a sense of obligation.

    “2.) One person’s “need” does not trump another person’s right to be left alone.”

    Yep. You do not get to make claims on anyone else’s time, energy, attention, or space.

    “3.) Discrimination based on physical characteristics happens, and that’s just the way it is. Get over it.”

    I don’t think anyone here has made that argument. Essentially, you’re trying to argue that because a person you chose to characterize as unattractive isn’t getting the attention they feel owed to them then that counts as discrimination.

  180. @iiii: Another good factor to add to your list of examples: What if he has a plane to catch? Promised his wife he’d meet her for dinner? Was busy chatting with an old friend whom he hasn’t seen for years?

    All factors which are rarely considered by the “creeper” in an interaction. “But I am owed at least a few minutes of your time! How can you fail to satisfy this small request?” However, there are only 24 hours in a day. What if all of them have already been promised to others? What if there are a thousand people all asking for this “small favor” at the same time? Is it fairer to give all your time to one person, a few minutes to a few people, a few seconds to all the people, or nothing at all?

  181. Regarding this whole “people with disadvantages” (note: I don’t personally believe that this description overlaps to any significant degree with “people who do not respect other’s boundaries” and I do believe it is often used as creepercamouflage) being entitled to “help/sympathy” from others? Hell, this whole series of posts has counted as a very serious, honest offer of help. And there has definitely been an outpouring of sympathy (misplaced, in my mind, by the confounding of “disadvantaged” with “entitled assbag”).

    But you know what? People with disadvantages who are, of course, entitled to help and sympathy are not entitled to the type of help and sympathy they may want. For instance, I absolutely believe that addicts should be treated, not imprisoned. And I give money to treatment shelters. But I’m completely the wrong person for an addict to expect therapy or medical advice from. It would be unhelpful and inappropriate. And I’m not going to give my friend the addict money when he begs for it, because it is completely counterproductive. Likewise, as much sympathy as I have for people with mental illnesses, and as much as I may donate to shelters and other support systems, I am in no way obligated, nor would it be appropriate, to continue to offer my presence for the abuse or other interaction an unstable, untreated person wanted from me.

    Likewise, a socially awkward guy/girl who wants a date/sex but can’t figure out how to talk to women/men without setting off internal alarm bells in their heads has my sympathy. They might, if they decided to ask me about this issue, even get some suggestions (and links!). But socially awkward guy is not entitled to a woman’s attention (or attraction, or vagina for the purposes of emergency penis-wetting, which is the best phrase ever and I am immediately borrowing it from Mythago, with attribution), because the attention/attraction/sex is NOT HELP OR SYMPATHY.

    A person who is unable to interact with others needs help from a competent therapist, and (maybe, depending on how aware he or she is of his or her situation, and how much self-reflection and growth he or she is willing to engage in) a certain amount of abstract sympathy from the more socially adept. A person who is unable to interact with others does not need to be allowed to override other people’s boundaries. That’s not just inappropriate, it’s completely counterproductive.

  182. @Marcy: Emotional? Me? Never.

    @Isabel: Your question is reasonable. Here are my main points, in summary. And no–none of them involve Marcy sleeping with people of other cultures/nationalities.

    1.) Everyone judges members of the opposite sex by superficial characteristics.

    2.) People who are attractive have a much easier time in social situations–especially with members of the opposite sex. This might accurately be called the “attractive person’s privilege.”

    3.) People who are unattractive/socially awkward (often the two go together) face numerous “barriers to entry” in social situations.

    4.) While our society has given a lot of attention to the plight of racial minorities, homosexuals, etc. in recent years, physically unattractive people don’t garner a lot of sympathy. Moreover, since any sort of “affirmative action” for these individuals is unworkable/impractical, they are likely to continue to suffer in social situations–especially social situations that involve members of the opposite sex.

    5.) People who are unattractive/socially awkward are far more likely to end with the label of “creeper” than more attractive people, because unattractive people will repeatedly encounter rejection early in social interactions.

    Point #5, by the way, is the one that I really wanted to emphasize in the context of Scalzi’s post.

  183. @Todd:

    There’s a difference between what should be provided by society as a whole and what can fairly be demanded from any one person. If you’re in economic need, I firmly believe that the government should provide you with assistance. That doesn’t mean I appreciate it when people follow me around, asking me for money. I’d also be fairly unsympathetic toward a person who complained that people they’d solicited for donations refused, or only chose to give them to certain panhandlers.

    In the same vein, I have no problem with a convention hosting a workshop for people who feel uncertain about their social skills, or with someone setting up a dating site for convention-goers. What’s not reasonable is expecting some people (usually women) to spend much of their convention experience catering to the needs of others (usually straight men). I’d say this is particularly the case since there’s no equal expectation for men to provide sexual or romantic attention to women they don’t find appealing, or for people to humor the advances of those who aren’t of their preferred sexual orientation.

  184. @Todd: Thank you *ever* so much for the praise.

    No, I get what you’re saying. I think everyone does.

    My question is: what the hell do you want anyone to do about it? Why did you bring these points up?

    If your point was “don’t disparage socially awkward people”: nobody here has actually done that. As I mentioned. Before. Several times. Plenty of people here have distinguished between socially awkward people and harassers; plenty of people have *also* noted that, regardless of the motive, boundary crossing is not acceptable, and nobody is entitled to anyone else’s time or attention.

    Do you disagree with those two things?

    If not, again–since you seem to have trouble processing things the first three to five times people say them–why bring the “boo hoo, some people are unattractive” line into this at all?

    One more time: just what do you expect us to do about it?

  185. Todd

    The problem with your story is that no-one with an iq into double figures will believe it; rich guys with trophy wives don’t hang around websites bewailing their lack of success with women in their early years, not least because trophy wives with divorce lawyers on speed-dial police rich husbands’ use of the web carefully.

    And announcing that women are only interested in their money looks like the sort of emotional trauma that would justify hitting the speed dial…

  186. Todd,

    “Need” and “want” are not synonymous. In your examples, it has all been a question of “want” — Short Ugly Guy wants Uncomfortable Woman’s attention. He wants someone to give him a chance. He does not need either of these things: he needs Air, Food, Shelter and a number of other things (and can make do without food and shelter for a time if he has to). Likewise, Short Ugly Woman wants Uncomfortable Man’s attention. She wants someone to give her a chance. She does not need either of these things, and so forth.

    When Short Ugly Guy and Short Ugly Woman decide the object of their affections is obligated to respond to them in a way that will meet their want? That’s creepy. But you know what? When Tall Handsome Guy and Tall Curvaceous Woman decide the object of their affections is obligated to respond in a way that will meet their want? They’re being creepy, too.

    The only person being “disadvantaged” in either of these scenarios is Uncomfortable Woman/Man. Appearance (and money, and “toys” can you hear me rolling my eyes?) have nothing to do with it.

  187. Cloud – I am truly sorry to hear that and I understand your reluctance to bring it up. I have made something of a PItA of myself with inclusion statements for conferences I guess I have to add harassment polices now too.

  188. @sistercoyote: Yep. And honestly? Some of the creepier people I’ve known have been objectively quite good looking.

    Also: supporting the government taking an action is by no means the same as volunteering to do it yourself. I would support government-funded daycare, but if a stranger demanded that I watch their kids for an afternoon while they went to a ballgame, I’d have some choice words in response. I support government-funded mental health care and counseling, and yet I am not a psychiatrist, and I do not want to hear about your issues. Hell, I’d support government-funded charm school, or whatever, but your getting laid is still not my problem.

    Most people get that. Somehow.

  189. @Todd: c’mon, man. You can do better than ‘gee, lady, you’re angry’ as a derail. That’s about three rungs up from ‘are you on the rag?’ on the originality scale. 2.1 from the Russian judge.

    That said, you’re all over the place. You conflate attractiveness with social acumen, you say that women are shallow about looks bu then they’re shallow about money (men, apparently, are sadly unishallow) and end up arguing that unattractive people who are rejected will be unfairly labeled “creeper” because they…turn creepy out of desperation? Do what now?

    As isabelcooper said, everybody gets the point you’re actually trying to make underneath all the goalpost-shifting. It’s just a really dumb point.

  190. Todd: “Once I had a professional degree, a six-figure salary, and numerous ‘toys,’ women suddenly found me to be a lot more interesting.”

    So each of us, in our own way, worked ourselves into a position in which members of the opposite sex found us interesting enough to spend time with. We were no longer lonely puppies hoping to be adopted. We had things to offer that members of the opposite sex were interested in. That’s exactly what I recommend for “won’t they just give me a chance” people.

    I’ve actually given some lonely puppies a chance, because I empathized with their feelings of being socially awkward. It always turned out to be a mistake. Nor would I have done well, I believe, if any of the guys I was attracted to had given me a chance back when I was a lonely puppy. They were right not to give me a chance, though I hardly felt that way at the time. I needed to develop some self-confidence first and some emotional maturity. Once you get past the falling-in-love endorphin stage, successful relationships involve a lot of communication, negotiation, and ability to deal with each other as both interdependent and independent adults. Getting in a relationship doesn’t fill an insecure person’s needs. It’s the beginning of a new phase of life that is a lot more complicated than being single.

  191. Todd: “While our society has given a lot of attention to the plight of racial minorities, homosexuals, etc. in recent years, physically unattractive people don’t garner a lot of sympathy. Moreover, since any sort of “affirmative action” for these individuals is unworkable/impractical, they are likely to continue to suffer in social situations–especially social situations that involve members of the opposite sex.”

    Here’s the part that you keep missing: This does NOT apply on a personal level. Not even for minorities, homosexuals, etc. If someone refused to interact with black people on a professional level, refused to have black co-workers and black customers, the burden would be on them to leave that organization, because that would be an unfair impediment to the ability of their black colleagues to go about their normal lives. However, if they refused to interact with black people on a personal and social level, that would be tragic, and it probably makes them not-a-very-good-person, but it’s ALLOWED. It’s crazy, but it’s a permissible form of crazy. Nobody should be forced to interact with anyone for any reason. If I met a man – not somebody from whom I needed to buy something or a potential employer, just a random man – who told me, “I’m sorry, I don’t talk to women,” I would probably think that guy is a jerk, but you know what? FINE! He doesn’t have to talk to me if he doesn’t want to, and I would be the rude one if I insisted that he did! Maybe it’s “unfair,” but life is not fair. We owe it to ourselves to run a fair society, but beyond that, people are free to be as friendly or dickish as they desire so long as nobody is actually harmed or threatened by their actions.

    Your desires do not override other people’s individual, private comfort levels, no matter how bizarre they seem to you. That’s your burden to deal with.

  192. @ Todd

    mythago: First of all, please take a moment to chill. Deep breaths.

    You don’t do yourself any favors by acting condescending to other commenters, most especially when if anyone needs a chill pill, it’s you.

    People who are attractive have a much easier time in social situations–especially with members of the opposite sex. This might accurately be called the “attractive person’s privilege.”

    No, because privilege (private law) has no bearing on personal relationships. That is an individual choice. No one is entitled to anyone else’s attention. Attempting to frame individual choice in who to spend time with as an institutional privilege is at best missing the point and at worst completely intellectually dishonest.

    While our society has given a lot of attention to the plight of racial minorities, homosexuals, etc. in recent years, physically unattractive people don’t garner a lot of sympathy.

    Race and sexual orientation are not in the eye of the beholder. They are objective facts. Attractiveness is not, it is subjective.

    Moreover, since any sort of “affirmative action” for these individuals is unworkable/impractical, they are likely to continue to suffer in social situations–especially social situations that involve members of the opposite sex.

    Not getting flirted/dated/laid is not suffering. And whining because the people you think owe you their attention are not the ones willing to give it to you is deeply pathetic.

  193. An addition, and to somewhat echo SisterCoyote- the disadvantage suffered by a socially awkward person who is unable to interact with other people is not “lack of sex/relationship” or “subjective unattractiveness” Sex/relationship is something that they want. The disadvantage is “inability to interact with other people in a way that respects their boundaries.” And if it is truly an inability, then all help and sympathy should be directed toward treating that disadvantage, and should be done by people who may actually have an effect on that inability (friends, family, therapists, well-meaning blog hosts with personal experience and suggestions). A boundary-crosser needs to learn not to cross boundaries. A boundary-crosser may also want to get the girl/guy/famous author’s attention, but such attention isn’t going to do a darn thing about the boundary crossing, and should be a much lower priority, assuming that the boundary-crosser actually wants to be a more socially adept, non-creepy member of society.

    If the boundary-crossing is not due to a disadvantage, but rather because the person gets what they want (attention, etc) from crossing boundaries, then getting what they want (attention, whether positive or negative, or “helpful”) merely reinforces the anti-social, creepy behaviors. This is, I believe, the majority of people who set off others’ creep-o-meters, and they do not deserve to hide behind the camouflage of “disadvantage.”

    Anyone who honestly believes that an uncomfortable, possibly threatened man or woman’s time and attention is going to somehow have a miraculous effect on the anti-social behaviors of a boundary-crosser (whether disguised or truly disadvantaged) has been watching waaaaaay too many teen movies.

  194. Love your comments, Sigh. This is slightly off from the current main arguments (but meh, they’re getting tiresome anyway), but it helped me put my finger on something that’s been bothering me a little at work. “But I’m completely the wrong person for an addict to expect therapy or medical advice from. It would be unhelpful and inappropriate.”

    I’m currently a church secretary, and very occasionally I get people asking for money who want to tell me their story for an hour. I can’t give them money either way, the priest does that. But it can be hard to shut them down — “I’m not interested” equates to “the church isn’t interested.” “I need to get back to work” implies my job doesn’t involve listening to people, and it does involve that — to a certain extent.

    They already know I’ll talk to the priest, they just want to go on talking to me anyway, as though if they can just impart the gravity of the situation on me… Still, I’m really not the one it’s helpful for them to talk to. It serves no purpose, doesn’t help me relay a better message to the people who CAN help them at all. Everything they really need to give me for a message could fit in ten minutes at most, not an hour. And saying things about how they haven’t gotten much help from other places, just to guilt me… grrr.

    Anyway, I’m not quite as far from the “right person” as the examples you give, perhaps, but I still found it helpful.

  195. Marcy, in a lot of churches the church secretary is the “power behind the altar,” and would be the one they have to really convince. The CS then makes “recommendations” to the pastor/rector/whatever they call it, which the p/r/wtci always follows.

  196. Todd:

    Fine: Awkward men are special, special snowflakes.

    And: No one is obliged to do anything for them, or to care that they are special, special snowflakes, or to take their special, special snowflakiness into consideration when these same awkward men make them feel uncomfortable in whatever way.

    Also: This isn’t going to change. If you are so all-fired concerned about the plight of the Awkward Man, I heartily encourage you to start the Awkward Man Foundation, which has as its purpose the psychological care and feeding of the Awkward Man, with an eye toward helping him develop his social skill set so that he may learn to approach the objects of his desire without alienating them simply by existing. This way, such responsibility would not be assumed by you to be the role of anyone else.

    Finally: Having now settled this issue, please feel free to comment in the thread about any subject other than the tragic plight of the Awkward Man, because I think it’s been fairly well hashed out by you here, and I don’t think there’s much else to be said about it.

  197. Xopher, yeah, I think I get that reasoning. There certainly are times (more often with sales reps) when their presentation can make the difference between me throwing their materials away or passing them on to someone else. I have no power at all to make the final decision, and when it comes to things the board needs to decide on (as with sales reps) my recommendation means very little. (Even when I’m the one who has to deal with the results, like considering a copier lease, grr.)

    When it comes to people asking for money (not the sale reps) I pass on ALL of those requests, and though I will include details that can be helpful in deciding whether or not the person was being honest etc., the priest has far more experience in this arena than I do, and he knows it. He very much makes his own decisions.

    Yeah, I can understand trying to get me on your side, though. Taking an hour to do it? Not helpful I really cease being the one who can help you. At this church, anyway. Others may be different.

    And since, at this church, (not “my” church, I attend a different one, something I’d recommend to church secretaries everywhere) I have a full-time job and part-time hours… well, even the sales reps who *correctly* understand that my evaluation has SOME weight, taking a bunch of my time for their sale? Not a good idea. Giving me candy now, that’ll make me more generous. :)

    Uh, so tl;dr: I guess it makes sense for people to do it. I can see why. But it annoys me, and now I have a slightly better understanding of why it annoys me.

  198. Marcy- thank you! I can totally sympathize with your predicament. I am often in a position where my assistance- taking basic information, making recommendations for targeted, professional assistance, and then passing the information on to those professionals- is needed, and I am happy to give it. Unfortunately, I am very rarely in a position where I can listen to too many details (in addition to making it harder for me to get my other work done, it can cause conflicts and is often inappropriate, ethically). I’ve found that I do make a lot of semi-accurate excuses, and I often get pushback, because many of these people are desperate, and my small amount of attention is more than they’ve had from anyone else. I’ve spent a lot of time angry and frustrated at the pushback, and some time feeling pretty bad about myself. But I’ve learned that the best approach (in this professional setting) is to be straightforward and uncompromising about the necessary boundaries.

    Xopher makes a good point regarding church secretaries (my mother was definitely the gatekeeper for our parish, although she was a very generous and welcoming one). Your boundary-setting might be to make it clear, up front, that you have no power other than specific-information-collecting-and-imparting. I have no idea if you’re already doing that, but if not, it may help. I find that when I make it clear that my boundaries are set by legal and ethical obligations, and that I have limited power over their situation because of these obligations, I get significantly less pushback.

    It’s difficult, and I wish I had better advice (for myself as well). To tie it back to the earlier discussion, even in this situation, where it is entirely appropriate to be asked for my attention (and these people are, based on my job description and professional courtesy, entitled to my attention for a period of time), I find it necessary to set boundaries, and sometimes find that people cannot respect them. I have the utmost sympathy for these people, and will do all I can appropriately do to help them, but really, at no point do I, as an individual, owe them more than the help I am capable of providing. The major difference is that in my professional position, I do owe them an explanation of where the boundary is. That said, I would absolutely never equate this professional situation with a social one, in which there is no such obligation, nor should there be.

  199. Sigh, you’re welcome and thank you, your position sounds like it has a lot of similarities, if a bit of a different setting. I’ve found that it’s easier for me to get rid of the sales reps, most of the time. Not only are they less desperate (usually), but yes, I can explain to them how many different committees need to agree before anything can be done, and that all I can do is barely get the ball rolling. That helps. In some cases, if it’s true, I make it clear that I *am* on their side, it’s just that ___. And I think I already seem pretty sympathetic (and generous and welcoming) to most people asking for money, but maybe I can make it clearer (in those situations where they’re pushing it) that I don’t have much influence on the priest. That could help.

    I agree about the boundaries and the difference between an explanation in a professional setting, as opposed to a social one. The other aspect is that when someone persists in not respecting your boundaries, it can feel even more threatening in a professional setting, since you can’t leave your job to get away. I used to have a panic button in my office, but it started malfunctioning (alarm randomly going off), so a parishioner took it home to fix it. He assured me a couple times he hadn’t forgotten about it. Then he left the church. *sigh* On the other hand, there’s a preschool just across the parking lot, and women there who like to check on me, especially if they see strangers wandering around, so I feel pretty safe.

  200. You know, one of the things I enjoy about Mr. Scalzi’s blog entries is reading through the comments and watching how often it veers off as people comment on what they thought they read and how many people apparently just skimmed the article.
    I find it interesting just how fast people tried to minimize the original idea of “women are being harassed and how do we deal with it”. Nibbled to death by ducks, indeed.

  201. I think there is a problem with the word uncomfortable, but the problem is not that it’s inaccurate. It’s that creepers and creeper-apologists use its most innocuous meaning when women who say it mean something not innocuous.

    Women who use it generally mean, “I am very unhappy with this person here, he makes me feel like something bad is going to happen and it might not end at him saying something about my body or his.”

    Creepers and creeper-apologists define it as “I don’t like the way he wears plaids and stripes together.” Or “he’s ugly and I want him to go away and the best way to do that is to make up some shit and everyone will coddle me for it.” Or “I had a fight with my boyfriend and want to take it out on some guy.”

  202. What does the house think of discarding the word ‘uncomfortable’ in favor of ‘threatened’? Don’t have to feel a threat of imminent rape to feel threatened, of course, but a LOT of people make me uncomfortable, while relatively few make me feel threatened.

    Example: lots of people are “uncomfortable” around outrageously effeminate guys. VERY few people feel threatened by them. I think the kind of discomfort being discussed here is less like that kind of “uncomfortable,” and more like a feeling of threat.

  203. I think there is a problem with the word uncomfortable, but the problem is not that it’s inaccurate. It’s that creepers and creeper-apologists use its most innocuous meaning when women who say it mean something not innocuous.

    It’s also a whole Derailing for Dummies bingo card: “Let me tell you what you really meant, because I’m not going to bother paying any attention to the original post or dozens of comments that laid out it out in painfully nuanced detail.” Which kind of brings us back to the base code assumption of all creeping: It’s all about me, all the time. The rest of the world just exists for my amusement, convenience and comfort.

  204. Xopher: I’m not Wields Mallet, but I can’t say I disapprove to that change since even if it’s describing behavior that started this discussion, that behavior can still be described as threatening.

    I do worry that it will change the focus of the conversation from creeper-behavior that’s obnoxious and discomfiting and quite blatantly Harassment 101 but doesn’t clearly fall into the realm of ‘threatening.’ Part of the modus operandi of serial creepers (for want of a better term) is that they’ve never done anything outwardly blatantly threatening that would get them figuratively or literally kicked out on their butts; it’s always ju-u-u-ust innocuous enough that they can weasel their way out of it.

    So I’m not sure. It’s more accurate and it carries definite emotional punch as to what this behavior really is, but it may backfire for the reason that for as accurate as it is, it may leave the creeper too much room to say ‘But I wasn’t threatening her with anything! When did an apology become a threat? How dare you say I’m threatening, I’m a pacifist!’ et cetera.

  205. John, I still can’t accept your definition of “creeper”. Unless I am misunderstanding something:

    1) “Creeper” is a term we’re using for people we wish to either ban from conventions or force to change their behavior.
    2) The criteria you are using are completely subjective, happening solely within the mind of the victim.

    We aren’t going to go around perma-banning people without some sort of objective evidence. Within George Zimmerman’s mind, Treyvon Martin met all your criteria for a creeper. But we all know that was not sufficient reason for Zimmerman to take punitive action. “Something about him is creeping me out” is a perfectly fine reason for the victim to yell, “Go away!”, but not a reason to throw the guy out of the con. If he refuses to go away, or comes back later, or perhaps causes complaints from multiple victims, that is where it becomes actionable.

    Another extreme example: Suppose a rape victim goes to a con where you are speaking. First time she encounters you in the hallway, she screams in fear. It turns out, in the dim lighting you reminded her of her attacker. Her reactions were perfectly understandable under the circumstances. But, no matter how she felt, the incident should not be a reason to add you to the “creeper list”. Right?

    When dealing with computers or laws, definitions are taken literally and really matter. When lawmakers lose sight of that, we end up with crazy stuff like kids becoming registered sex offenders for peeing outdoors.

  206. Xopher, I think the problem with using “threatened” instead of “uncomfortable” might be that it will lead to derailing in another direction. “I was just standing next to him/her. That’s not a threat.” And “So now I can’t talk to a woman without her feeling threatened by my mere presence?” And so on. Consider some of the comments about Genevieve Valentine’s experiences with Rene Walling. “He just wanted to apologize. I don’t see the problem.” And “How does putting his arm around her to help her through the crowd constitute assault?” And so on. (Those are paraphrases, not direct quotes, but I believe they reasonably accurately convey the actual comments.) People who are determined to argue against this point are going to argue against it, no matter the terms used. Look at this very thread and how some individuals insisted on their own interpretations despite numerous explanations of how they were missing the point, complete with examples and clearly reasoned explanations of why those individuals’ examples didn’t apply to the point made in the original post.

  207. @ Xopher Halftongue

    What does the house think of discarding the word ‘uncomfortable’ in favor of ‘threatened’?

    I think that as long as we’re discussing behavior directed at someone, ‘uncomfortable’ is reason enough to them to insist on being left alone. I see no reason why someone should have to be or feel threatened in order to not have to deal with someone trying to interact with them. Let me illustrate. I’ve been in situations where many if not most of the people in my immediate vicinity were carrying firearms. Some people would feel threatened by the very presence of armed citizens. Others, such as myself, would not. I went to college in South Central LA, where gang colors were common attire. Some would feel threatened by such attire. Others, such as myself, would not. But whether we feel threatened by people wearing gang colors or carrying arms is immaterial to whether we have to tolerate them. What we are never obligated to tolerate is someone interacting with us, even if that someone is the most unthreatening soul on all of planet earth.

    Example: lots of people are “uncomfortable” around outrageously effeminate guys. VERY few people feel threatened by them.

    Not to get off topic, and clearly you’d have more personal experience with homophobic a-holes that I, but I think much of the discomfort homophobes experience is indeed due to feeling threatened because, in their twisted mind, tolerating LGBT persons calls their own sexuality into question. In essence, it’s the same warped cowardly logic of any school-yard bully…if I don’t bully this person, people will think I’m like them, and they’ll bully me.

    I think the kind of discomfort being discussed here is less like that kind of “uncomfortable,” and more like a feeling of threat.

    I must respectfully disagree. While feeling threatened is a non-trivial matter worthy of discussion, it should not be necessary to reject unwanted interaction.

  208. @vmink:

    Then the conversation can continue just as it has.

    “But I wasn’t threatening her with anything!”
    “You do not get to determine whether s/he felt threatened.”

    “When did an apology become a threat?”
    “When you refused to take ‘go away’ (a turned back, what have you) as an answer.”

    “How dare you say I’m threatening, I’m a pacifist!”
    “Dude, are you listening to yourself?” “Violence is not the only form of threat.”

    Attempts to derail can be met with the same sorts of answers we’ve been giving all along.

    At the moment someone violates my boundaries, no matter how small the transgression, they become a threat to me. Even if they don’t see themselves that way.

    And the reason serial creepers are able to weasel their way to having their behavior accepted is not because they don’t know they’re being threatening. They absolutely know they are. But a large proportion of society are going to back them up when they try to make what happened the victim’s fault — she was “cold” or “rude” or “just being a bitch” and the creeper was “just being a guy”. It’s never “She felt threatened and tried to shut you down.”

    And that’s bullshit. That’s blaming the victim, and that’s wrong.

  209. @Keith Burton:

    Here’s the distinct difference in both of your examples – Neither Trayvon Martin nor our host made any active move toward the person whom they made uncomfortable. They are both minding their own business and made no direct attempt to interact with the other person, so simply put – It’s unfortunate, but it couldn’t be helped.

    The focus here is on people who choose to make an active attempt to interact with someone, and then a) make them uncomfortable and b) refuse to acknowledge that they have made a mistake and move on.

  210. On my blog http://www.darkmatterfanzine.com/blog_dmf/?p=1021 I engaged with a similar issue from an entirely different angle: in my true story George is a man and Dragon is a woman in a position of power who is determined to remain transcendent in their interaction regardless of legal constraints and service level agreements. My blog is intended to be humorous as well as exposing illegal conduct, so it’s in a different vein but my point that IS relevant here:

    IF YOU’RE IN A POSITION OF POWER YOU HAVE INCREASED RESPONSIBILITY. If you’re a guy you already usually have more power than a woman: men usually have more physical power, so you can be a physical threat. If you’re a guy, it is socially acceptable for you to be assertive but the same level of assertiveness from a woman usually gets her classified as a ‘bitch’ or a ‘ball-breaker’. Woe betide a woman who tells you to ‘fuck off and leave me alone’ because no matter the provocation, that is considered rude and offensive even when done in self-defence. The flip side of this is that if a woman is raped, even if she has torn clothes, bruising and injuries, the guy can defend himself by claiming that ‘she likes it rough’ and ‘she was asking for it’.

  211. @Keith Burton:

    No one’s suggesting banning everyone who makes anyone else momentarily uncomfortable. The bans are for cases of harassment, stalking, and assault.

    It’s been followed with discussion about how not to make people uncomfortable in the first place and the proper way to react if you realize that you have. That’s not advocating that everyone who does those things should be thrown out. It’s talking about how well-intentioned people can prevent some of these things from happening in the fiirst place and make conventions feel safer and more pleasant. There will always be some missed cues, of course, and some unusually sensitive people, but that can likewise be defused by backing off and letting the other person go about their easily-frightened business.

  212. @Frankly, yes, it happens all the time in IT. I am glad you asked the question and commend you for now wanting to help rectify the situation. Our Host’s list will be of use to you, I’m sure.

    I like men. I’ve flirted with all sorts of them — old, young, Hollywood-handsome (literally), bridge-troll ugly, shy, outgoing, tall, short, athletic, couch potato, of every race. If a man is intelligent, kind, and treats me like a human being, he gets my attention.

  213. One more optimistic implication of the principle that people of the type you’re attracted to have the same agency as you do: Not only should no particular person be expected to engage in a relationship with you (as several people have pointed out), but *also*, no particular person should be expected to act just like the “typical” person-of-favored-type that you imagine.

    Or, to put it another way: if what you want is to find someone who you can stay, love, and be happy with, you don’t have to be attractive to everyone. You don’t even have to be attractive to the “average” person-of-desired-sex. Being attractive to *one* person suffices, if you and that person find each other and they’re as right for you as you are for them.

    This doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to find such a person, of course; and it’s also no reason not to try to develop into your best self. But you can be *your* best self; you don’t have to be an idealized self you imagine everyone of The Right Sex is looking for.

    And if you do that, and get out and be friendly with a bunch of other friendly people, your chances of eventually finding that special someone can be quite good, whether or not you’re “conventionally” attractive.

  214. Attempts to define a social event as a place strictly for platonic socializing, and labeling all men who socialize there with an interest in romance or sex as creepers does seem like an attempt at slut-shaming. Social clumsiness plus a single-minded focus on finding a sex partner does seem very likely to put a person into the creeper zone, however. The advice on not becoming a creeper or assbag applies regardless of intentions, remember, and in any situation including singles bars. People who find any kind of sexual vibe upsetting should not have it thrust upon them, but beyond that they don’t get to set the rules for others. I call that slut-shaming. I’ve only seen a couple of comments which seemed to express that view, but I didn’t notice anyone else responding to them.

    Wanting to find a sexual or romantic partner and not owning that desire, however, puts people into the Nice Guy or Girl catgory, which seems like a subset of creeper now that I’ve seen it discussed in this context. I don’t think sexual repression really benefits anyone, but I absolutely respect anyone’s right not to have sexual energy directed at them. Genuine interest in others and openness to the possibility seems like it creates opportunities to have it directed at you if you do want it.

  215. I asked the local paper’s Reader’s Representative, and was told these disgusting murders are not called “dishonor killings” is because those of the culture committing the killings objected to that phrase, calling it disrespectful of their culture; and the scare quotes are discarded for the same reason. He was as disgusted about it as I was; maybe that was just a veteran thing. Another good word gone, although the ideals remain in some. Reputation is probably the closest synonym in this context, but it’s a poor one (most synonyms are.)

    Those who think the legal system is infallible, and that commission of the deed should be presumed upon conviction … presumably you think there should not be an appeals process? Do you pay any attention to the outcome of those appeals?

  216. John said, “If you are so all-fired concerned about the plight of the Awkward Man, I heartily encourage you to start the Awkward Man Foundation, which has as its purpose the psychological care and feeding of the Awkward Man, ”

    John, we already did that. It was named science fiction fandom and, outside of computer rooms and labs, was about the only place we could relax and be our nerdy selves. From the specific cases cited by victims, I know who these guys (and scary girls) are too. They’re serial offenders in a number of flavors and I avoid them too. I’ve never been one of them. I’m one of the guys reading in the corner instead of interacting with people.

    So why do many of the proposed “solutions”, including yours, sound like they apply to me? I’m a bit autistic and know damned well I’ve made occasional women uncomfortable over the years, always completely by accident. Not from me trying to get the woman to sleep with me, or for inappropriate touching, just general social ineptness. I reject being labelled a “creeper” for a legitimate disability.

    I’m an autistic computer geek. Pretty much every person I’ve ever met made me uncomfortable. Give me the power to remove anyone from a con who makes me uncomfortable and soon there’ll be me browsing an empty dealer room.

  217. Keith Burton:

    “I reject being labelled a ‘creeper’ for a legitimate disability.”

    And? You appear to keep missing the point that you don’t have any control over how other people choose to perceive you. You can reject the label all you want, but others are not obliged to agree with you, and if you attempt to make them, you’re probably going to make things worse.

    You appear to want a special exception carved out for you, Keith. I can’t give you that. You know why? Because I am not in charge of anyone else’s response to you, either. People are going to respond to you how they’re going to respond to you. If you come across as creepy to them, then that’s going to dictate their response to you. Want to not come across as creepy? I offered some ideas earlier. Is it unfair that you come across as creepy to some people? Possibly, but that’s life.

    As a side note here, one of the things I think I keep hearing is that there’s a contingent of dudes who seem to be under the impression that women are just can’t wait to label guys as creepers, as if they’re just waiting for some poor awkward schmoe to wander by for that purpose. You know what, guys? Don’t flatter yourself. What I think what most women want is to do their own thing. Unless you’re actively trying to impinge on their consciousness and into their personal space, they’re not going to be thinking of you at all.

  218. @JR:

    If you mean my comment above, I don’t think it’s wrong to go to a place for general platonic socializing hoping that you’ll both enjoy the platonic bits and that you might get the bonus of meeting someone you’d like to have sex with or date.

    I just think that looking for romance at that sort of event requires extra tact and sensitivity compred to trying to meet someone at a speed dating event or a bar, because a majority of other people will be there for other reasons and lots of advances are going to end up being unwelcome. It’s not Easy Mode Dating for awkward folks, and it’s not good to set up the expectation that it will be.

  219. For the record, when I in my very small way contributed to the science fiction fandom by writing fantasy novels and comics and drawing pictures of giant demonic bunnies, it was not with the intent of providing psychological care and feeding to the Foundation For Awkward Men, nor was I aware that by going to conventions to sell art that I had an implied contract with said Awkward Men. If the Foundation for Awkward Men is indeed the reason for the existence of science fiction fandom and I am required to cater to their special snowflakeness, it’d be awesome if the cons would mention that in the paperwork before I start matting prints and getting my sales tax forms in order.

  220. @eselle28:

    I used ctrl-f to find your earlier comment which was one of the ones I had in mind, but then I read the rest of your comments for context and I think we more or less agree. I actually almost wrote something like what you said about Easy Mode Dating, too, but I couldn’t work out the phrasing to my satisfaction.

  221. @John Scalzi wrote, “What I think what most women want is to do their own thing. Unless you’re actively trying to impinge on their consciousness and into their personal space, they’re not going to be thinking of you at all.”

    Yes, exactly!!! When I go to a convention, it’s to engage in business networking, catch up with old contacts, listen in on panels, and pick up some interesting goodies for myself. Maybe I’ll make a friend or two while I’m there, or engage in some conversation, but it’s at the very bottom of my list of goals. Like many creative-types, I’m often AT WORK. But there’s this really bizarre idea going on here that by entering a convention space, a woman is officially putting herself on the auction block for seeking potential dating partners. I don’t understand why so many men are enraged that women aren’t playing along with this whole imaginary concept of what a convention is supposed to involve. If you want a place where women will be receptive to that, try speed dating.

  222. @eselle28, I respectfully disagree. Yes there are people who are talking about ways to handle the “creeper problem”, including perma-bans. Creeper is the word those women were already using on their blogs to describe the serious serial offenders, essentially stalkers who use conventions as their hunting ground.

    Then John comes along and redefines “creeper” to be something much broader: As I read it, his idea of a creeper is pretty much anyone with poor social skills who ever attempts to find a mate but blows it embarrassingly.

    The word “creeper” is clearly a derogatory term. It is my honest opinion that John has inadvertently defined his term in such a way as to defame a huge group of innocents, including sufferers of autism, Down’s syndrome, and other legally-protected disabilities, much larger than his actual intended target. Just because a disabled person’s attempt to hit on you makes you uncomfortable doesn’t make him a bad person. It makes him disabled. Deal with it. Want to talk about how to help us? Wonderful! We’d love help! Want to call us a nasty word while you do so? That’s going to end up in a courtroom someday if some fool like me doesn’t step on it now. I don’t think John’s paranoid enough. :)

    If I can’t convince him, I’ll eventually contact Autism Support Network and The ARC, and let them decide. If they decide I’m being pedantic, well that is a symptom. :) But if they agree, one email from someone official would doubtless be enough to convince John he’s been inadvertently insensitive here, and save him trouble later.

  223. @ Keith Burton

    It doesn’t matter if you accept that some people will be creeped out by your innocuous behavior towards them. All that matters is that, when they are, you choose the better part of valor and leave them alone. Is it unfair that they don’t like you? Maybe so. Are you entitled to have them like you? No. You can reject their assessment of you as a creeper until the sun leaves the main sequence, but you cannot do a thing about it, and trying after they’ve signaled that the interaction is over is harassment, which will get you kicked out of civilized spaces and earn you a reputation that will not stand you in good stead.

  224. @Keith Burton: News for you: “Creeper” isn’t being applied to people who suffer from a disability; it’s being applied to a specific set of actions – and what’s more, actions that aren’t even limited to people who suffer from that disability. (An extroverted “Leisure Suit Larry” personality would be considered just as, if not more, creepy.) Behavior isn’t a protected class. And what’s more, this whole series of posts has had a lot of comments from autistic women who don’t like this attention, and autistic men who’ve vowed to refrain from it, so your claim that this post is somehow defaming people with disabilities is not gonna go anywhere.

  225. *raises hand*

    Another autistic guy who totally agrees with both articles, used them for self-reflection, and expects to have greater social success as a result. Several other autistic people, and people who work with us share my view, and my psychologist agrees with everything I related to him from the articles. I really thought we had finished going there already. It takes a deliberately obtuse person with autism, or a misdiagnosed sociopath, to cross into assbag territory more than once or twice.

  226. Ursula, yes! And I certainly wouldn’t have joined, if I’d known I was joining the Foundation for Awkward Men! Oops. You’d think they’d be a little more obvious about their whole reason for existing. Huh.

  227. It seems like there are two types of “creepers” here. 1. The type that try to pursue something of an unwanted sexual nature.2. Men/woman who are socially awkward and that make others feel uncomfortable by their awkwardness. No one is defending the first type, and I’m not defending the second one either but it seems for the second that a lot of the woman here are insinuating that awkward men are wanting females to cater to them because they’ve had it socially tough in life and that they are entitled to your vaginas and time. Which in some cases may be true, but In most cases are probably not. I’m pretty sure awkward men and awkward females are equal gender boundary offenders that don’t equate to wanting to have sex with you but are still creepy non the less.

    I’ve met men and women who were so socially inept that it was painful being near them, did I think they wanted to have sex with me? no.

  228. “…trying after they’ve signaled that the interaction is over is harassment, which will get you kicked out of civilized spaces and earn you a reputation that will not stand you in good stead.”

    I think the point you are missing in Keith’s post is the the definition he objects to does not include the “after they’ve signaled” part. Folks with autism generally go away after you tell them to; creepers do not. But John’s definition calls them creepers for doing it once. That’s the part that’s not fair.

    Cathy

  229. @ Keith Burton

    As I read it, his idea of a creeper is pretty much anyone with poor social skills who ever attempts to find a mate but blows it embarrassingly.

    Then you really haven’t been paying attention.

    Just because a disabled person’s attempt to hit on you makes you uncomfortable doesn’t make him a bad person. It makes him disabled. Deal with it.

    You’re not listening. No one has to deal with anyone hitting on them if they don’t want to. And the reason DOES NOT MATTER! The only thing that matters is that every single person gets to decide whom they want to socialize with and whom they do not. If they don’t want to socialize with you because you’re awkward, or a vegan, or get up early on Saturday, that is their prerogative.

    That’s going to end up in a courtroom someday if some fool like me doesn’t step on it now.

    No, it’s really not. Because – say it with me now – I am not entitled to other people’s fair judgment. And painting yourself as a whipping boy reluctantly taking on the arduous task of correcting us idiots for our own good is a really tired and transparent rhetorical tactic that just makes you look lazy.

  230. Keith Burton:

    “As I read it, his idea of a creeper is pretty much anyone with poor social skills who ever attempts to find a mate but blows it embarrassingly.”

    Oddly enough, that’s not what I wrote. I know because I can go back and check the actual words. And so can you.

    I’m not responsible for what you imagined I wrote, Keith. Rather than suggest that I wrote something I didn’t write, why not actually go with what I actually did write?

    Moreover, I do invite you, Keith, to point to where in the original entry (or the subsequent entries on the subject) I say anything specifically about those with Asperger’s. This would be advisable for you to do before you attempt to enlist the aid of the Autism Support Network to chastize me for my insensitivity. And after you’ve finished looking for where I’ve specifically mentioned Asperger’s in the original article, you might give some thought as to why you didn’t find it in there.

    And in any event, no matter who you bring to bear on me in a quest to punish me for writing something you disapprove of, Keith, it won’t change the fact that you cannot control how other people perceive you. Making me the misplaced target of your ire will not do a single thing to change this.

  231. My sole goal in life is to have John Scalzi regard me as such a scintillating conversationalist and wonderful person that he seeks me out whenever we’re in the same vicinity purely for the pleasure of being in my company.

    To this end I will:
    a: practice being scintillating and wonderful on as many people as possible so that when I finally meet him he is likely to agree with everyone else on that subject.
    b: seek to convince others that I am S&W through rhetorical skill and force of argument
    c: stalk Scalzi until he is forced to agree that I am S&W

    Hmm, which seems more likely to work? Which is likely to make my life pleasant and fulfilling in the meantime?

  232. @Gulliver,

    My WHOLE objection to John’s definition is the part where I get called a creeper the FIRST time I say, “Hello” to a woman and she decides she’s uncomfortable. Even if she says, “I’m busy, please excuse me”, and I go away immediately, by John’s definition I was a creeper. I know that isn’t your definition of creeper, or anyone else reasonable in here. But if you’ll actually go back and read John’s first post on this topic, that is precisely what he said.

    “You’re not listening. No one has to deal with anyone hitting on them if they don’t want to.”
    Actually, that isn’t correct. It’s been well established legally in the US that yes, we all have to deal with people coming up to us in public and talking to us. Your right to be left alone only legally exists after an explicit signal, whether saying “Go away”, or perhaps posting a “Leave me Alone” sign. By default, as an adult in a public place, people are allowed to approach you.

    Now, Gulliver, don’t claim I’m defending that, or using it as an excuse to bother women. I’m just being pedantic and explaining the actual facts, as we poor souls tend to do. I only learned it because I was hoping to keep annoying salespeople away, but it turned out they are entitled to interrupt my reading. I wouldn’t mind changing that, and can sure empathize with why some women would like too.

  233. Keith Burton:

    “Even if she says, ‘I’m busy, please excuse me’, and I go away immediately, by John’s definition I was a creeper.”

    Yeah, not at all, actually. I tell people who approach me when I’m busy — or when I don’t want to be bothered — to go away all the time. It doesn’t mean I’ve immediately classified them as a creeper or that they’ve made me uncomfortable. it just means I don’t want them near me at that time. If you make the assumption that someone who is telling you to go away is doing so because they think you’re a creeper, the assumption is on you.

    Beyond this, yet again, Keith, you’re missing the point that the relevant opinion there isn’t mine or yours, it’s the woman’s. If a woman doesn’t want you around, then you should leave her alone. If you’ve left her alone when she’s told you to, good on you.

  234. I’ll leave you alone now, John. I never sent any ire your way, and I’m sorry if I came across that way.

    “This would be advisable for you to do before you attempt to enlist the aid of the Autism Support Network to chastize me for my insensitivity.” No John, what I was trying to say was I’d contact them for a reality-check. So, no, there’s no need for me to do anything, because it wouldn’t bother me in the least to be proven wrong.

    I think you’re a great guy and a terrific writer, and I thought you made a politically-incorrect mistake with your definition that, if it took off, had a chance of rebounding to hurt you. I wanted to prevent that, but I guess I came across as angry. No surprise there, being unable to communicate has been the story of my life. If I were blind or deaf, you’d be filled with sympathy but since the damage was inside my brain, I’m a jerk, damnit.

    So, even though I have no doubt you’ve already tossed me into the “creeper” bucket, I’ll now prove you’re wrong by politely signing off and leaving you alone.

    Best wishes,
    Keith

  235. It is indeed not fair, and that’s life. Everyone else in the room may think you are not creepering, but the person who feels you are creepering is correct. To that single person, you are. Life is not fair. It may have nothing to do with you. They smelled someone else while you were introduced, and so you smell (in their mind) like someone they hate. Totally not fair, but it’s their sense of smell. Foolish and futile to argue about it, the scent is already gone — and while everyone smelled it, it’s likely that no one noticed it to remember. There are no do-overs, life has no dress rehearsal. One chance to make a first impression (unless your first impression was so slight you aren’t remembered!)

    Sometimes you get a second chance. Sometimes you get many second chances, and waste all of those so far, too. Art holds up a mirror to life; life can be seen as art. Act one, the confusion. Act two, the complication, Act three, the climax and revelation. Now, Act four, where the direction is set for tragedy or comedy. All the world is our stage … step up and play your parts. For those who feel, life is tragic; for those who think, life can become comedy. Life is not fair for anyone.

  236. @Keith Burton — as someone else on the spectrum, let me inform you that the self-pity party gets really old really fast.

    @htom, I was with you until your second paragraph. Come again?

  237. Keith, first you said you’d contact them for a reality check, then “But if they agree, one email from someone official would doubtless be enough to convince John he’s been inadvertently insensitive here, and save him trouble later.” That’s the part that sounds like you’re trying to enlist the aid of the Autism Support Network (aka “someone official”) to chastize John for insensitivity, and the part that I said sounded like a threat.

  238. Track:

    It seems like there are two types of “creepers” here. 1. The type that try to pursue something of an unwanted sexual nature.2. Men/woman who are socially awkward and that make others feel uncomfortable by their awkwardness.

    Actually, there’s just one type* being discussed here, one which isn’t specific to sexual predators and doesn’t include your #2. In fact, many people have gone out of their way to say they’re not talking about the latter sort of people unless their behavior towards someone is making that someone uncomfortable. In which case, it’s the directed attention, not the awkwardness, that’s the problem.

    No one is defending the first type, and I’m not defending the second one either but it seems for the second that a lot of the woman here are insinuating that awkward men are wanting females to cater to them because they’ve had it socially tough in life and that they are entitled to your vaginas and time. Which in some cases may be true, but In most cases are probably not.

    In other words, you don’t believe most women can tell the panty-whisperers from the awkward-but-nonthreatening (even though you figure you can) and that, for the most part, we’re making it up when we talk about our experiences with male entitlement and how it plays out in geek spaces. Know what? Attacking the intelligence and honesty of women who speak out against creeper behavior and dismissing our experiences as mostly imaginary absolutely does defend the creepers.

    ……..
    *John’s definition: “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.”

  239. Karina: Greg, so what’s the solution to your first scenario?

    I’m sorry. Somehow I got lost in the conversation. What was the “first scenario”? I’ve gone back through the posts and am not sure which you are referring to.

    Stevie: you are trying to construct an argument on behalf of somebody who didn’t actually have an argument

    No, I’m just trying to write out how Timmy’s reaction occurred for me. When I look at the base level emotional reaction he was having, it seemed to me that he was looking for the world to be fair and for people to show respect and the idea that someone is a creeper based on someone else’s thoughts alone occurred as both unfair and disrespectful to him.

    And my following point was, hey, if we run into someone who appreciates fairness and appreciates respecting other people, then I see no value in attacking those virtues. Sure, when someone says this rule isn’t fair, its perfectly within your right to say “life isn’t fair either”, but I don’t see that accomplishing anything of value.

    If you’d actually like for this person to go along with your rule, it seems like it might be possible to use their appreciation for fairness and respect by presenting the rule as fair and respectful towards women and harrassing and creeping as unfair and disrespectful.

    But maybe telling them “life’s not fair, what’s your point?” accomplishes more and I just don’t see it.

    what he has is a completely distorted view of his own importance which he expects others to share,

    Well, that’s your view of him. Not mine. But thanks for sharing.

    sisercoyote: My point was that Karina’s assumption should not be glibly dismissed as an example based simply on the fact that there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

    Look. That’s an interesting theory, but I can tell you that what I’ve seen in practice is that the only thing that is required to get a rape case to trial is the woman be willing to press charges and take it to trial. zero evidence. You are, once again, reinforcing this notion of infallibility that does not exist in the real world.

    And death penalty cases are an entirely different animal

    Why do you think there has been something like a 50% exoneration rate of capital punishment convictions? Police want to close cases, and sometimes who did it isn’t as important. People want to feel safe and believe that the bad guy was caught, and gloss over the details. Juries have a tendancy to believe the police over the accused, and have a tendancy to NOT want to be the one who let the bad guy away. Do you think any of that very human, very imperfect, behavior is only restricted to murder cases?

    I mean, I get murder is a problem that needs a systemic solution. You don’t want the only solution to murder be self defense, and barring that, the victim’s family plots vengence on the murderer. I get rape is a problem and needs a systemic solution. Sexual harrassment is a problem and needs a systemic solution. But, it’s like god forbid we keep in mind that the systemic solutions we have and are proposing are fallible. It’s like sexual harrassment is just so wrong that even bringing up that the system is fallible gets a “why would you mention this other than to derail?” Well, if people had been talking about the system as if it were fallible, I wouldn’t have mentioned it. But people were talking about the system with a kind of certainty of its infallibility, so I brought it up.

    BW: The mistake I see some guys making is using cons as “last resort” venues for making a relationship connection without doing the self-work first.

    I thought the “last resort” was dating websites. Based on the reports I get from single friends who are trying dating sites, that’s the impression I get.

    ;/

    Liberal Dan: For example, if you and I are on a train and you are reading a newspaper and I notice you are finished with a section. If I ask to read if if you are no longer using it, that shouldn’t be taken as being anything bad in any way. However, I have spoken with some people who say that I am potentially violating some boundry and so I shouldn’t even ask to do that.

    We’re mostly biological/emotional in our responses and we build up a higher level cognitive explanation around our response that fits our emotional response. I was talking with a psych guy who was doing a study that would show people an image of people having sex, and for some people they would put in a room that had some disgusting sewage smell and others were in a normal smelling room. People in the disgusting smelling room tended to view the images more negatively than people in the normal smelling room. Our emotions affect our sense of right and wrong.

    Milgram (yeah that guy) did a less famous study, having psychology students go onto subways and ask people for their seats to see who would give their seat and who wouldn’t. The experiment focus flipped when the students reported how difficult it was for them to ask someone for their seat. Apparently, when they reported this to Milgram, he pooh-poohed them and went to try it himself, only to be surprised that he had a similar reaction. There’s an article about it here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/14/nyregion/14subway.html?_r=1&ei=5070&en=a375e65895d786a7&ex=1095912000&pagewanted=all&position=

    Combine those two and it’s no surprise that some people might feel uncomfortable asking someone for their newspaper and turn it into some social moral code.

    Keith: My WHOLE objection to John’s definition is the part where I get called a creeper the FIRST time I say, “Hello” to a woman and she decides she’s uncomfortable.

    That appears to be the literal interpretation of the rule.

    Saying that, there is a distinction between what is a creeper at the individual versus systemic level.

    At the individual level, anyone can think anything they want to about you, and there’s pretty much squat all you can do about it. Someone might spot you across the room for a split second and form a completely subjective opinion that you’re a creep. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

    But at the systemic level, when we try to define behaviour and categorize behaviour, we’re not trying to define “what is a creeper for me?” but rather “what should we agree is a creeper for us?”.

    And at the systemic level, the group level, one would hope we have a better definition for “creeper” other than “someone says you are”. Hopefully, for example, the company you work for has a better definition for sexual harassment than simply “someone says you are”.

    One would hope that the definition requires that you actually, you know, do something to the person that would be reasonably be considered harassment by your average person.

    If I remember correctly, I believe the definition for “self defense” is sort of like this. You can pretty much claim anything you do is self defense. That’s at the individual level. But at the collective level, if you kill someone in “self defense”, then you have to convince a jury that an average person in the position you were in would have felt in danger for their life as well.

    George Zimmerman, as an individual, can say that he felt in danger for his life, and acted in self defense, and maybe that really was how he felt at the moment he pulled the trigger. But at the systemic level, he has to convince a jury that his feelings were reasonable for a reasonable person in his position.

    So, Scalzi’s original post was a “how not to be a creeper” in answer to someone who had asked for advice. Presumably, this person was asking because they did NOT want to be a creeper, so the article was geared towards individuals who considered themselves possibly occurring as creepers to other people, but wanted to remedy the situation.

    I’m not sure how much of it was geared for a systemic level ruling of “if you do (blah), then you are a creeper”. It seemed to start off, or be inspired by, giving advice to an individual who wants to avoid being creepy.

    This particular thread is sort of geared towards telling people “if someone thinks you’re a creeper, there’s not much you can do about it and trying to convince them otherwise will probably only reinforce their opinion of you”. Which is advice to an individual not wanting to occur as a creeper (or in this case, they occur as a creeper, but they don’t want to make it worse). But I’m not sure if that’s an attempt at a systemic level definition: i.e. “We all have decided that when (blah) occurs, the person is a creeper”.

    So, if this is geared towards individual advice, then, you know, if someone thinks you’re a creep for totally random reasons, there isn’t much you can do about it and trying to do anything about it will probably make it worse. And there really isn’t any concept of “fair” at the individual level. Everybody gets to have their opinion.

    If this is geared towards the systemic level definition of what we collectively want to define as “creepy”, then I’d say it ought to be a “fair” definition. But, well, that’s my personal opinion about it.

    Xopher: That’s the part that sounds like you’re trying to enlist the aid of the Autism Support Network (aka “someone official”) to chastize John for insensitivity, and the part that I said sounded like a threat.

    My first reaction to you mentioning a “threat” was “jeebus, Keith hinted at violence?” I think characterizing a potentially chastizing email as a “threat” might be overstating the case a bit.

    My definition of “threat” would probably be “he’s about to take a swing or worse”, so, maybe I’m at the edge of teh bell curve on that.

  240. @ Keith Burton

    My WHOLE objection to John’s definition is the part where I get called a creeper the FIRST time I say, “Hello” to a woman and she decides she’s uncomfortable. Even if she says, “I’m busy, please excuse me”, and I go away immediately, by John’s definition I was a creeper. I know that isn’t your definition of creeper, or anyone else reasonable in here. But if you’ll actually go back and read John’s first post on this topic, that is precisely what he said.

    No. He said that if someone wants to consider you a creeper and/or have nothing to do with you, that that is their prerogative about which there is nothing you, he, I or anyone other than the person making the judgment can do. What you can do is not try to change the person’s mind after they’ve signaled that you are to leave them alone, and thus doing something objective (and legally actionable) in committing harassment – which you’ve agreed with. Consequently you are in agreement on the salient points of acceptable behavior and the argument you are having is with something neither John nor anyone else on this thread or the prior thread has said.

    Now, let’s say for the sake of argument that John wasn’t clear (which he was). If you weren’t clear on his intent in this or the prior original post, John has repeatedly clarified it for your personal sake several times already in this thread. So you have two choices. You can say ah, now I understand, thanks for clarifying, or you can continue saying but that’s not what you said! If you choose the latter, that’s not pedantry – and I know pedantry – that’s stuffing words in his mouth and saying that no matter what he says to clarify his meaning to you, you will never believe him. In which case, why on earth should any of us bother listening to such a tantrum?

    Actually, that isn’t correct. It’s been well established legally in the US that yes, we all have to deal with people coming up to us in public and talking to us. Your right to be left alone only legally exists after an explicit signal, whether saying “Go away”, or perhaps posting a “Leave me Alone” sign. By default, as an adult in a public place, people are allowed to approach you.

    I’m sorry. I was under the mistaken impression that you at least read my first comment on this thread (the first comment, incidentally), and therefore would understand my meaning. But since I evidently wasn’t clear, I’ll restate. Yes, you have to deal with it, and one of the ways you can deal with it is by summarily ending the interaction for no reason acceptable to the other party. But when someone says deal with it, they usually mean put up with it. And no one has to put up with it. If that’s not what you meant, then fine, I’m glad you agree that no one has to tolerate people interacting with them if they don’t want them to.

    Now, Gulliver, don’t claim I’m defending that, or using it as an excuse to bother women.

    Oh, I don’t think you’re doing that. I think you’re continuing to grossly mischaracterizing John’s advice despite repeated attempts by him and many others to explain where you misunderstood him. I don’t know why you’re doing it – I doubt you’re intentionally derailing the thread – but it’s getting repetitive.

    Also, as someone who is diagnosed HFA, I’m unimpressed with your attempt to claim support of the autistic community in your quest to argue with something no one here has actually said. Because, as you said, autism is a real disability many of us have to deal with on a daily basis, and using it play the victim of a strawman is disrespectful to all of us who make certain that our disabilities do not infringe on the liberties of others.

  241. @Bess — My bad. I was musing on a relationship that’s lasted over fifty years wherein she and I repeatedly fail to connect, how that looks to others, and our potential futures. Life isn’t fair.

  242. I’ve only started reading this blog relatively recently. I have to say that I generally think Mr. Scalzi comes off as an insufferable, arrogant asshole. I also recognize (and I occasionally have to remind myself of this, which is stupid, because it’s incredibly obvious) that it’s impossible to actually know a person from reading a few dozen blog entries and a handful of books. The fact remains, however, that I enjoy Mr. Scalzi’s writing, and I’ve done my tiny bit to support his career choice by buying his stuff when I see it at the old brick and mortar.

    This is a little off topic (and I’m sure I’ll get deleted as a result), but even though I have little doubt that I’ll keep buying and reading his stuff, I’m a little disappointed in the content of this blog since I started reading it. I like to LIKE the authors I enjoy reading, or at least feel neutral about them or uninformed about the kind of person they are. One of the downsides of the advent of social media is the misperception that you actually know something about a writers personality, and the resultant clash that might occur between how you perceived them to be from their writing and how they come off to you when you see them blog, tweet or the like. And while I don’t know Mr. Scalzi at all and the logical side of my brain tries to keep that in focus, I just don’t care for much of what I read here, not because it’s poorly written, but because I just don’t like the guy who’s writing it. He’s aggressive, he’s angry, he’s judgmental, and on one occasion at least, he seemed to suggest that his relatively noteworthy position within his profession meant he was right merely because of the people he knew and the work he had done, and not because his idea was actually better.

    Is that fair? Almost certainly not as I’ve never met the man, but as Mr. Scalzi points out, differences between intent and reality and variances in the way people are perceived by others is part of the deal we make every time we interact with each other.

    Anyway, just thinking out loud. And don’t worry: I’ll still buy your books, because whether I like you or not, you’re stuff is a pleasure to read.

  243. Gulliver,

    John’s original definition from the original post said this:

    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.

    There is nothing there that says “but if you go away as soon as you realize they’re uncomfortable, then you’re not a creeper”.

    That’s actually something you added in your definition, something I said I liked enough that I was going to steal it.

    Now, let’s say for the sake of argument that John wasn’t clear (which he was). If you weren’t clear on his intent in this or the prior original post, John has repeatedly clarified it for your personal sake several times already in this thread.

    Reading through the comments again, John never actually endorses your definition. The closest John gets to saying that is here:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/16/you-never-know-just-how-you-look-through-other-peoples-eyes/#comment-351911

    Which was his most recent comment, so it hasn’t been “repeatedly clarified” to be a “if you leave, you’re not a creeper” kind of rule. What he said was this:

    If you make the assumption that someone who is telling you to go away is doing so because they think you’re a creeper, the assumption is on you.

    Except his original definition simply says “If they feel uncomfortable, you’re a creeper”.

    Back to Keith:

    My WHOLE objection to John’s definition is the part where I get called a creeper the FIRST time I say, “Hello” to a woman and she decides she’s uncomfortable.

    Yes, that’s how the original definition reads. If the other person feels uncomfortable, you’re a creeper. The end.

    Even if she says, “I’m busy, please excuse me”, and I go away immediately, by John’s definition I was a creeper.

    Yes, because she’s uncomfortable. if she’s uncomfortable and asks you to go away, she’s already uncomfortable and it’s too late to avoid the “creeper” definition. The moment she feels uncomfortable, you’re a creeper. Nothing after that matters for the definition.

    If you want to argue that to her the guy is a creeper, then fine, that’s on the individual level. and there’s nothing you can do about it. Scalzi says this in his last few replies to Keith, you’re missing the point that the relevant opinion there isn’t mine or yours, it’s the woman’s. and it won’t change the fact that you cannot control how other people perceive you. and People are going to respond to you how they’re going to respond to you. If you come across as creepy to them, then that’s going to dictate their response to you.

    But if you want to talk about it at a systemic level, what we say is creeper (or, what definition to use to ban someone from a convention, for example. Or what measure I have to meet if I were to go to a convention to avoid being thrown out for creeping), the definition as given says “if she thinks you’re a creeper, then you’re a creeper” and at that point, even if its a misunderstanding and you leave, it’s too late, you’re still a creeper.

    the more I read the comments back and forth, the more I see a huge misunderstanding going on. It seems Scalzi is giving out individual advice to someoen wanting to not be a creeper, so his advice is geared at the individual level. But I think at least some of the folks taking issue with the definition are reading it as a “systemic level” definition, like a “if you do this, we all will consider you a creeper and ban your ass from a convention for life”.

  244. @ MSG

    He’s aggressive, he’s angry, he’s judgmental, and on one occasion at least, he seemed to suggest that his relatively noteworthy position within his profession meant he was right merely because of the people he knew and the work he had done, and not because his idea was actually better.

    I’ll concede with aggressive, though I don’t regard that as character flaw. Anyway, I’m only replying because I think you’re referring to his response to the Joe Peacock piece, in which case he did not say that his position actually made him right, but that if Peacock wanted to argue from authority, his was greater within the community. Since he also took the opportunity to lambast the notion that arguments from authority held any water, I’d say it’s safe to assume he was being sardonic.

    Scalzi’s also noted many times that he doesn’t care whether or not people stop buying/reading his books over what he says on his blog, so I’m not quite sure why you think he’d worry about it.

    Since he doesn’t typically delete comments simply for expressing dislike of him, and you did manage to say something on topic toward the end (however tangentially), I’ll be amazed if he deletes your post. If I were a betting man…

  245. @ Greg

    Good points, though I do think John’s last two posts to Keith were clear on the matter. At any rate, the fact remains that Keith is conflating John’s assertion that no one can control what others think of them with any awkward behavior is creeping.

    But if you want to talk about it at a systemic level, what we say is creeper (or, what definition to use to ban someone from a convention, for example. Or what measure I have to meet if I were to go to a convention to avoid being thrown out for creeping), the definition as given says “if she thinks you’re a creeper, then you’re a creeper” and at that point, even if its a misunderstanding and you leave, it’s too late, you’re still a creeper.

    Which is why we should ban people for objective behavior such as harassment. But I think you’re correct; John was addressing how not to come across as a creeper and what to do if, despite best efforts, you do. He wasn’t talking about community policing.

  246. Greg, as far as your view of Timmy that you mentioned a bit ago, I have sympathy for it, I do, but the longer he stuck around, the more he showed his hand. I didn’t use the exact language you’re recommending, but I did a lot more than tell him “life isn’t fair” in a couple comments. I think. He didn’t acknowledge my existence at all. I can’t think it was because my comments were ridiculous to him — he clearly thought other people he was arguing with were way off the mark. Maybe he just figured he had bigger fish to fry. But giving rhetorical concessions, trying to get into the finer points of fairness — didn’t work.

  247. Keith, perhaps it would help if I gave you some specific examples of things that have happened to me at conventions (IT and science, I don’t actually go to Sci Fi conventions) that I consider creeper behavior. Then you can look at the list and be reassured that, in fact, walking up to me and saying hello would not cause me to think of you as a creeper. Unless, I suppose, you also exposed yourself while doing that. I, for the record, think John’s definition of creeper is quite accurate.

    1. Walking out of my hotel room and finding some guy who talked to me at a poster session standing there in the hallway. Just standing there. He immediately started talking to me when I came out of my room.

    2. Finally extricating myself from a conversation with a man who was perhaps a little too enthusiastic and going into the women’s room. Coming out several minutes later to find him still standing there. Note: he didn’t cross over to creeper territory until he waited for me to come out of the bathroom. His earlier enthusiasm was just annoying.

    3. Fielding questions from a man about my boyfriend and whether or not he makes me happy.

    I’ve left out the time some guy just flat out grabbed my breast, because surely we can all agree that reaching out and squeezing a part of the body that our society considers sexual is waaaay out of line.

    Now, I work at the intersection of science and IT. I am quite used to being the only woman in the room and the odd sort of attention that comes with that. I have run into a lot of socially awkward people of both sexes. I have, in fact, worked with people who have Aspergers. Until I figured out what was going on with them, they may have struck me as a bit odd- but I never thought they were creepers.

    Let me also point out that in general, I gain NOTHING by making a big deal out of any guy’s creepy behavior. Quite the opposite. There is a definite cost to my career when I kick up a fuss about this sort of behavior- and yes, I know THAT from personal experience, too- so I don’t do it lightly. In fact, I only raise the issue when I feel my safety is being threatened. You seem very worried about an extremely unlikely outcome, which, even if it happens, will cause you distress but no physical harm. To alleviate that worry, you are asking me to brush away worries about much more likely outcomes, which can quite literally be fatal. I’m sorry, but my safety trumps your feelings.

  248. Greg:

    “That’s an interesting theory, but I can tell you that what I’ve seen in practice is that the only thing that is required to get a rape case to trial is the woman be willing to press charges and take it to trial.”

    “I get rape is a problem and needs a systemic solution. Sexual harrassment is a problem and needs a systemic solution. But, it’s But, it’s like god forbid we keep in mind that the systemic solutions we have and are proposing are fallible. It’s like sexual harrassment is just so wrong that even bringing up that the system is fallible gets a “why would you mention this other than to derail?” Well, if people had been talking about the system as if it were fallible, I wouldn’t have mentioned it. But people were talking about the system with a kind of certainty of its infallibility, so I brought it up.”

    Whoa. Systemically, rapes not being reported or prosecuted are still a much bigger problem than false positives or wild unsubstanitated accusations gaining traction. You’re minimizing that to win an argument about fallibility…with your evidence being that men could be wrongly convicted. I can see why people might be objecting to something that isn’t quite just a quibble about the fallibility of the justice system.

  249. @Bess — That was probably not helpful. In my mind I was comparing the path I share with someone in real life, to the dramatic structure of a traditional five act play (cp. Gustav Fraytag.) The mind sees pattern where there are happenings, mere coincidences; but sometimes seeing those patterns can provide a hint to future paths to try and take in reality. (The Tarot and the I Ching can be used this way.)

    Act I: Confusion. The characters meet and the problem is set.
    Act II: Complication. Flaws in the characters inhibit solving the problem. Rising actions.
    Act III: Climax. The big turning point. In a comedy, at least one of the characters has a revelation about himself that allows him to change the course of the play; in a tragedy, the flaw is revealed to the audience, but not the character (or the character refuses the knowledge.)
    Act IV: Clarifications (in a comedy) or Collapse (in a tragedy.) Falling actions.
    Act V: Conclusion (resolution of problems in a comedy) or Catastrophe (deaths, in tragedy.)

    In real life, I find comedy preferable, in this case we can try to find the bitter-sweet romance where the lovers do NOT end up together (since they’re already each happily married) but they do finally understand that although they don’t get that, they can laugh together, with their spouses, at the foolishness of the dance they had when they were young, knowing now they loved and were loved, and are happy now, loving their spouses. It’s actually one of the 36 standard plots, but rather obscure. Roman Holiday is the first film that comes to mind that’s close.

  250. Marcy: but the longer he stuck around, the more he showed his hand.

    He made one post and got several replies, including one from Kat

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/09/an-incomplete-guide-to-not-creeping/#comment-351020

    where she said his behavior was that of someone being domineering, that he’s someone “who want to hit on women (or men) and not have those women be allowed to object.” (which I don’t think he was saying), that he was “seeing women as targets, as objects”, and that he was a “lousy lover” (which is always useful to point out). Followed by “If you want to go up to strange women and kiss them on the grounds that one of them may like it so the rest can go hang, expect to be thrown out of more than a few places for that behavior.” (I believe he explained later that the women he was kissing were women at a dance club who were “grinding” on him, at which point, I think they’re probably signaling that a kiss might be acceptable, rather than just going up to a random stranger out of the blue and kissing her as Kat presented it). She then ended by telling him it’s not OK to “sexually assault women on the grounds that they find it sexy. That way lies jail time.” (which, if I understand the sort of situations he was talking about, comparing it to rape and jailtime was completely ludicrous)

    One post and he’s called a lousy lover and a rapist who’ll end up in jail. And hey, Kat’s allowed to have whatever opinion she wants. And I’m allowed to have whatever opinion I want. And my opinion as I read Kat’s reply was “This is going to fucking implode”. I think that was his first post on Whatever and he’s called a lousy lover and a rapist right out of the gate. He’s disrespected and done in a way that I myself would characterize as unfair. And if it was his first post on whatever, he has no relationships with anyone, so, no history, no background, and nothing to lose. I read Kat’s post and figured there would be no way it could end well. And it didn’t.

    I don’t know if he “showed his hand” or someone lit his cards on fire.

    Other Bill: Whoa. Systemically, rapes not being reported or prosecuted are still a much bigger problem than false positives or wild unsubstanitated accusations gaining traction. You’re minimizing that to win an argument about fallibility

    You don’t get to highlight underreported rapes and trade it for pretending the system is perfect. Underreporting and underprosecuting is a problem. Pretending the system is perfect is NOT the solution. Pretending the system is perfect is ANOTHER PROBLEM.

    And it’s not like people are saying “Well, we realize there’s some problems in the system, we’re perfectly capable of acknowledging that, it’s just that we’ve been focusing on something else and generalizing about the rest”. No. It’s “YARGLEBLARGLE HOW CAN YOU POINT OUT THE FALLIBILITY OF THE SYSTEM OTHER THAN TO DERAIL!!!!!! MUST NOT TALK ABOUT THIS!!!!! DOES NOT EXIST!!!!! WHOA NELLY!!!!!”

    I’m not sure what the thinking is. I run into the exact same sort of response when talking to someone who is an adamant support of the death penalty and I bring up the huge number of false convictions. The way they react, you’d almost think I was suggesting we legalize murder or something. No, we can keep murder outlawed, but we need keep in mind the system won’t be perfect.

  251. Greg:

    Well. Context, man. In this conversation, it isn’t unreasonable to call an objection regarding the fallibility of the system **on the grounds that a man might wrongly be convicted** a derail. Talking about creeperism/sexual harassment/assault and worse – that’s a pretty common concern troll.

    Also – from Timmy’s (I believe first) comment:

    “If I were as considerate about people’s feelings as I’ve been asked to be here, I would never have relationships. If you want a girl to see you as more than their gay best friend then sometimes you have to take the initiative and be a bit spontaneous – which, of course, incurs the risk of making them uncomfortable if you’ve misread the signals. For example, if you ask girls for permission before you kiss them then sure, you mitigate the risk of discomfort, but girls find it extremely unsexy. I think girls should bear that in mind before they write a guy off as a “creep” just because he got the wrong idea.”

    This is four and a half sentences of shitbaggery. This guy is The Hill where you make your stand? Honestly, my opinion is that Timmy is exactly the sort that you should be frustrated with for sapping your argument. And in general, for being, clearly, such an assbag.

  252. As with so many issues of privilege, strikes me a lot of the disagreement here is about labels and pigeon-holing. Being defined as “a creeper” is unpleasant – something people hate to hear about themselves and find hard to accept. Moreover, it implies permanence – this person is creepy, they can’t help being creepy, and they’ll always be creepy. Not very nice.

    In the majority of situations though, aren’t we really talking about “your behaviour is creepy” – not something you are, but something you’re doing? I think it’s worth making this distinction clear. It’s not a value judgement of the person you are, but a subjective response to the specific interaction at hand.

    In the interests of encouraging self reflection and improvement, wouldn’t it be better to use less loaded and judgemental language wherever possible?

  253. Other bill

    It started like that, and then it got worse. I pointed out to Greg a while back that Timmy’s posts were riddled with little jibes against women in general and women in particular, and naturally Greg ignored that, just as he will ignore anything which requires him to engage with what might loosely be described as reality.

    I have concluded that the best way of dealing with this in the future is simply to ignore him, because he is not a special snowflake who gets to waste as much of my time as he wants. And that principle applies on line just as it applies at cons…

  254. Stevie –

    “I have concluded that the best way of dealing with this in the future is simply to ignore him, because he is not a special snowflake who gets to waste as much of my time as he wants.”

    Nah, I dont think Greg is as bad as all that. Mind, totally think you are the arbiter of your thoughts and opinions regarding with whom you should spend your time.

    I have always respected Greg’s determination to win an argument at all costs.

  255. Other Bill

    I think his ‘determination to win an argument at all costs’ is where the problem lies, which brings us neatly back to John’s themes in these series of posts. As you appreciate and recognise, my time has value to me, and he doesn’t have the right to spend it as he sees fit.

    Also, he needs to get a better dictionary…

  256. Other Bill: my opinion is that Timmy is exactly the sort that you should be frustrated with for sapping your argument. And in general, for being, clearly, such an assbag.

    I wasn’t trying to defend him, I posted a couple of things to him that were like, dude don’t do that with women. I was trying to understand him. I was curious to understand someone who opposes the “don’t be a creeper” rule because he may have broken the given definition but he also says he upholds “respect” and “fairness” and find out where he would take it.

    I would have been curious to find out if he would agree to Gullliver’s rule “If you make a woman uncomfortable, and as soon as you realize you’ve done this then you back off and leave her alone, then you’re NOT a creeper.”

    I personally think that’s a good rule. Maybe you don’t. It would have been interesting, to me at least, to see if he would say it’s a good rule to follow. In the absolute worst case, it would seem to be an improvement from where he started.

    From a psychological point of view, when you present a choice to someone in moral terms, they are more likely to do the right thing. When you present it to them that same choice in monetary terms or punitive terms, they’re less likely to do the right thing and more likely to simply weigh the costs/benefits. If you’re going to have a “wear your seatbelt” campaign, you’re better off with something like “wear your seatbelt, someone loves you” rather than “wear your seatbelt, or get a 100 dollar fine”.

    I could present you with a choice today and you would choose “blue”, and the exact same choice next week, and you would choose “red”. And the same choice a month later, and you would choose “blue” again. And the only difference could be how I present the choice to you. That’s just how our brains work.

    And then Kat came in calling him a lousy lover and a rapist who would eventually end up in jail, and well, that’s how the choice got framed for him. Not a “do the right thing” approach, but a “you’re a bad man who will end up in jail” approach. And that’s also another way the brain works. We tend to feel “good” about ourselves when we point out someone else is “bad”. I don’t care about feeling good that way. I don’t care about labelling someone as “bad”. What I’m curious about is getting people (myself included) to better themselves.

    And getting everyone to better themselves by insulting them, calling them “bad” in some way, and telling them they will be punished (jail, hell, you name it), is getting really, really old for me. Obviously, some people still like that approach. And that’s their prerogative. And sometimes I end up doing it myself. It’s just a bit old.

    Jim: In the majority of situations though, aren’t we really talking about “your behaviour is creepy” – not something you are, but something you’re doing?

    Jay Smooth said it first: ‘that thing you said sounded racist’, not ‘you have the heart and soul of a racist’. A good approach I think.

    Stevie: I have concluded that the best way of dealing with this in the future is simply to ignore him, because he is not a special snowflake who gets to waste as much of my time as he wants.

    I am really sorry about whatever happened to you in the past around being harassed and worse. You deserved better.

  257. Ask 100 people what they think of you, three quarters might say you’re a nice guy, the other quarter might say your an asshole and/or creep. Sometimes, it’s all in the perception. People respond differently to the same situations. I mean, for myself, I am nice to people of walks of life. but if someone tries to exploit me in some fashion, so I might respond with a behavior which may be taken as jerkiness. You can’t let someone not liking you change the way you interact with people, who for the most part, see you in a positive light.

  258. @Greg – I don’t think Kat was that out of line based upon what Tim said. There was a HUGE vibe of “I do what I want and I shouldn’t be called on it, those girls should be grateful I spend MY precious time with them”.

    It really didn’t take very long to see how much more concerned he was about the poor awkward unlaid dude than the woman who was worrying about the potential threat the dude posed. It was very clear that he feels entitled to women’s time (implying they must have an objectively rational reason for not wanting to be around him), and that he DESERVES a chance to prove he’s not a creep when the woman may simply have something better to do than talk to him.

  259. Greg: “If you’re going to have a ‘wear your seatbelt’ campaign, you’re better off with something like ‘wear your seatbelt, someone loves you’ rather than ‘wear your seatbelt, or get a 100 dollar fine’”.

    I would be interested to take a look at the research on which you’re basing this statement. My impression is that the “or you’ll get a fine” campaigns were instituted when the “do the right thing” campaigns weren’t working, but that’s just a guess on my part. I would much rather think that people would respond to a “do the right thing” campaign. My state is using the “or get a fine” approach on billboards. So your documentation would give me something to send to my legislators as well as to provide some evidence for me that people do respond to such appeals.

  260. Ah, concern trolling. Gotta love the You Are Damaging Your Cause by Being Angry argument (http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/resources/mirror-derailing-for-dummies/#angry).

    Look, y’all. If you want to be nice to creepers and the men who defend them…go right ahead. I’m not stopping you. I think you’re wasting your breath, but I could be wrong: maybe all these guys need *is* a kindergarten teacher to take them by the hand and teach them how to wipe their own asses, decades later than everyone else managed it. If that’s how you want to spend your time, go ahead.

    But it’s not how I want to spend my time. And It’s not how I’m obligated to spend my time.

    Honestly? If someone is creepy or bigoted or otherwise a jerk, I’m not that interested in reforming them. I’m interested in getting them to shut the fuck up and go the fuck away. If you want to do something else…go to. But don’t preach at me while you’re doing it.

  261. That last paragraph is just…spectacular. I mean, this whole post is wonderful. How you’ve talked about all of this recently has been great. But that last paragraph??? So. Very. Awesome.

    “One final point: If your takeaway from all the above is to think “If I can’t control how other people respond to me, then I’m relieved of my duty to be concerned about how I come across,” then you’re doing it wrong. People may respond to you differently than you intend; you should still make an effort not to be a grasping, self-centered assbag. In my experience, being a grasping, self-centered assbag is one of the very few times where how you present yourself is exactly how other people see you, every time, without exception.”

    Hahahahaha!

    I want to quote that last sentence all over the place to people who aren’t gonna get the context. But I won’t, cos, you know…context.

  262. I’ve touched on this, but I should probably state it clearly (or at least try.) One thing that exasperates me about some parts of this discussion—mostly the “people using cons to hook up/meet people/whatever” thing—is that while I have absolutely no problem with people getting laid at cons (seriously, knock yourself out, not my problem) I personally use them to make money. It’s my job. I don’t go to cons for fun, I go to them For Work.

    And I gotta wonder if some of the behavior that seems acceptable at cons to some of the people in this discussion would seem acceptable if you did it to a cashier at the mall, or a receptionist at an office or any other situation where the Object of Potential Creeping is a professional doing a job, can’t leave the area easily, and is trying to grit their teeth and Be Professional, Dammit.

    If you’re freaking me out at my dealer’s table and I don’t have someone else there to take over—well, it takes me nearly an hour to break down the kit. I can’t just get up and leave, unless I know the people on either side of me well enough to ask them to watch the table for a few. Even if I lay down the main displays and throw a tablecloth over the stock and put a “BACK WHEN CREEPER IS GONE” sign up, I am missing out on potential sales that may make the difference between YAY! Profit! and Sadness And Eating Of Ramen. And of course, I have to take the cashbox with me and possibly other valuable equipment and go hide in the bathroom, jangling at the way, which has its own special obnoxiousness.

    This is not a hypothetical. I have had to do this. Multiple times. Sometimes it was sexual creepy and sometimes it was just desperately painfully unpleasant let-me-tell-you-about-my-character without an obvious sexual component, but there you are. It was no different on my end than the times I’ve been hassled working retail (although no one has ever accused me of being complicit in the Zionist Art Supply Store Conspiracy at a con, so there’s that…)

  263. Karina: I don’t think Kat was that out of line based upon what Tim said.

    A very common frame being used on this thread is “attack/defend”. Attack the people who are percieved as creeps. And if you’re not attacking them, you must be defending them. Kat attacked Timmy. Other Bill thought Timmy was “sapping” my argument, an attack from within. And whether Kat was “out of line” in her comment is still looking at it from attack/defend, as in whether the attack was “justified” or not.

    I have little interest in playing inside the attack/defend frame. I was looking at it from an “understand/enroll” frame, from that point of view. The thing is, I didn’t agree with the actions Timmy reported, but since I wasn’t sufficiently attacking Timmy, I must be defending him or on his side. Even on a thread about how you have no idea how people are perceiving you and you have no idea if how your percieving others is correct, it seems impossible to have anything other than an attack/defend conversation when attack/defend people are on the thread. It’s easy to pull a conversation down into attack/defend. It seems quite a lot harder to move it up. At which point, attack/defend starts occuring as a pain in the ass to me.

    And whether Kat was “out of line” or not, is, once again, bring the conversation back to “attack/defend”. I don’t care if her attack was “out of line” or not. It’s attack/defend whether it was justified or not. And what that meant to me is that no other conversation is possible. Once Timmy was attacked, he got totally ticked off, he dropped down into attack/defend to meet Kat, and the conversation imploded. No other conversation was predictably possible at that point.

    Other Bill: Greg’s determination to win an argument at all costs.

    Ya know, what I’ve been figuring out the last couple years is that when people percieve me to be trying to “win” an argument, how it occurs to me is that I’m looking at something from a differenent point of view than they are, but they want to reframe everything I say back into their frame. Like I’m trying to understand and they reframe that as trying to defend.

    I haven’t figured out what to do with this information, because usually it shows up as some sort of hindsight long after the conversation is ended. Usually, in the middle of the conversation, people (myself included) don’t identify what frame they’re using to look at something, because we’re not aware of it, it just is.

  264. Greg:

    “it occurs to me is that I’m looking at something from a differenent point of view than they are, but they want to reframe everything I say back into their frame.”

    That’s a fine rationalization, Greg, and yet the practical result is that you very frequently come across as not being willing to lose an argument, dragging it out past the point where there’s any use to the discussion other than you having the last word. Mind you, others have to dance that dance with you; nevertheless, around here you are almost always a partner in one of those dances.

    It’s nice to think you’re attempting to have a different, better conversation than everyone else, Greg. You might consider that while doing so, you avoid dragging down everyone’s conversational experience in your attempt to elevate your own.

  265. @ Greg – What do you need to understand about creepers that hasn’t been said many times here?

    You certainly do appear to be an apologist and when you blame Kat for bringing down the discussion and excusing Timmy’s behaviour because KAT WAS SOOOOO MEAN!!!! You completely excuse Timmy’s role in this and place the blame on Kat, putting the burden entirely on her to be fair. Understanding Timmy’s WHAT ABOUT THE POOR MENZ?!! argument was more important to you than considering the other side.

  266. @Greg

    Look. That’s an interesting theory, but I can tell you that what I’ve seen in practice is that the only thing that is required to get a rape case to trial is the woman be willing to press charges and take it to trial. zero evidence. You are, once again, reinforcing this notion of infallibility that does not exist in the real world.

    No, actually, I’m not. I gave you evidence above for how rape cases work in my world and frankly if all women have to do is report, press charges, and it goes to trial in your world then I want to live where you are. Because in my world the fallibility or infallibility of the court system is less an issue than women being afraid to report in the first place.

    But even that wasn’t my point. You are focusing on one narrow part of the original argument as a way to, yes, derail the rest of the conversation to what you would rather we focused on — the fallibility of our court system — rather than the meat of the conversation — which is John’s statement that we can’t control how others see us.

    And I’m done — I’m dealing with some health shit and don’t have any more spoons for this discussion with you today.

  267. Greg: “how it occurs to me is that I’m looking at something from a differenent point of view than they are, but they want to reframe everything I say back into their frame.”

    Oddly enough, that’s what I perceive you doing when you get into that must-win-argument mode.

    I can agree with you that trying to find a way to talk to someone that doesn’t involve attack/defend may actually be useful. I tried to do that with Timmy, but he was clearly not interested in other viewpoints. He appeared to be too emotionally wound up to follow the reasoning, but I don’t think Kat caused that. My impression was that he was wound up already because he felt somehow threatened by the point John was making that Timmy (IMO) misunderstood and related to some hot button of his own.

  268. Very late to this conversation, but I want to respond to a point made by Michael Lee because I think it is emblematic of the failure of imagination experienced by so many of my fellow men (mostly men) in this thread and elsewhere.

    That comment is this: “I would never expect anyone to tolerate a situation or behavior that made them feel unsafe and I will vigorously defend their right to feel safe.”

    That may be true. But apparently what you would not defend – and have not defended in this thread, “vigorously” or otherwise – is their right to feel UNsafe.

    To illustrate the poverty of your position, consider the following dialogue from The Simpsons:

    Lisa: You’re scaring me!
    Barney: No I’m not!
    Audience: -cringe-

    The most awful thing about Barney here is not that he’s freaked someone out (though in this case that’s bad enough). It’s that, in his creepiness, he refuses to give credence to another person’s feelings.

    If someone feels unsafe or uncomfortable, that is not an expression of a ‘right’ granted them by me or anyone else. The feeling simply IS. You can’t legislate it away anymore than you can disregard gravity.

    Sure, you can ignore it, either through silence or filibuster – because, say, you’re so NOT a creep and it’s SO silly that someone things you are!

    But if you do ignore it, that’s where you cross over from (apparently) unwitting, innocent creeper to conscious, deliberate creep in need of a serious attitude adjustment.

    Fact: you’re creeped someone out. It feels shitty to get called on it. It feels monumentally unjust! You’re embarrassed. Now you’re in the “creep” box. Other women (or men) think you’re creepy now. People are staring. You want to “fix” it. This isn’t right.

    Here is the truth: That’s just too effing bad. Reject your inner Barney. Man (or woman) up. Handle the situation.

    Most likely this means: 1. Apologize. 2. WITHOUT touching. 3. Do NOT expect a response. 4. Disengage. 5. Take your non-threatening ass elsewhere.

    If it’s REALLY extra-awkward or you simply can’t bring yourself to be sincere, feel free to ignore step 1 and proceed directly to step 4.

    “But, but I am not creepy!” is Barney-speak. It reads: “Be comfortable! You are not creeped out!” As illustrated above, this is not admissible.

    Complete the journey to adulthood. Trust me, the water’s fine.

  269. Greg, I’ve essentially given up interacting with you because of the must-win thing and the enormously long posts to which it gives rise.

    Maybe you’re right; that we’re all misinterpreting what you’re intending. You might think, however, about how almost everyone is telling you the same thing.

  270. Greg: “I can tell you that what I’ve seen in practice is that the only thing that is required to get a rape case to trial is the woman be willing to press charges and take it to trial. zero evidence.”

    Are you talking about your own law practice Greg? Because if so, I am surprised you passed the bar.

    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/testimony

    “testimony n. oral evidence given under oath by a witness in answer to questions posed by attorneys at trial or at a deposition (questioning under oath outside of court). ”

    Yep. Testimony is evidence.

  271. And I am wondering why calling someone a creeper somehow is equated to arresting and convicting them for rape.

    Years and years ago, on Usenet, someone called me some names and I told them to stop. The person’s response was “oldfeminist is calling me Hitler for using my free speech rights.”

    Rephrasing “stop creeping or you will be ejected” into “arrest this man he is a foull RAPIST!!!!!11!!!” is the kind of exaggeration that would be called emotional if not hysterical if a woman said it. But you know men are not emotional at all! So it must be just the power of TEH TRUFS!

  272. UrsulaV: One thing that exasperates me about some parts of this discussion—mostly the “people using cons to hook up/meet people/whatever” thing—is that while I have absolutely no problem with people getting laid at cons (seriously, knock yourself out, not my problem) I personally use them to make money. It’s my job. I don’t go to cons for fun, I go to them For Work … If you’re freaking me out at my dealer’s table and I don’t have someone else there to take over—well, it takes me nearly an hour to break down the kit. I can’t just get up and leave,

    Such an important point, and thank you for it.

    Not that creep behavior is defensible in any circumstance (see my overlong comment above). But, in addition: having the object of one’s creepy attentions trapped – and expected, according to the rules of professional propriety, to smile and show deference – just exacerbates the power imbalance and thus the violation. This dynamic is gleefully manipulated by self-professed nice, non-threatening non-creepers the world over.

    This is sure to be creepsplained away in due time, sadly. But again, thanks for pointing it out.

  273. Oldfeminist: So it must be just the power of TEH TRUFS!

    I resent and am deeply hurtified at your making me laugh out loud and draw attention to myself, such that the people sitting near me now have unfair opinions about me and my tendency to snort while laughing. So unfair, i’m so not a snorter, men can’t catch a break, help i’m being repressed, precious we hates it forever.

  274. Karina: What do you need to understand about creepers that hasn’t been said many times here?

    I was curious if he would agree that the “if you make someone uncomfortable and stop as soon as you realize it, then you’re not a creeper” version of the rule would be acceptable. That would seem to be an improvemetn from where he was coming from. Maybe you don’t agree with that version of the rule. But I was curious.

    You certainly do appear to be an apologist and when you blame Kat for bringing down the discussion and excusing Timmy’s behaviour because KAT WAS SOOOOO MEAN!!!!

    Now you’re just making stuff up completely.

    In the immediate interaction, I didn’t excuse Timmy’s behaivor, I told Timmy “stop doing that to women” a couple of times, and as far as Kat goes, I ignored her. When Timmy brought up her comment, I told him Kat thinks its rape, I don’t, but then again, he hadn’t been clear about what exactly he was doing, so his lack of clarity is his own fault.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/09/an-incomplete-guide-to-not-creeping/#comment-351065

    Then Timmy said “sometimes people will innocently get it wrong, so lambasting people for it is unreasonable” and I said if he wants people to allow him to get it wrong, he ought to allow others to get it wrong, and in his eyes, Kat got her evaluation of him wrong. But he wasn’t giving her the same benefit of the doubt he wanted other people to give him. So another criticism from me towards Timmy.

    So in the end, multiple criticisms from me directed at Timmy. Just not worded as an attack. And as far as Kat’s post went, I didn’t comment on it directly except when Marcy said Timmy “showed his hand”, and my response was basically, well, Kat attacked him after his first post, so, I’m not sure anyone could reasonably expect anything other than for Timmy to attack too.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/16/you-never-know-just-how-you-look-through-other-peoples-eyes/#comment-351979

    So, I criticized Timmy plenty of times. And I pretty much ignored Kat’s comment, except to say Kat calling him a lousy lover and a rapist headed to jail, has to be taken into consideration when looking at Timmy’s posts after she said that. His subsequent posts didn’t happen in a vacuum.

  275. John, I’m not sure whether or not a reply to Greg’s response to me would still be too far afield or not. I want to reply, but I won’t be offended if you delete it.

    Greg, you said at 8:57 (oh, and again 12:35) that you would’ve been curious how he would have responded to Gulliver’s rule about backing off. That’s pretty much what I asked him, within his own scenario. He ignored me. Now, maybe he was too defensive at that point from how the conversation started. You’d think, then, he would’ve grabbed any ground offered, attack/defend or not. Or, if my points were too scary or offensive to him, included me in his attack. No, he just ignored me. So we’ll never know how he’d respond, and it’s his own fault.

    That’s my take on it. Just had a ton of blood drawn after no breakfast, so I might not be thinking too clearly, but I agree with what BW said about Timmy.

  276. Marcy: , he just ignored me. So we’ll never know how he’d respond, and it’s his own fault.

    On this we’re in complete agreement.

    Just had a ton of blood drawn after no breakfast

    Oh no. Hope you feel better soon.

  277. Greg, thanks, on both comments. I’m about to have more blood drawn in a few minutes, so it might be a little while. Glucose test for gestational diabetes, Kaiser does them on all pregnant women… fun times. But she’s worth it.

  278. Track:

    It really doesn’t defend it. But ok.

    Oh, what a devastating comeback. Yeah, I know, you don’t think you’re defending creepers, but that’s only because you’re redefining “creeper” and then begging the question that the majority of the accused aren’t actually creepers. Your only basis for that assumption, however, is your unfounded belief that women are dishonest idiots, and no one is under any obligation to humor your delusion. Just because you deny a thing doesn’t make it not true, and where you’re wrong in your denial about creepers, you end up making excuses for them.

  279. @Ursula…

    Since the world clearly has sociopathic-type creepers who don’t care about stopping and accidental/occasional-type creepers who prefer to get defensive rather than change their behavior, a guide to How to Handle Creepers While Maintaining a Professional Demeanor seems like a worthwhile guide. I’d like to read it, actually. Would calling security violate professionalism, or does it have other drawbacks?

    Regarding the discussion at large, while no one can control the way other people perceive them, anyone can have a better chance at landing temporarily in the accidental/occasional subset of creepers rather than permanently in the sociopathic subset by following the guidelines John has laid out.

  280. John said, “If you are so all-fired concerned about the plight of the Awkward Man, I heartily encourage you to start the Awkward Man Foundation, which has as its purpose the psychological care and feeding of the Awkward Man, ”

    John, we already did that. It was named science fiction fandom and, outside of computer rooms and labs, was about the only place we could relax and be our nerdy selves.

    I would like to point out (and if someone else has already, apologies) that Awkward Men are NOT the only ones who found refuge in Science Fiction Fandom and computer labs. Plenty of Awkward Women found their way there, too, including me. I’m really getting sick and tired of the assumption that women weren’t in those spaces, too, to begin with and now that people are beginning to speak out about not wanting to tolerate harassing behavior and women being treated like we’re some kind of exotic objects there to be ogled and fought over like door prizes, we’re suddenly being reacted to like women in nerd/geek spaces are some kind of alien invaders when we’ve always been a part of these communities and all we’re asking for is to have our personal boundaries respected and be treated like people, too.

  281. Marcy

    I have just searched the entire ‘incomplete guide’ thread and at no point did Kat suggest that Timmy was going to rape someone; I also searched the entire thread for rape and nobody else suggested that Timmy was going to rape someone. I don’t know where Greg got that from but it wasn’t anyone’s comments there.

    And I hope the bloods were good!

  282. Marcy, my friend had gestational diabetes and a) it was mostly annoying once she found out what it was and what to do and b) it went away (as the name implies) postpartum. Bright, bright blessings for a healthy pregnancy and birth!

  283. The Pint

    I’m not sure which is worse; the “they’re taking over our territory aaaaaaaaaasrgh” brigade or the “I spent decades going to cons because I thought the women there wouldn’t mind me being unwashed and uncouth” contingent.

    They both suck…

  284. @Greg —

    I was curious if he would agree that the “if you make someone uncomfortable and stop as soon as you realize it, then you’re not a creeper” version of the rule would be acceptable.

    I think this version misses the point. It’s not the creeper’s realization that makes him a creeper, it’s his victim’s. If he realizes for himself he’s creeping before she (nominally) does, and stops, and she doesn’t realize he was creeping, he’s not a creeper at all, his self-awareness saved him. Maybe a creeper-wannabe or a nearly-creeper. I’ve been there more times than I want to even think about remembering.

    I met a couple of months ago at a local theatre function, and was suddenly reduced to stammering. I managed to introduce my wife, and they had a conversation snickering about my reaction and how my wife used to try to dress like the character she played for years on television. I stepped back, watched, and eventually recovered enough to rejoin the conversation, but it’s been years since I was struck like that. Blushing stammering fanboy may not always be a variation of creeper, but this case was. She couldn’t have been more gracious. My wife still giggles about it.

    If he’s informed by someone else (her or a bystander) he’s creeping, then he’s creeping.

    Ties go to the victim, he’s a creeper.

    If the creeper goes away without arguing about it, and later gets a second chance, maybe it all just blows away as one of those social slips that everyone makes once in a while.

  285. @Stevie

    Momentary anecdote:

    I don’t know if this will be funny or not, but it’s true: the men in my college gaming group were–on the whole–more washed and couth than the women. Which was occasionally a source of much amusement for the lot of us (queer male friend from that group, on one of our rare bar-hops, surveying the drinks in everyone’s hands: “Somehow it figures that in this group it’s the women drinking their liquor straight and the guys frou-frou.”). I miss those guys (all of them, of whatever gender) bunches.

    But I agree that neither contingent is any fun to be around.

    @Marcy

    Good luck. What “flavor” was your sugar-water, if I may ask? They claimed mine was orange, but…

  286. Stevie: I have just searched the entire ‘incomplete guide’ thread and at no point did Kat suggest that Timmy was going to rape someone; I also searched the entire thread for rape and nobody else suggested that Timmy was going to rape someone. I don’t know where Greg got that from but it wasn’t anyone’s comments there.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/09/an-incomplete-guide-to-not-creeping/#comment-351020

    seriously, dude, it is not okay to sexually assault women on the grounds that they find it sexy. That way lies jail time.

    I don’t know what else Timmy might have been doing, but the one specific thing that I recall him saying he did when he meant “going for it” was kissing a woman in a dance club who was “grinding” on him. I’m not sure, but I think “grinding” might qualify as a fairly clear signal of “I like you” and maybe a kiss wouldn’t be so extreme as to land him in jail.

    And maybe he just changed his story, I don’t know.

  287. htom: If the creeper goes away without arguing about it, and later gets a second chance, maybe it all just blows away as one of those social slips that everyone makes once in a while.

    I think the definition I was proposing simply incorporated this last sentence as part of the definition of creeper. If the person goes away without arguing, they’re not a creep.

    I would think the important thing is that the person who is making someone uncomfortable stop what they’re doing and go away. If the “reward” they get for stopping what they’re doing and going away is they avoid the definition of “creeper”, they still went away, didn’t they?

    Going back to the Rene Walling incident, if Walling had gone away and left Genevieve Valentine alone the moment she said “No!”, rather than hanging around, hovering around, trying to apologize or do whatever it was he was trying to do, then I think the incident wouldn’t have become the ginormous blowup that it turned into.

  288. Greg

    You lied about Kat, and I don’t care why you lied; it may simply be your obsessive desire to win any and all arguments, or it may be to do with your bizarre belief that guys are convicted of rape without any evidence, but that is not an excuse for lying about what another poster has written.

    I am simply putting the record straight in case anyone believes that lie.

  289. @The Pint: we’ve always been a part of these communities and all we’re asking for is to have our personal boundaries respected and be treated like people, too.

    No worries, honey! We’re totally fine with that, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience any man (or any hypothetical men that I or any other man may imagine right now) in any real or imagined way.

    Because, as I’m sure you will understand if I explain it to you slowly, it is very upsetting to contemplate a hypothetical man hypothetically being accused of being a hypothetical creeper by an assuredly hysterical hypothetical “female.”

    But thanks for your input! If we were face to face I’d move in for my just-a-beat-too-long hug now! /creepsplainer

  290. Sexual assault is not a synonym for rape. Rape is one type of sexual assault. Not all sexual assault is rape.

  291. There are certain people with whom I no longer interact on Scalzi’s blog threads because these people like to call me and others who disagree with them lying hypocrites, oversensitive hysterical intolerant attacking bigots. If ignored, they like to make up things they claim I said and then argue against those things they’ve just made up. They claim to be tolerantly ignoring me and others with whom they disagree, while frequently bringing up our names and calling us lying or aggressive douchebags. At least once each conversation, every single time, they “suddenly” or “recently” realize that others and sometimes Scalzi himself are completely re-framing and misunderstanding their virtuous statements and innocent questioning and they are at a loss to understand why that would happen except that perhaps those re-framers must be lying assholes intent on defaming them. Or at least are being “unfair.” Some of these people with whom I no longer interact here also like to call others who they disagree with liberal traitors and use terms for women that you would have thought left behind in the 1950’s.Sometimes these people with whom I no longer interact here get kicked off a thread temporarily by Scalzi and then try to siddle onto another thread conversation and continue to accuse others of saying things that they made up on the previous threads. There have been at least three of those people in the past conversations on Peacock and creeping. I bring this up only so that other well-meaning people will not waste time trying to defend me to those people with whom I no longer interact here and fruitlessly try to explain, “Kat didn’t say that!” Really, there’s no need. It will have no effect. Ignoring is much quieter. And less work for Scalzi to moderate.

    On another front, I had no idea that fat people don’t have sex. Short men, amputees, people with facial scars and bad teeth, seniors with no teeth, homeless people, people with Asperger’s, etc. — I had been under the impression that billions of these people who would not be featured in fashion magazines had sex and frequently reproduced, creating the billions of people on Earth. But apparently, this is not true! Only pretty people mate. It’s statistically impossible, but it makes such a lovely SFF novel, I think we should go with it. And then anyone who thinks that he or she is unattractive can go to cons secure in the knowledge that they will not have sex. No need to ever hit on anyone! Problem solved. Also apparently, if someone talks to you at a convention, you have to do whatever they say and like them. Unless it’s sexual. Unless they’re pretty and then you have to do it even if it’s sexual. Because otherwise, you are just like a racial bigot. Or you can get body-checked in the street. Or something like that — it’s not all that clear. Because right now, at conventions, hundreds of attendees are getting thrown out just for being there. I have never actually heard of this problem, but a number of people are convinced it’s true that if conventions have harassment policies that half the attendees are getting ejected. So that’s only fair that we do what they tell us to do on that, right?

    Throughout these posts, from the Peacock article to the creeper ones, Scalzi has consistently put forth one thing: you cannot control other people (especially at a convention.) They are not responsible for you. They don’t have to do what you say because you are horny, disabled, socially confused, or talked to them. Conventions have no responsibility to get you laid. People are not subject to your definition of what is a true geek, a non-shallow woman, etc. You cannot control their opinions of you. You cannot force people not to ignore you. Etc. Some people resent this. Others don’t resent it but aren’t sure how to handle it, like our kind, honorable questioner who asked Scalzi how he could make others feel better at conventions. That’s why we have dialogue about it. That’s progress. That more people understand that they have rights to their own bodies and space and are responsible for their own behavior is progress. Even if some people call us lying, intolerant, idiotic extremist gasbags in the process.

  292. @Greg — It is not the going away without arguing that would make him not a creeper. It is (or could be) his going away without being informed by the potential victim that he was creepering, because then he would not have been creepering in his victim’s eyes. This is a viewpoint thing. John’s definition, of a form of social — not legal — assault, is based in the victim’s point of view. Just as legal assault happens in the mind of the victim, not in the words or deeds or motives of the attacker, creepering happens in the mind of the victim, not the words or deeds or motives of the creeper. The way not to be a creeper is not to have the victim feel you’re creepering. If she tells you to go away because you are creepering, you were. It is the victim’s call. Life’s not fair, anyone who told you otherwise was at best merely wrong.

    (Preview is my friend; I’d replaced the name of the famous actress with less than famous actress greater than, but did not notice the html parser had eaten it up. )

  293. BW: Sexual assault is not a synonym for rape. Rape is one type of sexual assault. Not all sexual assault is rape.

    Kat was referring to the kind of sexual assault that leads to jail.

    Rather than copy paste “sexual assault that leads to jail”, I shorthanded it to “rape”. If you want to accuse me of arguing in bad faith for that shorthand, I can only say, really?

  294. @The Pint

    Thanks I guess, and I’m sorry :(

    On top of my simple outrage, it also breaks my heart that our overlapping communities (SF, skeptic, geekdom generally) – supposedly evolved – seem to be simply soaking in this garbage.

    Obviously I can’t truly put myself in your shoes, but I really heard your comment at 1:53 pm and sincerely empathize.

  295. @Greg — yes, really. Words and phrases have meanings, both in connotation and denotation. If you think that those are somehow equivalent, you need to think more. Maybe look at your local statutes, and a few neighboring states as well.

  296. hthom: “Just as legal assault happens in the mind of the victim, not in the words or deeds or motives of the attacker”

    You sure you got that right? It is quite possible for someone who claims to be a victim of an assault to not have been actually assaulted by the letter of the law. Intent is a required aspect of most crimes, including assault.

    “The way not to be a creeper is not to have the victim feel you’re creepering. If she tells you to go away because you are creepering, you were. It is the victim’s call. Life’s not fair, anyone who told you otherwise was at best merely wrong”

    Is victim the right word? I agree with John about people being able to define for themselves what creeps them out and too bad if you don’t like what other people feel about you. But I would say that while someone may very well be creeped out, that doesn’t mean that the person they are labeling as a creeper has actually done anything wrong. Sometimes people just don’t click. And while there are ABSOLUTELY many examples where creepy people have creeped out others and it is obvious that their behavior is abhorrent, I am not sure that in every case that there is a “victim”.

  297. htom: Just as legal assault happens in the mind of the victim, not in the words or deeds or motives of the attacker, creepering happens in the mind of the victim, not the words or deeds or motives of the creeper.

    Well, once you get to the legalities, I think there’s usually some requirement to the effect that the reaction be “reasonable”. Otherwise, George Zimmerman says he felt afraid for his life and we have to take his word for it.

    But, you don’t like the alternative definition. I got it.

    I’d replaced the name of the famous actress

    I’ve never met anyone who was on the level of “Hollywood” level famous. Actually, I’ve never met anyone who was “local theater” famous. Maybe someday.

  298. Thanks for the good blood and pregnancy wishes, Stevie, Xopher, sistercoyote! And for the clarification, Stevie. I think maybe he wasn’t *trying* to lie, but… Ack, Greg, stop! “…assault. That *way* leads jail time.” As in, don’t continue down this path. Not a rape accusation, and introducing the word rape adds more emotional charge for your argument. Sorry Kat, I can’t help myself. No doubt that will change. Thank you for your comment of awesomeness.

    Sistercoyote, I think maybe it was trying to be orangeish? :) With a bit of “tropical” flavor. They didn’t tell me, and I didn’t notice a label. I’m just glad they don’t do this test earlier in the pregnancy — if they’d told me not to eat breakfast a few months ago, I would’ve been throwing up all over the place.

  299. @Kat “People are not subject to your definition of what is a true geek, a non-shallow woman, etc.”

    Fine whatever I get it stop nagging but you simply must consider my revised One True Objective Definition of “Creeper” a Definition Never Before Thought Out This Carefully you simply must if only I explain it over and over 30 different ways in 1000s of words then finally even you a female will get it and will see why your “perceptions” and “feelings concerning your own personal space and body” are so very much inferior to my abstract constructions of what you SHOULD be feeling which is lucky and pleased I am taking time for talking at you because I’m not annoying and it’s important you hear the things I am saying toward your general proximity then when I’m done you can do whatever you want which will be ME just listen with your little brain and big other things and then you’ll get it I promise and then sexytimes or at least soulhug!

  300. @ rb – no worries at all. That was so eerily accurate I’m saving your comment for a rainy day because in some of the other conversations I’ve been having on these topics (I run in skeptic circles as well as geek circles, too and boy howdy, I should have had a concussion by now thanks to all the head-desking material), it would be really, really useful to illuminate the point.

  301. Greg posted: “She then ended by telling him it’s not OK to “sexually assault women on the grounds that they find it sexy. That way lies jail time.” (which, if I understand the sort of situations he was talking about, comparing it to rape and jailtime was completely ludicrous)”

    Isn’t the “she said sexual assault not rape” a little pedantic? Rape is a sexual assault, not all sexual assaults are legally classified as rape. But all are crimes of sexual violence. Just because you disagree with Greg’s point, you can still see what point he was trying to make even if he technically used the wrong word while making it.

  302. Liberal Dan @ 3:29 Is victim the right word? I am not sure that in every case that there is a “victim”.

    Liberal Dan @ 3:38 Just because you disagree with Greg’s point, you can still see what point he was trying to make even if he technically used the wrong word while making it.

    The mortifying unintentional irony, it’s strong with this one.

  303. Doesn’t seem pedantic to me. Saying Timmy was on the defensive because she called him a rapist is much more charged than saying the above because she accused him of sexual assault. Especially given how much his comment sounded like sexual assault. Even after he clarified… I haven’t checked, but couldn’t kissing strangers uninvited count as assault? Isn’t it a pretty wide umbrella?

  304. @Liberal Dan — I am not a lawyer. That’s how it’s been explained to me, by prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges in conversation. Mens Rae is an arrow that doesn’t seem to exist in the defense bar’s quiver any more. Complain to your local legislature. Consult your own lawyer.

  305. RB: Mortifying? Really?
    Ironic? Hardly..

    If you take my comments IN CONTEXT you will see that when it comes to the post about Greg, I am not saying that they are wrong that rape is the wrong word (since not all rapes are sexual assaults). I am saying that perhaps it would be better to focus on the actual argument Greg was making instead of arguing with him over the word he used.

    When it comes to hthom, I AGREE on the issue of creepering and that the best way to avoid being a creeper is to avoid creeping. I am just questioning IF victim is the right word to use.

    First case, I know it is the wrong word. I am saying perhaps the argument shouldn’t be about that.
    Second case, I am not sure if it is the right word or not, so I am putting it out there for discussion.

    A strange definition of irony you have.

  306. hthom: On mens rea, there are definitely cases where mens rea isn’t implied. However, I think to get a conviction on an assault it is likely that the individual would have to be reasonable in feeling threatened. Like, if I said out loud “Oh, I could just KILL the next person I see wearing a Justin Beiber shirt” and then I turn around seeing someone in a Justin Beiber shirt who just heard my rant. Such a person might think I was serious. But no conviction is likely to be obtained (even if the person with Bieber actually felt terrified).

  307. Liberal Dan

    You wanted to know what the difference between sexual assault and rape is. The short answer is that under English law the maximum sentence for sexual assault is ten years; the maximum sentence for rape is life imprisonment.

    You may wish to bear that in mind should you ever visit planet England…

  308. @Liberal Dan
    Rape and sexual assault don’t have a rhetorically trivial difference, though. You might want to take a look at why a guy who is perfectly willing to spend pages and pages in noble defense of the socially awkward nerd can’t be bothered to type a few extra letters to be precise, when it happens to conveniently paint the other person as quick to tilt at rapists who are only after all socially awkward men waving their arms innocently in other people’s spaces.

  309. Liberal Dan

    What you said was “technically used the wrong word”; I merely wished to note that the technicality in question is in reality a very large difference…

  310. End result or not, the discussion was about how “mean” Kat was being to Timmy. So the emotional charge of the words used is not pedantry. And yes, wikipedia also says it varies by state, but in general discussion it’s “any sexual touching of a person who has not consented,” and that it includes forced kissing. Sounds a lot like Timmy’s scenarios to me.

  311. Marcy: Saying Timmy was on the defensive because she called him a rapist is much more charged than saying the above because she accused him of sexual assault.

    I don’t see that at all, especially since she introduced the threat of jail time. If the thing he WAS doing didn’t actually deserve jail time, why bring it up other than to slippery slope him into jail and attach the powerful, negative, emotional charge associated with “jail” to his actions?

  312. @rb: you are my new best friend; hope that’s not creepy.

    @htom: You’re talking about two different things. “Assault,” legally speaking, means an attempt or a threat; battery is the actual contact. If I threaten to whomp you with a baseball bat that’s assault, if I actually whomp you that’s battery. (Assault can also be the attempt – if I swing and miss – depending on your state.)

    The “mind of the victim” thing is because, at common law, it’s the action causing reasonable fear of imminent harm. Even if I never really meant to hit you with the baseball bat, if it was reasonable for you to fear I would hurt you, that is assault.

    Colloquially “assault” gets used to mean the same thing as “battery”, hence “sexual assault” (which is more properly “sexual battery”).

  313. If you take my comments IN CONTEXT you will see

    And if you read MY contributions to this thread in ANY context you would know better than to bring that weakass hairsplitting over here. Your contention @3:29 that the creep may not have “actually done anything wrong” once again posits the existence of a universal “true” or “actual” point of view superior to that of the person who is the object of the creep’s unwanted attention (“victim”, “recipient”, whatever). You are thereby missing the entire point and “CONTEXT” of this discussion.

    There is no “actual” point of view. The objectified person’s feeling are real and not subject to revision or cross-examination vis-a-vis the “actual” (your?) perspective.

    If you creep someone out, you are by definition doing it wrong. End of story!

    I AGREE on the issue of creepering and that the best way to avoid being a creeper is to avoid creeping

    Incorrect! The best way to avoid being a creeper is to NOT OBJECTIFY other people, and that includes not putting yourself in the position of deciding whether victims’ feelings are valid or creeps are “actually” doing anything wrong.

    (People who have been the objects of creeps’ attention may prefer not to be called ‘victims’ because that word may smack, to them, of passivity. If so, I defer to their best semantic judgment. But the fact that it is “actually” wrong for people to be made to feel fearful or unsafe is non-negotiable.)

  314. If you don’t see it, I can’t make you see it, but I think most people you asked about the connotations of “rape” vs. “sexual assault” would agree with me. I think my earlier explanation of “That way lies jail time” was sufficient. An attitude of “sexual assault is sexy?” Sure, that could lead to jail someday. Why bring it up? To give him a reality check on his attitude, perhaps?

    I’m done.

  315. Marcy

    I entirely agree; the hysteria about women being ‘mean’ in even noting that there are legal sanctions which apply to people who sexually assault others suggests that notwithstanding the lip service paid to ‘people shouldn’t sexually assault other people’ it somehow seems less important than denouncing women as ‘mean’. ..

  316. Marcy: the discussion was about how “mean” Kat was being to Timmy.

    Not for me. I wasn’t trying to measure “how mean” Kat was. I said she attacked him, and any judgement about Timmy’s response after that point “showing his hand” needs to consider Kat’s attack. I wasn’t grading on a scale of 1 to 10. I was saying her post met the definition of an attack.

    And I wasn’t focusing on just the “sexual assault–>jail” part. Saying he was a “lousy lover”???? Really? Some folks might want to argue that Kat’s post wasn’t “out of line” Timmy first posted, but really? A lousy lover, kiddo? That’s on the level of saying he smells funny. Sheesh.

    And some people seem to want to get all legal about “sexual assault” instead of “rape” so they can move the very simple point the the message was an attack.

  317. @Mythago — I was talking about assault, a threatened or actual attack in the eyes of the victim, and comparing it to creepering, also in the mind of the victim. The belief of the victim is the key element. Creepering might be a form of sexual assault (but not of sexual battery). What’s his name RW was doing, as I understand it, both, no, all: creepering, assault, sexual assault (verbal threats of sexual battery), and sexual battery (grabbing and squeezing.) Or at the very least attempts at all of those.

    This is a “social crime”, and the usual rules and procedures are on the sidelines. John is attempting to describe the deed and how not to commit it; we’re squabbling about something that’s wandering far afield.

  318. Just another note for the record; Kat at no time suggested that Timmy was a lousy lover.

    And I’m done too…

  319. Stevie: Kat at no time suggested that Timmy was a lousy lover.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/09/an-incomplete-guide-to-not-creeping/#comment-351020

    you’re in the Cramping My Style contingent, the ones who want to hit on women (or men) and not have those women be allowed to object. This is again domineering — it’s seeing women as targets, as objects, rather than as individual people. Which, as I noted earlier, means you’re a lousy lover, kiddo.

    What?

  320. @iiii: I’ve been using “target” rather than “victim.”

    I could see that as an improvement, agreed.

  321. @iiii — “Target” had occurred to me; I thought and rejected it as diminishing, while “victim” seemed to be more accepting of their internal status.

  322. Stevie, yep.

    Greg, I don’t even care about your original “attack” argument anymore. I was only getting involved to talk about the “rape” bit. It’s not an “all legal” distinction. Let’s say we’ve established that a + a = b. In that case it’s like Timmy said, “I did a + a.” Then, when other people said “so you’re doing b!” the response was that, *by saying that,* among other things, they were attacking him. I object.

    Done. Really.

  323. Greg

    I apologise; Kat subsequently located Timmy in her general compartment of “you’re cramping my style” idiots. My only excuse is that I got distracted by laughing too much at John’s responses to Timmy…

  324. stevie: “What you said was “technically used the wrong word”; I merely wished to note that the technicality in question is in reality a very large difference…”

    But I never asked, and I obviously knew there is a difference before you interjected. Note whatever you wish, but I just found your post absurd because you said I did something that I did not do.

  325. **Trigger alert…. rape**

    M: “Rape and sexual assault don’t have a rhetorically trivial difference, though.”
    To me, to use either term rhetorically against someone, especially when not called for, is b.s. Either is bad.
    Obviously the difference between the low end of what can be considered a sexual assault and rape is not trivial. But suggesting that someone committed a sexual assault, the mind doesn’t go to a unwanted kiss (at least my mind doesn’t) . It goes to the worst possible examples of sexual assault where the difference might be if there was insertion or not.

    If you feel differently then that is fine. But I would be more concerned with the creeper appologia than the rhetorical use of the wrong word. If you feel otherwise and think it is that important, then great. We have a difference opinion on one minor issue but we agree on 95% of the rest of the creeper issue.

  326. @Liberal Dan

    You might be surprised how many people approached me when I was giving off “Do Not Approach” signs at billboard levels. You might also be surprised how many of those people proceded to become extremely hostile toward me (to the point one guy was asked to leave the bus by the bus driver because he was shouting).

    And yes — an unwanted kiss can be a sexual assault. And my mind would go there — because I have been the unwilling recipient of an unwanted kiss, and if I hadn’t already knocked on the door to be let into my house, I suspect the guy would have tried to go farther. (And he thought it was “great” despite — or probably because of — my being positively rigid in his arms with the strength of my pull to get away from him.)

  327. rb: it is not weakass hairsplitting to suggest that my comments be taken in the context in which they are given.

    “Your contention @3:29 that the creep may not have “actually done anything wrong” once again posits the existence of a universal “true” or “actual” point of view superior to that of the person who is the object of the creep’s unwanted attention (“victim”, “recipient”, whatever). You are thereby missing the entire point and “CONTEXT” of this discussion. ”

    You have interpreted my words incorrectly.

    I will just leave it at this. It is possible that someone may have legitmiate issues that may not be related to the person who is bringing unwanted attention. I am not saying the “creeped” person is not legitimate for having such feelings. Whatever their life experiences are are theres and I am not saying that anybody should judge that person for having those life experiences or for how they decide to deal with them afterwards.

    I am saying that those feelings may not have anything to do with the specific person who did the “creeping”.

    And why it happened doesn’t matter when it comes to what the individual who creeped the other person out should do next. Both should stop the interaction. Period.

    And as I said way earlier in the thread, afterwards the “creeper” should do some self reflection to see what, if anything, was done wrong.

    “But the fact that it is “actually” wrong for people to be made to feel fearful or unsafe is non-negotiable.)”

    I do not disagree with you, at all.

  328. Sistercoyote: “You might be surprised how many people approached me when I was giving off “Do Not Approach” signs at billboard levels.”

    I probably wouldn’t be. Many people are asshats.

    “You might also be surprised how many of those people proceded to become extremely hostile toward me (to the point one guy was asked to leave the bus by the bus driver because he was shouting).”

    Ditto, asshats. Especially the kicked off the bus guy.

    I hope I didn’t give off the idea that kissing could not be taken as sexual assault. If I did, that was not the intent. With the link I was trying to educate others who might not know. But I don’t always word things perfectly in the perfect way every time perfectly. :)

  329. Years ago, at a Pagan gathering, there were certain people who, for set periods of time, had decided not to interact with anyone at all: no talking either way, no gestured conversations. They were doing pure observation as an exercise. To indicate this, they had painted a stylized open eye on their foreheads – like (o) only sideways. We were informed of this at the morning meeting and asked not to speak to them.

    I hasten to add that I am NOT AT ALL saying that women, or anyone, should have to forego all interaction with anyone to avoid being crept upon, or that any such thing would work in geekdom. But IF we had that tradition…

    “Dude, don’t you see the eye painted on her forehead? Seriously, you don’t? You’re not looking closely enough. Me? No, I don’t see it…it’s for YOU. Get what I’m saying?”

  330. @Liberal Dan

    No worries. I’m touchy on the subject for obvious reasons and after re-reading your post I think the misunderstanding might have been on my part. Or some combination of the two of us. (I see you, too, are a part-time employee of the Department of Redundancy Department — hail, fellow, well met. ;) )

  331. htom – I hadn’t really thought it through before, and I’m not quite articulating it now, but – the dehumanization implicit in “target” makes it, if anything, more apt. The problem we’re discussing, after all, is people who refuse to accept that the person they want to talk to gets to decide not to talk to them. Creepers do not accept that their targets have things like agency and internal lives and, y’know, are people, and as people are entitled to not have to talk to the creeper even if the creeper wants to keep talking to them. I mean, as long as folks are so concerned with keeping the narrative centered on the creeper’s point of view, might as well label the other characters from the creeper’s point of view, yes?

  332. Liberal Dan: “I hope I didn’t give off the idea that kissing could not be taken as sexual assault.” To me, mostly just with the “especially when not called for” at 5:47. And when someone has assaulted (or battered, technically) someone else in that fashion and it’s labeled as assault, I’m not going to worry about other people getting the wrong impression because the first thing that comes to mind is worse. But meh. Don’t want to die on this hill, especially after your “I don’t always word things perfectly…” apology. :)

    Sistercoyote: “despite — or probably because of –” reminds me (on a much smaller level) of the customers who, if they even manage to notice you’re angry, just think it’s cute.

  333. @marcy

    A similar reflex, I think — denying (to themselves or out loud) they might be the cause of your discomfort/anger/fear.

  334. Liberal Dan

    It didn’t help that your response to people differentiating between rape and sexual assault was “isn’t this pedantic” . It’s a classic belittling rhetorical device and a classic mansplaining gambit. According to you we are not talking about something of vital importance because you have dismissed us already as being pedantic.

    I could have just pointed that out to you, but it seemed worthwhile to demonstrate to you in practical terms that it was not pedantic because there is a very big difference between the 10 years max you get for sexual assault and the maximum life imprisonment for rape…

  335. kat, your bad lover comment and invoking jail time made me take the sexual assault reference in the worst possible way. but thats my baggage. I still cant see the lousy lover and jail thing as anything but an insult/attack/ needless escalation, but even if they were the qorst insults in the world, that doesnt justify me twisting your words into something you didnt say. I’m sorry.

  336. @iiii — True. There’s an irony (word-idea choice?) in a creeper wanting his objectified target to talk to him. Target, though, resonates in me as the PC synonym for “goblin”, the extremely dehumanizing term used in self-defense classes. Maybe prey or quarry?

  337. Yeah, sistercoyote — or they accept being the cause, but only in a self-congratulatory, “ain’t I powerful” kind of way.

  338. Greg:

    “Ya know, what I’ve been figuring out the last couple years is that when people percieve me to be trying to “win” an argument, how it occurs to me is that I’m looking at something from a differenent point of view than they are, but they want to reframe everything I say back into their frame.”

    Well. You know, if everyone else is trying to frame your comments into their same frame of reference, that kind of leaves you as the guy operating in a different frame of reference. And, for the same reason you can’t control what other people think of you, reframing a conversation (particularly 1 v many) is just about the most difficult thing you can do. I think the point where you trip up is that you don’t do the middle work to define your frame of reference to the group. Frames of reference may just be, but if you really want to engage positively – you’ve got to lay a lot more conscious groundwork here.

    ” In the absolute worst case, it would seem to be an improvement from where he started.”

    Regarding Timmy, sort of. You’re trying to shoehorn this into a debate that’s based on attack and defend like that’s unusual. I mean, this is a heated conversation or highly involved debate. That is an attack and defend regime. And, to imply that a guy who came in dropping some lines – straight off – that are grossly demeaning to women didn’t start off attacking is just silly. It’s okay if you want to engage with some 101 with a personality type that you think might also be enlightening to your understanding. But no one else is under any obligation to comply with your agenda.

    “Some folks might want to argue that Kat’s post wasn’t “out of line” Timmy first posted, but really? A lousy lover, kiddo? That’s on the level of saying he smells funny. Sheesh.”

    It isn’t okay to say that someone else responding aggressively to unprovoked grossly offensive statements is, I dunno, tiresome. That’s not cool. Who cares if she put one finger in the air and blew raspberries at him? What was said was not demaning to YOU, by either party.

    In a conversation wherein the greater context is sexism you’ve successfully communicated (whether you intended to or not) that just because the guy said something grossly offensive about women doesn’t make it okay for women to defend themselves aggressively. Your concern for the reform of Timmy is endearing, but in the human frame of reference, you should still be aware that that isn’t cool.

    It isn’t an attack if it’s in response to an attack. It’s a counter attack. And that’s entirely legitimate.

  339. @ James

    This quoted section is exactly the opposite standard when applied to race. How are you squaring the circle when it comes to the accepted standard concerning gender interaction and the accepted standard concerning racial interaction?

    If person A doesn’t want to interact with person B because of person B’s skin tone, person A is a being a racist asshole, but person A doesn’t have to interact with person B. The technical term is right of free association.

    @ Other Bill

    I have always respected Greg’s determination to win an argument at all costs.

    My humble opinion is that Greg often winds up shooting himself in the foot by getting combative. See, I don’t think his conscious goal is to win arguments, but rather to engage in a constructive conversation. But I do think he gets so caught up in the argument that he loses perspective on how he’s engaging with the people he debates. Now I’m not trying to tone police Greg (nor would it be my place anyway), and he’s perfectly entitled to do that to the extent John will allow any of us to. But I suspect he would better achieve his goal if he focused more on maintaining a cordial tone toward the folks disagreeing with him. And I’m not saying people don’t give him back as good as he gets. But, as I don’t doubt Greg knows, being civil even when people get frustrated with you and go on the attack will leave you on better footing with the peanut gallery at the very least and may defuse the simmering hostility that an ardent disagreement can stoke. It matter less who starts the unfair snipes than it matters that anyone who finds themselves in a brewing flame war takes a step back and realizes they can sidestep the waste of fighting. When Greg fights fire with water, he gets a lot done and comes across as a wonderful contributor, IMHO.

    Greg, I don’t mean to be talking like you’re not in the chatroom. Other Bill’s point was just the springboard for my own thoughts that I hope can be of assistance to you as they have been for me when I find myself sliding into a trenchant argument.

    @ Greg

    I would have been curious to find out if he would agree to Gullliver’s rule “If you make a woman uncomfortable, and as soon as you realize you’ve done this then you back off and leave her alone, then you’re NOT a creeper.”

    I would say that would save you from being a harasser. Since creeper is a subjective judgment call, I neither think it makes you a creeper or not a creeper, but it certainly makes you a considerate person. What I’m pretty sure I said was that someone who leaves people alone when signaled to do so shouldn’t be subject to communal disapproval or reprimand. And if I didn’t say that, that is what I believe.

    To once again appropriate Hershele Ostropoler’s metaphor: If you step on my foot, you’re a foot stepper, my foot is the victim and you need to get off my foot. This doesn’t make you a bad person; people are victims of accidents on a regular basis. It doesn’t even make you an inconsiderate person provided you get off my foot ASAP. It merely makes you a clumsy person. And if you practice avoiding stepping on feet, you’re a downright decent and thoughtful person, even if you occasionally still step on feet.

    From a psychological point of view, when you present a choice to someone in moral terms, they are more likely to do the right thing. When you present it to them that same choice in monetary terms or punitive terms, they’re less likely to do the right thing and more likely to simply weigh the costs/benefits. If you’re going to have a “wear your seatbelt” campaign, you’re better off with something like “wear your seatbelt, someone loves you” rather than “wear your seatbelt, or get a 100 dollar fine”.

    This depends on the person. You’d get an even better compliance rate with, wear a seatbelt and earn a tax break on x dollars. That is, while people are complex and morality is sometimes based on costs/benefit analyses (which are useful even when the costs and benefits are not monetary), incentives generally have a higher success rate than disincentives in behavior encouragement.

    The thing is, I didn’t agree with the actions Timmy reported, but since I wasn’t sufficiently attacking Timmy, I must be defending him or on his side. Even on a thread about how you have no idea how people are perceiving you and you have no idea if how your percieving others is correct, it seems impossible to have anything other than an attack/defend conversation when attack/defend people are on the thread.

    Do you think I attacked Timmy while I was disagreeing with him?

    Once Timmy was attacked, he got totally ticked off, he dropped down into attack/defend to meet Kat, and the conversation imploded. No other conversation was predictably possible at that point.

    On the contrary. Either one of them could have engaged in non-attack/non-defensive mode at any point. I may disagree with Kat’s conclusions about Timmy – they might have been correct, but I don’t know Timmy well enough to decide to my own satisfaction – but Timmy’s decision not to engage Kat in a non-combative tone was his choice every bit as much as Kat’s was hers. Whatever his valid or invalid points were, Timmy was talking with Timmy and no one else because he’d made up his mind about what John and others were saying and he wasn’t going to have any clarification get in the way of that.

    So, I criticized Timmy plenty of times. And I pretty much ignored Kat’s comment, except to say Kat calling him a lousy lover and a rapist headed to jail, has to be taken into consideration when looking at Timmy’s posts after she said that. His subsequent posts didn’t happen in a vacuum.

    No, but he, not Kat, is responsible for them, not matter how many conclusions Kat did or did not jump to based on his tone.

    I don’t see that at all, especially since she introduced the threat of jail time. If the thing he WAS doing didn’t actually deserve jail time, why bring it up other than to slippery slope him into jail and attach the powerful, negative, emotional charge associated with “jail” to his actions?

    Sexual assault can lead to jail time.

    And some people seem to want to get all legal about “sexual assault” instead of “rape” so they can move the very simple point the the message was an attack.

    You’re not helping yourself by being insensitive to people’s reaction to that miswording and dismissing it as lawyering. Even I cringed when you first substituted the word rape for sexual assault.

    @ Liberal Dan

    Isn’t the “she said sexual assault not rape” a little pedantic? Rape is a sexual assault, not all sexual assaults are legally classified as rape.

    No, it’s not pedantic. Next question.

    But all are crimes of sexual violence. Just because you disagree with Greg’s point, you can still see what point he was trying to make even if he technically used the wrong word while making it.

    Yes, and he got called on it because that word’s meaning is damn important to a lot of people and it’s hardly beyond the pale (or un-Greg-like for that matter) to ask that Greg and others please be more considerate about that and not mix the categories up. Greg wants people not to take what others say and distort it. It behooves him to extend the same courtesy. I can’t be sure, but I suspect his mistake was an honest lapse of memory. Instead of saying so, however, he tried to defend his indefensible word substitution.

    I am saying that perhaps it would be better to focus on the actual argument Greg was making instead of arguing with him over the word he used.

    You say that as though they’re mutually exclusive. Can’t think why you’d say that…

    I am just questioning IF victim is the right word to use.

    Yes, it is.

    But I never asked, and I obviously knew there is a difference before you interjected. Note whatever you wish, but I just found your post absurd because you said I did something that I did not do.

    No, she did not. You made a point. She made a point. You asked her why she made a point you didn’t ask about. She replied that she was making the distinction, at no time indicating it was exclusively for your benefit. In hindsight, I think you probably thought she was trying to explain it to correct you, but that was never what she said and, IMO, was not implied.

    @ htom

    There’s an irony (word-idea choice?) in a creeper wanting his objectified target to talk to him. Target, though, resonates in me as the PC synonym for “goblin”, the extremely dehumanizing term used in self-defense classes. Maybe prey or quarry?

    I disagree. Target denotes the target’s relationship with the assailant, not inherent target-ness. I’d liken it to when people say my husband. They’re not saying that the person is merely a husband or that they belong to them, but that the relationship is their relationship to them. YMMV.

    My reason for sticking with victim in this instance is because the creep-ee may in fact not be a target, but they may still be a victim, just as in the case of someone who steps on your foot.

  340. Gulliver – Just to be clear “I have always respected Greg’s determination to win an argument at all costs.” was my deliberately tongue in cheek way of saying “But I do think he gets so caught up in the argument that he loses perspective on how he’s engaging with the people he debates.” The message being a distinction between Greg and trolls.

  341. Sister Coyote: “No worries. I’m touchy on the subject for obvious reasons and after re-reading your post I think the misunderstanding might have been on my part. Or some combination of the two of us. (I see you, too, are a part-time employee of the Department of Redundancy Department — hail, fellow, well met. ;) ) ”

    Indeed :)

    At the end of the day, we both understand each other. So no harm, no foul.

  342. @Greg: Rather than copy paste “sexual assault that leads to ja@l”, I shorthanded it to “rape”. If you want to accuse me of arguing in bad faith for that shorthand, I can only say, really?

    Really. So very, very really. You swim in the water. Try being a person at an 80% risk of rape, w/ a 0% chance of justice. THAT is my world. Bad, effing faith.

  343. stevie: I had a long post written, but it is really not worth it. I believe you are interpreting me incorrectly. I do not think anything I can say can change your mind about that .

    If anything I have said has made anyone here believe that I was belittling their views or in any way dismissing their views on crimes of sexual violence then I am sorry. I understand that such things can be triggering to victims and that is the last thing I want to do.

  344. Gulliver: With your selective quotes, ignoring the point I made that both are crimes of sexual violence, I find it unlikely that anything I say on this issue will change your mind. What I will say is that we likely agree on 95% of the things being discussed here. Shall we argue about the 5% we disagree on? Or shall we agree that John correctly has pointed out that people are free to believe whatever they want to believe about the interactions they have and if they are creeped out for whatever reason, that the best thing a “creeper” can do is just back off (and the worst thing the “creeper” can do is try to explain why he is such a nice guy with nothing to fear).

    I do need to add this..

    “No, she did not. You made a point. She made a point. ”

    I made a point. She stated something about me asking something about the difference… which is something I did not do.

  345. *usual caveats acknowledging that ‘women can be creepers/men can be abused’ but that women suffer disproportionately in sexual harrassment, in my use of man/woman and he/she below. (also, had too many Whatever tabs open, mistakenly made this comment on the previous creeper post — apologies to you, John, don’t intend to spam this.)

    I have been a lurker around here for a while, and have been following the aftermath of Readercon, and these posts, with interest, weary resignation, and just a little bit of hope. I wish it weren’t so difficult for some of the men in the conversation to step back from the fact that there’s a lot of talking past each other and (wilful or accidental) misunderstandings going on and just say, “I get it. I hear you, and I acknowledge that there is creepy behaviour among (hu)mankind and that although I don’t want to acknowledge it in myself, because I’m a good person, I agree that ‘don’t cross a woman’s boundaries’ — both societal (‘don’t touch without consent’) and stated (‘please leave me alone’) — is an excellent guideline for all of us to follow.”

    What I’d really like to hear? “I recognize that you have a right, and need a mechanism, to defend yourself from creeps. I agree that you have a right to set boundaries, and that I need to respect them no matter what my feelings are on the matter, or what my reasons for wanting to cross them are. I propose that there are shy, awkward guys who are unfairly caught in the crossfire, but I do not feel their needs trump your boundaries. I would like a chance to discuss their plight, as an aspect of how to improve the way men and women interact in fandom spaces, but I respect that a discussion of sexual harassment might be a touchy time and place for me to bring that up, especially if you start interpreting that sidebar concern as a defense of indefensible behaviour. Although I’ve had some experiences with defensive women that I feel are relevant, I concede that shifting the discussion from ‘how to respect a woman’s boundaries’ to ‘how men feel about the manner in which women establish and defend their boundaries’ is, in itself, an example of the same disregard, when you and other women in this conversation are struggling to stay on the topic of how to stop sexual harassment, and thus how to lessen the need to evaluate every male, awkward or not, as a potential threat.”

    But that is my overall reaction to this long discussion. I would like to point Greg, Michael, Timmy, Todd and others to the hateful responses here (that have survived the Righteous Wrath of the Delete Key), and that profusely litter Ms Valentine’s LJ posts on Readercon and almost any unmoderated discussion about the debacle afterwards and ask — do you understand that this is the behaviour we have been struggling with all our lives? Not in individual incidents, but in a pattern, from the time we developed breasts? That a woman who attempts to establish the most basic boundaries (say, communicating that “touching my arm” or “telling rape jokes” or “calling me ‘fuckable’ on the street” really makes us uncomfortable…) faces disdain and disapproval at the very least, and risks vitriolic hatred, namecalling, threats, and violence? Lest you’re tempted to say “yeah, they’re obviously bad guys you should reject, but we’re good guys just trying to make friends and it’s not fair to lump us in with them”, I’m not interested in painting all men with the same brush, nor labeling our allies Good and the “whiny bitch” contingent Evil. (“Uncouth” is another matter.) The whole point of John’s post is that most of the time, anyone you think we might label “bad” could be someone all of us might consider a fun guy, a good friend, a reasonable part of our social group, if we never saw these actions firsthand — boundary-crossing, or the indignant rejection of the notion that a woman has a right to set a boundary, or both. But in this particular BEHAVIOUR, in their need to override or attack a woman who (heavens to murgatroyd!) doesn’t want to be touched or spoken to (at all, or on the man’s timetable), these men ARE being creeps.

    And women desperately need to find a way to tell all of you (because you are all fun, good, reasonable people who don’t think of yourself as creeps): DON’T BE CREEPY! Can you please, please, please listen to us? Please, please, just stop yourself from replying for a minute, from defending yourself or your friends or any hypothetical male. Put yourself in our shoes, and say “This isn’t about whether or not I’M actually a creep. It’s a legitimate request for me to take the personal responsibility to stop my own creepy behaviour, if I ever become conscious of any, or have any pointed out to me. I can do that. I can do it without putting caveats on how ‘creep’ is defined, because I can trust (most) women to be thinking beings who can allow for explanations and shades of gray WHEN they can trust (most) men not to consistently and irrationally try to defend the behaviour that women consider threatening.”

    Men: we trust many of you. We’d like to be able to trust all of you. The fact that we’re asking for a safeword of sorts — that we’re attempting to establish a fandom-wide acceptance that a woman who tells you to stop really REQUIRES you to stop, no matter what — is about deepening that trust. A person that wilfully disregards a safeword, or argues that another person doesn’t need one, can’t be trusted to share anything good/fun/ecstatic with, and too many women have learned too sorrowfully that it’s incredibly risky not to make that judgement and reject/withdraw from a stranger the first time he starts crossing lines. So if you want to earn our trust and friendship and anything else that might proceed from that, don’t cross boundaries!

    Be a good person, listen, and tell us you won’t be creepy. Be a good person, listen, and believe us when we say this problem is real, widespread, profoundly damaging, and won’t go away without your help. Be a good person, listen, and don’t defend the creeps you know. Be a good person, listen, and don’t tell us that the existence of awkward people somehow invalidates the existence of people who are capable of truly slimy, predatory behaviour, and don’t tell us that we should be able to tell the difference, or that we should treat men as “innocents” until they actually hurt us. Be a good person, listen, and help us create a fun, friendly, safe con atmosphere where we don’t need to put on our +5 Armour of Wariness as a matter of daily necessity. Be a good person, listen, and then women (as a group) are much more likely to give your awkward friend exactly the benefit of the doubt you’re looking for — as long as all involved recognise that no individual woman owes any individual man more than basic civility (and that she owes him civility only if he is treating her like a person with her own variable needs, moods, and priorities that don’t add up to ‘bitch’ if they don’t include him).

    And if we give your friend who’s a good person the benefit of the doubt, and he violates our boundaries anyway… Be a good person. Listen. BELIEVE US when we tell you that a person you trust behaved like a creep. Hold him accountable. Tell him he’s in the wrong — don’t make excuses, don’t let him make excuses, don’t tell him OR us that we just misunderstood his poor awkward motives. Tell him to become a better person, by listening to what he’s being told. Even — or especially — if he’s you.

  346. rb:

    There is no “actual” point of view. The objectified person’s feeling are real and not subject to revision or cross-examination vis-a-vis the “actual” (your?) perspective.

    Well, I don’t see any problem with expecting targets of objectification to use their telepathy to figure out everyone’s intentions so they can reserve their wrath for the actual creepers. </sarcasm>

    — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

    Marcy:

    And when someone has assaulted (or battered, technically) someone else in that fashion and it’s labeled as assault, I’m not going to worry about other people getting the wrong impression because the first thing that comes to mind is worse.

    Seems like people these days have an expectation that labels for bad things are only merited for the worst examples of badness. Like racism isn’t trying to touch a Black stranger’s hair without asking, it’s showing up on her lawn to burn a cross while wearing a pointy sheet. You tell a hair-toucher they’re being racist and they act like they’re being accused of cross-burning. They use wrong impressions as a weapon against social progress, so it’s useful to push back, as you’re doing, by insisting on calling the less-than-worst-bad things what they are.

  347. @Laurie T

    Fantastic post, just excellent. All I can say is I hear you loud and clear. I like to think that I’m pretty good on this; I personally think this is the most pressing issue for our communities, bar none. But you have reminded me that action > words, and that there is always tremendous room for improvement, and inspired me to greater vigilance for myself and others around me.

    Thank you.

  348. A. Noyd: “Well, I don’t see any problem with expecting targets of objectification to use their telepathy to figure out everyone’s intentions so they can reserve their wrath for the actual creepers. ”

    Unfortunately I was being misrepresented. I wasn’t saying that the feelings were not real nor that the people who feel creeped upon should have to justify their feelings to anyone.

  349. @Liberal Dan: It is possible that someone may have legitmiate issues that may not be related to the person who is bringing unwanted attention.

    Dan, I was all set to really, really go to town on your re: the victim’s “issues” and your stubborn persistence in pronouncing them “legitimate”! You are killing me!

    BUT: in light of the significant and powerful gauntlet thrown down by Laurie T @ 10:01, I would like to defer the rest of our disagreement in favor of a sincere request that I make to you and any other men who are still lurking in this thread. That request is this: please read what Laurie is saying, and make an earnest effort to hear it as if the fate of all you hold dear depends most critically upon you achieving the highest-level understanding of her perspective. If it helps, please fix in your mind the face of a woman (or man) in your life the happiness and well being of whom is of utmost and unquestionable importance to you, and hear what Laurie is saying in that person’s voice. If the latter request is infantilizing to you or your loved one, then do whatever you must do to hear what is being said without filter, qualifier or caveat. As a man, I promise you, when you achieve this, the perspective you will gain will help you immensely in your relations to other people – women in particular – who ask only to enjoy the rights of agency and self-determination you instinctively and rightly claim for yourself.

  350. Liberal Dan:

    I wasn’t saying that the feelings were not real nor that the people who feel creeped upon should have to justify their feelings to anyone.

    I wasn’t talking to or about you, just using what rb said as a jumping off point for a bit of snark against the idea that targets should tailor their reactions based on an impossible, omniscient point of view. It doesn’t matter to me if you weren’t saying that because it gets brought up by plenty of others whenever creeper behavior gets criticized.

  351. Laurie T. certainly did a nice post.

    To clarify for those worrying about Timmy from the other thread: grabbing women and kissing them at a convention is sexual assault. It is a misdemeanor sexual battery offense (as we covered way back in the Readercon discussion thread,) and depending on your locale in North America/Europe, can potentially get you anywhere from three months to several years in jail. So IF you go grabbing and kissing women at conventions on the grounds you think they’re interested, you are indeed very likely to eventually get arrested and go to jail, even though you didn’t rape anyone. Furthermore, even if you have been grind dancing with a woman in a club, if you grab her and kiss her, you can still get arrested for sexual assault. Grind dancing is not sexual consent of anything. It’s a form of dancing. Women do it with their gay male pals. Further, if your deluded female peeps tell you that other women totally think you grabbing them and kissing them is sexy, that does not actually give you a free pass to commit that kind of sexual assault, as Timmy was asserting it did.

    Despite numerous people explaining this in great detail to Timmy, including Scalzi, Timmy refused to believe there was anything wrong with what he was saying in arguing that sexual assault is just dandy, possibly because he didn’t understand that was what he was arguing. He also kept saying that he didn’t have to consider the feelings of women but that we had to consider the feelings of poor guys who wanted to appear sexy to women by grabbing them and kissing them, which was a contradiction. Despite several people including me explaining to him that this was a contradiction, Timmy kept insisting it was not.

    Further, in that thread discussion, I had gone over various arguments people were making that sexual harassment of nearly all sorts should be off the table, which included that guys should have the right to try to hook up anyway they wanted. In that context, I pointed out that this viewpoint indicates a total lack of respect for the other person and their free agency essentially, which in my view made them lousy lovers even if there is mutual sexual interest, not good ones, and so the behavior was certainly undesirable if you wanted to be Cassanova. Timmy was in part responding to that particular post, which is why it was brought up again in the context of that exchange. None of the statements were meant as attacks, but as guidance rhetoric to show Timmy what it was he was actually saying.

    Before I could return to that conversation, however, Timmy got into a royal fight with Scalzi that had nothing to do with me and Scalzi understandably kicked him off. So I could not further point out to Timmy that he was talking more and more like a sleazebag in his desperation to be able to have his sexy style, in my hopes that the boy would get a clue.

    The person who went all in about Timmy in THIS thread, in direct defiance of Scalzi’s orders against doing that sort of thing, knew all this already and deliberately stripped context of that other conversation, and lied and distorted facts in order to attack me because that person has been periodically harassing me. Since I am here voluntarily to talk about things, I accept that this sort of thing can happen. As this post of Scalzi says, you cannot control how others view you. Frankly, I prefer Timmy. And I’d rather that more people not become targets of such harassment as some others have. So if we’re all clear on what sexual assault is now in this thread, I suggest we move on and let Timmy go, with the hope that he will not be running around grabbing and kissing women.

  352. Liberal Dan, please STOP telling Stevie what is the correct or incorrect way for her to interpret your comments. Hello! That’s actually the point of John’s post – YOU DON’T GET TO CHOOSE HOW ANOTHER PERSON PERCEIVES YOU!

  353. rb: Did you read when I said that I agree with what Laurie said and how it should be as a front page introduction to all convention manuals and how it explains the point well?

    Seriously. I doubt you have really read anything I have said. I doubt you read past what you quoted. Had you done so you would have read all this.

    “I will just leave it at this. It is possible that someone may have legitmiate issues that may not be related to the person who is bringing unwanted attention. I am not saying the “creeped” person is not legitimate for having such feelings. Whatever their life experiences are are theres and I am not saying that anybody should judge that person for having those life experiences or for how they decide to deal with them afterwards.”

    In other words, it doesn’t matter WHY they feel the way they do. They have the right to feel the way they do, react the way they do, and to have their boundaries respected.

    But yeah, it doesn’t seem like you read any of that. You just responded to the first line.

    “As a man, I promise you, when you achieve this, the perspective you will gain will help you immensely in your relations to other people – women in particular – who ask only to enjoy the rights of agency and self-determination you instinctively and rightly claim for yourself.”

    That you said these words to me clearly shows that you have not paid a single bit of attention to anything that I have said here. I AGREE WITH JOHN’S POST. I AGREE WITH LAURIE’S POST. Both are well written and spell out clearly and concisely why individuals need to respect the boundaries of others and how many time people (a lot of the time men) violate those boundaries (willingly or not). In my very first post here I stated CLEARLY that people who do find themselves violating said boundaries should do some self reflection. And even if the person feels that the person is being creeped out is not justified in doing so WHO CARES? Why would you want to keep speaking with someone who is creeped out by you, legitimately or not. Such people who find themselves in that situations should take a step back and remove themselves from the situation. And if those people find themselves repeatedly being in situations where they are creeping out others, perhaps they should speak to people in their current peer group or at least do some self reflection to find out what it is they might be doing that is causing others to be creeped out.

    And don’t you worry. I have very good relations with other people, regardless of their gender identification, and absolutely believe that all people have such rights of agency and self determination and I do advocate for such things for them as well as myself. In fact, I am one of the guys who seeks to help some of my more socially awkward friends in why what they are doing might be causing others to feel uncomfortable.

    But yeah, keep reading my first sentence only and responding only to it. Because that is a productive way to have a conversation.

  354. cyan: I typed a big response for you as well. But I will unlikely change your mind. I will just say this, If someone says I did X, and I never did X, I will correct them. Doing such is not for the benefit of the person who misrepresented me but for others who might accept such misrepresentations as truth if left unanswered.

  355. Liberal Dan – Why would you take the time to type all these responses and then not share them?

    “If someone says I did X, and I never did X, I will correct them.”

    FWIW, it appears to be a disagreement over what you communicated, which is different than a concrete action as implied by “did”.

  356. If you make a post, and one or more people seem to misinterpret it, you may wish to try to rectify that. Which of these do you think will work better?

    1. “I see that I was not clear enough in what I wrote. When you thought I meant ABC, I was actually trying to say CBA. Does this make my comments more clear?”

    2. “You understand me incorrectly. Please correct your incorrect response to me,”

    Which of these starts from the assumption that the other person is acting in good faith and has the right to her own judgments? Which acknowledges that a purely written conversation is prone to misunderstandings that might not occur in person, where there is tone and body language feedback going both ways while words are being exchanged? Which accepts that once words are out there, people are going to understand them as they do, and that this is entirely reasonable?

    It is, in fact, quite possible that what you thought was a clear comment actually had ambiguities all over it. If more than one person makes the same ‘mistake’ in reading you, perhaps you should consider that the interpretation they made of your words *is actually supported by your words*, and that this can be true even if you didn’t mean it.

    It happens all the time, even in verbal conversation.

    By the way, if you are engaged with a person whose good faith you do not trust, I am curious as to why you are trying to engage them at all?

    And finally, if you find yourself lecturing someoe about how she “should” understand your words, without clarification from you, please think about this in terms of this very discussion. You put yourself out there, in a comment post or in chatting up a stranger at a con. She hears what she hears. In a comment thread, you have some room to say “I was misunderstood, let me try again, because ABC is entirely not what I meant.” In person, if her response is to ask you to leave her alone, you leave her alone. But honestly, if your first response to a misunderstanding is to tell her that her response is incorrect and not allowed? What part of “other people have agency and autonomy, so the only person who gets to decide to change their minds is them” doesn’t make sense to you?

  357. Other Bill: Because sometimes, after typing something out and reading it, I realize that the person I am addressing has given me no reason to believe that they will be swayed by what I am saying and it is not worth putting all that out there when it serves no purpose and does nothing to address the important issues raised by John by creating this thread.

    I am not sure how anyone could read what I wrote and respond how Stevie did. What I was asking was if it was pedantic. i wasn’t; asking what the actual meanings of those terms are. I clearly knew the difference.

    She said “[I] wanted to know…”. I didn’t. And the way it was presented to me also seemed quite sarcastic and insulting to boot.

  358. SorchaRei: If you look back at the beginning of the discussion, when Stevie first gave the answer to the question I did not ask, I asked: ” Where did I ask to know the difference? I think it was obvious I knew there was a difference.”

    That;s all. There was no assumption of bad faith. I just asked a simple question. I asked her why she felt the way she did. I then tried to explain what I was saying (as you recommend)

    When she pulled the mansplaining card is when I assumed she wasn’t acting in good faith. When my explaining what I actually meant (the 2nd part of your part 1) becomes “mansplaining”, then yeah, I see no evidence of good faith.

    “By the way, if you are engaged with a person whose good faith you do not trust, I am curious as to why you are trying to engage them at all?”

    I agree. That is why, instead of posting one long post in response, i just posted this: “stevie: I had a long post written, but it is really not worth it. I believe you are interpreting me incorrectly. I do not think anything I can say can change your mind about that .

    If anything I have said has made anyone here believe that I was belittling their views or in any way dismissing their views on crimes of sexual violence then I am sorry. I understand that such things can be triggering to victims and that is the last thing I want to do.”

  359. Liberal Dan: I think words interpretation is not as a concrete as you seem to think. I’m usually surprised and incredulous when people misinterpret, for example, a joke I make. Later, I usually realize I screwed up some part of it that left it open to misinterpretation or allowed it to be outright assholish instead of clever.

    It felt like three times you gave the “I typed this thought out and then decided nope, you won’t listen” speech. I am personally very reluctant to jump to that, because of the previous paragraph. So, not really a value judgement on your use of it, just a reflection on why I avoid that. But, I suppose like John said in the OP, sometimes after careful thought you conclude that, nope, that’s on them.

    “When she pulled the mansplaining card is when I assumed she wasn’t acting in good faith.”

    This kiiiind of makes me wonder if this shouldn’t be one of those times it’s on them though.

  360. @Xopher:
    “Years ago, at a Pagan gathering, there were certain people who, for set periods of time, had decided not to interact with anyone at all: no talking either way, no gestured conversations. They were doing pure observation as an exercise. To indicate this, they had painted a stylized open eye on their foreheads – like (o) only sideways. We were informed of this at the morning meeting and asked not to speak to them.”

    I have developed a whole lot of behaviors that are the equivalent of painting that eye on my forehead. Lots of “Don’t mess with me, leave me alone” behaviors that (along with skipping makeup, wearing a ring, etc) mean that I no longer get the amount of unwanted attention I got as a younger woman. (I also do not work at a job that requires being nice to customers). But less does not mean none. And you know what? It SUCKS to have to paint that eye on my forehead to cut down on the unwanted social interactions from straight men who want to hit on any generic female. Because in the name of minimizing that bullshit, I am sending off the same don’t mess with me vibe to people who are not creepERs that I would LOVE to talk with.

    Minor example from earlier today: I was looking for a place to eat lunch in a shared public space, and an older gentleman suggested I share his table. He looked to be a nice guy, and seemed to be doing his own thing. I wanted my personal space, however, so (after saying thank you) I immediately plugged into my iPod to avoid starting a conversation that might become awkward. Better to be off-putting upfront than have to extract myself from an unwanted conversation later.

    This whole conversation about creepERs is about changing the overall social dynamics from the unhelpful base case where creepERS have room to inflict damage (and thus people have to defend themselves against the possibility that a social interaction will involve a creeper) to a situation where creepy behavior is discouraged and prevented (by educating people on how to not be creepy and how to have zero tolerance for the creepER behavior) so that the rest of us can just kick back and be friendly without anyone having to paint that “don’t mess with me” eye on our foreheads. I agree with the points above about not owing anyone a conversation. But it goes way beyond that. Defending against interactions with creepERs cuts down on social interactions I would like to have. Evaluating huge swaths of conversation to see if the person with whom I am talking is going to cross the line into creepy and to protect myself against predatory behavior TAKES ENERGY and time and discourages relaxed and friendly social interactions. If I knew that every casual conversation would be a lovely chat that ended without inappropriate boundary crossing? I would be a lot more open to casual conversations. Right now, there are categories that I just kill dead because it takes energy to find out if my judgements (based on past experience) are correct in this instance.

    And I resent that my choices are to be as friendly and open as certain privileged het men (but then as a consequence have to deal with a lot of crossed signals that involve me assessing threat levels multiple times on subtle social signals) or that the burden is on me to constantly signal “NOT AVAILABLE”

    CreepERs have a negative externality effect on the whole society. John’s point about “you can’t control how people will perceive you” is just one note in a larger conversation about letting all members of our community RELAX and let down their guard a bit by having some understood rules. Like you can’t control what other people think of you, and sometimes you just have to walk away.

  361. Other Bill: There are plenty of examples where interpretation is not concrete. For example, my interaction with Sistercoyote. We did seem to perhaps not understand what each other were saying. But we talked it out.

    I am wondering why that line makes you wonder why this shouldn’t be one of those times. I personally dislike the term mansplaining. To me, it is a sexist term used by people who are supposed to be fighting sexism. It is, as if, a man isn’t supposed to be able to explain what he means and when he does, he is wrong for doing so.

  362. I think part of what that term is supposed to highlight is that a person is presupposing that their interpretation/explanation is what matters. Something to the effect of “Your reaction to my words is invalid because I did not mean them that way. Cease and desist all feeling of that nature.” …I think… would be a qualifying example.

  363. Liberal Dan – apparently, you missed this portion of John’s post:
    “Outside of the realm of possible potential creepiness, you don’t get to choose how other people respond to you, either. In any context. Indeed, regardless of your efforts to present yourself in a certain way, it is almost certain you will come across to some other people as not that way at all, and possibly the opposite of that way entirely.”

    And also this part: “What I don’t generally do is demand that the other party see it my way and believe that if they don’t then there’s something wrong with them. “

  364. Other Bill: This link kinda goes over my feelings on that particular term: http://haggholm.dreamwidth.org/232799.html

    This kinda falls under the whole “intent isn’t magic” meme that pops up in some of these conversations. Sometimes, intent is magic.

    For example. The recent political attacks against President Obama and the whole “you didn’t build that” lie. There are Conservatives who REALLY think that Obama said that the individuals didn’t build their own businesses. When it was clear that he was talking about the roads and bridges and the internet. In such cases, you should ABSOLUTELY point out that those people’s reactions to his words are invalid because they are based on a lie. They SHOULD be told to cease and desist such feelings.

    So yeah, if someone comes along and suggests that I was doing X, and then when I try to explain why I wasn’t doing X I am told that I am mansplaining,… yeah, I see no reason to continue that conversation as the person doesn’t seem to me to have any desire to have a serious discussion.

    And again, IF people took what i said as being dismissive of the differences between rape and sexual assault, i assure you that was not the intent because obviously there are differences. Big ones.

    But Bill, I think at the end of the day, despite our feelings on if something was a misrepresentation or a misunderstanding, I think you and I can both agree that the issues discussed here brought up in the initial post are very important to talk about and that the message should be spread about how people have the right to define their own boundaries and not have others cross them. And at the end of the day, i would rather focus on the 95% of things we do agree on than argue about the 5% of things we may disagree on.

  365. Wrong again Cyan. I am not saying that I can choose how people can respond to me. Just like you cannot choose how I respond to others in turn. See how that works?

    And while I cannot control how other people ultimately react to me and what I say. I CAN respond to those who misrepresent what I say and make sure that their words are not the only words out there characterizing what I have said or done.

    I guess you would say that it is wrong to correct the Republcians who believe Obama said that businessmen didn’t build their own businesses. You know, because we don’t get to tell them how they should feel.

  366. Liberal Dan:

    “And at the end of the day, i would rather focus on the 95% of things we do agree on than argue about the 5% of things we may disagree on.”

    Depends on the day.

  367. @karina.
    @ Nina – Nice. Bitchez be crazy, right? (I read your linked article – your point, other than “Crazy bitchez” is?)

    I think you need to re-read that article a little bit – for someone with all of your “degrees” I wonder at your reading comprehension.

    My reading comprehension faculties were working just fine last time I checked thank you. As for all my “degrees” (Didn’t that word start with a capital letter, but let us let that go at the moment, However that was a good way to disparage someone’s burning the midnight oil in the groves of academe… You get an A for Effort there.) they taught me that irony and tongue in the cheek whimsy is going to be seen as funny by men and crazy bitch by women. Like I said I am not responsible for your interpretation of my opinion.
    Now this para above is real crazy bitch writing, -It is offensive, neurotic as well as vicious.-my friend and not what I posted three four days ago. I was trying to be funny and whimsical in the post , but I guess I missed the mark by miles. It came across as being very offensive to you and others of our gender Ah well…
    Also interesting how you and the pint picked up one similar keyword phrase- Bitches be crazy. I am being incredibly naive here once again, but is that the way anything written by a female is interpreted by other woman readers? Did not know that and have to go out in the real world some more.

    @ the pint
    Your implication that women who analyze context of people’s (often male) words and behavior only due so because of “psychological issues” demonstrates a disturbing amount of ignorance about the space women occupy in our patriarchal culture, in which women, when victims of harassment/assault/rape, are often subjected to “Didn’t you think something was wrong because of X?” “Why didn’t you notice A,B and C?” “What were you thinking?!?” Whether that’s willful or naivete, I don’t know, but given the “Bitchez be crazy” tone of your posts and the piece you linked to, I’d have to lean toward the former.

    No, a person is not responsible for the “cerebral meanderings” of another person, but it’s basic common courtesy to be CONSIDERATE of how your actions are being received by another person and respecting the boundaries and comfort level of others. It’s called empathy.

    GOLLY, what a scathing and overwhelming denunciation! I wrote that I was being Naive if you read my post carefully before that outpouring of bitterness about the term psychological issues. But I’ll go by willful too, thanks for the suggestion.The supposed “bitchez be crazy” tone of my posts is supposed to give one an insight into the workings of a woman’s mind. That is her defense mechanism analyzing the words spoken by someone while she is deciding whether she is comfortable speaking with someone or she isn’t. That is BECAUSE she knows that perhaps she is going to be the potential victim of harassment by the judiciary, if she finds herself in a situation not of her own making. A male can get away with But I was just talking to her, while he was seriously creeping her out. That is because she felt subconsciously that he was invading her personal space.

    But then I am one crazy bitch female so how would I know.

    @ Marcy,I can’t help it if you found my post and link offensive. Like I told Karina, women found it offensive, men found it funny. Still it made you think did not it? QED. And if you found yourself behaving in that manner next time you spoke to someone and stopped doing that, my point is proven. But then empathy has to be cultivated and if you are not listening to what someone else is trying to convey, and then decide that someone creeps you out just because you missed a beat somewhere in the communication chequer board, ah well, That’s not the listener’s problem. And yes, this post may seem apropos of nothing in context to Mr. Scalzi’s original post but I am talking about human psychology and behavioral and social skills in general.

    @dersk
    @Nina: if you normally don’t pay attention to how people are reacting to your language, gestures or body language, you haven’t been communicating in the first place.

    This is what I wrote to Matt
    I understand how you feel, all about the intimidating part. No wonder a number of we 6 footers try our best not to talk to people tinier than us (98% of the general population) for more than 60 seconds at a time,

    Got the 60 seconds part? That is because We know that they are feeling intimidated and we do tone down our gestures, voice pitch and body language accordingly and most of the time And if they are still not at ease when they are interacting with us, and within that time period we get the he!! outta there and fast. That is called communication and that works when we speak to both genders.

    @bolts- Totally agree with what you say. Thanks for giving me another perspective.

    @ stevie
    I’m still baffled as to why Nina thinks that John only ever talks to women…

    Ha ha. Beats me too. Wonder where I got that idea!

    And now that I have finished commenting, Mr. Scalzi, where is the nearest exit? I need to go and read some more Robbie Burns about O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us. To see oursels as others see us. Your forum is full of lots of scary long distance debating power. It scares me!

    And yep- I can just see a comment here from another reader , “if you can’t bear the heat, get out of the kitchen you non -sequitur ing nerd.”

  368. Nina

    Oddly enough, I had none of the reactions you mention to your first post; I read it and concluded that you were desperate for hits on your site.

    I’ve now read your second post and concluded the same thing…

  369. Liberal Dan:

    In other words, it doesn’t matter WHY they feel the way they do. They have the right to feel the way they do, react the way they do, and to have their boundaries respected.

    This is an upgrade from what you originally said (that the victim of creeps “may” have “legitimate issues”) but I still feel like you’re not quite getting my essential point.

    It’s not a question of rights. People have those feelings, those feelings are real, they don’t need you or me or anyone else to grant them the “right” to feel them. It’s like you’re saying they have the “right” to breathe or go to the bathroom.

    They simply DO feel them. All we have to do is acknowledge that.

    When she pulled the mansplaining card…

    And … scene.

  370. When she pulled the mansplaining card…

    And … scene.

    I’ve switched to using “condesplaining” instead of “mansplaining” as a general rule, because unfortunately the latter tends to act as an invitation to a derail; a simple matter of rhetorical pragmatism.

  371. Liberal Dan, John is probably going to mallet us all for this meta-discussion, but I’m wondering something about some of your posts. I understand why you believed you had been mischaracterized. In at least one instance, I agree that you were. I understand about writing long comments and deciding not to post them because the other person isn’t any more likely to understand than they did what you wrote before. I’ve done that a bunch of times myself.

    What, then, is the purpose of posting a comment saying that you wrote something and decided not to post it because it would probably be misunderstood? What does that add to the discussion? Why not simply … not post the comment (because you suspect it would be misunderstood) and then refrain from announcing that you haven’t posted the comment? You said to Other Bill: “sometimes, after typing something out and reading it, I realize that the person I am addressing has given me no reason to believe that they will be swayed by what I am saying and it is not worth putting all that out there when it serves no purpose and does nothing to address the important issues raised by John by creating this thread.” I can definitely relate to that, and I regret a few comments I did post even when I already sensed that was the case.

    But since there is no Edit function, it’s not that you posted the comment, thought better of it, and replaced it with a statement about why you had removed the long post. I seriously don’t understand the functional purpose of the posts in which you explain that you wrote a post but decided not to post it because the other person probably wouldn’t understand it.

  372. @nina – I was lovingly corrected by our host for my post, so I won’t rehash it.

    I will say that I agree with Stevie’s assessment of your intent here , but I appreciate an explanation of the intent of your article. However, to me it reads like trolling. Which I fell for!

  373. Kat: To clarify for those worrying about Timmy from the other thread: grabbing women and kissing them at a convention is sexual assault. It is a misdemeanor sexual battery offense (as we covered way back in the Readercon discussion thread,) and depending on your locale in North America/Europe, can potentially get you anywhere from three months to several years in jail.

    My turning your phrase “sexual assault” into “rape” was my own baggage getting in the way. I apologized last night. I’ll apologize again.

    That said, Timmy’s first post was rather vague about what exactly he was doing, where he was doing it, and with whom he was doing it. And your first post immediately told him that what he was doing was sexual assault.

    There is clearly a problem with underreported sexual assault and underprosecuted sexual assault and underconvicted sexual assault. There’s also a problem of “no” not meaning “no” to some people. These are all very real problems. That doesn’t mean the solution is to criminalize every physical human interaction. That doesn’t solve anything. It will create another problem.

    I’ve been on first dates with women, thought it was going well, and kissed them goodnight. I didn’t hear from some of them ever again. That doesn’t make that kiss sexual assault, criminal activity, worthy of jail time. The specific example Timmy eventually gave of what he meant by “going for it” was kissing a woman who was “grinding” on his leg. That isn’t sexual assault either.

    So, when you told Timmy his actions were sexual assault, criminal activity worthy of jail time, when we didn’t even know what exactly he was doing, I mistakenly reacted by referring to what you said as “rape”. I was wrong to do that. But what I can see now is that I was reacting in part to you invoking “sexual assault” and “jail” time, when we didn’t even know what Timmy had specifically done. And now, you post this:

    for those worrying about Timmy from the other thread: grabbing women and kissing them at a convention is sexual assault.

    Except he wasn’t grabbing women and kissing them at a convention. You keep wanting to associate Timmy’s behaviour with criminal behaviour, and it isn’t. At least the specific examples we got weren’t.

    So, me taking your “sexual assault” reference and turning it into “rape” was my mistake. It was my baggage I brought to the conversation. My bad. I was wrong. I’m sorry.

    But you, you taking some vague descriptions like “going for it” and saying it’s “sexual assault” that leads to “jail” time, you criminalizing what isn’t necessarily criminal behaviour, seems to be your baggage. You taking Timmy’s post about kissing some woman who’s grinding on him at a dance club and turning it into grabbing a woman at a convention and sexual assault seems to be your baggage. Baggage or whatever it is, it’s not accurate.

    Kissing a woman grinding on your leg at a dance club isn’t sexual assault. If the guy whose leg she’s grinding on gives her a peck on the lips and she freaks out and screams “No, I don’t want that!”, I would advise apologizing and moving away as quickly as possible. If the guy quickly moves away from her, but you still think that kiss should be considered sexual assault, criminal activity worthy of jail time, that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law possible, then I’d say you’re flat out wrong.

    You keep trying to associate Timmy’s behaviour with criminal activity, and that’s more on you than Timmy.

  374. RB: It amazes me that we agree on this issue but because I am not wording it exactly perfectly according to your standards you just do not admit it.

    “It’s not a question of rights. People have those feelings, those feelings are real, they don’t need you or me or anyone else to grant them the “right” to feel them. It’s like you’re saying they have the “right” to breathe or go to the bathroom.

    They simply DO feel them. All we have to do is acknowledge that.”

    Rights are not granted. Rights are just there. Maybe our disconnect is that we just word things differently. But when I look at what you post about this issue, I do not see the difference. For soem reason you do see a difference.

  375. BW: “I understand why you believed you had been mischaracterized. In at least one instance, I agree that you were.”

    Thank you.

    “But since there is no Edit function, it’s not that you posted the comment, thought better of it, and replaced it with a statement about why you had removed the long post. I seriously don’t understand the functional purpose of the posts in which you explain that you wrote a post but decided not to post it because the other person probably wouldn’t understand it.”

    The reason to not post it was because I didn’t want the huge post to create more tangents on an already off topic subject in the thread.

    Stating that I didn’t then post was basically a dig at them. Admittedly probably not the most constructive way to handle it. However, it is frustrating to be misrepresented and then be told that when trying to explain what you mean that you are even more wrong for doing that.

    I am working on some personal issues. In the past I would have just posted it and continued the derailing.

  376. Gulliver: If you step on my foot, you’re a foot stepper, my foot is the victim and you need to get off my foot. This doesn’t make you a bad person; people are victims of accidents on a regular basis.

    Well, the thing is folks here are using the term “creep” in vastly different ways, sometimes at the same time from the same person. saying “if you step on my foot, you’re a foot stepper” is pointing to the idea at the individual level that: if you creep someone out, you creeped them out. You can’t control how someone perceives you. yada. yada.

    But at the same time, this whole thing is being discussed as a result of harrassment at a convention that got someone banned for life. So, some people are using “creeper” to mean a systemic definition like “someone who WE agree is guilty of sexual harrassment and WE should punish them in some way”. And for those people, the part where you say “This doesn’t make you a bad person” is something they’re not subscribing to, they’re actually adamantly against it.

    You’d get an even better compliance rate with, wear a seatbelt and earn a tax break on x dollars.

    No. You would think so, but that’s not actually how we’re wired. I can’t remember the exact details, but the story goes something like this: Some organization was trying to figure out where to put a nuclear power plant. They selected some area and sent a poll to the people of the nearby city asking them something like “How would you feel about accepting the construction of a nuclear power plant near your city for the greater good of the country”. The reply was mostly positive. Most people didn’t like the idea of having a nuke plant near them, but most replied that they would accept it for the greater good. A year or so later, the same committee got the go ahead to build the plant so they decided to include a small reward into the plan for the people of the city where the plant would be located. A tax break of something like 2,000 a year. They wrote up a similar poll that included the tax break and sent it to the same city. The results came back overwhelmingly negative. From the same city that had approved the idea a year or so before. By adding the tax break, people stopped choosing between “nuke plant versus greater good” and started choosing “nuke plant versus $2,000″ and decided it wasn’t worth the two grand.

    Take the exact same choice and frame it in different ways (moral versus money/reward versus punishment), and people will make completely different selections. Political ads are basically just looking for ways to frame the choices so people choose their candidate. Same two candidates all the way through the election, but frame it differently as different ads get rolled out, and the poll results can swing.

  377. The relevant legislation here in planet England is the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 and kissing someone without their consent constitutes sexual assault, for which the maximum sentence is ten years. The Crown Prosecution Service has a helpful online guide available to anyone who wants to read it…

  378. Liberal Dan:

    It is possible that someone may have legitmiate issues that may not be related to the person who is bringing unwanted attention. I am not saying the “creeped” person is not legitimate for having such feelings. Whatever their life experiences are are theres and I am not saying that anybody should judge that person for having those life experiences or for how they decide to deal with them afterwards.

    I am saying that those feelings may not have anything to do with the specific person who did the “creeping”.

    And why it happened doesn’t matter when it comes to what the individual who creeped the other person out should do next. Both should stop the interaction. Period.

    *Both* should stop the interaction?

    I’m smelling a little bit of “they’re both at fault” here. What exactly do you mean by this? That the interaction should just be “over,” no harm, no foul?

    BW says:

    What, then, is the purpose of posting a comment saying that you wrote something and decided not to post it because it would probably be misunderstood?

    To tell everyone that he had something great and insightful and clever and wonderful to share with us but *someone* was being a jerk so he’s not going to share it with us now. It’s sort of a microflounce.

  379. The problem with “going for it” as a supposedly innocent activity is that, IMO, it suggests that to me, the phrase “going for it” implies that the “goer” does not know whether the “go-ee” wants to be kissed or not and he (for the sake of discussion, I’ll use “he” since this is based on a situation in which a male was the “goer”) chooses to kiss her, figuring he’ll take the chance By doing that, he doesn’t take into account that his taking the chance imposes on her without her prior consent. She (again, for the sake of discussion, …) is in the position of having some guy kiss her simply because she interacted with him. If she wanted to be kissed, then all is good. If she didn’t, she has been forced to have a very personal interaction that she in no way consented to. His decision to take a chance and “go for it” considers only the results for him: she’ll like it, and they may be able to kiss and/or do more or she won’t like it and he’ll be embarrassed, maybe get slapped, perhaps get ejected from the club, depending on various circumstances. The result for her is that she got assaulted by a guy just because she was dancing with him in a possibly suggestive manner. You might not think of this as assault, and the “go-er” might not think of this as assault (or, more properly, battery), but you’re not the one who is in the “go-ee” position again and again and again because guys who decide to “go for it” choose you as the “go-ee” without having ascertained whether you’ve agreed to be their “go-ee.” Once in one’s life, not that big a deal. Being in that position repeatedly simply because you’re a woman and a lot of men have been acculturated to think that they are entitled to “go for it” and getting shot down is the only consequence (um, maybe the only consequence for the man, but being treated like a prize at a carnival is a consequence for the woman that the man has apparently not taken into consideration in calculating whether to “go for it” or not) … well, we do get mad after a while when these men’s actions are dismissed as no big deal, because they weren’t assaulting us, they were only “going for it.” Please, guys, “go for it” when you have already obtained consent, not before.

    Timmy wasn’t on a date with the woman at the club. When you’re ending a first date, there is a certain amount of culturally determined leeway involving kissing, but it’s still an area where erring on the side of making sure you’re both of a mind to have that level of contact is a good approach, IMO, as a woman who has been kissed and not kissed on first dates and prefers not-kissed if the date hasn’t been such that there was a lot of mutual touch already. I’ll never understand why a guy who barely knows me and has only shared one evening with me thinks we’ve progressed to kissing stage, but that’s another story. Getting back to Timmy, what he says he did might not have been worthy of jail time, but it was assault, and rationalizing it because of the way they were dancing is a little too close to “She must have wanted it, she was grinding with him.” I know that is not what anyone here said, but I fail to see how the form of dance gives him any sort of pass. If he didn’t know whether or not she wanted to be kissed, it was on him to find out first and not just plant one on her. It might be hard for people who have not been the targets and the objectified most of their lives to get how sick and tired and mad one can get when this sort of thing is blown off as okay behavior. If you want to educate the Timmys of the world, educate them to refrain from “going for it” and educate them in some new ways to interact with women that are based on the woman not being a prize to win that you might as well take a shot at because if you don’t, you may never get kissed.

  380. Sorry for garbled first sentence. Sloppy editing on my part. I think the basic point comes through, though.

  381. “You’d get an even better compliance rate with, wear a seatbelt and earn a tax break on x dollars.”

    Nah, that money is months or a year away and who wants to think about taxes yuck.

    I’ve been thinking about this and took it as a challenge.

    I’d like to see a series of advertisements that start out showing the non-seatbelt user in the car not using the seatbelt, maybe in a Jeep or convertible, la la la, nice day, s/he feels freedom. Sudden dramatic voiceover of “You don’t want to wear a seatbelt? Think of the kids.” Non-seatbelt users suddenly looks surprised. Cut to black and loud music bump.

    Of course we all know what’s next, a funeral, more sadness.

    But no. We instead cut to a scene where we see a bunch of kids at the shoe store bouncing around singsonging “we all got new shoo-ooes, we all got new shoo-ooes!” Couple of shots of the shoes and joy. Non-seatbelt wearer has the wallet out and pulls money out of it about to pay the clerk. Just then a mini courtroom with cop (with red/blue light flashing) and judge and court steno pops up out of nowhere in front of non-seatbelt wearer. Single police siren blerp. Kids go silent.

    The judge slams the gavel, reaches over and takes the money. Kids look at non seatbelt wearer with shock and disappointment and then sigh looking at their battered old shoes. Non-seatbelt wearer rx with shock and embarrassment. Voiceover and/or super: “If you don’t wear your seatbelt it’ll cost you $fine. Think of the kids.” Final scene something funny like the clerk now pulling a new unpurchased shoe off a protesting kid.

    Other possibilities, think of your mom, and she gets a crappy present for her birthday instead of the stand mixer you planned to get her. Think of your wife or husband who now has to make do with the old cell phone that’s the size of a brick or the old computer (bubblegum iMac or commodore 64). End shot modem sound and slapping the side of the computer. Think of your friends, and you’re with them while they’re all having a great time at a restaurant and you’re ordering water and a small salad. End shot there, you’re making lemonade out of your water by stealing the lemon slices out of your friends’ drinks and dumping in 12 sugar packets.

    More think of the kids, everyone else is riding ponies, kid is running around the back yard pretending to ride. Kid has taped-together backpack. Parent tries to convince kid that “this retro vintage lunchbox is better than all the other kids, I saved up three months to buy it when I was your age.”

    Because that’s what usually gets people to avoid breaking an easy to obey law. Annoying consequences like no money in your pocket to have fun with, whether it’s your fun or that of those you love.

  382. BW

    It came through loud and clear, and thank you.

    The important thing to remember about Timmy in this context is that he too lives in planet England and he is subject to the law here like everyone else.

    Timmy could go to jail for kissing someone without their consent, and it really doesn’t help him to suggest otherwise; the Crown Prosecution Service website is admirably clear on that point. Giving him a wake up call is helpful, not hurtful…

  383. Nina (I know I shouldn’t respond, but it’s just so *easy*!),

    “Now, just exactly why does one have to speak in monosyllables when the lady is in full flow? The reason is clear, trying to communicate with her in your logical manner and getting her to understand, is about as difficult as getting a woman to make a quick decision about which dress she wants to wear at a party when both of you are running late.”

    Huh, why in the world would women find this offensive, and more so than a lot of men would? I really can’t think why…

    Humor generally relies on both a grain of truth and an element of surprise. This has neither. I tested much better than most males throughout my academic career, thank you very much (and once had a guy beg me not to do so well on a test, so the curve would be lowered), and yet, somehow or other throughout my life I’ve managed to hear the message coming at me from all directions that my brain must be smaller or something. Or my feminine emotions must be messing with my logic (if I’ve even heard of logic, it’s this thing that male people use in arguments).

    “But then empathy has to be cultivated and if you are not listening to what someone else is trying to convey, and then decide that someone creeps you out just because you missed a beat somewhere in the communication chequer board, ah well, That’s not the listener’s problem.”

    Actually, I’m pretty dang good at empathy, too. You’re cute with your assumptions.

    Er, wait! You mean that time a stranger came into the store I was working at and started telling me about my “hot librarian” vibes and how he’d like to push me up against one of the sliding ladders on the wall, all I really needed was more EMPATHY for him? Duh! How could I have missed that?!

  384. Stevie: Timmy could go to jail for kissing someone without their consent, and it really doesn’t help him to suggest otherwise; the Crown Prosecution Service website is admirably clear on that point. Giving him a wake up call is helpful, not hurtful…

    right. Folks were merely giving Timmy helpful legal advice. And the part about the “lousy lover”, that was helpful romantic advice. An entertaining attempt at retconning the intentions of people.

    Anyway, it’s been a while since I was single and clubbing, so lets see if I can create the scene: I’m dancing in a club, a woman starts dancing next to me, I start interacting/dancing with her, we’re talking, I buy her a drink, she buys me a drink, we dance some more, talk som more, drink some more, dance some more. she starts grinding her body on me, I put my hands on her hips, she puts her arms around my shoulders, we’re dancing really close, I kiss her, and her reaction is STOP THE PRESSES! CALL THE POLICE!

    If you were the cop on site, you’d arrest me? If you were the DA, you’d prosecute? If you were the person on the jury, you’d find for a guilty verdict?

    Cause that’s “kissing someone without their consent”. And by invoking “Sexual Offences Act, 2003 and kissing someone without their consent constitutes sexual assault, for which the maximum sentence is ten years.” you’re not leaving any room for misunderstandings.

    BW: Getting back to Timmy, what he says he did might not have been worthy of jail time, but it was assault, and rationalizing it because of the way they were dancing is a little too close to “She must have wanted it, she was grinding with him.”

    But it’s not the same. It’s especially not the same as “She deserves everything that happens to her after she grinded on him”, which I think is the thing that some folks might be having an allergic reaction to. Like “If we let a guy kiss a girl grinding on him at a dance club, then we’re saying it’s OK for him to force her to have sex”.

    but I fail to see how the form of dance gives him any sort of pass

    W… w… what?? Grinding is a “form of dance”? You’ve just removed all signaling content from every non-verbal communication. You’ve reduced all human interactions to require written consent forms if you think “grinding” communicates nothing.

  385. “Written consent forms”? Oh, please. I get that you’re exaggerating for effect, but the effect is that you look like you’re kind of freaking out.

    Yes, grinding is a form of dance. To quote Kat: “Grind dancing is not sexual consent of anything. It’s a form of dancing. Women do it with their gay male pals.” And are you aware that it’s also popular at dances even down to the middle school level? It’s not sex, it’s not foreplay, it’s dancing. Grinding may mimic sexual positions, much the way tango does, but it’s still dance and implies no permission to do anything but dance. Being bent back by one’s partner in a tango also doesn’t constitute permission to get intimate.

    I don’t know what “If we let a guy kiss a girl grinding on him at a dance club” even means. How do “we” even come into it?

  386. Yes, grinding is a form of dance, and as is all dance, a message. Both the context and the relationship of the dancers are exceedingly important for discerning the meaning, whether you are onlooker or participant. (Note that the message may be to offend the onlookers.) Mistakes of understanding are very easy to make and propagate; it’s probably best to ignore such dancing by others unless one of the dancers is objecting. I prefer the tango, where there is touch, but partner size differences are not so awkward.

  387. Greg

    We don’t have DAs in England. The people who make the decisions on whether or not to prosecute are in the Crown Prosecution Service, and I have already helpfully quoted from their handy reference guide which is freely available to anyone who wishes to read it on the web. The fact that you can’t be bothered to acquaint yourself with the facts is irrelevant to what the facts actually are.

    As John has noted, you don’t get to decide what other people think; in this situation you don’t get to decide what the people in the Crown Prosecution Service think. They do their own thinking…

  388. Xopher: yes, I was using your post as a jumping off point. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. You provided a clear image of signalling with the forehead markings (and I always read your posts with interest), and i tried to use that to make my comment more clear.

    Let me try again: this conversation is broadly about (1) people need to see and respect the signals that are being given out (2) basic advice on how to tell what signal is being given off (3) some people are predatory creepers, but all of us can be considered creepy by someone else (4) discussion of creepy behavior, complicated by creepy being short hand for any “i dont like you” reaction and also shorthand for “threat assessment yellow alert!” reaction and (5) what to do about the reality that not everyone will like you, (6) diacussion that some folks will get more “go away” messages than others and (7) the wide variety of reasons why the “don’t bug me” message gets sent. In my prior comment, I was addressing one aspect of #7.

    I haven’t been wading into these conversations much, but I want to say a big thank you to the women and men who have been doing the heavy lifting to explain the life experience of being harassed to folks who haven’t seen it from that perspective, and to start changing the rules by insisting that creepers be the ones who pay the full social cost of their behavior. Environmental pollution is a classic externality (if a company freely gets to dump pollutants into the water, the cost of buying a widget doesnt include the cost of people who get sick from polluted water and those costs from pollution are external to the price of the widget. To have the widget priced properly, the company must be forced to control pollution and the widget price will then be closer to the real price to society to produce that widget) but creepers also create externalities. I appreciate the broader conversation sf community has been having to make the creepERs pay the price of their behavior instead of having the need to defend against that behavior be a externalized tax that falls on everyone but most heavily on women.

  389. @ Greg

    But at the same time, this whole thing is being discussed as a result of harrassment at a convention that got someone banned for life.

    Only indirectly. John wrote his last post on the subject in response to someone seeking advice on how not to inadvertently creep people out, a query which was almost certainly inspired by the Readercon post. I very much disagree that the tone has been one of all creeping is sexual harassment and must be punished. Rather the tone has been that no one is obligated to put with anyone who creeps them out however arbitrary the reason, and that trying to force unwilling interaction is harassment and therefore deserving of punishment.

    No. You would think so, but that’s not actually how we’re wired. I can’t remember the exact details, but the story goes something like this: Some organization was trying to figure out where to put a nuclear power plant.

    Interesting, because in business I have repeatedly encountered the exact opposite results and learned the hard way to incentivize the behaviors and work ethic I required from my employees. Perhaps the prevailing mindset is different in politics.

    Regarding Timmy v Kat. Did Kat jump to conclusions about his behavior based on his tone? Yes. Was she right? Timmy gave insufficient context to know. Was your discussion with him apologetic of creeping? I don’t think so. Are you policing Kat’s inferences? Yes, and that’s why you’re getting the pushback you are. That’s my take. I think I better drop it, though, as John has indicated he’d like us to get back on the topic and not the tactics used in one of the many debates on the last thread.

  390. I would just like to say, in general, that “dropping it” is a lot more convincing before you give your final comments than after. The latter can look like just trying to get the last word. In extreme cases it can look like “no touchbacks!”

  391. @ Xopher Halftongue

    Fair enough. I wasn’t trying to get in the last word, but I can definitely see how it would come across that way. I could have worded it better than just saying I’ll drop it. If Greg wishes to reply to my comment, I’ll be happy to read it and hopefully John will show him the same patience he showed me or otherwise delete both comments. But I won’t reply, and I wanted Greg to know that it was because John indicated it was time to drop it and not because I was ignoring Greg. I will listen, but I have said all I feel comfortable saying on that particular subject.

    John, I know it’s not your responsibility, but, if Greg replies to my last comment and you decide to delete it, I’d ask as a favor that you delete my comment as well in the interest of fair play. Either way, thank you for your listening.

  392. Delete if inappropriate (obviously), but I think I see where some of the disconnect is about the “grind” thing may have originated. I was assuming (as Kat apparently was) that Timmy was talking about grind dancing, a recognized form of dancing, and I’m guessing from rereading posts that Greg assumed that Timmy was describing activity that might be described as something close to dry humping. That could account for our different pictures of the situation and our different reactions. So at least for that part, we appear to have been talking past each other.

  393. BW: “Written consent forms”? Oh, please. I get that you’re exaggerating for effect, but the effect is that you look like you’re kind of freaking out.

    No, I’m not freaking out. You’re attempt to remove any possibility of misunderstanding from human interaction by saying “grinding” signals nothing is just simply ludicrous. As ludicrous as written consent forms are.

    BW: I think I see where some of the disconnect is about the “grind” thing may have originated. I was assuming (as Kat apparently was) that Timmy was talking about grind dancing, a recognized form of dancing, and I’m guessing from rereading posts that Greg assumed that Timmy was describing activity that might be described as something close to dry humping.

    Oh good grief.

    From wiikipedia:

    Grinding, also known as freak dancing or freaking or, in the Caribbean, wining,[1] is a type of close partner dance where two or more dancers rub or bump their bodies against each other, especially a male dancer rubbing his crotch against a female dancer’s buttocks, in imitation of rear-entry or “doggie-style” intercourse.

    Here’s the thing. If every time someone says “we were doing (THIS) which I thought might mean she was interested in a kiss” and you say “but (THIS) doesn’t mean anything, she didn’t consent to a kiss”, then you remove every non-verbal type of communication in human relationships, leaving, yes, written consent forms as the only way to protect oneself from sexual assault being defined purely in the woman’s head and removing any sort of reasonableness in the situation.

    So, I’ll direct you back to my scenario at 12:02 pm that ended with STOP THE PRESSES! CALL THE COPS! and ask you to apply the LEGAL definition of sexual assault and tell me if YOU were on the jury would you find me GUILTY of sexual assault? And you can replay the situation two different ways, one we’re dancing the form of dance known as “grinding” as described in wikipedia, and two she’s actually grinding on my leg.

    Because, nothing you’ve said has said anything that allows for a misunderstanding of non-verbal communication.

  394. Just noticed something: the initial comments about sexual assault? That was after Timmy had said, “For example, if you ask girls for permission before you kiss them then sure, you mitigate the risk of discomfort, but girls find it extremely unsexy,” ( http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/09/an-incomplete-guide-to-not-creeping/#comment-350799 ) BEFORE he’d said anything about grinding. *Maybe* it looks unclear from the hindsight of him trying to qualify it later, but by itself it looks pretty dang clear.

    Then when he did bring up grinding ( http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/08/09/an-incomplete-guide-to-not-creeping/#comment-351048 ), he said, “I’m talking about the kind of situation when you’re in a club and some girl is dancing/grinding with you and you sense, based on your interpretation of the available social cues, that it’s the right moment to go for it; this was how I met most of my girlfriends in my teens, and yes I occasionally got it wrong, but I recognised my mistake and backed off if that was the case, and if I never took that risk then I would probably be a virgin now.” Sure, grinding is very sexual, but it seems not everyone looks at it exactly the same way, or as permission to go further. And if it’s as obviously clearcut as all that, then um… why did he “occasionally [get] it wrong?” Are there that many women out there who say, “Yes, you can kiss me. You bastard, why did you just kiss me?!” So, um, maybe verbal consent would be better. Instead of just taking that “risk” that’s really not much of a risk for him so much as for the girl.

  395. We’ve had lots of “Life isn’t fair” here. Life isn’t reasonable, either. Communication cannot be perfect, not even within one person, let alone two, or two and an observer. We’d been talking and dancing in her home. I took her into my arms and slowly, kissed her, she pushed me back and slapped me, hard, put her hands on her mouth, stared at me, and threw her arms around my neck, and began softly and repeatedly kissing my face where she’d slapped, crying and saying she was sorry and she had wanted me to kiss her.

    There’s not great meaning in that. Perhaps that no one gets to understand perfectly.

  396. Liberal Dan: “I personally dislike the term mansplaining. To me, it is a sexist term used by people who are supposed to be fighting sexism. It is, as if, a man isn’t supposed to be able to explain what he means and when he does, he is wrong for doing so.” — That’s not what mansplaining is. “Mansplaining” is the following behaviors:

    1) A man explaining to women stuff they already know and are far more familiar with than the man, such as quite often sexism and women being harassed or work stuff, etc. Exp: A man telling a woman, “If you go to a dance club, men will hit on you.” The man treats the woman like a child who cannot possibly know what the man knows. It is a male privilege sexist behavior. The woman is expected to sit patiently through the man’s lecture to her of what she already knows. If she does not, the man gets upset at her and feels she is being mean or picking on him.

    2) A man explaining to women his version of issues that effect her, such as telling her what she should view as sexism and what she should not, and expecting her to agree with him and getting upset if she does not. Exp: “If you grind dance with a man at a club, he can fondle, kiss and do what he wants to your body, even if you protest, because you have given him non-verbal consent which cannot be rescinded and you are now his property.” (Otherwise known as the “she was totally asking for it” argument.) If a woman does not accept the man’s version of these issues, he gets upset at her and insists that she should and is being mean or picking on him.

    3) A man explaining that because a woman did something wrong or because he believes she did something wrong, then all women are guilty of X or all women or nearly all act in a certain way, think in a certain way or are a certain way. This is the corner root of minority prejudice — the assertion that the members of a minority group are responsible for the actions of any member of the group and share that behavior. Exp: “Women are only interested in attractiveness, like this girl I know. If a guy who looks like Brad Pitt hits on them, they’ll never call it harassment.” If a woman does not agree with this characterization of women, the man gets upset and insists that she should and is being mean or picking on him.

    4) A man explaining for a woman to other men what the woman means as if she is not capable of saying so herself or capable of being understood by the men unless a man interprets for her. Variant: a man repeating exactly what a woman just said and the other men then accepting it from the man and giving the man credit for what was said. This is mostly a workplace one that happens a lot, but it can happen in social situations as well,

    These are all examples of males asserting male privilege, sometimes without realizing it, placing the women in a subordinate, child’s role, attempting to dominate the woman and showing anger if she objects or refuses to agree. Or as someone else mentioned, it is condescending-plaining. It is part of the systemic social set-up in which men are trained from an early age to do this and women are told from an early age that they are supposed to put up with it and go along with it. Women however are less likely to do so now, just like they are now less likely to let SFF authors fondle their breasts at conventions than they had to put up with in the 1970’s, and are more likely to call men out on it in some societies. The women are then told that they are being terribly unfair (because they are not going along with it,) and not letting the guy speak and a lot of other nonsense. Like, a guy then complaining that a woman is “playing the mansplaining card.”

    Whether you think you are mansplaining or not doesn’t matter because again and for the hundredth time, you can’t control what other people think of you. You might want to consider your own behavior to see if she might have a point, but of course you don’t have to. And we’re really used to men deciding that they don’t have to. But the upset at us for daring to use that term with a man making what we feel to be a sexist domination play? A lot of us don’t care if you’re upset about it anymore than you care if we’re upset that you’re speaking in what we feel to be condescending, domineering sexist terms. We are very used to people being upset at us for not thinking that they are nice, totally not sexist guys (or women) and that society is not a totally equal, not sexist society. But at least now you’ll know what mansplaining means.

  397. I’m still scratching my head at the idea that “attractiveness” is some kind of innate trait that some lucky souls have and the great unwashed masses must learn to live without. Wasn’t there a study that concluded that the only universal beauty standards were symmetrical features and unblemished skin and that everything else was culturally or personally relative?

    Or, as Henry Rollins put it: You walked by and someone went, “Damn, I’m going to hit that shit, man…”
    So you are hot. No matter what you look like you are hot. And hopefully you find that person who thinks you’re hot and you think they’re hot and you have a hot time together. Or maybe you don’t. Or maybe the people who think you’re hot, you don’t think they’re hot, but someone thinks you’re hot. And so never think that you’re not hot.

    A lot of the discomfort that we’re allegedly discussing here springs at least in part from a hotness mismatch–if I think somebody’s hot and that person doesn’t find me hot, then I can do any number of things about it, some more productive than others.

    1. I can whine at the person to just give me a chaaaaance and grumble at how shallow they’re being.
    2. I can make an effort to make myself more attractive to that person.
    3. I can walk away and look for a different hot person who also finds me hot.

    I think it’s been well established in this very post that Option 1 doesn’t work and just makes you creepy and annoying. As Mr. Scalzi says, you can’t control what people think of you and it’s useless and frustrating to try. Option 2 really depends on what you’d have to do to up your attractiveness quotient. I can work on my own self-confidence and that’s a bonus no matter what the outcome. On the other hand, if the guy I like is into chesty blondes, I have no interest in bleaching my hair or mutilating my body in order to be to his taste. I generally go for Option 3 and it’s served me well enough.

    PS–anybody who brings up the argument “Well, it’s easy for you because you’re attractive!” gets laughed at and then punched in the face. Thank you.

  398. @ Mea August 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    “I haven’t been wading into these conversations much…”

    You should wade more, because this:
    “the broader conversation [the] sf community has been having to make the creepERs pay the price of their behavior instead of having the need to defend against that behavior be a externalized tax that falls on everyone but most heavily on women.”

    is so very YES.

    I think that’s where a lot of the (what I perceive to be mostly straight, white, male [SWM]) push-back comes from. (As much as I despise ending sentences with a preposition, argh.) SWM is the easiest difficulty setting, and asking someone to do more work generates resistance. Our society generally makes women and minorities do the vast majority of the unpaid work that keeps a society civil. Non-SWMs are constantly aware of our presentation, on guard against how we might be perceived, and wary of attack. An attack can be verbal, physical, social, economic… we analyze situations and circumstances, then dress and speak and censor ourselves in more ways and in consideration of more factors than the average SWM has to do.

    A SWM goes to a convention thinking, “what neat thing will I see, whose autograph will I get, where will I eat, what am I going to wear,” and maybe, if he’s the cautious sort, “will I get pick-pocketed, or mugged in the parking garage, and what will I do to prepare against that”? Some men might have a mental list that includes “will I hook up?” A non-SWM needs to add in the near-certainty that “I will be assaulted, insulted, abused, and/or discriminated.” How often, at what level, depends on the venue. Every decision, every choice, before and during the event, is made with the awareness of potential harm. The fact that non-SWMs don’t exist in a constant state of panic, dressed in a crash suit, and armed to the teeth is kind of remarkable, when I really think about it.

    But that same (and necessary, in order to get on with living life,) sangfroid by women, POCs, etc,. in regards to the background threat level of being a non-SWM in our culture, means that many SWMs don’t realize that the threat is there and is being constantly taken into account.

    The recent conversations, online and off, about creepering, harassment, and even rape, are an attempt to make the more entitled class take on some of the work, pay some of the interpersonal taxes, share the burden. Who wants to take on more work? If every person always asked, “May I kiss you?” instead of some going for it, or said “Do you hug?” or “May I join you?” the background threat level would decrease, and those most likely to be targeted by unwanted advances could relax and quit worrying, there could be many more friendly and interesting conversations, some of which might develop into greater intimacy, et cetera, and it would probably be a hell of a lot easier for everyone to get laid.

    Because, yes, it is correct that perfectly nice people are misinterpreted as being creepers, especially when the power dynamic or level of entitlement is unequal. The person with less power is on alert: not every SWM is a serial rapist, but some are, and most serial rapists are SWMs, so while the base assumption of a woman approached by a male is not rapist, the possibility that he could be is present and not irrational. So, while she may not be aware of looking for signs, on some level she is. And if the woman has been raped, or attacked, or subject to stalking or harassment, she might be on high alert, even more defensive. Unfortunately, in our society (and most on this planet), women have to live as defensively as one might drive.

    So, I guess my thesis is that if male nerds want to get laid, more often, then it behooves them to create an environment in which female nerds/non-SWMs/the objects of attraction will not feel threatened, and mind-reading is not required, instead of protesting that they are being misinterpreted and that female nerds (et al) need to learn to read minds. We try, we really do, but it’s hard, and we are wrong about as often as one would expect. Crazily enough, many people are hugely attracted to people who treat them as if they are interesting, intelligent, and worth listening to, instead of as potential (stealing a phrase, here, because it’s one of the most perfect things, ever) penis-wetters. Height, weight, physical symmetry, eye color… all these are secondary, minor, or even irrelevant, as demonstrated by the fact that we have not gone extinct as a species.

    Yes, it requires more work by SWMs, but right now we live in a society in which non-SWMs are always calculating a high potential risk versus a potentially meager reward. A better dynamic is one in which everyone is doing an equal amount of labor to ensure an equally rewarding outcome, whether it be super-awesome sexytimes, or just a short, pleasant conversation.

    I think I just described communism. Gracious!

  399. I think I just described communism. Gracious!

    Thanks for that, “the creeps are spoiling it for the rest of you AS WELL AS for women” sounds a lot more salable to the sector of the market that tends to get a bit zero-sum about feminist expectations.

  400. @ Xopher Halftongue

    The feeling’s mutual. And I always appreciate it when someone non-hostilely points out where what I say might reasonably be taken in a way other than I intended, as it helps me get across what I mean to say.

    @ mintwitch & Adrian Smith

    Actually, it’s a tragedy of the commons, a concept that, although it is often erroneously attributed to Marxist theory, arose from mid-20th century ecologists studying community grazing land use in medieval Europe, and is well applicable to capitalism and unplanned economies in general.

  401. Old feminist: “*Both* should stop the interaction?”

    Both circumstances should cause the individual doing the creeping to stop the interaction. Sorry that wasn’t more clear.

    “I’m smelling a little bit of “they’re both at fault” here. What exactly do you mean by this? That the interaction should just be “over,” no harm, no foul?”

    I see how you can think that by how it was worded. If a person is doing creeping, that person should leave the situation, regardless of what the circumstances might be. Sorry for the confusion.

  402. Kat: Ahh, but I did none of those things that were said, yet the label was placed on my actions.

    I provided a link that provides a really good explanation about why it is a horrible term.

    I also suggest you read one of my blog posts. http://liberaldan.com/?p=13 While I didn’t discuss the label of mansplaining, it could easily fit.

  403. Xopher: “In fact lots of people do that all the time.” Yep, I know I’m guilty as charged, even in my little bit of time here. It’s so tempting… “Just this one more thing! Okay, I’m done.”

  404. Mintwitch

    Thanks for the kind words. You definitely got my point about externalities*

    But you also said “it would probably be a hell of a lot easier for everyone to get laid” and my other point is that a lot of us don’t want to get laid. I don’t share a table at lunch having an open mind about possibilities. I know I’m not at all interested in having a sexual encounter with the kind gentleman who just offered to share his table. I am absolutely clear on that point (reasons can vary and be more than one of the following: already involved, celibate, not my type, or emphatically not the reason I am in that public space).

    I get that you, mintwitch, are focusing on what will get through to guys who are feeling threatened by this conversation about creepers and how to not be a creep. But “and this is a better strategy for getting laid!” is likely to still encourage a lot of mixed and crossed signals. My suggestion to every strawman** nerd trying to “get laid” is to create an honest profile on a dating site, focus your overt mate seeking/sexual goals in a forum where you can be honest about that being your goal, and enter other public spaces knowing and accepting that most people (even the extremely attractive ones you really like) are not in that public space looking for a sexual encounter. It is true that stopping wrongly directed behavior is in practice likely to increase chances at finding a soulmate in a non-sexual forum. But that is not my reason for advocating for cutting down on creepERs and creepy behavior. It might sound harsh saying to take your mate-seeking to an entirely different forum, but I’ve been to more than one wedding that started from an honest search for a mate via on-line dating. And there are sites for more casual encounters. My advice to the generic straw nerd seeking to get laid is: Be honest about what you are seeking, and seek the right forum for that goal, and make damned sure it is a consenting adults making free choices forum. And if that doesn’t work, “make friends with your hands” or start the serious work to change yourself into a more attractive package in the mate market.

    Or switch to discussions elsewhere on the internets on how to not be a creep when paying for sex, if that is even possible (If a person decides to pay for sex, that person has the extra obligation to limit the search to sex workers who are adults and able to say and enforce saying “no” and located in physical, mental, and emotional places where saying no — and thus its opposite, uncoerced consent — is even possible. In other words, a lot more vetting than asking the sex worker and being willfully deluded by the answer.). I have mixed feelings about bringing up the concept of paying for sex because I am not at all convinced that there are happy hookers anywhere, but it highlights the fact that sex is not free. No one is owed a sexual encounter. “Getting laid” is an exchange that takes two willing participants — anything else is a crime. Finding a willing participant takes energy and so does vetting people and rejecting advances. The transformation of our public spaces into dating sites comes at a price to those public spaces. Putting out “I am not available” signals takes energy and attention and wariness, and all of that sucks when I am just trying to (decide whether or not to) have a chat with someone.

    *externalities are to me slightly different than the tragedy of the commons. SOME tragedy of the commons situations can be solved by making the commons private, like when Iceland assigned fishing rights so private parties had a strong motive to protect fish stocks. Not at all sure how tragedy of the commons applies to this conversation, unless it is an analogy to the degradation of public spaces, with solution NOT being privatization but rather regulated use of still-public resources?

    ** straw nerd so it is clear that this isn’t directed at anyone in specific.

  405. “Liberal Dan: Kat: Ahh, but I did none of those things that were said, yet the label was placed on my actions.”

    Actually, you did #2 on the mansplaining chart and you’re still doing it. :) Writing blog posts to explain to women why they are totally wrong about the whole thing and should instead accept your explanation of what the word means, as if you were in charge of defining it for women, is pretty much the essence of mansplaining. You do not control what she thinks of you. That is the point of Sclazi’s post. Therefore, she can place any label on your actions/words she feels fits those words and actions. She in turn can’t control what you think of her. And so you can complain that she is being unfair and should really just go along with what you think. And since you can’t control what any of us think about your words, we can ignore your whining that our opinions are invalid and we shouldn’t criticize men, and particularly you, in this manner.

  406. @ Mea: Yes, I totally get you and agree. I did wander a bit in my musings, which I noticed, and tried to rein myself in by returning to the point that the mutual reward could be a nice conversation, or sexy-times. Or Scrabble, or spontaneous team basket-weaving. I wasn’t clear, I apologize for that. People meet compatible others in all sorts of non-sexual venues–the library, the bus, family get togethers, etc.– and I was hoping to convey that for those for whom sexy-times might occasionally be a welcome development, the creepers are ruining it for everyone, male or female, interested and not.

    It’s a difficult line to walk, especially in writing, perhaps. Sex and sexuality are part of culture, but women are systemically denied control over our own sexuality. As a gender, we are sexualized without our consent. I think that sometimes this means that conversations about harassment and safe spaces become a binary of “men just want to get laid, versus women just want to have tea and chat about Dr Who.” Sometimes both parties want to discuss the BBC over a cuppa, and sometimes both parties want to get sweaty, or are possibly not completely adverse to the idea, perhaps after a scintillating debate over which Dr is the best. I get incredibly frustrated, even irritated, that part of the net effect of unsafe spaces and harassment is that no one gets the opportunity to enjoy expressing their sexuality, if they so choose. Instead of the first or default assumption being a fun chat about an SF show, the default has to be “is he a creeper/is she perceiving me as a creeper?”

    At this time in my life, I’m currently not at all interested in sex, but at one time, I very, very much was, and pretty much all the time. Frankly, I don’t think I could have turned off my interest in the middle of a hurricane. Organic chemistry II certainly couldn’t. SF conventions, with lots of interesting people saying and doing interesting things? I assure you, my girlie loins were very much aflutter. That’s not why I went, nor did I ever have an interaction more intimate than ‘which is your favorite Star Trek movie/captain/series,’ but I’ve met partners in even less sexual contexts, so it’s not unthinkable. Heck, people meet in church, possibly the least sexual venue, and end up partnered. As a species, we are constantly evaluating each other, as potential threats, mates, friends, or enemies.

    I admit, I still occasionally enjoy gentle flirtation that will never lead to anything physical, because that can be intellectually stimulating. People can be quite funny and interesting when they are showing off a bit, and I quite enjoy being the audience for that type of performance. But creepering/harassment shuts down much of the glorious variety of human interaction, and that makes me sad.

    I hope this comment is less problematic?

  407. Ah, mansplaining. That’s like when the guy selling me a pretzel at the Great American Beer Fest notices I’m wearing a Rush T-Shirt (Roll the Bones album cover art) and proceeds to tell me there’s this one Neil Peart solo — “he’s the drummer, but I bet you didn’t know that he writes all the lyrics, too” — which he proceeds to describe to me in great detail — “you have GOT to check it out, you are totally unprepared, it will blow your mind” — and I’m all, Yes, you’re describing the solo in the middle of YYZ on the live album Exit… Stage Left. I’m very familiar. I have all the albums and can list them in chronological order, giving year of release, album label, and producer for each. But he just keeps going, “No, no, you have to listen to it, you don’t understand, it will blow your mind.”

    You’d think the T-shirt would have been a give-away. But I suppose there’s also the Joe Peacock factor; being female (everyone knows women aren’t Rush fans; they just tolerate their boyfriends/husbands dragging them to concerts), I could safely be assumed to be a Fake Fan trying to attract the attention of the real fans whose presumed demographic (i.e. adult male) was well represented at the Fest.

    I’m sure the same people who have been complaining about the sexism in the term “mansplaining” will also tell me I can’t read his mind, I can’t know there was sexism involved in his doggedly asserting his superior knowledge despite anything I said (and talking over me half the time)… but that, too, would be mansplaining — telling me that I, a mere woman (and thus irrational and prone to overthinking things and looking for sexism everywhere to give myself an excuse to be angry!), am not as qualified to spot sexism as someone who wasn’t even there, but is, nevertheless, male, and therefore automatically better at determining whether an individual incidence fits the overall societal pattern of sexism which I live, day by day, on the receiving end of. And of course the individual incidence never does. There’s always a way to say “but in THIS case it’s not sexism, promise, because Reasons,” if you’re a mansplainer.

    (That said, this was about the only gendered nonsense I encountered going to the Beer Fest two years running.* Which rather puts the lie to what the assbags over on the DefCon post (linked above, I think) who insist “What did you expect, ladies? There was alcohol involved. Of course you were going to get groped.” Which is also mansplaining!)

    (Actually, no, there was one other thing — but it was the name of a brewery which I’ve now forgot but whose beer turned out to be pretty gol-dang awful. Seriously, if the brewery’s name makes me go “ORLY?” involuntarily every time I look up at their banner, I really oughtn’t to be tempted to taste their swill.)

    Don’t you love it when you point out that sexist behavior has a gendered component, and you get called the sexist for pointing it out? Complaining about the “sexism” in the term mansplaining is like complaining that feminists are the real sexists because if they weren’t they’d be humanists.

    Whee.

  408. “Complaining about the “sexism” in the term mansplaining is like complaining that feminists are the real sexists because if they weren’t they’d be humanists.”

    Glorious.

    But, seriously. There are *humans* that aren’t Rush fans?

  409. Oddly, yes. I don’t pretend to understand them, mind.

    Believe it or not, I recalled this anecdote entirely in the context of “mansplaining”, and not, as one might think, because our host has a picture of the novel Clockwork Angels in a previous post. I only saw that a few minutes after.

  410. @ Gulliver: Whee!

    The Voyage Home or The Wrath of Khan, I swing back and forth/Picard/TNG

    I have to admit that I pulled the Dr Who example out of my ear. I don’t care for the series, myself, but most of my fannish and geek friends do, so I thought it would be an accessible choice. I’m a Torchwood & Sherlock fan, and much more comfortable discussing actors who’ve played Holmes and Watson. Sorry. (Basil Rathbone and Edward Hardwicke, although Martin Freeman has been giving a wonderful interpretation, recently.)

  411. @Other Bill (and Nicole): “But, seriously. There are *humans* that aren’t Rush fans?”

    Demonstrably. Hello. I’ve heard of them. Don’t they do that Tom Sawyer song? That is where my knowledge and interest both begin and end. Oh! And they are Canadian! I like Canada, and the Canadians I have met have been almost universally lovely. So, the odds are high that if I met them, I would like them, but that is nothing like a fan.

    I’m afraid I’ve tuned out countless monologues about the unequaled awesomeness of many bands, including Rush, mostly by my wife. I’m sure that’s why I’ve heard of them, can name a song, and know their nationality, w/o resorting to Google.

  412. @ mintwitch

    The Voyage Home is a very close second cuz…whales!
    Doctor Who is my guilty pleasure. The writing is atrocious, and the new series sucks even worse than the classic Who serials, but I can’t stop. They’re like skittles. I took the TARDIS woosh off my ringtone, though. Now it’s Star Trekkin’ by The Firm :)
    Torchwood grew on me. Good characters, iffy writing.
    Being a fan of Doyle’s books, and murder mysteries in general, I didn’t think I’d like the new Sherlock Holmes, but it’s actually pretty good. Thank Dog for Netflix.
    If you change your mind about trying some Rush, I’m partial to Red Barchetta

  413. @Nicole – I totally believe that. Other people play six degrees of Kevin Bacon. I play two degrees of Rush. Why two degrees? Because Rush.

    DID YOU KNOW THAT – TRUE STORY – IN THE ORIGINAL TAKE OF CONAN’S WHAT IS BEST IN LIFE RESPONSE HE PREFACED IT WITH RUSH?

    @mintwitch:

    I don’t even-I don’t-I mean-how does one live?

  414. Liberal Dan mansplains about mansplaining. It’s mansplaining turtles all the way down, folks.

    The basics of the complaint are that this guy (it’s always a guy) tells women they’re doing feminism wrong, and if only they’d listen to HIM they’d be doing it right. Usually because his feeeeeeelings got hurt when they did it the wrong way. I mean, you can’t have a feminism that results in any man geting his feeeeeeeeeeeeelings hurt. That’s sexism.

    Which loops nicely back to the topic at hand: Yes, you do get to have your feelings hurt, and no it’s not sexism if a woman finds you creepy and asks you to back off. Trust me, women find men creepy because, frequently, men are creepy towards women. If you get his by the scattershot, and all you were doing was asking for directions to the knitting store, this is caused by so many men being creepy that the woman you just spoke to could not trust you, because you were a man, and finding you creepy just fits the pattern best.

    It is not her fault. It is not your fault. Unless you’re the sort of person who shrugs and worries more about being found creepy than stopping creepy behavior.

    In situations like this, I curse the patriarchy. If you have problems with the word “patriarchy” you are pretty much part of the problem that causes some women to find you creepy just for asking directions to the knitting shop. You are an enabler. Of creepy men.

    HTH. HAND.

  415. Ah yes, Nicole, your Rush story reminds me of the guy who insisted on explaining Tolkien to me after I’d told him Tolkien’s my favorite author. It went something like, “I don’t know if you know much about Tolkien, but…” “Actually, yes I do, he’s my favorite author,” “but the guy was pretty weird, he…”

    Maybe not because of my gender though. Maybe my youth. Still.

    Yes, I first read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, AND The Silmarillion when I was I-don’t-even-know-how-young, but I’m pretty sure other kids were still reading Dr. Seuss. (Not that I have anything against Seuss, kept reading those too…) I have a distinct memory of myself as a kid discussing Terry Brooks and the first book of Shannara with my brothers, and laughing at one particular plot point that was supposed to be sad, because I knew from Tolkien where it was headed. I did a research paper on Tolkien my freshman year of high school, and that was hardly the last time I read about him. My brothers (and later, I) routinely named their Final Fantasy characters in Quenyan and Sindarin. My sister and I named our blogs in Quenyan. I studied linguistics in college myself. Tolkien is my hero.

    Sir, you can stop disparaging him to me now. Thanks. *sigh* I guess “favorite author” doesn’t equate to that level of obsession for everyone, but really. You’re going to tell me now how crazy he was to treat his world so seriously? Aaaah.

  416. Marcy

    Oh yes, that definitely rings an entire cathedral full of bells but very, very rarely it can be amusing.

    I was once cornered in a coffee room prior to a seminar by a guy who was worried that I might have difficulties with the seminar because it was about highly complex financial instruments. I did my best to tell him that actually he need not be concerned on my behalf, but naturally I couldn’t get a word in edge ways since he knew that I needed help because he’d had some experience of them and knew them to be very, very complicated.

    It was only when we walked into the seminar room and I headed for the rostrum that it finally dawned on him that I was the person who was going to do the explaining…

  417. @mintwitch – Hey, it’s OK, to each their inexplicable own, you know? :-) (I am not particularly a Tolkien fan, which others probably find equally inexplicable.)

    @Marcy: “Maybe not because of my gender though. Maybe my youth. Still.” I’ve come to the conclusion that these are often linked. There is a long tradition of treating adult women as though they were children — and I hear it doesn’t stop when we have children of our own — and then tell us to take it as a compliment in the “you don’t look a day over 21″ way. Which is not only ageism (why should youth be considered better than age?) but also more sexism (denying to acknowledge a woman has lived her own years of experience and, in worse cases, that she has adult agency). See also “men and girls” (oh, Timmy), “Hilary versus Obama,” and any number of infantilizing terms like chick and doll and babe employed as sexual come-ons or simply as blanket words for “hot” women (or women at all). (Hey, if that’s what you and your sweetie call each other, fine. It’s random guy on the street referring to me that way that’s Not On.)

    As I’ve grumbled to friends, the next man who accosts me on the street with “How are you, young lady?” gets the response “Doing fine, little boy, how about you?” in my gravelliest and sarcastickest voice.

  418. mintwitch says:

    A SWM goes to a convention thinking, “what neat thing will I see, whose autograph will I get, where will I eat, what am I going to wear,” and maybe, if he’s the cautious sort, “will I get pick-pocketed, or mugged in the parking garage, and what will I do to prepare against that”? Some men might have a mental list that includes “will I hook up?” A non-SWM needs to add in the near-certainty that “I will be assaulted, insulted, abused, and/or discriminated.” How often, at what level, depends on the venue. Every decision, every choice, before and during the event, is made with the awareness of potential harm. The fact that non-SWMs don’t exist in a constant state of panic, dressed in a crash suit, and armed to the teeth is kind of remarkable, when I really think about it.

    Yep, but you know, if we did, we’d be reviled for being hostile and man-hating and delusional. Noticing sexism and racism is worse than racism or sexism because it calls out a privilege we’re supposed to pretend doesn’t exist. Makes someone uncomfortable or threatened.

    Everyone is exposed to some level of cognitive dissonance when navigating interpersonal relations, of course, but women and minorities get a lot more of it.

    If we avoid or retreat from situations where we expect to encounter this kind of crap, we’re told we don’t have what it takes to compete in “the real world” proving what they say about us being weak sauce while saying “we treat you the same what’re you cryin about you fat ugly whore.”

  419. New Who > Torchwood > Old Who.

    Tennant > Smith > Eccleston; haven’t watched enough of the older ones to judge them…though frankly I cannot STAND to watch Old Who (cheesey sets, glacial pace, eyerolling writing, atrocious acting).

    Picard. DS9.

    Tolkien: Aren’t the Tengwar an atrocious alphabet? Lovely to look at, but hopelessly impractical as a writing system.

    Marcy: I also studied linguistics, though Tolkien’s influence was only partly to blame. He was no graphologist! Or perhaps he was making a point that Elves’ brains work very differently than humans’, and that’s why Tengwar are wholly unreadable to humans (‘laboriously decipher’ != ‘read’). Sindarin and Quenya show his love for both Latin and one or more of the Gaelics, which I share: I love the look (when written in Roman characters!) and sound of both.

  420. Some people who are not minority members seem to keep bringing up “but what about the minority members” as a sort-of-derail. I thought I should chime in. The argument that people who are homophobic/heterosexist are going to be uncomfortable when talking to people who are gay, and that the gay person shouldn’t just have to cease to exist, and that therefore this idea is wrong… well, thanks, sort of. But that doesn’t fit how it actually works in my life.

    Some people, generally straight women, are likely to perceive me in a negative light because of things they believe about lesbians. I know this is true and sometimes I encounter it. They may believe I’m hitting on them whether or not that’s my intention, or that I won’t respect their sexual orientation and will try to convert them, or that all gay people are just Super Duper Bad. I can’t control what they think. By saying hi, I’m not intentionally doing Make Straight Chick Feel Threatened, but some of them will have that reaction to my hair before I open my mouth.

    I don’t, unlike a lot of the he-didn’t-mean-it apologists here, actually blame that particular woman. She’s heard a lot of crap. Perhaps she’s had a negative experience and generalized it to all lesbians. She has almost certainly had negative experiences with men who did not respect her autonomy and boundaries – we pretty nearly all do at some point. Sometimes I feel like crap. Sometimes I grumble, later, to friends, like when no one would come near me on a dance floor because OMG GAY COOTIES and I was going to be in that place for three days and was feeling horribly isolated. But really, the people who hate and fear me because gay do so for a lot of reasons, which I don’t know and I can’t fix. If someone edges away when she figures it out (I am consistently shocked that anyone needs to figure it out, as I am a walking stereotype), I go away myself.

    This is different from being discriminated against because, as others have said again and again, this woman’s time and attention is not something I have the right of equal access to. I can wish she wasn’t creeped out by a trait of mine, but that doesn’t mean I chase her down and explain that I’m a very nice lesbian really and I just wanted her to talk to me and why doesn’t she like gay people can’t she tell we’re really just misunderstood?

    So please stop doing “what about the minorities” and “discriminating based on personal characteristics” crap. Those of us who are actually members of minorities people find distressing have to navigate that all the time, day in and day out. It sucks, and so does having our experiences erased by someone just trying to make a point about how women owe unattractive men their attention.

    (Also, good gods, the heterocentrism in a lot of this thread has been off the charts. Normally folks around here are pretty good about that sort of thing, so it’s startling to suddenly find that apparently all women are looking for men and all men are looking for women. Who knew?)

  421. Tessuraea

    John’s post covers a lot of ground, and most of that ground has nothing to do with sex. The fact that some individuals wish to turn just about anything into a why am I not getting laid lament is certainly relevant to his themes, but not in a good way.

    And one of the points I’ve been trying to make is that all women aren’t looking for men; I can’t speak for anyone else…

  422. Josh Jasper: No Josh, I was just sharing my feelings, not telling anyone else how they should feel or how they should be feminists. That is, of course, up to them. Nor have I suggested otherwise. And that is one of my other problems with the term “mansplaining”. Not only does it stick a negative
    on something just by attaching a male gender to it, but it asserts that a person is trying to tell others what they should be doing when sometimes the person is just explaining how that person feels.

    I do QUESTION the use of a pejorative when describing what an ally is used. Please see the post on my blog about my letter from an imperfect male feminist.

  423. *cough* I, um, can’t stand Rush. My ex-husband had a party game based on how long it took, after Rush came up on Guitar Hero, before I was out on the balcony with the smokers (and I’ve never smoked cigarettes in my life.) Average time was fifteen seconds.

    But I respect your right to love Rush and find fulfillment in it! No Rush-based othering here! I promise! To each their own! I’m just more of a Tom Waits fan…

  424. @mintwitch: yes, we are generally on the same page. My posts try to leave out messy human emotions in a way that mirrors the viewpoint of original series Spock and you are being more realistic in taking the “humans will be human” approach. To which I agree completely, but raise my eyebrow.

    On the fandom rating question, I love hearing why people like one show more than another because i like talking individual attributes but i don’t tend to have ranked top ten lists (I find the Top Ten Places To Visit!!! Hierarchy of Worth Mentality exhaustingly narrow).

    But on my not very ranked list of SF I really enjoy is Original Trek (Spock!), DS9, Voyager, and to a lesser extent TNG (Patrick Stewart!), all of the new Who, long scarf Who, all creatures great and small Who (can you tell I’m bad at remembering actor’s names?), Torchwood (Cardiff!)…well, I could keep going on. I watch and enjoy aspects of the Sherlock Holmes remake with Bennidict C. (love the main characters but the episode in season one that was a bit too true to original Sherlock Holmes Victorian “Orientals” as exotic others, well it left a very bad taste in my mouth).

    Tessuraea: thanks for speaking up. if I was contributing to the hetro normative narrowness (and I think I was) – oops. I apologize. This conversation is much more broad than male-female interactions, so why did i go all hetro-normative? the underlying problem that originally sparked the conversations (creeper making SF spaces feel unsafe) has its roots in the patriarchy in a way that focuses my attention on male-female interactions. John’s posts have been very gender neutral, however. Part of my framing is due to my personal experience – despite being in quite a few all-woman mostly lesbian contexts, I’ve NEVER had to defensively extract myself from a conversation with a woman in the way I much more routinely have had to do with straight men. As a result, I’m more open to talking with unknown women, regardless of sexual orientation. I’m sorry that you have had to navigate around a fair amount of freak-out.

  425. Kat: I am sorry if you feel that anything I have done classifies as #2. I have to respectfully disagree with you. That you would take a statement on how someone feels and take it as a demand on what others should do, well, there is nothing I can do about that.

  426. You know, I just realized I’m more likely to be blatantly, even pointedly, gay when I’m chatting with a woman I’ve just met. It’s not always a conscious effort to put her at ease and reassure her that my interest is in the conversation and I’m not hitting on her, but I have done it deliberately as well.

    Yes, that’s manipulative. Is there any reason I should cut it out? (I’m mostly asking the women in the room, but not averse to hearing from others.)

  427. Xopher

    I personally think it’s helpful, provided it is safe for you to do so, because not everyone’s gaydar works perfectly; indeed, some people don’t have a gaydar at all.

    On the other hand, I have known a straight guy who make Julian Clary look like Butchdom Incarnate so it does need to be unambiguous if it is going to be a meaningful communication…

  428. @ Marcy

    I guess “favorite author” doesn’t equate to that level of obsession for everyone, but really.

    I do try to keep in mind when discussing my passions with people that it’s a little pompous to assume they have all the same background knowledge. If they express interest in what information I have to offer to a conversation, I try to use probing questions to get a sense of the depth of their knowledge on the subject, so I don’t waste my time or theirs talking down to them. But if I’m in a group, I’ll often explain some background anyway in case not everyone is as up on the topic. When I do that, I endeavor to make it apparent that I’m talking to the group and not just the person who answered do you know what nonlinear dynamics is with a nod and a yeah. That said, people who don’t listen to the feedback of their conversational partners nor otherwise let anyone else get a word in edgewise are really obnoxious.

    You’re going to tell me now how crazy he was to treat his world so seriously?

    There seems to be a subset of humanity that obsesses more about the artist than the art. I call them But I can hear the anti-Semitism in Wagner’s music people. And, hey, to each their own, but I’ll admit it amuses me.

    @ Stevie

    It was only when we walked into the seminar room and I headed for the rostrum that it finally dawned on him that I was the person who was going to do the explaining…

    I’d have liked to see the look on his face.

    @ Stevie (re: tessurae)

    And one of the points I’ve been trying to make is that all women aren’t looking for men; I can’t speak for anyone else…

    And not all straight men are looking for women all the time, or vice versa. Assuming creeping is always about sex…not actually creepy, but definitely asinine.

    @ Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Which is not only ageism (why should youth be considered better than age?)

    This is tangential, but when I was younger, I always wondered why so many people expressed reluctance about being older. Then one day I realized (as I got older) that is wasn’t always necessarily due to shallowness or ageism or cultural indoctrination; often it’s just nostalgia about time that they’ve had their one go through. Even so, the assumption that youth equals ignorance is rather ignorant. The flip side, that age automatically confers wisdom, is rarely still assumed once the person making the assumption is among their peer age group.

    As I’ve grumbled to friends, the next man who accosts me on the street with “How are you, young lady?” gets the response “Doing fine, little boy, how about you?” in my gravelliest and sarcastickest voice.

    I hope it works, and he doesn’t think it’s a come-on. I advise practicing salting the sarcasm with a bit of derision, just in case.

    @ Xopher Halftongue

    New Who > Torchwood > Old Who.

    Heretic!

    I was skeptical of Smith at first, but he’s grown on me. Still number five on my list, though.

    …though frankly I cannot STAND to watch Old Who (cheesey sets, glacial pace, eyerolling writing, atrocious acting).

    The pilot, And Unearthly Child, has the best companion of the whole franchise, Susan Foreman.

    Picard. DS9.

    I like DS9 almost as much as TNG (I’d say it ties with TOS); the story arcs are better, but TNG still has stronger individual episodes, where as TOS’s strength is its characters. B5, of course, leaves them all in the interstellar dust.

    Yes, that’s manipulative. Is there any reason I should cut it out? (I’m mostly asking the women in the room, but not averse to hearing from others.)

    How, provided you feel comfortable and safe doing so, can it be wrong to send clear signals?

    @ tessuraea

    This is different from being discriminated against because, as others have said again and again, this woman’s time and attention is not something I have the right of equal access to.

    Thank you! And I’ll add that the very fact that you recognize that puts you higher in my esteem than the homophobic a-hole exercising their just right to be left alone.

    So please stop doing “what about the minorities” and “discriminating based on personal characteristics” crap. Those of us who are actually members of minorities people find distressing have to navigate that all the time, day in and day out. It sucks, and so does having our experiences erased by someone just trying to make a point about how women owe unattractive men their attention.

    It never fails, minorities and those of us with disabilities become disproportionately popular when our utility as a human shield is notices. And the shield-wielders wonder why the rest of us are edging away from them!

    @ Liberal Dan

    And that is one of my other problems with the term “mansplaining”. Not only does it stick a negative
    on something just by attaching a male gender to it, but it asserts that a person is trying to tell others what they should be doing when sometimes the person is just explaining how that person feels.

    Personally, I think the word itself is beside the point. But you seem to be missing what is the point. Mansplaining isn’t a pejorative; it’s a signal that the person doing it is talking didactically to a woman about something the woman has firsthand experience with, as if that experience is immaterial or unimportant to Truth and Reality, and especially when that explanation is with regards to women’s experiences. When you say I don’t like the term mansplaining because it’s not what I was doing – and I grok that you weren’t doing it on purpose, but your tone came across as condescending – you overlook the fact that women actually do have to put up with men talking down to them, just because they’re female, on a regular basis. They actually do get frequently mansplained to. So when you say, I don’t like that word because it’s not what I was doing, you’re ignoring that, whether you intended to or not, you came across like all those guys who talk down to women, and that is mansplaining.

    Regarding your reply several days ago, I’m sorry you presume I’m so full of ossified assumptions that I won’t give what you say a fair shake but, well, there is nothing I can do about that.

    Also, I was not selectively quoting. I use quotes to indicate to which comments I’m replying so that others can follow the conversation. That should not be taken as any indication that I’m replying only to the passages I quote. If everyone quoted the entirety of what everyone else wrote, these threads would be an order of magnitude longer and the quotes would be useless as pointers.

    @ UrsulaV

    I’m just more of a Tom Waits fan…

    As an adopted Austenite, I’m legally required to love Tom Waits, but I would anyway.

    @ Mea

    My posts try to leave out messy human emotions in a way that mirrors the viewpoint of original series Spock and you are being more realistic in taking the “humans will be human” approach. To which I agree completely, but raise my eyebrow.

    Vulcan high five!…er, live long and prosper, I mean.

  429. @UrsulaV:

    “I’m just more of a Tom Waits fan…”

    Tom Waits. Nuff Said.

    In general, I’m flexible on the the Breathe, Live, Rush philosophy as long as we can all agree that Picard is the Captain by which which all others are measured.

  430. @ Mea: “My posts try to leave out messy human emotions in a way that mirrors the viewpoint of original series Spock and you are being more realistic in taking the “humans will be human” approach. To which I agree completely, but raise my eyebrow.”

    Heh. I tend to over-Spock in RL, these days, which can be a problem. For myself, the messy human bits are something that I need to consciously take into account, and consider as a factor. Love the eyebrow, btw.

    “…the episode in [Sherlock BBC] season one that was a bit too true to original Sherlock Holmes Victorian “Orientals” as exotic others well it left a very bad taste in my mouth.”

    Agreed! Generally the writing is very good, but The Blind Banker was disappointingly colonialist. Ref my comment below, in re “exoticism.”

    @ Xopher: “You know, I just realized I’m more likely to be blatantly, even pointedly, gay when I’m chatting with a woman I’ve just met. It’s not always a conscious effort to put her at ease and reassure her that my interest is in the conversation and I’m not hitting on her, but I have done it deliberately as well.

    “Yes, that’s manipulative. Is there any reason I should cut it out? (I’m mostly asking the women in the room, but not averse to hearing from others.)”

    I don’t think it’s manipulative, it’s just pragmatic. I do the same thing: if I think that presenting or hiding an aspect of my sexuality might make me safer, I will do so. Though, because I’m female and POC, presenting as gay in heteronormative cis-male spaces or company can actually be more dangerous. I’m likely to fall back on “long-term, monogamous, happy.” “Lesbian” is fraught with the baggage of performance for male pleasure, or alternately, as direct attack on male privilege. “Bi” eliminates the attack, but exponentially increases the perception of performance. Being a POC means all of the above is subject to exoticism, and the problems therein.

    Sigh.

  431. Too much to reply to, so I’ll just wave some flags.

    Buffy&Angel (season 1 … it’s canon; Spike’s redemption) > B5 (again, season 1 … the series is a remarkable writing accomplishment by JMS) > Firefly & Serenity > Farscape & Peacekeeper War (betrayals and redemptions like few others) > Dr. Who (I’ve only watched through the Tom Baker [best Doctor] episodes, though, and the first Doctor was great) > DS9 (last series especially good) > …. Sapphire & Steel, and Blake’s 7 should have been fit in there somewhere, and Space: Above and Beyond … TOS, TNG (too formula driven, a complaint that can be made of many episodic series), …. Space 1999 should not have been made, I can’t suspend that much belief in physics.

    Picard.

    I’ve always felt somewhat surprised when told that someone is gay or bi or … I may be straight and happily mono-married, but the road to Heaven is wide enough for all of us and more. Xoper, you’d probably have to be downright blunt, and — all of you — if you’re happy and your partner(s) are happy I am happy for you and yours.

    Han shot first.

    My wife says I alternate between Sheldon and Leonard. She alternates between Penny and Daleen (B5).

    Youth is wasted on the young. This is true primarily because of their energy, ability change, and risk taking that we become afraid of as we age. Humans don’t much like change, and stagnation leads to death. I look at my classmates; some look and move like my parents; some look and move like my nieces and nephews (and in that group are some whose marriages are now approaching fifty years.)

    I’ve made many mistakes. I try to learn from them, and not to repeat them. I’m not always successful at this, but I’ll keep trying.

    You’ve got something you really want to do, or feel your really have to do, or a conversation you really “ought” to have? Don’t put it off too long. There’s always tomorrow, true, but one of these days you won’t be here. Going to a funeral in a couple of days, a cousin almost 20 years younger than I, suddenly, maybe from heart failure. She seemed fine a month ago.

  432. Liberal Dan: “I am sorry if you feel that anything I have done classifies as #2. I have to respectfully disagree with you. That you would take a statement on how someone feels and take it as a demand on what others should do, well, there is nothing I can do about that.”

    Seriously, Dan, you’re a liberal and you’re going to go with the “I’m sorry you’re so oversensitive” apology? I never asked you for an apology. I suggested that you think about what you were saying — you were telling women they had the definition of mansplaining wrong, and that you thought they were sexist if they used the word. You were suggesting that they go to your blog where you had a post lecturing them about mansplaining. You keep accusing us of not letting you expressing your feelings or not being nice enough to you because you’re expressing your feelings. We’ve been letting you — we have no control over them — we’re just expressing our feelings back that you are talking down to women in that opinion, as Gulliver and various other people have tried to point out to you. If you’re going to go around insisting that mansplaining means a definition that you made up, you will have to expect that others, particularly women, disagree and don’t think much of you doing that.

    “No Josh, I was just sharing my feelings, not telling anyone else how they should feel or how they should be feminists. That is, of course, up to them. Nor have I suggested otherwise.”

    Really? Then what did you think this, which you said and I first responded to, meant?:

    “I personally dislike the term mansplaining. To me, it is a SEXIST term used by people who are supposed to be fighting sexism. It is, as if, a man isn’t supposed to be able to explain what he means and when he does, he is wrong for doing so.”

    You don’t think there that you were telling women that if they used the term, they were being sexists instead of feminists and therefore you were in fact saying how you thought they should be feminists? You don’t think your scolding on the word might be interpreted as you a man talking down to women about the issues that effect them? Your “feeling” was that women who use the term are doing something wrong and unfair because you define mansplaining as women picking on men for expressing their feelings and clarifying their thoughts. Notice also that you characterized women expressing their feelings in saying they thought a man was mansplaining as attempting to control the man, label him as wrong and make a demand, instead of simply expressing an opinion. So essentially, it looks, Dan, as if you’re saying that you expressing your feelings is never a demand, never calling anyone wrong even though you are saying they’re sexist, but if a woman expresses her feelings by calling you a mansplainer, it is a demand, saying that you’re wrong and attempting to control you. Which is kind of the same contradiction we got with Timmy insisting we be considerate of his feelings but he didn’t have to be considerate of women’s feelings. (Although Timmy was way rolling in the weeds there.)

    “but it asserts that a person is trying to tell others what they should be doing when sometimes the person is just explaining how that person feels.”

    Again, your feeling is that others are sexist when they use the word mansplaining and that this is bad for feminism. But for you, this is not you trying to tell women they should stop using the term mansplaining or at the least, use your definition of the word? Just expressing your disapproval then. And disapproval of a man towards women on issues of feminism — why would we ever consider that to be condescending, shaming, lecturing, co-opting and treating us as children who should know better? I.e. mansplaining.

    All I’m suggesting, Dan, is that you think about it. About what Josh, Nicole, mintwitch, Mea, Marcy and others have said. That’s not a demand; it’s a plea.

  433. @ Josh Jasper says:
    August 19, 2012 at 9:05 am
    “Liberal Dan mansplains about mansplaining. It’s mansplaining turtles all the way down, folks.”

    I missed this on the first read-through, but I wanted to give a cheer. “Turtles all the way down,” is my metaphor for 9/10ths of life, the universe, and everything. The phrase is funny, versatile, descriptive… all things bright and beautiful, imho. Your score: Excellent use, timely and pertinent; good form, sharp and crisp. 9.8 from the Russian judge!

  434. “Turtles all the way down”

    Excellent indeed. Although, now I’m trying to picture an infinite regression of turtle speech bubbles saying “Well, actually, you know…” and it is giving me a headache.

  435. htom: I’ve seen one (1) of the characters you mention. And that was just because TNG was on the air when I was home from college on vacation, since the TV is never off at my parents’ house. How do you folks find the time to keep up on all of this?? Does everyone else just get by with way less sleep than I do? Read less (here?!?)? Have an extra set of eyes and brain to watch TV and read blogs at the same time? Lack cats/families?…no, I know that’s not it. Eat intravenously? Does not compute.

  436. “Have an extra set of eyes and brain to watch TV and read blogs at the same time?”

    Apple has a sort of replicants-esque program (minus all the gymnastics and murder-deathing) that does over the air synching. At least, that’s how I do it. And, I mean, I like to think of the replicant-mes as family.

  437. Have I mentioned how much I love that there is now a digressionary side discussion on this thread about Doctor Who and Star Trek? Well I do. All the recent doctors have been wonderful and I enjoy them, but no one beats Baker, in my opinion.

  438. @Robin — I’ve probably had many more years to watch than you have. Watch and cook, watch and read, watch and write, watch and treadmill, watch and … it’s harder to do this with some of those series than others. Watch lots of the recent stuff time-shifted on videotape or DVD or streamed, so an hour of TV takes 46 minutes, or there about. Episodic TV does not take much attention (and with ADHD my attention is always flying away anyway.) I watched less when I had more of an external life, too.

  439. I’m such a heretic.

    Baker, Davidson, Eccleston (Please, god, not Tennant)

    Kirk above all others. Then Sisko, then Janeway (alas, if only her ship had not escaped the event horizon in the first episode I might have watched Voyager because Kate Mulgrew yes).

    I like the BBC and Ritchie Holmeses for the interaction between Sherlock and Watson in both (And I don’t know what anyone’s talking about with the second episode of season one — that was The Great Game, right? There were only two episodes of series one just like there was only ever one Highlander film.)

    Rush is acceptable music and I generally like Tom Waits better as an actor than a musician but that is probably a flaw in me.

  440. Robin – one of many possible explanations is that we are older than you and thus have had a longer timeframe over which to stretch our Science fiction TV watching? Concentrated bouts of high consumption as a student/between jobs/long weekend can all up the ante. I watched most of battlestar galactic (the new series) after surgery, and watched the original series when it aired and I was pre-adult.

    And iTunes is really addictive. My public transit commute to work is exactly the length of one standard TV episode.

    Mintwitch, Kat, Xopher, htom, et al – I want to second Kat at 8:59 pm. I have really enjoyed the conversation about science fiction (as well as the main points of conversation).

    I have largely been skipping the discussion between Liberal Dan and Kat, but I have one story to tell: I understand the frustration of coming late to an on-going conversation, where terms have been defined in a way that just drives you crazy, because I had that experience when I first learned the term cis-woman. cis-woman basically means a person biologically born female who identifies with being a woman. The term is clear and egalitarian shorthand in discussions showing an awareness of the complexities of gender identity. I didn’t speak up on the conversation, just lurked and read, and really struggled with that term. I get the concept, but the actual term is so….it made me feel like an alien character in an Octavia Butler novel. And I had to really sit with that thought. I don’t like the feeling, and I have this nagging sensation that there is another term that would just feel more accurate to me. But I joined the conversation late. The terms cis-woman and cis-man are already defined. They fill an important linguistic gap. Using the term shows that I have been paying attention to the fact that prior discussion and thought occurred before I showed up. But I, oh, so understand at the emotional level why men get upset at the term “mansplaining”. If I say I am a cis-woman, I feel like I’m admitting to being a third sex (fo