The Santa Clara
February 15, 2018
“What makes a guy creepy?” was the title of the most recent episode of “The Big Q,” a podcast released by students at the Markkula Center of Ethics. The podcast discussed everything from catcalling to women being made uncomfortable at a bar—the dynamics of heterosexual dating.
The podcast brought in multiple student perspectives, one male but mostly female, to talk about experiences with harassment. While sexual assault and harassment are topics that do not get addressed enough on Santa Clara’s campus, the podcast fell woefully short of the conversations we need to actually have in an attempt to combat this epidemic of violence.
The catchy title, “What makes a guy creepy,” at first made me laugh. But then I realized how problematic using that phrase can be. When I think of creepy men I think of Larry Nassar, Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. I don’t think of the men who assaulted my friends or myself. The guys who were our friends, the guys who still are our friends. Because when it comes to sexual assault, it isn’t the creepy guy at the bar I need to be worried about, it’s the person I trust in a place I feel safe—seven out of ten survivors of sexual assault are assaulted by someone they know.
Yes, there are degrees of severity. Just look at the discussion—or lack thereof—around Aziz Ansari’s date, which ended with the woman in tears. Actions of men like Ansari are commonplace to the female experience. Men like Ansari—who are self-proclaimed feminists but perceive a woman going on a date with them as a license to treat that woman however they please—think they have free reign over a woman’s body because of their desires. Whether or not you think the woman’s account of the date is an instance of sexual assault, Ansari did not treat the woman as an equal or with basic human respect. Talking about situations like Ansari’s date are the real conversations we need to have, no matter how intimidating it may be.
By focusing on the image of a “creepy guy,” we are moving the conversation in the wrong direction—away from discussions about systemic oppression, objectification of women and the way men are taught to treat women, even ones they love.
The conversation instead revolves around those “other guys” who are totally creepy. The reality is that it’s not just one creepy guy in the corner. Instead, these behaviors are systematic and perpetuated in dating culture. You, yes you, the “not creepy” guy, are still contributing to the predatory nature of heterosexual dating culture every day.
It’s the responsibility of all of us, men and women, to call out the microaggressions just as much as the macroaggressions. Rather than discussing how to get away from “creepy guys,” we need to discuss what predatory behavior looks like and how men learn these patterns of behavior.
We need to all have conversations with the males in our life that are asking questions like: have you noticed how predatory this is? Why do you think guys act like that? What can we do to change? How is the way you treat women feeding into sexist societal values? This is not a problem that can be solved by a Band-Aid solution.
Band-Aid solutions are exactly what were presented in the podcast—wearing rings to pretend that you’re engaged at a bar or using a male friend as a buffer. Bystander intervention is important and it’s a necessary conversation to be had. But this conversation needs to be nested in discussion about the issue as a whole.
Rather than just throwing around the “solution” that women go to bars with a preset excuse of being with another man, we should discuss why women feel the need to pretend that they are another man’s property in order to get away from bothersome or even violent males. The idea of men needing to protect women is antiquated and damaging. It robs women of our independence and our autonomy as human beings to be respected when we say no.
At the end of the day, the anecdotes of the women in the podcast were relatable, but left me wanting more. As the conclusion of the podcast said, “It’s time for women to stand up and say ‘Sorry, I don’t really want to talk to you right now.’”
But it’s also time for men to take a back seat and listen to the national conversation and the building movement of women. It’s time to stop using the “creepy guy” archetype as a scapegoat for all of these “nice guys” and really talk about why sexual violence against women is an epidemic.
Marisa Rudolph is a senior environmental science and political science double major.