A few weeks back I was able to attend a seminar by Charlie Glickman and Sabrina Morgan entitled How Not to be “That Guy” at Playground conference. If you’re a twitter follower of mine, you already know I was tweeting a bunch that weekend; but I didn’t feel right live tweeting in that space. For me, “creepiness” is such a loaded and often shameful topic for people I didn’t want to risk people feeling like they couldn’t share honestly and openly. So instead I made notes to share with y’all.
As someone who is super enthusiastic – yes, sometimes to the point of making other’s uncomfortable – and has a lot of strong, forward energy, creepy is an issue near and dear to my heart. I know I’ve left a creeper impression in some people’s minds, and I’m often aware of managing my energy lust so that people I’m interested in aren’t feeling uncomfortable around me. So despite the gendered title, the workshop was of interest to me for personal reasons – it’s good to know how to not be “that guy”. Plus, the (visible) gender split it the room was about equal, and during a poll everyone expressed concerns about being seen as creepy. The desire to not be taken as creepy? Pretty universal.
First we set some rules for the space – my own addition, compassion, is covered in the photo; but was accepted gratefully. I’m not sure if it’s my own awkward past, or just my general nature, but it’s been my experience that people making effort to not be seen as creepy do so with some big emotional investment, which is important to honor; I’m happy our space did that.
Next we got right into discussing what it means to be creepy. This is always a bit of a tricky exercise as most people, noted Dr. Glickman, rarely define creepy stating instead they know it when they see it – but opening up the floor for brainstorming gave us this:
- Hyper attentiveness or focus on one person
- Over exuberance
- Selfishness / lack of consideration for “me” in a conversation
- Inauthenticity, or sensing that someone is hiding their true intention
I would add:
- Unexplained knowledge about the other person or over-familiarity; social media can often make us feel more intimately connected to someone; but unless they’ve been engaging back, that’s only one way. You might feel you know then, but they don’t know you
- Disrespecting social norms; particularly around personal space, eye contact, and conversational flow.
- Repeated passive hinting without a direct ask. Especially if the hints get more aggressive. Women, I think, are most likely to fall into this trap; if one has been raised with good girls don’t ask for it ideals, it can be difficult to be upfront with their desires, leaving them do to this pseudo coy dance around questions they clearly want to ask, but won’t.
After that we moved onto some strategies of engaging with people. The focus was definitely on providing invitation and then creating space (as opposed to pressure) for the other person. I love the invitation for two reasons; first it lets people opt in to what’s happening, and second it pushes people to step up and take part in their own sexual experiences. Too often I think we move the conversation towards how to win people over instead of expecting to step up and claim their desire. Some great asks were provided by Charlie: If it works for you, if you’re interested, if you’re available; – the “if” making it clear that you’re only interested in doing an activity if the other person is too.
Can I be honest? I haven’t mastered the art of if/then asks yet – I feel like such a goober when I say that; I’m more direct/forthright/blunt/selfish – which is great in some ways, but can also be really off putting for people who aren’t used to that level of forward. After all, if flirting is playful game of catch, hurling a ball full force at someone isn’t going to be fun for them. Luckily Sabrina had my favourite tip of the session: coating direct asks within general banter can make obtaining consent more mainstream friendly. Banter to soften the ask? That I can do!
My other favourite sessions bits came from discussing why we’re engaging with others; how seeking sex/relationships/connection as an external method of validation puts so much pressure on asking, and affects how we take being turned down. This is so true! When getting that laid/dates/whateva become a way of measuring our desirability or worthiness as people we invest so much into the outcome that we can’t see that a no is always more about someone else doing what’s right for them than. Instead, we internalize it as hit against our self-worth. Did I say this was so true? Y’all – simply by being you are worthy of connection and love. Someone not wanting to have coffee with you, or cuddle with you, or have sex with you does not diminish this.
We rounded out the hour by talking about exit strategies – how to gracefully excuse ourselves from conversations: thank people for the conversation, let them know you enjoyed chatting with them; perhaps even provide them with information about how to get in touch – or find you later – should they want to. And no, giving someone your room number is not a graceful exist strategy; employ that one with caution.
My one frustration came from the Q and A period; because as always the conversation turned to the feelings of the people who don’t mean to be creepy, but are; and the convo shifted a bit to giving people more chances, and really, asking people to put aside their gut instincts, which frustrates me. I know I take a firm line on this, so it’s hard to hear that conversation without it reading to me like back peddling; so while I don’t completely begrudge that discussion I’m super over it. How do you sit for an hour talking about how to make space comfortable for others, and switch immediately back to expecting people to manage your feels?
We need to remember something. Statistically speaking; it is almost guaranteed that if you’re talking with a woman, you’re talking with someone who has experienced some form of non-consensual experience; be that street harassment, be that assault, be that sexual assault – or an attempted sexual assault. Almost guaranteed. So instead of being mad at women have their boundaries up, show the same consideration you would want for yourself and consider why she’s behaving as she does. Consider it an opportunity to prove you aren’t a creeper simply by respecting where she’s at. It is a low bar; I have faith you can clear it.