The other day I read Why Do We Demonize Men Who Are Honest About Their Sexual Needs? an excellent article by Clarisse Thorn published on Alternet and Jezebel. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about the “creep” label guys sometimes get. I’ve had my share of what you’d call creepy experiences: dudes whipping out their junk to show me on buses, subways, and dark, city sidewalks; spying on me in a shower in Peru, accosting me in Baja. The list, sadly, goes on. Nonetheless, I do sympathize with the creep bind. In Clarisse Thorn’s words:
The pressure put on men to be initiators, but to avoid seeming creepy or aggressive, leads to an unpleasant double bind. After all, the same gross cultural pressures that make women into objects force men into instigators. (How many women do you know who proposed to their husbands?)
So how can a man express his sexual needs without being tarred as a creep? After all, the point of promoting sex-positive attitudes is for everyone to be able to be open about their needs and desires, right?
The line between initiator and creep can be a fine one, and to be honest, I’ve probably never given a fair amount of consideration to the consequences of this double bind on men and their sexuality. Sorry, guys. But as I grow older and perhaps wiser about sex and relationships, I can see how the creep label can be as damaging as the slut stamp. In fact, I have a story that relates.
Many moons ago at a messy, high school party, I ended up drunk and passed out in the party giver’s bedroom. Hours later I awoke to an unsolicited grope–my guy friend trying to get it on with me. My memory of the events is blurry now, it being, lordy, some fifteen years ago, but as I recall I sat up and gave him a good slug. Then I promptly went downstairs and told a room full of teenage girls what had happened. Now, should my friend have copped a feel without my consent? No. But my actions had greater ramifications than I intended. I was quick to use the creep card. The girls freaked and by Monday the story had spread like wildfire. My friend was unduly ridiculed by our community and stigmatized for years (I know that now after reconnecting as adults and rehashing the events).
In the end, we were kids fumbling through our sexual explorations and what should have been a conversation between us went awry. But in another context, and at another age and stage, my friend’s advance could have led to a hot encounter. In fact, I remember one such awakening quite succinctly. There have been plenty of times when I did not want to be asked if I wanted to get it on but, well, accosted. To be perfectly honest, my girlfriends and I have had as many gripe sessions about “creepy dude” behavior as we have criticized a guy for being hyper-conscientious or not manly enough. Heaven have mercy on the guy who asked my friend to “hold him.” Sheesh, being a man sounds more and more like walking a tightrope wire. The lines for acceptable, sexual male behavior are often dicey, like Clarrise’s example of how a guy being a top in anal sex with his girlfriend is laudable, while secretly wanting to get railed with a strap on, less so.
I feel lucky to have found in my husband a man comfortable with his varied and sometimes unconventional desires but that doesn’t mean we don’t ever struggle to communicate or make open, shame-free spaces for exploring our fantasies. The porn job helped us create a dialogue for all sexual preferences. The rest, as always, is a work in progress.
Anyhow, I’ll be careful with the old creepo label now and try my darndest not to file all male sexuality into the same narrow folder. Then again, I’ll also feign deep interest in my Blackberry next time I cruise past a construction site. At least until I’m too old to be recognized as a sexual object. Tick, tock.