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.

jamethiel_bane 24th-Apr-2012 03:52 am (UTC)
Or had a best friend who was sexually assaulted and stalked by a classmate who cornered her as she was working alone late at night when she'd never said anything other than "Hi", "I didn't hear, when's the paper due?" and "excuse me" to the dude. According to him, he "just wanted to ask her out."

Any dude who gets labelled a creep because his advances were unwelcome needs to shrug, suck it up and move on. I don't see women labelling men creeps because they say "can we go on a date". They get labelled creeps because they "express attraction" IN ADDITION TO SOME CREEPY BEHAVIOUR like not taking notice of body language, or just in a plain flat out creepy way. They don't even see what they're doing wrong, and then they are OUTRAGED that women dare say "Hey, this behaviour is not on".

It's like everyone here meets men at dive bars in Staten Island.
You're blaming WOMEN for men's actions. That's really gross. The onus is on the person making the advances to ascertain they're welcome, not on the person who may be receiving their advances to make sure they're in the right place at the right time.
running_jumping 24th-Apr-2012 03:58 am (UTC)
The Staten Island comment was because I've met proportionally more creepy guys there. In the water, perhaps?

Not blaming women for men being creepy!!!! Men are to blame for being creepy! Not all men who are called creepy are creepy! <----Nutshell
jamethiel_bane 24th-Apr-2012 04:15 am (UTC)
*shrugs* I'm not going to invalidate a woman's reaction. Basically, creepy is an emotional interior reaction caused by a man ignoring boundaries. It's sometimes really hard to articulate what set off your reactions because we're not TRAINED to say "he undressed me with his eyes and made me feel like a piece of meat" or "Every time I spoke, I felt like he was just counting down in his own head until the time he could ask me to fuck" and half the time, when we DO say it, we get people saying our reactions are unjustified.

You saying "no, I set a standard and this does not meet it and so I'm totally going to devalue her reactions and say that they were unmerited" is really poor behaviour.

Also: people can absolutely behave differently to different people. A co-worker who is NICE AS PIE to me viciously teases a male co-worker till he gets really upset. You may not see creepy behaviour in one of your friends, but that doesn't mean they're not being a creep.
running_jumping 24th-Apr-2012 04:24 am (UTC)
Oh...some of my friends are creeps for sure. Not the point.
jamethiel_bane 24th-Apr-2012 09:47 am (UTC)
You didn't address how when you say that lot of women use the term 'creepy' to describe someone who is attracted to them that they don't like, you're actually judging and invalidating their emotional reaction. Which is a horrible thing to do.
vvalkyri 25th-Apr-2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
advances were unwelcome needs to shrug, suck it up and move on. I don't see women labelling men creeps because they say "can we go on a date". They get labelled creeps because they "express attraction" IN ADDITION TO SOME CREEPY BEHAVIOUR like not taking notice of body language, or just in a plain flat out creepy way. They don't even see what they're doing wrong, and then they are OUTRAGED that women dare say "Hey, this behaviour is not on".

How do you teach this part?
jamethiel_bane 25th-Apr-2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
As a serious question? My parents worked really hard with both me and my brother--they consistently and ALWAYS said "You have a duty not to make other people uncomfortable" and "You need to think of other people". My brother has a stronger personality than I do and got an additional round of "Your wishes do not take precedence over other people's. Do not steam-roller other people. LISTEN TO THEM."

Also, I would like to see this explicitly taught in schools: "You do not have a right to another person's company," or "For god's sake, think about where you are, and what you're doing as you approach another person! Be aware that you don't threaten them!"

It'd be a start.
vvalkyri 25th-Apr-2012 09:35 pm (UTC)
The people I'm dealing with try to treat interpersonal interaction like computer programming. They know what doesn't bother them, and don't understand that it might bother a girl, ferex. The first question they would ask in response to "you have a duty not to make other people uncomfortable would be "Okay, I'm trying, but I seem to still be making other people uncomfortable, even when it seemed like they liked me.

And re you need to think of other people, well, one of the most likely ways for me to be creeped out by one particular guy is that he does. to the point where at one point I figured he was mentally rehashing every conversation I ever had near him. Essentially what this commenter's talking about.

So basically, the "goes after what he wants and women are only objects" creepy I've got some idea how to address, or the kind referenced above with 'keep putting in kindness tokens and sex falls out' but I'm having trouble trying to get across how to better read body language or how paying too much attention (e.g. how do you define a creepy look) is creepy, too.
jamethiel_bane 25th-Apr-2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
It seems like you're talking about people who have significant difficulty with personal interaction, to the point where it's actually a constant problem. I don't think it's a boilerplate approach--you kind of have to tailor it to individual people.

I don't really have answers. I did have one friend like that at uni--I basically dealt with it by Telling Him every single damn time he was creepy towards me, with what he was doing that creeped me out. Nice guy, but a hell of a lot of work and it was kind of exhausting to be around because you just couldn't trust him not to be inappropriate--and there was a lot of stuff I let slide because I just didn't know how to say it. He did appear to learn, though. These days, I have a lot less tolerance and just tend not to hang around people who constantly creep me out, whether it's a function of privilege or just not grokking social interaction.

I'm not a charity, y'know? Friends shouldn't exhaust me and make me constantly be on my guard against them. *shrug* Even if it's not their fault. And thankfully, I'm not working with anyone that clueless.
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