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#322 & #323 “My friend group has a case of the Creepy Dude. How do we clear that up?”

Here is Letter #322. It and the other letter are below the jump because it’s fucking creepy in there.

Edited to Add: It’s frankly depressing that this post has struck a chord with so many people, but I’m grateful and honored to be able to help the letter writers and to have given voice to what so many people were feeling. Unfortunately the demands of moderating this discussion have become overwhelming this week, so as of Monday, August 13th comments are locked. We’ll pick up this discussion some other time. Thank you for all of your insightful contributions and for making this one of the best commentspaces on the Web.</EDIT>

Dear Captain Awkward,

We have a creeper in our social group.  He’s about 10 years older than the rest of us on average, divorced with two kids.  And I know this is going to sound like every in-denial LW who ever wrote in to an advice columnist ever, but he’s not a bad guy.  He’s fun to hang out with, he’s a devoted dad, he’s a loyal friend … and he’s driving away all of his female friends with his behavior.

He’s mostly been concentrating on the other women: telling them to expose themselves, telling them their skirts weren’t flying high enough while they were dancing, hitting on them when he knows they have boyfriends.  (My husband tells me Creeper has also hit on me a couple times, but I haven’t noticed it.)  Most of this happens when he is drunk, but even sober he has a tendency to make sexist jokes or joke about sex and then tell us we have no sense of humor when we don’t find them funny.  A couple months ago he started complaining, loudly and repeatedly, that he really wanted to get laid because he hasn’t had sex since his divorce (about 2-3 years ago).  Whenever there are parties, it seems like he goes with the mindset that he will meet someone there that he might be able to have sex with, rather than to have fun with his friends.  A couple months ago at one of these parties, some of us went to the park after dark to hang out; Creeper approached one of my friends, asked where her boyfriend was, and when he was told that the BF was out of town he put his hands on her shoulders and told her that BF had “forfeited” her for the evening.  

I’ve talked to Creeper about this last incident and tried to explain that his behavior is making every woman in our social group very uncomfortable; that approaching a woman in the dark, putting his hands on her without permission, and implying that because her boyfriend wasn’t there that she was up for grabs was Not Fucking Cool; that when two of our friends got married, and he spent the entire reception hitting on the bride’s family members (including her 16-year-old cousin) he appeared to be more focused on getting laid than celebrating the marriage of two of his friends; that when he is sober, he is not so bad, but when he gets drunk he gets really creepy and maybe he should not be going to parties and getting drunk anymore.  He seemed to listen to me at the time, but now, a month later, he is whining on Facebook that people aren’t finding his sex jokes funny and calling him a creeper.  “I know I’m not a creeper, and everyone else knows, but I guess I’ve made a few faux pas with friends-of-friends” pretty much sums it up.  So clearly, nothing I said sank in.

I want to punch him.  I’d dearly love to tell him that just because someone calls you a creeper, or creepy, doesn’t make you a bad person, but if every female friend you have is telling you that you make them uncomfortable then you are the fucking problem.  Unfortunately, he clearly isn’t listening to what I’ve been telling him (and I’m the one who hasn’t been driven off – the rest of our female friends are flat-out avoiding him for their own safety and I can’t blame them one bit for it), and I can’t tell if it’s because I’m female or if it’s because I’m 10 years younger than he is.  He also has a tendency to get defensive, and he’s starting to retreat into Nice Guy territory.  I’ve considered asking one of the other men to talk to him, but again, I’m worried he’ll dismiss whoever goes to talk to him because he’s older than the rest of us.  

Something needs to happen here, obviously, but I have no idea what.  He invites people over for games a lot (being one of the few people who has a table big enough for gaming), and comes over a lot as well, and the guys in the group are mostly fine hanging out with him.  (They all agree that something needs to be done about his behavior, but for them it’s not as urgent, I guess.)  He also lives a block away from me, so I see him quite a bit. I know there’s no way out of this without drama and hurt feelings and awkwardness. I just don’t know what to do.  Do I try to get the others to confront him?  Arrange some sort of intervention?  Tell my husband that Creeper’s not invited to our place anymore and avoid events where Creeper will be?  I’d call him out myself, but (1) I can’t speak for my friends, especially when they’ve been affected more than I have, (2) he clearly won’t listen to me, and (3) I’m shit at confrontation and tend to get flustered and start crying.  Any advice you have would be really helpful.

Thanks,

Creeper, No Creeping!

And here is Letter #323. You will notice certain similarities.

Dear Captain Awkward,

My boyfriend and I have been together for over two years, and it’s been a generally great relationship. However, my boyfriend’s friend (I’ll call him Ben) has become a major sore point for us. In fact, Ben has become a major sore point for our whole group of friends. Boyfriend has been friends with Ben since middle school, and I understand that there is a lot of history there, and he feels he needs to be loyal to him. However, Ben is a gigantic creep who has preyed upon every single girl in our group.

Not long after I first met Ben, we were at a party, and I got drunk/stoned and passed out. Later that night, my friend walked into the living room to find Ben cuddled up against me and stroking my leg. She freaked out at him, removed me from the living room and put me to bed, then told me what happened the next morning. She had no idea how long he’d been there, and didn’t know exactly what he did, and I was unconscious and have no memory of what happened. Needless to say, I have been very uncomfortable around him ever since. He’s also sent me weird, sexually explicit messages over facebook, and told me not to tell Boyfriend because he “wouldn’t believe [me] anyway” (Obviously, I immediately told my boyfriend, and blocked Ben not long after). Ben has also creeped on tons of other girls, including every friend I’ve brought around. Other instances of Ben’s behaviour have included:

  • Offering to drive my stranded friend home from a party, then informing her that he expected sex as “payment” when he dropped her off; following her to the house after she said no
  • Sending gross, inappropriate or just plain crass messages over Facebook
  • Texting my friend about how he’s “jerking off” while thinking about her
  • Straight-up fondling (fully awake and conscious) girls that he’s just met, or at the very least getting uncomfortably touchy-feely with them
  • Attempting to have sex with his friend’s girlfriend, on more than one occasion

For what should be obvious reasons, every single girl in our group of friends completely hates Ben, and none of us want him around. However, when I tried to bring up the subject with Boyfriend and our guy friends, none of them seemed willing to admit that his behaviour was predatory or threatening, and they seemed reluctant to take a strong stance against him. They never spoke to Ben about his behaviour; in fact, they treated him as if he was a fragile child who was unable to deal with the consequences of his own actions. They also continued to include him in our activities. I was angered and baffled, and tried talking to my boyfriend about it. Boyfriend got weirdly defensive when I brought up the subject, saying that Ben is a “great guy to hang out with”, and sarcastically asking me if I wanted him to “go to Ben’s house and beat him up over something that happened a year and a half ago.” So yeah, it wasn’t a very productive conversation. 

I later found out from another friend (she is the same age as Boyfriend and Ben, and went to high school with both of them) that Ben was exactly the same way back then, and there was an instance where Boyfriend had attempted to call Ben out on his behaviour. Apparently, Ben had some sort of frightening breakdown where he went on about how he’s such a horrible person, and threatened to hurt himself, or commit suicide, or something along those lines. After being told this, I started to understand why Boyfriend and everyone else had been treating Ben as if he were so “fragile”, but hearing that story made me even more angry. It became clear to me that Ben has been emotionally manipulating my boyfriend, and probably others, so he can continue his horrible behaviour without being called out.

I’ve stopped inviting friends to parties because I don’t want to subject them to Ben’s creepiness, and I spend most of my time trying to avoid him when he’s around. I don’t want to be one of those girls who tries to tell their boyfriend who he can and can’t hang out with, but I feel unsafe and afraid around Ben. I also feel completely betrayed that my boyfriend isn’t taking a strong stance against a guy who, let’s face it, tried to sexually assault me. I don’t want him to go “beat him up”, obviously, but it would be great if my boyfriend didn’t, y’know, constantly excuse and defend this jerk. So I guess my question is, how can I approach this subject with my boyfriend, and make him understand a) how serious this is, and b) that he is not responsible for Ben’s reactions, without making him feel defensive?

Signed,

 Creeped out and Fed Up

Dear Creeper, No Creeping! and Creeped Out:

I’m not slithering around on the floor and hissing with my forked tongue when I say that the situations described in these two letters are pretty good examples of what Rape Culture is and why it is so insidious.

Step 1: A creepy dude does creepy, entitled shit and makes women feel unsafe.

Step 2: The women speak up about it to their partners.

Step 3: It gets written off as “not a big deal” or “he probably didn’t mean it” or “he’s not a bad guy, really.” Any discussion of the bad behavior must immediately be followed by a complete audit of his better qualities or the sad things he’s suffered in the name of “fairness.” Once the camera has moved in and seen him in closeup as a real, human, suffering person, how can you (the object, always an object, as in “objectified,” as in a disembodied set of tits or orifices, or a Trapper Keeper, or a favorite coffee mug or a pet cat) be so cruel as to want to hold him accountable for his actions?  Bitches, man.

Step 4: Everyone is worried about hurting creepy dude’s feelings or making it weird for creepy dude. Better yet, everyone is worried about how the other dudes in the friend group will feel if they are called out for enabling creepy dude. Women are worried that if they push the issue, that the entire friend group will side with creepy dude or that they’ll be blamed for causing “drama.”  Look at how LW #323 put it:  “how can I approach this subject with my boyfriend, and make him understand a) how serious this is, and b) that he is not responsible for Ben’s reactions, without making him feel defensive?”

Wouldn’t want someone who covers up for and defends a proto-rapist to have to have SADFEELS, right? (LW, it’s not your fault you’re asking the question this way, it’s just that our culture sucks about this and your boyfriend and his friends have been giving you constant messages that Ben is to be coddled while you are to be shushed in the hopes that it will all blow over).

Step 5: Creepy dude creeps on with his creepy self. He’s learned that there are no real (i.e. “disapproval & pushback from dudes and dude society”) consequences to his actions. Women feel creeped out and unsafe.Some of them decide to take a firm stand against creeping and not come to parties anymore. They slowly slide out of the friend group. Some of the woman decide to just quietly put up with it, because they’ve learned that no one will really side with them and it’s easier to go along than to lose one’s entire community. The whole group works around this missing stair.

Possible Step 6: Creepy dude rapes someone. If he does, there’s a less than 50% chance that the woman will report it. Why?

Could it be that all the people who surround her have taught her that if she speaks up nothing will really come of it anyway? Could it be that she doesn’t trust her friends and the people who love her to have her back on this? I CAN’T IMAGINE WHY. They couldn’t even kick this dude off their weekly trivia team.

Could it be that the authorities, the police, and the court system will treat her like this is something she caused to happen? Worse, will the dude’s history of being creepy come up and, instead of being used as evidence of a pattern of behavior, be used as evidence that the victim tolerated his advances in the past?

So, yeah, I wanted to be very clear that these letters are part of a larger cultural paradigm that is a direct outgrowth of male privilege. Can women be creepy? Yes, for sure. They are human and capable of anything that humans are capable of. But when they are creepy, they don’t have an entire culture backing them up and explaining why their creepiness isn’t that bad.

Onto the specific letters.

LW #322, I’ll start with your Creeper, The Creepicus Complainicus, of the genus “Saddest Panda.” His cry is “Why won’t someone just touch my wiener?” People write him off as harmless because he’s just so sad. They figure that this post-divorce pity party will eventually pass, and that he’ll stop looking at every social gathering as a place where he can bitterly fail to get laid and bitterly whine about it.

When I moved to Chicago, there were a few of these in my fledgling social group. One in particular was touchy-feely and huggy and came across as a big harmless teddy bear. He would develop a crush on every new girl in the group and constantly compliment her with weird, cutesy babytalk. Worse was the touching – hugs that last a little too long, uninvited backrubs, petting your hair, sitting down next to you and wanting to snuggle. It was all portrayed as innocent and sweet, but you could feel the boner behind it.

I was new in town and not close to people yet, so I didn’t have anyone to really talk to about this and I didn’t know how to formulate a group solution. Other women seemed to tolerate the behavior and even enjoy it, so I decided that it was probably just me. I handled it by saying some variant of “Hey, you’re making me wicked uncomfortable. I don’t like to be touched, so don’t touch me unless I touch you first. Also, I don’t want to flirt with you, so please no compliments or cutesy stuff around me, ok? I’m not into it.” It was awkward as hell, and his feelings were super-hurt, and I felt guilty and second-guessed myself a lot, and at least one person tried to explain to me that he wasn’t that bad and I didn’t need to be such a bitch about it. “Bitch Who Doesn’t Like To Be Touched” became my persona and my armor in dealing with him and with some of the other handsy fellas (like the one who “complimented” me by telling me he masturbated about me sometimes)  in the friend group. They knew that any attempt to flirt would probably end with me saying “Gross,” in the rudest possible tone and walking away.

Which is not a magic solution by any means. The difference between that guy and your Creeper is that when he was called out and told directly to stop the behavior, he did. He apologized and kept his hands to himself. And over time he got more confidence and pulled himself out of his Sad Panda period, got a better job, found a specific #1 awesome lady (rather than spreading his love among All Geeky Ladies, Everywhere) and chilled the hell out. His many, many fine qualities like loyalty and smarts and a wicked sense of humor were much easier to appreciate then.  If he hadn’t backed off me? And if my decision to be “Hi, I’m Jennifer-Please-Don’t-Touch-Me” had backfired? Saying goodbye to that social group would have been really, really hard and really, really sad and my life would be much poorer for it. None of this is easy.

As far as concrete steps go, I think you’ve done all the right things. You’ve tried talking directly to the Creeper. Instead of listening to you and backing off, he’s decided to whine about it and treat it as something that the world has done to him instead of something brought on by his own behavior. That was his choice and not something you can control with being awesome and using your words. (Note: The other Saddest Pandas were eventually phased out of the social group not for treating every event like a chance to get laid, but for the endless whining. Whining about their singleness. Whining about how no one appreciates their favor-sharking behavior. Whining about how they weren’t invited to certain events.  People will tolerate a fair amount of unwanted come-ons and sexual comments, but they will eventually cut you out if you won’t stop whining).

So. I think it’s time to have nothing to do with this dude. You can’t control what everyone will do – obviously he has been much-discussed if other ladies are avoiding him and you are pretty much the last one. De-friend him/hide his feed on Facebook. Do not go to any events at his house. Do not invite him to anything at yours. Make this very, very clear to your partner.

Script for Your Partner:

“Listen. I need to be done with Creeper for a good while. I’m not going to things at his house, and he is definitely not invited to our place.

I know you like him and are hopeful that he’ll change. I hope he does, too, but being around him makes me feel so angry and unsafe that I can’t really hang around and hope it gets better. 

I don’t want to tell you how to handle your relationship with him, but there are two things I need from you.

1) Back me up on not inviting him anywhere I will be and definitely not inviting him here.

2) When it comes up in the friend group with other guys, have my back. Don’t make me the bitch, make me someone who brought up legitimate concerns with a friend and then who got blown off. I didn’t do this to him – he CHOSE to act like a dick and then whine about it.

If a year from now he’s drinking less and has chilled out and apologized for past behavior, I would *consider* hanging out again. But right now this decision feels pretty final.”

And don’t worry so much about smoothing everything over and making everyone feel okay. Deliver that script and let your partner feel how he feels about it. Probably he’ll feel bad and weird. The Creeper will feel bad and weird. They SHOULD feel bad and weird, because shit is bad and weird. Women are so socialized and trained to absorb other people’s badness and weirdness for them, that it’s going to be actively hard for you to NOT smooth things over. But don’t smooth things over. Let them be weird. Let them be AWFUL.

Script for Creeper (should you run into him):

Yeah, this is really awkward. I would love to feel safe and comfortable hanging out with you again, but I told you what you needed to do to make it right and you ignored me and then whined about it. So until there is a real apology and some big, observable changes in your behavior, we are on a break.”

This isn’t something you did to the Creeper, it’s something that he did to himself by acting badly and then not accepting the sweet gift of possible self-awareness that you tried to deliver. It’s not innocent, it’s not harmless, it’s not “shy dude nerdy cluelessness.” That’s especially hard to claim after you tell someone directly what they’re doing wrong and ask them to knock off specific behaviors, right? And yet…every goddamn time it comes up that maybe it’s not his fault because he just didn’t know better. NO. GET THE CLUE, ALREADY.

Now, let’s move onto #323, Ben the Proto-Rapist.

Your boyfriend’s friend Ben is pretty much going to rape someone if he hasn’t already.

I would put the chances that he has already raped someone as high. Very high. Someone, somewhere back in college was a little too drunk to wake up in time or to fully enforce a “I appreciate the ride home, but please don’t come into my house because I don’t want to have sex with you and I told you no already.”

Everything you describe about his behavior is how serial sexual predators work. I cannot say this any better than how Thomas said it at that link:

“Recommendation

I’m directing this to men who inhabit het-identified social spaces, and I’m not really limiting it more than that. Women are already doing what they can to prevent rape; brokering a peace with the fear is part of their lives that we can never fully understand. We’re the ones who are not doing our jobs.

Here’s what we need to do. We need to spot the rapists, and we need to shut down the social structures that give them a license to operate. They are in the population, among us. They have an average of six victims, women that they know, and therefore likely some women you know. They use force sometimes, but mostly they use intoxicants. They don’t accidentally end up in a room with a woman too drunk or high to consent or resist; they plan on getting there and that’s where they end up.

Listen. The women you know will tell you when the men they thought they could trust assaulted them; if and only if they know you won’t stonewall, deny, blame or judge. Let them tell you that they got drunk, and woke up with your buddy on top of them. Listen. Don’t defend that guy. That guy is more likely than not a recidivist. He has probably done it before. He will probably do it again.

Change the culture. To rape again and again, these men need silence. They need to know that the right combination of factors — alcohol and sex shame, mostly — will keep their victims quiet. Otherwise, they would be identified earlier and have a harder time finding victims. The women in your life need to be able to talk frankly about sexual assault. They need to be able to tell you, and they need to know that they can tell you, and not be stonewalled, denied, blamed or judged.

Listen. The men in your lives will tell you what they do. As long as the R word doesn’t get attached, rapists do self-report. The guy who says he sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity is not joking. He’s telling you how he sees it. The guy who says, “bros before hos”, is asking you to make a pact.

The Pact. The social structure that allows the predators to hide in plain sight, to sit at the bar at the same table with everyone, take a target home, rape her, and stay in the same social circle because she can’t or won’t tell anyone, or because nobody does anything if she does. The pact to make excuses, to look for mitigation, to patch things over — to believe that what happens to our friends — what our friends do to our friends — is not (using Whoopi Goldberg’s pathetic apologetics) “rape-rape”.

Change the culture. We are not going to pull six or ten or twelve million men out of the U.S. population over any short period, so if we are going to put a dent in the prevalence of rape, we need to change the environment that the rapist operates in. Choose not to be part of a rape-supportive environment. Rape jokes are not jokes. Woman-hating jokes are not jokes. These guys are telling you what they think. When you laugh along to get their approval, you give them yours. You tell them that the social license to operate is in force; that you’ll go along with the pact to turn your eyes away from the evidence; to make excuses for them; to assume it’s a mistake, of the first time, or a confusing situation. You’re telling them that they’re at low risk.”

I’m sorry, LW #323, you don’t have a “Ben” problem, you have a boyfriend problem. And a living-in-a-society-that-supports-guys-like-Ben-over-women-like-you problem.

I can’t tell you how to bring this up without making your boyfriend defensive. He SHOULD feel bad. He SHOULD feel upset and defensive. Because his friend is a budding sexual predator who sexually assaulted his own girlfriend in her sleep, and he doesn’t want to do anything about it because the guy is “fun to hang out with.”  Thinking about that and realizing how very, very out of line he is must feel pretty bad!  HE should be the one writing to me, or at least, he should be the one worrying about your feelings and the potential social fallout of tolerating this guy. Not you. It shouldn’t be your job to have to come up with solutions for this.

Because you know what else feels bad? Being sexually assaulted in your sleep! Feeling sick and afraid and wondering what would have happened if your friend hadn’t interrupted things! Wondering how many other women Ben has sexually assaulted in a similar way! And then having your boyfriend tell you you’re overreacting and inviting the guy to parties at your place. That feels kind of fucking awful, right?

And while I don’t want anyone to kill themselves, getting told by a close friend that you are a sexual predator SHOULD feel bad. Really, really bad. It would certainly depress me to find that out about myself. No wonder Ben was very upset about that conversation!  But being depressed or having suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean you get to molest people unimpeded for the rest of time. It means you should seek some professional help both so that you can feel better and so that you can stop touching people who don’t want your bad touches!

You can’t control what your boyfriend will do, and you certainly can’t control whether Ben gets therapy. The only thing you can try to control is how much Ben is allowed to affect you.

So here’s the script I have for you:

“Boyfriend, I want to talk to you about Ben.

I know you feel like this is old news, but it’s not. I do not feel safe around Ben. From now on, I will not be anywhere that he is. I will tell my friends not to be anywhere he is and that they should scream and call the police if he touches them. I will tell my friends what he is like and what he did to me and other women. I will not smooth things over and I will not play nice. If he asks why, I will say “Because you assaulted me in my sleep and I don’t trust you.” If I could go back in time to that night, I would call the police and let them deal with it.

I know that you two have a long history and that you care about him. I know that you are not his keeper. I don’t want to tell you how to run your relationships – you can feel however you want or do whatever you want. But I need you to do three things:

1) Back me up on my right not to be around someone who sexually assaulted me. Do not invite him here, do not bring me to a place where he will also be. This is not negotiable.

2) Do not minimize what he did to me. Do not ask me to forgive and forget or play nice.

3) If you see him or hear about him acting that way with other women, for the love of God, STEP IN AND STOP IT. 

Can you agree to that?”

LW, I know you love him, and I know you don’t want to hear this, but if he can’t agree to that, he can’t be your boyfriend anymore. Someone who would put the feelings of a serial sexual predator ahead of the safety of the person they claim to love is not a good partner.

It’s really fucking sad and unfair. Welcome to our culture, where it’s always this sad and unfair whenever women’s safety is on the line.

This is how far Rape Culture skews our vision. Being sexually harassed and assaulted is seen as something that you should be cool (i.e. quiet)  about. But GOD FORBID you break up the weekly games night with the temerity to be a victim of such a crime! Don’t you know that your harasser has the best table for playing Settlers of Cataan?

I don’t know how we fix it, but one step has to be to stop tolerating it when it happens to us and when it happens to people we love. Making our social circles and spaces safe means making them AWKWARD AS HELL and UNSAFE for creeps and predators. It means constantly reframing the conversation away from the dominant narrative, so when stuff like the situations in these letters comes up we can say “That’s called sexual assault and it’s a crime. So I need you to stop talking to me about his feelings and pressuring me to invite him to parties.

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716 comments
  1. Lws’ I am sorry you are both going through this. I would back up everything the Captain says. My husband and I occasionally had mixed messages about how we were going to deal with any continued interaction with our one inappropriate and sexually intrusive acquaintance. That, however, had more to do with permanent brain damage on Husband’s part from a stroke he had in his 20’s. Whenever he was reminded of the details and our decisions on the matter (which, yes, sometimes he needed to be) he was 100% percent behind me.–I do realize, therefore, that there are scenarios where you need to clarify and reclarify things with your partner and commitment or love or good will are NOT an issue. However. I may not always be comfortable saying “can’t” but I agree here–if your partner does not stand up with you on this, medical issues of needing to be reminded aside, I believe he can’t be your boyfriend in the sense of he is not capable of being a healthy boyfriend.

  2. Holy shit. Holy SHIT.

    Thank you for laying this out so clearly, and for that link, and for being so honest. And LWs, both of you are awesome and I wish you both strength. It makes me so mad and so angry that even when people summon the courage to speak up about this shit, nobody listens. Fuck that noise.

  3. Esti said:

    LWs, I’m so sorry that you’re both dealing with this, and I think that the Captain absolutely nailed her response here.

    Here is my additional advice to you: Send a link to this page to your boyfriend. I really think they both need to read about how you feel uncomfortable and unsafe around their friend, how this is something affecting all of the women in your group, how you have to not invite your friends to go places where the creeper will be, how you have tried to talk about this and have been told you’re overreacting and to get over it, how you’re upset about being dismissed and hurt that none of the men in the group seem to care about their female friends’ safety, how you’ve heard that so much that you felt the need to write to an internet advice column about how to deal with how bad this situation is because you can’t talk to your boyfriend about it (or don’t get any response when you do), how THIS GUY ASSAULTED YOU IN YOUR SLEEP, how insidious this behavior is and how many women experience it and how everyone needs to stand up against it when it happens.

    And if they can read all of that and not decide that they need to back up the women in their lives instead of making excuses for their creepy friends — not because of some bullshit about beating up dudes who look at their girlfriend the wrong way, but because their friend is making you feel uncomfortable and unhappy and unsafe and anyone worth being with is someone who listens when you feel like that and doesn’t let it keep happening — then I think that you need to dump them. I don’t care how great your relationship otherwise is, someone who prioritizes not rocking the boat or staying on good terms with a friend who is completely out of line is not someone that you will ever really be able to count on to listen to you and to support you.

    • Ellie said:

      That’s an excellent idea.

      I went through something similar with my group of friends several years ago (it never progressed to the dangerous points described above, but there was independent evidence against our creeper–he had been kicked out of a police academy for sexually harrassing female candidate).

      Creeper was hard to deal with because he didn’t take social cues–seemed deaf to them. I got to the point where i decided life was too short to put up with his bullshit. I dropped the relationship. My partner did, too.

      I wish I’d had this to read back then. Pass it on.

    • DeskGnome said:

      I had this idea as well so I agree with it. If not the whole page, at least read back the letters you wrote. Sometimes the things we’ve been meaning to tell our loved ones are best expressed when addressed to someone else.

      And LW 323, if your boyfriend chooses Ben over you, DTMFA and get as far away from both of them as possible.

      Jedi hugs and strength to both you LWs.

  4. LWs, I am sorry this is happening to you.

    Unfortunately, part of the solution often is “Get new friends”. The people who stopped hanging out months ago? Drop them a line and see if they want coffee, in case they left because of the creeper.

    Most friends circles have that guy who can get away with so much more than anyone else can get away with. We like having a mostly-harmless rulebreaker around because it’s exciting and scandalizing. That’s fine, until the rulebreaker starts breaking the rules that really matter…

    Your friends think your creepers are still on the harmless side of the line. You know he’s not. If you can’t convince people (your boyfriends!) to respect your opinion here, the captain is right — you’ve got a boyfriend problem. You have the absolute right to forbid people who have slimed on or assaulted you from coming into your home. If someone you live with violates that right… time to get a new home. It’s not the news anyone wants to hear, but it’s a boundary I wish everyone could honor.

    The worst thing about this kind of thing is when it comes down to men vs women, and the women are pissed and the men are dismissive and nobody’s communicating at all. If you can enlist any male friends to help, to call out these assholes, or even just to push back against bitch or harpy stereotypes, that’ll help too.

    • am.w said:

      This is so true. A few years ago, a group of my friends refused to stop inviting a man who had raped me to events, and I was exiled as a drama queen for requesting that he not be invited to things I would be attending. And I got to wondering … all those other women who quit hanging out, why was that? Turns out it was because of him and the men who refused to step in. And in reaching out to them, I gained some really good girlfriends.

      I don’t mean to jump straight to “Get new friends”, but in my situation, and from other women who experienced the same, it’s frequently part of the solution. I really hope the scripts work out for LW, and that once the boyfriend is on her side, other men join him. This is such a hard position to be in.

      • Koalaed said:

        I’m so sorry you had to go through that – both the assault and the lack of support from people you should have been able to trust. You are incredible for getting through it and forging new friendships.

  5. Sheelzebub said:

    I, wow. I’m going to focus on LW1 first.

    I don’t even know where to start.

    I don’t know what this guy’s good points are because holy hells is he ever out of line. He hasn’t gotten laid in 2 years? Color me SHOCKED. Treat your women friends like they aren’t human and whine when they tell you you’re making them uncomfortable, and don’t be shocked if you never get a sex partner, a girlfriend, or women friends. FFS.

    I was going to ask who keeps inviting this asshole out with everyone, and I see it’s the dudes (are they dating the women creeper has gone after? Because holy shit, it’s bad enough that they’d shrug it off when he creeps on women they are friends with, but it’s really horrible if they shrug off their girlfriends being harassed). I’m disgusted but not surprised. Sure, “something” should be done about creeper but it’s not that big of a deal, amirite? What does your SO say about this? Is he in your corner? Is he in your corner to the point that he’d back you (or even say) that he doesn’t want creeper around anymore?

    Otherwise, I’d hang with the women friends separately if you are good friends with them and don’t want to lose contact. And tell your SO that you do NOT want creeper at your house, there will be NO compromise on this, he’s alienated all of his female friends, and if SO and his buddies refuse to take this seriously, they’re going to have a fuck of a lot more to worry about than creeper’s hurt fee-fees. Do NOT go to his house, and do NOT go to any outings that include him.

    • Tammy said:

      “He hasn’t gotten laid in 2 years? Color me SHOCKED”

      Use this line – to him and everyone else. In public. Using the snarkiest voice you can manage. And point out his whiny creepiness again. Then cut him off, unfriend him, block him, whatever. And this is nasty of me, but I’d mock him if boyfriend brings him up – “Oh, a message from Sir Whineyness of Fort Whineytown? Has he whined his way into sex yet? No? OMG, color me shocked!” and blow off any mention of the guy.

      LW2, I’m sorry, but my first reaction was to wonder if you could search the newspaper archives of the town these boys grew up in and find out who was hurt or killed in an unsolved crime, but it sounds like it’s just emotional blackmail not actual blackmail (not that there’s anything “just” either way). Unfortunately I have to agree with the others – you have a boyfriend problem and the only way to safety may be leaving.

      (Um, hi. Longtime reader, first time poster, hopefully not offending anyone except my kitty, who resents me typing instead of petting.)

      • Nancy Drew said:

        Tammy, I promise you that you weren’t the only one who thought of research as a means of figuring out LW #2’s creeper’s hold on his friends.

        • eviltammy said:

          Maybe we should start a club? :)

      • Flaw In The System said:

        ““He hasn’t gotten laid in 2 years? Color me SHOCKED”
        Use this line – to him and everyone else.”

        Please don’t, implying men are only of worth if they are having sex goes hand in hand with implying women only have worth if they aren’t having sex. Gender policing is bad:/

        • JenniferP said:

          Good call. Plus there’s the distinct possibility that he will stop his whining and people still won’t want to sleep with him. It’s not a situation with clear inputs and outputs.

        • Vreen said:

          I’m sure that was meant as an indictment of his behavior, not his worth; given his behavior, it is no surprise that no woman he has approached has been interested in sleeping with him. It’s certainly no surprise or shock to me.

          • Beenie said:

            This. It is cause and effect, not implying worth. “You are not getting laid because you are being a creep.” NOT “You should feel bad about yourself because you’re not getting laid.”

            He needs to find out that the problem is his behavior.

          • George E. said:

            Correct.

            However, not being a creep will not guarantee getting laid. It will simply remove the impediment of “being creepy”.

            The rest you’d have to work out on your own, by being someone the ladies like to be around, so that they can get to know you, learn what kind of guy you really are, and if they like what they learn, take things in a more personal/intimate direction.

            I’d like to bring up the example of how to be the anti-creep, if appropriate. Back in high school I was the shy, introverted, totally-lacking-in-self-confidence guy. BUT… I enjoyed music, and I enjoyed games of all kinds (board games, puzzles, what have you).

            During a speech/debate meet, I got introduced to a very sweet young lady, and we got into an impromptu Othello match, listening to jazz…. And then another. And another. And another…. Fast forward to 2 am, we were still playing, talking about goodness knows what, when the chaperones finally showed up and sent everyone back to their respective hotel rooms.

            I found out later on, that the sweet girl in question had a rep for being … ahem… ‘loose’… and that by putting her in my room and then locking the interconnect door to the other suite, my friends and teammates had intended for me to get laid. In all honesty, I think the two of us had more fun with Othello than with awkward teenage groping/sex.

        • CL said:

          Yes, this. It’s wrong to shame someone for his or her sex life, whether the person is having lots of sex or no sex at all. Using this line will likely make someone feel crappy because s/he also hasn’t had sex in two years. There are plenty of legitimately shameful things to shame him for doing.

        • First time reader/first time poster: When I was younger and a lot more naive, our social circle had a few “saddest pandas” and one of them relayed to me later (after I was married and he’d stopped hitting on me: he was one who drew that line) that he actually was sleeping with women, getting “pity sex” by whining about how long it had been since he’d gotten laid, which was in fact, exaggerated. Saying he hadn’t gotten laid in x number of years was basically a pick up line. I think we should consider that that could be the case here. Not necessarily: but it might be.

          • JenniferP said:

            Note to self: It can always get more depressing. Always.

          • Well if it makes you feel better, that was back in the 90s, when we were naive and believed whiny dudes were “nice” and “sensitive”. Hopefully pathetic mewling doesn’t work as a pickup line anymore.

          • Bex said:

            There’s a reason that the whole, “I’ve been impotent ever since ____ left me X years ago” is a cliche Hollywood line. Because it’s worked, and it’s worked often. Do women feel pity? Or do they feel flattered for being “chosen” to “break the spell” or whatever? I don’t know.

          • I don’t know, Bex. I didn’t break any off to the dude, but I suspect it’s just a numbers game: like buying dollar lotto tickets. If the dude asks enough women for sympathy sex he figures one is going to break down out of pity, or due to flattery, for whatever reason.

        • windyfairy said:

          I don’t think that that was what was implied. I think that the message was that maybe there’s a REASON that he does not have any type of relationship with a female, meaningful or otherwise, ie, his treatment of women. It’s a sad fact for men like this that, despite the flaws that our culture still has, we do have more and more women who are just not putting up with being treated like shit. That means that there are less and less women who are going to be willing to put up with a man who obviously thinks of women as meat.

        • eviltammy said:

          Sorry, didn’t even think of that. In my head, it was more of “hasn’t had sex? more surprised he’s had conversations!” which may not be any better. I did not mean to equate sex and worth, but more whinyness and lack of companionship, which is something I have to work on myself. Plus the idea that just because something is clear in my head, it’s understandable by everyone when it’s written down, especially when the people to whom I’m writing are not familiar with the way I communicate.

    • LW1 here.

      I haven’t brought this up with my husband. He’s been in a couple conversations where I’ve discussed Creeper with some of the other guys, but he hasn’t had much to say on the whole situation. I’m pretty sure that, even if he doesn’t agree with me that Creeper is a problem, he will agree to not have Creeper over if I stress how much his behavior bothers me. (And I wish I could say that of course he will agree with me, but as socially aware as he is, Husband still has one foot in the privilege pool and has a tendency to side-eye books like The Gift of Fear, which I’m reading right now.)

      A couple of the boyfriends still hang out with Creeper but I don’t know how regularly that goes on. The rest seem to have drifted to the edges of the group, so the girls will get together, the boyfriends will usually hang out if they’re invited, and the main group (usually me and the guys) do stuff like roleplaying and invite the others for big get-togethers.

      • Jake said:

        So, this is just an aside, but why are the guys (plus maybe you) the “main” group, but the girls (plus maybe most of the guys) aren’t? Maybe it’s time to start thinking of the group that includes more of the group (if you see what I mean) as the main group, role play and hang out with them, and just not invite creeper to stuff?

    • Shannon said:

      “I was going to ask who keeps inviting this asshole out with everyone, and I see it’s the dudes (are they dating the women creeper has gone after? Because holy shit, it’s bad enough that they’d shrug it off when he creeps on women they are friends with, but it’s really horrible if they shrug off their girlfriends being harassed). ”

      Men – and I’m a man, and feel comfortable in saying this – are somewhat stupid when it comes to their friends.

      This by no means excuses either the boyfriend or the creeper in either story, but it really does come down to the fact that men have rules of social behavior that often blinds them to the faults of the other men that are part of their ‘tribe’. It often takes a strong, outside voice to get men to see outside of their established social patterns and recognize a problem.

      The script the author presents above is perfect – it does not pander, it draws a line, and it explains /why/ with simple statements of fact. When my wife used a similar script to highlight a bully in our social circle, his actions – which I simply hadn’t noticed before, or made excuses for without thinking – were spotlighted in a way I couldn’t ignore. As much as I’d stood up to idiots like him on behalf of friends when the idiot was outside of my usual circle, I simply hadn’t … somehow.. paid attention to the …. er. Ass in our own midst?

      This problem was solved fairly quickly soon afterwords, and I had a lot of apologizing of my own to do.

      That said, these creepers need to be told how their behavior affects those around them, //and have consequences for that behavior//. If they won’t change, then walk away – there are always new experiences and new people to come to know.

      Bluntly, too, defending the idiocy of others is not ‘being a good friend’ – a good friend is someone who supports people who pursue an ethical path and calls out people who cross that particular line. “Being nice” never means condoning dangerous or even ‘just’ uncomfortable behavior.

      • I simply hadn’t … somehow.. paid attention to the …. er. Ass in our own midst?

        Privilege is insidious.

  6. Sheelzebub said:

    Oh, my god it gets worse. Ben sounds horrible and I’d love to dump him in a shark tank with raw steaks stapled to his ass.

    LW2, I don’t care what the fuck creeper Ben went through or did when your SO called him out years ago–you’re his fucking girlfriend and he basically dismissed the fact that Ben sexually assaulted you. He and your dudely friends shrugged off the fact that Ben has sexually assaulted and harassed other women in your group–women who, one would think, they consider friends as well.

    I. . .I think you might want to rethink your relationship with your boyfriend. I also think that you may want to find a new group of friends. If those women are up for hanging out without Ben around, then great, but I’d seriously branch out. I don’t mean to sound all alarmist, but I don’t know how safe or loved or valued or respected I’d feel with a boyfriend who put the feelings of a sexual predator over my well-being If Ben was “really” nice, he’d cut the shit. He’s not really nice. It’s just that the dudely d00ds in your group don’t seem to think that women are human beings. Do you think they’d be understanding about it if Ben pulled this shit with THEM? I somehow doubt it, no matter how fragile they thought he was.

    Think about this: your boyfriend is showing you in full, technicolor glory that he doesn’t think you are worthy of being safe or treated respectfully. Do you want to continue to be with someone who does that? For another year? Another five years? Another ten? Can you live with that kind of dismissal from someone who’s supposed to have your back?

    • Nicole said:

      I agree. I hate to be one of those people who immediately jump to “DTMFA!”, but…Ben sexually assaulted the LW. It seems extraordinarily callous for the LW’s boyfriend to dismiss the LW’s concerns and essentially take Ben’s side. To me, that shows a fundamental lack of decency, courtesy and respect for the LW.

      • I concur. Does he even *care* if Ben rapes his girlfriend?!?! I am seriously wondering about this.

        With regards to the phrases along the lines of “he’s a cool guy to hang out with”: I’m sure he is. Because he’s NOT TRYING TO FUCK YOU at every possible opportunity, I’m sure he’s a real blast. However, if your buddy was trying to get into your pants at every gaming night, you might feel differently.

        It really annoys me when guys blow this kind of thing off because it’s Not Their Problem and they don’t have to worry about it.

        • Bunny said:

          And even if you try talking to dudes about it that way “he’s not doing this to you, so of course he’s fun for YOU to hang out with!” they’ll turn it around to “I’d be flattered if a girl thought I was good looking!” “I’d love it if girls flirted with me!”, handily missing the point so hard they manage to somehow throw the dart backwards into their own eyes.

          • slfisher said:

            And how about if it were a gay guy hitting on them all the time?

          • Bunny said:

            Ehhhh I try to avoid that scenario. Gay Panic and Trans Panic are shitty things and I wouldn’t want to exploit them for the sake of making a point, you know?

          • kevin said:

            I’ve actually been in that situation…had a gay friend who developed an interest in me and would not knock off the innuendos and flirting. It was tiresome and kind of sad, and eventually ruined the friendship.

          • Duncan said:

            This isn’t about someone thinking they’re good-looking, or flirting with them. Would they be flattered if a girl they didn’t like and had turned down got them alone while they were passed-out drunk and started stroking their manlyparts?

        • piny said:

          Yeah. Not to creep you out even more, LW, but I’m really starting to wonder what happened with all the other women your boyfriend dated. It’s not possible that Ben left them alone, after all.

        • “With regards to the phrases along the lines of “he’s a cool guy to hang out with”: I’m sure he is. Because he’s NOT TRYING TO FUCK YOU at every possible opportunity, I’m sure he’s a real blast.”

          This. THIS. THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS!

          In the last few months this has come up a couple of times for people I don’t see regularly/stuff fro the past. Of COURSE he seems great because he see YOU as a person. You’re not something (because let’s face it, that’s what these guys are treating women like) that he can put his dick it. It’s blatantly obvious that women are nothing more than potential dick-putting-in devices to these guys.

          So yes, he’s a GREAT guy to hang out with if he doesn’t want to fuck you.

          • delbelcoure said:

            This reminds me of a man I knew in college. Many of the guys thought he was okay, many of the women interacted with him guardedly, if at all. I told all the new girls to avoid him because he treated women like a piece of meat with a hole in it, not as a human being. He got tired of it and asked me to stop. I said no, so HE CHALLENGED MY HUSBAND TO A DUEL IN AN ATTEMPT TO SHUT ME UP! I can’t make stuff like this up. Mr. delbelcoure shut him down and we both had a laugh over the absurdity of the situation.
            The sad thing is, only now, decades later, while reading this thread does it even dawn on me that our whole group could have called him out on his behavior – told him to act right or get out. Rape culture, I’m soaking in it.

        • I have actual evidence of this. An old room-mate was gay, and predatorily so, and dude after dude left our gaming group because they couldn’t handle the inappropriate touching, fondling. Eventually we quit gaming at our house, because there was no way NOT to have the room-mate be a part of it (he owned the house), and then we moved out because of other bad behaviors.

          Guys are even MORE uncomfortable when someone violates their boundaries like the ways they expect women to tolerate having their boundaries violated.

      • Ellen Cameron said:

        I couldn’t agree more. Both LW’s are dealing with situations that simply should not be allowed to continue. i don’t give a wet slap about how tender Ben’s widdow feewin’s are; he certainly doesn’t care about anyone else’s — and apparently, neither do his male friends. In both letters, the guys clearly put their entertainment above the comfort and safety of their wimminfolk. So: I suggest that the wimminfolk ALL GET TOGETHER — bring in the ones who have drifted away, if that’s possible — and do some serious confrontation about these creeps. One woman saying to one guy “I’m not comfortable” can be dismissed pretty easily; but if the whole lot of you get together and say,”This is what’s going on; we’re not at all happy with it; and we WILL not put up with it any longer,” that’s a lot harder to ignore. You may have to say directly,”Do you put your hanging-out buddy ahead of my safety?” You may have to say “Fine. This relationship is now over.” But someone else has already posted the question, how long do you want to stay with someone who doesn’t respect your safety? If your comfort and safety are coming in a poor second, then it’s high time to find a different place to be, and to let the men know EXACTLY why.

    • betoma said:

      Word. If I were sleep-assaulted by a “Ben,” and I told my boyfriend about it, the result would be a towering rage of righteous fury directed at Ben. The likelihood that he’d still be hanging out with Ben or inviting him over to our house would be nil. He wouldn’t drive to Ben’s house & beat him up, because that would be Dreadfully Uncivilized, but he would WANT to beat up Ben. Letter Writer #2’s boyfriend should WANT to beat up Ben. Because it’s normal to be pissed off at someone who hurts the people you love! Ignoring or minimizing the rape-y behavior is what’s weird.

      Maybe LW2’s boyfriend is just charmingly naive about the ways of the world, and needs it explained one more time why sleep-raping people or demanding sex in exchange for rides home are horrible things to do. But if you explain it again & it doesn’t take, DTMFA.

      • Yeah… SUPER thankful for the men in my life who have confronted or would confront pieces of shit like this.

      • drst said:

        Letter Writer #2′s boyfriend should WANT to beat up Ben.

        I’m seriously uncomfortable with that. There are plenty of people who have no desire for physical violence and declaring that to be a good boyfriend you should want to engage in violence is unfair.

        (The entire idea that “Somebody hurt MY WOMAN so I SHALL SEEK VENGEANCE” is rooted in the idea of ownership of the woman. The man is going out to fight because something was done to his “property” and he therefore has a right to seek redress. This is not explicit any longer in Western culture but it’s the root of this idea. Your (generic) boyfriend/girlfriend/partner does not get to seek justice for something that was done to you. There are ways to be supportive without making it about the partner’s anger rather than the injury to the victim.)

        • Saeri said:

          Thanks for this comment, drst. It’s a good point that should be kept in mind in these sorts of discussions.

        • Jake said:

          I agree with this. And I also think that the way the boyfriend reacted smacks of this. To scoff about going over to Ben’s house to beat him up “over something that happened more than a year and a half ago” reeks to me of only caring about Ben’s infringement on HIS property (which was minimal), rather than actually caring about GIRLFRIEND’S FEELINGS (which are entirely justified and very important).

          • Yes. It shows he doesn’t get the point. He doesn’ get why his girlfriend would be upset about it “years later” and he doesn’t get why and how she feels about it and what kind of emotional support she therefore needs.

          • drst said:

            *nods* I can understand the BF going to the “Do you want me to beat him up?” response because that’s pretty much the only way men are ever depicted as reacting to a woman they care about being raped. Most of the media depictions especially are either men victim blaming the woman or the guy feeling he has to go get justice somehow regardless of what the woman needs him to do. There’s not a narrative for how to deal with your partner being raped that involves supporting and making the victim’s feelings the priority, and we really need it. However, the BF’s dismissiveness in this case is really discomfiting.

        • Anonymus Maximus said:

          Well. To me, there is a very clear difference between “Somebody hurt MY WOMAN so I SHALL SEEK VENGEANCE”, and “Somebody hurt a person that I love and committed a crime whilst doing so, and this crime is largely dismissed as <> in our culture, and this seriously pisses me off, because that is not what a decent human being does!”

          It is entirely within my partners right to be angry at my behest, -when I am angry-, and vice-versa.

          • drst said:

            Absolutely. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear – the point I was making is this idea of going out and hurting the person who raped your girlfriend is rooted in possessiveness and ownership. It doesn’t mean every guy who reacts that way is thinking what I said, or even conscious of the root of the impulse.

            There is still a problem of dealing with someone telling a partner they were the victim of a crime and the partner making it all about partner’s anger rather than what the victim needs. And the BF in this case clearly did not exert much effort to consider the LW’s needs in this situation, even aside from the punching thing.

          • Anonymus Maximus said:

            drst: We are in agreement, and that is a sweet, sweet feeling! :)

          • spitsphyre said:

            I agree with this. I often feel anger that sometimes manifests in the desire to make other people cry the way my loved ones are crying when someone hurts them. It used to be actual violence now it’s just hot anger but there was never ownership. Just frustration with injustice.

        • JenniferP said:

          Very good call, thank you for saying this.

        • Mary said:

          If my partner goes nuts on me and makes it all about him and his anger so I have to spend my time going, “No, please don’t go out and hit him, that wouldn’t help”. we have a problem. If my partner says, “I know this isn’t remotely helpful, but bloody hell, I kind of want to kill him. Do you want a cup of tea?” we’re OK.

          As a reaction, I think it’s completely understandable – Lord knows, it’s how I react when I hear that someone’s assaulted one of my friends or my partner. I’d have a MASSIVE problem with anyone taking it on themselves to act on my behalf, especially violently, but I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with them acknowledging that that’s how they feel.

          • drst said:

            This. Of course there’s going to be anger and a lot of other emotions. As long as partner doesn’t try to make the entire thing about partner’s feelings to the exclusion of what you need in that situation.

          • NessieMonster said:

            This. Well said, Maximus and Mary

        • aliaras said:

          Seconded — especially around issues of acquaintance rape/assault, the fact that someone will want to do violence to the offender can be a *barrier* to talking about it. Because then your speaking out gets someone killed or beat up.

        • emanixx said:

          Uh, no. Really no, drst et al.. Betoma did not say a good boyfriend should get all possessive and out to protect his property. The words used were “towering rage of righteous fury” and “it’s normal to be pissed off at someone who hurts the people you love!”

          None of that is possessive. None of that is based in ownership, all of this is based on the idea of some things being innately morally wrong and deserving of some serious smacking around the head.

          Frankly, I’ve never met either of the letter writers, but *I* want to beat Ben up, too
          (I have these what I call ‘pointy-breastplate’ moments where I want to swoop in and protect those who are weaker or more confused than myself. Yeah I know it’s white knight syndrome, no I don’t act on it, yeah I’m female, so what.).
          Doesn’t mean I’m going to, but I think it’s actually pretty bizarre as a human being, and especially as a *partner*, of any gender, to *not* want to smack someone who so clearly preys on the vulnerable (or at best perfectly competent people in vulnerable conditions).

          Am I going to stake my claim on anyone I protect? Hell no. Am I actually going to beat anyone? Again, no (not if they’re *bad*, anyway). But the strong assisting the weak, or frankly just folks sticking up for the folks they care about? That’s kindof the basis of society.

          • emanixx said:

            Ack, nevermind. I just re-read the original letter and spotted the important line I’d missed, thus changing the complexion of *everything* I was replying to. Genuine pissed-off-ness good. Sarcastic stereotype pissed-off-ness bad. Now I get where you guys were coming from. Oops! Time to go to bed, methinks.

          • drst said:

            No worries. I get totally rage-faced about a lot of this to, and want to beat the snot out of some of these guys or worse. What I was trying to get across is that responding to a loved one telling you they were assaulted or raped by making it All About You is not how to handle it, and we really REALLY need to start offering men a better set of scripts and examples other than “I’m gonna go beat him up” for these situations because it’s not helpful for anyone.

            As Mary said, there’s a big difference between expressing your own anger while being supportive and making your anger the focus of the situation. I’m not telling anyone not to feel the incandescent rage or not want to go kick the shit out of someone. I feel the same way.

        • Er, I want to beat up Ben.

          I actually quite often have the visceral reaction that I want to beat up the creepy mccreeperson creeps who prey on women. I mean really, my head goes right into how I could (because I’m female, and fat, and I really don’t look like I’m a violent person) “accidentally” do something that would cause them great pain and cause them to think about something else than harassing this women for quite some time.

          I’m female. I’m not reacting rooted in my feeling of “ownership” for a woman. I’m reacting out of having the strong feeling that men who hurt women and expect to get away with it really should be feeling a lot of pain when they try.

          I’m a law-abiding person. I’ve never beaten up anyone (except my older brother, and him only when we were both under 12) But the root of my desire to beat up these men isn’t ownership, it’s sheer effing RAGE.

          • sasha said:

            THIS. I work in some environments where there are a lot of middle-aged men, and some younger men, who seem to view the young women there solely as sexual objects for their pleasure. As I’m closer in age to the middle-aged men, and fat, they usually leave me alone. But I see it all playing out in front of me, with these men creeping on these young women who I care about and want to protect, and most of the young women either not seeming to understand what’s going on, or still being young enough that they haven’t overcome their niceness training yet – and it gets me SOOOO ANGRY!

            This really came to a head a couple years ago, in a story similar to elodieunderglass’s. I had brought a stunningly beautiful young woman down to work for me in one of these environments. As soon as I got there, I saw Creeper #1 there, a middle-aged man who I’d watched repeatedly preying on young women at a different site the last few years, and I knew he was going to go after Stunning – she was just his type. So I pulled Stunning aside and warned her about Creeper #1, then proceeded to play Mama Bear, sending Creeper #1 lots of side-eyes and letting my hackles go up whenever he got creepy around Stunning.

            I also ended up fending off a younger guy, Creeper #2 – this was the first time I’d met him, but I quickly learned his game was to impress and pick up even younger Asian or Indian women – women who he believed would be passive and submissive. As Stunning was, indeed, a young Indian women, Creeper #2 was drawn to her right away like a moth to a flame. Finally, one day he came over while I was trying to work with Stunning and was rude to me in the process of trying to flirt with her, and I (verbally) let him have it. The look on his face – priceless!! He was used to being adored by women, not attacked. He refused to come near or talk to me for weeks afterwards, and even now – over two years later – he still avoids me at conferences!

          • drst said:

            There’s a big difference, though, between feeling rage at people who hurt women in general and reacting to a partner telling you someone hurt them and responding with “I’m going to go beat him up.”

            I’m pretty disgusted with Ben too. I get cravings for violence against people who hurt women in general, and people who’ve hurt my friends specifically. Anger, and even the desire to lash out violently, are pretty human reactions and I’m not saying they’re wrong or trying to pretend I don’t feel that too.

            But if my friend or my lover came to me and said “Ben did X to me” NO MATTER HOW ANGRY I WAS, my job in that situation is to help the other person and support what they want. I don’t mean I would pretend not to have feelings. I might even say I wanted him dead, but the point I’m attempting to make here is that when someone you love has been hurt in this way? You do NOT make it all about you.

            Mary’s comment above is exactly what I’m talking about. There’s a big difference between “I want him fucking dead. What do you need me to do?” and “I’m going to go kill him now because I’m so angry I have to do something to deal with my anger no matter how it’s going to affect you.”

          • drst said:

            For some reason I can’t reply to sasha’s comment so let me add:

            Workplace dynamics are different from social groups and romantic relationships. As a supervisor your job is to protect the people who work for you, and I’m so glad you’re doing it! But protecting and supporting female coworkers is not the same as dealing with a close friend or romantic partner who has been assaulted by someone in your social group. What you need to do for a coworker is different, due to a lot of things including the law, than what you would want to do for a friend/partner.

          • Laura said:

            I must be the odd woman here, because if my husband went ballistic after finding out about anyone sleep-assaulting me, I’d like it. Maybe it’s because he’s such a calm person, I’d like the show of passion for my safety. Would it be about him? No, it would be about someone daring to hurt his wife in such a way. Would he actually assault the guy? Nope, his motto is he doesn’t get mad, he gets even.

            My thoughts are, both men in the LWs’ life have a ‘suck it up’ attitude, which bothers me. Not only do they enhance the Rape Culture, they in some small way share the creepers’ attitude that women are a step up from masturbation. Very dehumanizing and something the men would get cranky about if it happened to them, too. I’d have a tough time staying with either boyfriend or husband with such Rape Culture embedded in his emotional programming.

          • Reacting to a report of rape or rapey behavior with a rage-filled “I’m going to kill the MF” usually results in the person who was assaulted backing down, because they don’t want to cause a murder. This is extremely, EXTREMELY counterproductive.

            Focus on the person who was hurt and how they feel. Let your feelings come out safely away from them. They don’t need anyone telling them what should happen next.

        • Tiffany said:

          Or maybe it’s about wanting to see righteous evil befall the person who did a grevious harm to someone you love deeply — and did it because that person couldn’t fight back.

          It’s the same impulse I think most of us would feel if we saw a 12 year old bullying an 8 year old on the playground; We would have a sense that this is wrong, and the aggressor should be stopped and punished in some way. I think the same applies here, or SHOULD.

          That her boyfriend brushes it off and doesn’t appear to feel anger that a person he loves was assaulted *because* of her vulnerability disturbs me deeply.

        • kfrance0 said:

          Well, it could also be that he’s standing up for someone who’s weaker than himself. Wanting to come down like a ton of bricks on someone who hurts my girlfriend isn’t from some idea that I own her, it’s because she’s my girlFRIEND and I tend to feel that way about my FRIENDS. But I dunno…I have a “thing” about bullies and other people who prey upon those they see as weak or vulnerable. Maybe that makes my viewpoint unusual.

    • Vir Modestus said:

      “Think about this: your boyfriend is showing you in full, technicolor glory that he doesn’t think you are worthy of being safe or treated respectfully.”

      I would add, he is showing you that YOUR experiences and YOUR conclusions are not as important as his are. That they aren’t as important as his comfort or that of this proto-rapist. He’s telling you that HE is a better expert on your life than you are.

      That is all kinds of fucked up.

      • sanjerine said:

        I agree, it is all kinds of fucked up. Relationship counselors look for signs of contempt or disrespect in relationships — because no matter how much in love you are with somebody, if they don’t respect you, I’m afraid you’re on a long slow boat to nowhere. His response to what happened to you is either (a) utter, cosmic cluelessness, (b) willful passivity/ignorance, or (c) blatant disrespect. Explain things to him again in small words, just in case it’s (a), but I would pack his bags before you do. I’m sorry!!

      • Pelirroja said:

        This (dismissal, BF deciding what is valid) gets at something that I think has been missed in this discussion (very long list of comments — I have only read this far!). Captain is spot on with his advice, which is basically telling the LWs to assert the importance of their feelings and their experiences.

        The problem I see unmentioned here is that of denial. I don’t think the men are as callous as they are being made out to be, and if they were to read all these comments it would probably just ring as false. I think they do care about their GFs.

        The problem is that their denial is stronger than their desire to listen and take seriously the concerns of their GFs. The effect is the same — GFs’ experiences, needs and feelings are not addressed. Denied and dismissed. But to deal with that, the LWs might need to think about what is behind that. If it is denial, their actions would be different than if it were callousness or whatnot.

        So the only thing I might add to Captain’s advice is to leave the door open for the BFs to see and understand their own denial. Yes, it will be hard and sad and feel bad to see that. To try to understand why they don’t want to acknowledge Creepers’ behaviors. But the process of doing just that can accomplish a lot, if both BF and GF are willing to slog through it. It can break down the denial and bring them closer, build a new ally against Creeps once the BF gets it, and perhaps take one chunk out of rape culture.

        Denial has been a defense in rape culture forever. Women participate in it too. If we can deny this yucky stuff, we can try to feel like it won’t happen (or didn’t happen) to us or those we love. Because that thought is too much to handle.

        None of this excuses the men (or women, in other cases) from denying the women’s experiences. Excuse, no. But understanding that this denial might be there could provide a way for LWs to communicate with the BFs, to offer a more open solution that allows for the BF to process their own failings in the past regarding this issue without having to label it all as being a total jerk. If the LWs want to maintain these relationships, I think they will have to be willing to talk about this, and unfortunately probably need to be the ones to bring it up and accept it (ie I understand that you didn’t want to believe that your friend would actually do this or I know that you were really scared that you would cause this guy to kill himself) while demanding a change in behavior that includes support and validation of the GFs right to feel safe and respected.

        It totally sucks that we women who have been victimized have to do so much of the work in this way. And it is each woman’s right to dump the unsupportive dudes. I totally dissed a guy because he mocked me for not wanting to walk through an isolated park alone. Much less than these LWs are decribing. But if you want to try to work things out, thinking and talking about what might be causing denial could help.

        • JenniferP said:

          Thanks for this constructive comment. I do want to write about how to have these difficult conversations inside social groups and to be constructive about it and to give people room to do what you want them to do.

          One quibble: I, the Captain, am a lady.

    • LSG said:

      Yes to everything, but especially YES to your last paragraph. I have some experience with a boyfriend who was dismissive and victim-blame-y when another guy was creepy to me and some other women. (After all, the guy was fun to hang out with and I was just causing drama by acting like I didn’t want the attention!)

      Then, he quickly proved to be dismissive, angry, and pressure-y when I tried to assert my sexual boundaries with him. (After all, we were dating and I was just causing drama by acting like I didn’t want to!) Sadly, it’s not an enormous leap.

    • Awkward Niece said:

      LW2, heed the Sheelz, for she speaketh a ton of truth.

    • Emily said:

      That’s a really great point! All these men who dismiss women’s feelings of discomfort around these guys would probably be APPALLED if you re-framed their buddy as a gay predator. Ask them to imagine how they would feel if Ben cuddled up to and started fondling THEM in their sleep. I bet they’d have a little less tolerance for their buddy.

      • Emily said:

        I just reread my post and I wanted to clarify that I’m not saying gay men are predators, just that there are gay predators as well as straight ones and all of these “man’s man” type guys are probably the same ones who would feel justified in beating the crap out of a gay man if they thought he was flirting with them. Just sayin

  7. Ace said:

    OMG. OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG. I’m creeped out and I don’t even *know* these guys!

    (ok, i’m done, but holy shit these guys!)

    I wonder if this is one of those cases where you can talk to someone about a problem and when you’re talking about it things don’t sound that bad, but then you write it all down and OMG, it’s an epidemic. Because maybe when you’re having this talk with your partners and they start in on the ‘oh he’s not that bad’ or my favorite ‘oh, that’s just guy x, you know what he’s like’ you have a fucking list and it’s kinda hard to deny it?

    That being said, I have way more hope for LW1 than I do for LW2. I’m sorry LW2, but childhood ties are really hard to break and some people will put up with A LOT from people that they’ve known forever. Your guy sounds like he’s in major denial about Ben and well, I’m glad he’s just your boyfriend and not your husband because unless something major happens to wake him up (and seriously? this other stuff isn’t major?) he’ll just keep apologizing for this jerk.

    The Captain is 100% right on this one, on both of these. It’s gonna be hard, but it’s such the right thing to do, for yourselves and your safety.

  8. tinyorc said:

    *standing ovation*

    Thanks for saying all this in such clear and concise terms, Captain. This made me so sad, but also reaffirmed how important it is that we keep talking about this stuff, because it’s not going to go away until other dudes start calling out creeps on their creepy-ass behaviour. Because Creeper doesn’t care what Random Girl in the Group thinks of his behaviour, because Random Girl is just another pair of tits that he intends to fondle as soon as everyone passes the three-drink mark. As you said, until there are real consequences for creeps – “disapproval & pushback from dudes and dude society” – nothing is going to change.

    LWs, good job on being strong enough to talk to your partners about this stuff. You’ve already overcome a lot of social pressure just to get to the point where you can say “I’m Not Cool with this guy.” The Captain’s advice is super-solid as always, but unfortunately there’s no fun way out of situations like this. You’ve voiced your concerns; all you can do is prioritize your own safety and comfort and hope the men in your life start to realize that this is their problem too.

  9. kittie said:

    LW’s, you have my sympathy. One of my partner’s friends tends to be a creeper, and to make the situation even more delicate, he’s also in a position of professional authority over me. While he’s always been impeccably appropriate towards me in both professional and social settings, his words and actions have made some of my female friends acutely uncomfortable.

    My partner is totally supportive about not inviting this person to social events where his behaviour might make my friends feel unsafe. And he’s consistently backed me up when I’ve intervened in social situations, which is important because this guy totally dismisses any criticism of his words and actions unless it comes from another man.

    The thing that bothered me, though, is that our mutual social group would treat this guy like he was some kind of romantically inept and comically harmless buffoon – like, “Oh haha, I bet he totally struck out with your friend because he always makes his hot tub sound like a rape tub!” Or, “There was this hilarious time he was perving on an underage girl, and he only realized how young she was when her dad walked over and gave him the stinkeye!”

    At first, I was reluctant to say anything about this for fear of making things awkward, but it was making me more and more reluctant to socialize with this group of people and I figured that I was on track to lose friends either way. So every time one of these “funny” stories came up, I started saying with a big smile and in a friendly tone, “I don’t think that’s funny – I think it’s creepy as shit, and that’s why I’m not inviting any of my female friends to [next social event where this guy would be].” And usually, someone would say, “Yeah, that was pretty creepy,” and the conversation would move on to a new topic. So, at least when I am around, he’s no longer getting positive reinforcement in his role as the loveable perv.

    I hope my anecdote emphasizes that both LW’s are in the right to expect their partners to back them up and support their boundaries around their respective creepers. And even though other people’s situations may be quite different. my experience suggests that speaking up about this kind of behaviour is not guaranteed to create massive friendship-ending awkwardness, contra the “BE COOL OR ELSE” messages that women receive.

  10. Not only are the letter writers having to deal with the rape-culture-patriarchy-mega-bullshit that Captain Awkward outlines, another major factor contributes to why this sucks.

    Both of these Letter Writers are essentially Whistle-blowers, they are calling out a major problem, which is often a situation that is fraught with drama. In the professional world whistle-blowers are ostracized and often can’t find other jobs. Fortunately in the social universe the consequences are less severe.

    Most people think in their heart of hearts that they are moral stand up awesome people who would never allow bad behavior to stand and that they are brave enough to stand up to it. Very few people actually are.

    When confronted with something horrible that they have ignored and dismissed they are going to minimize it, because to acknowledge how awful it is will be to do more than challenge their beliefs about the situation, it will also challenge their beliefs about themselves. And people don’t like to challenge their intrinsic beliefs about their identity. They would rather believe that you are overreacting than that they are not the strong moral leader that they think they are.

    It is one thing to change your mind about your friend being a major creeper, but to allow yourself to see that you let a man who sexually assaulted your girlfriend continue to hang out with you, and actually defended him? That involves some serious self reflection, and should involve some serious bad feelings. Unfortunately, a more likely response is continued denial and dismissal, because it is easier and it doesn’t involve changing a person’s whole view of themselves.

    To make matters worse, there is really no one at which to blow the whistle. They’ve tried confronting the problem face to face and that didn’t work and in this situation there is no boss, no creeper police to step in and put these guys in “what the fuck is wrong with you” jail.

    In addition to Captain Awkwards excellent advice I might suggest that the letter writers see if there is some consensus among the other ladies. (Or even men of the group.) It might make a more clear impact if you all cosigned a letter to the male members of your friend group about this problem similar to Captain Awkward’s scripts above, or if you all decided to absent yourselves from any gathering involving them. A lot of whistle-blower protection revolves around anonymity, but that also diminishes its credibility, plus I’m not sure how you send something anonymously anymore anyway.

    I know this smacks of creating drama and ostracizing people, so whether or not you want to push this is something you’ll have to decide. But if 5 of 10 people think something is important, it is, and if you all stand together, the other 5 will at least have to listen. I think you could find strength in numbers, and strength in the fact that this is a real problem for all of you. If every time the creeper shows up, all the women and anyone else who wants to, leaves immediately, eventually a point will be made. At first it will be drama and oh poor xyz, but eventually the effect will be creeper and creeper sympathizers are not invited to the same events you are.

    • Lucy said:

      I have to weigh in on this, as someone who’s had this repeated experience in A LOT of different social and professional situations. Invariably there will be some person who is either really creepy or sexually inappropriate or otherwise just mean and nasty to a lot of people in the group, and invariably I am always the one who has to say something to them because I can’t tolerate it, and invariably I, not they, am always the one who’s ostracized for “creating drama” or “being bitchy.” This happened a lot more frequently when I was younger, and it gave me a lot of serious trust issues (mostly of authority figures, who were in a position to help me but never did). But I realized that I was not wrong to call out the bad behavior, particularly (unfortunately) when the offender in question eventually did assault someone, or put her foot in her mouth in an irreparable way, in front of everyone.

      I agree completely with everything that everyone has advised, and I want to strongly encourage both letter writers not to tolerate this bullshit AT ALL. Calling out behavior like this and taking a stand not to have that person around might make you unpopular with these friends, but that’s telling you a lot more about these friends than about you, and it’s been pretty clearly laid out what you need to do if that’s the case. Because believe me, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing a guy you don’t know who touched you inappropriately despite your protests run like the wind when your friend screams HEY GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY FRIEND YOU FUCKING PERVERT, or having a whole bunch of girls say, “Hey, we’re going somewhere else, come with us” the MINUTE a known creep shows up, or saying to your boyfriend, “That guy Tim is a total creep, I want to take a shower after shaking hands with him” and having him respond immediately, “Yeah, he is. I would never hang out with him on my own, and I suggest you don’t either.” And if you do it with enough determination, eventually you will have the strength in numbers you need such that you’re not the only one doing it.

      TL;DR You’re both totally in the right.

      • And hey, you go for being a strong enough person to stand up to silencing bullshit. *bitchydramaqueenfistbump*

        • Lucy said:

          *fistbump*

    • no creeper police to step in and put these guys in “what the fuck is wrong with you” jail.

      I will give up both my jetpack and my flying car if this can be the next Innovation of the Future we get.

      • At my (women’s) college, we had a tradition called the Loser Dance. If you were being creeped on at a party or a club or whatever, you kept dancing but made the L/Loser sign with your hands as you danced. Any Smithies who saw you were then morally obligated to join the Loser Dance and surround you in a protective group of dancin’ ladies. The older students in our dorm seriously taught us that our first week of college, and it was The Best.

        • JenniferP said:

          I looooove this. We should teach everyone about the Loser Dance.

        • CPALady said:

          In my college friend group we had a “distress signal” (hand wiping eyebrow in a conspicuous itch like motion) that meant your ladies had to rescue you. It worked better against strangers than friends though :-/

        • OMG Smithie Fist Bump!–now am racking my brains to see if I remember seeing that. However I spent the majority of dances at my dorm sitting on the back stairs, a stick across my knees. Whenever a guy asked to go up I’d smile, sweetly and say “no.”

          • I remember the Loser Dance too! It was a big feature of parties on the Quad, as I recall.

          • Smithie Fist Bump indeed!

            I swear, in retrospect, so much of my feminism comes from having spent four years living in a culture where “woman” was the Default Human rather than the Mysterious Other. It makes it so much clearer when people are trying to project their gender bullshit all over you.

          • “…so much of my feminism comes from having spent four years living in a culture where “woman” was the Default Human rather than the Mysterious Other.”

            WORD

            and I’m pretty sure I end up making a comment to that effect on a thread like this one at least once a year. :p

            ( not a Smithie – I went to that other school :D )

          • Hey ‘That other school’ is awesome. You went there!

        • I am lime green jello. They didn’t teach us anything neat* at my stupid boy-girl school!

          *this may be false

        • Wiley said:

          Another Smithie!

          I never saw this delightful thing. Maybe it was not as prevalent in the (queer, hipster) circles I hung out in? Anyway, genius, putting this into effect when I go to the notoriously creepy-drunk-straight-guy-populated clubs that are the only places to dance in this sausage fest of a city.

          • volcanista said:

            It was definitely taught to us by our welcoming committee during orientation, at an official house orientation meeting, so I don’t think it was limited to certain social circles–those students definitely learned everything we did that week in their pre-orientation training. It may have come and gone over the years, though. If it’s no longer being taught to first-years we should get someone to reinstate it!

          • volcanista, I just asked my sister about this (she’s about to start her junior year at Smith), and she says she learned the loser dance. And also code words for alerting people to creepers.

          • Nomie, glad to hear at least some Smithies still know the Loser Dance! Wiley, *fistbump*! Our house was pretty queer-flavored but lots of us did like to go dance to DMX at quad parties. We were mostly dancing with each other, though.

            SMITH NOSTALGIA COMMENCING

        • Susan said:

          I have already broached this subject with my daughter; I intend to causally bring it up with her friend when I get the chance (thanks for reminding me)

        • Little_Gidding said:

          The loser dance is mostly a quad thing, but it’s existed for decades. It was only peripheral on Green Street, but I’m pretty sure that all of us knew it. Can’t remember if it was covered during orientation or not, though.

          • Magda said:

            We had the loser dance at Mount Holyoke too (at least in the late 80s when I was there). I remember one friend doing it, and the guy thinking it was a new dance move and doing it too.

          • Smith07 said:

            Omg, so many Smithies! Smithie fist-bumps all around. We did the Loser Dance too. I learned it at the Drag Ball. Yay Smith/other women’s colleges! Yay women as default-human!

    • I was thinking something similar — can all the creeped-out women in your friend groups form a pact with each other not to be around the creeper? As in, if he’s invited to something, zero women show up. If he walks in the door, all the women walk out. If he’s the one doing the inviting, none of the women are available that night. Because even if the non-creeper guys can’t be brought to see that this guy is fucking scary, they can be made to see that his presence = all-male gathering. And every time the guys ask, the response can be the same: “We’ve told you guys that we don’t feel safe around X because of Reasons. We’re not going to stay somewhere that’s not safe.”

      • Jake said:

        I love this idea. Maybe it’s because I went to an all-girls high school, but I really like the whole lady-solidarity plan.

      • TheOtherAlice said:

        This was also what I was thinking! The guys of the group may not respond well to you all sitting and trying to explain this stuff to them (because it plays into the whole cultural thing of women nagging men etc. etc.) but I’m guessing they’ll get the message pretty quickly if it becomes “We don’t feel safe around X, so we’re leaving.”

  11. Send a link to this page to your boyfriend.

    I agree 100%. Any man who can read the Captain’s amazingly clear and detailed explanation of rape culture and how it plays out in the microcosm of the LW’s social circles, and not be all like “Yeah, that is totally true, and I’ve got your back 100%” is a fucken asshole.

    • Jake said:

      I agree. And even if sending the link by itself feels a little too passive-aggressive, I still think this is a topic that you might want to deal with in writing. Tell your boyfriend that you have something really important that you want to talk about, but you want to give him a chance to think about it before the conversation, so you’re going to send him an email and ask him to spend a day thinking about it before you talk.

      My reason for this is that I think it’s best if he gets a chance to get past his knee-jerk defensiveness before you actually talk about this. From what you’ve said, it sounds like he has a lot of, um, unlovely responses to this situation, and it would be good if he had a chance to say them to himself, get a good look at them, and see if that’s really the sort of thing he wants to be saying *before* he says them to you.

      • sometimeswhy said:

        I really like this idea. It would (hopefully) give the SOs a chance to get past, “People on the internet are calling me a jerkface! I’m not a jerkface! [doubledownandblargandlookitwhat'sthatoverthere?]” and to “I don’t want to do this jerkface thing I didn’t realize I was doing to begin with! I would like to be a supportive SO! Look! There are suggestions for how I can be supportive AND productive, right there! SWEET!”

        • I think it also could help from the standpoint of overcoming defensiveness for the boyfriend to see that his behavior is not because he is a UNIQUELY HORRIBLE DOUCHEBAGGE, but rather because he is playing a role that he has been assigned since birth in a system of institutionalized oppression.

          • Tautological Cat said:

            > UNIQUELY HORRIBLE DOUCHEBAGGE

            I misread this as “douchebaggage” — which you never want to carry.

      • General Expression said:

        I agree with the suggestion to write a letter before a conversation; I know some people who have had good experiences with getting past loved ones’ defenses and actually positively changing behavior by using letter-writing instead of/before conversations.

  12. Both LWs, I am so, so angry and frustrated for the situations you’re in, and send non-creeper jedi hugs if needed. It really is unacceptable for other people to brush off this behavior as the product of a misguided/clueless/fragile person (ESPECIALLY Ben, holy shit that guy sounds terrifying).
    When there’s someone like this around, social gatherings turn into “try to hide from the horrible creepy guy” which makes enjoying oneself a lot more difficult. And all the work falls on the shoulders of the people he’s targeting to avoid him, not on the creepster himself to STOP FUCKING BEING A CREEPY DOUCHEBAG.

    I was going to say I never dealt with anything too terrible on the Creeper Spectrum, but then I semi-remembered my first semester in college marching band; my section leader was really gross and horrible to all the (assumed female; this was back in my lady-days) first-year sax players and created an atmosphere of near-constant sexual harassment and oh yeah, I’ve mostly made myself forget how somehow I slept in the same bed as him (even though I was not sexually or romantically interested in him, at all, and he made me nervous) when there was a party at his house and all the people with cars were too drunk to drive the rest of us to campus. I wasn’t even drinking but somehow I’ve forgotten exactly what happened. I know I was in the bed. I know he did not have sex with me. I have very little understanding of what did happen and I know he did touch me. And now I wonder if the only reason he didn’t push more (because I think he pushed a bit? This is so fuzzy in my mind) was that I was pretty young and everyone knew I was still seventeen. Trying to puzzle this out just makes me feel dirty and queasy.

    One of the things that bothers me the most about these stories and situations is how furious I am, not at the boundary-pushing/violating creepsters themselves, but at myself for not fighting back more, not realizing how I was being manipulated, not trying to report the worst offenses to someone who might have been able to help me. I really want to direct more of that anger to the perpetrators and the people who cover for them, not at myself for not handling the situation in some unattainable “perfect” way.

    • meh said:

      Oh the self-blame. I so feel you, I hate myself every time I let things like that go and feel like it was all my fault because I stayed quiet. And I still keep staying quiet, because I just cannot make myself react violently in the spur of the moment.

    • Don’t be furious at yourself!

      The reason firefighters can run into a burning building without completely losing their shit is TRAINING. They drill and drill and drill until they can do every part of their job under massive pressure, and can make logical decisions in frightening situations that change from moment to moment.

      We don’t train people how to recognize and call out creepy behavior; we train them with shame and social pressure to not make a fuss and not make waves, and we make them miserable when they try to ID and confront creepiness. Of COURSE you didn’t do “better”; you did as well as you could with the tools at hand, which were limited, bordering on nonfunctional.

      You didn’t fail at anything, and now you know how to do it better.

      • (I mean, be furious at yourself if you want, just … argh … feel all the feelings you want! But here’s another angle that may help?)

      • Yeah, I’m very aware that I did the best I could at the time. I mean… honestly, if I’d said something in this particular instance, I’m pretty sure I could guess what the reaction would be (“you should have known better,” “that’s just how he is,” “that’s just the culture of this group,” etc.) and I was not at all equipped to handle that sort of fallout my first week or two of college. And I’m sure that this guy was depending on me to have that reluctance to say or do anything in my discomfort. Christ, what an asshole.

        I am usually a little better about using the past as a weapon against myself, but I wrote the above comment in a weird place this morning; I hadn’t thought of that incident in more than ten years and suddenly found myself remembering more bits of it and was not really prepared to deal with it. I struggle with a lot of embarrassment and guilt about things I wish I hadn’t put up with in the past, but in my better moments I know it’s not worth beating myself up over. Thanks.

        • NessieMonster said:

          Accidentalbeard, I know those feelings all too well, and I know how horrible it is when something sneaks up on you unexpectedly. :(
          Arlette, that’s a very good analogy and analysis, and it’s one I’m going to remember.
          *jedi hugs*

        • I have a few things I wish I’d handled better. I try to run through it and figure out what I did right, and what I’d do next time, and what I’d do if it were happening to people near me instead of just me. It makes me actually more likely to speak up and risk conflict than I used to be, because I feel prepared and capable and can handle intimidating situations as they come up.

      • This is amazingly awesome framing and I love it to itty bitty little pieces.

  13. I really enjoyed your points, Shinobi42. As someone who finds even WATCHING socially awkward confrontations–let alone being a part of them– excruciating, I have a lot of first hand experience with the ‘bystander effect.’ So I appreciated your comments because they gave me something to think about.

    Like others, I find LW2 situation spookier than LW1 and it sounds like the issue is as much between LW and her partner as with Ben.

    What bugs me most about Creeper in LW1 is that he was given a chance to stop it and he didn’t, which was a great opportunity for him that he passed up. While I haven’t been in his exact situation, I’ve received ‘feedback’ in the past about my own comments and behaviours. It turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me and I respect the hell out of the woman who pulled me aside. It wasn’t an easy conversation to have and there were a few more conversations before it really sunk in, but in hindsight, it was an act of great compassion and patience on her part.

    • Sometimes I think my entire life is a socially awkward confrontation. (“Please further into the train!” is my nightly red line refrain.)

      Sorry if I came off sounding like everyone who doesn’t get into big fights is letting stuff go. Not everyone is comfortable with confrontation. I think what is most important is to not let yourself rationalize stuff that is fucked up. The real danger zone is when people are trying to rationalize a fucked up situation to be less fucked up so they can avoid confrontation and discomfort.

      Even if you aren’t ready to be super confrontational about stuff, you can still have other people’s back and look for opportunities to fix things that are in your comfort zone. It matters so much to me to know that I’m not just speaking for myself and that even when I’m not around other people will support what I said.

      • If I understand you right, you’re less concerned about the way people choose to address a problem and more with people not acknowledging a problem exists because it feels like a threat.

        That makes sense.

        I’ve noticed that group self-gaslighting in a number of situations and communities. The biggest risk factor I’ve noticed that breeds that kind of situation is when a group is physically or socially isolated. Outsiders can be a valuable source of perspective–while it’s true they might not understand the group culture and its demands, sometimes they also notice things that everyone else takes for granted.

        For what it’s worth, I don’t think you sound like you’re saying anybody who doesn’t get into fights is letting things go. For me it was a reminder why sometimes well-meaning people can find themselves unwittingly supporting a bad situation. It helps me both in being more understanding when I see that behavior in others and as a reminder to watch for it in myself.

        • FlyBy said:

          It’s so easy to let bad behavior slide and just grin and bear it. We’re really, really heavily trained to do that, and in tough moments we usually fall back on our training. We’ve all done it. It happens.

          We really only need a few people who are willing to risk the ‘drama queen’ title by confronting people, but we do need everyone to have their back when they do. By the time an entire group is willing to admit there’s a problem and stop rationalizing it away, it’s usually pretty quick to deal with. Quiet support = really really important!

  14. Carnilia said:

    THIS. YES.

  15. Bunny said:

    LW2…

    He didn’t “try” to sexually assault you. He actually sexually assaulted you. The fact that your boyfriend knows this happened, has an independent witness (the friend who saved you from him) and knows he has a history of this exact sort of behaviour, but is still more concerned with keeping the peace than with keeping you safe? MAJOR red flag on your boyfriend, and on your mutual male friends, to say nothing of Creepy McRapeyDude.

    Your boyfriend is also lying to you. If he tried to address Creepy’s behaviour in the past and is afraid to do so now because of Creepy’s OTT reaction, then he DOES know how bad Creepy is. He DOES realise that the behaviour is a problem and he DOES know his friend is a predator. So when he tries to convince you things aren’t that bad? He’s gas-lighting. More than that, he’s flat out lying to your face to cover his own arse and his own moral ambiguity.

    The problem, of course, is that your boyfriend gets defensive about this. Now, personally I think BF’s behaviour and attitude is so out of line that I would recommend exiting the relationship ASAP. How can you feel safe around your boyfriend and in your own home like this? But if you want to try to get through to him…

    I agree with everyone else. Put it in writing. Get together with mutual lady friends who’ve had problems with Creepy. Have one of those talks where you all discuss bad experiences… but this time, write them down, too. Write down everything he’s done, how he makes each of you feel. More than that, every instance you can recall where you’ve tried to address the issue and the men in the group have fucked up? Write that down, and how THAT made you feel.

    “Two months ago Creepy cornered Jane during a party, blocked her escape and tried to force her to make out with him. Becky intervened. Jane told Bob, and Bob told her it was no big deal. A week later, Creepy entered Doris’ bedroom when she was sleeping off drink, and touched her X, her Y and her Z, and tried to take off her [CLOTHING ITEM]. Sandra caught him in the act and got him to leave. Sandra told Jacob and Jacob claimed it wasn’t as bad as she claimed, although he didn’t see what happened himself. At the same party, Creepy tried to kiss Becky, pulled Jenny’s skirt up, kept touching Vicky after she asked him to stop and told Ellen, Mary and Dana that he masturbated about them.”

    It’s way, way harder to dismiss an itemised list of THIS IS FUCKED UP than it is to dismiss individual events. Include the fact that the guys in the group are doing nothing to stop this or address it. Include the action you need to be taken for you to feel safe. Let the dudes read this without you around, so they can mull it over.

    I don’t know how much it’ll help, given that there’s no excuse for it to have been allowed to go on this long in the first place (BF and dudefriends’ fault, NOT yours), but it’s the best advice I can offer.

    • duck-billed placelot said:

      Maybe read tesselation’s first creeper story? The idea that you a) need to make an itemized list of horror to submit as evidence and b) that this will change how the ‘non-creeper men friends behave – is both kind of charmingly silly and also hugely depressing. Dollars to doughnuts, the list will result in the ‘non-creeper’* men friends rallying around horrible predator, because ‘those bitches actually wrote down a list of things they don’t like about him! SO MEAN!!! / HYSTERICAL!! That’s probably slander or something, isn’t that slander? When something mean is written down? He should sue! Bitches.’ (This response also goes for those above advocating sending boyfriend an email. The idea that his behavior would change when when confronted with sufficient evidence that his friend who assaulted his girlfriend is terrible….nah gonna happen, people. Plus, fuck that noise.)

      *Let’s not front: all the men are being creepers in these stories. Anybody who thinks a little rapey assualt (of someone else) is a small price to pay for a totally cool dudebro is a 100% creeper.

      • NessieMonster said:

        You might be right, Placelot, but an itemised list would give all the women in that group a heads-up about how fucked up everything’s been. They’d know they’re not alone, that they’re not crazy and that it’s not their fault, it’s his. Also, depending on how bad the stuff on list is (and I bet it’s pretty damn awful), it might be enough to make a report to the police about Ben McRapeyPants. I dunno where the LW is, what the local state rules are etc, but maybe it’s worth a shot? Again, I know it shouldn’t be on them but fingers crossed?

        Cliff’s most excellent post, Just One Ally, is relevant here I think. http://pervocracy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/just-one-ally.html

        Alas, I don’t have any better advice, so hope my internet solidarity helps. LWs you are both awesome people who do not deserve this shite, and I wish you all the best in dealing with it.

        • duck-billed placelot said:

          Ooh, a list for the ladies! Ok, that I like better.

          • theLaplaceDemon said:

            Yeah, I actually 100% support making a list – definitely for the ladies, not sure about sharing with the dudes.

            When I am faced with these situations sometimes I DO start to believe people when they say “it’s not that bad!” and having an actual physical list to whip out is a good reality check: Nope, I’m not crazy, here are ten inexcusable fucked up things this person did! Really helps cut through the haze of self-doubt.

          • I use lists like this as reminders why I don’t go back to my alcoholic/abusive ex, so I do quite like them as an empowerment sort of tool.

            For me, they’re handy both in situations where I’m feeling a bit nostalgic and I’m inclined to dismiss/diminish what happened, and in situations where people ask what the situation was. It’s been incredibly validating to be able to share some of it with people and have them go “Oh, hell, that’s really fucked up… you know that’s abuse, right?” Yes, I do – now. =) I didn’t then, of course.

      • Bunny said:

        You’re right of course, which is why my first advice was to DTMFA. Buuut I know how hard it can be to take a step like that over something like this, which is why I at least suggested an alternative to try first.

        Like I said, I’m not convinced it’ll work, but since BF is apparently determined to live in a bog of his own ignorance it seemed to me that having the issue hammered out to him in detail might be the only slim chance LW has of being able to get him to see her side of things.

        You’re right, though.

        • duck-billed placelot said:

          Ugh, it sucks, doesn’t it? I hate that it’s right. But here, at least, I feel like we need more strong voices on the recognize-the-awfulness-of-BF side, because women are always trying to kindly, gently, sweetly, delicately teach BF’s to see them as humans, and I think your line, ‘BF is apparently determined’, is pretty telling.

      • kfrance0 said:

        The comments above about denial really seem plausible to me. Being confronted by a list of multiple occurrences of this sort of behavior, and the simple fact that here are a bunch of my female friends saying “Look, we feel strongly enough about this to make a list and talk to you about this formally,” would go a long way towards knocking down any wall of denial I’ve put up. It’s tough to see yourself as a moral coward, and a lot of us probably need someone to hold up the mirror, at least occasionally.

  16. Creepers/potential rapists/people with a fundamental lack of understanding what a boundary is absolutely deserve to be exiled. The problem is that they manage to find a place to remain safe by hanging out with people who tolerate and make excuses for their poor behavior. They feed on sympathy to avoid being judged by such basic standards. They take a little bit at a time piece by piece, every concession seems so small until taking a step back and realizing just exactly how much has been lost. These problem persons almost never come out of nowhere, instead taking years to evolve.

    • Datdamwuf said:

      you’ve met my ex husband haven’t you? This: They take a little bit at a time piece by piece, every concession seems so small until taking a step back and realizing just exactly how much has been lost.

      • BearlyALady said:

        And mine, sheesh. This, so this.

  17. tessellation said:

    I have two creeper stories. (Actually I have three, but the third doesn’t warrant a mention.)

    First creeper I somehow ended up dating, because he used the ‘just give me a chance’ line and I felt sorry enough for him to fall for it (arrgg, younger self). Two months into dating I knew I wanted out. Took me another two months to end it. My best friend died the day after the breakup (cancer), so I went out of state for the funeral. While I was gone, ex-boyfriend (whom I now call the Nutter) sent me drunk emails about how torn up he felt as a result of the breakup … while he knows I am burying my friend. When I got back, he had talked to friends in our shared social circle about how abrupt the breakup was and how he’d had no warning. They relayed this to me. Whatever. The Nutter and I had talked before we started dating about how we could be adult enough to be in the same social circle if/when we broke up. HA. Nutter abandoned the group events but continued to hassle friends individually about me and how hurt he was. He was so depressed he went on meds that had violent side effects, as one friend helpfully told me.

    Six months after the breakup, the Nutter decides to contact my previous ex (who lives out of state) to have a group bitch session about me. My previous ex was disturbed enough by this to get in touch with me to warn me that the Nutter had made some angry threats. Nutter also kept up the pressure on friends in the social group. One woman suggested that I should write down all the reasons why I broke up with him so she could read it to him. That was it. I was done. The suggestion that I should have to justify my reasons for not wanting to date him was beyond absurd. The fact that my “friends” permitted this guy to keep going on about me when they knew I was extremely uncomfortable with his behavior and wanted nothing more to do with him was ridiculous. Nobody would say, “Hey, she doesn’t want to date you. This is inappropriate. Leave her alone”. I left that social group, even though it cut out a big part of my life and I was very lonely. They still ask me to come back now and then. They did not have my back when I was having a hard enough time grieving my friend without worrying about the Nutter ambushing me at my apartment. I stashed an air pistol by the door. I was thinking about how fast I could call 911. And they were worried about his huwt feewings?. Just … no. No, no, no.

    My second (more positive) story involves a creeper I have known since high school, and my high school friends he still hangs out with. He’s harmless, he’s nice, but it’s like he gets fixated on women in his vicinity and doesn’t know how to tell when to back off. He is also a martial arts expert with a few black belts. Creepy and very muscular and has a car trunk full of weapons. Yeah. Those of us who have known him for years are comfortable with him, but he may as well have a hankie full of chloroform to new women. The difference is his (male) social circle has taken it upon themselves to improve him by bluntly calling him out when he’s out of bounds. “Don’t do that, you’re creeping her out.” “That’s not appropriate.” “Quit staring at her.” They will sometimes make him apologize to his target (which he does). They say, “Well, he’s never going to get a girlfriend unless we tell him these things.” And indeed, he has improved a lot over the years. He still has no girlfriend. But with the help of his guy buddies, he just might get the hang of social interaction and make a good boyfriend to someone.

    The point being that these friends who let their creepy guy buddy do his creepy guy thing aren’t being good friends to him at all – or good friends to anyone around them. The creeper going to flounder around driving women away and not understanding why and getting more and more frustrated. His social group could help him, but they are too lazy/afraid to confront him. That is a loss for everyone.

    • rosi5 said:

      Wow, Tessellation…your first story. *solidarity*

  18. GemmaM said:

    Wow, #322 was the worst creeper I’d ever heard of until I read #323.

    We can an “I can’t get laid, woe is me” guy in one of my friend groups once who used to like giving out free neck massages and made me uncomfortable, but at least with that guy the neck massages were optional so you just had to decline and he’d go find someone who genuinely wanted one (Apparently some of the girls (and guys) did. I took them at their word on that because they looked like they did, and the dude was not-creepy enough that if you looked uncomfortable sometimes that was enough to give him the message. He’d say “Hm, looks like you’d rather not. Nope? Okay, your loss, they’re really good,” which was still a little bit pressure-y, but y’know, at least there was respect for consent in there).

    I’ve also had friends who were amazing at dealing with this stuff — when my ex-boyfriend had me huddled in a corner at a friend’s birthday party, said friend’s long-standing boyfriend actually came right up to me and said “I’m so sorry this happened, if we’d known he was like this we wouldn’t have invited him, seriously, let us know about this shit,” which at that point was more support than I’d received from anyone on the subject and I was startled that anyone would take it seriously. Props to that guy.

    The things I really like about the scripts above are the specific statements of what the men in the group need to do. Sometimes an excellent way to convince someone to take action is to set up a situation where the person feels like they might be asked to do something really dramatic (like cut the guy off entirely, or go around to his house and beat him up), and then to hand them a much easier option. See, dudefriend, all you have to do is say “Yeah, she’s not coming because she’s really creeped out by this guy, and to be honest I don’t blame her.”

    It’s harder with the boyfriend who has been friends with the creeper/rapist? guy for a lot longer, but again, the script is good. Because yeah, those three things probably are enough, if the boyfriend will do them: help her stay away and back her up on that with friends, accept that something is genuinely wrong and don’t try to convince her otherwise, and STOP the guy if you see it happening. Those are nice, concrete things that should be possible, and should be useful. LW#323, you’re handing your boyfriend a remarkably simple way to be a decent person in a difficult situation. He ought to be grateful for the solution. I hope he is.

  19. duck-billed placelot said:

    I’m going to second the good people here saying that your boyfriends have made themselves pretty clear about the ‘the sexual predator’s unruffled feathers are more important to me than your physical safety’ stance. For both you ladies, can I recommend ladies only events for the next while? Like explicitly ladies only. Like maybe at the first one you can say, to everyone, “I am only interested in ladies only events from now until we find men friends who will not cover for a sexual assaulter.’ And then proceed to make new men friends, because if there’s one thing you deserve, it’s physically safe social gatherings, and if there’s a second thing, it’s to have friends you don’t have to train to reluctantly see you as human.

  20. AshKW said:

    LW2, I so, so feel you. I was a senior in high school, dating my boyfriend who is now my Spousal Unit, when one night at a mutual friend’s house, SU’s best guy friend started majorly creeping on me. He petted my legs, told me how pretty I was, and asked whether I’d give him something sweet to think about while he was in boot camp — he was heading to the Navy. I was 17 and terrified.

    Fortunately my friend came into the room and I was able to escape. I went crying to SU, who at first couldn’t believe it. It was, I think, more horrible to be not believed than it was to be creeped upon. And it took a long time for me to forgive SU — I never spent any time alone with creeper after that, not even 10 seconds, and mentally got on my knees in gratitude when he left for boot camp.

    It wasn’t until almost a year later that SU, by then older and wiser, came to me and begged my forgiveness for not standing up for me when it mattered most. He’d seen another guy he knew from work creep on a girl, and it suddenly horrified him to realize what he’d allowed the original creeper to do to his girlfriend. He stood up for that girl, and he’s always had my back since then. I’m very lucky to have escaped with so little damage. But the point is my SU realized what he’d done; I can only hope your boyfriend realizes what he’s been allowing to happen, but I don’t know that he can, because this is becoming a pattern for him, of excusing Ben’s behavior.

    I’m sorry, LW2, I wish you all the best. You as well LW1. *Jedi hugs offered*

  21. AmyJ said:

    Wow, I’m really sorry you’re having to deal with this, LWs. It’s really horrible and unfair.

    One thing to think about — and parts of this could be read as apologist, so let me make this clear: there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that ever excuses the behavior described by these guys. I will refer to it as villainy below, but to be more specific — it is sexual assault, if not (yet) rape.

    And yet. These creeps may well have some pretty serious trauma in their histories. Hopefully, it takes considerable effort to see women (especially women in one’s social circle) as less than human, and that effort may be being expended as a way of covering up very real pain. These guys may also be victims. I don’t know, obviously. And again, it’s not an excuse, because there is no excuse. It’s never ok. Period, end of sentence.

    The reason I bring it up has to do with narratives. Right now, the LWs (justified, correct) narratives are of these creepsters as villians, and the LWs as victims of villainy. The dudes (not the creeps themselves, but the SOs and other dudes in the social circle) are resisting that narrative, and it may be because they have their own, and in theirs, the creepsters are the victims, of villainy in their past. That narrative may also be justified and correct.

    Again: the fact that someone has been a victim of villainy is not an excuse to perpetrate villainy on another.

    And: as Jennifer so wonderfully articulated, we live in a Rape Culture, and that makes it easier to dismiss rape-related villainy. It can be harder to see, especially if you’re a dude and haven’t been on the victim side of it. That’s actually what privilege is.

    My point is that it’s a hard line to walk — to see someone as fully human, and hurting, and to have empathy for them — and at the same time to unequivocally condemn their behavior. That’s what the LWs are asking their dudes to do. And their dudes absolutely should, there’s no question about it. One of the things that can make it easier, sometimes, maybe, is to just name that, to bring it into conscious awareness. To be aware of the multiple narratives going on.

    • Esti said:

      I know you were trying to find another way to get the LW’s male friends on board, but I really, really, really disagree with this advice.

      The point is that it doesn’t matter why these guys are doing it — if they have past trauma or bad social skills or a brain injury or an alien chip in their brains. And it doesn’t just not matter because it doesn’t absolve them, it doesn’t matter because it’s totally irrelevant to the LWs’ actual problem: needing their friend groups to be a safe space for their female members. Acknowledging the (completely speculative) possibility that these dudes are victims of some past harm is just another way to derail that conversation, because then you’re talking about WHY they are doing these things instead of talking about WHAT they are doing.

      Injecting discussions of the hypothetical victimhood of creeper dudes isn’t going to convince the LWs’ male friends to have their back if they don’t already. At best, it will distract from the actual issue. At worst, it will validate whatever victim narrative these dudes have already constructed and will give the male part of the group one more way to ignore their female friends’ feelings (“But even you admit that Creepy McRaperson had a really tough childhood and is super damaged and that’s probably why he does this! Now you want me to just forget all about that and shun him anyway??”).

      Not to mention — I really don’t think we can assume that this creepy behavior must stem from some past victimhood. There are a shocking, shocking number of men (and women, but more often men) who act like this. This behavior is terrible, and totally unacceptable, but it is not actually rare. It’s not like these guys are behaving so far outside the normal bounds of human society that there must be some trauma-related explanation. And EVEN IF all of the super creepy dudes like this had some past trauma, it’s completely counterproductive to validate that as some kind of explanation for their behavior. There are lots of people — survivors of child abuse and sexual assault and other violent crimes and poverty and neglect and racism and etc. — that don’t engage in this kind of behavior. Constructing a victim narrative for them is only going to make it more difficult for them to understand that their past does not give them any right to assault and harass other people.

      The narrative shouldn’t be “You need to stop what you are doing, but I understand and acknowledge that things in your past explain why you are doing this.” The narrative should be “You need to stop what you are doing. Whatever is prompting you to act like this is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is that it is unacceptable.”

      • Thank you, Esti. Co-signed.

      • duck-billed placelot said:

        YES YES YES. I’d say the LWs are asking their dudes to see the LW as fully human. Unfortunately, I have to agree with you (and disagree with AmyJ) on the effort required to see women as less than human; that’s what our culture teaches. I think there’s already a surfeit of what-about-the-predator here not a lack. As you rightly note, the backstory of the predators is irrelevant to their behaviors, because the women involved are equally important as the predators (or, you know, more important, on the grounds of them not being predators). All the dudes in these letters are being creepers.

        • FlyBy said:

          “I think there’s already a surfeit of what-about-the-predator here not a lack.”

          Yes, this. Bringing up the reasons for bad behavior is, IMHO, almost always counterproductive. Because then people start arguing and talking about the reasons, and the actual harmful actions get dropped by the wayside. His history and reasons is something he can explore with his therapist. The group cannot and should not try to play that role.

      • AmyJ said:

        I agree with you. I do. It’s just that…I feel like we’ve been reacting to the Rape Culture with outrage for the past 40 years or so. And 1 in 4 women are still being sexually assaulted. It’s not working. Don’t get me wrong, there has been progress. Rape Crisis Centers exist now, marital rape is illegal, rape is occasionally prosecuted successfully. But. 1 in 4.

        Maybe more outrage is the answer, maybe we just need to rage more (I’m using colorful language here, but I trust you know what I mean). Or maybe there’s another way. Again, I’m not excusing the behavior, and I’m not denying that we live in a Rape Culture. I just really really would love us as a culture to start making a little more headway.

        • duck-billed placelot said:

          I suggest you ask a bunch of male acquaintances, not ones you know from the social justice scene, but from geek fandom or work or the coffee shop or your neighborhood association, if they know what Rape Culture is, and then explain it to them, and then sit with the five million cries of outrage that women would ever dare to think, let alone say, that men are the problem, when it comes to rape, and not stupid sluts with their skirts and sex regrets. Also, do you know how many false rape accusations there are, and how horribly damaging it is to the poor men that suffer under them? Also, date rape is such a gray area. It is an illuminating and depressing thing.

          The outrage about Rape Culture is a tiny Who voice, and the elephant in the room hasn’t heard us yet.

        • Esti said:

          But what you suggest isn’t a new way. It’s the status quo to excuse and explain and empathize with creepy men and even rapists. If we want that behavior to stop, let’s make the conversation about STOPPING THAT BEHAVIOR. Period, full stop.

        • Tradtional Married said:

          Hey, AmyJ, you’re totally right! Maybe if we’re nicer to the rapists they’ll stop raping us!
          …I think I threw up a little while typing that. NO. Just NO.

        • It is precisely outrage that has achieved as much as we have achieved. We’re working against quite literally millenia of rape culture here. Did you think overcoming that would be quick? Only demanding change now, and backing that demand with anger, outrage, and action, has gotten us even this far. Why would we change a strategy that’s working? Especially to one that has a very long history of not working?

          Your “another way” is appeasement, which has been going on for, again, millenia. If we’re just nicer to them, maybe they won’t hurt us. If we just try to understand them, maybe they’ll stop, maybe we can get other people to support us. No. It doesn’t work, it’s not new, we’ve fucking tried this. Your “solution” is part of the problem.

        • Elsajeni said:

          Sure, “we” have been expressing outrage at rape culture for a while now. But it started out as a pretty small “we,” and while it’s gotten bigger, it’s still not that big. I don’t think the problem is that outrage has failed — I think the problem is that we need to change the group of people who are outraged from “we” to “WE.”

          • AmyJ said:

            How?

          • By getting more people angry. By showing people what’s wrong. By publicizing the statistics and the realities as widely as possible. By those of us who can do so calling out behavior that supports rape culture in our own communities and social circles, and explaining that that behavior actually does lead to rape. Exactly how we’ve gone from having a tiny group of people being upset to a larger group of people upset. What we’ve been doing works, and the proof is that there keeps being progress.

          • Elsajeni said:

            Looking at the issue just from a “Help, there’s a creep in my friend group!” perspective, I think the basic goals are:

            1. Getting possibly-oblivious members of the friend group to recognize the creepiness. Increase the number of people who are angry and outraged and not putting up with this bullshit.

            2. Encouraging open communication about the creepiness among those who already recognize it — if you’re able to do it, be the person who says “I’m not going because Creep will be there and the last time I hung out with him he tried to stick his hand up my skirt” or “Hey, new friend, did you know that Creep has a history of harassing women who accept a ride home from him? Can I offer you a ride home with me instead?” If you don’t feel able to do that, at least be the person who is a believing and accepting audience for those statements. Create an environment where it’s okay for the outrage to be public, rather than one where lots of people may feel outrage but none of them are comfortable voicing it.

            This post and its comments, and previous Captain Awkward posts on similar topics, have some more specific suggestions for accomplishing those goals. Achieve those things within your friend group, and maybe you can make it a friend group that doesn’t put up with creeps and harassers and rapists. Start expanding them to the larger society, and maybe together, eventually, we can make it a society that doesn’t put up with that shit either.

        • I don’t want to dogpile or anything. But I just feel like I should say this.

          Every single person, IRL, to whom I have said the words “Rape Culture,” has been hearing it for the first time from me. It is possible that one or two of the women at Food Not Bombs mentioned it, but I don’t remember. One of my closest friends – first time*. My close female friend in highschool – first time. Any of my best friends, honestly. Most of the geeky fannish writing group I hang out with online – a handful of exceptions, there. Not many. My dad, first time (and ye gods, what was I thinking?). My brother, first time. My sister, first time. Every single one of her friends**. First time ever hearing the words “Rape Culture.”

          The way we’re going to make headway as a culture is by addressing this stuff head-on, and making it clear this shit is no longer tolerable. The way we can make headway as a culture to stop Rape Culture is to popularize this struggle. To make it clear that society is not going to put up with this shit anymore. To get comics to realize that it’s not “edgy.” To get guys to realize that it’s not acceptable damage.

          Look, I’m tired of being Angry Social Justice Girl. I want to go back to being Cheerful Carefree Artist Girl. I want to stop muttering under my breath at the movie theatre (Oooh, another movie about how Evil Desert People are trying to destroy us! That’s not exploiting a rift or marginalizing anyone!), I want to stop complaining about three out of every four commercials (“With this toothpaste, you won’t just be the ex, you’ll be the one that got away,” yeah fuck you), I want to enjoy comics without feeling less-than-human because I’m a short androgynous girl, not a massive-boobed rubber-spined stiletto-heeled long-haired pinup model (Do less-than-sex-objects girls even exist in comicsland?), I don’t want to be outraged.

          I am so very, very tired of being angry. I wish that being happy and peaceful and politely asking people to please, thank you, maybe treat us a little more like human beings if you would kindly… worked. It doesn’t. That gets you a pat on the head.

          This went on a lot longer than I intended, and I apologize. It’s just – the only reason it seems like this is a big cultural thing is because we’re here, surrounded by people who get it. The rest of the world is not so understanding. The rest of the world is indifferent, for the most part, and actively hostile at times. That has to change, and the only way it’s going to happen is if we refuse to back down when this stuff goes down.

          *I had to explain and define the term, and spend about ten minutes defending and explaining it more. We had so many unproductive conversations about feminism and sexism in which he said that. “I understand that you’re angry, I really do. I get why women are angry. But don’t you see you’re driving men who might be sympathetic away with that anger?” I tried to be nice. I tried so damn hard. I don’t think he will ever know how many times I walked away from those conversations and broke down sobbing as soon as I was out of earshot. It wasn’t until I’d known him for at least three years that he actually, truly, and totally understood me. A mutual acquaintance made a sexist comment for the umpteenth time, and he commented on how angry I was, later. I wound up talking without pause for about twenty minutes, telling him to picture a world in which he was seen as subhuman – every issue of ignorance he’d had to withstand as a vegan, but that the word “VEGAN” was stamped all over his body, and most of the world believed he was less of a person for it. That he could be denied jobs, that people would target him for violent crime, that people would demand sex and favors from him and treat him like shit if he said “No,” that people would never take no for an answer. That he could never, ever get away from that prejudice, and people would defend it, that authorities would look the other way if he was victimized. That he was asking for it; that he would be blamed for crimes that targeted him. That there were people who wanted to kill him because he didn’t act the way they expected him to. People who were trying to pass laws to make it okay to kill him if he didn’t. Places in the world he could never, ever go without risking his life, just because of one tiny fact – that he couldn’t change – about his identity. But he wasn’t allowed to be angry about it. I was crying by the time I finished.

          Three years of being nice about it. To one of my best friends. (Yeah, I know. This paragraph highlights the worst of him, unfairly so. He’s not like that, 98% of the time; he’s not like that anymore.) That’s how long it took to sink in; that’s how long it took to make someone, someone who’s very intelligent and quite sympathetic, understand what prejudice and rape culture is.

          **They’d never heard the words “Rape culture” before. It took them two to three years to get rid of their Group Creeper. I had to make it explicitly clear to him that rape jokes weren’t okay in our house – and then dealt with whining about how stupid it was that I couldn’t take a joke for weeks. I did this nicely, with joking and civility I in no wise felt. He still reacted badly. About a year later, he made a crack about having to watch his mouth around me, and a female friend told him she was tired of him disrespecting women around her. She wondered why he respected me, the older sister of a friend, but none of his female friends? Why he still felt like it was okay to be disrespectful around them? He blamed me. I walked her home, and we talked about it. A few weeks later, he did something similar to another friend, and the group in general, guys included, closed ranks and made it clear he wasn’t welcome.

          • hrovitnir said:

            Thanks for sharing. It gets so *tiring* being angry about everything. People constantly accuse you of enjoying being angry! Guess what? Sometimes it’s nice to vent by ranting but it is *not nice* to be constantly frustrated. I’m just choosing anger over giving up because it’s all the giving up in the world that is the fucking problem.

            I will never blame people for not having the spoons for this shit but really, we need to be vocal or nothing changes. And boy does that make me angry as well. >_<

          • NessieMonster said:

            Hear, hear, Sister Coyote! It’s heartbreaking and rage-inducing, and ultimately inspiring, because things suck but change can happen.

            If you wanted to turn your comment into a blog post, I would love to link to it. I’d link to this question but I don’t think my mates would read so far. :-s

          • solecism said:

            I so sympathize. When I first learned the term rape culture (in my late 30s), I tried to explain it to a friend of mine. I did a poor job of it, because I still didn’t fully understand it. My friend utterly rejected the concept. Mind you, she’s led a very sheltered, comfortable existence and tends to extend the benefit of the doubt far beyond reasonable limits IMO. But she’s also complained about being on the receiving end of sexism in our organization, so she’s not completely clueless. Just privileged and idealistic.

            I do talk a lot about misogyny and racism. My close friends may be getting tired of it. Who knows? But it’s important to me, and my conversations tend to center around what matters to me.

          • tinyorc said:

            THIS THIS THIS.

            I spend so much of my life being that person, who talks about feminism and rape culture and male privilege in the most gentle and apologetic way possible, holding white het cis male hands while I guide them towards the idea that maybe, just maybe, there are certain things in society that are just a bit fucked-up but maybe they should entertain the possibility that they don’t see these things because of the way they were born…

            And I get so so tired of coddling these men and trying to cater to their point of view and not hurt their feelings while I was struggling under the emotional strain of explaining all these things in a calm and objective manner (because if you get angry or upset or frustrated, you are just being an Emotional Woman and all your points are invalid), trying to explain that these aren’t just abstract issues, this isn’t just a fun intellectual exercise for me, these are realities that make me feel angry and scared and less-than-human on a DAILY BASIS and it’s really important that people understand why.

            So while I understand the impulse to try and catch more flies with honey, I’m done. I’m not apologising for kicking up a fuss anymore.

          • To quote Melissa McEwan, of Shakesville:

            “I’m not angry because I’m a feminist. I’m a feminist because I’m angry.”

          • Chase said:

            I want to thank you for your post, because I am (was?) one of those heterosexual cisgendered males of European descent, who argues with you about rape culture because it hurts his feelings. Believe it or not, as utterly infuriating and exhausting as it must be to talk to people like me about these things, it actually does help. I understand these matters a lot more than I used to.

            I’ve learned to remind myself that if it sounds to me like someone is attacking me or calling me evil, it’s probably because I DON’T UNDERSTAND and I’m not hearing what s/he says from the right point of view. When I catch myself doing this, instead of getting mad and going “How dare you call ME a supporter of rape culture, blarghablargh!” I just say to myself, “I don’t understand what’s going on here, so I’ll just watch/listen and not do anything. And if I’m getting mad, I’ll just go away and not think about it for a while, while it sinks in.” After all, I’m worse than useless in the fight for justice if I don’t know what’s going on AND I’m angry and flailing. Then later I read/talk more, and understand more.

            I tried not to make this post ignorant or self-centered. If it is, I’m truly sorry. Please ignore me and don’t let me frustrate you.

          • chloedi said:

            I always hope that when I try and explain something like rape culture to a man (particularly my dad, my brother, my ex-boyfriend), or a woman, and they get indignant and defensive, and I just want to cry and scream and shake them, that later, when I’m not there any more and they calm down, they’re actually thinking about it and absorbing the information. So your post kind of gives me hope that that’s true Chase.

        • Actually, yelling and screaming and being angry has worked pretty fucking great:

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/18/AR2006061800610.html

          The number of rapes per capita in the United States has plunged by more than 85 percent since the 1970s, and reported rape fell last year even while other violent offenses increased, according to federal crime data.

          This seemingly stunning reduction in sexual violence has been so consistent over the past two decades that some experts say they have started to believe it is accurate, even if they cannot fully explain why it is occurring.

          In 1979, according to a Justice Department estimate based on a wide-ranging public survey, there were 2.8 rapes for every 1,000 people. In 2004, the same survey found that the rate had decreased to 0.4 per thousand.

          There are a number of theories as to why this happened, but by far the most compelling, to my mind, is that feminists got angry about rape. The social acceptability of raping declined tremendously, and while people still sympathize with rapists more than rape victims—as you’ve unfortunately done here—it’s getting better. Rapists feel less justified. They fear jail more. Yelling and screaming works. We don’t need to hold rapist hands and pat them on the head and understand them. What works is saying, “Bub, we have an eye on you, and your behavior will not be tolerated. Dickbag.”

          Rapists and other boundary-pushing guys aren’t traumatized away from acting like decent people. They enjoy having power over others, because they are assholes. Full stop.

      • I actually read the same thing in both of your posts, Amy and Esti: how do we make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable, and keep the focus on stopping the behavior? I have used the technique Amy suggests with GREAT success – but it’s all in the execution. Poorly executed, it can definitely come across the way Esti reads it, as a form of apologism.

        Here’s how I use it:

        Me: Our friend X is doing an unacceptable thing.
        Other Person: I like X! He can’t possibly be a bad guy!
        Me: You’re totally right. He’s not a bad guy. So how do we get the behavior to stop? And what do we do if he can’t or won’t?

        Every time Other Person returns to the topic of whether X is a bad guy, I firmly but gently limit the scope of the conversation to behavior. “That’s important, but we can talk about that later. Right now we’re talking about how we handle his behavior.”

        It short-circuits that endless argument about intent and reasons and so on and so forth. Other Person doesn’t have to agree with me about anything except that this behavior is not okay, and that we’re going to do something about it. The longer conversation can be had AFTER the behavior has been addressed.

        The key is not to get hung up on the argument that Other Person wants you to have. They want to make you a proxy for their own inner conflict, which means that they are going to be tenacious as hell and really hard to shift. But that’s actually really good for you, because if you can control the terms of the argument you can shift their inner state. Acknowledge that there’s a conflict they’re experiencing (“You’re right, it’s awful that he’s had such a hard time”) but then move on to what’s important (“but we still have to address the behavior”). It means you don’t have to resolve their deep inner conflict in order to resolve the immediate problem.

        Obviously, this technique won’t work in all situations, but it often works for me. I came across it in the course of several years of research on behavior change – it’s exciting when research pans out in real life. :)

        • I’ll add: I think the Captain’s scripts keep the focus on behavior very effectively, and I think they are super awesome.

        • JenniferP said:

          This is smart – keep putting the focus on the behavior rather than the “good vs. evil”-ness of the person.

          • Yes yes yes. I think JSmooth’s video (on talking about ”what you did” not ”what you are”) is helpful here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc

            It can even help boyfriend when talking to Ben: “No, I\’m not saying anything about who you are as a person or the times we’ve had in the past. I’m saying your behavior has been completely unacceptable, and I was wrong to tolerate it. I hope you change your behavior and I wish you well, but I can’t be around you or have you around women I care about, because of what you’ve done.”

            “How dare you claim to know what\’s inside their soul”, via JSmooth, is not a valid rebuttal to “creepy creeper assaulted me.”

          • Ldubs said:

            That Jay Smooth video is applicable in approximately 100% of all conversations.

        • Esti said:

          Right, this is a better script for what I was trying to say — whether this is a good guy or a damaged guy or whatever is something that can be the subject of a different conversation, because THIS conversation needs to be about what he is doing and why it is not okay and how we make it stop.

          • Precisely! And there’s a whole lot of evidence showing that simply taking actions changes people’s beliefs. Once Boyfriend stops tolerating the behavior, for example, he will start to see himself as someone who doesn’t tolerate that behavior. In fact, we don’t even have to convince Boyfriend of why this behavior is not okay. We get him to start acting as if it is not okay, whether or not he understands why. The actions he takes will themselves make it easier for him to understand in the future.

            Maybe I’m misreading Amy, but I thought she had a really good point about understanding what Boyfriend’s inner conflict might be. We need to understand those kinds of conflict, NOT so that we can cater to them, but so that we can AVOID them while having the behavior-changing conversation. Even better, if we know the story Boyfriend is telling (“I am a deeply loyal friend!”) then in the long run, we can rewrite the story to serve our ends (“Loyalty means helping my friends be less creepy!”).

            Outrage is a hugely important and powerful weapon, and it’s one very valid strategy here. But empathy and compassion can also be weapons for justice. It’s been very important for me to find the strategies that suit my personality, and I hope the letter-writers do too.

        • Meguey said:

          100% agreed, Jess.

        • They want to make you a proxy for their own inner conflict, which means that they are going to be tenacious as hell and really hard to shift.

          That is so wonderfully articulated. It’s easier for them to argue with you than with their personal feelings of doubt.

        • Flix said:

          I find this super helpful. I think acknowledging the possibility of X’s full humanity (and not looking down on your friend for being conflicted about it), can help folks put their guard down and hear you. I agree with Jess that the key part in doing this, is not allowing that to become the focus of the conversation.

          When a person is doing the irreplaceable hard scary work of whistleblowing unacceptable behavior they’re often asking folks to rethink themselves and the whole way they’ve been understanding the people around them. In some ways they are being asked to stop trusting their own judgement and very likely- I think they should. They should feel shook up and self reflective- but not as though they’re an idiot.

          If you feel up to it- and it’s totally fine if you need to process in a different way- replying to the “but he’s such a nice guy comment” with a “that’s true, we can keep working on that later-but we need to deal with the behavior now” sentiment gives the person a little more to work with stability wise, without you taking on the mental work they need to do for themselves.

          ex. (what I imagine to be a common internal struggle, and one I’ve had)
          “ok, I thought this was a basically good person- and I’ve been told they just did something so wrong…..I though I was a basically good person and I didn’t see that they could do that and I have been (depending on the situation) allowing it to go on- so either I’m a bad person- or the person telling me this misunderstood the situation”
          -but in saying “that’s true, but here’s where we should focus for now,” you make it easier for them to think “this person who I care for has good in them- but they have some behavior they need to work out now—do I have the energy to shift my relationship with them?” the underlying subtext to the second thought is that- I am a good person, I have the ability to negotiate and work with this new scary and sad information in an ethical way.

          Feeling conflicted is normal and I think a healthy part of figuring out how to respond to different new and terrifying situations. If there’s room for emotional conflict to exist-while still keeping on focus on how the behavior should be addressed- I think it could cut down on the percentage of folks who say minimizing things and allow folks, like me, to respond from a more trusting place.

          • NessieMonster said:

            That’s really well explained, Flix. Good one. :)

          • Vicki said:

            I really wish I’d had this, and Jess’s idea that loyalty means helping my friend to be a better person, to chew on about a week ago (with regard to an aspect of the Readercon thing). Now I need to figure out how to use it. Thanks.

    • drst said:

      Even in the case of the creepy scumbag Ben, where the boyfriend knows for sure there’s past issues, it doesn’t matter.

      As soon as your boyfriend/girlfriend/SO/partner tells you “This person makes me uncomfortable. I don’t feel safe around hir. I don’t want to be around this person any more, and I don’t want hir in my home” that is the end of the story. There are no excuses or buts, but the boyfriends here are not listening to that, not respecting that. That’s the problem. And it’s a serious enough problem to end a relationship. No one should continue dating a person who makes you feel unsafe.

      The proper response to the boyfriend’s excusing Ben may be therapy, where boyfriend realizes he can’t control what Ben does or how he behaves, but he can control his own actions, and heed what the person who supposedly matters so much to him wants with regard to Ben’s involvement in their lives. But if boyfriend isn’t willing to listen to a flat out statement like the one in the previous paragraph, or consider taking steps, then I’m with the people who say this relationship may be over.

    • Rosa said:

      It’s actually not that hard to see someone as fully human and have empathy with them and unequivocally condemn their behavior.

      Like: 3 year olds poop in the pool sometimes. Also they like to run beside the pool. One of these behaviors is very rare and one is really common, because one has super serious consequences and one does not. Poop causes everyone to have to get out of the pool and wait while the pool is cleaned up and chemical is added. It totally ruins swim lesson time. All the big kids get mad, the 3 year old’s parent is embarrassed, everything sucks. Even though we all know that sometimes 3 year olds poop in the pool, because they’re not all 100% potty trained yet, and it’s just developmental and not their fault.

      Running by the pool, though, that just gets a kid talked to by the lifeguard and maybe a parent. So it happens all the time, over and over, every day at least one kid runs around the pool.

      These letter writer’s are in social groups where disregarding the boundaries of female members of the group have very small consequences for the creeper. If they had big consequences, things would change.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Whoa.

      What about the women these dudes have harassed/assaulted? Do they get to be seen as human beings? Do they get to have compassion extended to them for possible traumas in their lives or the CURRENT trauma of being violated? I’m curious, really.

      We are exhorted to think of everyone else’s feelings except for ours, think of everyone else’s well-being except for ours, and frankly, every other person in this society is also given the message that the feelings of women and girls, the safety of women and girls, and the experiences of women and girls, simply do not count as important. It’s bullshit.

      Maybe it’s because after I was assaulted and harassed I was shut down with lectures about how the Guy Was Really Sorry, how He’s in Therapy Dealing with What’s Fueling This Behavior (so if he keeps harassing you deal with it because you aren’t important, bitch) and how I should extend compassion and understanding when ABSOLUTELY NONE WAS EXTENDED TO ME.

      These women come to this space for some support and you pull that same shit? That is not okay, not even a little bit.

      • Lucy said:

        Exactly what I wanted to say. Compassion is such a goddamn red herring in situations like this. It’s about as ridiculous as saying that parents who punish their children when they do something rude or inappropriate must not really love them.

      • Jake said:

        Hear fucking hear, Sheelzebub.

        And also:

        These creeps may well have some pretty serious trauma in their histories. Hopefully, it takes considerable effort to see women (especially women in one’s social circle) as less than human, and that effort may be being expended as a way of covering up very real pain.

        Bull-fucking-shit. What you’re describing here is called othering, and it’s not hard. In fact, it’s so damned easy that I’d say it’s just part of being human (which is not to say it’s justified or acceptable). History and current events are so full of othering that’s it’s impossible to miss, if you bother to look. It’s the key to everything from women and POC being systematically passed over for promotion in the modern workplace to slavery to the horrendous treatment of Jews and Roma (gypsies) in Europe over the past several hundred years, and thousands of other examples besides. It is SO EASY to other members of a given group (to see them as less than human) that even when you know about othering, and you’re watchful for it in your own life, you can still find yourself doing it with disheartening frequency. The best way to cause othering of a specific group is to teach people from a young age that that group doesn’t matter. And in our society, we all get taught this about women.

        Even if there were some trauma in these men’s histories, it’s not something that the LWs should have to worry about. But I strongly reject your assertion that only trauma can lead to othering.

        • rachel scotland said:

          “It takes considerable effort to see women as less than human” = bullshit.

          I was literally just typing this, but you got there first.

          Anyone who listens to music, watches TV, reads popular fiction, keeps up with the news, watches films, engages with our culture in ANY way is saturated in the idea that women aren’t people.

      • Xenophile said:

        “Maybe it’s because after I was assaulted and harassed I was shut down with lectures about how the Guy Was Really Sorry, how He’s in Therapy Dealing with What’s Fueling This Behavior (so if he keeps harassing you deal with it because you aren’t important, bitch) and how I should extend compassion and understanding when ABSOLUTELY NONE WAS EXTENDED TO ME.”

        THIS. After my parents found out their friends’ son molested me, my mother sat me down and said, “Don’t worry, he’s receiving counseling.” Counseling which was never offered to me. People use the compassion argument to avoid the responsibility of upsetting the status quo, whether it’s calling the cops or ostracizing the offender.

    • JenniferP said:

      Amy J, I’m catching up on this comment thread after an afternoon & evening away, let me add to the chorus of “whatever is causing these dudes to do this stuff doesn’t matter and isn’t fixable by the LWs/women in the social circle even if they did know.”

      You are coming across as a massive apologist. It doesn’t matter why they do it. It matters that they have to stop it around me, and I will make it SERIOUSLY UNCOMFORTABLE for them if they don’t.

      The next time a dude crawls up next to someone who is asleep at a party and starts feeling her up, the answer is to call 911. Just call 911. It’s not for the victim to try to get inside his head and have more compassion.

      • Jake said:

        I wonder about the call 911 thing. I mean, if you can’t get him to stop, then yes, absolutely, call 911. But if you can then isn’t it better to let the victim decide if they want to involve the police? I’m legitimately conflicted on this point. On the one hand, if I saw a mugging or something I would absolutely call 911 so why not do the same with a sexual crime? But on the other hand, the effect on the victim of dealing with law enforcement can be seriously traumatic with a sexual crime…

        • JenniferP said:

          You’re right, it’s up to the victim. Sorry, I should have been clearer. If that happens to me again (less and less likely as I age out of my party days), I will call 911. If I see it happen to someone and stop it (assuming I’m capable of stopping it – someone who will assault a sleeping woman might assault an awake witness, too, which leads me back to 911), my next suggestion will be “He assaulted you. We can call the cops if you want.” I will be the person who makes that a viable option and not pressure the person to forget about it and just go home.

          • duck-billed placelot said:

            Might I add, if you see someone feeling up an asleep person, maybe take a picture or even a few seconds of video? And then get another person to help you make it stop. That pic/video might make prosecution a clearer option, and that other person might keep you (and your new camera-phone of evidence) safe.

    • Flix said:

      Hey Amy,

      I appreciated your posts on this because I felt like they were touching on some fundamental blocks for me in totally embracing the conversation- but I read Jess H’s comment a little ways down and it helped me clear it up a bit- and I think it was semi-directed towards you, and in a friendly way. any-hoo maybe you’ve read it all ready.

  22. Wow, I love this post so much. I love how you name that the awkward, uncomfortable feelings are introduced by the boundary-crossing asshats, not by the woman who stands up for herself–although over and over, she is the one who is blamed for them. That’s rape culture.

    I’m a self defense instructor, and I call this kind of standing up for oneself “I think this is yours.” As in–“This crappy feeling I’m having in my social circle because you can’t behave? I think this is yours.”

    • JenniferP said:

      I love this comment and am stealing “I think this is yours” for future posts. Thank you so much! Sorry you were accidentally in the spam filter for a little bit. It was hungry.

  23. MHM said:

    Thank you Captain for this great advice. I don’t have much to add, I just want to send the LWs support. You can do it, LWs! Best of luck.

    I would love to hear updates about how the Conversations go, etc. Actually, I’d love updates about any of the letters! It would be great to hear how people are doing post-advice.

  24. Embarrassed said:

    When I was in grad school, I worked part-time in the evening. I worked the closing shift at my then-workplace. I was there from when the full-time staff left to when we closed at 10 PM. I was there by myself, except for a security guard. The guard was an older man, retired, perhaps about 65-70. He was very tall and very large and probably weighed at least twice what I did.

    He was a nice man with grey hair and photos of his grandkids, and I made the mistake of thinking of him as grandfatherly. One day he asked me for a hug, and I hugged him.

    The next day he asked me for a hug again. When I hugged him, he tightened his arms around me and DIDN’T LET GO. He said, “Can I get a kiss too?” When I said no, he released me, and he laughed as though it were a joke. Or as though, I thought later, I were playing hard to get. For a a couple of weeks, he would flirt and “jokingly” ask for kisses and I didn’t know what to do so I laughed.

    One day, at 10 PM, as I was leaving and he was locking up, he noticed it was raining. He said that if he had his car he would drive me home so I wouldn’t have to wait for the bus. Uncomfortable, I said, “That’s kind of you, but I’m fine.”

    And he said, “If I drove you home, would you kiss me in the car?”

    A three hundred pound six foot man. We were along in the building. The doors weren’t locked, but they could have been. He was the one with the key. The one who was supposed to make me feel safe. I was scared, and I felt ridiculous. He hadn’t done anything to me, I thought. I hugged him, so it was my fault. I encouraged him. I didn’t say no, not properly, so I had said yes. Nothing happened, and I went home. But I was really freaked out.

    I didn’t tell anyone, and I left the job for other reasons a few weeks later (and felt relief). I still feel queasy when I think about the whole thing, and what’s more I still feel ASHAMED. I’m sorry you’re in these situations, LWs. Both sound much more serious than what I experienced.

    • Jake said:

      Hey Embarrassed, I know you probably know this but I just wanted to say that even though you can’t control your feelings, you did nothing wrong and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You should be allowed to hug a person who you feel some affection towards without fearing sexual pressure. You should even be allowed to hug a person who you feel a little skeeved out by, feel that that hug was a mistake, and forgive yourself and be forgiven for that mistake. There is nothing about his advances that is your fault.

      • drst said:

        All of this. You had every right to bestow a hug on a person one day and then not the next. You had every right to listen to your own instincts about your safety. I’m glad you got out of there. That guy was a douche and you don’t deserve to feel shame because he was a douche.

    • I am so sorry this happened to you. I can relate. Girl, can I relate.
      Allow yourself to be angry about it. I get it’s embarrassing and you probably don’t want to think about it in great detail, but if you think it through, it might help you to feel angry at him. That’s what he deserves. You were not in the wrong.

      Seriously? A much older guy in good shape, who was hired as security, you had to work with him alone and he could lock you in. You were not on equal grounds. You didn’t have a fair choice if you wanted to be nice to him or more assertive.

  25. I feel icky just reading these. Time to shower.
    LW1, Creeper sounds like he can be dealt with. He sounds like he has a drinking problem, and some ‘COLOR ME SHOCKED’ language and refusal to coddle him could knock him free from this sexless pity party he’s inflicting on all of you.
    LW2, you have a rapist on your hands. A manipulating asshole, and guys, who have never felt threatened by this person, just don’t take him seriously. Your guy friends and your boyfriend might be cool people, but they’re not respecting you (at best) and don’t seem to care about your safety at all. New friends? A safe space? I don’t think you have to dump all of your friends, but put tons of distance between you and Ben.

    • Yesyesyes. Exactly how I read it. Good luck, both peoples!

  26. Chay said:

    “So what you’re saying, is that you’d rather I be sexually assaulted without consequence than cause your friend to be uncomfortable?”

    Is the question I’d be asking my boyfriend/male friends. After they bumble through their excuses, I would simply repeat: “So you’re saying, with an absolutely straight face, that your preference is for my constant threat.”

    Repeat it. Don’t let them explain their way out of it. Force them to think about it exactly in those terms. Because ALL of what they say, comes back to the fact that they would rather have their female friends victimized to varying degrees, than have a difficult conversation. That shit is wrong and bad and they should feel bad.

    I am so sorry you both (and all your lady friends) are going through this. UGH.

    • Cassandra said:

      This is great, and you should feel great.

    • kfrance0 said:

      That is the kind of thing that would break through any denial I was in about a friend who acted that way. Put like that, the only answer a decent person can come to is “no, I would rather have that guy be uncomfortable than you be sexually assaulted.” Like people have been pointing out, it comes back to the behavior. He may (or may well NOT) be a “good person,” but the issue is what he’s doing to other people right now, not why he’s doing it.

  27. Admiral Backward said:

    Great as usual, Cap’n. I also appreciated the wealth of external links — great stuff there, too.

  28. merry.murderess said:

    Hi guys. LW2 here. Tried to have a talk with my boyfriend. It didn’t go so well, as he apparently has all the empathy of a robot. Currently holed up in my room crying and wishing I could have the last two years of my life back.

    • JenniferP said:

      I’m sorry, lady. I hope you can get some good people around you soon and take some really, really good care of yourself.

    • commanderlogic said:

      Oh, LW2. I’m so, SO sorry! Sorry that he is a jerk, sorry that you feel terrible, and sorry that he was a jerk specifically to YOU. I am not sorry that you had that talk with him. I’m PROUD of you! You are amazing and strong and deserve an equally amazing partner who loves you and would be proud of you, too.

      However the next steps go, I know that you’re going to do what is right for you. *jedi hugs*

      • Jake said:

        +1
        LW2, you did a scary thing even though it was scary. You can do other things. Look how capable you are!

    • You are brave and badass, and you deserve someone who treats you as a brave, badass person. I’m so sorry that this happened to you, but you will make it through. Grieving for the last two years is normal and healthy and still hard, and that’s okay.

      Jedi hugs. We’ve got your back.

    • Lucy said:

      I’m so sorry to hear this. I know it can be cold comfort to hear that you did the right thing when you’re this sad, but you did the right thing. After you’ve grieved, rest assured that you will be much better off taking care of yourself and doing right by yourself alone than in a relationship where you feel unsafe and marginalized. And believe me, there are men in the world who will stand up for you unequivocally and take your experience seriously, and now, when you’re ready again, you’ll be equipped to find them.

    • PomperaFirpa said:

      Oh, honey, I am so sorry.

    • Oh, no! I have so much sympathy for you. I’ve been there and it’s hard. But we’re here for you.

    • Bunny said:

      Getting the guts up to have a talk like that is hard and scary, and you should feel proud of yourself for managing it. I am so, so sorry your BF is acting like this. Do you have access to a Team You, disconnected from the BF, that can help you through this? We’ve got your back as best we can here, obviously, but it might help if you can rally some friends and family together who can provide in-person support.

    • Lyla D. said:

      I am so, so sorry, LW. You deserve better than that. I hope you get it soon.

    • drst said:

      I’m so sorry he reacted that way, but you are awesome for standing up for yourself and your boundaries here and if he can’t respect you for that, it is time to get out of the relationship and away from people who make you feel unsafe. Just get through it. The next hour, the next 30 minutes, the next 5 minutes at a time if necessary. Disentangle your life from this person who does not treat you with the decency we all deserve. Grieve. Move on. You can do this. *all the Jedi hugs in the world*

    • *jedihugs* Sorry it didn’t go well, but you are awesome. Hang in there.

    • I’m so sorry. I hope you can take some time to be good to yourself today.
      You have a huge group of folks here cheering you on, too!

    • Oh no! I’m so so so sorry. Giant Jedi hugs if you want them. You took such a chance and you were so courageous and you are so BRAVE. I hope that you’re able to build Team Merry soon.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      You deserve better than that. It will get better–please take good care of yourself and let us know how you’re doing, OK?

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Also, seconding everyone here who said you’re great for standing up for yourself. You really are.

    • Meguey said:

      That stinks. I’m sorry he didn’t handle it with more grace or empathy. What you did was strong and excellent, and I wish you all the best.

      When I was 16, I was at a sleep-over at a friend’s house, and was molested by her older brother in my sleep.. My boyfriend at the time could NOT handle it compassionately at all, and it eventually tanked our relationship. Better to find out sooner than later, but it still was a really crappy thing to face.

    • Oh, no, I am so sorry. If you are ever in NYC you can come hang with me and my creeper-free friends and we will buy you ALL THE ICE CREAM.

    • sometimeswhy said:

      Well shit.

      I’m so sorry it didn’t go well. I’m so glad and so impressed that you had that hard conversation; you are a badass. I hope that you’re able to get a great Team You around you to do whatever you need to do next.

    • Oyceter said:

      Oh, LW2, I am so, so sorry. Take care of yourself, because you are awesome, and I am so impressed you went ahead to try and talk with him, no matter how things turn out. *jedi hugs*

    • merry.murderess. said:

      Thanks for the kind words, everybody. It really means a lot to me.

      • Hey, sweetpea. I’m glad you checked in, too. Stay strong, stay true to what you know is necessary. Carve your own life, yeah? It starts here, and damn, you’re doing just great.

    • Kat said:

      LW2, I’m so sorry for how he’s treating this and what you’re going through. I’ve been in a similar situation, and I remember feeling so stupid when things blew up in my face and I finally recognized my “friends” just didn’t care I was being assaulted. It is SO hard to come to terms with that instead of just blaming yourself, and you are incredibly brave and strong for facing it head-on like you’re doing. You are doing all the best things you can for yourself despite the world of pressure that’s on you to do otherwise, and you know that you deserve so much better, which takes huge amounts of fortitude and wisdom, especially during this kind of grief. You are a bad-ass, full stop, and I have complete faith that you’re going to bounce back from this. In the meantime though, I am so, so sorry for the pain you’re feeling. It’s not your fault.

    • I’m really sorry to hear that. My partner doesn’t always get it either. Usually he’ll mull it over though and get back to me trying to understand, and we can move forward, but at first, his impulse is to be defensive, because he feels like not only am I saying something about his friend, but him for being friends with them.

      It takes a lot of guts to call someone out, esp when they have privilege. Good for you. <3

    • Elikit said:

      I’m sorry about how things went down, but I am glad that you’ve checked in. Your letter just made me really uneasy. I really feel like you’ll be much safer without these people in your life.

    • kisekileia said:

      You did an amazing thing, and quite likely saved yourself from later being raped by Ben.

      Are there any other women who’ve left the social circle you shared with your boyfriend, who might have done so because of Ben? Can you connect up with them?

    • Susan said:

      You have two years’ learning under your belt, & now know not to waste another second of your life on either this guy or anyone who apologizes for those who are in the wrong. We are all here for you, & we’re proud of you!

    • hrovitnir said:

      I’m so sorry. Having discussions with a giant privilege elephant in the room is hard enough without it being about you having been assaulted! Lots of internet hugs and support if you want it.

    • Ellen Cameron said:

      Sweetling, try (I know it’s hard, because you’ve just had a super-major disappointment) to think of it as freeing the *rest* of your life. Your about-to-be ex is fatally inconsiderate, and Ben is poison; isn’t that a good reason to amputate both of them from your social sphere? Truly, it won’t be easy, especially since you *have* given the BF 2 years of your life. But he gave you 2 years of his, and *this* is what it turned out to be? That he doesn’t respect you? The rest of your life doesn’t deserve that. It will take strength, and it will be scary and painful — but the alternative is learning to disrespect yourself, and that’s just dreadful, too dreadful to comtemplate. Remember: EVERYONE HERE ON THIS LIST HAS YOUR BACK. You are NOT the one who’s wrong.

    • merry.murderess said:

      Hi guys, thought I’d give you another update on my situation. Long story short, I agreed to talk with Former Boyfriend yesterday. He is now saying that he doesn’t want to lose me because of Ben, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to help me feel safe. According to him, this includes shunning him from group activities, encouraging others in our group to do the same, and supporting me when I choose to leave an event where Ben shows up. I am fairly sceptical right now, and I told him that I would not get back together with him unless these things actually happen, and soon. I really love him, and I want this to work out, but I am not willing to put up with any more Ben-related bullshit.

      I really want to thank you all for your kind words and your support. It’s great to know that so many people have my back here! *hugs*

      • alphakitty said:

        Good news — I hope!

        I suggest you also share with him some of the links on this page (such as http://madamenoire.com/138409/the-severity-behind-every-street-holla/ and Shinobi42’s and the one I posted with the video).

        As lovely as it is to hear he values you enough to want to change vis-a-vis Ben, to really be a keeper he needs to understand that the Ben situation is part of a larger issue, not just be conforming his behavior in response to your specific incident-by-incident instructions. He doesn’t have to be an instantaneous convert to the “right” way of thinking, but be open to the perspective and willing to take charge of educating himself a little so his opinion is informed rather than knee-jerk. You don’t want to forever be in the position of chastising and prompting, like his mommy having to remind him about his pleases and thank yous as his lower lip protrudes.

      • Good luck with this – I hope he follows through and that everything works out for you!!!!!!!!!!

      • Good luck! I second alphakitty’s smart words, and I really hope it works out for the best for you no matter what happens. Jedi hugs :)

      • Bunny said:

        LW, I’m so glad things are looking brighter for you! I agree with what others have said that I personally would hold BF at arms length until it’s clear he gets the point BEHIND the specific things he’s asked to do, not just acting them out for the sake of keeping you, but the fact that he’s realised he needs to actually listen? That’s a good start! I really hope it works out for you.

      • Jolly said:

        I am curious: did you show him this letter/advice? It lays out the situation so well, it is hard to imagine any decent person reading it and steadfastly siding with a rapist. I often feel like most people are decent people, and when they act like big fucking assholes it is usually out of ignorance rather than malice. I mean, that is no reason to ever sacrifice your happiness or safety for an asshole, but helps understand it when people you care about and who you thought cared about you are suddenly big fucking dicks like this. It is always hard to imagine where people with different experiences are coming from, especially when their experiences fly in the face of how you personally feel about someone you have known and cared about for years. I am glad to hear it sounds like he finally managed to step outside of his own perspective and understand the situation better. Once you see things from someone else’s point of view, it is hard to go back and makes it so much easier to see what they see going forward. I have high hopes that he is more capable now of watching ‘Ben’ with your eyes, will realize how bad the situation is, and follow through more easily after he realizes how blind he’s been.

        Also, maybe suggest to him that if he REALLY wants to be a good friend to Ben, try to get him into counseling. He has rapist issues, and clearly has whatever other underlying issues if he threatens to kill himself when confronted about this, so it sounds like he (and his potential future victims) would benefit hugely from professional help. There is no excuse for his behavior, but there are probably some reasons behind it that should be addressed by someone with the right set of tools, if only so that he doesn’t weasel his way into a new group of friends and do the same bullshit all over again. His friends should want him to get better, to be a happy, healthy human being, and while they shouldn’t appease him in any way or put anyone in danger, totally abandoning him isn’t always the best solution, either (even if you hate him and wan’t him to die alone, which is probably how I would feel in your situation).

        Anyway, good luck to the two of you.

    • vulnerary said:

      LW2 – I hope to support you rather than just sympathize – you made the right decision, absolutely, certainly. You will not regret this day. Your courage will make a better life for you. You will find someone whose reaction to this sort of behaviour honors you rather than belittles you. Spend some time with friends who will build your self-worth. Keep the light of courage burning in your heart. It will pay off in the end.

    • Cara said:

      I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re dealing with these feelings of betrayal. I’m sorry this guy turned out not to be the guy you assumed he was when you got involved with him.

      However. I know this doesn’t help now, nothing will help now but sitting with the pain and letting time and distance do the work, but you have just been given a tremendous gift.

      You just dodged a bullet, sweet pea. And two years is NOTHING in the scheme of things. A heartbeat. In a couple of months you’re going to clearly see all the things you didn’t like about this relationship, and marvel at your good fortune at getting out of it before a mortgage or child trapped you into tolerating more, or “trying” more (ugh).

      You’re free now to let someone as awesome as you are find you. And now that you know you CAN get out when something doesn’t work for you, you’ll be truly free to stay in a relationship because you want to and not just because you’re afraid to get out (like so many young women are brainwashed into doing). This was an inexpensive lesson that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

      So grieving is good, but please don’t waste any MORE time on this guy by wishing you had those two years back. That’s another handy way our psyches have of tricking us into wasting EVEN MORE time–we get tricked into thinking if we can just make it work out, we haven’t “wasted” our time. But that’s like gambling more money because we’ve lost so much already. We do get to cut our losses and start fresh.

  29. Kaz said:

    Thanks so much for this post. It’s made me realise what I should have done in a past situation, and what to easily do next time.

    I was paralysed by not being a witness to events and believing that the only right action was to cut one or the other entirely, without the benefit of judge and jury etc.

    This post made me realise it wasn’t a zero-sum game. That loyalty & friendship to both parties would have been served by respecting concerns and by CALLING PEOPLE OUT. It isn’t incompatible with friendship – it should be part of it. Heck, one of the people involved had called ME out before. And if people change – good. If not, there’s a basis for further action

    Anyway, I’m a girl but I wonder if that same (unnecessary) paralysis affects other people – the responses here are great because they address the problem. “Believe me – stand up for me” isn’t at all the same as “Believe me – blindly drop people I tell you to”. It’s potentially better for EVERYONE if they listen, and if they don’t, it should have the same nett effect :)

  30. mae said:

    I read these letters and thought, “Wow, this is so my circle of friends.”

    Here’s what happened: There was this guy who put on this show of being a big sad teddy bear who just couldn’t catch a break. He was progressive, even: a women’s studies major, talked big about being sex-positive and kink-positive and all that – which basically meant he called me a prude to my face when I didn’t want to watch him deep-throat a dildo – and he had an obvious creepy crush on me from the moment we met. He was always touchier than I was ever comfortable with, always made jokes about how he wanted me to take off my shirt or do table dances or be tied down by him (kink-positive, remember) and I would try to politely tell him to knock it off and he would never listen.

    This went on for two years. Then he sexually assaulted me.

    So here’s my advice to both the LWs: these guys are predators. Fuck politeness – get away from them and get your loved ones away from them, ASAP. They are unsafe to be around. LW #2, if potential awkwardness is more important to your bf than your safety, dump him. Open up your social circle a bit – go to things you’ve never tried, talk to people you’ve never met (or that you haven’t talked to in a long time) – start imagining your life without these creeps. Because you can’t keep them around, and yes, this means you might have to jettison their apologists like I had to. Your life will be better for getting them out of it.

    • Xenophile said:

      I’m so sorry he hurt you. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who co-opt progressive language to mask oppressive behavior, and even in social justice groups we have to be careful because they know how to hide. I was in a verbally abusive relationship with a guy who would complain about heteronormativity as it relates to him wearing makeup, but told all our friends I was a whore because I had consensual sex with him once. It’s like they just find a social justice vocabulary list, memorize a couple terms and think that justifies whatever they do.

      • kisekileia said:

        I have seen this too. A guy who was involved in promoting “no means no/ask first” stuff, and is really involved in progressive causes, convinced me to have him stay over at my apartment because I was really depressed and needed friendly companionship. He even gave me advice about how to promote information about consent in a group I was involved with. But somehow, we ended up talking about sex for ages. I hadn’t wanted to, but he just sort of steered the conversation there. He also tried to get me to let him sleep in my bed, while also warning me that he tends to sleep-grope people. He hugged me with a raging boner popping out of his pants. I contacted him afterwards to say I didn’t want to talk about sex with him anymore, and he first ignored me, then was seriously nasty about it. I ended my friendship with him over it.

        I was very fortunate in that a mutual friend sent me a warning email about the guy at some point during this–I think after the overnight stay, before I ended the friendship–so I was able to find out the guy had a history of seriously creepy behaviour. But it really messed with my head, having a guy promote anti-rape stuff in one breath and try to manipulate me into sexual stuff in the next.

        • Bunny said:

          Guys like this are fucking terrifying, because you can’t even imagine that they’re “just clueless”. These are guys who know the lingo, know exactly what women go through and know how hard it is for women to trust them and treat the solutions women find to make themselves safe as TOOLS TO ENABLE RAPE.

          Predator, fucking predator, run!

          Which automatically makes any guy who goes into social justice and feminism-type stuff automatically suspect to me, because I’ve just heard too many examples where these guys turned out to be the adult-assaulting equivalent of the child predator who seeks work caring for vulnerable children.

          • kisekileia said:

            Yeah, I am automatically suspicious of guys who heavily promote themselves as feminists, too. I prefer the ones who are quiet about it and just back women up when it’s necessary.

          • kisekileia said:

            Oh, and in case you were worried, this incident happened in late 2009/early 2010, and I no longer have contact with the guy except a little bit through Facebook. I haven’t erased his presence from my life there because I want to see some of the political stuff he posts.

        • Xenophile said:

          Part of what sucked so much in my situation was that his co-opting of feminist vocabulary undermined what little support I had in my friends. These two girls in particular enabled him despite claiming to be ardent feminists. They’d go on long rants about patriarchy but apparently saw him as an ally even though he was trying to slut-shame me, and blamed me for not being more assertive. Because all liberated women are superheroes who single-handedly verbally destroy abusers without needing any help from their friends, and if you need help, then you’re apparently not liberated enough to deserve help. Or something.

    • K said:

      My god, I’m so sorry. Agreed about fuck politeness.

  31. Elena said:

    I nearly started a serious fight at a party once because I and another female friend were lying down (eyes closed) on one of the couches at the end of the night, when guy-who-had-been-a-douche-all-evening came in and said, “I guess I could assault her before I leave.” (ha ha, so amusing)

    I jumped up and yelled, “Don’t you fucking touch me!” At which point extremely-drunk douchebag started getting in my face and I started looking around for improvised weapons. Friends intervened, I explained what had happened, and that guy was not invited to *anything* until he proved that he had seriously learned a lesson (well over a year of ostracization, and in the time since no one has had any complaints). Being that loud and adamant about it actually made it easier in one way, because it was very clear to everyone in that social group that there would be no smoothing that over and ignoring it.

    I was scared shitless in that moment of confrontation, but my friends had my back, and the creeper guy actually seems to have gotten better as a result. And yeah, if your friends wouldn’t have your back in a moment like that, they aren’t really your friends.

    • Meguey said:

      Yes. This, exactly. The scared shitless is part of it, but the yelling and not backing down is also part of it. You rock for this. I’m glad you did this.

    • Sarah B said:

      ‘Being that loud and adamant about it actually made it easier in one way, because it was very clear to everyone in that social group that there would be no smoothing that over and ignoring it.’

      Absolutely agreed.

      I was hanging out with one of my friends groups once when someone who we all vaguely knew, and who I knew had creepy-hugs tendencies when drunk, groped my arse as I went upstairs. My immediate response was to turn around and say, at full volume, something along the lines of ‘Do that again and I will kick you in the balls so hard they’ll come out the top of your skull’. The man looked utterly dumbfounded; as did most of my friends. Then I carried on with my evening.

      There was a certain amount of ‘What did he do?’ followed by the occasional ‘Oh, X just does that sort of thing’ (to which I responded with my best long stare), but for the most part people kept X away from me for the rest of that evening, and he was never welcome again; and I think it was at least partly because my completely atypical reaction shocked people out of their normal missing-stair routine into the realisation that this was an Actual Problem that needed dealing with.

      …though, to be fair, it was also way easier for them to eject him from the social group than me. And even so, I spent a few worried minutes afterwards before it became clear which side people were coming down on.

      • Hazel Stone said:

        Oh man, pretty much that exact same thing happened to me, only I didn’t handle it so well.

        My husband,P’s social circle are the crowd he went to college with (we’re in our 40s). We were at a party when I felt my arse being grabbed. Since I knew my husband was behind me I figured it was him and ignored it. Then it happened again, and this time it hurt (found out later it left bruises) so I turned around with a glare on my face and realised it wasn’t P, it was this guy I barely knew J that had recently reconnected with the group. Earlier that night J had corned me and been pretty obnoxious in the guise of ‘conversation’ while people watched and essentially waited to see who’d win and I’d been avoiding him since.

        J grinned and said ‘P ignored me the first time I did it so I did it again’. P just stood there looking at me and I knew instantly that I was alone in this. I can’t remember exactly what I said but it was something along the lines of ‘it’ll take a lot more than that to get a rise out of me’ and then I stalked off. Later P said that J was always doing stuff to provoke a reaction and that was just how J was and he (P) didn’t want to cause a scene. I couldn’t believe the blatantness of it, he knew J, knew what he was likely to do and still just stood there and did absolutely nothing.

        What got to me, and still does, is that my husband of 17 years, whom I’ve supported through illness and unemployment and for whom I moved country so he could be near his parents, placed a higher value on not causing a scene in front of his friends than he did on protecting or standing up for me. I tried to talk about it with him afterwards but he still thinks not causing a scene was the right thing to do. I’ve said that J is not welcome in our house but P said that if J turns up at an event at our place (as is likely to happen, events with this group are pretty casual) he won’t turn him away and he wouldn’t back me up in kicking J out as the group would look poorly on it (‘Oh that’s just J, he’s always like that, he doesn’t mean anything by it’ – actual quote from a ‘friend’)

        He’s always been a bit clueless but that night a large chunk of my marriage died. Guess I know what his priorities are.

    • Cheri said:

      When I was a student in college, (forever ago,) one of our ‘friends’ was always trying to grab my ass. He was always making comments about it and just always being pervy. (It was a great ass, but still!!!) He had also, about 3 weeks before, gotten high on ludes and jumped out of his second story bedroom window. It was so much fun he did it again. Broke his leg in 7 places along the shin bone, and was hobbling about on crutches with a cast from foot to hip. Anyway, one night as a group of us was walking up the drive to his house, him behind me, he made yet another comment and a grab that connected. Without a second’s warning, I spun around and slapped him so hard it knocked the spit outta his mouth and sent him flailing and pinwheeling his crutches flat over backwards.* As he was being helped off the ground I growled, “Don’t ever touch me again,” and that was that. I never heard him make another remark about my ass and he certainly never made another grab at it. And all his friends ragged him for being a jerk that got knocked off his crutches.

      Swift, noisy, assertive action has always seemed to work great for me. I did have to learn this as my generation was taught to be non-confrontational understanding peace-makers who deferred to men. I still find myself reverting back to being a ‘proper lady’ at times and have to remind myself that I need to stand up for myself and my friends. But I’ve gotten a lot of miles and confidence from slapping a guy off his crutches!

      *Don’t scold me for resorting to physical violence. It was instinctual, and I was into the follow-through before I even realized I was committing the more obvious assault. (Sadly, the more ‘obvious’ assault.) Also, I enjoyed it, a lot; made me feel not-so-helpless. And I would do it again.

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

        Commenting on the thread for the first time to say I would never scold for that … it was a beautiful image.

      • Jolly said:

        Nice one. As far as I’m concerned, if someone touches me in an aggressive and unwelcome way, I will let them know exactly how that feels to help them understand. A hard slap in the face while reaching for the pepper spray is, to me, exactly the right reaction to someone grabbing your ass, and lets them know that no, this isn’t fun and games, this is them physically assaulting you. If they want to escalate it, pepper spray + 911 call (or at least making it clear that for you, that is the next step). No one touches me sexually without consent and gets away with it, and if they think they can, they have another thing coming.

        • JenniferP said:

          Glad that works for you. Not everyone is going to be so well-defended, or good at thinking and reacting in the moment, or strong enough to pull that off without escalating the attack.

          Read this please: http://www.fugitivus.net/2009/06/26/another-post-about-rape-3/ (TW: RAPE)

      • A while ago, I was in a meeting room at work waiting for the meeting to start. One of my coworkers from another department, a man in his early sixties (thus about 20 years older than me), came in and went to sit next to me. Before he sat down, he commented on my hairstyle – I had my fairly long hair in a thick single braid – and grabbed my braid and yanked on it.

        I reacted instinctively, those instincts being honed by years of bullying at school, and struck out with my fist and managed to give him an awkward punch to his chest. He said, surprised “What? I’m not allowed to do that?”. I was so furious that I could barely speak, but managed to say something about not being in kindergarten anymore and hairpulling not being acceptable in the workplace.

        About half a year later, I was in a wheelchair for nine months due to a broken leg. This same guy comes up to me in the office canteen, and asks how I am, while leaning down and grabbing the cast on my broken leg, giving it a little shake.

        After that I spoke to my boss, who at the next opportunity (i.e. next time I gave him the chance to play racer driver with my wheelchair when helping me get to the canteen), told the guy “look, but no touching”. I still get furious thinking about it. Everyone I talk to about it is absolutely stunned, but both times nobody around us said anything or even appeared to notice.

        Creepers. They’re not just for your social circle…

    • ArrowInTheSky said:

      I’ve had a very similar situation happen when I was a teenager on a party. I didn’t know the creep, but I can’t remember him being invited ever again after his behaviour.

      I was hanging around with a much younger girl, we talked and she was incredibly drunk. My party quickly turned to a “taking care of the all to drunk girl”-kind of evening when she ran of to the bathroom to puke. I never mind putting aside my partying if someone is not feeling well, it was not an issue. She ended up falling asleep in the middle of puking repeatedly. I woke her up and gave her water.
      I, small girl of 5’1, help this girl into bed, put her in a good position for not choking to death if she pukes in her unconscious state, place a large waterglass on the bedstand and a bucket for future use beside the bed.
      In the room there’s three other people. Two guys and one girl. One of the guys says something along the lines of “Oh! She’s out cold. That’ll make it easier later tonight if I’m horny…” (at least that was the gist of it, I don’t remember exactly what words he used, it was almost 15 years ago). His two friends laugh while I’m trying my best not to explode.
      I fail, luckily for ms unconscious, I’d say. I stalk up to him and make sure that in no uncertain terms he will loose arms, legs and other appendages if he even thinks about either making another “joke” or if he comes close to/touches the sleeping girl.
      His friends laugh uncomfortably and says that he was only kidding. Yeah, really funny. I call one of my friends in and tell her to stay by the girl while I go talk to the guy whose home we’re at. He agrees that she shouldn’t be left alone for even a minute and we make sure the rest of the night that someone is always by her side.
      I was apparently a bitch, big time, for standing up to a creeper. But by the end of the night, the girl was kept safe and the creeper and his friends left, since nobody found it even remotely funny and wouldn’t talk to him/them.

      It makes such a difference if people around you do not condone any kind of joke or creepy behaviour. And that people have the so-called Bitchs’ back.
      Even with older people you should never accept those kind of “jokes”. They’re NOT funny and they are a BIG RED FLAG imo.

      If you have the opportunity to help someone who is not at full strength and vulnerable, make sure they stay safe, it’s better to make a big fuss and keep everyone safe than letting creeps keep their composure. Make them uncomfortable. Every time.

      (I apologize if my language isn’t perfect. English isn’t my mothertongue.)

      • alphakitty said:

        Your English is great… your defense of that young woman a thing of great beauty!

    • Tsu Dho Nimh said:

      ^^^^ THIS ^^^^
      Being willing to rock boats, not be “shushed”, and if possible, embarrass the crap out of people who are relying on your embarrassed silence goes a long way.

  32. As a male person of rapidly advancing years, not sure how i got here, but I just want to applaud all the truth-telling and courage happening in this thread. Captain A, I’m afraid you are right on in what you say about rape culture. And just as it’s crucial for white people to speak out about the injustices due to white privilege, so too men need to lead the charge against the idiocy and cruelty caused by a few too many centuries of male privilege. I don’t know if any one here saw the thread about the “comedian” Tosh and his rape joke that was on The Daily Beast recently, but I posted on it a few times. I was one of the few men who took the side of the blogger and most of the women commenters to say that Tosh had crossed a very clear line when he suggested that it might be funny if a woman in the audience who had dared to voice the opinion that rape is not funny happened to be gang-raped “right now.” Almost all the male commenters posted variations of “You chicks just have no sense of humor, lighten up, it was a joke, what’s the big deal” or tried to make it about censorship which it clearly wasn’t. I really don’t mean to be self-congratulatory, but i felt that since no men were voicing any criticism of all this bullshit about rape being funny, I jumped in. The responses from men were entirely hostile. Accusing me of being feminine (as if that’s a bad thing), or of just agreeing with the women because I wanted to get laid, and so on.

    I’m afraid this is another example of the extreme polarization that US society is undergoing. To me, men’s willful blindness to the misogyny built into our culture is of a piece with the current “Republican” war on women. As a kid with an artistic bent (and I don’t mean that as coded language. I actually am an artist and happen to be heterosexual) who grew up in the dark ages of the fifties, I got my share of abuse from the wannabe-macho-bullies-in-training. As a man in this society who doesn’t buy into misogyny and male power, it’s quite a job not to succumb to a form of self-hatred and rejection of one’s own masculine side as well as suspicion and fear of other men. As men, we have few models of nurturing fathers who can be both strong and vulnerable — i.e. capable of expressing feeling. Instead, we have bullying dictators or ineffectual bumblers. The good news is, I see a lot of younger men, some who are fathers, who are consciously breaking long generational cycles of physical and psychic violence.

    I’ve become a fan of Louis CK’s TV show, “Louie.” I think he might be doing for male awareness what Lenny Bruce did for civil liberties. He might be our first male feminist comic. His disarming gentleness and brilliant humor prevents his fierce commitment to justice from becoming the least bit self-righteous or strident. If they’re not into him yet, get your boyfriends to watch “Louie” and then help them understand what he’s really talking about.

    • Ursula said:

      Wow, Corey Fischer! I’m the same age as you are and I am impressed with who you appear to be. I grew up in a family that didn’t value anything feminine at all, and the culture at the time was way worse than it is now. MOST comedians told misogynist jokes; boys and men were routinely seen as “better than” girls and women and society corroborated that opinion over and over every day.

      I, too, think Louis C.K. is something special. I also think that he’s developing a pretty broad and intelligent fan base.

      I appreciate knowing that not all older men choose to participate in the Rape Culture in which they grew up. Thanks for weighing in on this issue.

      I’m wondering about what these oblivious boyfriends would say if they were capable of absorbing any of this.

      I don’t think I know any women who have not been around Creepers, Rapists, and garden-variety misogynists–but I know lots of women who didn’t know it was possible to find sympathy, empathy or compassion from a boyfriend or other male.

    • Xenophile said:

      Welcome Corey! Thank you for your comments on the Daily Beast. When I look at the comments by trolls on Salon about rape, I see a lot of people victim-blaming and rape-apologizing and then I feel very, very alone. It’s a really scary feeling. Then when I see an ally, even if it’s just one lone voice in the wilderness, I don’t feel so alone anymore.

      Louis CK has a lot of great and even subversive stand up that makes me really happy. Unfortunately, he’s said a few things in interviews about that incident with Daniel Tosh and also about Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant that were really disappointing. He basically said that stand up is an art form, and in the name of artistic integrity it shouldn’t be censored, and heckling is such an awful thing that it justifies any response, no matter how offensive. So sad that someone who’s made a career out of the social relevence of pop culture in his own work makes so many excuses for other. I guess no one’s perfect…but it doesn’t make me not respect stand up any less.

  33. Doug said:

    Hi. Just wanted to say that this is amazing, and I’m sharing it. Thank you!

  34. Tara said:

    I’ve been through this so many times within my intimate circle of friends and in my larger community. The captain is spot on about EVERYTHING including (and I’m really sorry to say this) your boyfriend LW2. My advice is to shun. SHUN, SHUN, SHUN these baby and full fledged rapists. Do not invite them to your events or your home. Do not talk to them. Do as the captain says and warn off any of your friends who have been fortunate enough to miss their horrible advances. And when your friends question you or try to convince you to give in (some will) calmly tell them that you will not spent time with or invite someone into your space if you cannot trust them to abide by the boundaries you and others have set. Since the “creeper people” have proven that they can’t, they are out. Say you have a zero tolerance policy for people who don’t respect noes and play chicken with consent. If you keep the actions statements personal to you “I will not have them in my space”, “They won’t take no for an answer so they are not welcome at my party” or my most favorite “I don’t talk to creeper x because I don’t want too”. Your friends will have a hard time arguing a point against that. Don’t be surprised if a few friends still opt to hang around the creepers without you, it won’t last.

    What I think will surprise you is how little most of your friends will put up a fight. These people are not just doing these things to you and as soon as one person clearly makes a stand against it other will follow suit. It will take a little time but after you do this and people see that you are no longer having to put up with the grossness that comes out of these people a lot of them will be quietly crossing the creepers off their invite lists as well. When I did this I only had to field pressure for about two months to “let bygones be bygone”. I kept repeating my I statements. Now months to years later, I never see these individuals. NO ONE asks about them or why they are not around and while I still have 1 close friend who tries to stay in touch w one of the shunned creepers that person makes sure their time is separate from any large social gatherings. So take your stand, be very clear as to why and shut these bastards out of your life. If you loose a few friends over this then those friends needed to be lost.

    Oh and a new thing I am trying for the larger community I am involved in is to stop calling these people creepers when I am talking about them. The term creeper doesn’t really tell you what to look out for and isn’t taken as serious as people sometimes intend it to be. So now when someone asks me about person x, I don’t say “that person is a creeper” I say “that person gets really handsy when drunk” or “that person is a twice accused rapist”. While both are unacceptable there is a wide difference between the two and when we rely on such an ambiguous word we don’t always convey what we mean. I am so sorry you two are going through this. Good Luck!

    • This! My only complaint about calling guys creepy or creepers is that it isn’t specific enough. And I know it’s hard to BE specific because culturally we aren’t granted a vocabulary. But BE specific, “He keeps staring at my tits.” “He groped my ass.” “He keeps talking about wanting to ‘nail’ me.”

  35. Classy said:

    Well said. Absolutely well said! I don’t tolerate that crap with people I meet. If you don’t respect me or my friends, GTFO. You want to crack funny rape jokes? GTFO. We don’t tolerate that shit. Thankfully I spend time with a great group of people, most of whom are young newlyweds (mid-late twenties). We don’t have to address those issues because we all hold ourselves to a higher standard of being. If people focused more on being themselves instead of trying to create some “sexy” or “flirty teddy bear” persona by making others feel uncomfortable we wouldn’t have to deal with half the issues we have.

    • I’m confused by your comment. You think that people being themselves is the solution? Are you saying that the victims are provoking creeps by being “sexy” or having “flirty teddy bear” personas? (I assume not; if so, stop with the victim-blaming.) Or are you saying that the creepers themselves are playing a role that is getting out of hand? Because I think the problem here is that these guys aren’t playing a role. Their creepy comments and creepy behaviors ARE their real selves. If anything, we should be encouraging these creepers to behave less like themselves and more like decent human beings.

      • commanderlogic said:

        I’m pretty sure Classy was referring to creepers assuming a theoretically “sexy” or “teddy bear” persona. I agree with you that, when people assume personae or masks that “aren’t really me, though!”, it is often a way to express how that person really feels.

  36. twomoogles said:

    Often guys will go on about how ‘if anyone hurts a woman, I will beat him up’ or similar rhetoric. Often these are the same guys who will not even tell a guy bothering his actual girlfriend to back down. It’s like there’s this really posturing, white-knight trend to say ‘I’ll take care of this with FISTS’, and then guys will pat each other on the back and say how great they are. And try to use this to sound awesome when they talk to women. First of all, actual violence in these situations would not be a good thing. Second of all, these guys are always full of it.

    I’m lucky enough to (now) have a boyfriend and male friends who don’t do this shit. They’ll have my back around creepers without needing to either defend the creepers, or threaten to ‘kill them’. But I have seen this situation enough times that it makes me ill. In the past, I’ve been told ‘you’re overreacting’ when my reaction was so insanely calm *because* I knew that getting upset would make people listen to me less. ‘Hey, this guy kinda creeps me out, so I’m going to avoid him’ is not overreacting. It is underreacting.

    There’s a guy who hangs around some social groups I’m in right now who is a serious creeper. It’s complicated by the fact that he’s disabled–people don’t want to seem like they’re bothered *because* of his disability, so they seem willing to let him get away with more. Every time he shows up at an event he wants to hug all the women. Not everyone, just the women. I do not want him touching me, and have had to tell him so outright. This guy is not nearly so bad as Ben but he’s more similar to the first guy. Lots of complaining about not getting laid, turning *everything* into a sexual comment, leering, and so on. The thing is, there are people in the group who do some of these things but it…isn’t creepy. And identifying the difference can be impossible at the time.

    “You let Alex make those jokes to you all the time, so why can’t I?” “Well, he’s my friend” is a nasty thing to say, but the truth! Just because I let other friends (male and female) hug me, or make silly sexual comments to me, doesn’t mean I’m ok with everyone doing it!

    • Ace said:

      I agree with your ‘white knight’ assessment (I hate that!) and totally agree with the awkwardness that is, but shouldn’t be, included with the ‘but you let so and so do this!’ comments. I know people that regulate what nickname you’re allowed to call them based on friendship levels and such, (go ahead, try calling the Richard in your group ‘Dick’ or even better, ‘Dickie’ exclusively, see what happens) why do you think touching me is a free-for-all?

    • “Because you are making me very uncomfortable” or “because I don’t like it from you” are perfectly valid answers to that. You don’t need to justify it with Logic or Reasons, and him trying to make you do that is of course really manipulative and a way for him to get away with whatever he wants.

      • twomoogles said:

        I have a tendency to try to over-logic, and make sure that any feelings I have are Rationally Based! Because I wouldn’t want to be behaving unfairly, of course…I’ve been conditioned that the calmer I am, and the less reactive I seem, the more likely it is people will listen to me. So it’s hard for me to apply to myself ‘I don’t need a reason to not like someone/not want someone touching me.’ Reading stuff like this is actually pretty helpful for me.

        The Creepy Guy I mentioned went off once about ‘double standards’, how women are allowed to touch other women and men aren’t. This happened after my best friend slapped me on the butt. I tried pointing out that, no, it wasn’t gender-based. She’s my best friend! I pointed out how certain guys I’d be fine with doing that, and certain girls I wouldn’t. It’s just…this weird entitlement thing. “Someone else gets to do it, so it’s hypocritical/biased not to let me!” Eruuugh.

        • kann said:

          I think it’s perfectly legitimate and rational to allow certain people into your personal space and others not. That privilege and comfort into my personal space is earned through trust and friendship, not something I just hand out to strangers or acquaintances. So it’s not “unfair” or “biased”. Bob is allowed to slap my butt because he’s earned my trust, Joe isn’t because I’m not completely comfortable with him. Sounds like a rational reason to me.

        • rachel scotland said:

          GOD, WHY DOESN’T YOUR ASS HAVE AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES POLICY?!?!

          Sorry that this dude was an asshat to you.

          • alphakitty said:

            “Because my ass is not a ‘public accommodation,’ that’s why! ;)

    • aurens55 said:

      Disability is not a ‘get a free grope card’ the individual always needs to know that certain behaviors are inappropriate and no one is doing them a favour by allowing them to keep making everyone else uncomfortable. And if they can’t control themselves, they shouldn’t be out with people, this stated as someone with a disability, with a child with disabilities.

    • tess-is-elated said:

      Oh I had a group Creeper use that line on me! I was on a couch quite cuddled close to a male friend of mine who I’ve known for significantly longer than Creeper. Creeper asked me why we weren’t that close, and I don’t think I was particularly articulate, but I think I managed a “Because I know and trust [friend].”

      Later in the night we confronted him on some of his shitty behaviour and it turned into a “Woe is me, I do it because I’m depressed” pity party. What a jerk.

  37. Lilly said:

    He’s also sent me weird, sexually explicit messages over facebook, and told me not to tell Boyfriend because he “wouldn’t believe [me] anyway”

    All the advice above about calling out guys like this and saying out loud exactly what they did – that is great advice.

    There is such a culture of silence and shame and gaslighting in Rape Culture that acts to prevent people who have been assaulted or raped or made to feel sexually uncomfortable/ frightened/ concerned from speaking out. Because “they won’t believe you anyway”. They will think you are hysterical/ crazy/ crying wolf/ attention seeking/ tick all that apply.

    If a woman in your social group/ workplace/ whatever speaks out, BACK HER UP. LISTEN. That goes if you are a woman as well as a man.

    Because if others are present, and also call out the behaviour as it happens or speak out that they believe the person complaining, the perpetrator will not be able to hide behind “they won’t believe you anyway”.

    And more people will feel able to speak out because they will not be ridiculed.

    I did not speak out once when this happened to me. What happened was in a past job my (male, married) boss became creepy, and began to make sexual advances – he began very slowly with comments that could be ambiguous and moved on to saying how his wife would not have sex with him (yes, colour us shocked) and culminated in him sort of trapping me in a corner in a side office on a pretext, reaching across and “accidentally” stroking my chest.

    I did not speak out.

    I should have screamed.

    I didn’t – why? Because I had heard sexist jokes in that workplace that went unchallenged.

    Because I had experienced other women laughing along when male bosses joked that I must be a bad driver and stupid because I am blonde.

    (When I asked the women, they said they didn’t like it but they felt like they would be being bad sports if they did not laugh or that the men would mock them.)

    Because I would have been mocked, ignored, treated as the embarrassing one making a scene.

    Please, let’s make it the norm to make a scene. Let’s make a scene together…

  38. foolsgame said:

    I can’t remember who it was that made some comment about situations like this, but it went something like: rape and harassment and abuse are often quiet and invisible and take place behind closed doors. People speaking up about rape and harassment and abuse are loud and bringing up uncomfortable things. Too often the instinct of the group is to make the loud thing stop. So they silence or ostracise the victims instead of dealing with the predators.
    There is a possibility that being loud about your fear that your boyfriend’s friend might rape you could lose you a boyfriend. So you are less one boyfriend who doesn’t care if his friends rape you and you don’t have to hang around his rapey friends.

  39. rosi5 said:

    Captain: amazing advice and spot on.
    These two situations are textbook examples of rape culture. This is why we need to be fucking angry.
    Also thank you for the Straw Feminist link, LOVE IT.

    LWs: sending you both JEDI HUGS, best of luck.

    • JenniferP said:

      Kate Beaton is the best. You will fall in love with her work, I predict!

  40. Cannot Say said:

    This is a terrific roundup if thoughtful and insightful points. I suffered for many years because my father-in-law was the creeper, and to this day I have never been able to tell my husband in a way he could understand just how disturbing that subtle behavior by his “affectionate” father was. The lingering hands, the feel-ups during greetings and departures. I was especially disturbed and upset by it when I was breastfeeding our two children and he was so eagerly voyeuristic about it, a conniosseur of it. I was not exhibitionistic about breastfeeding (why am I sounding defensive even now, nearly 30 years later?) but his response was so creepy that I would nurse in another room whenever I could, though I was a casual, happy nurser in public and anywhere else under most other circumstances. In my own home, I felt that I had to flee his gaze. This conversation brought that back to me. My husband was defensive and angry if I referenced it then, and would be angry at me even now all these years later, especially since his “wonderful” father has been dead for 11 years, if I were to try to tell him about it. It really hurt the relationship, and he knows that I “didn’t like” father for some reason, and holds it against me.

  41. elodieunderglass said:

    Not surprisingly, I have a story? It’s pretty long, and I’m sorry. My husband, Doctor Glass, recently went on a weeklong workshop. The participants worked on teams, slept in a dormitory, shared meals and spent all day together. While there, Dr Glass acquired a strikingly beautiful female friend, who was absolutely luminous – like a fallen star or a revolutionary. She was also just about to enter university, making her very much younger than Dr Glass. They were on the same team, had much in common, and seemed to enjoy each other.

    However, there was a twenty-something dude on the course who, according to Dr Glass, “made things awkward.” Immediately, he tried to make the workshop all about his pantsfeelings for Luminous Girl. Although he was on a different team, he was constantly buzzing around Dr Glass and Luminous Girl, getting in their way (which was dangerous and distracting, as they were doing physical labor) and trying to get her to talk to him, work with him, come over and look at his work, etc. In return she tried to ignore him, laughed him off politely, repeatedly referenced her desire to do her work, physically moved away whenever he got close to her, and stuck like glue to Dr Glass; saying NO in all those thousand little pleasant ways that women are trained to do. Awkward Dude tried to impress her with physical activity, but Dr Glass cut him off because he was being distracting. Confused and annoyed, Awkward stepped up his Game, trying to impress her with his intellectual cred, and it went down like a lead zeppelin, with Luminous and Dr Glass resuming their own work and conversations. So Awkward started loudly asking wasn’t Dr Glass married?!

    At this, Awkward Dude attempted to kill Dr Glass with his laser-eyeballs at every turn, lurking and glaring and pining like a bad Snape impersonator. (Dr Glass wasn’t sure why he was suddenly the target of the resulting animosity, as he clearly had no romantic interest in Luminous, until I explained it to him: Dude had decided that the reason Luminous Girl was not sleeping with him was because she was the Possession of Another Male, and further, a Male who Already Had His Fair Share of Females; thus Dr Glass was the enemy for not shunning her and leaving a clear path for fellow males. “Oh,” said Dr Glass in sudden revelation, “That makes sense, I guess.”)

    But the guy persisted – it wasn’t that Luminous didn’t like him! It was that she was clearly in thrall of my husband. The solution was to get her alone! So whenever they sat down to a lecture, Luminous, practically dragging Dr Glass by the arm, would move like lightning to position herself between him and a safe wall – with her lovely admirer circling them and glaring, loudly asking Dr Glass about his Wife Back Home. Awkward Dude implied that Dr Glass was creepy and odd for always hanging out with a girl half his age. Awkward Dude was annoyed that the course director, an older woman who should presumably know better, had assigned dorm space based on teams, so that Dr Glass and Luminous bunked in adjacent rooms (while he, Awkward Dude, was in the wing with the married couples!) because it was inappropriate and wrong to place a married man next to a teenaged female. On a particularly cold day, Dr Glass noticed that Luminous did not have warm clothing, and lent her an extra hoodie. It happened to have his name on it; Awkward Dude practically ignited, to the point where even the other people on the course were laughing awkwardly at him and saying “Uh, she’s… allowed to wear clothes?”

    Luminous and Dr Glass both liked hiking, so one evening after dinner, they went out for a hike by themselves – not inviting the others in case Awkward Dude got wind of their plans. (“I mean, it sounds cruel, but I just hated him,” Dr Glass said.) It was after curfew when they walked back to their rooms,and the halls were completely dark; Dr Glass hung back to fill his water bottle. When he got to the rooms, at the end of the corridor, Luminous had been cornered by Awkward Dude. When Awkward spotted Dr Glass, he yelled at him about how inappropriate it was to go hiking alone with Luminous. Luminous seized the opportunity to flee to her room, locking the door. “I think it’s inappropriate to police her hiking,” Dr Glass said mildly and went to bed.

    The next day was the last day of the course, and Dr Glass had had enough. Awkward Dude was “trying it on” in front of the whole group, making everyone uncomfortable. He had dragged Luminous into yet another unwanted conversation and Dr Glass called him out, in front of everybody, a deadly blow to Awkward’s pride. Awkward Dude tried to appeal to the group – he was only trying to be friendly – but Dr Glass had him up against the ropes, metaphorically, he’d broken the floodgates, and everyone began to laugh at Awkward instead: the old married couples, the other young men, and Luminous.

    “I really feel bad about that, actually,” Dr Glass said. He hadn’t really wanted to humiliate the younger man in front of everybody, especially since his only crime had been really inept flirting. Was it really Dr Glass’s place to speak for Luminous? Perhaps he’d made a big deal out of nothing. But Dr Glass didn’t regret it. He just felt odd. He didn’t know why he’d been so savage over something so banal as Awkward’s favorite movie. He was pretty sure that he didn’t regard Luminous as a possession, or something to be protected. He’d just snapped.

    “OH MY GOD,” I replied, “WHY DIDN’T YOU DO MORE? WHAT A FUCKING CREEPER!”

    Well, Dr Glass wanted to assume good intentions on everyone’s part. They’d all lived together, after all, eaten together, worked together. Emotions had run high. It would have been pretty terrible for the Dude if he’d been ostracized right at the beginning, just because he wasn’t very good at talking to girls. After all, he was there for the workshop. They all were.

    “AAAAH,” I wound down, “But what Luminous? WHOSE WORKSHOP WAS RUINED BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T FEEL SAFE?! She couldn’t just relax and enjoy spending time with you/her other new friends/nature – she practically had to have a bathroom buddy! He didn’t even let her focus on the work she was PAYING MONEY to do! You did not cross a line! HE CROSSED THE FUCKING LINE!”

    Dr Glass totally agreed. But he still felt oddly uncomfortable about it all, as if there was something there to regret, like he was missing a piece of the puzzle. And then I asked The Question. And after I asked The Question, his face changed. He looked sick. “I didn’t think of that.” After The Question, he wished he’d been more explicit – gone to the course director. Been there more for Luminous. The good intentions that he wanted to assume, the passes he was willing to give the other man, evaporated, completely. They had evaporated for me, halfway through the story.

    When I tell this story to women, they spot The Question right away. The men don’t; they think that Dr Glass behaved like a gentleman, neither doing too much nor too little. They are feminist men, and good people. They have read “The Gift of Fear” and they talk about privilege and the patriarchy, and they don’t spot it.

    The Question is this: Why Was Awkward Dude Waiting For Her In The Dark?

    Earlier in the story we heard that his own room was far away from hers. It was dark, at the end of a dark hall. He was waiting there, after midnight, with the lights off. HE HAD BEEN WAITING FOR HER IN THE DARK AT THE END OF A DARK HALL AFTER CURFEW, HE KNEW SHE HAD GONE OUT AND HE WAS WAITING FOR HER TO COME BACK. He was angry when he realized that she wasn’t alone. And Luminous was afraid – bolting into her room. Locking the door. And the women go HOLY FUCK WHAT IS THAT as soon as they hear about the atmosphere, and the men just accept it as another anecdote of Awkward Dude’s awkwardness, you know? Because how rude/silly/inept to pester a woman about hiking with another man! While the women are going BAD INTENTIONS BAD INTENTIONS FUCK SHIT THAT WOULD NOT HAVE ENDED WELL. And then you point out The Question to the men, and wait a while, and they suddenly go OH. OH MY GOD. WHY WAS HE WAITING FOR HER IN THE DARK. THAT’S – THAT’S PRETTY FUCKING SKETCHY. Everything changes. Dude-sympathy is gone. They put on the Matrix-goggles and peer into the world that apparently only women see. Awkward cornered Luminous in the dark after curfew at the end of the hall when he thought she was alone and he had a lot of anger and when my husband showed up he read Luminous as afraid and she ran into her room and locked the door. That is the reality. The good intentions, they are not there. Perhaps Awkward would have said that they were, that we, in our paranoia, are seeing rape in every dark corner. Perhaps he was trying to apologize for his previous behavior, or lend her a book, or make sure that she got back safely from her hike… so he’d chosen to do so alone, in the dark, making her afraid. That was what had been bothering Dr Glass. He wasn’t wearing the Goggles of Feminine Intuition, but he picked up on the signals that something wasn’t right. Seeing the Question doesn’t make you paranoid – it means your instincts are working.

    If you live in the world of women, it isn’t your duty to educate everybody, to hand-hold and explain, to pass out Matrix-goggles. It’s Situation Normal: All Fucked Up. But perhaps you, Letter Writers, have good men, men who just need to wear the goggles.

    That’s not really what I think, but our society is fucked up. I’ll assume good intentions on their part. Maybe it will help.

    • misspiggy said:

      ooh. This is a good story. I had no idea what the Question was going to be, because I assumed Dr Glass already realised why A.D. was waiting there in the dark. But that certainly illustrates what is missing. Perhaps some men, rather than needing to put on the Matrix Goggles of Intuition, need to remove the rather large Eyemask of Rape Avoidance they have been wearing.

      • Bill S said:

        Men really don’t get that women spend a lot of time dealing with fear and having to think about that kind of self-defense. Yes, we understand that when we’re carrying large quantities of money in dodgy neighborhoods that we have to be careful, but having to be aware of the possibility of being attacked all the time? It’s not something most of us have grown up with, and while intellectually we get The Question when somebody asks it, it’s usually learned behaviour, not automatic. Because having to live like that all the time would really suck, and we haven’t.

        And Awkward Dude? He dodged having Dr. Glass think of The Question himself by making the distracting issue about Dr. Glass’s relationship with Luminous Girl. And sociopathic predators are good at that sort of thing; you don’t expect awkward dudes to be that competent.

      • Olivia said:

        Same here. I already knew why Awkward was waiting in the dark, so what other question is there? Men and women really do live on different planets, but it’s not Mars and Venus, it’s privileged and not privileged.

    • JenniferP said:

      Such a great breakdown of the issue. I’m glad Luminous Girl got out of there intact.

      • Ursula said:

        You’re right, of course, but I think “intact” may be putting a little strongly. She lived in fear and had to avoid a Creeper when everybody else just had a good time. She’s “Luminous” so this shit probably happens to her a lot, even though her looks aren’t the issue, but they make a good excuse for a would-be rapist. She will still be suffering from this incident in her mind, most likely.

    • bristlesage said:

      The Question is right there. It’s RIGHT THERE. It’s always amazing when people can’t see it. Thanks for this story.

      • JenniferP said:

        It made all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!

          • PCat said:

            The call is ALWAYS coming from inside the house. Safe space? whatever.

          • rachel scotland said:

            That was my response. It was exactly like the strapline from a horror movie.

      • I know! And the awful thing is that if Luminous hadn’t locked her door, if Sketchy Dude had assaulted her, people would say “well what did she THINK he was doing there in the dark?”

        • Jeff said:

          I think this is untrue. We men are blind to the danger, but by the same token we are horrified when something does happen. A shut door (locked or not) is a perfect barrier to unwanted entry, and if he opened it to assault her, we’d put him in jail in a heartbeat, and feel sorry for her. Our pity would do her zero good, but “forgot to lock her door” does not trigger any victim-blaming in the way that “got drunk” does for some people.

          • Bunny said:

            Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true? But LW2 on this very page was actually assaulted and no one has shown horror at what happened, or got the assaulter arrested. The letter after these ones is from the friend of a rapist, who knows their friend is an actual, honest RAPIST but isn’t sure if that’s enough reason to even just defriend him, let along hold him accountable for his actions.

            Believe me, if I even thought that – at the bare minimum – I could trust most men to respond when an assault does happen, a lot of my anxiety regarding creepy people would diminish.

          • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

            I wish it were so, Jeff, but ‘being female’ is sufficient for a rape victim to be blamed. Why did she talk to Creepy Dude? Why didn’t she do this, do that? Why did she encourage him? Why wasn’t she nicer to him? It doesn’t matter what a woman does or doesn’t do, rape will be turned into Her Fault, not the rapist’s fault.

    • PomperaFirpa said:

      Holy SHIT. Good on Dr. Glass for being there for Luminous, but holy SHIT that is a stark reminder of what we see, that men don’t see. That story scares me half to death.

    • Esti said:

      Dr Glass wanted to assume good intentions on everyone’s part. They’d all lived together, after all, eaten together, worked together. Emotions had run high. It would have been pretty terrible for the Dude if he’d been ostracized right at the beginning, just because he wasn’t very good at talking to girls. After all, he was there for the workshop. They all were.

      This, to me, was by far the most telling part of your story. I just had a conversation with a male friend who said something similar in reference to how he sometimes got upset with his female classmates aggressively calling out things they perceived to be sexist, because in his view, they were all in it together as part of the same smallish academic program and they should assume that everyone was acting in good faith and give the benefit of the doubt.

      And as I pointed out to him: you get to assume good faith when someone says something that could be read as sexist, because you’re not the person who has encountered all of the times that it WASN’T a benign comment or the times when it escalated or the times when a comment that really wasn’t meant that way still caused you to go home and cry. Dr. Glass wanted to assume good intentions on everyone’s part and to not ruin this dude’s experience, because he’s not the one who has had to deal with dudes who DIDN’T have good intentions and he wasn’t the one feeling grossed out and intimidated REGARDLESS of Awkward’s intentions.

      I’m not saying that Dr. Glass was specifically terrible in his reaction to the situation or anything, because my friend is also a really good dude and he has the same instinct. But at the point where he was still wanting to assume good intentions, Awkward had spent an entire week following Luminous around, ignoring her (and Dr. Glass) when they repeatedly told him to go away, publicly and aggressively criticizing her decision to spend time with another man, and making her feel so uncomfortable that she felt the need to physically block him from getting near her even in a room full of people. What on earth, short of actually being physically violent, was going to be enough to overcome the presumption of good intentions??

      And this is why I actually think The Question is really beside the point. I mean, it’s often an “aha!” moment for dudes to have a concrete example of how they don’t even notice potential physical threats while women are really attuned to them. But at the same time, the idea that Awkward was maybe a physical threat is so totally not the point for me. If our standard for when someone has acted badly enough to be called out is “he did something that suggests he wanted to sexually assault this woman,” that is WAY TOO LOW A BAR for calling people out. From your description, it sounds like Luminous’ enjoyment of this workshop was seriously diminished (or maybe non-existent) because she spent the entire time being harassed by a guy who wanted to get into her pants. Even if that guy had good intentions, even if he never would have tried to assault her, even if he never made her feel physically unsafe, his behavior was unbelievably out of line and no one should feel bad for standing up to him.

      • elodieunderglass said:

        Oh, I do agree. No, he wasn’t specifically terrible, and is in fact a Good Dude, a Great Dude even, with high intelligence and respect for women and generally good instincts. (I do like him rather a lot, after all.) And he could have nipped that shit in the bud if he hadn’t been so oblivious, and I do believe that he would have, and I believe that there is a certain acceptable limit to that obliviousness. And that is absolutely the point I wanted to make, and how I wanted to frame the story: so that anyone recognizing those sentences/thought patterns in themselves might realize exactly where they lead to.

        I think it’s still worth saying, though, as a learning step, because it was the moment that made my husband raise his own personal bar. And the fact that he raised it from “Awkward Dude is Bothering My Friend, We Will Avoid Him Together!” to “Fucking Creeper Deserves To Get it In The Neck, NOW” without recognizing the reason why? The fact that he needed a dangerous situation (that he didn’t even identify until after the fact!) to tip the needle from “ugh” to “OH MY FUCKING GOD GET AWAY” when Luminous had passed that point a week ago? That’s something I want to raise awareness of. “Hey, Good Dudes – Great Dudes, even – here is your cookie. NOW WORK ON YOUR FUCKING BLINDERS.”

        But oh god, I’m agreeing with you, I’m standing up in applause actually. THIS IS WAY TOO LOW A BAR. THIS IS NOT HOW WE WANT TO DO THIS, IS IT, GUYS?

        • acr said:

          I have to give your husband mad props. We can point out and say, “If he was a woman, you wouldn’t have had to lay out The Question” so blatantly. But the fact is, even if he didn’t quite get the level of threat Awkward Dude was, he was the ONLY PERSON who did anything about it!!! Where was the FEMALE instructor your mentioned? The wives of the married couples? I’m sorry, but the women, who supposedly possess Magical Intuition Goggles, totally failed Luminous. Your husband didn’t entirely get the level of threat involved – but he still acted. He went hiking with Luminous, worked with her, acted as her social barrier, where apparently everybody else was busy picking their noses.

          You know what else is awesome about your husband? Even though he didn’t entirely understand WHY Luminous was upset, he still RESPECTED IT and HELPED HER. He noticed her “help me!” signals and got in there and did something. His “Gift of Fear” was working. He recognized his own “danger” signals re: Awkward Dude, even if he couldn’t pinpoint what was pinging him.

          While I think it would be awesome if guys instantly understood what we were scared of, I think it’s more important that they act first – “I don’t understand what’s going on here – but I don’t have to. My sister/friend/wife/girlfriend is scared of this guy, so I’m going to back her up.”

          So I give your husband an A. He’d get an A+ if he’d gone to the director. But he acted with grace and integrity – and he was stronger than anybody else at that workshop.

        • DoomBunny said:

          I’m a Good Dude. I like to think of myself as a feminist. I have a a smart, strong feminist partner to help educate me. We’ve both been in these situations before, we know how to identify creepers and this kind of behaviour. And still I missed The Question.

          Thank you for helping fill this gap in my awareness. I’ll try harder, and I’ll make sure the guys around me do the same.

        • trin said:

          I’m wondering (as a woman who has been in a similar situation a lloooong time ago) if Ms.Luminous was hanging out with Dr. Glass so much because not only was he her team mate, but also being married and “safe” was a bit more of a buffer vs Creepy Guy.

          Thank heavens Dr. Glass was there!
          OMG, the waiting for her to return in the dark hallway. (secondary thought, or maybe he was watching her door every night?) terribly creepy/stalker behavior and NOT ok.
          (I think this whole thread and the letters will be keeping me up all night.)

      • I am embarrassed to admit, I didn’t spot The Question, either. I shall consider this story my own, personal, cluebat-clubbing.

        I suppose I just wish all XY-chromosomed people would subscribe to the Wheaton-Plait Principle: Don’t Be A Dick.

    • Anonymus Maximus said:

      May I borrow this story? I have this acquaintance who, for all he wants to be a good guy, says he doesn’t believe in rape culture. Who sincerely seems to believe ‘creep shaming’ to be a thing, and a sign of oppression and how women who care about their safety are bitches.

      Also, this entire thing reminds me of Cliffs post about how and when to scream over at the Pervocracy. (Ha, found it! http://pervocracy.blogspot.se/2011/01/do-you-scream.html )

      (Thirdly, and entirely unrelated, how much does “Dr. Glass” rule? It’s one of my favourite books!)

      • Bunny said:

        I would also like permission to borrow this story. Obviously, linking back to here and with full credit. Because it really is a brilliant depiction of exactly how well-intentioned obliviousness works.

        • elodieunderglass said:

          You are, of course, welcome to borrow it if you want to! Since it isn’t actually my own story, I would appreciate your kindness and discretion with the people involved – please don’t invite Internet detectives to figure out Ms. Luminous’s identity, or whatever!

          And I’m not familiar with any real Dr Glass, but thanks for the rec.

          Oh, and the ending is happy. Luminous is well, keeping in touch and is entering university! Dr Glass has been whacking his male friends with a cluebat! And nobody ever heard from Awkward Dude again!

          • Bunny said:

            Thank you for the permission :). I promise I will be discreet, and will make neither attempt nor suggestion regarding real identities. Honestly, half the reason I want to share it is because of The Question and how awesomely demonstrative it is. Real identities and names really are totally unnecessary.

    • Travis said:

      Woooow, how awful for her. And you’re totally right–I skimmed right over the part where he was waiting for her in the dark! I am printing this out and keeping it with me, it’s like a parable for rape culture! Thanks a bunch!

    • Dee said:

      Wow. I hope Luminous is okay. And gotta admit, I’m a woman (…I think?) and I had no idea what the Question was going to be until you spelled it out, so this probably isn’t firmly delineated by gender.

      • Bleepbloop said:

        I didn’t get it but my husband did. He’s a keeper. Or at least more observant.

    • shadowspar said:

      Thank you, thank you, a thousand thank yous for sharing this. I learned something profoundly important today.

    • Not It said:

      Elodie, do not apologize for an amazing story. I am glad you shared it.

      Dr. Glass sounds like a really great guy, like the kind of man I admire and spend time with in real life, like my dad or brothers or college advisor or sympathetic boss. I think that what happened is that he felt sympathy for Luminous, because he was able to share those feelings. Awkward was also annoying to him. But he lacked empathy–he didn’t pick up on how FRIGHTENED she was, because he just doesn’t ever have to feel that way.

      I’m glad that he had that friendship with Luminous. He learned from her experience and the blinders are off now. I have found that there are three groups of men who know to ask the hard question: “Hey, is he bothering you? Like really, really bothering you? Are you scared? Do you need immediate help?” Those are men who know me (or the intended victim) very well, men who have been victims of child sexual abuse, and members of law enforcement. That’s it. Priests, rabbis, coaches, teachers, therapists, doctors, new boyfriends–all also seem to be wearing the blinders.

      There’s a creeper in my circle of friends. He seems fixated only on me. Last night, before I had read this post even, I told our mutual friend, the host of most of the parties. I said, “W seems a little infatuated with me. He contacted me via FB through multiple accounts (I have a personal and professional page) and he was a little handsy last time I saw him. I blocked him immediately on social media. But what really ticked me off was when he said hello to me and I said hi back he responded, ‘That’s okay. I’ve been ignored before,’ and had a little snit fit. I don’t even KNOW him. I don’t know if he didn’t hear me or what, but he seems to have built up a relationship that DOES NOT EXIST in his mind and I’m getting uncomfortable, especially because I’m pretty sure he’s been electronically stalking me (he became a fan of THREE pages I administer).”

      My friend’s face changed immediately. He said, “That’s not good. Yeah, that could be a problem. Don’t worry about it. We’ll deal with it. I don’t want you not coming around because of him. I’ll tell Wife and she’ll tell him to knock it off.” (W is in a band with friend’s wife).

      I said, “Let me talk to Wife. I think she’ll understand better coming from me.” He agreed, and we went back to our beers.

      That’s the appropriate response to a woman voicing an initial concern about a creeper in the making. (My situation is not dire yet and I don’t feel in physical danger from W). Here’s what my friend did that was right: Immediate acknowledgement that my fear/annoyance/discomfort is valid. A promise to help. A pledge to make the situation known to a wider audience. The assurance that friendship is still there. I wish my friend could be there for our poor LWs.

      • …and hopefully not inviting him to anything anymore? That would be good friends. It sounds like they know it’s a pattern but are still in touch with him. Telling him to knock it off won’t last; he’ll either stop for a while and then start again, or will just shift his attention to a new target.

        • Not It said:

          Thanks for the support, volcanista. I’m not going to push for a ban yet, for two reasons. 1) I think he is a proto-creeper. I’ve only encountered him in real life three times and he doesn’t elicit that strong fear instinct in me. He brings out the, “oh, this guy, what is up with him, he’s so annoying, why does he not get a clue” response. I’m in the yellow zone with him (need to keep an eye on it, but not at “danger! danger! red alert!” yet). 2) I have not yet Used My Words. I was relying on lack of response (to the FB messaging) and Strong Vibes on my part to warn him off. I think I need to Use My Words before disrupting the social group. I promise to be careful! I am never alone with him. He does not know where I live. He lives far away. I see him infrequently. I really wanted to talk to Wife before issuing an ultimatum–it’s him or me–since I think if he DOES have a habit that is not going to change she will be forthcoming with that info.

          I think (male) Friend’s response (the uh-oh, this is not good) has much more to do with the inappropriateness of his crush and the perceived difference in our levels of attractiveness, economic stability, accomplishments, age, interests, etc., that with any experience of him doing this sort of thing before. I don’t know him at all–this social scene is more acquaintances to me with the exception of Friend and Wife.

          So it’s a good chance for me to Use My Words, since Strong Vibes just don’t work on him. But it’s good to know that when I do Use My Words, I will have the support of Friend and Wife.

    • “Matrix-goggles,” “JARVIS display,” “Spidey sense,” “Predator cam” – I find it sort of sad/hilarious/charming that we have so many names for the same thing that all come from superhero culture, and that we all seem to stumble on it independently.

      • Jaz said:

        Creepster radar is one I’ve started using :)

    • As soon as I saw the words, “and the halls were completely dark” I had a bit of a Scooby-Doo “ruh-roh!” moment. When Awkward Dude showed up, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Dr. Glass is a pretty patient guy. I wanted to punch A.D. in the face – and I don’t even lose my temper very easily.

    • Awkward Niece said:

      “When I tell this story to women, they spot the question right away.” This is amazing, and I can still feel chills all through my body after reading this. I would love to see this as a blog post on its own. Thank you so much for this.

    • Sarah B said:

      ‘When I tell this story to women, they spot The Question right away.’

      I didn’t spot the question. I just ASSUMED Awkward Dude would be waiting to confront Luminous (in any of a number of ways…) when she got back.

      Thankyou for sharing that. For me, it’s been an eye-opener about how much even good men may be blind to. I shall have to remember to approach discussions accordingly.

      • FlyBy said:

        Yeah, likewise. He’s so obviously there to ‘confront’ her (which according to the Gift of Fear is how many, many violent rapes start – guy goes to ‘confront’ and then finds ‘provocation’ that ‘justifies’ doing as he wishes) that it wasn’t even a question in my mind.Guys really look at this kind of thing and don’t see it?

    • Thanks for relating that story. I benefited greatly from getting my own set of goggles, once upon a time.

    • notmyusualname said:

      I’m in tears right now because I read this to my husband and he said basically ‘yes, he clearly had bad intentions, but maybe it wouldn’t have ended in rape’ and then (after I laid it out step by step for him) ‘yes, he clearly meant to intimidate her into ‘sex’ and yes that’s clearly rape, not sex, but maybe it wouldn’t have gone that far.’ AAAAAAARGH I don’t know what to say to him now.

      I have had a couple of close calls with rape (incredibly lucky both times that it didn’t go farther), and I just. I can’t. I…. I always thought he was someone who got it, and now I don’t feel like if I’m in a situation where I don’t feel safe I’ll be able to trust him to believe me. *sob*

      • alphakitty said:

        I know it’s important, and painful to think he’s not 100% as clued in as you thought, but try not to convert this into a test.

        Help him understand that that “maybe” (in the form of a deus ex machina) is meaningless, because the only way the woman (or bystanders) EVER can know definitively what the guy was going to do is to go ahead and let him do whatever he wants, and see if it turns out to be rape, or “just” sexual assault or a really fucking traumatic episode. Which just isn’t worth the cost of the experiment (duh!) And that it doesn’t ultimately matter, because “just” a really fucking traumatic episode thinking you’re about to get raped is plenty of reason to intervene, and to identify the guy as a sexual predator and someone women need to be protected against with everything you’ve got.

        I bet he can process that. Your guy doesn’t have to get it instinctively, first try, as long as he’s willing to put in the effort and gets where you need him to go.

        • notmyusualname said:

          I have tried that twice so far. I may have gotten through the second time but I don’t know yet. the first time, he argued with me on it. I don’t think that not feeling safe is the same as making this into a test. If you think I was because of “I just. I can’t. I….”, that was me being speechless about it.

          • alphakitty said:

            I apologize for making you feel like being upset was something you were doing at him — I meant it more as a caution not to let things evolve in that direction, but I can see how what I said would have had made you feel defensive about your reaction, and increased your stress. Sorry.

            On reflection, I think I just didn’t want you to despair about a generally great guy because he had fallen into the trap (that so many people do) of thinking that because the rape was not carried out that meant it was somehow uncertain what was happening, or what would have happened if Dr. Glass hadn’t been there. Yes, it matters to the victim that she was not *actually* raped. But that does not change the fact that someone was trying to rape her, or that she knows how close a call it was, and duh — that it will affect how she interacts with the world forevermore, and especially the world of men. And almost all women have collections of these experiences.

            Rape statistics are so awful…. and god, what if the statistics included all the near-misses? And yet people find women’s wariness inexplicable and bitchy?!?

          • Try asking him how he’d feel if it was his daughter in that situation. Would he still be so determined to say ‘maybe it wouldn’t have ended in rape’?

        • alphakitty said:

          If it helps your discussion, here’s one of my near-miss stories: I was 17, walking alone along a residential street in a beach community. A car went by, with a lawn mower sticking out of its trunk, so I noticed it. It went by several more times. I got a bad vibe. As I approached an intersection, it seemed to be slowing — so I turned left and walked faster, heading for the first house with the light on on its front porch. Between the moment when I turned left and the moment when I reached that house, the car with the lawn mower in back turned right and parked. Five or six teenaged guys got out and started running after me, calling out every female name in the book… like if they hit mine I was going to stop???

          Happily, I reached the front porch. In response to my hurried explanation, the nice couple let me in. They told me about their son who had graduated from college, and about the furniture they were refinishing. I stupidly declined their offers of further assistance and went on my way, hiding behind bushes every time a car came by. I reached my destination physically unhurt… but changed forever. It was when I first learned that being noticed by guys was not necessarily a good thing, by a long shot. (A later lesson than for many women).

          Does it seriously matter, when you hear that story, that I got away? I mean yes, it matters enormously to me. But does the fact that the guys did not actually announce their intentions, or get a chance to carry through, make what happened okay? Does it leave you thinking I should have given them a chance to demonstrate what they wanted with me? Is there anything good that five or six teenaged guys want with one teenaged girl? Does it change what that scene was all about?

          Just because something intervenes to save the woman (including the woman saving herself) does not mean the situation was not really, really bad, or in any way mysterious.

        • piny said:

          Maybe you can survive lung cancer. Do you want lung cancer? No? Why are you being so mean to lung cancer? Wouldn’t it be better to give lung cancer the benefit of the doubt, since it might not want to do you serious harm? That lump could be benign! It could just want company! It probably doesn’t even want to take up too much space in your spine. Why do you have to bring needle biopsies and followup exams into this? Why are you being so hysterical?

          It’s especially infuriating because of all of the second-guessing that happens in the aftermath of an attack. Didn’t know that mole was malignant? Clearly, that melanoma was consensual.

      • Bunni said:

        It might help your husband to read the comments (it’ll take a looong while) on the “schrodinger’s rapist” thread on metafilter “http://www.metafilter.com/85667/Hi-Whatcha-reading Many many male readers were educated about the reality that women live with in terms if being followed, catcalled, fondled, threatened and raped just while trying to do things like walk to work. It’s a tough heartbreaking read at times, but it did seem to educate quite a few men about rape culture. The sheer number of stories will helpfully clue your husband in.

    • jrm83 said:

      “Dude had decided that the reason Luminous Girl was not sleeping with him was because she was the Possession of Another Male, and further, a Male who Already Had His Fair Share of Females; thus Dr Glass was the enemy for not shunning her and leaving a clear path for fellow males.”

      I don’t think that was it at all. I think this was just a tactic to try to get Dr. Glass away from Luminous Girl. Awkward Dude was probably hoping that this accusation would make Dr. Glass back down and stop getting in Awkward Dude’s way. From the way you described it, it sounds like Dr. Glass was politely telling Awkward Dude his advances weren’t wanted. Awkward Dude was probably hoping that Dr. Glass would either let it go to avoid confrontation or to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

      Likewise, I think Awkward Dude was making these accusations so loudly because he wanted other people to hear. He was probably hoping that others would believe these accusations and try to keep Dr. Glass away from Luminous Girl (because they disapprove of adultery and/or wrongly thought they were protecting her). Additionally, accusing Dr. Glass of bad behavior could undermine his credibility with others attending the workshop. Had Dr. Glass approached others about Awkward Dude’s predatory behavior, they might have responded that Dr. Glass wasn’t much better so he should leave Awkward Dude alone.

      These accusations could also be used to keep Luminous Girl from complaining as well. Awkward Dude was essentially telling everyone that Luminous Girl wasn’t an innocent woman being harassed by a jerk—she was a home wrecking slut! Not only would people be less sympathetic, they might encourage her to give poor Awkward Dude a break. He was just trying to be friendly, and at least he wasn’t married like Dr. Glass! Besides, if she REALLY thought that Awkward Dude was so out of line, why hadn’t she just told him to f—off instead of leading him on for so long?

      • caryatid said:

        this was the exact read i got of that tactic as well. Dr Glass will leave Luminous alone if it’s suggested to be an improper relationship.

        • KL said:

          It’s a good thing that Dr. Glass, like his wife, appears to be made of sterner stuff than that.

      • Cara said:

        I’m inclined to doubt there was any kind of well-thought-out plan behind Awkward Dude’s behavior; still, he didn’t NEED one, because he sounds pretty instinctively tuned in to the whole rape culture dynamic and is willing to make it work for him. This is indicated by simply refusing to accept Luminous’ rejection and move on in the first place. The crazy-creepy behavior of fixating on her even after she’s indicated that she’s not interested is the problem.

        As elodieunderglass said, if rape culture weren’t so firmly entrenched perhaps the rest of the group would have been more willing to say, “Hey, she said no, fuck off,” immediately, since that’s the real issue. Whatever ludicrous soap-opera framing was going on in Awkward Dude’s head is irrelevant, and there would have been no need of ongoing weeklong machinations to keep her protected because THE GROUP would actively back her up instead of sitting back, being entertained by the drama and wondering what would happen next.

    • Evan said:

      I could have been in Dr. Glass’s situation. I *have* been, to an extent. I’m very glad he was there for Luminous. I’m very sorry he had to be.

      As a younger man, I thought for a long time that I was very egalitarian. I wasn’t. I wasn’t a creeper, and I treated women as equally as I knew how to, but I had a LOT of big blind spots. It took me a long time to get it. My (amazingly patient, I realize now) wife had been trying to get me to open my eyes for years about the difference between the way men and women look at situations.

      One day we were talking about something, and the idea of situational awareness came into the discussion. I pointed out that I would often read a book while walking down the street, but not when I was in a bad neighborhood, because then I was paying more attention to what might be going on around me. She looked at me and said “And that’s how most women feel *all the time, almost anywhere they go*.” That’s what finally started getting through to me.

      So when you first mentioned The Question, I didn’t know what it was going to be. Because I’d already looked at that situation and said “What? He was waiting for her in the dark hallway, after curfew, far away from where he should have been in the first place? That’s f*cking creepy, and I’m just glad she’d been out with someone she could trust, rather than out walking alone!”

      Someone could argue that maybe Awkward was waiting for her in the hallway to make sure that she got back to her room ok. That, from his perspective, he was worried about her because she was hanging out with a creepy older married guy who was always dominating her time, and they’d gone off alone together. But that doesn’t explain why Awkward was the one waiting for her *in the dark*. Why he cornered her when he did get her alone. Or why he didn’t see that *he* was the one scaring her so much that she ran and locked herself away as soon as she could get away from him. That’s not just a guy being concerned. That’s a predator, whether he has admitted it to himself or not.

      I owe my wife a huge debt of gratitude for being patient enough to put up with me, and to get me to open my eyes. I wish there were enough people patient enough to do that for everyone. I don’t always. But I’m getting better about trying to, at the very least. I called a guy out recently on a comment he that was essentially victim blaming. I don’t know that I changed his mind, but I at least hope I got him to begin to see the situation from her perspective, rather than that of “his friend, the creeper, who didn’t *really* mean any harm”.

      I’m very sad that there are still so many people who don’t get it, and need someone to point it out to them. Sometimes with a two-by-four. Or a sledgehammer. It shouldn’t have to be women all the time. I wish it didn’t have to be anyone. I wish everyone *got it*, because maybe we’d have fewer creepers. But I can’t stand aside and let guys be creepers, and let other guys just let the creepers slide any more, now that I can see it more clearly.

    • Thank you so much for posting this. I found myself nodding and saying, “yep” the whole time reading the story as well as the comments. Do you mind if I post this as a link on my blog? http://nonsensicaloccurrences.blogspot.com/
      I haven’t written about sexual assault yet, but I plan on getting to it very soon, and this might be an interesting segue.

    • Drew said:

      First time commenter (linked from Scalzi). I admit that while I had “Awkward Dude is not just awkward, but creepy as hell” vibes, I didn’t actually articulate The Question until it was cluebatted over my head. So, thanks for that, sincerely.

    • Chickie said:

      The Question gave me fucking chills. From the rest of the story I had already presumed where this was going, but seeing it stated like that, with such a strong explicit threat out in the open… gave me shivers.

    • Sharon said:

      The above situation with Dr Glass further defines rape culture in a way that I feel should be clarified:

      Awkward Creeper Dude continuously hit on Luminous throughout the entire workshop and NO ONE, not Luminous, not Dr Glass, nor any of the other participants, directly called him on his predatory behavior from the get-go.

      Awkward’s behavior escalated because no one held him accountable for it when it first appeared. NO ONE TOLD HIM TO STOP.

      No one said, “Hey – It’s obvious she’s not interested and this is a workshop, not a singles bar. Back off.”

      Luminous herself never said, “Back off asshat. I wouldn’t touch you in a million years, and here’s three specific, detailed reasons why you make my skin crawl.”

      He was clearly making a scene, repeatedly, and I’m sure everyone knew he was “interested” in Luminous and I’m sure everyone knew SHE was not. Yet no one called him on his behavior. NO ONE. They chose to ignore it because it takes courage to call out a member of a group on their behavior, and because the line between “innocent flirting” and “creepy behavior” doesn’t quite exist in our society until there is actual physical contact between the creeper and his “prey”.

      Lack of accountability is same issue that exists with LW1 and LW2. No one is calling LW1’s drunken perv on his drinking or inappropriate behavior. LW2 is dealing with a rat’s nest of a sexual predator and his friends who feel sorry for him. They know he’s a creep – but they can’t deal with it because it makes them uncomfortable.

      It’s difficult for people to change the current rape culture. It takes courage to call others out on their behavior. It takes courage to walk away (as in the case of LW1 and especially LW2) from a group of friends who do not hold each other accountable for their behavior.

      I believe that we all have internal alarm systems. If something feels wrong to you, that means it’s very, very wrong. A smoke alarm doesn’t go off until it senses smoke. But the fire might have been burning for 5 minutes already. If your internal alarms are going off – something isn’t just wrong – it’s REALLY WRONG. Don’t ignore it.

      Negative behavior is a slippery slope. Behaviors can be identified (and, in theory, stopped) before they escalate, if we acknowledge them early on and hold people accountable for them each and every time. Most predatory behaviors do not appear “out of the blue”. There is an escalation down that slope for negative behavior – each getting progressively worse if left unchecked. This is how relatively normal people turn into creepy people, and how creepy people turn into sexual predators.

      We need to recognize the slope is always there, for all people, and identify the folks who are sliding down it when they are near the top. Once identified – either the person changes their behavior, the person is removed from the group, or the victims remove themselves from the vicinity of the clearly identified predator. It’s tough to be a predator when all of your prey knows you are there and protects itself from attack.

      If Awkward Dude was called on his predatory behavior Each and Every Time it happened at that workshop, by each and every member of the workshop, would he have backed off? More importantly, if his behavior continued after it was identified, would the other people in the workshop agreed that what he was doing was really wrong, and removed Awkward Dude from the workshop entirely?

      If LW1’s drinking perv and LW2’s rapist-in-training were called on their behavior by their peers every single time it happened – what would the outcome be?

      I feel that one thing we all can do is to have the courage to clearly identify inappropriate behaviors, hold each other accountable for them and accept the risks of losing friendships/relationships in the name of protecting ourselves and others.

      • alphakitty said:

        Dead on. When I was 21, in my first post-college job, someone higher up the food chain than me in my entry level job used to pester me to go out with him. I was quite clear with him that that wasn’t going to happen. “When are you going to go out with me?” he would ask for the umpteenth time, and I would say “When Hell freezes over, Jerry. Now, what I came to ask you about was….” And I thought that because I had the confidence to say that, that it wasn’t something I needed help with. (Plus, back in those days sexual harassment wasn’t acknowledged even as well as it is now, which is still pretty damned imperfect).

        And yet I remember it as a constant battering, which included a scene where a bunch of us had gone out after work, and his “flirtation” (a.k.a. harassment) was so overt and relentless that everyone at the table was squirming, and ultimately I fled. Another woman from the group (someone on his level in the food chain) comforted me in the bathroom before I left, but no one called HIM on it. And I was the one who was effectively run out of what should have been a pleasant evening (but I don’t think was for anyone, thanks to him).

        Somebody other than me really needed to say, “Knock it off, Jerry — she’s obviously not interested, you’re making an ass of yourself, and you’re making everyone uncomfortable.” Why don’t people do that, for god’s sake?

    • Ashes said:

      I shuddered at this story, because it so perfectly illustrates how our society just passively allows these things to happen because people don’t even notice what is so wrong. To be honest, I didn’t really notice The Question myself – mainly because I was going HOLY FUCK WHAT IS THAT from almost the very beginning. Awkward Dude had been pinging on my creep-dar way, way before The Question (especially when Luminous was so scared and uncomfortable with him, enough so that she had to use Dr Glass as a buffer). He was so obviously escalating in his threats that Dr Glass’ polite approach to him just seemed a little bizarre – I mean, Luminous was terrified! How could Awkward Dude’s behaviour even be classified as awkward? Randomly accosting a young woman and exhibiting such creepy behaviours is not awkward, that is dangerous and frankly predatory.

      I’m quite young myself, and I truly hope this never happens to me or any of my friends. I really want to thank you for posting this: now I know this can happen, I know how to recognise the signs, and I can at least try to put a stop to it before it gets any worse.

      And LWs? Don’t stand for this. Beyond everything, it’s your safety that’s most important: not the creeper’s ‘hurt feelings’ (and when is that ever an acceptable excuse), not your friends’ hangups about their relationships with him, not even the whole stupid idea of being labelled a whiny bitch for stating clearly that you are uncomfortable with someone who poses a very real threat. You are awesome, don’t ever forget that. Jedi hugs all the way.

  42. misspiggy said:

    I live in the UK. I travel for work, to places where women have a very hard time and are abused in all sorts of ways. Varying levels of assault have happened to me and friends, mostly from strangers. But the only times I’ve experienced harrassment in social setups were in Pakistan and the US. People around became very obviously blind and deaf. That stopped me from doing what I usually do when someone behaves inappropriately – say something loud and nasty and stalk off. All I did was say ‘What?’ and glare at them. Even this felt compressed and tiny, because there was so little space for me. I felt really ashamed that the man had ‘got away with it’ with no apparent consequences.

    When I was growing up I remember teenage boys getting utter contempt from their friends for forcing unwanted attentions on girls. They very quickly learned to stop, just like the pooping swimming pool toddlers. I don’t want to imagine how stressful life would be if I wasn’t safe with friends because nobody got shunned for threatening women.

    So – I just wanted to say how amazingly brave both LWs are being. There should be more rage about this. Much more.

  43. Reblogged this on Leta Blake and commented:
    This is incredibly important. An absolute must read. Warning for possible rape-triggers, though, but, seriously, it is a must read for most people.

  44. Leslie said:

    I can understand not wanting to believe your friend is threatening other friends and your girlfriend. But, I also understand that denial is the perfect medium that serves vulnerable people up to predators. If friends, family, boyfriends want to live in denial that’s they’re prerogative. They need to also be prepared to lose those people and opportunities they hold dear to them. I am less apt to trust someone who is willing to cover for a predator that someone who is risks confrontation for the sake of safety, in any aspect of my life personal or professional.
    I’ve already deleted or demoted friendships and associations with people who were more committed to keeping up appearances than living honest lives. If people want to stick with these guys, let them do it all alone.

    • brinstarr said:

      My name is Leslie, too. And I approve this message.

  45. K said:

    I applaud the Captain’s response to the letters and read every single reply here. The fact that the story repeats itself is all too sad – it is something EVERY woman has dealt with in some form or fashion.
    Like feeling
    … you “owe” a kiss to your date at the end of the night
    … keeping your head down as you walk past catcalls
    … you have to move when nursing your baby and some jerk is giving you a creepy stare

    For some it gets worse.
    And my story.

    I was in Paris, at the Pompideau Modern Art museum, one of my lifelong dreams. A Frenchman walked up to me and started making “polite” conversation. I demurred politely and walked away. He kept “running into me” throughout the exhibit. I began to get creeped out. He wasn’t just flirting. He was following me, despite the fact that I was ignoring him. I went into the gift store and pretended to ask about an item. Instead I let the clerk know about the man, and asked if there was another way out. She said of course, and led me to a different exit. Then standing outside the museum, I realized I had forgotten my backpack in the locker. Shit. So I walked back around to the front of the museum… where he was standing, looking for me. With a disgusting grin. I strode right past him, got my backpack, went back to the clerk, and asked her for help again. When he saw me, she said that as soon as I had left, he came up to her and said he was looking for his girlfriend, could she tell him where I went. She said another employee had seen him before there, and noticed he followed women. The museum clerk and I gave each other a look – we both knew I was in danger. She agreed to call security right after she led me to the employee exit through the back. I’ll never forget her telling me where the closest metro stop was – and saying, run and don’t look back until you’ve locked the door to your hotel room. I did.

    I was lucky. I followed my instincts and was backed up by others.

    Many women do all the right things – report, avoid, and fall prey to rape culture.

    It is terrifying.

    I grew up in the south, where to many it’s rude and unladylike to tell a man to buzz off – even today. Instead of being polite, why didn’t I straight up make a scene with that asshole in Paris? Why didn’t the store clerks mention to security before how they had seen him do this multiple times? How many other women have been harassed by him… or worse?

    What I learned that day is that if I am walking down a street and I get a weird vibe when I see a man, I will cross the street. If I am about to get in an elevator and don’t like the look of the man in it, I will wait for the next one. If a man is making jokes, or being inappropriate, I speak up. Because as my husband puts it, “Any man with common decency will understand why. Any man who is offended, is part of the problem, and you had reason to worry about him in the first place.” I now have an infant daughter. What am I teaching her if I don’t stand up for myself?

    I understand why we have to use some of the codes women here have mentioned to get out of uncomfortable situations with creepers. But I think that when we avoid the issue, to avoid making a scene, we possibly perpetuate the behavior. If we just blacklist creeper, won’t he find a new group of women to prey on? We need to confront (when we can safely). We need to be the rude one. Sorry to be so blunt, but I’d rather be rude than raped. It’s a fucked up society where we have to be apologists for others behaviors.

    Stand strong against rape culture. Our daughters are watching.

    • alphakitty said:

      “Any man with common decency will understand why. Any man who is offended, is part of the problem, and you had reason to worry about him in the first place”

      Speaking of daughters, that’s what I’m teaching mine as she heads out into the world. We often have to act preemptively, before it’s clear that the guy is a threat, because by the time it’s unambiguous it’s too late to protect ourselves. Yes, that sucks both for women and for the decent guys who lose casual opportunities to get to know women because those women are keeping a safety zone around themselves in settings where they’d be vulnerable. But we did not create the situation, we’re just taking reasonable self-protective precautions in response to a situation created by others, and any guy who has a problem with that is not a guy I care to know.

      • Yes yes yes. This reminds me of Chris Clarke’s classic post “How Not To Be An Asshole: A Guide for Men.”

        If no woman in your life has ever talked to you about how she lives her life with an undercurrent of fear of men, consider the possibility that it may be because she sees you as one of those men she cannot really trust.

    • Q said:

      Yes, all of this.

      Though I’d add that since people are less likely to trust socially isolated people, and since social isolation does significant psychological harm (shortening the lifespan, worsening extant mental health issues, etc.) it may, in fact, slow down predators or do them enough harm to make them regret their actions. Blacklists and social ostracizing are rude and – when the predator knows why they’re being shunned – they’re punishment. So while I’m totally in favor of being rude to people who are bad at boundaries to make them stop doing harm, I would count blacklisting as part of that rudeness, not as “avoiding making a scene.”

      I’d also add that some people are really good at enforcing their own boundaries and spotting untrustworthy people – most of the time – and are entirely willing to be rude, but these traits are not magic rape-proofing. It is still possible for a predator to be better at deceiving you that you are at seeing through them, it is possible to be careful and rude and get raped anyway – and rape is the fault of the rapist, not the survivor, no matter how loud or how rude the person this happened to was.

    • Wow that museum story reminded me of something I hadn’t thought of in years.

      My husband and I were out at a local museum. We were wandering through one of the galleries, looking at paintings. All around us were various tourists, including one guy that was walking along the same route we were, taking pictures. At one point I walked up close to a painting to read the information. As I stepped away to walk to the next one, the tourist guy *put his hand out* and motioned me back toward the painting, where he then photographed me.

      Wow, was I freaked out. He’s been photographing ME all this time and not the art?! I booked it into the next gallery and said “If he comes back we’re getting a guard.” Both of us were just too astonished to react when it happened. It’s only just this minute that I’m like “Wait, he NEVER ASKED me if he could take my picture, he just took them and that is fucking weird and creepy.”

      The funny thing is, I’ve certainly made a scene before when I was uncomfortable; in college I publicly screamed at a group of guys that were following me – everyone stared and they took off. I think maybe I gave the guy a pass because “well-dressed Japanese tourist” didn’t trigger quite as many warning bells. But boy, should it have.

    • metaphortunate said:

      Also our sons.

      • alphakitty said:

        I had my son read this thread earlier today. I told him, it’s not that I think you’d be the creeper… but I want to be sure you know how to react, to be the guy who says “thanks for telling me, he won’t be invited back, to the extent I have anything at all to say about it you’ll never have to deal with that asshole again.” Yeah, he’s young. But he’s steeping in the crap already, I want him steeping in the woman’s perspective too.

    • “Our daughters are watching.”

      This needs to be on t-shirts, and car stickers, and billboards, and tv advertisements, and samplers and radio grabs and…

      I salute you.

  46. One time, the waiter at the restaurant where I’d eaten dinner refused to bring me the bill until I agreed to go on a date with him. When I told him that I would walk out without paying if I did not get the bill within five minutes, he finally brought the bill – but then he followed me out into the dark, late-night streets. I ran around a corner and dived under a car. I lay in the gutter, listening to his footsteps as he roamed the streets searching for me for almost twenty minutes.

    What’s unsettling is that my reaction for many years afterward was “Yeah, whatever, par for the course.” It was actually my now-husband who pointed out to me that this kind of thing is Not Okay.

    • Rosa said:

      What the fuckity fuck? That sounds terrifying. :(

      • alphakitty said:

        And yet I betcha if she described that to some people, they’d say she was overreacting (that favorite accusation). They’d say that since she was not *actually* assaulted, she can’t be certain that’s why he followed her. Like she should have stuck around and given him a chance to attack her, because only then could we be sure she wasn’t just being paranoid.

        Glad you didn’t give him the chance, Jess. Women have no duty to conduct social experiments at the expense of our safety.

        • drst said:

          I was thinking the same thing. A lot of people, men and women, would scoff and say that was an extreme overreaction.

          And many of those same people, if she had gone on a date with him out of fear, would say it was her fault if he raped her.

          *sigh*

          Jess – I’m glad nothing worse than that happened, which is a terrible thing to feel and our culture is fucked up, but true.

          • Yup, our culture is fucked up, and yup, I’m glad I had the good sense to “overreact.” Thanks for the good wishes, all. If only all stories like this ended with nothing more than a ruined shirt.

          • Bill S said:

            I don’t think most people would call it overreacting – even for somebody as oblivious as I tend to be, once he followed her out the door, it had clearly changed from creepy to dangerous. Glad Jess was ok. I’m guessing it was a small restaurant where there wasn’t an obvious manager, but my inclination would have been to tell the manager when he first said he wasn’t bringing the bill, and if I’d been the manager the dinner would have been free, and I’d have been stuck between several bad decisions about firing his ass on the spot and leaving him working the rest of the night because there’s nobody to cover for him. (The latter’s bad, but kicking him out on the street when she was leaving is worse.) And if he’d done that once, he’d probably have done it before, and probably lost a customer each time.

          • alphakitty said:

            See, that’s the joy of hindsight. At the moment she left the restaurant she didn’t *know* the waiter would follow. The “I’ll give you your check if you agree to go out with me” was just one of the zillion such incidents women go through all the time, and we never know which one(s) will go critical.

            And telling the manager? Not the guaranteed good result you assume. Manager might have been great, like you’re assuming, or might have been impatient and feeling harassed and busy and inclined to treat it as a no-big-deal flirtation, kinda inappropriate but not really harmful, since again at that point the waiter hadn’t followed her out and scared the shit out of her for 20 minutes. She might have gotten an apology and a free dinner — but you do realize, don’t you, that she was perfectly willing to pay for her dinner? What she wanted, but didn’t get, was to get to feel safe? The likelihood that she’d have gotten an escort to her car/the bus/subway is really, really slim.

            Plus, having the guy have a job he hoped he would be motivated to stay at instead of following her might have seemed safer than having him get fired on the spot, so he’d be the same obnoxious entitled asshole with a thing for her that he already was, plus angry because “she” (not his behavior; he wouldn’t see it that way) had gotten him fired.

            Smugly critiquing the woman’s handling of the situation, with the benefit of hindsight, means you just don’t get what women’s lives are like.

          • I don’t think most people would call it overreacting

            I’m guessing you’re not a woman.

            Generally, it works like this: if no actual assault occurred, the woman was overreacting.

            If an actual assault did occur, the woman still might be overreacting to call it such — it might just have been a misunderstanding.

            If the assault that occurred is so blatantly wrong that it can’t be explained away as a misunderstanding, the woman was underreacting by not making a big fuss and/or fighting and/or screaming and/or running away.

          • Alphakitty said:

            Sad but true.

        • colorlessblue said:

          That’s why I was so upset at this xkcd strip: http://xkcd.com/1064/
          It just seems like a really willful ignorance to think that this kind of fear described in the comic is not “reasonable”. I mean, more than once I’ve been arriving home and notice that the building’s doorman is waiting for me with the door open already, because he noticed from his window that someone was following/bothering me, and didn’t want me to wait a few seconds more to get the door open.

          • Emily Huntersmith said:

            You know, I’ve always quite liked that strip, and nothing struck me as odd about it, simply because I failed to notice the words “at night”. (And probably also the fact that he specified some*thing* rather than some*one*.) I experience this exact type of “unreasonable” fear upon heading to my front door, and it is absolutely and always distinct from genuine fear of potential attack by a human. (Which I also tend to be hyper-aware of.) This is different. It happens even in the middle of the day, even while surrounded by family and friends, and the potential threat is non-humanoid and possibly non-corporeal. And it happens *every* time I head towards my door. Every day. I know other people with the same issue; presumably it’s not *that* rare.

            Being afraid that someone is following you when *someone is actually following you* (or someone could potentially be following you) isn’t unreasonable. Having to run up the stairs to your porch at breakneck speed and slam your front door behind you because a legion of angry ghosts chose to bubble up out of your lawn the moment you decided to go inside… (Outside: Fine! Inside: Dandy! Transition between the two: Certain death!) is less reasonable.

        • This is exactly why we ended up talking about Schrodinger’s Rapist on Shapely Prose. The only way you can be *certain* whether or not a stranger is a rapist is when he rapes you.

    • Horrid. Good on you for demanding the bill – and I’m so sorry he followed you. A similar thing happened to me once.

      I was driving alone across the Nullarbor Plain (I live in Australia) and stopped for the night at a roadside hotel (because my mother hated the thought of me sleeping on the side of the road in my car, which had been my plan). I had dinner in the hotel restaurant and then, exhausted, went to my room. I was there about half an hour when the waiter from the restaurant knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to watch a movie with him in his room.

      (I know, right???)

      Looking back on it, I remember being cleaved in two by my instant reactions. On the one hand, all the sirens and alarms and flashing lights went nutso. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be impolite, cause a fuss, be seen overreacting. So I politely demurred, citing my tiredness, and said goodnight, then closed the door. And put the chain on.

      Twenty minutes later he was back. I opened the door without taking the chain off, and this time I wasn’t so polite. I was firm and there was an edge to my voice. He left when I closed the door. And came back half an hour later. This continued until past midnight. I got not a wink of sleep. About 4am, shaking from overtiredness and fear (not of being hurt, but of having to make a scene, you understand – I’m a trained fighter and could rip both his arms off his body and choke him with them…but I didn’t *want* to, you know?) I got off the bed, and stealthily, in the dark, packed up my things, scribbled a note for the housekeeper to give to management, peeked out the door…my heart thundering in my chest, adrenaline slowing each second to a minute long…and bolted to my car, frantically shoving my things in and locking the doors. I think I actually spun the wheels taking off.

      Two hours later, still in the pitch dark and not having slept a wink, overwrought with fear and shame and confusion, I had a car accident. I hit a giant kangaroo and my trip was cut short. But you know what? I turned around and limped back the way I’d come, and when I got to the place I’d stayed the night, I stopped, went in to see the management, and said, “Hi, my name’s Kat. I stayed in room 7 last night.” Her face drained of all blood and she said, “Oh dear – come this way,” and led me away from the other customers. She didn’t want to make a scene either, you see? You see??

      She was kind, and she’d done the right thing. As soon as the note was found, he was sacked and packed off to where he’d come from, and I was apologised to and refunded.

      There are things I regret about that night, but all in all I’m proud of what I did and happy with what happened. It gives me hope – hope for humanity in general, and hope that that guy understood that what he did was WRONG, and had CONSEQUENCES, and maybe his long-ass trip on the bus in shame gave him some time to think hard about how to relate to women.

      Sorry for the long comment. I didn’t know I had to say it quite so…long-windedly. Thanks, if you’re still reading.

      • drst said:

        Holy shit, that’s terrible. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I hope that scumbag couldn’t get another job after that.

        I lock all the locks on all doors in hotel rooms at all times, because I was staying at a hotel in Toronto once and had called down for extra towels. The guy just opened the door with his key and walked in without knocking. If he had shown up a couple minutes earlier I would’ve been in the shower. It’s one of those “Well nothing *really bad* actually happened” stories that almost every woman I know has, and mine was way less terrifying than what happened to you. And it taught me to be scared very effectively.

        • Yowch! You would have had every right to complain, loudly and long, to the management for that transgression. And keeping your door chain on is a very good idea.

      • Ditto on the holy shit, that’s terrible. Glad you made it out okay.

        • windyfairy said:

          It’s scary how many of us have had these kinds of things happen to us. I paid the bill, once, with a credit card when out with friends. Almost a month later, a co-worked complained to me that she was sad that I hadn’t told her I was engaged. I informed her that I wasn’t even dating someone. That’s when another co-worker, who was a very large man and tended bar with me spoke up and said that the dude creeped him out. From then on, he walked me to my car after work. One night, his vehicle got burned out. Also, I found out that someone was calling my grandmother and talking to her on the phone. I found out when she mentioned something my “boyfriend” had told her on the phone. Winds up he got my name off of the credit card slip, and looked through the phone book until he found someone I was related to. He had followed me after work, one night. Lucky for me, I went to a friends house, that night. He kept cruising by there, looking for my car to be there alone. He wound up getting arrested when he assaulted someone he thought I was dating. (He also wound up getting his ass kicked by that guy!). I was lucky in that I had a small army of people ready to watch my back, but it’s sad that, as a woman, I can’t even feel safe out having dinner with my friends. He was a buss boy at the place we had gone. I can only imagine what might have happened, if he had ever gotten me alone. I was lucky.

          • alphakitty said:

            And folks wonder why women are on constant creeper-alert!?!?!

          • That is a truly horrific tale. I’m so sorry :-(

        • Thanks :-) I’m more glad that I didn’t have to hurt someone in order to get out. Coz fuelled by fear, I’d do a disproportionate amount of damage against an unarmed attacker, and I don’t think I could stop myself.

    • Obsidian Entropy said:

      “Yeah, whatever, par for the course.”

      Ugh. I have that reaction a lot. I’m, luckily, starting to have it less, but it drives me nuts.

  47. Tom S said:

    LWs – I think you need to bring up a scenario to your SOs. Talk about a *stranger* that has been acting like the creeper. Refuse to name names, continue talking about creeper’s actions. If/when your SO finally gets to the point of being outraged by creeper’s actions, and wanting to do something about it, then mention creeper’s name.

    Then ask them – why is it OK for creeper to act like this, but not a stranger? Tell them that creeper needs to *become* a stranger to you, them, and your group if they don’t straighten up.

    It might not sink in. But maybe it will.

    Reach out to the estranged women and form a separate group if need be. If SO/group don’t support you, DUMP HIM and the group, and stick with your new group.

  48. Captain, you are my new hero. Thank you for all of this. Every single fucking word. This post is my new anthem. I used to work with people like this. The touchy-feel Creepers and Sad Pandas. It’s always so innocent…just a surprise pat on the shoulder here, an unsolicited backrub there. I’m tired of living in a world where women are just supposed to put up with stuff like this because “Oh, he’s such a nice guy!” Too fucking bad. You’re not being a nice guy when you’re not respecting other people’s boundaries. You’re not being a nice guy when people ask you to stop what you’re doing and you don’t. You’re not being a nice guy when you view other people’s bodies as your personal playground. Fuck off and grow up.

    And to anyone willing to defend people like that… (the boyfriend in the second letter comes to mind; he reminds me so very much of my ex…key word there being *EX*) Would you help someone murder someone else? Would you help someone rob someone else? No? Then why are you willing to let your “friends” murder our self-worth and our safety? Why are you willing to help them rob us of our free will and our ability to say “NO”?

    Oh, right. Because you’re a coward.

    I don’t like cowards.

    • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

      Hear, hear. It comes to “why are you willing to help someone rape someone else” as well. Because “Ben” will do so, even if he hasn’t already. And all his mates who are denying what he’s doing, and showing they think all the women are liars or imagining things or bitches or bad sports, are saying loud and clear “Hey bro, women’s bodies are public property, do what you like to them.” They may not realise it, but they are doing it.

      • I know. I am so tired of having my point of view dismissed out of hand just because I have breasts. There’s still this overwhelming impression in this country that women are naturally hysterical. Men can be just as hysterical and irrational as women can, and yet if we’re ever to call THEM on it, suddenly we’re bitches. Meanwhile, they sweep all of our feelings, points of view, and opinions under the rug when they don’t suit them. Worse yet, women let them. I’ve done it myself. I’ve convinced myself that I’m just overreacting, or making something out of nothing. I have willingly let my emotions be swept aside because a man said I was “just being silly.” This needs to STOP. It’s harmful to both genders, and nothing will ever change if women have to turn into men just to be taken seriously.

  49. Rrrabbit said:

    One of the creepy things amongst creepy things is that creeper #2 says “no one will believe you anyway” That is one of the classic things that child molesters say to their vicitims. I would bet any amount of money that he has clocked some kids in his past.

    • rachel scotland said:

      This comment is really unhelpful and gross.

  50. BSK said:

    I can’t figure out how to subscribe to comments on this post without commenting so just ignore this, sorry.

  51. summer_snow said:

    My social group has a case of the Creepy Dude too. I’ve been trying to tell people, but I’m not getting support and it’s very frustrating and I’m basically just avoiding Creeper now.
    I wish getting rid of creeps worked like getting rid of possibly-infected teammates in zombie movies: sure, he’s a fun guy and part of the gang. But at the first sign of a suspicious wound, you need to have a look at it, and if it looks dangerous, stop hanging out with that guy. Zombie movies are refreshingly clear on the consequences of ignoring suspicious behavior from your friends. The only people who don’t get bitten by by their zombie buddies are the ones who didn’t keep infected-looking people around because they’re fun to hang out with.
    Creepy Dude is basically trying to hide a bleeding wound from the rest of the post-apocalyptic band of survivors, and when one person points out the blood, everyone else jumps on her, saying “He’s a nice guy, and you don’t accuse friends of being zombies! Give him the benefit of the doubt, there’s lots of places he could have picked up an injury! You have no proof that that’s a zombie bite! It’s really really obvious when people are turning into zombies and you are wrong about these subtle signs! But you’re also to blame if you’re within zombie-lunge range at any time and he bites you, because you knew he was bitten in the first place!”

    • K said:

      Great and clever analogy! :)

    • tinyorc said:

      This is in my top five favourite analogies.

    • summer_snow said:

      Aww, thanks, you guys. :)

  52. I…I just realized something. Something that makes me want to throw up a little. I’ve been educating myself and others about rape culture for years, and I’ve often felt kind of strange about how angry I get, how emotional, since after all nothing’s ever happened to me (as if that should make a difference). It still didn’t click for me until just this moment that things *have* happened to me and I glossed over them, because really, they were nothing, right? I had a guy friend who danced up on me, knowing I didn’t like people doing that, who said “Oh, I thought you were too drunk to care” when I called him out on it, who got upset and cried when I told him how fucking creepy that was, and you know what, folks? I fucking sat there with him and comforted him. That’s how ingrained the idea of being nice and not hurting people’s feelings was. I avoided him after that, but I never really articulated why, not even to myself. I always excused his behavior: oh, well, he can be kind of creepy, you might not want to dance with him, he doesn’t understand personal space, he’s not good at picking up on social cues, he’s just very socially awkward, you have to make allowances for him.

    Fuck that shit.

    • Emily said:

      I actually had the same thought last night. 1 in 4 women are victims of sexual assault. Well, lucky me that I’ve never been… wait… and I remembered. There was the time I was at a soccer game in Rome. Someone scored a goal and during the commotion the guy sitting behind me in the bleachers reached around and groped my breast. I just pretended nothing happened, because Italian men are just like that, particularly at soccer games where they’re itching to get into a fight, and the idea of confronting someone who may not speak my language was terrifying. I didn’t even tell my boyfriend it had happened until we were back at the hotel. Then there was the time I went clubbing with one of my friends, and these two guys came up behind each of us and starting grinding on us and getting very handsy. We just quietly removed ourselves from the situation. Why do we never speak up when this kind of thing happens? If we don’t tell these men that it’s not ok to touch our bodies without our permission, aren’t we silently condoning it? This has really given me some food for though.

      • Same here. During a thread on harassment that I read a year or two ago, I suddenly remembered that this guy (a big, tough, punk kind of kid) who sat behind me in a high school class used to grope my thighs every single day. I had to squirm and inch my desk up to try to get out of reach, which usually didn’t work. I was 14 and this happened just about every day for a year, and I never once thought to tell the teacher, because it wasn’t a big deal, right? Except that I made myself forget about it for 15 years and felt physically ill when I remembered in a rush.

      • Sarah said:

        I don’t think it’s all that helpful to tell ourselves that if we don’t speak up when it’s happening to us we are condoning it. We have to do what we can to survive each situation. We know enough about predators to know that their responses can be unpredictable. If we give them a telling they might back off and be shocked and even realise that what they were doing wasn’t okay, but they also might get angry, violent, manipulative, or just generally unpleasant. Even if they don’t turn around and spit in our faces right then and there, we know some men are more than capable of pursuing long-term vendettas against women who have rejected their creepy advances. We have to judge it case by case and we can’t promise ourselves that in every situation we can fight back or be firm because we may actually fear for our lives or our (immediate or long term, if there is a backlash) safety when we do much more than try to get ourselves away.

        That’s why the importance of other people stepping in is so huge. Generally when it’s a man-on-man telling the creep in question WILL be more responsive than to a woman giving them a telling, particularly the woman they are creeping on who they will be seeking to undermine if they have been rejected. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be encouraging women to speak up and be firm, it is empowering and can enable them to be even more firm the next time and the next time (it’s so sad that I’m even writing a sentence like that, because we all know there will be a next time and a next time and a next time). But we shouldn’t feel bad about ourselves if in that situation we’ve done what we can to protect ourselves and that hasn’t been able to involve telling the creep directly to stop or why what they’ve done isn’t okay. The worst thing anyone can do in that situation is leave the person who’s being creeped on to deal with it alone, because they may not be able to deal with it as firmly as they’d like and even if they do they need support and safety.

        • Emily said:

          You’re right, I didn’t mean to say we were condoning it. Geez, it’s amazing how hard it is to break the self-blaming training.

          The part I really want to focus on here is that I realized that I let these “minor” things happen, brushed them under the rug, pretend they didn’t happen. Why? I like to tell myself that maybe the guy behind me tripped. Maybe it was an honest mistake. But I know that’s not true. Listening to the stories on here, I know I’m not the only one. I’m just learning to get angry when someone violates my boundaries. I guess that’s what I wanted to share. Maybe you don’t need to confront the offender directly, but don’t pretend that nothing happened. Get mad. Tell someone, anyone. We need to lift the taboos and we need to make waves.

    • leah said:

      I had the same exact thought. No more.

    • trin said:

      more like “nothing that you can describe to people as assault” has happened to you… but if you are like many of us, you’ve limited where you go, you go to some places alone, you don’t go to others at night…. a man can go to the corner bar (or even one in another part of town) or out clubbing by himself and not with a pack of friends and not feel like it’s taking a stupidly high risk….

      When I had a required class that was only offered in the evenings, I had to not only plan my route home, but where I was parked, or to take the shuttle to parking, which shuttle stop would be the best lit and most populated when that class let out…. the male classmates just left and scattered after class and the women left in groups that were traveling in the same directions. (dorm bound, shuttle stop bound, etc)

      It’s a hundred little things even in every day life, (the thoughts of “will it be dark out when I get off of work?” and planning where to park in the morning) that we aren’t even conscious of doing until stopping to dissect the day intentionally to highlight these behaviors. The “don’t talk to strangers on the street”, the body language responses to cat calls…

      They all feel normal, because most of us, have had to do these things all our adult lives.

      So while “nothing has happened” you’ve still experienced a deep impact on your life.

  53. Xenophile said:

    Thank you so, so much for this thread. Thank you, LWs, for speaking up about this and I’m so sorry for everything you’re going through. Thank you, Captain, for your words of wisdom, and thank you, Awkward Army, being awesome.

    I don’t want to derail this or make the LWs’ problems all about me, but this advice applies to all kinds of abusive and inappropriate behavior. It’s really helped me rethink some things in my own social circles, both past and present. Several years ago I was in a verbally abusive relationship but didn’t have the words to call it that. He lied to me and to our friends, so it took a long time to realize how toxic he was. Our mutual friends, in the name of ‘neutrality,’ and ‘keeping the peace,’ tried to not take sides, but in the end, they really just took his side by default. They lied on his behalf to keep secrets and avoid conflict, they insisted on inviting him to everything after I asked them not to, and wouldn’t attend anything with me unless everyone in our group, including him, was also invited. They would privately tell me that they were ‘on my side,’ that they saw him say cruel things to me, and they would sit around and complain about him en masse, but would welcome him with open arms the second he was around. Not one person, aside from myself, told him directly that his behavior was not ok.

    Because I had no support and couldn’t get away from him (it was a study abroad program, so we spent all day, every day together, and only knew about a dozen people in the entire country), I had to try to appease him to make the semester bearable. Our friends, naturally, took that as cause to say that I brought it on myself by not being assertive enough. Years later, two of these ‘friends,’ who ironically would go on long rants about feminism, choice, deconstructing heteronormative binaries, etc, invited me to their election-watching party without telling me my abuser would be there, and then expected me to sit on a couch next to him and his new girlfriend. I got drunk and texted one of them, ‘You are a bad friend,’ on the way out and we never spoke again. For years I’ve regretted the loss of their friendship but today, thanks to this conversation, I suddenly realized, “No, wait. They really WERE bad friends. They were good people but bad, bad friends.”

    I suddenly feel at peace with cutting them out of my life. I no longer feel guilty about being that blunt and possibly hurting their feelings. Thank you, Captain Awkward, for helping me get to that place.

    • Flix said:

      What gets snarled up for me is separating a person’s context/personal history from their behavior. When I hear someone labeled as “an abuser,” I get all locked up inside, because on some level I feel like that means that- that’s all they are. And the easy next steps from there are that they should be disliked and cut off and otherwise brought into line.

      I really liked all of the Captain’s advice and I think it’s all right on. Those two do need to be cut off and brought into line and the writers do need to make clear boundaries to their respective partners- and they don’t need to prioritize “keeping the peace” over maintaining their own mental health.

      What I keep getting stuck on is the common mental jump towards hating them. I want to clarify, I think- if you want/need to- I think it’s normal and fine to hate them. It certainly makes things simpler in deciding where to put your energy (into friends who treat you the way you want or towards folks you feel unsafe around)- but I feel like there’s this idea that it’s not ok – not to hate them.

      I do think it’s the responsibility of the person acting creepy/predatory to change themselves, and never the responsibility of the survivor. I don’t think that a person should get away with acting in a predatory way- selfishly pursuing their own desires- fundamentally unaware of or purposefully ignoring the feelings of others- or ignoring the potential long term effects of an non-consensual sexual encounter for another person. I also think that the same person can have moments that are exactly the opposite, where they are giving and considerate.

      Basically, if someone is acting predatory to me I want to feel that it’s socially ok to do whatever I need to- yell at/hit them/ask my support people to keep them out of my social life/ call the police/ legal action/etc. I also want it to be ok to think (but not obligatory) that “underneath this messed up behavior-that needs immediate attention- there is or could be a decent human being. it’s not my job to find that person- but I don’t have to negate their existence either.”

      I’ve never been raped, but I’ve been street harassed, followed onto buses, watched through binoculars, had my ass grabbed- painfully generic unacceptable bullshit, sometimes I yelled at them, sometimes I ignored it, often I’d go to my safe folks to process it afterwards. I’m in awe of friends and family who have faced worse and survived it.

      And in conversations around this I also feel like it’s discouraged to think of the abuser as anything other than the abuser. That there’s a feeling that, in acknowledging the wholeness of a person you take away from the argument that they need to change. And that fear is legitimate, people can de-legitmize rape conversations this way (I’m trying not to). I don’t think this acknowledgment has to though, in fact I’m more drawn to the conversations where-when we can- we try to do both.

      There is an element of fear in me too, fear of the work that challenging a person entails, fear of overturning a social network that I may have grown comfortable with—but also, if I’m going to overturn my social network, I want to at overturn it into one where I’m trying to speak without fear- not exchanging it for a different kind.

      Again, I loved reading Captain Awkward’s responses, they were funny, strong, clear, and supportive to me. I just want to know what space there is for this thought in the discourse.

      • JenniferP said:

        Yeah. They’re humans. But can we not worry about their feelings some of the fucking time? Can’t we just stick up for ourselves and let them take care of their own bad feelings? They can find other friends. They can seek therapy. They can work on themselves and try to learn from mistakes and try to do better. Do we have to pour ourselves into their cracks and affirm their basic humanity when they take ours away? Can’t we just say “You. Stop that.” and then go back to our conversations in a space that’s safe for us? Do we have to be the bigger person all the time?

        I think it’s smarter to put the emphasis on “that thing you did was creepy” vs. “you are a creep.” It gets the point across better to focus on behavior and not be derailed by arguing about what kind of a person the person is. Everyone wants to feel like they are a good person.

        I’m sorry all that stuff happened to you. If you want to feel compassion, go ahead. It isn’t something “we” collectively have to do. Sometimes it helps to say “that thing you did is wrong because it is wrong” and not have to dig into the why. Who cares why? Stop doing the thing.

        We get to exclude people from our spaces. Even if it hurts their feelings. We get to set boundaries about the people we allow into our lives. We aren’t obligated to give people chance after chance and to look for the good in them.

        Because it’s tiring. I’m tired. Your reply made me tired. The Million Mansplaining March that I sent to the spam folder is making me tired.

        • Flix said:

          Hey Jennifer,

          thanks for your response. I definitely want survivors to do what they need to do for themselves. And if some folks choose to not spend their energy on being compassionate towards their aggressors it’s not because they don’t get the potential complexity- it’s because they have other fish to fry, they have other things to spend their energy on than folks who have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. It’s smart.

          I didn’t and don’t expect folks to collectively want to dig into the “why,” and I don’t think it’s our collective job to do that. What I’m more looking for is a space where it’s ok to admit feeling conflicted about the person and your relationship too them.To admit that it’s there, let it be there, but then focus on the practical response. If I’m not conflicted, then fine, I don’t need to force myself or my friends to seek it out.

          What I’m getting from your response is that even mentioning that discomfort, without seeking for it to be relieved, can be exhausting and frustrating for some of the other folks (who are all ready working on a lot) to process. So- I’ll think about that.

          • delbelcoure said:

            Maybe I’m confused about what you’re saying, but “What I’m more looking for is a space where it’s ok to admit feeling conflicted about the person and your relationship too them.” isn’t that space you’re looking for actually pretty easy to find?
            I hear a lot of ” My boyfriend abuses me in this way, but he can be so sweet and I still love him.” in person and on the internet. I see a lot of “My friend act racist/sexist/ classist etc. sometimes, but he’s a great guy most of the time.” as well. The space you’re looking for seems to be everywhere_ but_ spaces that have been deliberately set up as safe spaces for women. I find it refreshing that _here_ people are shown what kind, loving, respectful behavior is and unkind, unloving, disrespectful behavior is labelled as such without backpedaling and softening the blow to protect the feelings of people who are acting like douches.
            Heck, I’ve seen my own douchy behaviors reflected on these pages. Sometimes it hurts, but I’ve been working on getting rid of those behaviors, not justifying to myself why I’m a good person and shouldn’t have to change. The creeps and creep supporters in the above letters have been shown their behaviors and they’re covering them like cats in sand when they should be scooping that crap out of their life. I’m done pretending the cat litter doesn’t need cleaned.

          • JenniferP said:

            Ok, I read this last night as “Do we have to all be so MEAN?”

            Of course people feel conflicted. If we just out-and-out hated creepy dudes (or if they outed themselves as 100% hateable) it would be easy. Just read question #324 where the rapist is like, the best ever dinner party companion! But we like some things about them (or other people around us like some things about them) so we second guess ourselves and try to be subtle and hope they’ll get the hint and that the problem will just go away. Meanwhile, we’re getting groped, harassed, stalked and don’t feel safe. You can feel conflicted, of course. The guy in my story in the OP? I consider him a friend now. He’s great. Here’s my line in the sand, though: If I tell you someone is violating my boundaries, and you immediately tell me how much you like him and give me a list of his good qualities, you are being a BAD FRIEND. You are shutting down what I am telling you and telling me it doesn’t matter. It is not the time nor the place.

            So that’s why I read your comment the way I did. Like, here, in the middle of this discussion, is someone asking me to have sympathy for creeps and telling me I’m too mean? Fuck no. I realize in the morning that was not your intent.

        • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

          Captain, thank you. My first thought on that was: who cares if they do volunteer work or help people across the street or are philosophy majors or had a terrible childhood or WHATEVER. None of those things has any relevance to this: they are predating on another person, or persons. They are harming others. So fuck yes, they are abusers and as far as the victimised person is concerned that is all that matters. Screw making excuses for the abusers, because that’s what the oh-he-had-a-sad-life stuff is. Nobody’s saying “But SHE’S a wonderful person” or “SHE had a terrible life” or cares anything about what he’s doing to her future. It’s all about poor poor him.

          Screw him. If he wants to be Mr All Round Great Guy then try behaving like him. Great guys do not maul, harass, assault, abuse, rape or anything else on the spectrum of “I want my pleasures with this hole”.

  54. Reblogged this on jointhedorkside and commented:
    I am all about cupcakes and love but this is a serious issue in geek culture. I have been in these situations several times. I don’t want anyone else to have this happening to them.

  55. Paws said:

    I stumbled across this blog via Twitter. Captain, you’re spot on.

    I live in the UK, and in my city it’s normal to be leered at or subjected to catcalls. One particular time I was walking into town and a man was leaning lazily out the window of his white van. He called out from across the road, ‘Hey, you, beautiful!’

    I spun round and stuck two fingers up at him. ‘FUCK. OFF’ was the reply he got.

    He shat his pants and basically fell back into his seat.

    I felt unbelievably empowered but also very shaky. It was broad daylight and no one else was around. There’s just no way I’m taking this shit anymore. None at all.

  56. Blysse Burnerchic said:

    I once had the extreme pleasure of presiding over a proceeding to remove a creepy dude from a social club, had a top-secret “trial” where I invited the complainants to invite witnesses and everything. I felt like Judge Judy, and the end result, which was left up to the vote of the executive board, was to kick this person out. If only our criminal justice system worked so well.

    • JenniferP said:

      Except secret trials held by the state are beyond terrifying!

      • Blysse Burnerchic said:

        It was top secret so as to spare the parties the embarrassment of having all the charges leveled in public. It was intended to let the dude save some face. But you do have a point.

  57. Kenshin said:

    As someone who was once a proto-creeper this advice is spot on. The only way creepers can change is by direct confrontation by multiple people who are in their circle of friends. They must be made to feel shame for their behavior and understand that what they are doing is wrong.

    If they don’t change, shun. Friends that refuse to take part in cutting creepers out of their social circle should also be kept at arms’ length.

    • How many confrontations did it take before you stopped the proto-creeping?

      What made you finally realize that your friends weren’t overreacting?

      • Kenshin said:

        Can’t say I recall. It was years ago. Mostly I remember the stark difference between the church group “friends” in high school (who didn’t correct my behavior at all) and people in college (who did).

        Needless to say, I realized at least at a base level pretty quickly (during first-year college) how not to act if people wanted me around. Figured out the finer details over the course of the next few years.

  58. In this situation you don’t “get new friends”, you uninvite the creeper and reconnect with your old friends that have been frightened away. Ya know the ones you enjoyed hanging out with. (the ones that didn’t cause you to seek advice online)

    Also, I don’t give a sh*t if they are a nice person sober, if they are causing you or your guests (plural) to be uncomfortable, then they need to be removed.

    Having fun does not cause stress, period.

    • drst said:

      That would be ideal. Unfortunately the boyfriends and male friends in the group are refusing to do what would be ideal. That’s kind of the crux of the problem.

  59. George E. said:

    OK. I’m gonna come right out and say this, from the guy perspective, this is Wrong On So Many Levels. And any guy who is reading this and saying “come on, we did worse than that in college” or some other ‘mitigating’ line, then THEY are in the wrong as well.

    Real guys don’t fondle women inappropriately. Real guys don’t whine about sex (or lack of it) to their women friends or associates. And real guys don’t write off creepy behavior as no big deal.

    Real guys would stand together with their spouses or their girlfriends, or their women friends and coworkers, and say “Hey, knock that shit off, it’s completely out of line.”

    If Creeper goes and hurts himself as a result of being told what is and isn’t proper behavior? He needs therapy, not a mercy screw.

    And yes… Ben sounds like a rape case just waiting to happen, if it hasn’t already. Stay away from him, and if he tries to get close (either by insinuation or by force), call the cops immediately.

    • Real guys do all of those things, actually.

      Good guys don’t.

      Maybe I’m just being persnickety about language now, but saying that creeps are fake guys, or women, or genderless, or whatever you default to if you’re not a “real guy” just bugs me. Failing to be man enough is not the problem here. Creeping is.

      • twomoogles said:

        I hate the ‘real man’ thing. A ‘real man’ is brave, supports his family, respects women, etc etc etc. Nobody ever says ‘a real woman takes care of her friends!’ or ‘a real woman stands up for what’s right’. Why is that?

        • windyfairy said:

          Actually, our society is full of b.s. about what “real” women do. Pretty much, it sums up as a “real” woman is both a virgin and a whore. She is a mother and a provider. She needs to have a job, so she’s not dependant on a man, but she’s a terrible mother if she does so and has children. If she’s a stay at home mom, it’s probably because she’s lazy or too stupid to have a “real job”. She should have her own life, but have children, also, or she’s missing out and not doing her duty, but she shouldn’t have too many children, or she’s a drain and not smart enough to use birth control. She should be beautiful, but not too pretty. She should be successful, but not make men feel like she’s competing with them. She should be empowered, but not too strong, or she’s see as a dyke or bitch. She cannot be too thin or too fat. She cannot be too smart or too stupid. She should be funny, but not too opinoinated or loud. Confused? Now you understand why so many women are, too. We can be conflicted, as well, not to mention stressed out. We have grown up with a very confusing idea of what “real” women are.

          • Emily said:

            Love this! Too true!

          • Ellen Cameron said:

            Not to mention that she should look like a 17-year-old virgin below the waist and a nursing mother above it!

          • Ellen said:

            Thank you. You expressed this so damned well. This is exactly what I live with every day.

  60. Hazel said:

    In before MRAs find this and complain about “creepshaming.”

    • JenniferP said:

      No you’re not. I’m just deleting them before you see them. Nobody’s threatened to rape me today (yet), so that’s better than it usually is when I write about this topic.

      • JetGirl said:

        Captain, the fact that your awesome self gets rape threats regularly makes me want to stomp all over the Internet like Godzilla. You’ve helped so many, including me and my best friend.
        *Swings tail, levels building full of rapey commenters

      • NessieMonster said:

        Jennifer, I don’t think we thank you enough for moderating this blog so well, so thank you. To you and the other mods. Thank you for filtering out the crap so we can say what we need to say without getting bogged down with the trolls, the creeps and the MRAs.
        *jedi hugs*

        • leah said:

          Yes, thank you so much for making the comments pleasant. Or, given the subject, at least not re-traumatizing.

      • Not It said:

        OMG! That’s horrifying. I am appalled on your behalf and my behalf, because I’ve decided to take a rape threat against you personally.

        Something you said about being tired really resonated with me. My new sentence that I use on just about everyone in my life is, “I am tried of being the mature person in this relationship.” At some point you–relative, boss, neighbor, ex-boyfriend, creeper, whoever–are just going to have to keep up with my current state of emotional evolution and man/woman up and use actual words and not throw tempter tantrums or misdirect your anger or say racist things or not hear me when I say don’t touch me! Jesus H. Christ! Get with the program, people!

        • “I am tried of being the mature person in this relationship.”

          That is excellent. Mind if I steal it if the need arises?

          • Not It said:

            All yours. It even works from time to time!

            I might cross stitch it onto a pillow. Do you think I could sell that on etsy?

          • liyyspoon said:

            Yes! I for one would BUY THAT

      • brinstarr said:

        We’re discussing this on ShitRedditSays (Pop on by and visit us) and we’ve already had a ton of comments deleted by the moderators and mass downvotes. Apologies in advance if our love of your reply to LW has brought a torrent of whiny MRAs all of a sudden. ):

        • JenniferP said:

          Fortunately I keep my banhammer polished and ready. Thanks for the headsup and the link.

  61. Andrew said:

    Hundreds of people here who don’t realize that a “creeper” is either a kind of plant, or a garment for infants, and that the perfectly well-established word that they’re looking for is “creep.” Please, stop making yourselves sound like 11-year-old girls.

      • Amazing that the dude can read the letters and the comments, and all he’s got to say is that he doesn’t like our word choice.

        Language usage: yet another thing certain guys find more important than rape prevention.

        • Copcher said:

          “Language usage: yet another thing certain guys find more important than rape prevention.”

          That should be on a poster.

    • Yes, because in a discussion about rape culture, social pressure, and feeling endangered EVEN AMONG OUR FRIENDS, the truly important thing is policing our language.

      • JenniferP said:

        Have you ever listened to 11-year-old girls talk? It’s hilarious. They’re GREAT.

        So Andrew is also bad at insults.

    • Susan said:

      Wow, feel like a man, now, Andrew? Because you’ve erroneously taken on the role of sole arbiter of American Standard English & How It Evolves? Oh, wait – you did that because you knew everything everyone was saying was right, & it got you ticked off, so you decided to be ageist as well. And now, hundreds of people know that, too.

    • Bill S said:

      Andrew, a “creeper” is also a kind of troll. And not one of the good kinds that are fun to feed, either.

    • Ell said:

      As the mother of a preteen daughter who freaking rocks, I have to say that your decision to paint “sounding like an 11-year-old girl” in a negative light totally sucks butt. Creeper.

  62. TC said:

    Ugh. Even I have been this stupid before. When I was nineteen, this nasty creepy rape-y kid Shaun used to hang onto the fringes of my friend group. At a party one night he grabbed my fucking tit. I wrenched his hand off and moved away from him in no uncertain terms – but as I now regret, I DIDN’T kick him out of my house or call the police. So naturally he came back, wrestled my arms off my chest and shoved his hand up my shirt. Like, while I struggled violently. He didn’t relent until another guy (who I wasn’t sleeping with) put his arm around me, and then only on the premise of “oh, sorry, dude, didn’t know she was yours.” He then moved on and forced himself onto another girl.

    I regret very little as much as not having that nasty rapist arrested on the spot. So I’m making up what little I can years too late – kids, if he fucking gropes you while you violently struggle to get away – TWICE – he needs to be in jail that same night, not vaguely allowed to continue coming to parties because you don’t want to create drama.

  63. Charsi said:

    I would declare that I don’t forbid him to befriend whoever he wants, but I won’t be around the creeper. Period. And after the next time he invites him into our home, I will move away.

    • drst said:

      It’s very easy as an outsider to declare what you would do, but the truth is, relationships are complex and walking away, especially from someone you’ve been with for years, is rarely that cut and dried. And talking about it as if it is? Does not help the LWs or anyone else dealing with difficult relationships who might be lurking.

      None of us knows for 100% certain what we would do in the LWs shoes. There are all sorts of pieces of information that we don’t know that are affecting these situations. It’s important that we all remember that and not talk in absolutes.

      • Charsi said:

        Sometimes an outsider can see clearly, that’s why we ask advice, and not dismiss it saying they aren’t in our situation. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it has to be done regardless.

        • drst said:

          You can offer advice without sounding like “Well I know what the right thing is to do here and I would do it perfectly if it happened to me.” Which is what your original comment came across as.

          • Charsi said:

            Well, I didn’t intend to. It was an opinion.

  64. Barker said:

    I am so glad that SOMEONE has brought attention to this! My friend and I are in our mid-twenties and have been dealing with “creepers” for years. Some harmless and just socially awkward, but mostly one’s that you do NOT want to be left alone with. We’ve spoken to mutual friends about the “creepers” as they are friends with said “creepers”, and they also shrug it off. One of said creepers also interrupted a date I was having and even AFTER I told him he was interrupting said date, he sat down and made a point to interrupt. I don’t understand how people can think ‘Oh they’re just a big harmless teddy bear’ when multiple women complain! Also when the creeper tells me he’s going to take me to his house and get me drunk. I DO NOT THINK SO. I’m glad there are other women out there who understand this isn’t to be taken lightly, and whereas SOME of them may be just socially awkward. Some are also legitimately frightening in their creeptastic ways, and need to be told so, and dealt with in appropriate ways. THANK YOU for bringing this to light!

  65. LClayr said:

    Ditto BSK with not being able to figure out how to subscribe to comments other than by commenting.

    • Charsi said:

      Don’t you know how to unsubscribe? I get 30 e-mails a day about each new comment.

      • LClayr said:

        Unsubscribing isn’t a problem. It’s subscribing and so far the only good option for me is commenting and reading through the subsequent e-mails.

  66. Svatopluk said:

    I agree entirely with the advice given here, but it should also be noted that there’s a lot simpler of an answer to why the other guys tolerate Creepy behavoir from their peers: lots of guys worries that THEY are a creepy guy, too.

    It’s an awkward position to be a guy. When dealing with women you’re interested in, you have to be assertive, but respectful, and there’s some grey area on what is appropriate that depends on what are, to us, subtle social cues.

    I have a friend who was a bit of a creeper, although he never went as extreme as the two cases here and would always back off if he was rejected, and a part of my sympathized with him. He didn’t understand the rules any worse than I did, but he was far less risk-averse than I. Some very light grumbling from our female friends was dismissed because I felt bad for him and I worried that I was a creeper also.

    It wasn’t until sometime later when I had a long chat with a close female friend and she told me how she wouldn’t be comfortable hanging out with him alone that I started to realize it was more serious than I had thought. I never realized how vulnerable women can feel around men they don’t trust.

    This is why the women who wrote these letters MUST be assertive with their charges. The men in their lives must not be allowed to dismiss the incidents as the borderline behavior of someone sad/lonely/socially clueless. However, the defensiveness will be there because the men have their own insecurities, too, about how women perceive their own actions. It has to be overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation.

    • I’m really, really not fond of statements about what women already in a bad situation “MUST” do. LW2 has already told her boyfriend that his good pal sexually assaulted her. She’s not obligated to keep trying to find just the right wording that will make him care.

    • General Expression said:

      Maybe we should put the burden of realizing the gravity of the situation on the men, hmmm? The women who wrote these letters “MUST” not do anything.

      For quite a lot of reasons, though one is that in any threatening situation, a person must make split-second decisions about whether it is safe to be assertive.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      You know, I’m getting tired of this trope. I’m going to be harsh with you because I’ve had my fill of this dismissive, belittling, erasing, victim-blaming shit. Your comment is quite like what women run into all. of. the. fucking. time. and it puts us in a position where we cannot win. And I am fucking goddamn sick of it.

      These guys aren’t showing interest, they’re being 100% inappropriate. In fact, “inappropriate” is the mildest thing I can say about their behavior.

      You do not grope people you are interested in. You do not hit on 16-year-olds (FFS). You do not SEXUALLY ASSAULT people. You do not harass people.

      I mean, gosh, I feel so sorry that you’re worried that you’re seen as a creeper, but do you see what you just did there? You mention in passing that one of your women friends said she didn’t feel safe hanging out with your friend alone–and then go on to lecture us about how we MUST be more assertive with these guys, while whining that we have to understand that men feel defensive.

      Except, hello, had you read the OP’s and the comments, you’d see that when we ARE assertive, we are dismissed as drama queens, the guy’s defended as socially awkward, and what he did is called no big deal. (Sort of like what ***you just did*** in your comment.) So tell me, how are we supposed to assert ourselves when our supposed friends will get defensive and excuse this shit? What, we’re supposed to coddle the menz who feel intimidated and scared of rejection (because women are never, EVER rejected ever, and socially awkward women apparently don’t exist, pay no attention to any woman who comments here)? We’re supposed to stand up for ourselves but then understand why it’s dismissed, we’re dismissed, and we’re left twisting in the wind when we feel THREATENED AND UNSAFE? And that feeling THREATENED AND UNSAFE is apparently okay since you dudes feel. . .defensive?

      Seriously? Listen to yourself. You’re acting like part of the problem.

      How about this? Instead of wagging your goddamn finger at women for not doing enough to school you like they’re your goddamn legion of mommies, you recognize that your defensiveness and your closing ranks around guys who violate boundaries and make women feel unsafe is the problem? How about you save your fucking finger wagging for your fellow dudely dudes, who harass women and/or brush it off when their friends do it? How about you keep in mind that awkward women exist and that we’re not given NEARLY the pass you dudes give yourselves? And that in addition to being socially awkward, we’re also now expected to expected to raise GROWN ASS MEN WHO SHOULD FUCKING KNOW BETTER.

      You didn’t react to the revelation that women are often made to feel unsafe by saying, “Hey, I’d better step in and have my womens friends’ backs when stuff like this happens.” You chose to put the responsibility on us. That is not cool, and frankly, if a friend of mine pulled that shit with me he’d no longer be a friend.

      • alphakitty said:

        I was gonna say something… but it wasn’t going to be nearly as good as what you wrote. You nailed it!

      • General Expression said:

        This comment went up while I was composing mine below. I just want to say – what she said. :)

      • “Ladies, speaking up is weird and uncomfortable, so you should do it FOR me. But I promise I’ll cheer you on from the sidelines, where I’m kickin’ it behind a sheet of bulletproof glass! I mean, as long as the dudes on the other team don’t remind me too much of myself.”

        Pffft.

    • General Expression said:

      Also, I find your use of the word “charges” interesting. These women are talking about friends and boyfriends. Not their children, whose upbringing they are responsible for.

      Both with your contention that these are “subtle social cues” and your feeling that women should share their vast wealth of knowledge and fix things, you seem to have a mistaken view of the power dynamic in these situations. The women are not the ones with the power in these social dynamics, and it is not primarily their responsibility to improve the world. If you feel that your own powers are inadequate to the task, well, join the club, but also try to figure out how you can challenge rape culture yourself, not what other people should do about it.

      • Ellen Cameron said:

        The fact is that humans exhibit sexual dimorphism; in shorter words, among other things the males tend to be bigger and stronger than the females. Any social or cultural issues aside, being bigger and stronger immediately puts them in the power seat. Unless you, Svatopluk, are a physically small and rather unmuscled person, you have NO IDEA how that makes a woman feel in a threatening situation. Furthermore, if you *know* that social cues are hard for you (and just how “subtle” is no, anyway?), then it is on your head start learning. For god’s sake, grow a pair.

        • General Expression said:

          In addition to this, we DO have social and cultural prejudices and deeply held beliefs that grant men more power; so regardless of Svatopluk’s personal physical presence, he still has more power in most social situations than a woman does, no matter her size. If someone is trying to figure out who to attack, me or a man that weighs less than me/is shorter than me, they are still probably going to go after me.

        • Bill S said:

          I’m a large man – tall, and while I’m mostly fat rather than muscular, and I’m not used to being physically intimidated except by dogs or people I’m playing appropriately physical sports with.

          But a couple of years ago, I got assaulted, by a guy who looked like a bar bouncer on steroids, and **** it was scary, and I didn’t report it to the police even though a bystander got his license plate and said she’d be willing to testify, because he seemed like the kind of guy who might hunt me down and attack me or my family if I did. The fact that I’d been stupid and let my anger at him aggravate the situation also deterred me, but it was mostly fear, including the meta parts about not liking to be that afraid and rage and frustration about not being able to do anything about it.

          It started as a road-rage thing; I was a pedestrian, he was driving a big SUV, barreled around a corner without stopping and nearly hit me, and I slapped his car because I was mad at him doing it and because I was close enough to do that. And he stopped the car, and as I got near the passenger side of the car, he yelled at me asking if I’d hit his car. WTF? And I yelled at him for having nearly run me over. And he said if I ever touched his car again he’d kill me, so of course I slapped the car again and said he’d already nearly killed me. (Hey, I said I’d been stupid, but wtf, he’s more concerned that I’d touched his car than that he’d nearly run somebody over?) And he got out of the car to come attack me, and I started backing away, still being confused that he’s serious, and he knocked me over (leaving me with a large bruise that lasted a couple of months), and made it clear that if I got up he’d kill me. (And I’ve had some martial-arts training, but was too busy being shocked that he was actually about to attack me to roll properly when I fell.) And he’d made it clear that he could kill me, and would, and he went back to his truck and drove off.

          And women have to put up with this kind of physical fear all the time? It’s awful, and I hate that society makes it like that. And if I had reported it, while the police probably would have told me I was stupid for aggravating him, it’s not like being slut-shamed for dressing provocatively or being female in a male-owned society or like I would get dragged through an emotionally painful experience multiple times before and during a trial. On the other hand, the part about whether the police would protect me from him if I did report him was pretty much the same.

          • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

            OMG Bill, that exact same thing happened to me a couple of years ago – I was getting out of a tram and a man drove up at speed alongside it, which is for obvious reasons illegal (people have been killed that way). I did the same thing as you, slapped his car. And he got out there at the lights (he was twice my size), screamed “Don’t touch my car!” and slammed me to the ground.

            I did report it to the police. I had a witness’s contact details. They did nothing about it. “Barely hiding the fact they didn’t give a shit” was the impression I was left with, although I was shaking and nearly in tears at the station.

      • KL said:

        While I agree 100% with what you say here, I think it’s “charges” as in “allegations,” not “wards.”

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

        I think ‘charges’ meant as in ‘the charges they are making’ rather than ‘the men’. But it’s a Freudian slip if so, because as you and everyone else who responded already said, these men are definitely demanding both the privilege of treating women as things to shove their dicks in, and the privilege of being adult-sized children who never have to take responsibility for anything.

        There have been studies done on this claim too many men make about it being so difficulllllllt to read women’s mysterious messages – and the results have been what I imagine most women who’ve copped this sort of shit know from painful experience: the claim is a load of bullshit. Men can read signals of reluctance, distaste, fear, uninterest, and all the rest of it, Every Bit As Well As Women Can. There’s no sex division there. Sure, there are people (of BOTH sexes) who don’t do so well, but that doesn’t apply to the majority, and certainly not to the men who are creepers, harassers, rapists. They know full well they are frightening and intimidating women. And they’re getting their jollies from it.

        • thegirlfrommarz said:

          I’m sure I’ve recommended this article before (an extract from Deborah Cameron’s excellent book, The Myth of Mars and Venus – definitely worth reading!), but it brilliantly skewers the idea that men and women can’t understand each other:
          Speak up, I can’t hear you
          This bit seems particularly relevant:
          What this example illustrates is that some “misunderstandings” are tactical rather than real. Pretending not to understand what someone wants you to do is one way to avoid doing it. This may be what is really going on when a man claims not to have recognised a woman’s “Could you empty the trash?” or “The groceries are in the car” as a request. The “real” conflict is not about what was meant, it is about who is entitled to expect what services from whom.

    • alphakitty said:

      The one thing I’ll add to what Sheelzebub said is that you had an epiphany moment in that conversation with your friend, and it made you think you’re now one of the good guys. However, that moment was not supposed to be the end of your journey, but the beginning. Delve deeper, dude. Learn why women feel vulnerable *most* of the time — why we’re right to, why it affects everything we do. Why this stuff is not nearly so subtle and undecipherable as you currently think it is. I’d love to be present for your induction to the Genuine Good Guys club… but you are not qualified YET. Keep working.

      • alphakitty said:

        • Mary said:

          Wow, that video’s fantastic. Going to link this all over the place!

        • Sheelzebub said:

          Wow, this video is spot ON. Thank you for sharing, alphakitty!

    • Emily said:

      Thank you. I see what you’re saying here and I think the replies you’ve been getting are a little harsh. You realize that you have been part of the problem, identified where that was coming from, and gave some advice for what we can do to get through to other dense guys.

      Women, we can say all we want that men need to be more receptive to this kind of thing, but until they are it is on us to educate them. We need to use forums like this to help each other become more assertive, and then tell the men in our lives when something is not right UNTIL THEY LISTEN. Yes, the men need to change. Yes, we shouldn’t have to ask more of a woman who’s already feeling like a victim, but the thing is no one is going to look out for us until we DEMAND it.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        Except as has been pointed out, women have DEMANDED it, have SPOKEN UP about it, and have been shut down, dismissed, and belittled for it, while the guys excuse the behavior with the tropes of “he’s awkward” “he’s intimidated” “defensiveness!” “you’re being a drama queen.”

        Women have been talking with men about this for years–since *long* before I was born in the sixties. That they don’t get it isn’t because they are dense (FFS, drop that trope) or feel defensive and poor them. It isn’t because we aren’t asserting ourselves or making how we feel well-known. It’s because they are quite attached to their privilege and power.

        And I’m not going to apologize for my harshness. He could have taken his new knowledge and held the men in his life accountable for this shit. But no. He insists its our job to raise grown-ass men who should know better. He comes into a discussion where women recount how, when they asserted themselves, they were ignored and belittled and sometimes even threatened and lectured us that we weren’t asserting ourselves enough. Yet we can’t be too harsh because the menz feel defensive and they have it so hard. Tell ya what–be assaulted and/or harassed by someone in your group of friends and watch them close ranks around that person and ostracize you. Then get back to me about how hard you have it.

      • Bunny said:

        But we’re already doing that, all the bleeding time, and as these two LW show most of the time it changes nothing for the better. Also, I didn’t see any mention in this comment of “realising what he did wrong, or had been part of the problem” or any useful advice about how to get through. He had a very basic revelation which, to me, is about as impressive as “OMG women aren’t all automatically delighted by our constant grabby neediness?!” and then turned around and said, essentially, that WE are the ones that need to do more. And the “do more” is basically exactly what we’re ALREADY DOING and what both LW had already tried.

        No. I’m sorry, but no. If the… what is it now, hundreds? If the hundreds of comments in this thread have shown ANYTHING it’s that women are already taking every possible step they can to address this shit while also being mindful of their own safety. It is now up to men to step the fuck up and own their side of it. Not expect us to hold their hands and lead them through. Men aren’t our “charges” and we cannot be held responsible for teaching them how to act like decent human beings.

        We’re not asking for special treatment, after all. Don’t rape, don’t get handsy, don’t treat women as property, treat women as people. That should be the baseline – the absolute MINIMUM standard. Not something to hand out cookies for.

        • Bunny said:

          Also, these “subtle social cues” we leave ain’t some weird code men are unable to understand. There’s been studies shown that men are perfectly capable of interpreting the wishes, needs and emotions of other people based on non-verbal cues and that, in fact, most of human communications between men, between women and between both together is made of non-verbal cues, body language, facial expressions etc.

          Where men are failing is that they IGNORE women’s social cues, or treat them as unimportant, or override the cues they receive with their own assumptions and stereotypes and demands about women. They fail because they forget that we’re people.

          • Kaz said:

            Thanks!

            I ranted about this in a comment further down, but – I’m on the female end of the sexual harrassment equation, and I’m also on the autistic spectrum. Most guys I know are NT, and have the same uncanny near-telepathic skills at navigating social situations, reading cues, understanding body language, etc. as all other NT people I know. I, meanwhile, have struggled to go from “bull in china shop” to “animal size of large dog in china shop” when it comes to social situations, to the background music of everyone else’s contempt and ridicule.

            But! As soon as we enter the territory of sex and romance, the same guys who are leagues beyond me in this business and would never cut me slack for, say, difficulty telling if someone is bored with what I’m saying, will start bemoaning how impossible this body language thing is, and how it is totally unfair to expect them to get it. Bonus points: telling me I can’t possibly understand this because of my gender.

          • Thank you, Kaz! I’m on the autism spectrum myself, and I’ve faced the exact same issue yo describe here. The men will always be “OMG you guys, this is SO HARRRRRD! Please let us just continue so we don’t have to strain our brains.” And I, like you, get no pass whatsoever for continuing a monologue longer than was interesting to others. And at the same time, those dudes will argue that we shouldn’t be suspicious of stranger-creeps, because “OMG what if he’s just autistic?! Then he can’t help it!” Well, no, he can’t. But these guys are willing to give a potentially but unconfirmed autistic guy the benefit of the doubt in cases where he might be a dangerous would-be rapist, whereas a confirmed autistic woman gets no pass even if the worst harm she’s doing is boring people a little. This makes me so rageful. Grrrr.

        • 80sKid said:

          So. I’m a guy, born in ’80. Those minimums are a part of my value set, as is equality as a general principle and expectation, and I’d say most of my peers were raised similarly. They’re challenged, as important values often are, and certainly some of us will live them out more than others, but hopefully decades of efforts haven’t been in vain, and the tide will continue to turn with every generation. Popular media can be a little discouraging, but I think that’s just old wine in new (disturbing) bottles.

      • Except that when we DEMAND, we get dismissed as drama queens, hysterical, overreacting, making way too big a deal, jeez why can’t you just give the guy a break? I am fucking sick of searching for the exact right magical wording that’s just assertive enough to get a guy to pay attention but not so assertive that I get brushed off as a ball-busting feminist bitch.

        If I tell Mr. OtherBecky “that guy is creepy and gross and makes me feel icky”, he listens. He takes me seriously. He doesn’t demand an explanation. That’s one of the many reasons I chose to commit to spending my life with him — he listens to women. Men like that exist. I didn’t have to teach him that. So fuck educating men who need to be gently instructed, in just the right way, that women are people. I don’t do that anymore. There have been times in the past when I put literally MONTHS of effort and heartache and tears into trying to find that magic combination of words. Sometimes I managed it, sometimes I didn’t. It’s not worth it.

        • piny said:

          I think the whole argument goes something like, “Why do you have to be so mean? There’s no reason to get hysterical just because men grab you sometimes. Just carry a gun. That’ll solve your rapist problem.”

        • derored said:

          I just had an idea…. these men who give this sort of advice, who want us to find the right “password” a combination of words that carry the same idea that will unlock the good person buried beneath their friends, are actually carrying on with the same sort of view of people as the guys who continually rephrase their approaches trying to find the “right” combination that will just unlock the girlfriend they just KNEW this girl was for them…

          A guy who will not put at least some effort from his own side, to at least comprehending the ideas told him from women about his behavior toward women, or his friend’s behavior toward women, is fundamentally NOT INTERESTED in considering women equally human to himself.

          Just like a woman who doesn’t happily say yes to a guy’s approaches is NOT INTERESTED in dating him, and finding the “right combination of words” is actually not the problem…

          I’m not sure whether these attitudes come from the same source but they do seem at least a little similar, that when it comes to this one area, humans are really just vending machines. Find the PIN# and unlock the largess!

          • Bunny said:

            Ooh, good insight! It makes a lot of sense, too. If you don’t really, quite get that people are PEOPLE, it’s far too easy to treat human interaction as a conversation tree in ME3. Click through the right combination of conversations with Talia to unlock a bonus sex scene!

      • drst said:

        we can say all we want that men need to be more receptive to this kind of thing, but until they are it is on us to educate them.

        No. It is not my job to educate anyone on how not to be a horrible person. That is on everyone else to learn for their fucking selves. And especially for people lucky enough to have internet access, there is no fucking excuse. If a guy wants to know how not to be a creep? Google it for fuck’s sake.

        See also: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/education.html

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

        What sort of normally functioning adult needs to told constantly “Don’t sleaze onto other people! Don’t treat other people as your sperm receptacle!” for chrissakes? NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

    • human said:

      He was less RISK-AVERSE? So, basically, the only reason you don’t sexually assault women is that it’s too RISKY? Yeah, you should be worried that you’re a creeper.

      And you want us to be more assertive? It’s not our job to shout you down so that you don’t assault people. Get some fucking control over your own self. Jeez.

    • PomperaFirpa said:

      I never realized how vulnerable women can be around men they don’t trust.

      Fixed that for you.

      I swear to God, my next lifetime I want to be a guy. It must be so nice to get to be so oblivious all the time without suffering any consequences to your personal safety.

      • But it’s so HAAAAAARD to be a man! We ladies can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be treated in uncomfortable ways because of our gender!

      • Not It said:

        And sadly, women can be vulnerable to men they DO trust, like men in their circle of friends, who are nice guys and charming conversationalists and good cooks.

        Women are vulnerable, as noted above, because of sexual dimorphism. Not all women to all men, but generally speaking, we are at risk simply because we are women.

        I am a recreational athlete (on a co-ed team) and a self-defense instructor. I have hit men before. I am taller than the average man and very strong. I once outran a man with a gun. I am not an easy victim. I am not going easy. And a runty couch potato who never works out and doesn’t know how to make a fist is stronger than I am. And it makes me furious, because sometimes I am afraid. Afraid of the guy in the parking garage, the older man who stops by my office just to say hi, the car full of guys who honk and holler at me, the man who followed me through the state park, the UPS guy.

        Do I walk around in fear? No. But like ALL women, I have plenty of creepy stories to tell. That story about the museum–EXACT same thing happened to me. That story about walking up and the house guest being on top of the commentator–EXACT same thing happened to a friend of mine. That story about the medical professional feeling up a girl’s boobs–EXACT same thing happened to a relative.

        These are shared experiences. We are telling the truth. We are not exaggerating. If you are a women, anywhere on this planet, you live with this. Old, young, skinny, fat, rich, poor, any race, any creed, nun, prostitute (especially prostitutes), unemployed, wearing short shorts, wearing a burka, out late at night, at home with all the doors locked, drunk, sober–this is a reality.

        The man with the gun tried to kill me. I was more afraid of being raped.

    • Kaz said:

      It’s an awkward position to be a guy. When dealing with women you’re interested in, you have to be assertive, but respectful, and there’s some grey area on what is appropriate that depends on what are, to us, subtle social cues.

      *bangs head against wall*

      I am so very, very sick and tired of the whole “but you can’t expect the poor guys to understand your mysterious social cues!” bullshit.

      Guess what? Most guys are pretty okay with body language and social cues. Most guys are much better on that front than I am, in fact! Because, you know, most guys are NT and I am actually on the autistic spectrum! And nobody’s ever cut me any slack when I struggle with the social cues surrounding romance and dating. Never mind the fact that for someone who’s read as female, the consequences for messing up can be *much much* worse for than for a guy. I mean, the last time I seriously misread signals in that context I was sexually assaulted? And it left me achingly aware of how vulnerable I am to that kind of thing happening again? So I’m afraid I don’t exactly have much sympathy for someone whose main problem with the amount of nonverbal language and subtle cues that happens re: romance is that it makes it hard for them to find a date!

      Also, everything everyone else has said.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        THANK YOU FOR THIS OH MY GOD I KNOW I SHOULDN’T BE ALL CAPS BUT SERIOUSLY YOU’D THINK ALL WOMEN WERE HOT COMPLETELY POISED CHEERLEADERS OR SOMETHING FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY AND PROFANE I CANNOT EVEN.

        Shorter me: ITA, and eleventy!!11!!, Kaz.

      • Bunny said:

        Kaz, thank you! it’s shitty how much of a pass we’re expected to give men about social cues, when women, even neuro-atypical women, are expected to be somehow PERFECT at it, to the point we’re expected to take responsibility and compensate for the men not getting it, and where we’re in actual physical danger if we struggle at any point.

        I’m so sorry you’ve been assaulted. This shit makes my blood boil.

      • merry.murderess said:

        I am so sorry to hear that happened to you, and I am fully outraged on your behalf.

    • Copcher said:

      “Some very light grumbling from our female friends was dismissed because I felt bad for him and I worried that I was a creeper also.

      It wasn’t until sometime later when I had a long chat with a close female friend and she told me how she wouldn’t be comfortable hanging out with him alone that I started to realize it was more serious than I had thought. I never realized how vulnerable women can feel around men they don’t trust.

      This is why the women who wrote these letters MUST be assertive with their charges. The men in their lives must not be allowed to dismiss the incidents as the borderline behavior of someone sad/lonely/socially clueless.”

      Okay, seriously? I don’t know how you define “light grumbling,” but I’d guess that these women were speaking up as much as they felt they could without being ostracized for creating drama.

      Your comment makes me incredibly angry. When I was a teenager, I had a partner (a guy) who liked to do some sexual stuff that I really, really did not enjoy. I told him I didn’t want to do those things, and often that meant we didn’t do them, but every once in a while he would push, and beg, and plead, and “but I like it soooooo much can we pleeeeeease do it?” and I would get exhausted of telling him no, and I’d just suffer through it and hope it would end soon. One time (the final time), I became very visibly uncomfortable, and he noticed, and we stopped. And he told me (in what I’m sure he thought was a very sympathetic way) that I needed to let him know when I was that uncomfortable. At the time, I felt confused, because I really didn’t know what I could have said to make him know just how much I didn’t want to do the stuff he wanted to do. After we broke up, I realized that he was totally out of line to say that. He knew I really didn’t want to do those things because I’d told him, but by pressuring me to do them, he got me to say yes and could pretend that maybe I didn’t really mind. He decided that what he wanted was more important than how I felt about it, until he had no more plausible deniability. Just like you, Svatopluk, decided that your sympathy for this guy was more important than how your female friends felt until one of them forced you to take her concerns seriously. Your realization means nothing if you then use it to absolve you and other men of any responsibility.

      • Cheshire said:

        I am so, so sorry that happened to you. I mean, I just… I can’t even…. God, I’m so sorry.

        • Copcher said:

          Thank you. I’m actually okay now, just very, very angry at the system that let him get away with pretending I hadn’t been clear enough. And also pretty angry at the guy. System or no system, he had no excuse.

    • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

      OFFS. How difficult is it to show interest in someone by treating them as, like, you know, a potential FRIEND? Like an actual human being, the way you presumably would with another bloke? Why is it seemingly so difficult to figure out that you do not hit on someone or treat her like she owes you attention or paw her or make sexual jokes? What’s so flaming difficult about the concept of women as human beings, not as toys in a shop window, ferchrissake?

      This is down to MEN to correct their behaviour. It is not down to women to try to correct it. Grow the hell up and stop lumping the role of Mummy onto us. It’s not like many of you fucking well listen to us anyway.

  67. CBM said:

    Some people just do not get the point. Creepy dude is one of them. And sadly some of them never do. I ran into one such several years ago with my eventual significant other, at a LAN center on Halloween, despite being told flat out that she was uninterested (we were there to game and shoot things while getting loaded on caffeine and sugar, not dating). He continued to hit on her despite, not only my presence warning him off, and several others glaring him down, but despite the handcuffs chaining her to me as part of the costume. It got really weird after being basically shout at to leave by the whole group of us he still didn’t seem to understand he was unwanted.

    He left to go to his own job eventually and while we never saw him again we did hear things. He started telling people he was dating the ex of one of our group when really she had moved away and was later arrested for stalking a highschool student.

    • FlyBy said:

      You really think he didn’t understand? I’d bet good money that he understood perfectly well but thought that if he was persistent enough he’d get to stay close to the woman and continue hitting on her. It’s probably worked for him before – as seen in this thread, a lot of groups won’t tell a creeper to GTFO en masse. From your description he didn’t retreat even when your group did. He thinks if he can be more stubborn than everyone else, he can successfully force his will on the situation and get access to the woman, and that’s often how it ends up working. That wasn’t cluelessness, that was tactics.

  68. Rachel said:

    Men like that actually scare me so much, I don’t mean they make me feel uncomfortable I mean they make me feel full on terrified shaking with fear and everything. Jokes about body parts or about rape or about women as sex objects, being touched by someone I don’t know. It’s terrifying. If you think you are ” a nice guy” and you’re not doing anything wrong and you’re reading this please understand that you can’t understand. Please just stop doing it.

    • Ellen Cameron said:

      Of course, the real problem is that this kind of harassment is NEVER about affection and respect; consciously or unconsciously, it’s *always* about power. Single-minded pursuit of power with no consideration of others is not rational and can’t be dealt with on a rational basis; the only functional response is to demonstrate that you have more power than the jerk does, whether by screaming or fighting back or enlisting defenders or saying something that makes others laugh at him — whatever it takes.

  69. Starr said:

    dear captain awkward, yours is one of the best pro-female blogs that I have ever seen. amazing.

  70. Creeper #1 said:

    Creeper #1 Here, no thanks for that label. And no thanks for lumping me in with the rapist, too.

    I’m sure you’ll understand why I choose to remain anonymous.

    I just want to clarify that after that discussion, I had a good long think, and I’ve determined that I need to be much more careful in my use of alcohol. My mother is an alcoholic, so I’m sensitive to this already. If my facebook post was a little vague, it’s because I didn’t want to share that many details with everyone who I’ve friended on facebook. (Like my extended family.)

    See, I hosted a different party that my LW-friend wasn’t at. There were a bunch of men and a bunch of women. We drank some drinks, and had a good time. And there was discussion of sex, inside a mixed group of men and women! And no one was offended!

    See, ever since the discussion LW1 mentioned, I’ve been thinking hard about this, and I had come to the sad conclusion that I just can’t allow the discussion to go anywhere near sex in mixed company. But that’s clearly not the case. There clearly are ways for men and women to have fun enjoying each other’s company, even when joking about sex is part of the menu; even with alcohol.

    Also, thanks to “Flaw in the System”, above, for telling people that mocking me for not having had sex in two years is not cool. It’s really not.

    For the peanut gallery, just take this away: I may be a loser, but I’m not a rapist. It’s not fair to call me one or lump me in with them.

    • So after reading the very candid letter about you and the very clear comments that focused NOT JUST on drinking BUT ALSO on behavior, your conclusion is that you just need to have different people at your parties who can talk and joke about sex? With the clear attempt to imply that LW was the one who was just sooooo offended and that she was the problem?

      WOW. Just WOW. Hey, LW? It’s awesome that you tried to engage with this guy and went the extra mile to give him the benefit of the doubt, but clearly you shouldn’t bother.

      • Just WOW, indeed. You called it.

        Creep #1, go read the above-referenced links about how not to be a creeper. You’re still not getting it.

      • Creeper #1 said:

        No, Celeloriel, you have the time line wrong.

        1. Candid conversation with LW1.

        2. A lot of thinking. Conclude two things:
        A. I should be a lot more careful with my drinking.
        B. It is not safe to joke about sex, at all.

        3. Have another party, LW1 not present, because I don’t know why at the time. Party contains mixed company joking about sex, but is comfortable.

        4. Begin to question conclusion B.

        5. Make facebook post mentioning that I have begun to doubt B, but without any detail.

        6. LW1 posts here.

        I don’t know where the “Clear attempt to imply that LW1 is the problem” is. That seems to be your problem, not mine.

        Here are my current thoughts:

        1. This shit is complex.
        2. I don’t want to be creepy; I’d like to be friendly with my friends, regardless of their sex.
        3. No one is going to help me with #2.

        • destro said:

          4. Begin to question conclusion B./I>

          Are you kidding me? Wherein you question conclusion B, because of #3 wherein LW1 isn’t present.

          And you don’t understand where people are getting this from?

          I don’t know where the “Clear attempt to imply that LW1 is the problem” is. That seems to be your problem, not mine.

          You know what, I’ll let you choose, which is kinder: you’re really that dumb, or you think everyone else is that dumb.

        • Bunny said:

          3. No one is going to help me with #2.

          People might, but people aren’t obligated to. You’re an adult, LW. Your friends are adults and you’re a decade older than them, so you should be many years past the stage where other people can reasonably be expected to educate you on what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. This is stuff people learn in their teens and early adulthood. If you were younger, I’d be more willing to give a pass and be more nicey-nicey about teaching you, because I’m not that old myself and I know for sure I have done some stupid, thoughtless shit in my youth.

          But that sort of leeway only goes so far.

          As it happens, though, there are loads of people willing to help and give advice! Google Dr Nerdlove. His primary focus is on helping awkward dudes with their dating issues, but every single bit of advice he gives is easily translatable for use regarding friendships, acquaintances and pretty much every kind of relationship one human being can have with another.

          And in truth, you could’ve written your own letter here, even, if you were genuinely concerned. “Dear Captain, I have come to realise that I may be a creeper. I am mortified by the realisation that I’ve been behaving in ways that make my friends uncomfortable and want to change. Please can you give me advice on how to proceed?” Given how timely such a question would be, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see your letter as a blog post within the next week or 2!

          But this post isn’t about helping you, or making you feel better. It’s for people who are feeling threatened and triggered and skeeved out by creepers and what help and support they need. Don’t make this post all about you.

          • anneka said:

            “But this post isn’t about helping you, or making you feel better. It’s for people who are feeling threatened and triggered and skeeved out by creepers and what help and support they need. Don’t make this post all about you.”

            Bunny, this is a really important point. Thanks for making it. C#1, I felt anxious on the LW’s behalf when I saw you’d commented, and it seems like you came to complain about feeling victimized. Please think about how your behavior and words have resulted in women feeling unsafe before, and then in what way that might contextualize your behavior and words here.

          • +1

        • PomperaFirpa said:

          3. No one is going to help me with #2.

          You’re looking in the wrong place for it, friend; this thread is about LW’s problems with you not listening to her and how she can talk with her husband about dealing with that, not about how you can fix your game. I am not without heart, though! It’s been mentioned before, but here it is again: Doctor NerdLove may be able to clear up where you’re going wrong.

          Your perception of your YAY SEX-TALKY PARTY self is not apparently the perception that other people in your social circle have. Other people have a different perception, and that perception makes them feel creeped out and kind of wanting to avoid your company! Most of these people are apparently ladies, who have many, many years of being trained by society to avoid letting creepy guys know that they’re creepy, because often creepy guys get violent about that kind of thing. (Clearly you would not, being a good guy and all, I’m just saying: this is something that comes from experience with other, not-you guys.) The best defense is just to avoid the dude.

          Nothing wrong with talking about sex. Nothing wrong with flirting. I would argue, though, that if you’re still in a dry spell (I have been there, boy howdy) and you’re hearing bad reviews of your chosen technique, you might want to try something else. You might, in fact, want to listen to what the ladies are saying on this one, since it sounds like that’s your target demographic.

          Doctor NerdLove can help you out. In the meantime, we’re still gonna concentrate on How To Deal With Dudes Who Don’t Listen, which is the major topic and, startlingly, still a problem.

          • Bunny, PomperaFirpa: thanks for the shout out there. You both asked for the checks to be made out to “cash”, right?

            (ahem)

            I’m going to back them up here: it’s on *you*, LW1, to learn how to not creep people out. The people who are creeped out by you are under no obligation to fix things for you, and you can’t expect people to make exceptions for you because you’re LW1 and you’d never actually hurt anyone.

            I have an acquaintance in my social circle who hits the Creepy Vibe all the goddamned time, even with people who know him well and know that he’s about as dangerous as a sack of fat, cuddly, sleepy gerbils. Knowing that he means well and is just socially awkward doesn’t make it any more unpleasant for the women around him.

            You need to own your tendency to be creepy by accident and learn how get better at reading social cues. If booze is involved you need to cut back – God knows I’ve said things I’ve regretted after having had a few – but having had one too many doesn’t absolve you of having made mistakes; you need to be willing to say “Hey, I’m sorry that I creeped you out, I totally didn’t mean to scare you,” then go forth and creep no more.

            Please notice very carefully that the script says “*I* creeped you out,” not “I’m sorry you thought I was creepy.” Putting the blame on the creeped is a dick move and is another way of trying to avoid taking responsibility.

          • Er, I meant Creeper 1, not LW1 and there doesn’t seem to be a way I can edit my comment. Sorry about that.

        • Jolly said:

          “3. Have another party, LW1 not present, because I don’t know why at the time. Party contains mixed company joking about sex, but is comfortable.”

          My main question here would be, were they really comfortable, or were you oblivious to the fact that you were making people uncomfortable? Not trying to be accusatory, but as the billion comments on this thread can attest to, there is a lot of appeasement and smiles that people (women) throw down when confronted with a situation that makes them uncomfortable, in order to smooth things over. Maybe this party really WAS just an interesting discussion about sex, I wasn’t there and have no idea. But if your past behavior made enough people feel bad enough that this girl felt the need to write into an advice column about you, I have to wonder if, without meaning to be a jerk, you’ve managed to really alienate people with your behavior and will continue to do so without realizing it.

          Also, the idea that “no one is going to help you out” to not be creepy isn’t true. While other people here are all too ready to come down on you for “not being a grown up” or something because maybe you need help, fuck that. Social interactions are a learned skill, and some people are just shit at them without being bad people or children. Some people DO need help, and telling them “fuck you, deal with it” just makes everything worse, for them and for the people they are friends with. If you really want help to not accidentally be creepy in the future, ask a friend who you trust to be honest and who cares about you for their help. I mean, hell, the person who WROTE the letter seems to like you apart from your unintentional creepiness, and it sounded like you have friends who want to be supportive. Maybe she or someone else would be happy to go to a party with you and help be your eyes in terms of noting when you might be making people uncomfortable and letting you know about it. Maybe the suggestion of this sort of “social seeing eye dog” is offensive to you, but all I am trying to say is that you seem to have decided that either there isn’t a problem, or there is a problem but there is nothing you can do about it, and both of those seem like bullshit to me. I mean, certainly you don’t HAVE to do anything about it, but the odds are that if you continue to act in the way that inspired this letter, you will continue to alienate people you want to be friends with, including potential girlfriends/fuckbuddies/whatever kind of interaction you want with the opposite sex, and that sounds kind of shitty for you.

    • Bunny said:

      Boo fucking hoo. If you act like a predator, don’t get surprised or offended when people tell you that you’re making them feel like prey. Creeper is what you’re being called, because what you’re doing is creepy. And doing creepy things, especially after you’ve been asked not to, is the definition of being-a-creeper.

      If you want to clarify the situation, seeing as how none of us know you or would even know you’d read this post, and even now still have no idea who you are… wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a talk with the people you’ve hurt and offended, rather than rushing off to the internet to get pissy at total strangers?

      Not to mention, this should go without saying. But, “discussions of sex” are not equal to…

      “telling them to expose themselves, telling them their skirts weren’t flying high enough while they were dancing, hitting on them when he knows they have boyfriends.”

      or

      “asked where her boyfriend was, and when he was told that the BF was out of town he put his hands on her shoulders and told her that BF had “forfeited” her for the evening.”

      Oh… and you may be so sure that no one was offended by your behaviour, but since LW also said

      “I’m the one who hasn’t been driven off – the rest of our female friends are flat-out avoiding him for their own safety and I can’t blame them one bit for it)”

      and

      “They all agree that something needs to be done about his behavior, but for them it’s not as urgent, I guess.”

      Maybe you’d benefit from actually listening to what LW and her friends are telling you?

      • Creeper #1 said:

        I’ve never told anyone to expose themselves.

        In fact, I saw that, and was quite relieved that this wasn’t about me. After all, I may have fucked up some, but I was never that bad.

        • 1) Even if this is true, the rest of that shit is still predatory and wrong.

          2) “She was lying/exaggerating/overreacting” is not exactly going to make people here think kindly of you, for reasons that should be obvious if you have reading comprehension skills.

        • You’ve never asked a girl to flash you. You’ve never asked to see more cleavage. You’ve never suggested a girl go streaking. You’ve never asked for a strip tease or a “private show.” You’ve never suggested girls-only strip poker or girls-only skinny dipping.

          “telling them to expose themselves” refers to many many situations.

      • Well said.

    • delbelcoure said:

      I’m glad you commented here. Could you clear up some questions for me?

      “and he’s driving away all of his female friends with his behavior”

      It seems that women have left your friend group because of your behavior. It sounds like you’re okay with this and don’t intend to moderate your behavior so you won’t eventually drive off new female group members or long time members who you’ve finally pushed too far. Do you realize that it’s possible that the women who seemed to be okay with your joking may be unwilling to show their discomfort in front of you? or unwilling to be seen as uncool in front of you or other group members, despite any discomfort? LW did you a favor by letting you in on some important information (which hundreds of commenters have backed up with personal stories) and you blow it off?

      “tell us we have no sense of humor when we don’t find them funny.”

      It seems like you have gotten feedback that your comments weren’t funny in the past and were defensive, putting your right to be funny/sexist/ whatever you view it as above their right to be respected as human being and feel safe at friendly gatherings. Is this true?

      “approached one of my friends, asked where her boyfriend was, and when he was told that the BF was out of town he put his hands on her shoulders and told her that BF had “forfeited” her for the evening.”

      This isn’t good. How do you justify this as good?

      “hitting on the bride’s family members (including her 16-year-old cousin) ”

      Even flirtingly chatting up a 16 year old is a socially fraught situation, especially if there is an age gap. Here’s how one of my friends handled this situation. F was talking with mr. delbelcoure and me when he saw a cute young woman. He started off towards her, mr. delbelcoure said “Hey ,F, she’s 16″ and F appeared to magically leap back towards us and he left her alone. Not creepy. Can you see the difference?

      ”I know I’m not a creeper, and everyone else knows, but I guess I’ve made a few faux pas with friends-of-friends”
      It sounds like more than one person does think you are a creeper and your response seems to be to blow off this very useful information. Why would you want to continue the above actions? Is this really the person you want to be?

      • Creeper #1 said:

        I don’t want to drive away my friends, female or otherwise. There have been two times when I’ve been told, “hey, you were creeping so-and-so out.” both times, they were friends-of-friends, who I only saw at larger, invite-everyone-you-know kinds of parties. It didn’t seem appropriate to try and track down someone you see twice a year at best to apologize. In fact I hear that that sort of thing is popular with _actual_ sexual predators (http://glvalentine.livejournal.com/340623.html)

        I realize that it’s possible to step over the line and not be called on it. It terrifies me that I might do such a thing — how would I even know that happened? (Okay, I guess another friend might link to a place where I’m being discussed anonymously on the internet…)

        And when LW1 told me about what happened at the park, my reply was, “I said that? I did that? I must have been drinking way too much, because that is way out of line.” Because it is out of line. What I said that night was _not ok_, and I know it. Unfortunately, this is one of the two friend-of-a-friend times, and there is no obvious way for me to make an apology to this person. :-( The best I can do, is to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and the primary way to do that is to moderate my alcohol intake.

        So, I do not justify it as good. I regret it, and I hope to learn from it.

        As for the 16 year old, here’s end of that story. I was driving home, and someone said, “What were you doing flirting with so-and-so’s cousin. You know she’s only sixteen, right?” To which I replied, “yuck, I didn’t know that. That’s awful.” (I remember her initiating the flirting, and i have no idea why.) If someone had told me her age at the time, I would have excused myself much faster than I did.

        I would much rather meet women my own age, thank you very much. I randomly happen to have friends who are a bit younger than me. I know that I’m not going to meet anyone who will be interested in me in that group, nor will I meet anyone I’m interested in. It’s not an appropriate place to look for a date, in my opinion.

        And just to clarify about “spending the entire reception trying to get laid”. I flirted with one person for a few minutes. Then I hung out with my friends for the next 3-ish hours.

        Thank you for asking specific questions I could answer, and not just presuming that I must be a villain.

        • alphakitty said:

          Another question: how do you know you are Creeper #1? The fact that someone directed you here — and apparently not LW1? — seems to confirm that you and your behavior are considered an issue in your friend circle. Which suggests that again, you may be able to dissect and rebut individual examples to your satisfaction, but the overall effect is that you are making people uncomfortable.

        • delbelcoure said:

          Do you really want to grow as a person and take an honest look at you behavior? Because if you do, i will spend some time crafting a reply to this. But if you simply want to justify your behavior by answering some of my questions partway and others in ways that justify your behavior, I won’t bother. I will truly try to help you though if you are open to it (at least once more) because i know that I have rooted unpleasant traits out of my personality and am willing to believe that you might want to as well.

          • Creeper #1 said:

            I do.

          • Creeper #1 said:

            On Second thought, I do, but this is clearly not the right forum. If there’s a reasonable place to do so, it would be best to follow-up there.

          • delbelcoure said:

            Looks like the other commenters have given you the clue already and you decided to pick it up. Best of luck on weeding out these traits and replacing them with awesome ones.

        • Ugh said:

          “The best I can do, is to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and the primary way to do that is to moderate my alcohol intake.”

          I feel super icky about this statement here. Like, the best way to make sure it happens again is to not do it. Most people have certain lines they won’t cross no matter how drunk they are. There is no amount of drunk I could be to think that driving a car, going naked outside in the snow, or sexually harassing my friends’ gf was a good idea. Straight up, wouldn’t happen. Since you’re still alive, I think you might want to consider why some of these lines are there for you and some are not. Why are you willing to prevent yourself from getting in a car or a life-threatening situation, but not to prevent yourself from sexually harrassing women?

          If you’re actually sorry, you might want to just own it and not post repeatedly of Facebook to try to justify it, and not make DRAMA statements like “GASP! Sexual comments in a mixed group” when you’ve already admitted you know that’s not the problem here.

    • Creeper #1:

      People have to judge you based on your actions, not your intentions. The actions you take are very similar to the actions rapists take, before they rape – testing boundaries and seeing who complains. It’s awesome that you’re not a rapist, but in that case you probably want to stop behaving in ways that make you seem like you might be one.

      Similarly, it sounds like you might not have great skills, right now, at talking about sex with women. I know you hosted a party that seems to have gone well, but that doesn’t mean it actually did. Given that the woman who approached you about the issue didn’t have great luck, the odds are high that if you did make people uncomfortable, no one would tell you.

      If you don’t know how to bring up sex around women in your community without making them uncomfortable, then that is actually good news. It’s good news because that’s a skill you can learn and practice! It will help if you find a trusted friend to help be your external barometer. Ideally this friend is a woman who cares about you, but who has been made unhappy by your previous behavior. That way you can trust that she sees the problem clearly, but will stick with you as you learn. Hopefully you have strong enough personal relationships that someone in your life is willing to do this.

      I think minimizing or avoiding booze is a damn good idea, too – especially while you’re learning.

      I hope you decide to change your behavior, and I wish you the best of luck!

      • Creeper #1 said:

        Heh. A skill learnable only by chasing off all of my female friends. Doesn’t seem like the best plan. Unfortunately, the person who seemed most likely to be able to tell me is I’d gone over that line, is… LW1. So, I think I’m just screwed on this one.

        Thank you for your well-wishes. Also, thank you for the point about testing boundaries. I never really thought about it in that way before.

        • I never really thought about it in that way before.

          Did you read elodieunderglass’s comment above, about Dr. Glass, Luminous, and Awkward Dude? You never thought about it in that way before because you’ve never had to. Because you don’t have to constantly perform threat assessments. This does not make you a bad person, as long as you’re willing to adjust your behavior based on the knowledge that women may assume you’re not a safe person for them to be around.

          But… why were you testing people’s boundaries in the first place? Apparently, it wasn’t part of a scheme to choose a victim, but that doesn’t make it an okay thing to do. I really don’t understand that.

          And if you do scary shit that you don’t even remember later when you drink, you need to a) knock it off with the drinking and b) talk to a professional. Because alcohol releases inhibitions, it doesn’t create new impulses. Those impulses were already in there somewhere. I think you need to figure out where they’re coming from.

        • Sheelzebub said:

          I. . .wow. It’s not as if no one has told you what the deal was and how you made people feel. LW1 told you. How are you screwed on this when she told you, specifically, what you’ve done? You just saw in this letter your actions that have creeped people out. You mentioned two other times people have pointed this out. You’re screwing yourself here, because you’re turning around the justifiable irritation and anger people are expressing at your behavior by making it all about YOU and your feelings. LW 1 did tell you and instead of listening and considering you screwed yourself by posting about it on FB and then getting pissy here, in this blog comments section, with people who don’t know you from a tree frog.

          The thing is, you didn’t have to track the women down and apologize. You DO have to change your behavior. Would you do this to a guy? No? Then don’t do it to a woman. Yes, it may put a crimp in flirting, but you know what? I’m not much of a flirt and I’ve managed to date without any problems. The men I date have talked to me like I’m a person, have been interested in what I think and what I’ve done, and have shared stuff about what they think and what they’ve done. We’ve had conversations. In those conversations, we’d figure out pretty quickly our approximate ages (or at least the fact that we’re not minors) and our interest levels.

          Here’s the thing: when you’re hitting on someone, you’re not actually getting to know them. In the case of the 16-year-old girl, if you were actually flirting you’d be talking to her and learning about her. And you’d find out she likes certain pop bands that you’ve never heard of but that maybe your babysitter likes, that she goes to school (and that it would be high school), that she oh, I dunno, likes judo or true crime novels or needlepoint or painting her toenails green. You’d have gotten to know enough about her to know that she was WAY too young. And you still would have had a nice conversation with a (hopefully, nice) kid. And you could have had other conversations with other people and gotten to know them.

          I know–you were just flirting! And you didn’t know she was 16! But the fact that your friend pointed out to you that it was obvious you were “flirting” with her tells me you weren’t just talking to her and getting to know her. You were hitting on her. And it was obvious if your friend had to mention it. If you just exchanged a few friendly words with her, no one would have been all like, “Dude, SHE’S SIXTEEN.” They’d have been like, “Oh, I saw you talking to so-and-so’s daughter. Isn’t she a nice kid? Her mom says she’s stressing out about college applications.”

        • I think if you make a clear commitment to learning, and demonstrate early and often that you’re responsive to feedback, at least some people will be patient with you.

          Here’s a sample script you could use with a trusted friend:

          “I realize that I have done some things in the past that have made women I care about feel uncomfortable. I would like to fix this behavior, but I don’t think I can do it in one fell swoop. Would you be willing to help me get better at this? I would ask you to help me identify what to work on first, to point out to me when I’m being an inadvertent jerk, and to be a point of contact for people who don’t feel comfortable raising issues with me directly. I can promise to listen and I will do my best to correct my behavior. Take a day or two to think about it, and let me know if you’d be willing to help. If not, do you think you could suggest someone who might be?”

          Here’s a sample script you can use with the other women in your community:

          “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I realize I’ve behaved inappropriately in the past. I don’t think I can change my habits overnight, but Our Mutual Friend has agreed to advise me in developing better habits in the long term. I hope you’ll be patient with me as I try to change. If I do anything that upsets you, I hope you’ll let me know so I can improve! But if you don’t feel comfortable talking to me directly, you can talk to Our Mutual Friend and she’ll make sure I get the feedback I need. Thanks so much for listening, and I hope that this change will improve our relationship.”

          These both depend on your actually being willing to change. It’s going to be hard – I can tell you that from experience! – but also worthwhile. Again, good luck to you.

        • via_ostiense said:

          Dude, you’ve tried to talk about sex, and the effect has been “chasing off all of [your] female friends.” Maybe what you should’ve learned was that you shouldn’t talk about sex the way you do it. It sounds like you think LW1 or another woman should be there to constantly tell you, “Nope, that was too far, nope, that sounded creepy, nope, not that way, either,” after each time you say something about sex so that you can calibrate your level of speech to something not creepy.

          The thing is, you’re an adult and you should be able to do your own level of calibration rather than outsourcing it to someone else. LW1 and your female friends have better things to do than hold up signs saying, “10.0 on the creepy scale” while you figure your shit out.

        • maggie said:

          Yeah, you never had to think about the implications of boundary-testing. Lucky you.

          I’ve had a fuck buddy who started badgering me for sex after I told him I needed a break.

          I had a second date where I got naked penis poking around my bits.

          Would either of them have raped me? I don’t know and fortunately I didn’t have to stick around to find out. I even told both of them why. One said “Huh, I don’t remember doing that” with the implication of “whew crazy lady overreactions!”. The second said “OMG YOU ARE THE WORST YOU’RE CALLING ME A RAPIST”. It’s totally my fault for doubting their intentions when they do creepy shit, sure!

          In the “My friend is a rapist” thread, someone linked to Shakesville’s survivor stories. Go read that. So many of them involve a phrase similar to “I had trusted him”. Think about how fucking scary it is to know that *even people you trust* can betray you. Read stories by women, learn to see past your damned privilege.

      • It’s awesome that you’re not a rapist

        Also, no. Creeper #1, you do not get a fucking cookie for NOT BEING A RAPIST. Congratulations, you have met the bare minimum of human decency toward women by not raping them. However, you have not achieved the next-to-bare-minimum of human decency toward women, since women are afraid you will assault them. Boo fucking hoo.

        • Creeper #1 said:

          That’s fine. I’m not looking for cookies.

          What I would like is to be able to have women, who are my friends, actually be my friends, and not my I-put-up-with-you-because-you’re-part-of-the-crown-but-actually-I’m-afraid-of-you .

          (Clearly, from the other conversations I’m having here, I have some behavioral changes to make if I want that to be the case.)

        • Er, I was the one who said it’s awesome he’s not a rapist. Perhaps my bar is just way too low.

          • Jess H, I knew what you were getting at, but the way you phrased it — which was again about focusing on Creeper’s feelings rather than the women’s feelings — just made my Absurdity Radar go out of control. But yeah, if we’re at the point where guys are defending their scary actions by saying “Well I didn’t rape her,” then we are looking at a pathetically low bar indeed.

          • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

            “Focussing on the Creeper’s feelings” is what I’m getting (okay, I used that phrase as a get-in at this point!) to say that’s what strikes me about his whole comment thread. It just reads to me like, “But I want to talk about sex! I want! I! Not a whole hell of a lot of concern about what he has done to LW1 and other women. It all seems to be as much about how upset he is and how it crimps his party style and how, frankly, it might hurt his chances of getting laid. Concern for the fear and trauma he’s created? Not much. Not much.

          • Ah, I see your point. In this case, I wanted to address the feelings of unhappiness and confusion as quickly as possible in order to move on to focus on the behavior. As in, “It’s terrific that you don’t intend to rape anyone, but that doesn’t actually address the problem.” I didn’t want to get hung up on questions of intent or identity because they don’t matter unless the behavior gets fixed.

    • alphakitty said:

      Ah, the straw man technique: you mischaracterize what people said so you can rail against the injustice of it.

      Nobody called you a rapist. Mostly, people didn’t even call you a loser. They tagged you as a guy who does not behave appropriately around women, in ways that make a significant number of those women feel uncomfortable to the point of being unsafe. And having dealt with lots of people like that, the commenters said ick, bleah, ditch the creeper. And their casual dismissiveness offended you, and seemed unfair and reactionary, because it does not acknowledge your finer points.

      The thing is, your current behavior is like dung. After a while it is not reasonable to expect your women friends to dig through dung to find your finer points; there are plenty of other guys who don’t hide their jewels in dung.

      You can either be defensive, and insist that you’re doing nothing wrong, and keep on doing what you’re doing despite the knowledge that it is making people who you consider your friends uncomfortable to the point of feeling unsafe… or you can take a deep breath and seriously *consider* the possibility that there might be something in what LW1 says about you — that there might, at the very least, be some disparity between who you think you are and the way you are coming across. That there might be legitimate reasons for women to react to you the way they are. That if you were willing to *try* to see yourself and the world from your female friends’ perspective, you might have better, more meaningful relationships with them… and maybe address your lack of sexual partners.

      If you are determined not to be changed by the realization that your friend feels so creeped out by you that she has spoken to others in your circle about you as a Problem (and been affirmed by them), and written to an online advice blogger, and lots of others have written in and said “Yeah, that is Creeper behavior,” so be it.

      But if you value her friendship, and are open to the possibility of change, check out the links that Shinobi42 posted just a little above. They are gold.

      • Creeper #1 said:

        It seems clear to _me_, that combining the two letters together is an attempt to say that the problems are of like kind, and only separated by degree. I mean, the phrase “rape culture” is in the first paragraph. But I just told another poster not to read implications that aren’t really there.

        Maybe it’s all a misunderstanding. Maybe the Captain didn’t mean to imply that I was the same kind of thing as a rapist.

        I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes. I would much prefer not to be creepy.

        • They are of like kind. Both are about friend circles where one man is making the women really uncomfortable, and the women’s feelings and legitimate fears aren’t being taken seriously. That’s not the same as calling you a rapist. Methinks you need to read more about what rape culture actually is. Saying that someone’s actions are in line with/supported by/reinforcing of the rape culture =/= saying that person is a rapist.

        • Ugh said:

          The issue is that there is no way to determine the difference between “person who doesn’t respect some sexual boundaries” and “person who doesn’t respect ANY sexual boundaries” until actual sexual assault happens.

          You’ve never sexually assaulted a sleeping woman, like Ben. Good for you. But before this happened, what do you think the warning signs in Ben were? If someone touches people in a creepy or secual way when they’re awake, it MASSIVELY increases the odds that they have would do go further when someone is unconscious.

          These warning signs are called “being creepy,” and women are told that they’re not a big deal, and that men have a right to touch them or hit on them or make them feel scared whenever, by “rape culture.” That’s the common thread here.

        • alphakitty said:

          “I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes. I would much prefer not to be creepy.”

          Then stop picking at LW1’s examples, and specific phraseology, and trying to present yourself as misunderstood and not that bad.

          The folks who write in don’t actually have any desire to hate you! We’d be thrilled to think that you might indeed be teachable! LW wanted you to be salvageable, that’s why she started out by putting herself on the line with you! We are NOT out to get you, to believe the worst, etc. We’re just not willing to mince words. And the more you argue with us and sound like you don’t want to hear what we have to say? The more we lose optimism and respect for you.

          Instead of monitoring this site for the next few hours, going back and forth with commenters like me, go away and visit the links people have posted on this thread and the next one. Learn about male privilege, and rape culture. Think about the scary world women live in, and why women are constantly engaged in threat-analysis, and why a guy who shows he is the very least clueless about boundaries is alarming.

          • JenniferP said:

            Everything alphakitty and Sheelzebub (I can always count on you guys to be awesome) said.

            Creeper, go read the links. Walk away from the internet. Think about stuff. Read some books by women.

        • PomperaFirpa said:

          I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that this is your first exposure to the phrase RAPE CULTURE and that your immediate reaction is “That means that all men want to rape women! I don’t want to rape women! This phrase is bullshit and I am being misrepresented and slandered!”

          That isn’t what it means. It’s not referring to rape, it’s referring to the culture that makes rape incredibly common, blames the victims for putting themselves in a position where they could be raped, and teaches women to avoid, at all costs, making a fuss over things that make them feel threatened, because they won’t be taken seriously anyway. It’s the culture that lets men get away with doing the things that make women feel threatened, because their feelings are so much more important than the women’s feelings.

          THAT is the common ground between the two letters: the social phenomenon that both groups have happening, where someone in the social group is making women uncomfortable and driving them away from the group. In one case, this guy is probably a rapist. In the other case, it’s not! But the context is the same: the group dynamic and the culture we’re all embedded in are making it difficult to get things to change.

        • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

          They ARE only separated by degree. YOU may know you’re not a rapist but how the hell is any woman subjected to your assaults (and believe me, being touched or backed into a corner or having demands made is assault and would get you kneed in the groin by me) know that? Try Googling Shrodinger’s Rapist sometime. We’re not mindreaders and we’re the ones who get blamed when we get raped. If you’re not a rapist, try not acting like one.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Assuming you’re actually who you say you are, and not some random shit-stirring troll:

      1) No one called you a rapist. They called Ben, the guy LW2 was talking about, a rapist. But thanks for conflating what we said and trying to deflect attention from your inappropriate and yes, creepy-ass behavior. You do realize that the majority of us have dealt with people who have tried to derail the issue with bait like this, don’t you? Oh, you don’t? Well, consider yourself schooled, cupcake.

      2) This isn’t about a few sex jokes. You have apparently made *many* women feel uncomfortable. Frankly, I don’t mind ribald conversation and sex jokes, but I also don’t urge the men I’m friends with to take off their clothes or act like if their SO’s aren’t around that they’re “mine.” I also don’t hit on everyone I meet (including teenagers) and put my hands on them–I don’t assume that’s okay. You apparently think this is all okay, since you’re not addressing it, trying to deflect it, and trying to blame the drinking for it.

      3) You choose to remain anonymous! Oh, LOL. It’s pretty goddamn telling that you post on FB and now here about how really, you’re the injured party here, how everyone’s being so mean to you, etc. when no one named you publicly. If someone called me out on my behavior, I might get defensive, but I’d also think about it and I’d *change* my behavior. You know why? Because I don’t actually want to make people feel uncomfortable or hurt them. You can’t even act like you didn’t know since LW 1 was pretty goddamn direct with you–but the thing you do is go trolling for sympathy instead of, oh, I don’t know, changing the way you act. No, better to stir up the dramz!

      4) The prude-baiting is epic. Yes, the LW is uptight and your other group of friends is just so relaxed! Except you weren’t just cracking jokes about sex. You were going over the line, getting handsy, hitting on everyone, and making multiple women feel uncomfortable. Not just the LW.

      5) I don’t give a fuck that you think it’s the alcohol. After a while, it wears thin. And really, if I kept walking up to you and punching you in the face or talking about how much i wanted to punch you in the face, and joking about punching you in the face, it would not be okay if I said, “Oh, I have a problem with alcohol and I get really defensive about it.” No. What I would have had a problem with was threatening and bullying behavior. It’s not like you’re doing this to dudes–you feel entitled to do whatever the fuck to women. You might have a drinking problem–I don’t know–but you definitely seem to have an entitlement and a sexism problem.

      6) It’s interesting how it’s been made crystal clear that other women felt threatened and uncomfortable by your behavior, yet you make this all about your feelings. You don’t like being called a creep? Well, guess what–a lot of women don’t like it when you put your hands on them, nag them to disrobe, hit on them constantly, and only lay off when their boyfriends aren’t around. You don’t do this to your guy friends. Your women friends are human beings and they deserve better than this shit. It’s telling that you zeroed in on a couple of people mocking you for not having sex for two years (FWIW, a guy who acts the way you do would not get the time of day from me because holy fuck that shit is annoying at BEST) and NOT addressing how you’ve hurt the women you know. But do, focus on your feelings and continue to dismiss, erase, and belittle those of the LW and the OTHER WOMEN you have made uncomfortable.

      • alphakitty said:

        Twice in one day.

      • Bunny said:

        Your responses to these things are always excellent.

      • Creeper #1 said:

        1. Answering both letters together conflates the two — they are _NOT_ the same. Hell, the Captain calls it a “good example of rape culture”. Since we are talking about _me_, and _my actions_, I think _my intent_ is not a derail. (I’m well aware that may people derail by _guessing intent_. I’m not guessing.)

        3. I’m not famous, but I sure as hell don’t want this page to show up on a google search if a future employer puts in my real name.

        4. It’s the same group. That’s why I’m confused.

        5. It’s not meant to be an excuse. That’s the point. I was given a wake-up call by LW1, I examined my behavior, and I took steps to significantly reduce the chances of it happening in the future. Only time will tell if that takes care of the problem, or if further action is warranted.

        6. (and 2.) I’ve done things I regret. when LW1 told me about what happened in the park (much of which I didn’t remember,) I was appalled at my own actions.

        I own what I do. I don’t get to blame it on society or on alcohol. If I drink too much and make an ass of myself, It’s my fault for overindulging. If I step over the line, it’s my fault for stepping over the line.

        It is my intent to do better. I don’t want to be a creepy guy.

        • JenniferP said:

          Creeper. Can I call you Creeper?

          The letters DO have something in common. What they have in common is NOT ACTUALLY ABOUT YOU. It’s about the way friend groups tolerate and excuse creepy behavior and make the women who come forward the Bad Guy for ruining everyone’s fun and let everything go on way too long.

          You don’t have to understand. You can have hurt feelings. Those bad feelings are YOURS. I’m comfortable with you feeling bad.

          • Creeper #1 said:

            Ah. I see.

            Yeah. The willingness of people to look the other way in response to bad behavior is a real problem.

            I need to remember that for everyone who speaks out, there are several people who didn’t. If I get a complaint, it’s not an isolated incident, but the tip of the iceberg.

            It’s really not about my feelings, which i don’t think I’ve discussed.

        • Bunny said:

          Okay, every time you say something you manage to both imply you actually give a shit while also making it feel like you’re either trolling or here for a pity party. How exactly are people googling your “real name” going to find this page? Unless your real name IS Creeper in which case… sucks to be you.

          • Creeper #1 said:

            I must be communicating badly. I usually post with my real name as my account name. I didn’t this time. That’s all, no big thing.

        • May I suggest that expressing your deep and sincere gratitude to LW1 would be an excellent place to start repairing your community? Giving that kind of wake-up call is damn hard and she is totally awesome for doing it. She’s given you the chance to change and do better. Otherwise you really could never have known.

          • Creeper #1 said:

            I _think_ I did, when we first discussed this.

            If I didn’t, then that was a fail on my part. I’d better make sure.

        • Hmmm said:

          It seems like you need some help with alcoholism.

          Though I prefer to stay anonymous, you know me. After reading through a large portion of your comments, I see that you didn’t remember the incident with A or that you were telling multiple girls to expose themselves (repeatedly) at a going-away party. Perhaps you should consider getting some help with the drinking issue (e.g. buddy system, sobering up, etc) because there is no reason that memory loss of that level should ever happen.

          But regardless, your behavior really needs to shape up before we all can start hanging out again. If you don’t want to push us away, you should at least take us seriously when we call you out about your behavior. I am glad to see that you are taking this blog post at least a bit seriously since we don’t want to have to exclude you.

      • via_ostiense said:

        It’s not like you’re doing this to dudes–you feel entitled to do whatever the fuck to women. You might have a drinking problem–I don’t know–but you definitely seem to have an entitlement and a sexism problem.

        Seconded. I’ve gotten black-out drunk. A handful of friends and acquaintances, both male and female, have done the same. None of us have verbally intimidated or verbally harassed anyone while we were completely ass-over-tea kettle-drunk, whether we were attracted to them or not.

        Oh, except for the one guy who was a known creep (the senior women on the co-ed sports team warned all the new women about him–classic example of a missing stair, now that I think about it, because we were all warned about him, but he was still invited to parties and was still allowed on the team), who didn’t actually rape any women on the team but certainly acted creepy and groped women. He was the only person who acted inappropriately when he got drunk, because he already had those desires.

    • JenniferP said:

      Hi there.

      I do not think you will find sympathy for how wronged you are or for how those women just don’t get your sense of humor here.

      No one said you were a rapist. I said that behaviors like hitting on every woman, making unwanted advances, making unfunny jokes, putting your hands on women, treating them like sexual objects exists on a continuum gets tolerated WAY too often in social groups, to the point that when people like Ben assault women in their sleep, people are still trying to see the good in Ben and write him off as a nice guy who makes mistakes “when he drinks.”

      I also think that if someone you purport to be friends with asks you to stop doing something gross, offensive, and uncomfortable, if you value the friendship, you should stop it. The fact that LW #1 talked to you about what was going on is a sign that she DOES value you as a member of the group. She asked you directly to rethink your behavior instead of skipping directly to the part where you get totally disinvited from social events, or where you show up at a party and suddenly all the women get up and need to be elsewhere. She showed faith that if someone asked you directly to stop, you would stop.

      Dr. Nerdlove and I are going to collaborate on a follow-up post where we dig into how to go about these uncomfortable conversations. Let me give you a little preview:

      If a woman in your friend group (or the women, or a man, or anyone) says “Please stop making offensive jokes and touching people. It’s gross and creeping people out” the answer is to say “I’m so sorry, I’ll stop doing that.” And then to stop doing that. If you don’t? If you whine? if you point out why they are unfair? You might find that people stop inviting you places. You really do have a lot of choices about how this stuff plays out. Right now you are choosing to whine in my blog and complain that the people who don’t like you are just bitches with no sense of humor.

      This blog is like my party. Keep whining here and you will find yourself rapidly disinvited.

      • Creeper #1 said:

        I’m sorry if I’ve whined.

        I want to own my behavior. I don’t feel wronged about being told that I’ve stepped over the line.

        But I’m not calling anyone a “bitch with no sense of humor”. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

        LW1 told me I was over the line. So I took made changes to make sure it didn’t happen again. Then I made a facebook post about it, but didn’t go into any detail.

        That’s really the whole story.

    • RodeoBob said:

      . And there was discussion of sex, inside a mixed group of men and women! And no one spoke up and said they were offended!

      Fixed that for you!
      Seriously, that’s your claim? “One time, in a group of men who would defend and support me, and women with a history of being quiet and avoiding making a scene, no one made a scene! See!”

      I’ve determined that I need to be much more careful in my use of alcohol.

      Good for you! That sounds healthy, but that’s not the problem!

      The problem is how you’re acting, sober or drunk. The problem is that your actions and behavior indicate an unhealthy view towards women.

      Now, I want you read this next bit very carefully. I want you to read it, and think about it:

      If every female friend you have is telling you that you make them uncomfortable, or they are avoiding you, you might want to consider the remote possibility that it is, in fact, you who have the problem, and not everyone else.

      I want you re-read that, and think it over. One person might be an accident or a misunderstanding, two people might be a co-incidence, but what are the odds that so many women would avoid you or tell you you’re acting badly? How likely is it that you would know the only five women who don’t find your jokes funny?

      OK, now that you’ve at least considered all that, I want to point something out to you. That italicized stuff is almost precisely what the LW wrote! So if you’re willing to consider all that when I (internet commentator with a masculine name) say it, why weren’t you willing to listen when she said it?

      Ready for round 2?

      “make sexist jokes or joke about sex and then tell us we have no sense of humor when we don’t find them funny. “
      Let’s try to make this as clear as possible….
      You:
      Her: “I don’t think that’s funny. I think it’s sexist and offensive.”
      You: “You are wrong! I will tell you what to think about humor!”

      Do you see how that might not make people want to have sex with you? Or even want to talk to you? Do you see how that reaction, of ‘your opinions and feelings are wrong and I will tell you what’s right” could be seen as problematic?

      *”he is whining on Facebook that people aren’t finding his sex jokes funny and calling him a creeper.”
      Again, trying to make it as clear as possible…
      Her: “When you’re drunk, your actions don’t respect women’s boundaries, your behavior make them feel unsafe, and even when you’re not drunk, your humor offends them, and your attitude is disrespectful.”
      You: “You’re hurting my feelings! This is all about me!”

      Read the comments. Read the stories of women and the things guys have done. Do not ask yourself “would I do that?” or say “but I didn’t do that”. Just read, and consider their perspective. Listen to what these women are saying! Let it sink in. Then come back around and look at the original letter, and listen to what she is saying.

    • brinstarr said:

      Well would you look at that? He read all of this crap and didn’t take anything from it!!

      FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS.

    • Look, other people have critiqued your lack of accountability, your shitty attitude towards someone willing to take a really hard stance for your benefit, the bullshit nature of your defensiveness in this situation (really? your defense to being called out on trying to sleep with a 16 year old girl is “I didn’t know she was 16″? oooookay), etc.

      I’m going to speak to you about the way you’re using your substance abuse problems to deflect. Because I’m someone who comes from a family history of alcohol abuse, too, and I’ve also struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse.

      The thing about booze: it doesn’t turn you into a different person. It makes you less able to check yourself and more likely to act on shitty impulses – but those impulses? They weren’t created by the booze. YOU were the one who thought to put your hands on a woman without her consent and strongly imply that you had the right to have sex with her without her consent because her boyfriend wasn’t around; you might well have thought the better of doing and saying that sober, but you were drunk, so you went ahead and did it.

      What you need to work on is not JUST your drinking; it’s the part of you that thinks, on some level, that that is an acceptable sort of thing to do.

      The first thing they teach you in AA is to surrender control to a higher power. Frankly, I think that’s bullshit, especially for people who have a history of engaging in predatory behavior while drunk. What you need to do is the opposite of surrendering control. You need to understand that your conscious AND subconscious are reflections of who you are, and if you don’t like what you see, you need to change them your own damn self. Maybe that means therapy (probably it does, especially if you have a family history of alcoholism and find yourself following that history). It DEFINITELY means feeling bad. You’ve DONE BAD THINGS. You’ve made people feel unsafe. You’ve behaved in a manner that people associate with rapists, which has made people afraid. YOU did those things. Alcohol did not do those things. Alcohol merely enabled you to do those things.

      Quitting drinking is a really excellent first step, and I wish you all the best and applaud you for taking it. But it’s really just that – a first step. You SERIOUSLY need to delve deeper than that – confront yourself, confront the people who’ve been enabling you, be accountable. Dismissing your behavior as “the booze talking” is addict behavior, whether you’re actively drinking or not; addicts use their addictions as shields. Non-addicts don’t. If you’re serious about recovery, stop acting like an addict.

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