The Definition of Creepiness

Now let’s continue the discussion of the post I started to address in the previous article. Here is a list of behaviors the author of the post proposes to define as “creepy.” Let’s look at them one by one.

Continuing to talk to someone, especially a stranger or acquaintance, who has negative body language (closed up, frozen, shaking head, looking away, responding in monosyllables) or says they would not like to talk to you.

Continuing to talk to a person who asked you to stop is not creepy. It is harassment, so I don’t think this belongs on the list. However, this suggestion that one is to evaluate anybody’s “body language” for hints is very disturbing. What is it with this obsession to “translate” things that cannot possibly have a single meaning? An autistic often looks away, for example. This in no way means that s/he is not interested in continuing a conversation. A shy person often responds in monosyllables not because they want to reject their interlocutor but because they need time to feel comfortable in the situation.

What’s “closed up body language”, anyways?

Hitting on a stranger in an enclosed environment (such as a moving vehicle), a deserted area or very late at night.

So now we are not to flirt on airplanes? Buses? Trains? Bars at the time of last call? What is the problem with “moving vehicles” and late-night bars as places to meet others?

Telling a stranger how much you’d like to fuck them as your opening line.

Also not vomiting on people as your opening line is a good idea. Not stabbing them with a pair of scissors the second you meet them will probably lead to greater social success, as well. Seriously, does anybody except extremely drunk people make such comments to strangers?

Sending a person you went out on a date with thirty emails and ten phone calls.

If they let you know they don’t like that, then yes, it’s important to stop. However, this desire to impose one’s own rules of what’s normal precludes any acceptance on the part of the post’s author of the simple fact that different people have different courtship rituals. Some can feel pressured after receiving one phone call right after the date while others will be ecstatic to get 30 emails and 15 phone calls.

Pressuring a person into physical contact (anything from a handshake to sex) they don’t want.

This suggestion I  don’t get. The only way I can imagine of pressuring people into physical contact they don’t want is rape. Rape is not creepy. It is criminal. Any other “pressure” for contact, if we exclude the cases of parents pressuring their children for unwanted touching, is really hard to imagine between adults.

Hitting on people who are likely to feel pressured into saying yes, such as teenagers (if you are over the age of 21) or students or employees.

Once again, this has nothing to do with “creepiness”. This is sexual harassment, pure and simple. It’s a crime.

Taking someone out on something that is not a date, which you plan on turning into a date.

What if that someone is your husband of 10 years who decided to organize a surprise for you? Seriously, what’s with the need to create rules of behavior for everybody based on one’s own limited set of experiences? We are all different, and what’s creepy to one of us, might be romantic to many others. And, of course, vice versa.

“Accidentally” turning up in the psychology class, coffeeshop or laundromat of the person you have a crush on.

How about going to the same party where the person you like but are too shy to approach directly? Is that “creepy”, too? If we are talking about, say, students, one would have to become a virtual recluse to avoid showing up at any place where the person one likes might hang out.

Only talking to people you want to fuck at a party.

Just imagine the sad kind of society we will live in if prudes win the day and start shaming people about who they should or shouldn’t talk to at a party.

Poor social skills in general.

And this is my favorite one. Beware, autistics and intraverts! You are as creepy as a boss who sexually harasses employees and a teacher who solicits teenagers for sexual favors.

I usually really like the posts published on the blog I linked to but this one is very disappointing.

Pressured and Told By Whom?

Whenever the passive voice begins to be overused in a piece of writing, you immediately know that some wild, completely unsupported projection is awaiting you. Look at the following paragraph, for example:

Straight women are pressured to be nice, to be polite, to give him a chance, to not make a fuss. Straight men are told that having any boundaries around physical contact with women is unmasculine, since a real man ought to want sex with every woman who wants sex with him.

Who is this mysterious being that pressures women into being polite and tells men not to have boundaries “around physical contact”, whatever that even means?

The advice I always give to my students is that whenever they use passive constructions, they should ask themselves whether they know who performs the action introduced with the passive voice. The paragraph I quoted would be a lot stronger if the author tried naming the people or the entities who do all this pressuring and telling. Of course, when the blogger I quoted does attempt to state who is performing these undesirable actions, s/he falls into yet another trap: a useless, uninspiring generalization:

Western culture encourages people of both typically male and typically female socialization to not firmly enforce their boundaries.

This statement sounds like “Western culture” is some magical creature that floats above men and women telling them what to do and encouraging them “to not firmly enforce.” I’m deducing from this statement that, in this author’s eyes, there must be Eastern, Southern or Northern cultures that do encourage its men and women “to firmly enforce.” It would be nice to hear about them because I don’t think I ever heard of their existence and their profound respect for boundaries.

Again, “typically male” and “typically female” socialization differ widely between, for example, my country and the US. They differ so much as to be almost exact opposites. Does this mean that my people are suddenly excluded from belonging to the Western civilization?

Nothing bores me more than hearing all these vapid generalizations about how “society”, “our culture”, “the Western civilization”, etc. make us do all kinds of things. As if society and culture somehow existed outside of us. The appropriation of “Western” as something exclusively English-speaking is also quite annoying.

And yes, I’m in a crabby mood today.

Segregated Buses in Israel

Until Israel puts an end to the following kinds of barbarity, it can hardly expect to be seen as a civilized country by anybody:

And that’s when I got to learn some new things about myself. Apparently even when wearing a skirt and covering my shoulders I am still too attractive to be in the same vicinity as Haredi men. While waiting for the bus, four Haredi men stood in the hot afternoon sun so that they would not need to wait in the bus shelter with us.

I also learned that I am an abomination because I refused to sit in the back of the bus and sat in the front with the men. When we sat down in the front we were instantly approached by a young man who refused to look at me and my female companion but told us very forcefully that we immediately had to move to the back of the bus. We told him calmly that what we were doing was entirely legal but he refused to hear and told us that we were shayetz, abominations.

What’s with the segregated buses, people? If Israel is trying to market itself as a country that offers the only Middle Eastern alternative to Shariah-based Muslim regimes, then it will have to start doing something about this kind of nastiness.

Religious fanatics are disgusting no matter which religion they use as an excuse for their hateful practices.

New Furniture Is Coming!

So the great news is that next week we will be moved out of our offices and new furniture will be installed. And that new furniture is a thing of beauty that is joy forever. Right now, we have these really old, ugly metal things in our offices that are no inspiration whatsoever. Also, everything is organized in such a weird way that one can barely work.

Here is how the office looks right now (with the horrible mess being due to the fact that I’m in the process of packing):

And here is my computer table that is stuck between the wall and an ugly metal chest:

So when students come in to rewrite their tests or what not, I have to sit with my back to them and they sit with their backs to me, which makes very little sense. And this little computer table is not only ugly, it is also full of scary metal protuberances that always leave me covered in bruises and scratches.

I can’t wait for the new furniture to be installed. I will, of course, post a photo the moment the office is transformed.

Majors Fair, Another Update

Since I’m so unpopular at this Majors Fair, I’ll use the favorite tool of all unpopular kids: a cell phone that you can use to text, emai and blog to pretend that you are not talking to anybody not because you are lonely but simply because you are too busy for silly things like talking to people.

The nice colleague at the table next to mine is now driving my unpopularity home by picking up his sign up sheet, pointedly counting the multitude of names on it, and looking with compassion at my nearly empty sheet with its poor 4 names on it. I probably would have done the same in his situation, so I can’t really complain. And collegiality be damned. Popularity is so much more important.

Well, as I say whenever one of my articles gets rejected, “At least, I’m pretty.”

This activity is going to turn all of us into our former, high school selves.

Majors Fair Update

The table next to mine is occupied by a very nice colleague from the Department of Mass Communications. His table is a lot more popular than mine and his sign-up sheet of students who are interested in the program is a lot more populated than mine.

I’m now sitting here, feeling envious, resentful, and unpopular. Memories of high school are flooding in.

I wish I’d been put next to the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Those guys’ sign-up sheet is completely empty, so I’d look popular compared to them. Besides, a have a weakness for statisticians. 🙂

Majors Fair

I’m representing our department at an event called Career Exploration and Majors Fair right now. (You can see the table and the brochures and my teacher’s bag in the picture).

A student comes up.

Me: Are you interested in foreign languages?

Student: Nah. Not really. So how many languages do you speak?

I tell him.

Student: Wow! Cool! So if I take this program, will I be able to become like you?

You’ve got to like students.