Thursday, February 23, 2017


Got to watch an interesting specimen. In retrospect, I’ve seen them before, quite a lot actually. But this one was blatant enough to draw attention. Attention brings analysis. 
Have to unpack the language here, and talk about a couple of categories and some background concepts.
Creepers are low-level sexual predators. The kind that harass and pressure women, but always with deniability. Rarely ever cross the line into something legally actionable, or something that could legally justify physical self-defense. They stand too close, shake hands too long, try to increase the physical intimacy of a relationship (e.g. pressuring a good-bye hug from someone they just met.) It hides in the normal social interaction. Rather, they disguise it in the normal social interaction. Many are willing to apologize, to explain away, or even call in allies to make their targets feel like maybe it is all imaginary, there is no problem… Some are sophisticated enough to cultivate an image of “social awkwardness” that gets other people defending their actions: “Mel’s always like that. It’s not a gender thing he does the same weird stuff around me and the other guys.” Perfect camouflage.
Most women who have been in any kind of  office environment recognize the problem and know the type. But also, many excuse or explain away their own instincts.
Violence groupies are all over. If you’ve been in any kind of force instruction role for any length of time, you’ve seen them. These are the guys that follow you around, begging for stories about ugly fights and death and violence. It’s not a healthy fascination, it’s pure fantasy fodder. Some of them even get fuller lips or lick their lips when they ask. Lips are erectile tissue, BTW, and swell when you get excited in certain ways. The lips are your face’s dick.
The specimen this time was both.
Concept: Unconsciously deliberate. People are largely unconscious machines. The words in your head are weak and pale (and very late) reflections of what is going on in your head. There’s a study out there where scientists watching an fMRI could tell what decisions a subject would make as much as six seconds before the subject consciously knew. You can pretty much get over the idea that your conscious mind is the driver.
You see people clearly planning and setting up situations that they will absolutely deny were intentional. We’ve all seen it— the guy who has been married for X years and meets an interesting women and starts dropping her name into conversations with friends, starts making sure she has a place in the social network, slowly gets everyone used to her presence. Starts minimizing the wife. Then one day after a big shared victory, there will be a bottle of wine and things will “just happen…”
So, back to creepers and violence groupies. You can’t accidentally stand too close or ask inappropriate questions. Those are volitional acts. But you can either be (e.g. raised in a culture with different rules on proxemics) or pretend to be oblivious that your choices are inappropriate. Watching the pattern, it may be unconscious, but the actions were one and all, deliberate.
And this is an aside, but we have the idea of justice tied intimately with the idea of conscious intentionality. A planned murder is considered a more heinous act than an unplanned act of rage. As long as the creeper can convince others that there is no conscious intent, the others will believe his acts are unfortunate instead of malicious. If the creeper can convince himself, he acts guilt-free.
So, and I have no answer for this— when an act is clearly deliberate, is there any way to tell if the perp was truly unconscious, pretending to himself it was unconscious or deliberately using the impression as a way to manipulate others (very conscious.) And, way to tell or not, does it matter?
Two of the giveaways. The deliberate ones do target-prep. Long ago, someone introduced himself in a class I was taking as, “That guy.”
“That guy?” The instructor asked.
“Yeah, you know, there’s one in every class, the guy who asks the inappropriate questions and bugs the instructors.”
Oh yeah. Look at that. This specimen has declared his intention to be disruptive. Any of the normal conversational response (the usual is the class snickers and the instructor says, “Thanks for letting me know,” with a little laugh and moves on) gives the specimen implicit permission. He has declared his intention, and has influenced the entire class not to object. This isn’t self-deprecating humor. This is victim grooming.
When someone touts their self-awareness of their bad patterns it isn’t admirable. If they are aware of the bad patterns then any step down that path is a choice. Once you know you’re ‘that guy’ acting like ‘that guy’ is a choice. Your excuses are gone.
The recent specimen had a tactic. At first I thought it was new, but in retrospect I’ve seen it before. He went around after class to apologize to the instructors. Again, the default is to be professional, polite (read ‘social and following the social scripts’) and try to minimize what he was apologizing for. But I wasn’t in a social mood.
Specimen: I just wanted you to know I’m really sorry.
Me: For what?
Specimen: You know (very smarmy voice: Yooou knoooow)
Me: I can think of a lot of things. What do you mean?
Specimen: I know how I can be.
Me: Then you have no excuses.
Specimen: Change is hard for some people.
Me: Not really.
Specimen: I’ve been working on this for years...
Me: Let me cut to the chase. When you say “I’m sorry” what you really mean is, “I fully intend to do the exact same things again and I want your permission.” The answer is no. You don’t get my permission.
Specimen: That’s not the way I thought this conversation would go.
The other giveaway: If this was subconscious, habitual, ‘just the way I am’ fear of consequences wouldn’t change behavior. More telling than the conversation I just described is his reaction afterwards. If a target sets boundaries and the creeper backs off, it may indicate an honest misunderstanding of proper behavior. Maybe. And if it is an explanation, the behavior will change universally (I once explained to a socially awkward friend the rules for shaking hands. He had assumed that the more he liked you, the longer the handshake went on and he creeped people out. Once the rules were explained his behavior improved with everyone, not just me. He is an example of someone who honestly didn’t know.)

But if someone changes behavior only around the people who simply say, “I know your game” then he knows his game as well. Deliberate and conscious.


Sean Hayes said...

Thanks - that was very illuminating. I recognized some people I've encountered, and a man I once called a friend is very much this person (and uses his position as an instructor to groom victims). Several of us have begun calling him out to the community we're in. I'm working on making sure my school culture (recreational martial arts, not self-defense) sees and stops this kind of behavior.

Unknown said...

On the bright side. Research is showing that we are never the same person.

And if we change, the change can be controlled, and directed.

Wayne said...

"Specimen: That’s not the way I thought this conversation would go."

They hate it when you don't follow the social script expected of you.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Encounter this problem on a regular basis teaching.
On a lover level over here people with throw out a sorry just before they bump someone on the bus or tube in line..

God's Bastard said...

The funniest part of writing about creeps was getting a deluge of apologies from people who are absolutely, categorically not creeps, oh no, but somehow are aware that they did something creepy but did it anyway because of reasons and I might have interpreted it as them being creeps and that would be awful and please don't write about me my wife reads your blog...

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

I'm reminded of the saying...
Don't say sorry... don't do it again....

Master Plan said...

So, and I have no answer for this— when an act is clearly deliberate, is there any way to tell if the perp was:

truly unconscious : (they should be surprised if you call them on it, didn't know\weren't aware)

pretending to himself it was unconscious : (they should be ashamed, knew it was wrong, was pretending it wasn't)

or deliberately using the impression as a way to manipulate others (very conscious.) : (they should be guilty, knew it was wrong and were actively trying to get away with it)

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

PAst behaviours as indicators.
Willingness or ability to change the behaviour in the future once they have been called out on it?

In the moment or time it is happening does it matter of course?

Mimerki said...

Sudden realization: Oh, every time a guy says, "I hope I'm not making this awkward", he fully intends to put me in what he thinks is an awkward position. Presumably one in which I have to turn him down... (90% of the time without actually going on to make an identifiable pass.)

I don't know how I got to this age not realizing that. I don't really know what I thought they thought they were doing. Maybe deliberately expressing vulnerability? Or possibly just saying the first thing that popped into their heads. But it is such a common phrasing that it is obviously part of a social script that I failed to learn.

The European Historical Combat Guild said...

Been thinking on this not least because living in a city where people apologise before they bump you or push ahead etc and working with people who seem to use sorry to fill a space in speech...
It seems the word sorry.. has taken the place of phrase ls like please excuse me... I beg your pardon... my appologies... not only the word sorry is shorter but it shifts things... from the other persons decision to respond or accept ... to the wrongdoers... sorrow being enough.. sorry.. in stead of in beg your pardon... one seems part of being responsible to a group.. the newer is about the self.. I can do wrong as long as I am sorry afterward... as oposed previously if I did wrong I accepted that others had to allow me to move on.