Socially Awkward Is Not An Excuse


So it is time to discuss creepy behavior, the way to prevent it and what to do about it.

And now, I’m going to piss a whole lot of you off. I’m going to piss a whole lot of you off and I am going to do it intentionally. Because today I will take a whack at one of the best sacred cows on the Web: the Socially Awkward Exception.

This is something I have seen over and over again when the subject of meeting girls comes up: the plight of those men who allegedly have been mislabeled as”creepers” when in fact they are only socially awkward and we should all be giving them a rest, maaaan.

Frequently, we hear that somebody who’s socially awkward should find a pass because, hey, he does not know he’s doing something wrong! He’s probably really only a wonderful guy! Shouldn’t she be great to him, anyhow? Or perhaps she should just teach him what he did was wrong!

Except… no. No, we should not. More often than not the challenge isn’t about being socially awkward, it is about pushing boundaries; asserting that being socially awkward — or defending someone on the grounds that they are just awkward — means that we should not be so hard on them becomes excusing their behaviour and helping them put pressure on girls to tolerate that behaviour. But when somebody truly is socially awkward, it ultimately doesn’t matter.

Assuming you have not clicked away in disgust, let’s get into why social awkwardness is not an excuse.

Being socially awkward is frequently held up as a defense against being tagged”creepy”; it is another variant of”it is only creepy if you are nasty”, but with the vague signs of ableism or social justice for taste. Just about everyone was creeped out by somebody out just to be told”Aw, he means well. He just does not know any better,” or”Hey, he’s a wonderful guy! He’s only a bit awkward, you know?”

Let us run down just what makes someone creepy:

  • Behaving in a way that pushes against somebody’s boundaries — especially differently.
  • That second one is incredibly important and forms a vital distinction: creepers and predators will often push against people’s boundaries to be able to learn what they can get away with. When they get caught, they will often claim to be”socially awkward” as a means of deflecting responsibility for their actions and — more importantly — putting pressure on their goal to allow them to violate their boundaries with impunity. Many creepers will turn their activities around on their prey and make it look as though they’re the one being unreasonable. “Hey, I was just paying you a compliment!” “I just wanted to speak with you!” “It was only a joke, geez, get a sense of humor.” “Man, do not be so sensitive.”

    Somebody who’s socially awkward, on the other hand, is a person who has problems with basic social skills. They might have acute anxiety or nervousness in social settings. They might not be utilized to societal norms, have a tough time keeping the conversation flowing naturally, or get nervous and say the wrong thing at the worst possible moment. More often than not, someone who’s socially awkward has poor social calibration; they might make people uncomfortable because their behaviour feels off. When someone is not behaving in a manner that is congruent with the social context, we get uneasy because they are inadvertently signaling that something is wrong; it may be that they are dangerous or there is a threat that the rest of us have not noticed, but”away” behaviour will make us instinctively search for a threat.

    However, being anxious or socially awkward or inexperienced is not exactly like being creepy. Somebody who’s socially awkward will sometimes trip over someone else’s boundaries by injury since they might not necessarily know where the line is at the first location. A socially awkward person often understands that they fucked up almost as soon as the words are out of the mouth and will often freeze up or attempt to backpedal; a creeper who’s using”socially awkward” as a justification on the other hand, will wield their supposed infraction against another person as evidence that they did not do anything wrong… or rely upon others to perform their own defending for them.

    In actuality, we’ve got an exceptional illustration of this behavior. Let us examine a recent bout of online infamy for”awkward vs. creeper”, shall we?

    “She Should Have Been Clearer”

    Last month, the narrative of”FedoraBeard vs. The Hot Topic Clerk” hit the popular picture sharing site Imgur and rocketed across sites and tumblrs into Internet legend. To sum up the situation: a man developed a crush on a clerk he saw while buying a Hot Topic. After getting her name by a mutual friend, he tracked her down on Facebook and proceeded to try to woo her… to devastating outcomes.

    After reading him the riot act, the employee put up his conversation online to equivalent parts applause for telling a creepy man with stalker-ish trends and prompting others to excoriate her for — wait for it — not giving him a chance because he is only a little awkward. After all, it isn’t like she did not tell him to fuck off or anything right? She never once said”go away” or”I do not want to speak with you”.

    Except… she did. Notice the time-stamps. Her first reaction to him is on 2/16. She does not say anything else before he prods her a day later, and even then does not respond until the following day, 2/18… with a very curt and less than friendly message wanting to know how he found her.

    The lack of involvement and response is what is called a”soft no”; a means of signaling a lack of attention with no direct refusal. This is something which women and men are extremely comfortable with and use on a regular basis, not only concerning gender and relationships but as a conversational standard. There’s incredible social pressure for individuals — people — to not provide an immediate refusal or really say”no”. Saying”no” straight is often regarded as impolite or hurtful and so we have a surprisingly intricate method of denying without really saying”no”. In actuality, a study from the University of The West of England and Loughborough University records how many ways we say”no” without saying the words. Girls are especially socialized to be considerate of other people’s feelings — even at the cost of their own — and face greater pressure to provide a”soft no” instead of a direct denial, as a method of sparing the feelings of others.

    But often when dealing with stories about why this girl or another did not”tell him no”, we’ll see people say that it is impossible for a man to realize he is being refused because she did not say the magic words. In actuality, returning to the narrative of FedoraBeard, we see this in the comment on the sites that reported the story — she did not say”go away”, so how could he have known he was undesirable?

    Except he notes her excitement and proceeds anyway. On 2/21 he comments on the fact that she has not blocked him or closed down her profile, so she has to be okay with this. In other wordshe knows that her lack of response1 is a sign that she does not want to speak to him but he’s determined that these other indications — that she did not flee the world wide web to break free from him — are a more powerful sign that she is OK with his tracking down her.

    In other wordshe knew exactly what she was saying, he simply did not like the solution. This is not a case of being socially awkward and unfamiliar with societal norms, it is a case of him deciding that he would rather pick the interpretation that favors his pursuits. His desire to”worship” her desire to be left alone.

    This is creepy behaviour being excused as”socially awkward”.

    Among the undertones of this”he is socially awkward” excuse is that he is being misunderstood. That he is harmless. He’s really a great guy… and that is the reason the woman maligning him ought to be inclined to overlook how he has stepped all over her borders. Because he did not mean to.

    Can you imagine why this debate is not going to go over well with girls?

    Here is what’s happening when you are telling someone that someone deserves another chance or should be forgiven for being awkward: it is reframing a woman’s right to apply her boundaries to a discussion about why the guy should not be inconvenienced. He deserves an opportunity to convince her that no, she really does want to keep talking to him since he does not wish to intrude but how is he supposed to make her understand he’s well worth talking to? It’s somehow inconsiderate or rude of her to enforce her boundaries since this individual is in fact a fantastic guy. He’s a bit weird, sure. He can have said things which are creepy, violated her private space, followed her if she had been attempting to leave the dialogue and otherwise ignored signs that she was uncomfortable… but he did not mean to. It’s simply not fair for him to be treated as a possible rapist just because of other people’s bad behaviour; he did not have anything to do with that!

    Except it does not matter. Frequently women have given someone the benefit of the doubt — possibly because they challenged their own instincts or due to social pressure — and realized it was a mistake to do so. With an aversion to people who excursion up against their boundaries is vital because predators utilize boundary testing to find out what they can get away with. It is the way they pick their victims — searching for men and women who could be pressured into going along to get along, who have a harder time making a solid objection due to the possibility that”it was an honest mistake” or because the predators are proficient at using plausible deniability to convince other people to convince their goal that no, he was just being friendly!

    The pressure to give someone another chance — that they were just being awkward and the girl should just relax her borders a bit — is telling a girl she does not have a right to set her limits or to control who she does or does not speak to. It conveys the message that the right of a maybe-awkward-maybe-creepy man to speak with her is more important than her right to feel safe and protected. It means she is not permitted to trust her instincts and instead should {} intuit somebody’s intentions or simply allow the crowd reevaluate her decisions.

    Why Socially Awkward Is Not An Excuse

    Now, you’re probably wondering why I am beating up on the socially awkward. I’m not. I actually have plenty of sympathy for individuals that get nervous dealing with other people, who may be socially inexperienced, or who otherwise have problems interacting with people. In my bad old days, I was one of them. My life from 6th grade through… well, most of school, frankly, was one long cringe-fest of not understanding how to speak with people, saying the wrong thing at precisely the same time and generally flailing about making matters worse. I creeped out a great deal of girls and when I was starting out in the pick-up scene; I creeped out much more through my awkwardness.

    Here is the thing about the socially awkward: they do not want to trip over people’s boundaries. You can nearly always track the specific moment they realize that they have done something wrong by how they desperately attempt to backtrack, apologize and generally attempt to reassure another person that they did not mean to and they are so embarrassed and are sort of freaking out and, and, and…

    You know what you do not see? You do not see them justifying their behaviour. Or turning it around and making it on the individual whose borders they simply blew past. They do not rely on social stress — either through building a spectacle or through others justifying their actions for them to make another person submit to their needs. They do not argue that another person is bound to forgive him, to give him a second chance or pretend that the awkwardness just didn’t happen. Creepers and predators rely on others denying their social awkwardness is a mistake as it gives them cover. When the”socially awkward” exclusion is in play, other men and women are less inclined to call him out on his creepy behaviour.2 It becomes a means of isolating someone from potential allies and tricking others — individuals who might otherwise object to his poor behaviour and help his goal — to being complicit in his actions. The Awkward Excemption teaches others to tolerate, even anticipate creepy behaviour… and to forgive it because hey,”he means well.” It supplies the creeper cover and enables him to continue being a part of the community; he is not”Johnny the creepy predator”, he is”Johnny the good guy, a bit weird sometimes but benign.”

    It turns him from being a possible threat to some missing stair difficulty — something everybody knows about and dismisses, right up until someone slips and breaks their leg because they did not know to be on the lookout for the lost stair.

    And not only does this end up continuing the concept that being socially awkward is inherently creepy — and thus devoting great individuals who just have to work on their social skills — excusing the behavior makes it more difficult for the socially awkward not to be creepy by injury. See, the socially awkward wish to improve. They are not interested in getting people to tolerate their fuck-ups, they need not to fuck up in the first location. Part of why being awkward is not an excuse is because, honestly, sometimes the only way you realize a line was there in the first place is because you tripped over it and landed on your face. Fucking up is a part of how we learn; we know to not make the mistake again later on and — more importantly — understand how to react when we screw up.

    Getting awkward is not a permanent condition; it is something that you can overcome with practice and education. However, getting a pass on creepy behaviour doesn’t help you understand, and it is not on others to teach you. Being willing to get your errors — not to explain them away as not your fault, to make it about her failings or pretend it is not a problem — and being able to do this with grace and sincerity is the true way you show that perhaps you are not a bad guy after all. You do not insist that you”deserve” another chance or the benefit of the doubt, you get it.

    This post was formerly published on Doctornerdlove.com and is republished here with permission from the author.

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