sexual harassment

A post for men about creepy men

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

For example:

  • 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.

About creepy guys

justdrinkyourtea:

realsocialskills:

A lot of men (and probably other genders, but mostly men) like to creepily hit on people (usually women) in contexts in which it’s not ok to hit on people. (Eg: on the subway). 

Girls start experiencing this before they’re considered old enough for sex ed.

Creepy men regularly do this in a way that’s slightly deniable.

Like sitting way too close. Or asking an almost innocuous thing. And it feels really horrible to be on the receiving end, but it can be hard to put your finger on why. And if you object, the man who started it will try as hard as he can to say you’re being unreasonable. Often, bystanders or people you tell afterwards will empathically agree and tell you he was just being friendly and that didn’t have to be rude.

This is not your fault. It’s not your fault that creepy guys are awful to you, and it’s not your fault that people punish you for refusing to cooperate with their creepy actions.

There is usually no polite way to object. Because they manipulate the rules of politeness so that you have to be rude to say no.

It’s ok to be rude in that situation.

Being in that situation doesn’t mean you’re a rude inconsiderate person. It means you’re asserting an important boundary in the only available way.

Most of these guys know exactly what they are doing. It’s not innocent awkwardness. It’s a different thing. It’s doing something they know they can probably get away with denying that they’ve done.

(People do sometimes do this kind of thing by mistake, too. But it’s not ok then either. And most people who do this, know damn well what they’re doing.)

justdrinkyourtea said:

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. When I was in high school, a chaperone for a field trip asked me what underwear I was wearing. Middle aged men asked me to get dinner when I was canvassing for political candidates. We need to tell young women that this shit isn’t okay.

realsocialskills said:

Reblogging for the concrete example. This is one of the kinds of things I am talking about. It’s really important for girls (and boys, but especially girls since they are the main targets) to learn how to see this creepy aggression for what it is. 

Girls: you’re not imagining it, and you are not alone. It’s not ok, and it’s not your fault.

Some things I think I know about dirty jokes

This post I think is not quite right. It’s something I know a bit about, but there are parts I don’t understand too. Anyway, here are some things I think I know about dirty jokes.

Jokes about the following subjects are usually considered dirty (some of these jokes are relatively innocuous):

  • Sex
  • Masturbation
  • Genitals
  • Breasts
  • Defecation
  • Urination
  • Vomiting
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Doing drugs
  • These jokes can be good or bad, it depends on the joke, and the context in which it is told. 

Rude jokes that are dirty because they deal with impolite subject matter can be ok to tell in some circumstances, but not others:

There are three basic situations in which these jokes are usually ok:

  • People who are social equals and have an equal friendship, and both like telling rude jokes to one another, or:
  • People in a profession that deals with impolite areas, making trade-related jokes to colleagues (eg: people who work concert security making jokes to one another about bodily functions and weird things people do at shows) 
  • When someone is doing a comedy routine and other people are listening to it on purpose

It’s almost always a bad idea to tell rude jokes to people you have power over:

  • Partly this is because it’s not ok to tell rude jokes to people who dislike rude jokes. And people you have power over might not feel comfortable or safe telling you to stop.
  • It’s also threatening in a few ways that go beyond this.
  • Telling rude jokes is a sign that you regard someone as a social equal, and emphatically expect that they share that view
  • This can be a sign that you aren’t willing to acknowledge the power you have over them. That’s threatening.
  • It can also be sexually threatening. The rules about dirty jokes are part of the rules about sexual boundaries. Telling a dirty joke in an inappropriate contexts is often the first step a sexual predator takes in testing someone’s willingness to enforce sexual boundaries. Even if you have no such intent, telling a rude joke, especially a sexual rude joke, can be seen this way.
  • That’s especially true if when someone objects to the joke, you tell them to lighten up because it was just a joke.

There’s also another kind of dirty joke: the hate joke. Hate jokes are about hurting people. Hate jokes say bad things about other groups, or express violent desires, then make somewhat more socially acceptable by phrasing it as a joke:

  • Jokes that contain slur words are usually, but not always, hate jokes
  • Jokes that rely on asserting that stereotypes are true are usually hate jokes
  • For instance, dumb blonde jokes. 
  • Or “ironic” racism (eg: telling a racist joke, where the joke is that it’s so hilarious that someone who is so not-racist would say such a thing)
  • Some hate jokes are explicitly violent.
  • Here’s an example of a joke glorifying violence towards women with physical disabilities, in scrambled text that can be decoded at decode.org. The end of this block of scrambled text says “scrambled text ends here”.
  • N thl vf wbttvat qbja gur ornpu jura ur pbzrf npebff guvf ornhgvshy tvey fvggvat va n jurrypunve pelvat ure rlrf bhg. Fybjvat qbja ur nfxf ure, “Jung'f jebat?” “V'ir arire orra xvffrq orsber,” fur fbof. Srryvat onqyl, ur yrnaf qbja, xvffrf ure naq pbagvahrf ba uvf jnl. Ba uvf jnl onpx ur frrf gur fnzr tvey fboovat rira uneqre. Ur gevrf uneq abg gb fubj uvf rknfcrengvba. “Jung'f gur znggre abj?” ur nfxf ure. “V'ir arire orra fperjrq orsber rvgure,” fur fbof. Ur tenof gur unaqyrf bs ure jurrypunve, chfurf ure qbja gur obneqjnyx naq bss gur cvre. “Abj lbh'er fperjrq,” ur lryyf nsgre ure. Scrambled text ends here.
  • That kind of joke normalizes violence. The violent abuser in that joke is the sympathetic character.
  • Hate jokes are only ok when it’s actually ok to hate the people the joke is about. That’s almost never the case. But sometimes hate jokes about an abuser, or general hate jokes about rapists, can be ok jokes to make.
  • There’s a difference between telling hate jokes with the intent of harming members of the target group, and telling hate jokes without active ill intent because you think they’re funny. But it’s a difference of degree, not kind.
  • Sometimes members of target groups tell hate jokes as a form of self-hatred. That’s also a difference of degree
  • Sometimes members of the target groups tell hate jokes as a way of mocking the way people hate them. This is a difference of kind, not degree.

Basically, the bottom line is that it still matters what you’re saying if you’re making a joke while you’re saying it.