There is predatory behavior out there. There are also perfectly nice people that are as limited in their ability to read body language as I am to being able to make sense of spreadsheets and pivot tables. I’m actually not worried about those folks. The predators need to be identified and stopped, and I’m all for teaching people how to read people and the world around them.
All of us do our best to approach people, live in the world, avoid conflicts and get on well. There well may be people in the world who would go come on to a person, or yell a gay slur, or say something racist to an interracial couple and tell them not to be together. And there well maybe be interracial couples, or gay couples, or women who are so used to being stared at (or told terrible things) that they are hyper alert to anything that looks like judgement to them.
And there also are people who are projecting judgement before it hits them and act like jerks.
So all those things are true in the dating/more sexual arena.
I’d offer that the misfiring communication gender combos go in all directions. Sometimes defensiveness and bad interactions happen. All any of us can do is our best to interact with honesty and compassion and empathy for others, apologize if we were wrong and hope for that same compassionate treatment back.
My problem with the word creep (as with the word slut or any other pejorative predicated on a “look”) is that each of us have personal histories that lead us to be prone to projection, and we have cultural ideals of what “safe” and “harmful” look like which are set out in media and other narratives.
(Actual sociopaths or predators can look pretty much like everyone. They don’t get forged in a kiln that produces some kind of stereotypically “creepy” look, like Jackie Earle Haley in The Children, which a friend of mine at The Good Men Project pointed out. If you had a bad experience with someone who looked like Jackie Earle Haley (or whatever “scary” looks like to you, as I suspect Jackie Earle Haley is a lovely person and a fantastic actor) in your childhood you may be predisposed to think all men who look like that are creeps. Which means when you run up against a real predator, a true sociopath, you may really not be looking or feeling for the right clues.)
I do my best to look at actual behavior: Is this person ignoring what I’m saying. Is this person pushing past limits I’ve clearly set. Is this person using manipulative verbal cues to get me to feel sorry for him or her in order to get me to do something I’ve already indicated I don’t want to do.
And that would be enough to react to on any given day. Still. I was reacting to more.
The “more” is a common refrain I’ve seen many places, “If an attractive man does the same behaviors as an unattractive man he’s golden, but if he’s unattractive…he gets called creepy.”
In the case of young women calling men creeps that they don’t find attractive or “good enough” to date them, I have no doubt it happens. But I have no doubt that men do it in some way to women, or bosses do it in some way to applicants who clearly don’t make the cut. People can be really mean. The words change, but the behavior seems to cross gender and race and age lines.
So I thought I’d come at this creep thing, and the argument that it’s all about attraction from an entirely different angle and one that probably best breaks down why the “attractive” and “unattractive” can but don’t always have anything to do with looks (since there are a million ways to look attractive depending on who is looking at you), but world views and frames on how one lives in the world.
Assertive, open, confidence mixed with lack of attachment to an outcome plus a genuine enjoyment of people equals much easier social interactions and better relationships and enjoyment of life overall.
Well, duh. Changing gears a little bit. Bear with me.
I do improv.
The audience wants a good time. They want to feel safe in the knowledge that they’ll have a good time. They want to believe that the people onstage, who are making things up from thin air, can indeed do it, love doing it, enjoy doing it and aren’t afraid of doing it.
When you get an improviser onstage who is cautious, tentative, unsure (like they may be fronting confidence but you can FEEL their fear or uncertainty) passive, waiting…it feels uncomfortable to watch.
And when you get an improviser onstage who is overly aggressive, steals scenes, doesn’t listen, plays “blue,” blocks offers in favor of their own idea, doesn’t share…well, for a while they may be compelling to watch and may even get a lot of laughs but over time….they are also uncomfortable to watch and play with, in my opinion at least.
Your shy guy isn’t necessarily unattractive. But maybe he has something going on inside him that projects passivity, fear, insecurity or negativity and this can trigger others in a way that they don’t like being around him.
But the solution to this isn’t to be like the bossy loud guy who is aggressive, blocking, rude, and doesn’t share. I feel both are mirrors of a kind of avoidance of connection and resistance to collaboration which is what great improv (and great relationships) take.
The solution is to find that ground in the middle where you are enjoying being you and enjoying the process of life. Living neither passively nor aggressively with the willingness to go with a more fun offer or to allow one’s partner to “drive” for while. Listening as much as talking, if not more. A genuine joy in the interaction that I don’t think can be faked. Mutuality and empathy. Play.
Letting go of the outcome (I’m gonna have the best show ever/I’m gonna get laid/I’m gonna be the funniest person on stage/I’m gonna win that date) and allowing actual adventure to happen is not easy. Ego is in everything, I get it. I most certainly get my ego bruised when I’m rejected or when I mess up or when I have my sights set hard on a particular outcome.
But being open to possibility means a shift in how you deal with ego. Instead of everyone else being an accessory or tool to you, they become partners in adventure and creativity in a mutual narrative that you each get to develop.
This difference is a world view.
I realize what I’m saying, “It’s about attitude” sounds simplistic. Unrealistic. I get that. I do think there are some extremely important frames, philosophic positions and views of how one lives in the world here that bear looking at and trying to incorporate.
But this post is too long, so that post will need to wait until next week.
–Looking for one-on-one coaching on relationships, sexuality, life passages, or need support with personal or career goals? Seeking seeking a facilitator for your group or team to help promote healthy group dynamics and effective communication? Contact me here!