Hello Men. Today I am addressing you. It’s been an eye opening year, and I’m sure a lot of you feel unfairly called out. Perhaps you are feeling defensive in ways you never did before. Maybe you are learning about some behaviors and actions that you were never aware of in the past. Or maybe you fear that we women have gone crazy and it’s only a matter of time before you are being lumped in with the rest of these men.
And it’s not fair, you say! You have no intentions of causing harm or danger to women. You love women! So why are you considered a creep?
First of all, thank you. I know you are well intended, I know you want to learn but you just don’t know how. And I know you don’t mean to be part of the problem. Second of all, I hate to break it to you, but you were always a creep. None of our experiences, none of our criteria, none of our behaviors have changed in the last year. We just finally started talking about them.
But you are not alone! There are many Well Intended Men out there who have no idea how their actions and behavior is really coming across. They don’t realize women cross the street when they are coming near. They don’t realize their female coworkers avoid being alone with them. They don’t realize how they make their female friends feel. Plenty of Well Intended Men are just as lost and confused as you are, and are just as hurt to be seen as a creep.
So let’s go over some examples of common behaviors of Well Intended Men that are actually creeping us women out.
Not Giving Us Space
This is not metaphorical space. This is actual literal personal space. And let me tell you, men violate my personal space on a daily basis. When I am walking down the street, men will walk just a little to close to me. When I am at the store or bar, men will stand just a little too near. When men are walking toward me they never step aside or adjust their path to give me space, I am always expected to move around them. Men who are brushing past me and literally touching me. Men who force me to alter my course. Men who just seem oblivious that I am occupying this space already and they need to give me room.
And it’s not quite threatening behavior, but it’s certainly not behavior that makes me feel safe. There’s something that happens when a stranger enters your personal space that sends off singles to protect yourself, to be on the defense. And when a man I don’t know is invading my personal space, it creeps me out.
So Well Intending Men, step one: back off. Literally. Pay more attention to the personal space you are invading, regardless of your intentions, and just stop. Because regardless as to your intentions or unawareness, you are violating our personal space and it is creepy and unsettling.
“Wow, you are beautiful. Has someone told you that today?”
“Thank you so much, you have been so helpful. If my wife wasn’t here I would kiss you!”
“I wish more beautiful women like you talked to me”
“That dress is really flattering on you. You should dress like that more often”
All of these are things actual men have actually said to me. At work. These were not crazy men shouting at me on the street. These were clients and coworkers. And do you know what I didn’t feel when they made comments like this to me: flattered. Do you know what I did feel: creeped out.
And here is why. All of these compliments have a very uncomfortable and sexual undertone. They all imply a conversation that I have no interest in having. They all imply actions I have no interest in participating in. They have taken a normal and professional interaction and turned it sexual. These comments devalue me down to just a sexual being here for their pleasure.
So, Well Intending Men, how can you avoid this common mistake? Stop making your compliments towards women sexual! Just because you notice a woman is attractive does not mean you have to voice that. Acknowledge, affirm, and appriciate the actual work being done, but don’t make it sexual.
Understanding Work/Personal Life Boundaries
Sorry, but yes, there are more ways to creep out your coworkers than just inappropriate compliments. Every office has one: the guy you dread being left alone with in the break room. That guy who you always have awkward one-minute conversation with that seem to last an hour; that guy who hovers at the edge of the group during happy hour; that guy who doggedly asks his female coworkers out to lunch. It’s that guy who doesn’t understand that there are social boundaries at work that need to be respected. And he only seems to struggle with this understanding when it comes to his female coworkers. He very well may be loved by his male coworkers, they may all be baffled to learn that the women of the office avoid him.
So what is socially acceptable work place talk? For example, asking someone how their weekend was or what they have planned is totally acceptable. But pressing for details that are not volunteered, or inviting yourself along to plans is unacceptable. Discussing sporting events that you share a mutual interest in, or a movie or concert, totally fine. Perhaps even organizing or attending a work social event around those shared interests, totally fine. But trying to facilitate a one-on-one outside of work outs inspired by these shared interests crosses a line. Complimenting and acknowledging someones work performance is great, but commenting on their figure is not.
Look, yes, sometimes work place friendships and romances happen. It’s purely mathematical. But you should not expect this to happen. You should not treat your work environment like your social well. If things happen naturally that is one thing. But if you are forcing things, endlessly facilitating things, friend requesting your female coworkers or clients on social media, you are making these women uncomfortable.
And you need to stop. Start viewing the women you work with as coworkers and leave it at that. The world is full of dating apps for you to find people to make weekend plans with and watch sporting events with, leave the women you work with alone.
Making Everything About Sex
So we’ve talked about ways you may be creeping out strangers, we’ve talked about multiple ways you may be creeping out your coworkers and clients. Let’s talk about how you may be creeping out your female friends.
Well Intended Man, let me ask you. Do you often find yourself discussing sex in casual conversation? Responding to casual comments with sexual innuendos? Referencing your favorite porn around the campfire? Bringing attention to the fact that you know your friends are in a sexual relationship? If you said yes to any of this, let me ask you further: how did the women in these situations respond? Did they laugh and seem engaged? Banter back? Or did they get quiet, and maybe seem unamused and perhaps uncomfortable?
Or, Well Intended Man, how about this. What are your expectations of your single female friends? When you go to social gatherings do you expect these single female friends to flirt with you? Be open and available to sexual acts with you? Do you get upset if the night doesn’t result in sexual activity with this single female friend? Do you view the night as a waste because your single female friend didn’t engaged sexually with you? When you decide to reach out to your female friends, what is the motivator? How quickly does your casual-chit-chat-catch-up turn sexual on your part? If you said yes to any of this, let me ask you further: how did the women in these situations respond? Do they continue to invite you to things? Do they continue to engage in the conversation once it turns sexual? Or do these women fade out of your life?
For me, the hardest part of maintaining my friendships with my guy friends was that they all expected more than just friendship. Suddenly every conversation turned into something sexual, and I was uncomfortable. Every hang out there was a clear expectation of physical intimacy. And when I didn’t reciprocate they would get mad at me. Accuse me of wasting their time. When I invited them to social things I would get responses like, “well but is this all we are going to do, because if nothing else is going to happen this isn’t really worth my while tonight” making me feel like our friendship was only ever seen as a means to a sexual end.
And you know what, I stopped being friends with these people. I stopped reaching out for chit-chat-catch-up, and I stopped engaging when they reached out to me. I stopped inviting them to social gatherings because I didn’t like the pressure they put on me.
So, Well Intended Man, I ask you this: do you actually have female friendships? Or do you just seem women as a source to eventual sex? What are your expectations and motivations of having female friends?
Basically, Well Intended Man, how do you view the women in your life? Do you seem them as active members of this community, contributing and passionate? Or do you see the women around you as opportunities?
Again, I know you are well intended. I know you want to have good interactions with women, that you want the women around you to feel safe and comfortable. You just don’t realize that your everyday behavior is creepy. You don’t realize that your view and outlook on the purpose of a woman is not to please you sexually and revolve around you.
And I know you want to be better! So here is what I advice. Start giving more space to the women of the world. If you could easily or accidentally touch a woman who is not an intimate partner, you are standing too close. Give her more space. If you are brushing against strangers as you walk past, you are too close. Pay attention and respect the personal space of women. Stop making your compliments weirdly sexual. When a woman in a professional environment helps you, just say thank you and leave it at that. Stop treating the women you work with different than you treat the men. Stop viewing the women you work with as a social opportunity beyond professional. And stop making your friends uncomfortable with all your sexual talk. Just like sex acts, sex talk requires consent. If you don’t have the consent to talk sexually with someone, then don’t talk sexually. If you think it’s weird to establish that boundary officially, then you definitely shouldn’t be talking about sex.
Basically, stop seeing women as a means purely for sex and ego boosts, and start viewing them as people.