Good Comment of the Day: The ‘Creepy’ Factor

Today’s good comment is from a few weeks ago, but it was incisive enough for me to think of it when I read this piece by Jeremy Paul Gordon over at The Hairpin.

The comment was on a post I’d written about the purported “infidelity gene” and commenter Henry Vandenburgh brought up a really great subject:

I liked the article, above. What I don’t like is that the word “creepy” is getting a lot of play lately in taliking about fairly common forms of sexuality. (Obviously not incest, but many other things.) It’s usually used by women commenters.

As a woman writing for a men’s mag—a job that’s made me reevaluate my genderized tendencies more than I ever thought possible—this took me aback. It wasn’t even something that had ever crossed my mind. Was I playing too fast and loose with a word that Gordon dubbed “the worst thing a woman can call a man”?

Here’s his take:

Without a doubt, creepy is the worst casual insult that can be tossed at a guy. A guy can publicly scoff at something you say and be a “douchebag”; sleep with your best friend, never call her back and become an “asshole”; or cry while listening to Neutral Milk Hotel and forever be a “pussy.” But creepy is not that simple. It doesn’t relate to someone’s appearance, actions, or behavior. More accurately, creepy is a vibe. You can’t define it—you just know it. It’s when a guy looks at a girl for a little too long, when he friends her on Facebook a little too quickly, when he doesn’t understand that no actually means no, not “try harder.” It’s a tag that isn’t easily dispelled—after all, what are you supposed to say? “I’m not creepy! I’m NORMAL! I say normal things and act like a human being!”

For me, “creepy” had always been a word from childhood. The rubber Halloween spider stuffed at the bottom of our toy box? Creepy. That goopy half-liquid, half-solid Gak stuff? Creepy. Kissing boys? Really, really creepy. (And from what I’ve heard from boys in elementary school, vice versa.)

It wasn’t until middle school that the adjective became ubiquitous and applicable to guys in a less innocent (read: truly derogatory) sense. But even then, the weight of the word was never heavier than any other insult I’d shoot back at the boys mocking my inability to jump over a hurdle in gym class.

But it seems I was wrong.

So thank you, Henry, for making me think twice about how I use my words and for speaking for good men as a whole.  How about the rest of you, readers? What are your thoughts on the “creepy factor”?  Have any stories?


About Lu Fong

Lu Fong was a staff writer and blog editor for the Good Men Project in its formative years. As the requisite woman on staff, her hobbies included cleaning, cooking, knitting, fainting, and childbearing. Follow her on Twitter @lufong.


  1. Whoa, whoa, whoa!

    “…when he doesn’t understand that no actually means no, not “try harder.” – WTF???

    Yes rapey behavior is creepy! Its not just a vibe, its literally disgusting. No most certainly does just mean no, and yes it is creepy to interpret it as anything else! Also criminal, but who’s counting?

    I’m shocked that the Author not only condones that, but cites it as an example of why she won’t call men creepy. Wow. Just blown away by the creepiness on both counts.

    First rule GMP: DO NOT IGNORE WHEN WOMEN SAY NO. Pretty basic.

  2. My name was prefixed with “Creepy” throughout all of high school, simply because I was typically sullen and moved very quietly (symptoms of random assaults at home). Because of the nickname (at least in part, obviously there were extenuating circumstances as well, both before and after high school) I am still unable to act on signals I may get from women in person, ten years later. And I think this article has finally made me realize something else to unravel.

  3. Ms. Wakeman couldn’t have said it better:
    “It’s a really freaking dangerous idea to twist a woman’s open, honest communication about her boundaries/expectations into ‘creep shaming’ that victimizes men.”


    Sometimes us men (not included children) take for granted the fact that we’re not usually the victims of sexual assault. But women are and it’s a sad reality in this world. To try to shut them up about a male in their lives or a male they came across who is potentially a real threat to them is stupid, unethical, and dangerous.

  4. David Benetton says:

    I get tired of reading articles and comments like some of the above. Here’s a clue – if two people connect with one another and want to have a relationship maybe people should just get over it. I’ll be nice to whomever I wish to be nice to, I’ll chat up any guy or girl I feel like. I don’t care if they’re older than me or younger. Makes no difference at all. I will say this though – If you judge me as being a certain way because of my age or think that there should be some kind of restrictions placed upon me regarding who I find attractive or who I should date, you can fuck off. I go to a local community college. The only girl I decided to talk to is 18. I’m twice her age plus a few years but we get on fantastically. I’ll never date her or sleep with her. She’s my friend. There’s no use for dunces like you lot putting ideas in people’s heads that there’s something wrong with guys like me.

    • Jason1982 says:

      David, if you are 36 (twice her age) and this girl is only 18 I think YES THERE IS something seriously wrong with you. She is still a TEENAGER and very much a kid. And 18yo has extremely limited life experience. You could be her father or her teacher. And if she were my daughter and you tried anything with her I would put the fear of God in you.

      I don’t understand what you would have in common with a high school girl (or who just recently got out of high school).

      The term CREEPY would apply to you 100% in this scenario.

      • You do realize he isn’t interested in dating/sleeping with her as he said? The term creepy would apply 100% for seeing the devil where it ain’t!

        I was talking to 50 year olds when I was 16, and had stuff in common. You know like hobbies? I didn’t have the same life experience but I still had some, you don’t need to have a matching IQ and life experience to chat with someone.

        • I would be somewhat okay PROVIDED her NEVER did anything with a sexual overtone or innuendo to make the young lady feel uncomfortable.

          I had a male friend who did not understand plain English in that I was not interested in him and he kept up with the innuendos until one day I lost my mind and let him have it. He was and possibly still is a complete creep. Why? He did not respect a woman’s boundaries and he thought by pushing he would get somewhere. Oh he got somewhere all right…out the door on his ass.

    • Sorry dude but it says it all when you said local community college and hanging with an 18 year old…it is only a matter of time before you put the hard word on her..hope she spits in your face.

  5. Creepy is definitely a word I only use to refer to a very specifically deviant aura filled man. Some idiot (the most disgusting thing any man has ever said to me) had the a completely serious look on his face, and thought it was a compliment as he looked at me in a sundress and said “you look really fertile tonight”: ladies & gentleman THAT IS A CREEPY MAN. And yes, I knew this person. He had NO idea what he had done wrong when I asked him if he was serious…which made the whole experience even creepier. He said it in a very non-chalant, calm matter…like the tone you would used to comment on the weather. CREEPIER yet! Um yeah. I was right, btw. After two years of not even speaking to the guy (which was a completely 100 percent platonic relationship),he decides to rekindle our friendship by sending me a pic of his man banana. CREEPIEST. Please believe I forwarded that pic to his GIRLFRIEND immediately for her own safety. Who knows what other completely perverse stuff this man was up to.

  6. I think a project titled The Good Men Project inherently requires stereotypes (generalizations) in order to make progress towards something the majority of men (and the poles within poles 🙂 can be that is good for the majority of women.  Or at least the majority of women that you like.  You have to develop a ‘good’ stereotype (good man, good behavior, good woman to you, etc.) and then strive to meet it.  In my opinion.

    Women (older women) tend to be more experienced, able to be more generous, stronger, and more sophisticated.  I know many single moms that are awesome mate material (they are all married now). It depends on what you are looking for.  Women and girls are people, each with good and not-so-good attributes.  

    For example – So you find a woman who is great.  She’s a single mom.  What are things I should know about dating a typical single mom?  We’ll, when we went on a date to see the Blue Man Group, I didn’t think about how much she would wish her daughter had seen it with us.  It seems obvious after the fact, but being a good man for a single mom means realizing that much of her happiness comes from her daughter’s (or son’s) happiness.  I had assumed she would enjoy an evening to herself with adults, but I would have made her more happy (and probably been a better man in her eyes) to give her and her daughter something fun to share.  (I still regret not bringing her daughter on that date.) 

    So I had the wrong stereotype in my head that single mothers are mostly craving a night with adults (probably from watching the movie As Good As It Gets, where Helen’s character really just needs to ‘go out’).  But people need stereotypes (models) of as least what is basic good behavior in order to anticipate what will make a woman feel good.  Nothing pleases a woman more than for you to provide what she wants just before she realizes she wants it.  The single mom didn’t say ‘Can we bring my daughter?’  She did gush about how much her daughter means to her, but I didn’t put it together until later. 

    Another example – Trying to figure out what a girl (young woman) wants when (generally 🙂 a young woman a) doesn’t know what she wants well enough to describe it correctly and b) doesn’t have the vocabulary or is too shy to ask for it when she does know, is a difficult exercise at best.  So if a young (or older) man is interested in a relationship with a young girl, it will be useful for him to expect that he will need to be able to interpret the 13 ways the girl he likes says ‘okay’ in order to understand what she’s saying and be good to her.  And some of those okays will basically mean ‘not okay’ or even ‘no’ and men have trouble with that and usually need to develop that skill (another stereotype). 

  7. A ‘girl’ is a desirable woman in this context.   

    This term probably comes from the transition from Miss to Mrs. or Ms.  In a traditional no-divorce/no coveting neighbor’s wife setup it is only okay to desire the girls.  Note that 12/13/14 year old girls were the norm to be the subject of this desire in this time frame.  Particularly if you’re dead at 40. 

    Fast forward a few hundred (few thousand) years, and men still need a one syllable word to grunt that means ‘desirable woman.’   Women should at least finish high school, so lets make the age of consent 18 (because once they are pregnant, the school thing for them is probably shot). This artificial line in the sand supports society by protecting young adults from adult situations until they have a good chance at having the resources necessary to deal with the side effects of sex (children) and still contribute to society (not live on welfare).  But men still identify a lot of the traits of a young girl as attractive.  So we still call ‘desirable women’ as ‘girls’.  

    Even though from our prospective it is a compliment, calling a woman a girl may be seen as lumping women in with children (suggesting they need help making decisions, supporting male dominance, etc.).  Having tools (i.e. vocabulary, etc.) to help us find a good mate is generally more important to us than the impact of our tools.  Once we are married, though, the opinion of a specific woman (!) is suddenly more important (note we switched to ‘woman’ there). 

    Guys using the term ‘girl’ generally classify age groups of females as infant, child/little girl, girl/young woman, woman, senior/old lady.  A girl is sought because she is not usually jaded, worn, wrinkled, bitter, bossy, is/was married and/or has kids, and so on and so forth, where a woman might be.  So without further information (and on average) we’d prefer a girl over a woman.

    • As a woman who got into the relationship that led to marriage in my twenties (which, by the way, I am still happily in), it bothers me deeply that so many men would lump in so many negative associations with the word “woman” as though it is practically a bad word! No wonder there is still so much lingering negativity and severe division between “desirable girls” who are acceptable and desirable due to fitting the male desire and being far more willing to do as instructed by said older male, and “women” who are jaded, ugly and otherwise full of negative qualities that likely are also paired with many (ignored) positives to the point that you might actually think she was a person- an individual, not a representation of her gender as the comment appears to be implying of “girls/women” designations.

      I do not speak of women just as you likely do not speak for all men. It is disrespectful and clouds the true issues of gender and understanding when we make generalizations and start saying “well as a man/woman, I believe X, therefore men/women ALL believe X by default.”

      I honestly think that many men use the word “girl” because they don’t have to examine the undertone of this usage of the word. Just like “creep” gets under most people’s skin, so too does being referred to as a “girl” even when a woman is of legal age and has fully developed secondary sex characteristics.

      Creating a pecking order and almost Victorian classifications of human beings in generalities in society may be something that masculinist movement followers seem to think is “innate” to maleness, but I honestly think that it’s not even close. We must examine our thoughts about this world carefully and, if we wish to be enlightened and not simply blindly follow the dogma and social brainwashing of an imperfect, racist, sexist, heterocentric, and classist society, it is imperative to realize privilege, to understand where it comes from and to develop empathy to social experience that is not simply focused on the Self.

      Maintaining a world where people are dismissed or shoved into stereotypical boxes is not what I want for humanity. I should hope that others would share this hope as well.

  8. I find it humorous that quite a few people refer to women as “girls” in the comments. Honestly, I think that the main reason why most women use the word “creepy” is because they don’t have an advanced vocabulary, and may have little to no experience interacting with people who may have social anxiety or other problems.

    When I first met my husband, he was the quiet shy guy wearing all black and a trenchcoat in the back of the class. The people (both male and female) around me thought he was “creepy” but his body language, turns of speech and general demeanor did not read as creepy to me (and I am female). Turns out that he was just shy and awkward and generally not used to socializing because he went to a crappy Catholic school where maybe one or two other kids were into heavy metal and the same sorts of stuff as him. My husband is the sweetest, most gentle loving man I’ve ever met, and he has mentioned to me many times that he feels that it is quite possible that he may have killed himself or at least resorted to self-harm because of the isolation that the “creepy” designation placed upon his shoulders (from males and females, mind you, who simply did not understand his personality).

    I’ve also had many friends with Asbergers and other such developmental issues that makes them unable to interact in a “normal” way with others. Some people find this creepy because they have no prior experience with this, but those of us who are familiar with it can really draw a distinctive line from “awkward and inexperienced with specific types of social interaction” and “aggressive guy who is trying to use his power, status and age to coerce you through less-than-direct actions and make you think you’re crazy for having your alarm bells go off”.

    I have met several of both. The one problem is the escalation that the second type tends to fall into. You start out with very obvious body language that most men understand (turning away, moving away, using facial expressions of dislike and discomfort), but they make it clear that they don’t respect that and don’t CARE about how you feel, and continue doing it, many also escalate behaviors to physical touching or a raised aggressive voice. Which basically tells the woman “holy crap, if I keep being more and more direct about my rejection, this guy might escalate further and hurt me.” This is not because he is male, but specifically because his reaction shows her that this particular individual male is not interested in respecting her boundaries and will likely escalate further because in his mind, his feelings and wants override anything other than what he wants to do to her and excludes her feelings on the matter.

    Of course, then there’s the thing that these specific types of people do that basically amounts to the headspin of “you’re just imagining things” (disclaimer: women do this to men and it happens in homosexual relationships, and I honestly think that the reason I can recognize it pretty much instantly is because my mom did it to me as a kid) only it potentially or actually escalates to full on physical violence where he tells himself that the reason she’s saying “no” or struggling is because she’s totally into it. And when she finally stops struggling because she knows that any further physical protest might lead to her being stabbed, punched or injured further, he thinks that she’s “accepting” what he’s doing.

    “Creep” is the female equivalent to “hey everyone look at this guy who makes me super uncomfortable- let’s put the spotlight of the public eye on him so that he will go away and leave me alone since lord knows that my individual rejection isn’t working at all.” It’s making a spectacle of a guy who is making her feel unsafe, “outing” him in a socially acceptable way before he has the chance to escalate further.

    Of course, this can back fire on a woman who is, say, fat or “unattractive.” Many times when a guy is giving off the “rapey-vibe” and you’re not stereotypically attractive as a woman, people ENCOURAGE you to do whatever the guy wants because “you don’t get many offers as it is.”

    It’s harmful to disrespect how others feel just because it makes you feel bad.

    I’ve had plenty of men I was interested in tell me that they didn’t think of me that way or felt I was ugly or unattractive and were honestly ok with telling me that even though it hurt. One guy who I was friends with but developed feelings for REFUSED TO TALK TO ME for the rest of the time that we were in school together, but that’s the extreme. The point is, most guys feel justified in having this level of honesty but don’t like when it’s turned back upon them in the “creepy” comment. To some extent, this is a function of male privilege because generally you never have to feel “uncomfortable” in most situations, so those that do make you feel that way really do stand out and you start wondering why you had to feel that way in that one situation when regularly you never have to even be aware of it (ostensibly, I have similar experiences with white privilege).

    It sucks to be called “creepy,” but it also sucks to be called “fat” or “unloveable” or otherwise “undesirable” as a woman, especially coming from the guy who you’ve just confessed your interest to. Inter-gender relations often lead to hurt feelings and confusion, but regardless of the lack of tact of a person to communicate their own feelings of your advances, they are entitled to their reaction and you are entitled to feel bad about it.

    But in the end, I think that the main reason so many decent men defend the “creeps” is similar to the rape apologist- as a guy who would never rape or hurt a woman, it’s much easier to see how many women may or may not overreact due to a misunderstanding instead of a clear evil intention. But the problem is that many of these criminals HOPE that you’ll imagine your fear of being “wrongly accused” is good enough to dismiss the behavior- because that’s how predators work. They listen to the conversations that people have about women who “shouldn’t be believed” or “were asking for it” and then they target those individuals. This leads to silence on the part of women, who largely do not want to be seen as “that horrible bitch” but then leads to her making concessions to her feelings on safety and increases her risk of accepting unacceptable behaviors from predators, feeling that no one will believe her anyway, and then beating herself up after the crime has been committed because obviously she was “asking for it.”

    What is being created is a complex societal web of how one ought to act in the presence of others, to override self-preservation in the name of being “nice” or “not being a bitch” and then being told that she should not have been so nice or trusting if something bad DOES happen.

    I don’t hate men. I just hate it when someone assumes that it’s MY fault if I express my discomfort with obvious predatory behaviors but it’s ALSO my fault if I “play nice” and get raped or molested. As an adult, I’m tired of this kind of crap. As a mom, I can’t ignore the alarm bells because I not only have to protect myself but also my daughter. But I still get the disapproving look from the guy who I pointedly avoid because he’s setting off my alarm bells for whatever reason. And what’s my crime? Being a woman who doesn’t go out of her way to kowtow to men’s feelings when I feel threatened. Honestly, I can live with that. The consequences for making men feel uncomfortable is their hurt feelings. The consequences for making myself stay in a situation where I feel unsafe can lead to me feel deeply uncomfortable, frightened, and possibly even at risk for having my bodily integrity violated by people who on average have more muscle mass and size advantage than I do. It’s not a function of sex, specifically- it’s a function of knowing when I am at a constant disadvantage and knowing that there are very limited options for me to deal with it.

    • “I find it humorous that quite a few people refer to women as “girls” in the comments.”

      You called your husband a guy, “girls” is a noun with a double meaning, 1 of being a young female, the other of being a female. Guys n girls is often used referring to males n females.

      “The point is, most guys feel justified in having this level of honesty but don’t like when it’s turned back upon them in the “creepy” comment.”
      I’d say most guys don’t like it because it relies solely on her instincts, which can be completely different to how he acts, how others see him, and how he thinks he acts. I myself am shy, people that understand my shyness don’t get creeped out, others probably do. I haven’t been called creepy since high-school where I was depressed and usually avoided people, does mental illness make someone creepy? Is that my male privilege showing? I find it very creepy that some folk find shy men n women creepy. Is it ok if I tell a woman she is creepy for thinking a guy is creepy because of how he dresses?

      “But in the end, I think that the main reason so many decent men defend the “creeps” is similar to the rape apologist- as a guy who would never rape or hurt a woman, it’s much easier to see how many women may or may not overreact due to a misunderstanding instead of a clear evil intention.”
      I disagree, I think the main reason so many decent men defend “creeps” is because they have probably been called a creep when they have not been threatening, overstepping boundaries, etc. Hell I got called creepy because I was shy, stuck to myself. I got called creepy once when the bell rang and we had to goto class, I was walking behind a group of girls IN my class and we all were going to the same class and even dropped back a few steps to try avoid making htem feel uncomfy. She said I was following them, and hence it was creepy, it simply did not occur to this girl that we’re in the same fucking class in the same damn room and originally we were all in the same eating area as I was with my own group at the time.

      Should I have taken the longer route purposely to avoid this girl yet other girls were fine with my behaviour? Should I have magically cured my depression and put on a happy face more at school to avoid being called creepy because I was into metal music and didn’t always have a damn smile? The trouble is there are men who are called creeps who really don’t act creepy to most people, nor should they be called a creep because a girl felt creeped out by a mis-read signal/action (eg shy people going silent). If the guy purposely acts threatening, etc then sure that is creepy as fuck and I’ll tell them myself it’s creepy. But too many women call non-threatening men the creep label, it has diluted it’s meaning so much that a lot of guys question when a woman calls someone creepy. If I have just heard various women call a guy creepy because of his glasses and then another woman calls another guy creepy without saying why, should I automatically believe her? Or should I question it?

      “But I still get the disapproving look from the guy who I pointedly avoid because he’s setting off my alarm bells for whatever reason. And what’s my crime? Being a woman who doesn’t go out of her way to kowtow to men’s feelings when I feel threatened.”
      If you set my alarm bells off, and I called you a creep, told my friends you were a creep, yet all you did was say hi and didn’t realize that I was a rape victim of females and thus they creep me out (I’m not btw) then would you find that fair? If someone acts threatening, I fully understand and support calling em a creep, problem is too many use it to insult a man over how he LOOKS and shit that has nothing to do with his actions. The way you use the label I would say is perfectly fine however, and for most critics of the creep label I’m sure they’d be ok with how you use it because it’s the RIGHT usage. I don’t want women to feel they can’t use the label ever, I want them to exercise RESTRAINT in using it so much, save it for those who threaten you, don’t use it on shy guys who are stuck for words or guys walking to the same destination as you that you should already know about if you’re in their class. If the guy follows too closely, then use it. It all comes down to the individual situation, just keep in mind that if you tell OTHERS someone is creepy you may be labelling them wrongly, you may have made a mistake and it can have consequences on them. Eg, a father with his child at the park gets called a creep because he is male and the person feeling creeped out has a misandrist view of men as pedophiles, he could be father of the year but still if she tells others it can really fuck his reputation up because comments about negative sexual elements like pedophilia and creepyness stick like glue.

  9. I’m happily married to a woman that can pass as 12 years old with a little makeup. All her clothes are size 12 or smaller from the childrens section. She is over 30.

    So I’m the creepy old guy waiting patiently in the girls clothing area because the XS women’s are still too big for her. I’m comfortable with this because my wife is awesome. (And I’m already married, so what do I care if some little girl or her mom think I’m creepy?)

    I believe that God made me to take care of her. And I’m happy to say that I think she’s very sexy.

  10. I think it is some what of a contradiction to post unflattering articles about men’s sexuality and on the same page advertise hosiery with images of half-naked women.

  11. Karen:
    Not only does your post scream of contradictory statements, along with many absolute ridiculous statements, but you ALSO go on to prove my point.

    You said if a women feels a guy is creepy, that’s how she feels, AS LONG AS SHE ISN’T JUST MAKING IT UP TO HURT HIS FEELINGS.
    That’s my exact point. Most women DO just make it up and accuse a guy of being creepy, JUST TO HURT HIS FEELINGS and make him look down upon in front of others.

    That was the entire purpose of my post. That women take the word for granted, and throw it around like the default insult, even where it’s not warranted.

    I don’t dispute that lots of guys do “creepy” things.
    And hey, even ask the poster below you stated, in this day, while guys have to be the “initiator”, it comes with the territory. Sometimes you’re going to ask a girl out, flirt with a girl, etc, who may not be interested. In women’s minds, that AUTOMATICALLY makes the guy creepy these days. Which is pathetic. Sure, if the girl made it clear she’s not interested, and the guy kept trying to get in her pants, sure, that’s creepy.

    It’s no wonder women are often too reluctant to be the “initiator” ie asking a random guy out on a date, because she think that if he’s not interested, she would therefore be creepy. Which is NONSENSE. It doesn’t make her creepy. Just like when a guy does it, it’s not creepy. It’s a fact of life that sometimes the recipient is just not interested. It doesn’t make the initiator “creepy”. And to say that it does is absolute riduculous mouth-breather garbage.

    In the end Karen, what you said was absolutely ridiculous. And for you to accuse me of being some guy that goes around and gets upset if a girl does not “give herself to me like a meaningless object” is just beyond stupid. I can’t fathom how you wrote that and believed it at the same time.

    If I were to pick apart your argument, my post would be about 10X longer than this. So I’ll leave it as is. Clearly you’re not the type to use reason and facts, but rather personal intuition to make your arguments. For that reason I will not argue with any further mindless garbage you manage to type out on here. And yes, you can detect anger as I write this because of the sheer stupidity of your post. If there’s one thing I will not do, is argue with someone who cannot be reasoned with.

    • CMBC We, women, call you creepy and yes will do it purposefully to embarrass you with the hope st at your creepy behaviour will stop! Creepy is a feeling that women can get when approached by a man we don’t want near us. We might not find you attractive so we deem you to be creepy, but we can also find you sweet and feel bad in rejecting you…it all depends on how you present yourself and how the woman in question perceives you, even if you don’t mean to be creepy! I’ll bet if some unattractive girl approached you and tried to pick you up and you thought to yourself “ugh, no way” you would label her as desperate which is also a hurtful description for a woman. She may not know she’s coming off as desperate but thats the way you perceive her to be acting. So simmer down and go nurse your wounds.

      • Pssst! You’re responding to a comment that’s going on 6 months old.

        Also, as many men have noted in other discussions about “creep” and “creepy”, one of the big problems about those words is that they often get used when the only thing a guy has “done” is be unattractive to a woman. No approach or awkward attempt at a pick-up is even necessary. Can you think of any insults men apply to unattractive women who have not even interacted with them, that you would tell women to just simmer down and nurse the wounds the deserved to receive for being unattractive?

  12. This is something I have been thinking for years.

    Women and girls throw out the term “creepy” to a guy like it’s some one-size-fits-all insult. The word has essentially no basis a lot of the time when girls call a guy that word because they throw it out like candy.

    You say one thing a girl doesn’t like, “you’re creepy”.
    You don’t talk to some girl “you’re creepy”.
    You’re nice, good intentioned, sociable, “you’re creepy”.
    You go and say hi as a nice gesture, perhaps at a party, “you’re creepy”.
    You sit beside some girl in class, “you’re creepy”.

    It’s endless. No, I’m not venting from my own experience of the above examples, but I HAVE, many times, been called creepy by women who had absolutely NO basis for calling me it. It was a one size fits all insult. Sometimes girls have done it with the attempt to hurt my feelings, sometimes girls have done it just as playful bantering because I was really giving it to them too.

    The thing is, girls KNOW this word is the worst thing you can call a guy. And they over-use the word. They know it. But they’ll do it anyway. It’s the equivilant as if guys started going around and calling every girl that they wanted to give a shot as a “”. I’m not sure if filters would take out that word or not so I spelled it like that. I mean, how would women like it if a guy says hi, she doesn’t respond EXACTLY how he likes, and he goes around behind her back telling everyone shes “the W word”. Ridiculous right? That’s essentially the situation that girls are doing with calling guys creepy.

    Now, as far as guys using the term creepy? When’s the last time a guy called a girl creepy? I don’t recall EVER hearing it. But I have heard other guys call another guy “creepy”. This only occurs in the presence of other women, and I HIGHLY suspect it’s because that guy feels the other guy is a threat to get the attention of the girls, so the guy wants to disarm him by convincing the girls that he might be creepy.

    • No woman or girl would call a guy creepy unless something he did either intentionalluy or unintentionally made her feel that way. If a girl calls you creepy. Dont get mad like you are above and scream about how she should still be giving herself to you like a meaningless object which is the real reason you are angry .. ( see the end of paragraph 3 lol ) but leave the poor girl alone, or the cops will come and arrest your harrassing ass for not listening to this woman who apparently feels you are creepy! I mean come on! Its not a value judgement about who the guy is but its just the way the lady feels around him… so just leave her alone and move on! Dont try to keep forcing her to do or feel something she obviously doesnt feel. Im sorry but your whole post honestly and truly gave me a vibe that you are creepy and manipulative and you dont like to hear the word no! Very creepy and scary as well!! You sound like a pedohpile. Normal men dont have “girls” calling them creepy during intimacy. How creepy!!

      • “No woman or girl would call a guy creepy unless something he did either intentionalluy or unintentionally made her feel that way. ”
        No man or boy would call a woman a slut unless something she did intentionally or unintentionally made him feel that way. Or…you know, you could realize that not all women are like you? That some women do use the word to shame men.

        I have heard women call a guy creepy because he LOOKED creepy, a guy minding his own business doing NOTHING even remotely related to her, not looking at her. Male preschool and primary school teachers get called creepy by some simply because they are men. Shy guys that stutter or go silent after saying hi, sitting there in their head trying to figure out what to say next can be called creepy when they show zero threatening behaviour, just behaviour of a typical shy person unsure of what to say. Some peoples creep meter is so high that being male and looking in their direction for .1 of a second creeps em out.

        I’ve been creeped out by people near me before simply because they were teenagers who reminded me of previous bullying. Feeling creeped out isn’t justification to throw the word around willy nilly, people have a responsibility to use it wisely otherwise it becomes so conflated with other meanings that people start to question the usage of it, like I am doing right now.

        Guy touchs you without your consent? Creep, and illegal. Guy gets too close to you in an elevator? Possibily creep behaviour, possibly lack of space. Different cultures may also act in different ways and appear creepy, I find it creepy if someone looks away and can’t look you in the eyes if you talk to them but I also understand many shy, or abused people including myself do this at times because it’s so damn hard to.

        “You sound like a pedohpile. Normal men dont have “girls” calling them creepy during intimacy. How creepy!!”
        Wanna know what I find creepy? The quickness some people have of calling someone a pedophile. I also find it creepy to ignore his experience as if it doesn’t matter, and state he is wrong about his own experience without you being unable to know what went down. How do you know these women didn’t use the term wrongly? I’ve seen people use the creep term playfully, I’ve done it myself with some friends.

        What is a man supposed to do when he has not interacted with her at all, and she calls him creepy? I have a friend who recently called a guy creepy because of his GLASSES and ONLY his glasses, they were “pedo glasses”. I find HER behaviour creepy by labelling him a creep and implying he is a pedophile because of the style of glasses frame he wears. Sound familiar? Being called a derogatory word because of how you dress? Many women have been called a whore/slut because of what they wear. Is it fair to continue doing so because the person saying it feels they are a whore?

        Your post gave me the vibe that you’re the kind of person who would call for a male teacher to be fired, because he is a male and your instincts are far off-base seeing the devil in everyone. But is that true? That is just an initial assessment off your post and how quick you are to throw the pedophile label out, yet it’s probably wrong. You’re entitled to feel creeped out if you wish but you aren’t justified in calling this guy creepy over a post that really doesn’t show creepy behaviour.

    • Also if a woman or girl feels something is creepy that is valid if this is genuinely how she feels. You see, feelings are neither right or wrong, they just are. If the person is making it up to hurt someone than that would be unkind. but if they genuinely feel it but cannot explain it, that is equally valid! It doesnt necessarily mean the guy did something wrong, it just means that for the girl or woman, they need to listen to their own boundaries as individual human being. Thats all, nothing more! Just try to understand them and maybe work to adjust the problem so that both people feel more respected, or just move on to someone you jive with better.

      Also, when a woman feels a man or guy is creeepy, this is what she really means when she says this. She either feels unsafe or she feels disrespected in some way. It is never more than one of those two things, if she honestly feels the person is creepy. Maybe that explanation can help (?)

      • Problem is she says it to others, they believe it and this guy’s reputation is fucked because of HER instinct which CAN be wrong. How many guys have said a woman is a slut to their friends, their friend believes it, and that woman has a more difficult time over it? If a man feels a woman is a gold digger, tells his friends, is it fair her reputation gets damaged?

        Feelings are one thing, but communicating them to others can cause serious problems. Imagine having a husband at the playground with HIS/your children, and another mother says he is a creep for being around little kids and being a male.

  13. I am 46 and have no problem “partying” with young huge breasted girls that like to tweak, and get their titties sucked

  14. I am 46 and have no problem “partying with young huge breasted girls that like to tweak.

  15. Transhuman says:

    Use of the word “creepy” as a derogatory term is only effective on men who seek the approval of women.

  16. You know, I once had a coworker who I thought I got along with reasonably well. We weren’t friends, but we were friendly when we shared a shift. I thought nothing of it. Then I learned that when I was around she went around talking about how “creepy” I was to everyone else. It was honestly the most hurtful thing anyone has ever said about me. I was shocked by how bad it made me feel. Had she called me an asshole or a dick or any other word, sure, I would have been upset, but not like that. Not to the degree that I still remember it today.

    And the worst thing is, I feel that it’s unfounded. I see why she, or any other woman, might be put off by me; I’m quiet, reserved, shy, and unfortunately have a face like 40 miles of rough road. Yeah, I’m not the most personable guy around. But it’s not my fault, and I always tried my best to be pleasant. But it’s a stigma that never goes away once it’s been applied, and it depersonalizes you in a way that might be hard for a third party to ever understand. I still can’t shake it. Although I guess that, in its way, is “creepy” too.

  17. Doctor Ragnarok says:

    “Creepy” is a word I apply when very specific nonverbal criteria are met… Or certain verbal ones.

    A man thirty years older than me starts catcalling from across the street, with every inch of body language screaming aggression? Creepy. A man stands too close and starts leering at my breasts and chatting me up while I’m desperately trying to nudge away from him in the grocery line? I shouldn’t even need to go further into his body language. Creepy. A married man thinking I am stupid enough to believe he’ll leave his wife so he can give me some “Monogamous lovin'” (true words, right from his mouth)? A man year older than me, who makes a point of trying to touch me at work, to make advances on chance meetings in the grocery store? Creepy. A man who starts talking about wanting to massage me all over my body while I’m on the phone with him at work? I’ve never spoken to the man before- And it’s tech support, not a 900 number! CREEPY!

    These men, wanting my love, my affection? Bullshit. They want a plaything, someone easily intimidated and manipulated. They want a sex object they can do with as they please, not a person. Those are the creeps.

    I will admit there is an age deferential here in my eyes- someone my own age or younger might be a douchebag or an asshole, or even a little older if they act in a similar manner… But when we start looking at an age gap of five years, ten years, thirty years… Or more! It stops becoming douchebaggery, it stops becoming assholishness. It’s creepy as hell, and -should- be taken as the insult it’s intended as in those cases. It’s scary as hell, on many levels, not the least of which is for my physical safety.

    On the other hand:

    Not well socialized? You’re not creepy; you just need a little work. Do the work, and mind the age differential, and go on with your life. There are other women in the world and you’ll have other chances.

    • Dr Raganork, You and morality itself lol agree with what you stated 110 percent. Bullshit to the people who just want to manipulate women and girls by making them feel sorry for them. Oh I lost my puppy the pervert says… please feel sorry for me little girl. All I need is your love, after all I am just an awkward person trying to victimize you because I am not comfortable with women in my age range! No those people who are creepy need to get therapy and if they work hard and are sincere they can indeed over come their very real creepy quality. I am tired of the make women feel guilty for putting up boundaries and protections for themselves. Very undebatably sick, dangerous and immoral without a doubt!

  18. I don’t think most guys need to worry too much about being perceived as being “creepy”. “Creepy” (to me at least) is that sort of gut feeling you just can’t put a finger on, you couldn’t exaclty explain why, but something just doesn’t sit right. You avoid the “creepy” guy on the bus, you keep your kids away from the “creepy” guy at the park, you didn’t go on that second date because something was just “creepy”. Maybe you’re wrong, but you feel better trusting your gut and being wrong, than ignoring that feeling and being right.

  19. The problem is that “creepy” guys don’t really want love. Sometimes they want blind admiration or total control. When I was young I definitely thought older guys hitting on me were creepy.

    • Now that I am a bit older than 18, I can discern the difference between a guy who is creepy and one who is just feeling inscecure or not confident in himself around women. I dont think being insecure makes a guy creepy, but sometimes, people for whatever reason just act in such a way that your gut warns you about them and tells you “this feels non respectful and creepy to me, and by God, I need to get the heck away from it.” Every person should trust and respond to thier gut instincts. If a guy doesnt want to be thought of creepy he can go to therapy and learn how to over come putting out such a vibe. I will never make mysefl endure the horror of a creepy situation and nor should any other woman or girl. That is part of a womans way of protecting herself of course, obviously.

  20. It’s good to see someone else noting the ubiquity and dehumanization element of this insult. I honestly think “creepy” and “creeper” are the closest thing to the n-word that can be hurled at a white male like myself. I used to be “creepy” because I went to an all-male high school and had no idea how to interact with women. Lack of social skill is the most common reason for a man to be called a “creeper”, but the word implies to my ears, “unloveable” and “potential rapist.” But the reality is, most men who are subject to this epithet are desperately in need of acceptance and desire women for their love, not their sex – the opposite of the “douchebag” who treats women as objects or trophies. I understand that women are biologically impressed with a fear of men who lurk. But in the modern era, it is the aggressive man, not he fearful one, who is more likely to do you harm. That “creepy” guy just wants your respect and esteem, even though he might not know how to earn it.

    As for me, I’ve found some good male role models, read some good books (in particular The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida), and spent time getting to know women (and myself) as people, and I think I project a much better energy. But I still rebuke anyone who uses that dehumanizing word to describe another man. The “creepy” among us need loving guidance, not fear and disgust.

  21. Richard Aubrey says:

    Defending someone as “creepy”, which I have never had the occasion to do, might seem to label the defender as “creepy”. No matter what the defender says, it’s not going to be taken as an explanation that the creepy label was incorrect. It will be taken as defending creepiness.
    People just brushing the edge of Asperger’s could be acting “creepy”. Their ability to see boundaries and read others’ reactions is limited.
    A cheerful, socially competent, good-looking guy can get away with some things a nerd or introvert might not.

  22. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    BTW, the silhouette guy above looks like a douchebag, not a creep.

  23. I agree with John—“crazy” or “psycho” is usually used to describe women who are deemed clingy, “creepy”, or give unwanted attention. And I think it’s also true what a lot of other commenters have pointed out—that there’s a reason the creepy label exists, and it’s because some dudes don’t understand/care about boundaries and have really outdated expectations about women and dating.

    Honestly, it’s kind of pathetic that someone is going to whine that women accurately use the word “creepy.” Most words that women get called are much, much worse—cunt, bitch, feminazi, lesbo, psycho, slut, whore, etc.

    • Yes! I was thinking stalker but crazy/psycho is definitely the female equivalent for guys in my experience.

      It’s kind of weird because “creepy” can apply to both sexes/genders and still keep the same basic definition (something’s just “off”). Crazy/psycho though… As a female, I wouldn’t call anyone that unless I actually thought there was a mental imbalance that made me feel unsafe. Not uncomfortable, unsafe.

      I don’t think guys use them that way though. Crazy/psycho girls are the ones who don’t respect boundaries—unreasonably jealous, goes through wallet/drawers/computers, calls their moms ‘just because,’ etc.

      I think this needs to be left here:

  24. I don’t think “creepy” is a gendered term. I figure that men tend to have this label tacked onto them more than women is because men are more likely (as a group) to act creepy than women (as a group). Thus, you will find more women calling men creepy, than vice-versa.

    Yes, it can hurt somebody’s reputation. I don’t know a lot of people that use the term “creepy” lightly. They usually reserve the word for people that genuinely creep them out. To say that they’re “wrong” for doing so, or that there’s an “explanation” for that creepy behavior downplays the significance for them using the word. Instead of saying, “No, THIS is what I meant by harassing you” why not ask, “What am I doing that makes you consider me creepy?” I’m sure they would want to know, so that people do not call them creepy again in the future.

    To backtrack and say “Maybe I was wrong for calling somebody creepy” isn’t exactly a great response. WHY was the term used? Was it to describe creepy behavior? Or was it used just to smear somebody’s reputation? Honestly, I don’t hang out with 12 year olds, so I don’t know of anybody that intentionally tries to ruin reputations through needless name calling.

  25. Being called creepy is usually a result of someone not knowing their boundaries – I think men calling a woman “crazy” is the equivalent to that (along the lines of “the crazy ex-girlfriend”).

  26. Eleanor and Henry, yes, the active-listening is what I was wondering about as an equivalent positive that gets described as a negative. And I talked with some female friends about this in the past few days and they thought the slut / creepy parallel was a good one and also that some guys do unfortunately get tagged this way and are unable to escape it.

    So I think I was too far in the direction of “men, we can avoid this slur!” in an effort to respect that women are genuinely threatened by actions men aren’t aware are creepy/intimidating. Especially if some men are unfortunately socially awkward and unable to compensate in other ways. (I think of the Twilight story as an example, in which the main character is certainly creepy and stalkerish but his good looks give him some kind of free pass.)

    Anyway, I appreciate the responses; they got me thinking.

  27. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    I find J Ass “creepy” too. Probably because he’s a stone narcissist. And an attention-seeker. I don’t agree with Malcom, I’m afraid. I think it’s pretty normal for men to be a bit more aggressive than women, although I admit that there’s overlap. (I’ve never used the word slut in my life, and think the concept is as offensive as “creepy.” This word is pushed as much by women, as by men– probably more. It’s basically a term used by women and men to control mating “markets.” The idea is for an individual woman not to give away the store.) As a somewhat sociobiologically oriented sociologist (sociobiology is not the only driver, as some of its proponents would have it,) I think all this stuff is sort of designed to raise the price of marital and sexual goods at a meta level. In the 1960s and 70s, neither of these terms would have been used, except by the most benighted of people.

    I agree. Too much active listening could be patronizing.

    Please turn off the auto-refresh!

  28. “I am trying to think of an equivalent positive characteristic that gets men called ‘creepy.’”

    I don’t know if this is exactly what you mean, but I think using something like active, attentive listening is positive, but can be construed as creepy. The boy may do it just because he cares so much and has heard that women just want to be listened to — but it does not come off well.

  29. also, i find julian assange hair on the back of my neck ‘creepy.’ just so you know.

  30. to me, creepy actually means ‘creepy.’ meaning i get that weird chill on my spine. you know … CREEPY. there are plenty of behaviors that are ‘creepy’ and men are just as much culprits as anyone else. so, when the word ‘creepy’ applies, i apply it.

  31. I’m curious, John – do you call the women on it, if you know that they are unfairly besmirching someone’s reputation? And how have you found them to respond? If it is parallel to slut-shaming, we should all be on the lookout for it. I definitely don’t let my guy friends (or women, for that matter) call women ‘sluts’ without giving them an earful.

  32. There are definitely situations in which being friendly has lead to a girl calling another guy “creepy”. I’ve had it happen to me, and I’ve heard girls that I am friends with say it about other guys. I think “slut” is a pretty adequate parallel.

  33. Eleanor, the ‘slut’ parallel is a good one, except unfortunately women who are active sexually and enjoy some agency with their sexuality get that label. I am trying to think of an equivalent positive characteristic that gets men called ‘creepy.’ Maybe it is there, but I can’t find it?

    And yes, the stickiness of the word is a good point. I still maintain that many times guys deserve that term (like that linked article above, in which the guy thought he was getting to sleep with the girl and acted bewildered when she didn’t ask him to), but it is true that people often slide from ‘you did something creepy, here’s why and what you can do’ to ‘you are a creepy person and a pervert.’ And that’s not helpful for anyone.

  34. I knew two guys at college who were labeled “creepy” in freshman year. It was incredibly harmful to their social lives, and the label still follows at least one of them — I have defended him to alumni (“Oh, I hung out with ___.” “Who?” “…” “Oh, CREEPY ___?” “Yeah, he’s not creepy anymore.”). At the height of it, they stared, made strange sexual comments, and also just conveyed this feeling of intention behind their words — not necessarily sexual intention, but the feeling that they had *thought* about this conversation and what it might mean for their future and ultimate happiness.

    One left the school. The other stayed, found success in academics, spent time with a club composed of confident, manly men, and then lived in a house with girls for a year. I think it helped dismantle the GIRL pedestal and show that sometimes a conversation is just a conversation. It was good that these girls were respectful, forgiving, and willing to say, “I don’t like you that way. But I will hang out with you and eat breakfast with you as long as you don’t make that comment again.”

    I think an equivalent for women is “slut.” It carries a lot of meaning, can be bestowed on girls who give off a certain vibe, will result in being ostracized from both boys and girls, and is hard to get rid of. On the other hand, certain guys may be more attracted to “slutty” girls. Not so with creeps. :/

  35. I have to agree with Malcolm to a degree and say that “creepy” is both easier and harder to avoid. I know girls that will call a guy creepy if he makes them feel uncomfortable even once, while this can be fine if the guy is actually creepy. However, guys I know have been called creepy after making a single stupid comment or a single slip of the tongue. It sticks with them and harms their reputation in ways that one word shouldn’t be able to.

  36. My take is that “bitch” or “cunt” might be closest to “creep” for women. They’re both terms that, at least hypothetically, can contain a definite social denotation, but are pejorative and open-ended enough to basically say “I hate her”.

    • “Bitch” and “cunt” are words that have more to do with anger than a “creepy vibe”. The words are more closely related to “dick” or “douchebag”. They do imply that you might “hate her”, but they don’t have the same essence as creepy. Some people don’t necessarily hate creepy women and/or girls. They simply avoid as much contact as possible.

      I knew a girl that would stand on my friend’s front lawn at 3:00am, because she knew that my friend knew me. THAT is creepy.

  37. At least in my experience, it’s easier to avoid being called “creepy” than a “douchebag” or a “dick” or etc. The first thing requires blatant and continued disregard for social norms and the comfort of women. The latter requires thoughtlessness or ignorance. I’ve done things that women have called me out on, but once they do so, I listen to see how they might have felt threatened or hurt. I’ve never been called “creepy” and I think that’s part of why. (I’m in my thirties, so I have some experience, but this may vary between different social circles.)

    As to the equivalent for women, some people may disagree, but I think that since women are generally not in a position to abuse their power over men to make them uncomfortable, there’s less of a commonly used, similar description. However, I have encountered some women who have made me feel uncomfortable and sexually harassed, and yes, I would characterize them as “creepy” without hesitation. The difference is just that they don’t have society’s norms in their favor like we men often do.

  38. Thanks, both, for the great comments.

    What resonated with me the most was the thought that it’s something too subtle to avoid. And something that stays with you. Almost like accidentally finding yourself with an awful nickname that you can’t shake.

    Here are a few questions I’ve thought of since this morning:

    Is it really easier to avoid being called a douschebag than to avoid being called “creepy”?

    What’s the “creepy” equivalent for women?

  39. It is. Being called “creepy” or a “creeper” is the worst thing a guy can be called, even in jest. You feel like you have to explain your actions, words, or whatever prompted being called creepy, but there’s nothing you can do.

  40. “Creepy” to me defines men who don’t understand boundaries (like the hideous comment from the poster above). So when the commenter you quote says:

    “It’s when a guy looks at a girl for a little too long, when he friends her on Facebook a little too quickly, when he doesn’t understand that no actually means no, not “try harder.””

    then complains that the label is hard to dispel, I think that’s wrong. Understanding that “no” means no is not rocket science. Staring at people is rude and can be very threatening from a man to a woman depending upon context (such as standing alone on a subway platform). Being overeager is one thing, but if you friend someone on a social network and then go on to invade their personal space by posting inappropriately personal comments, etc., then yes, you are creepy and deserve that label.

    The problem is that yes, these actions are often “normal” in our society. Men are supposed to push women’s boundaries because after all, women don’t really *want* to have sex, so men just need to wear down their resolve until they capitulate. (Sarcasm alert if it isn’t obvious.)

    So I think Ms. Fong can use “creepy” all she wants, especially if she’s supporting the label with reasons someone has violated another person’s boundaries, and I would say in the original context, where the allusion was to incest, we’re certainly talking about violating boundaries. (The pumpkin pie thing, though, I have to say is just weird, not creepy!)


  1. Recommended Websites…

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  2. […] This forms an interesting contrast to what men experience as initiators. I’ve already written about some of the romantic and sexual double binds men deal with as part of a previous AlterNet article. One of the points I made is that usually, when men initiate, they don’t have to fear being seen as “slutty”—but they do have to worry about being seen as “creepy.” […]

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