Why, Yes, He Is A Creeper. And No, You Do Not Have To Be Polite To Him

by admin on September 20, 2010

I know already that this is a story that will get readers amped up.   Proceed with caution.

I am not entirely sure what etiquette this would fall under, but you could say this falls under “how and when to approach strangers”. This occurred yesterday afternoon, and I’m still confused about the whole thing.

I normally play D&D on Saturday, however I wasn’t particularly in the mood for it this time but I also felt I should stay out of the flat for a good while so as not to distract my boyfriend while he was working on his dissertation. I thought of a few things I would do to occupy me for at least three hours but preferably more, then headed to Sainsbury’s to grab a drink and biscuits before heading to the park to read for a while. I find an empty bench and begin to read.

Within a minute a man sits down at the other end of the bench. Nothing suspicious so far, then another gentleman approaches and asks the first man for the time. Still fine, but after that interaction in the corner of my eye I thought I could see the first man watching me. I thought I was being ridiculous and I know I tend to be a bit on the paranoid side, I still cannot be certain on this point but I do feel it is more than probable considering the rest of what happens.

For reference, I am Australian and in my early twenties, while he is from Pakistan and perhaps a few years older than I, and this takes place in London. Also, while his English was fairly good, he did have a bit of an accent and, even though I am young, I have hearing difficulties and I do have a bit of trouble with speech sometimes. Although I’m not a very social person to begin with, those issues do make me feel less inclined to talk to people. Especially in instances where there will be communication problems and I’ll have to try and explain why I have hearing issues, it’s unbelievable how many people simply refuse to believe that a young person can be hard of hearing. But that’s a story for another time, I’m terrible with tangents. Point is, I am somewhat socially awkward so I wasn’t sure how to handle this scenario. Onto the story.

After maybe five minutes this man starts to talk to me, initially it all seems normal as he asks fairly ordinary questions such as my name, where I am from, what Australia is like, why I moved here and so forth.

Stop right here.  It’s none of any stranger’s business to know your name or the reasons why you moved.  One should have an internal “line in the sand” that absolutely no stranger may step over (particularly male strangers that appear to be hitting on you) and when that step is taken, you put on your “chilly coat” and remove yourself from their presence.

Throughout the entire conversation I have to keep saying things to the effect of, “Sorry, but could you repeat that?”. He then tells me that I have beautiful eyes and I thank him for the compliment, then he says it again, says they are quite deep and so forth. I awkwardly thank him again as I really do not know how to respond to praise, but then he makes what I think was an awkward joke about “give me your eyes!”. I respond with an awkward line of, “Uhhh sorry but I don’t think they detach”, and leave it there. (At this point I wasn’t creeped out, as it came across as a joke and because I’ve said similar to my boyfriend, but I do think it’s something best not said to a stranger who has not idea what you are like.)

You inadvertently engaged in returning his flirting.   Any answer at all to such flirting is seen by many men as an invitation to keep the conversation going further.

Then he started to ask personal questions. He had already asked me about why I moved here and, trying to be polite. (I had no idea how to politely say I didn’t really want to talk about things.)

Once that internal line in the sand has been crossed, simply stand up from your bench and walk away.  You owe him no explanations, no courtesy good byes or one iota more of your attention.

I answered that I moved here because my boyfriend lives here. There had been more questions along these lines, and then he states that he hopes I do not marry him. Then he starts the topic on sex. Again I ask if he can repeat that, as although I actually heard him I wasn’t sure if that was right. He wants to know if I’ve done it, states his disbelief when I state, no, I haven’t and I’m waiting until marriage. He wants to know more detail about sex, repeats at various times “please help me” and continues to pressure me into talking about it. I continue to say that I am not comfortable with talking about sex with anyone, he continues with the please help him line for a bit and then relents and asks me about romance instead. He wants to know what romance is and if I can tell him about it. I state that I don’t really know, that I’m not sure how to describe it etc. He then starts to say, “But you’re a girl, you should know about these things!”. He continues his line of questions and comments, and I’m wondering if when he says ‘romance’ if he is actually disguising it to mean sex.

I got stuck in a similar situation at age 14.  One of my more naive daughters got similarly stuck at the same age…she simply had no clue that the conversation was heading in the direction it was and the deeper she got into it, the more she realized she had no idea how to get out of it.      I think older men know that the younger the female, the less likely she is to know how to respond so they push the limits.

He then asks if I will allow him to “teach me about romance”. I’m not sure what on earth he means, so I kind of stupidly blurt out what do you mean teach me, teach me how etc. He just says give him five minutes to teach me and keeps at that, then asks if he can sit next to me. (He was still at the end of the bench during all this.) I say no, I’d rather he didn’t. After a bit of my saying “no”, he asks why I keep saying that and seems to be getting bothered by it and tells me that I should stop doing that. He continues to asks if he can teach me and if he can move, while in my head I am freaking out about what to do. Do I continue trying to be polite and hope this guy gets the message, do I ignore him and read or do I get up and go? For a long while I latched onto the ridiculous option of staying there and hope he leaves, as my mind just went blank as to how to handle it. Near the end of his ‘let me teach you’ bit I did start to tell him that I’d rather just read, but after a few tries it finally sank in that it just wasn’t going to happen. Again he asked if he could sit next to me, and finally I said I’m sorry but I have to go and got up and walked away. He said something as I got up to the effect of “Okay I won’t move”.

I was going to head to the nearby Westfield’s, but then decided I’d cancel my plans and head straight home. I felt bad about that but at least my boyfriend understood. As I was a minute or so away from that bench I looked back and noticed the guy was already up and walking away, so I guess his entire purpose of being there was to bother me?

I’m still not sure what on earth was going on. Was there cultural differences, was he just a creep or was he really oblivious to how his behaviour came off?

All in all, I wish I were a stronger person. Or at the very least that my brain would kick in faster. 0905-10

Too many people believe that being well mannered equates to being a complete and total pushover.   Nope, it’s quite acceptable to give a frigid, arctic cold shoulder to boorish, creepy, vulgar, greedy people.   Looks of disdain, terse good byes are quite acceptable, too.   A good, hard slap to the face of a creepy guy won’t land you in Ehell either.

{ 126 comments… read them below or add one }

anon September 22, 2010 at 1:12 am

I was in a similar situation to OP except the strange guys who asked the weird questions were my coworkers and in one case my direct supervisor. I worked retail in a store owned by Afghani brothers, staffed (with the exception of myself) with Afghan people. The older men in the store tended to ask me very personal questions about my sex life, going so far as to tell me that all American women are sluts so at 23 I could not possibly be a virgin (though I was and still am). I tried to be polite the first couple of times it was mentioned but finally I turned to my supervisor and informed him that he can think anything he like about me but he better not verbalize it again. A few months later with both brothers out of town we had a former employee return to manage the store, and I had to go through all the gross stuff again with him, but it did not take as long for me to tell him it wasn’t his business so he decided that as a “stupid white bitch American whore” i should not be allowed to be around “decent good Afghans” and he tried to fire me numerous times, because unlike the women he knew I stood up for myself as that was how I was raised” when i informed my boss of what had been happening the creep was basically told to not speak with me, look at me or say anything about me (in any language). Unfortunately that agreement did not last very long, so thank goodness I was able to leave the store and go back to school, but even that didn’t stop him from saying things about me to the other employees as well as a number of customers, he even called my cell phone and left a threatening message about knowing where I live and how it would be really easy to find me.

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Josie James September 22, 2010 at 7:08 am

You sat on that bench wayyyyy too long – stop trying to be polite and follow your instincts. He wasn’t worried about making you feel uncomfortable so don’t worry about hurting his feelings when this could have turned into a dangerous situation.

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Chocobo September 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm

@anon

Holy moly! Why did you not call the police?

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SFG September 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I’m glad the worst that happened was that you were uncomfortable. You should never leave yourself in that kind of situation for so long.

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Michelle P September 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I agree with everyone on here: better to be rude and alive than polite and dead! Our society teaches women to be polite and nice.

Every woman out there: remember Ted Bundy? He got his victims to go with him by pretending to be lame; he wore a fake cast and used crutches. Women who had encountered him but he had not managed to kill reported that he played on women’s sympathies and their desire not to be rude; the ones who survived were the ones who were “rude”. Sure you should help someone who obviously needs it and its safe, but listen to that “inner voice.”
My ex husband calls me paranoid, but I’m teaching my daughter the same thing. It’s ok to say no to an adult if it makes you uncomfortable. No, don’t run screaming every time a man looks at you the wrong way, but don’t stay if you feel uncomfortable. I’d rather be paranoid than childless.

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anon September 22, 2010 at 6:41 pm

@chocobo

I was in a course at the time where the prof was a lawyer and she did recommend that instead I called one of the brothers informed him of the message and he agreed that i did not have to go into the store at all while the creep was no longer going to be there (i owed them some money but the threats were unnecessary)

I have not gone back at all since paying off my debt and have put it behind me now thinking of it only when checking my voice mail as i saved it just in case calling in law enforcement did become necessary

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Bee September 22, 2010 at 7:45 pm

@ Shannon

That reminded me of a subway incident that happened to me – but no rescue :(

I was living in Japan, and acutely aware that blonde hair and blue eyes was going to draw some unwanted attention. So I would keep to myself and just read my book when I was on the subway alone. We stopped at a station, people got on, I paid no attention, just kept reading my book. The train started again, and there was suddenly someone in front of me stroking the hand I was holding the book with. I looked up, because I thought it was a friend who lived near the station we’d just stopped at. It was a complete stranger who felt it appropriate to invade my personal space by touching me. I thought to begin with that I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. It was crowded, maybe it was an accident. So I just pulled my hand away, but he kept doing it! I moved immediately.

It’s that common in Japan that there’s a word to describe them – chikan, or “train pervert”. Hilarious!

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Michelle P September 22, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Kind of off the subject, but:
@Sam, As a mom, I’m worried about you and other young ladies walking listening to ipods. Yes, I know it’s tempting and you should be able to do it all you want, but you can’t hear anything around you. Just keep it low, or maybe just one earbud in? Same with texting while walking; you’re not paying attention to what’s around you. I watched an episode of “I Survived” a few days ago, and a beautiful sixteen year old girl described her ordeal of being brutally raped and beaten by two men while she was walking home. She was talking on her phone and wasn’t paying attention while they followed her until it was too late. As a mom, I have to worry, and your post worried me. That could have been a lot worse. You handled it the right way, but please all of you:
Be Aware of Your Surroundings!

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Candra September 22, 2010 at 11:23 pm

@ Bee-
My dad has blond hair and blue eyes, and when he was in Japan (on a Naval tour), people would come up to him and give him things just so they could rub his head. Apparently touching someone with blond hair and blue eyes means good luck to them.

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LovleAnjel September 23, 2010 at 9:26 am

@Michelle P

I think this is a lesson that should start young. When we force young kids to hug or sit on the lap of a person when they don’t want to, that is the first lesson that you must always be polite and accommodating, even if someone creeps you out. My husband & I have a pact- if we have kids, they create their boundaries, and everyone respects those boundaries. Hopefully they learn to listen to their gut early on.

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MeganAmy September 23, 2010 at 2:27 pm

LovleAnjel, great idea! I’m going to borrow it for my babies. Thanks.

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jenna September 23, 2010 at 7:32 pm

That’s sickening and no, it is not a cultural difference (I used to live in India, which is not Pakistan but the cultural similarities are there enough)…this sort of nonsense would NOT go down in this creeper’s home turf. There are still conservative parts of Pakistan (and India) where talking to a woman you don’t know is considered extremely unseemly.

Ms Jeanne is right that the correct response the minute you felt bothered or uncomfortable would be to get up and walk away. You don’t have to say anything, although I’d probably say “I am going now. Goodbye.” in a very chilly tone.

Now, I tend to make friends in random places, but they are almost always other women. One of my best friends (a reader at my wedding in fact) is a woman I randomly chatted with at a bus stop we both used daily. Another good friend (who came to our wedding from halfway across the world) was a woman I befriended in a public swimming pool while we were both resting after several laps! So I don’t really have a problem chatting with strangers, but nearly always other women. I suppose if the opportunity presented itself and seemed safe that I would similarly befriend a man, but if we actually became friends (ie exchanged emails after an extended chat in which I did not feel unsafe) I’d invite him out with a group of friends including my husband whereas I’d happily grab a coffee one on one with a new female friend.

I agree with posters above that women especially need to be aware of their surroundings when out, but as someone who has lived in urban areas for years, I can say that one does pick up on how to do that while listening to music or on the phone or reading on a bench…if you make the effort, you can cultivate a sixth sense regarding awareness of what is happening around you.

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Molly September 24, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I’m a bit disgusted by the idea that the OP was “unknowingly” engaging in flirtation – she probably seemed to be listening more in-depth to the guy because she had to have him repeat what he was saying. It’s hardly her fault that the guy read more into it than was there.

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A September 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

Ooh, poor girl. I’ve been in similar creepy situations and once you’ve been in one you learn fast how to react the next time something creepy like this happens. There were about 5 points in that story that my mind was yelling “run, girl run!!”. I’m so glad that nothing more happened because that man had some bad intentions!

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Kai September 26, 2010 at 10:54 am

Imagine the sick feeling of dread you get when you read a random article on the EHell website and then realise you recognise the writer as being your very own baby sister who you thought was safe overseas. Oh boy kiddo, I want to shake some sense into you right now (especially since you never told me this had happened!)

This is not an issue of etiquette. This is a criminal offense. It’s sexual harassment, and thank God it didn’t go further. There have been so many situations that have begun like this that have ended in rape, and often murder. And while some part of me can understand one or two of the posters who have talked about the cultural reasons and significance of the different sexual cultures, no decent man of any nationality, religion or culture, would talk to a woman like this scumbag spoke to my sister. That’s the simple fact of it. Only a scumbag would and there are plenty of them out there.

I also disagree with the idea of a physical response. Not because of the fear of being arrested, because any cop with a brain will know you’re just using self defense. But because when you make physical contact with someone, it brings you into closer contact with them and gives them the opportunity to grab you and attack you.

And as for those naive posters who are simply saying ‘oh, well you can’t hit someone just for being rude’. Please, wake up. Seriously. Then re-read the post. This wasn’t a man being rude. This was a man committing sexual harassment. Which is illegal. While I disagree with hitting the person for the reason I mentioned above, I really want people to recognise this is not a matter of etiquette, this is a matter of safety and if safety requires some form of violence in order to escape, then that’s the path that must be taken.

I’m still fuming at the thought of this, I’d love to fly over there and hunt this guy down if I could. As a big sister I feel like I could have done more to teach my sister about the possible dangers. But it’s true that we women are trained to be nice at all times and unknowingly put ourselves in danger because of it. I just hope this story is a lesson to both my sister and every other woman on here. That safety ALWAYS trumps etiquette.

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Robyn September 28, 2010 at 10:49 am

My dear daughter please be carefull. Next time leave straight away. Never worry about being rude
as I want you safe.

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KK September 30, 2010 at 9:17 am

@Bee: I used to live in Japan. Had something similar nearly happen to me. No seats on the train so I was standing, practicing my balance and reading a book on a fairly uncrowded train. My creep sense went off and when I looked up there was this skeezy guy trying to look over my book and down the front of my blouse and getting closer to me! I put my book to my chest and looked at him directly. He looked up at me and met my eyes and I gave him a look that said, “Try it buddy and I’ll be beating you with your own arm.” He scampered away.

When I went to the UK by myself I never went out at night by myself if I could help it. A friend didn’t understand that and thought I was being paranoid, until I explained it to him:
A) Young Lady
B) City/Town I didn’t know and could hardly navagate without the assistance of a map, and I could easily wander into a not so savory part of the city/town
C) Nighttime, higher chance for drunks and unsavory types to be out
D) ALONE
He conceded my point. The few times I went out I had people with me I met at the hostel and felt comfortable with and had a great time.

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KK September 30, 2010 at 9:20 am

And another one from Japan!

I had a friend who was female, six foot one, with past the waist light blonde hair and blue eyes. Needless to say she stood out a bit. One day on the train this guy approached her and said,

“10,000 yen (about $100) happy fun sex time?”

She ditched out at the next stop and moved to a car half way down the train. When she dicovered that he had gotten off at the same stop she did, she ducked into a little convenience store on the platform and waited till it cleared out before heading home. She found it highly bizarre.

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SouthernSugar October 1, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Definitely a creeper!

But I don’t think you can attribute it solely to cultural differences and the way women are treated in the Middle East/Southeast Asia. I’ve gotten a lot of behavior like this from men born and raised in the United States who can’t even find the Middle East on a map. There is just this subset of guys who think that the shortest distance between two points (their pants and yours) is a straight line of creepiness.

I think it’s very, very important to teach our kids of either gender (because there are creeper ladies out there, too) that they don’t have to put up with this kind of behavior and that it’s absolutely fine to tell someone to leave them alone. Or, if they won’t stop, to walk away and not look back. Start emphasizing this at a young age to help them realize when they’re at really vulnerable stages that it’s okay.

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Mr. Belvedere October 2, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Everyone should pick up the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. Please, please, please do this, there is an entire section devoted to creepers in public. For your own safety! Just reading some of these stories makes my heart start pounding.

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Enna October 4, 2010 at 4:27 pm

If a bloke starts chatting me up I just come up with random stories like “I’m engaged” or “I have twins to look after” that way I try to put the person off or give him false informatin about myself so he can’t rack me or whatever. I know lying is wrong but it is to protect myself what’s wrong with it? Besides it makes the man look like a fool for believing me thinking he is a smart man.

I don’t like the first comment – what those men said was wrong and they give Afgans a bad name.

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Eisa October 11, 2010 at 11:53 am

Maybe this isn’t quite along the same lines, but…I remember one time I was in the school computer lab. My bf [now ex, thank Gawd, he was abusive =(] had sent me a link and I clicked on it. Well, it was porn. o.O This guy walking behind me saw it. So…what would you do if you saw that? I would ignore it unless it was like illegal. I mean…you can access porn at school obviously and you know, whatever. Not this guy. He started talking to me and told me how great he thought it was that I would look at that stuff and how “only in America” [he was from some country in the Middle East]. Then he said that he loved to look at porn…and invited me to look at it with him. Looking back at it, I really SHOULD have just told him to sod off and not talk to him. But I was soooo scared of looking “mean” or “bad,” that I did. Hugely awkward. Never mentioned that it was only because my ex-bf sent me the dang link in the first place! >.< After the first time, I got my courage up [with the help of a few friends who were like...um hon that is really dangerous stay away from him] and just ignored him, wouldn’t go near him…but that was scary for a while because he would always keep trying to talk to me and get me to go places with him. =( Oh yeah, and he was engaged to someone back in his home country.

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Spoofmaster October 17, 2010 at 12:18 am

Echoing the people who say that creepers know girls–especially younger girls–are programmed to stay in a conversation much, much longer than they should out of politeness. I had a really awful experience over the phone this last summer. I’d been living and working in my aunt and uncle’s home as a caregiver most of each week, and one day someone called while I and the person to whom I was caregiver (who was not in a position to answer the phone) were alone. I’m pretty sure the man on the other end of the line asked for my aunt by name (I assume he got her name out of the phonebook?), so I assumed at the time that he must be an acquaintance of hers. They live in a rural area where everyone knows everyone (I made the local paper just by graduating college and coming out there to work), so it didn’t seem entirely out of the ordinary for him to want to hang on the line and chat even when I told him she was unavailable. I wanted to get off the phone from the get-go, but initially that was more because I hate talking on the phone than anything else.

As the conversation progressed, though, his questions started getting more and more personal, and he’d say things that I was sure I’d misheard, because he was asking things that simply were not a stranger’s business. I was evasive in my answers and attempted repeatedly to hint that the time to end the conversation had come, but he was tenacious and I was afraid of offending someone my aunt and uncle had to live near (in hindsight, I should have remembered how blunt the two of them can be with pushy neighbors!). He kept saying he wanted to talk to my aunt because he had a bet with her, which seemed highly unlikely but not completely and utterly impossible. When I finally asked what the bet was, he said something about getting a piercing on her genitals (though in much crasser terms). I immediately said “I’m hanging up now,” and did so, but I felt dirty afterward for letting this guy get his jollies harassing me over the phone. I kind of wish now I’d talked to my aunt and seen if they could pull it up on their caller ID and file a police report, but I was very shaken by it and ashamed that I hadn’t seen through the creeper sooner.

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Allie October 17, 2010 at 6:06 am

If creeped out by a conversation with a stranger, for whatever reason, it is quite reasonable to leave. A simple, ‘I have to go now’ as if you have plans and get yourself to safety.

I say ‘for whatever reason’ because I know so many girls who’ll say, ‘but I don’t think he was dangerous/meant to be creepy/etc, etc’. Doesn’t matter, best to get out of that situation unnecessarily than to stay and potentially endanger yourself.

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b October 26, 2010 at 2:00 pm

i am always the rude one. sometimes it angers men, but too bad! nothing is worth compromising your safety for!
i was once on a ferry late at night and the creepiest old man ive ever seen came up to me and was all like “hellooooo” flirtily. it made the hair on my arms stand straight up, there was somethign WRONG. i gave him a horrified look, sat down in front of the office, and kept my head buried in a book the whole time, ignoring him. he proceeded to “apologize” and slink around me until he got bored and left. i was terrified. any older man should not approach a young girl for ANYTHING. its definitely something to be concerned about.

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Michelle P October 31, 2010 at 3:20 am

I have to respectfully disagree with Admin about slapping the creep. When I was about nineteen I would hang around the club/bar at the army base where I lived. I was there with my sister and some friends and this guy would NOT leave me alone. I’ve never been bashful or timid in those situations, at least not when I was older, so I told him over and over I was not interested. He wouldn’t take hint and go away. I told him, “if you put your face near mine again I’m going to slap it.” He shoved his face in mine and I proceeded to slap it. He jerked me by my arm, wrenched it behind my back, and picked me up by it. The bouncer and my sister’s boyfriend stood right there and didn’t do a thing.
NOT a good idea to slap someone who’s already showing signs of being a creep.

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