A conversation started up on my Facebook feed regarding what constitutes a guy acting creepy. From what I could gather as a fly on the internet wall, some guy liked a bunch of old photos of some woman and it creeped her out. I don’t know much more than that but it did get me thinking. First, being creeped out, just like all other feelings, is subjective and nobody can tell someone they shouldn’t feel creeped out. You can try to reason and rationalize with someone about why they are overreacting or the action wasn’t creepy but that just makes you sound like an asshole. For the same reason you can’t rationalize and tell me not to cry during Les Miserables, that shit is emotional to me and there isn’t a damn thing anyone can say to change that for me. The emotions are subjective and internal.
Second, I think there are two types of creepy activity. The first is intentional creepiness. This happens when the creeper knows their actions make the other person uncomfortable and does it just for that purpose. These people are slime and need help.
The second is unintentional creepiness and I think this comes primarily from poor judgement. This can take many forms. It could be someone crushing on another person and liking a bunch of their photos at 2am while drunk. They don’t mean to be creepy but they misjudged what the reaction would be to the actions due to misjudging the relationship. For example, I can say and do things with my wife that would be creepy if someone else did it. I can grab her butt and say “Booty!” and she laughs, but if a stranger (or even certain friends) were to do that it would make her uncomfortable. The same type of rules apply online, though I think many people forget that just because you are friends on Facebook, like the same general political philosophy, and have 100 mutual friends, that doesn’t mean you are real friends and can get away with certain behavior. This goes beyond creepiness though, I’ve seen people make really abrasive, douchy comments on my posts that I would probably laugh at if my friend did it but since I’ve never met them in person they come off like an asshole.
Even when two people don’t have any relationship (online or otherwise) there can be bad judgement involved. One kind of classic complaint is that a girl will find a guy “creepy” if they hit on her at a bar and she isn’t attracted to them. The same behavior from a guy she is attracted to wouldn’t be construed as creepy. This is probably true, but still comes down to bad judgement. There are certain social rules that vary depending on location. If you are in a bar you should understand that physical attraction or displays of wealth are what people tend to be looking for at those locations. If you don’t have those assets and you approach someone that does have those assets you are violating the social norms. This certainly gives an advantage to certain people in these venues, but that’s life. If you change the venue then different people have an advantage. The guy who does well in a bar may not do as well in a coffee shop, church, library, yoga studio… though, I admit those last few places are bad venues to try and find a mate and it is bad judgement to flirt with people at them, which means understanding that and if you have a legitimate interest in someone using the social norms to display that. Like Dan Savage says, one of the things we look for most in a partner is good judgement.
I’m sure I’ve done and said some creepy things in my life. I’m sure I’ve misread signals due to my own awkwardness or too much alcohol. And I’m sure I’ve thought I was closer to someone online than I really was, particularly if I found them attractive. Life isn’t about being perfect, but if you receive feedback that a certain behavior is creepy (either specifically at you or generally) you should take a step back and evaluate. It might be your judgement that is impaired and trying to claim you have some sort of right to be creepy just grosses everyone else out.