The creeped-out was not creeped out by any basic detail, not by a hat or glasses or moustache or anything else. The creeped-out was creeped out by this person’s energy. That may manifest as scary body language, like the example of the guy who cut me off while I was walking, but it doesn’t always. In our culture, intuition and emotive understand are vilified as unimportant, inconsistent, unreliable. But many women were raised without having their intuitive/emotional understanding dismissed in the same way that many men were raised in our culture.
Therefore, women are more likely to be aware of, and trust their gut feelings. Often, doing so can protect them from real, dangerous, sometimes life-or-death situations. It doesn’t mean women want you to be creepy or are on the lookout for it. It means they are trying to be safe in a world that tells them they aren’t, and are using their intuition as a tool towards that goal.
Before everyone goes all “BUT SCIENCE” on this, there is growing scientific evidence and acceptance of intuitive veracity. The reductionist mechanistic worldview, which regards human emotions as a PROCESSING ERROR, EEP EEP OOP, is oversimplistic and false. Just because science can’t yet completely explain how a person might know in their gut that another person might be dangerous to them, doesn’t mean that it isn’t an important, valid part of human experience. She may be reacting to a situation that happened a long time ago, that you’ve inadvertently reminded her of. She may feel unsafe because of the song coming out of that restaurant. That doesn’t make her experience any less real to her. It does mean that it has less to do with you than you might think.
The fact is that everyone has emotions—everyone has powerful emotions—and in the case of creepiness, the main emotion at play is fear.
But I’m Not Scary
No one wants to be labeled as frightening.
You know whether you’re a good guy, a safe guy, or a dangerous guy. If you’re honest with yourself, you know whether people have any reason to be afraid of you, and for 99% of you (or more), the answer is a resounding no: there is no reason for anyone to fear you, at all (except for the fear we all have of having our hearts broken by another, but that’s a different story entirely). The vast majority of men aren’t just safe to be around, but in my experience actually, make life safer for the women around them.
(I love men. Can you tell? If you want to learn more about this, check out my page about Happy Men and Healthy Masculinity. And if you know a woman who is interested in learning how to improve her relationships with men, I’m putting together a lot of resources about The Power of Feminine Energy for just said purpose).
So why does it hurt so much to hear that someone thinks you’re scary? Why, despite knowing in your head that you’re safe to be around, do you feel a pang of fear or shame in your heart or gut… fear that maybe you are dangerous?
That’s because most men in our society have internalized some of the women’s fear of them, some of the (incorrect!) beliefs our culture has about men being dangerous. Personally, I believe this fear to be massively unfounded, and I think the majority of men reading this would agree with me. Nevertheless, most men in our society have a vicious internal dialogue, beliefs that cause profound shame in and around their manhood.
Similarly, most women in our society have been taught to be terrified of men. Many women have had very traumatic experiences with men, which compounds that fear and creates a nexus of trauma, fear, and avoidance, which is terribly painful for the woman to experience.
Often, when a woman feels ‘creeped out’, she’s actually triggered: reminded, by some detail or energetic quality of the person that’s creeping her out, of a time when she felt that she was not safe… and thus feeling very unsafe in the present. As someone recovering from PTSD myself, I can tell you that no amount of rational internal dialogue can override the abject fear that comes from being triggered. It’s like being under the influence of a powerful, terrible drug.
All of this to say that, often, being labeled as ‘creepy’ has nothing to do with you. And, often, the shame that results has less to do with having been labeled as creepy, and more to do with the shame and fear that this label triggers within you.
Many men are taught to be afraid of themselves: afraid that they are dangerous. Even well-meaning attempts to reduce sexual violence by teaching consent to men implies that without such teaching, men will rape. Combine this cultural atmosphere with the yang energy of manhood: sometimes-barely-controllable urges, dirty and violent thoughts, dark desires… welcome to Testosterone Country! These things don’t mean that you’re dangerous, even if that fear feels very real. But most men have internalized terrible shame around, well, being men.
Changing the Situation
Here’s the catch: just like alchemy can’t really turn lead into gold, there is no magical way to change how another person feels about you… especially if they’re reacting to deep emotional traumas that have nothing to do with you.
What you can change is the shame and fear that you feel within yourself, and how you react when people throw the C-Word around. (I mean creepy.)