Lately, there's been a lot of talk in internet-land about "creepy" -- the word, the behaviours, certain guys being labelled as creepers, and so forth. It centers around this very excellent post by Captain Awkward, with numerous other posts in support.
Predictably, part of the reaction to all this has included much complaining and hand-wringing about how unfair it is to be labelled as "creepy", how there are really no objective standards for "creepiness", and really, how are guys actually supposed to realize when they are acting creepy anyhow? Hell, Captain Awkward's initial post included Creepy Guy #1 whining about being called a "creeper" after having exhibited a long litany of really gross behaviour.
1. If your conduct is making people uncomfortable, you're being creepy. How simple is that?
2. Perhaps this is just my perception, but I am really struck by how most non-creepy folks seem to
- intuitively understand what "creepy" means, and
- all pretty much agree on that meaning.
This despite not having had some Worldwide Summit on Creepy Behaviours or anything. Huh.
3. These people who are calling for an ironclad, unambiguous definition of exactly what constitutes creepiness -- why do they all come across as creepy dudes looking for a way to rules-lawyer their way out of being labelled as creepy?
4. The reason we lump creepiness in with rape culture is this. Creepy behaviors are a refusal to respect boundaries -- getting in someone's personal space when they don't want you there; touching someone when they don't want to be touched. If you put those actions at the bottom of a continuum, you'll see that the label at the top says "rape".
5. Banding together and calling someone out as a creeper or rapist is collective self-defense.
Women are in a double-bind here. On the one hand, if you try to avoid being raped by unambiguously repudiating a creeper's advances, you get called a bitch. However, if the creeper ends up raping you, you'll get a heap of victim-blaming, while he'll probably walk free. One of the ways to try and navigate between Scylla and Charybdis, as well as to deal with the Schrödinger's Rapist problem when nobody can keep their guard up all the time, is to spread knowledge about which guys to avoid.
When someone puts a halt to this -- as Fetlife did here -- they are taking away one of the tools that women use to protect themselves from sexual assault and rape.
Finally: If you don't want to be called a creeper, don't do creepy things. Treat other people as human beings, not flirt targets. It really is that simple.
Addendum: O apropos! Just as I went to hit "submit" on this, Scalzi posted this helpful brochure, An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping! Go forth and partake thereof!