ONTD Political

Why Guys Really Hate Being Called ‘Creepy’

8:43 pm - 04/23/2012


The newest cause célèbre for men's right activists (MRAs) has nothing to do with divorce law, "false rape allegations", or the dangers of "sperm-stealing" feminists. It's about the C-word. No, not the ladybusiness one. We're talking about "creep."

As Jessica Wakeman discovered last week when she wrote about a first date gone wrong, the MRAs are up in arms about "creep-shaming." "The ability to label men as ‘creepy' is just one privilege that women enjoy, and a constant source of fear of ostracizing that all men must fear in our society," says one apparently anguished man on Reddit. Creep is "the worst casual insult that can be tossed at a guy" claims Jeremy Paul Gordon at the Hairpin. "Douchebag," "asshole," and "pussy" can't compare, Gordon insists, largely because the charge of "creep" is so much more difficult to disprove. These guys argue that "creep" has a greater power to wound than any other word, and yet it's tossed around with cavalier impunity by cruel women who ought to know better. Thus the campaign (particularly big on Tumblr, apparently) to bring awareness to the ongoing tragedy of creep-shaming.


The word creep has a long history, first as a verb and only much later as a noun. Dickens gets credit for first using "the creeps" in its modern sense in 1849, but the use of the word to refer to someone disgusting or frightening is, surprisingly, less than 100 years old. (Interestingly, while the term "creeper" today is a hipper synonym for a creepy person, its use as a noun is actually much older, dating to the 17th century, when it referred to a stealthy thief.) As an adjective, it shows up regularly in headlines here on Jezebel, most recently in coverage of the dating-spreadsheet finance guy.

Wakeman isn't the only female writer to wrestle with the politics of creep-shaming. Clarisse Thorn has suggested that the use of the word "demonizes men who are honest about their sexual needs," while Amanda Marcotte argues that "creepy" is a "useful, commonly understood term for a set of behaviors that absolutely are a problem." At the Good Men Project, Lu Fong noted that while in her mind, "the weight of the word was never heavier than any other insult I'd shoot back at the boys," she accepted that men found it exponentially more hurtful.

One reason men despise the word "creep" so much more than any other insult is that it isn't rooted in misogyny. Jeremy Paul Gordon specifically compared the term to "pussy," "douchebag," and "asshole." The first two words, when directed at a man, insult him by comparing him either to a vagina or a device used to clean one; their pejorative power lies in the way they feminize the guy who gets called one of these names. "Asshole," as the historian Rictor Norton has suggested, is rooted in a derogatory term for men who allowed themselves to be anally fucked. A man who gets penetrated behaves like a woman and is labeled as feminine — a fate that we raise small American boys to fear more than almost anything else. (This is why, of course, words like "bitch" or "pussy" when used by one man to another, are so much more likelier to lead to blows than "dick" or "prick." Men are unlikely to be enraged by references to their own anatomy, only to a woman's.)

So if fear of the feminine is what gives male insults their power, why then is "creep" worse than "pussy?" The answer is that creep is the only insult that instantly centers women's perceptions. To call a man a "pussy" is to make a comment about how his behavior appears; to call him "creepy" is to name how he makes women feel. If a man wants to disprove that he's a "pussy," all he has to do is act with sufficient macho swagger or courage to make the insult obviously inappropriate. But trying to disprove "creepy" involves trying to talk a woman out of an instinctual response to a potential threat, a much more difficult thing to do. Most men recognize (or eventually learn) that the harder they try to deny their creepiness, the creepier they appear.

At the heart of the "anti-creep shaming campaign" is a concerted effort to discourage women from relying on their instincts to protect themselves from harm. Laying aside its likely etymology, calling a dude an "asshole" is a way of labeling him a jerk. Plenty of people can be jerks without being predatory. On the other hand, calling a dude "creepy" labels him as a potential threat; a creep may not be imminently violent, but there's almost always a sense that he shows consistent disregard for a woman's physical or psychological space. This is why, as Wakeman wrote, "it's a really freaking dangerous idea to twist a woman's open, honest communication about her boundaries/expectations into ‘creep shaming' that victimizes men."

Though the word may be occasionally used unfairly (for example, to describe a physically unattractive guy's genuinely respectful attempt at striking up a conversation), "creepy" serves a vital function. No other word is as effective as describing when a man has crossed a woman's boundary; no other word forces a man to reflect on how his behavior makes other people feel. A guy can disprove accusations of being weak by displaying strength (often in foolish ways.) But a guy can only disprove the charge of creepiness by fundamentally altering his behavior to be more genuinely respectful of women.

This, of course, is why some guys hate the word so much; it forces men to reflect carefully about how they make women feel. No wonder then that so many guys are campaigning against "creep-shaming." After all, the sooner the term becomes socially unacceptable, the sooner men can get back to not having to think about women's boundaries


Source: Jezebel
omg, no men's right's tag? what a tragedy.
I really hate when people complain about being called creepy. Spend your time thinking about what you did that made that person uncomfortable instead of making it all about you, jfc.

ms_maree 24th-Apr-2012 03:49 am (UTC)
they're going to find out otherwise sooner or later

Well, I hope they don't. Some few women are lucky and have a charmed life, and I'm glad that is the case. Saying 'they will learn sooner or later' is getting way too close to wishing people ill-luck for my comfort.
brookiki 24th-Apr-2012 03:52 am (UTC)
That's true and I definitely wouldn't wish that. I just have a few cousins that are older teens and when I read some of their updates on Facebook and realize what they're buying into and how dangerous it is, it scares me so much for them and there's no way of even starting a dialogue about it. All I can do is hope that they either manage to avoid the situations or start to question what they've been taught sooner rather than later.
ms_maree 24th-Apr-2012 03:57 am (UTC)
My Mum put the fear of men into me at a young age. I don't blame her and it did help me to a tiny extent, she had been sexually assaulted - and in the end so did I (but not because I didn't know better, I guess it matters little either way).

But I remember when I was about 11 or something Mum saying I should never, ever, ever, ever undress in front of an open window (even though my window backed up onto a wall) because bad men will come and take me if they see me naked. That's stuck with me and to this day I only ever undress in the bathroom, with the doors and windows closed.
violetrose 24th-Apr-2012 03:53 am (UTC)
Yeah, I agree.

I wish we didn't have to live in a world where articles like Schrodinger's Rapist were so accurate. And I am kinda jealous of women who don't feel the need to worry about those issues - and hope they don't honestly have to find out why so many women can be fearful of men.

I would hope, though, that they are able to see past their own experiences to understand why some women do call certain men creepy, or are nervous around strange men and so on.
nikoel 25th-Apr-2012 01:22 am (UTC)
I would hope, though, that they are able to see past their own experiences to understand why some women do call certain men creepy, or are nervous around strange men and so on.

This. It really is great for them they don't feel scared of men first hand as long as they don't try to invalidate other women's feelings because of it.
brookiki 25th-Apr-2012 03:23 am (UTC)
I think you just summed up exactly why this post makes me feel like banging my head against the wall. A few of people are trying to turn this into some "Oh, how unfair that a few good guys are unfairly getting painted with the creep brush." But the problem is that the second someone (be it a man or a woman) goes in and tries to invalidate a woman calling a man a creepy or his behavior creepy, then that person is also invalidating that woman's past experiences, her boundaries, and her feelings. And that's never, ever okay.

And for the people white knighting the good guys who are being unfairly called creeps? If the guy is really a good human being who is compassionate and reasonable with women and a woman unfairly (in his opinion) calls him a creep, he won't whine about it. He'll understand what women face and why a woman might misunderstand his intentions. He'll get it and he'll move on without turning it into a men's rights issue or whining about how unfair it is that he has to suffer for being socially awkward or how it sucks that women behave that way when they think they're too good for a guy. And if a guy is unfairly (in his opinion) called a creep by a woman and then proceeds to throw a fit and run crying to his female friends to defend him and tell him how special he is and how awful that woman was for not giving a nice guy like him a chance, then guess what? He's a creep. So stop defending the creep.
nikoel 25th-Apr-2012 03:40 am (UTC)
I do not get the bending over backward to defend something rather than just stopping and thinking about the very reasonable, heartfelt thing someone is telling you. Why is it so much easier to dismiss someone's feelings than to have empathy for them?
nonnycat 25th-Apr-2012 06:14 am (UTC)
CSB time!

I actually just had this discussion with my housemate yesterday. He made a comment about other guys being creepy and said something to the effect of, I'm glad I'm not like that.

At which point, I said, "Umm... no, sometimes you do come off as creepy." (It's not intentional, but he doesn't have a great sense of when certain comments are appropriate to make.)

His reaction was... oh, not to get pissed that I told him he was being creepy, but to say, "Wow. I didn't realize that" and to apologize for the behavior and then to ask me if I could give him examples so he could stop doing it.

Unfortunately, this is not the reaction of 99% of people if you tell them that, hey, this behavior? IS CREEPY.
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