I read this yesterday on Jezebel. Go read it, I’ll wait.. (FYI: I don’t recommend reading the comments sometimes it is like punching yourself in the face repeatedly).
I agree with a lot of the basic arguments here.
In my own life when I label someone as creepy it is because they have done something to violate my personal space which I have not consented to or they continually behave as though my personal space/boundaries do not matter to them. For example one time when I was living in Thailand I got into a Song Taew (local transport that is part bus part taxi). The Driver motioned for me to get into the front seat next to him, this is not very unusual, song taew drivers work long hours and often want someone to talk to in the front and foreigners are particularly interesting. However once I got it in the driver started asking me if I had a boyfriend, whether he could have my number and telling me how much he liked dark skin. On top of this he kept *touching* me. Stroking my arm and trying to hold my hand. This kind of behavior is creepy, I left the situation as soon as I was able and it still freaks me out now when I think about it. Another more recent example was at a bar in Wellington where a man who I had spoken to earlier in the evening, who had self identified as gay, moved my hair out of the way and kissed me on the neck while I was facing away from him talking to someone else. This was also incredibly creepy and I felt violated.
Both of these examples are on the red alert creepo end of creepiness but I feel like they display the kind of violations that happen to women frequently which are not severe enough to be criminal, yet leave us feeling disconcerted and violated. Labeling someone as creepy is a self protecting mechanism for many women, often we do not even have the language to express why a person freaks us out, but it is a clear indication that an individual is making us uncomfortable.
What underlines this labeling is the notion that we are fed as women that we are constantly under threat. Something that I feel many men don’t understand.
There are of course difficulties with this label. Ensuring that you do not come of as creepy is usually a matter of picking up and responding to non verbal cues. They are non verbal because women often face consequences for being direct in these types of situations (many people I know have been verbally abused when they have said that someone’s attentions are unwanted). This can lead to problems for people who have low social awareness, or people with different cultural contexts who can come of as creepy when they don’t mean to be because they are unable to evaluate those unspoken cues.
Ideally as mature adults we would be able to show attention to someone and then accept a respectfully spoken acceptance or rejection from any gender, however currently this simply not the case.