Trigger warning for discussion of boundary violations.
Once again, I’m pondering the definition of “creep” and the creation of a Reasonable Person Standard…
(Obvious Disclaimer, again: if you ever feel creeped out by a situation, the first thing to do is to get out of the creepy situation through whatever means you find necessary. Sometimes creepy is kyriarchial, but sometimes it’s The Gift of Fear, and it’s almost impossible to tell which is which in the moment.)
After reading through the last thread on creepiness and thinking some more about it, I think genuinely creepy behavior (as opposed to kyriarchially creepy behavior) essentially falls into four categories. These categories will be illustrated using Pat and Robin; Pat uses Spivak pronouns (ey, em, eir) and Robin zie/hir, which will either show that creepy is gender-neutral or that the creepiest people on the planet are non-binaries.
Boundary violations. Probably the most common form of creepy behavior I’ve experienced. Robin says “I wouldn’t like to talk to you”; Pat keeps talking to zir. Robin says “stop following me”; Pat keeps following zir. Robin says “please stop asking me out, I don’t want to go out with you”; Pat says, “come on, give me a chance.”
Other people’s boundaries are sacred; the only ethical thing is to respect them. To do otherwise is the epitome of creepy.
Of course, the problem with this behavior is that boundaries are often established non-verbally. For instance, Robin might express that zie doesn’t want to talk to Pat by shrinking away from em, responding to zir in monosyllables and staring fixedly away from em. However, this might also be the behavior of someone who is shy and socially awkward. If you’re uncertain of someone’s boundaries, I’d recommend asking. (I’d also support asking if you’re not sure if someone wants your company– a simple “want to chat? These bus stops are so boring” is a lot less creepy than just starting in on how the other person is the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen. Of course, this is advice from a person who is really bad at reading other people’s boundaries and feelings, so take it with all necessary salt grains.)
Behavior that assumes a relationship that isn’t present. This section could also be called “emotional boundary violations.” Essentially, most cultures have a set of behavior that is appropriate for people who have a certain relationship, and violating these norms may be creepy. My favorite example is Laundry Day from Dr. Horrible.
Do not do this song! It is a very good song and I always sing it to myself when I’m doing laundry. However, it is also unutterably creepy. You can’t be in love with her, Dr. Horrible! You have, in fact, never talked to her! Your knowledge of her is based on her looking like Felicia Day which is, while a point in any girl’s favor, not exactly the basis for a romantic relationship!
Objectification. Objectification is a very commonly misunderstood term. It does not mean “being attracted to people,” the way it is sometimes used; it means “treating people as objects.” For instance, if Pat were to view Robin primarily as a means of obtaining free rides and occasional meals, while not actually liking Robin as a person, that would be objectifying.
If Pat is approaching eir conversations with Robin with a “so, you should fuck me! I do not care about you as a person except insofar as you can give me sex” attitude, that is probably going to be creepy. (Note that there are some cruising environments where that attitude is acceptable.) In general, in my experience, “looking for cool people to hang out with and then if it turns into sex cool” is a far less creepy attitude than “I’m basically just here to get sex and if it’s a reasonably attractive warm body it’s fine by me, no matter how obnoxious that body is.”
Threatening behavior. This is the very obvious one. Essentially, it is If Pat calls Robin a “bitch” or a “fag” for not talking to em, that is creepy. If Pat starts talking about how ey is totally capable of beating people up, no seriously, ey took a bunch of martial arts classes and is willing to smack anyone who looks at em twice, that is creepy. If Pat pushes Robin up against a wall and crowds into zir personal space, that is creepy (and also a boundary violation! Twofer!).