I’ve been experimenting with the word “creepy” and what it means.1
My current experiment is that we use “creepy” when we’re afraid to say “predatory.” Maybe it’s because we don’t want to offend someone, or maybe because we don’t actually think the behavior is predatory, but we aren’t willing to say “Not to my tastes.”
Now, the word “predatory” has all of its own baggage, but for the moment, I’m setting that aside.
Males can be predatory. Females can be predatory. The techniques, however, are very, very different.2
There are things a guy can do that if a woman did would freak people out. There are things a woman can do that if a guy did would freak people out.
Each sex has its predatory subset and those predatory behaviors are known to the group. I know when a guy near me is being predatory — in word or deed. Likewise, I’m sure that women know when a woman next to them is being predatory in word or deed. The actions are different and the words are different, but a predator’s a predator no matter what skin it wears.
Claiming to be wanting something innocent, “just an intelligent conversation” or some other method of labeling predatory behavior in such a way that rejecting it is “bad” — is simply a common predator defense. Soap operas are filled with examples of exactly that.3 All successful predators have constructed an interface that tells the world that what they are doing is normal and good.
This does not mean what they are doing is normal and good. What it means is that they are pre-claiming a method whereby they can shame anyone trying to reject their attack. It’s simply establishing a perimeter defense.
In the benefit-of-the-doubt department, I would be willing to say that a predator doesn’t always have to be a predator — that someone’s actions are different than their identity. But in the real world, I’ve noticed that such people stick with the techniques that work. And if they don’t snag someone on one of their hooks, they simply move on. After all, there’s plenty of fish in the sea, right? A lot of those fish can be hooked by the right predation technique.
I’m even willing to go a tiny bit out on a limb and suggest that not all predators under, say, 25 years of age are aware that this is what they’re doing. But once they’re past a certain age, then they are. I know this can be awkward, but as a guy who is approaching half a century of age, I can say for a fact that if a guy older than, say 25 or so (I picked that number out of a hat) claimed to only “be clueless,” he would be lying.4 Thus, I can reliably make the same claim about a female predator as well.
The only reason people treat other people shabbily is because we allow it. We allow them to continue doing what they do. We don’t stop them. We don’t tell them that this behavior is reprehensible. We don’t eject them from our social circles. We don’t warn others “Stay away from so-and-so. They are a predator.” We let them become “the missing step in the staircase.”5
Instead, we make excuses for them. We buy into excuses such as “He’s kinda clueless” or “She’s a little fragile” or “He tends to act very unemotionally” or “She’s one of those kinds of people who are very intense.”6
That’s why they still exist. That’s why they still thrive. Because we allow them to.
When that happens, more people come to think that this is how you should do things.
And more people get hurt.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t such a great idea.
1. It doesn’t just mean you have a special van with free candy.
2. The behaviors that a predatory male exhibits are becoming progressively better documented by people much more skilled at this than I. The behaviors that a predatory female exhibits aren’t as well distributed, but there is information out there. I’m fairly certain, however, that we don’t need a white paper to know when someone’s “hunting” or “on the prowl.” That said, I am working on an article on flags for spotting a predator — particularly if there is one operating in a group. Later, though…
3. An aphorism: If you want to live happily in a successful adult relationship, then never ever use any technique exhibited in a soap opera.
4. All comments regarding Asperger’s will be deleted. In my experience, people know the difference between someone who has Asperger’s and someone who is pretending to be clueless in order to be a successful predator, but they think I don’t, or they think others don’t, or they just want to stir shit into the pot to confuse the issue. My experience with Asperger’s folks is that they work ESPECIALLY hard to make sure their social interfaces are good. So much so that invoking them to protect a predator is pretty insulting to that effort. So I pretty much won’t tolerate that shit, and I’m saying so up front.
5. Okay, it’s worth noting that someone can push this to a place of absurdity and claim that we have to allow adults to make their own decisions. Sure, that makes sense, but I don’t see ANY conflict between that and allowing predatory behavior in the midst of our social circles. Someone who can’t see the difference is part of the problem.
6. A few people have commented that I don’t bother to list out what behaviors are predatory. This is absolutely deliberate and in no way detracts from my point. First, I am not going to try and make myself an authority — I cannot establish what is or isn’t an issue with every social group (what my group likes yours might not, and vice versa). My POINT is that in any given social group, the people involved KNOW when one of theirs is exhibiting predatory behavior for that group. The other reason I won’t bother listing out criteria is because that allows people to stop thinking about the problem and just fuck around with definitions, and those people are not part of the solution — they are part of the problem.
This essay inspired by Girls Can Be Creepy, Too via The Polyamorous Misanthrope