It’s a hard label for a good man to accept. But he realized it really isn’t about him at all.
I used to get called “creepy” all the time, never because of something specific I was doing, but simply because of a “vibe” I gave off to people.
Being labeled this way always hurt my feelings and made me angry. I knew I was a good person and that nobody had any reason to fear me. I wanted to help others and make people feel safe, but how could I make people feel safe if they saw me as creepy? I felt like people were labeling me a bad person without getting to know me, and I started defining myself by those labels.
Part of the problem arose from me misunderstanding what, exactly, I was being called. Most men think of “creepy” as a sexual reference. They assume it’s a term for men who offer women unwanted sexual attention, either through stares, lewd comments, or lack of boundaries. When good men who respect boundaries get labeled “creepy,” those men feel hurt and confused. They retrace all their footsteps and dissect every interaction they’ve had with a particular woman, wondering which innocent gesture or statement might have been misinterpreted as lecherous.
For women, creepiness isn’t about sex. Women enjoy sex and enjoy being sexually desired, just as men do. What women don’t like is feeling powerless or violated, and unfortunately, most women have had past experiences wherein they felt both powerless and violated. So sometimes, without intending it, good men can inadvertently trigger these feelings in women through words or actions, because unwanted sexual gestures are just one way of making a woman feel “creeped out.”
For women, male creepiness is part of everyday life. When a woman goes to the gym, she deals with male creepiness from the men who stare at her butt. When a woman goes to a bar or nightclub, she deals with men trying to pick her up and/or gropingly dance with her. When she walks alone at night, she deals with men who yell lewd comments from their cars. If she slaps the “creepy” label onto you, it’s not because she’s equating you with these men, it’s because she’s trying to set a boundary early and keep her distance so that you aren’t able to make her feel the way those men do.
Of course, if you’re like I used to be, you say, “But I’m not like those guys! I’m a good guy. Why do women judge me without giving me a chance?”
Well, maybe you are a good guy, but women aren’t obligated to validate your feelings. If a woman finds you creepy, you need to let it go. It doesn’t mean all women find you creepy. It doesn’t even mean you are creepy. It just means something about you triggers some unease in that particular woman. Maybe you’ll get a chance to prove her wrong, but if you force her to give you that chance, then you deserve to be called creepy.
A friend once told me that feminism is “the belief that women’s safety matters more than men’s feelings.” When it’s worded that way, I think we all agree, but when presented with real life examples, sometimes we men get too wrapped up in our own feelings to consider the bigger picture. If a man feels outraged over being called creepy instead of feeling outraged over the fact that women live in constant fear of being harassed, that man needs to reexamine his worldview.
If a woman calls you creepy, she’s asking you to leave her alone. It feels unkind, but is there a kind way to ask someone to leave you alone? Some women pick a safer route, telling you they have a boyfriend even when they don’t, but do you really want women to feel so unsafe that they have to invent an imaginary man to scare you off? Other women cushion the blow of rejections with a reassuring line like “I’m sure you’re a great guy, but I’m not interested.” She doesn’t know you, and she isn’t sure you’re a great guy, but she’s not obligated to give you a chance to prove yourself. If she’s creeped out, you need to let it go. Don’t worry about the reason; worry about finding the right girl and don’t hold it against her she’s wrong for you.
Today, if a woman misreads my intentions as “creepy,” I refuse to take it personally. It still doesn’t feel good, but I respect their feelings and back off. Not everyone is going to like me, and I’d rather just move on to the people who do like me than keep worrying about the people who don’t. That said, since I’ve started living by this philosophy, I’ve found that I get called “creepy” much less frequently, or maybe I’ve just stopped noticing. Either way, life got easier when I stopped making things all about me.