I wrote a post a while back about how some people are very good at getting away with doing intentionally creepy things by passing themselves off as just ~awkward~.
Recently, I noticed a particular pattern that plays out. While creeps can be any gender, there’s a gendered pattern by which creepy men get other men to help them be creepy:
- A guy runs over the boundaries of women constantly
- He makes them very uncomfortable and creeped out
- But he doesn’t do that to guys, and
- He doesn’t talk to guys about it in an unambiguous way, and
- When he does it in front of guys, he finds a way to make it look deniable
- And then some women complain to a man, maybe even a man in charge who is supposed to be responsible for preventing abuse in a space
- and he has no idea what they are talking about, since he’s never the target or witness
- And he’s had a lot of pleasant interactions with that guy
- So he sympathizes with him, and thinks he must mean well but be have trouble with social skills
- And then takes no action to get him to stop or to protect women
- And so the group stays a place that is safe for predatory men, but not for the women they target
- Mary, Jill, and Susan: Bill, Bob’s been making all of us really uncomfortable. He’s been sitting way too close, making innuendo after everything we say, and making excuses to touch us.
- Bill: Wow, I’m surprised to hear that. Bob’s a nice guy, but he’s a little awkward. I’m sure he doesn’t mean anything by it. I’m not comfortable accusing him of something so serious from my position of authority.
What went wrong here?
- Bill assumed that, if Bob was actually doing something wrong, he would have noticed.
- Bill didn’t think he needed to listen to the women who were telling him about Bob’s creepy actions. He didn’t take seriously the possibility that they were right.
- Bill assumed that women who were uncomfortable with Bob must be at fault; that they must be judging him too harshly or not understanding his awkwardness
- Bill told women that he didn’t think that several women complaining about a guy was sufficient reason to think something was wrong
- Bill assumed that innocently awkward men should not be confronted about inadvertantly creepy things they do, but rather women should shut up and let them be creepy
A rule of thumb for men:
- If several women come to you saying that a man is being creepy towards them, assume that they are seeing something you aren’t
- Listen to them about what they tell you
- If you like the guy and have no idea what they’re talking about, that means that what he is doing is *not* innocent awkwardness.
- If it was innocent awkwardness, he wouldn’t know how to hide it from other men
- Men who are actually just awkward and bad at understanding boundaries also make *other men* uncomfortable
- If a man is only making women uncomfortable but not men, that probably means he’s doing it on purpose
- Take that possibility seriously, and listen to what women tell you about men
tl;dr If you are a man, other men in your circle who are nice to you are creepy towards women. Don’t assume that if something was wrong that you would have noticed; creepy men are good at finding the lines of what other men will tolerate. Listen to women. They know better than you do whether a man is being creepy and threatening towards women; if they think something is wrong, listen and find out why. Don’t give predatory dudes who are nice to you cover to keep hurting women.