I Have a Suggestion

[Content Note: Misogyny; harassment.]

It's a three-part suggestion, actually, for any straight dude who may, in 2014, consider writing a How Not to Be Creepy article for his fellow straight dudes, e.g. How Not to Be Creepy While Asking a Girl Out, or How Not to Be Creepy on Social Media, or whatever.

1. Don't write it. Because framing harassment, hostility to consent, or potential sexual assault as "creepiness" in a conversation with other dudes is bullshit. Here's the thing: I would wager that virtually all of the men who have behaved toward me in ways described as "creepy" don't consider themselves creepy. "Creepy" is something other dudes are. If you want to have a serious talk with men about their interactions with women, you can't use language that very few of the men who need to take this lesson believe applies to them.

When you write a piece about "creeps," you're writing about "other guys," as far as lots and lots of dudes are concerned. You might get lots of cookies from grateful women, and some high fives from dudes who are also definitely not creepy, but if the point of your piece is validation rather than a meaningful conversation with men who cause harm, then you're kind of a creep yourself.

2. Don't write it. Because inevitably there's a flavor to How Not to Be Creepy advice pieces of offering help to well-intentioned but clueless dudes. And, sure, maybe some of those guys exist, but the assumption that most dudes are just creepy by accident, because they don't know any better, is bullshit. And it serves as rape apologia. One of the most pernicious narratives about men who harm women sexually is that they just made a mistake. Hostility to consent is not a mistake.

Cultural and institutional reform to reduce "creepiness" toward women begins with acknowledging that predators are not otherwise good boys who just made a mistake. But they're sure grateful when we think they are, and talk about "creepiness" as the misguided bumblings of a hapless dude who just didn't know any better.

And if you're inclined to insist but there really are hapless dudes who just don't know any better! I will ask you to consider: 1. How do you know? Listen to the women who can tell you story after story of men who insistently breached their consent, who "creeped" on them in spite of their clear, explicit communication to stop, but could play the hapless doofus for the benefit of other men, specifically because they know narratives about "mistakes" exist and that playing into those narratives protects and abets them. 2. So what if those guys do exist? If those guys want to not harm women, they'll learn even if you target your allyship in a way that centers accountability for any harm, irrespective of intent.

3. Don't write it. Instead, invite a woman to write a piece about consent from her perspective, then leverage your male privilege to endorse and champion it. Host it in your space. Invite other men to listen to what your female guest writer has to say. The thing about "creeps" is that they don't respect women; they don't listen to us; they don't empathize with us.

If you really want men to not harm women, then find ways of encouraging them to respect, listen to, and empathize women. To see what "creepiness" looks like from our perspective.

Talking about women as targets, as objects, as things to be approached this way and not approached that way, is not humanizing. It's othering.

If you want to reduce harm to women, not othering us is a good place to start.

[Related Reading: Please, No More Dating Guides.]

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