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

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.

{ 127 comments }

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Chocobo September 20, 2010, 3:49 pm

    I think TychaBrahe makes a good point about the cultural differences. While it may not be acceptable to openly hit on strangers in extremely creepy ways in a person’s own culture, for whatever reason he may be operating on a stereotype about your culture.

    I remember during orientation when I was abroad in Italy, an Italian police officer telling the women that Italian men think that American women (who were the general audience) are sexually “easy” and therefore may come on strong. He warned that this is not how Italians act to one another (probably because Italian women will tell them where to stuff it, while American women can feel awkward in a second language). But the Italian men were making assumptions based on stereotypes that American women will sleep with everyone. This is probably because of imported television shows and movies that make it look like they do, e.g Sex in the City. This may be how this man was behaving, operating on the media-based stereotype that you can just walk up to any woman in London (or Western Europe in general), and she’ll jump in your bed.

    But it doesn’t really matter, even if stereotyping was this man’s reasoning for talking to you so inappropriately, it’s still REALLY CREEPY and you don’t have to put up with it.

  • Nicola September 20, 2010, 4:15 pm

    I really feel for the OP, when I was 16 a much older guy started talking to me as I was walking home. The conversation was all very innocent, and when I told him that I would rather walk the rest of the way alone (we were getting close to my house) he told me that he was a photographer and gave me a slide of a tree. Skip ahead a couple of months and I was reporting him to the police for following me and saying inappropriate things. I was treated like a complete idiot for having accepted this completely innocent slide after having an innocent conversation with someone who I had bumped into and never expected to see again. Creepers reel you in with normal conversation, but normal people also have normal conversations. How do you tell the difference?

  • jen September 20, 2010, 4:23 pm

    @AMC

    I really appreciate that you mentioned the importance of listening to that “inner voice.” It is so important (sadly, especially for women)! Human beings are the only animals that don’t obey that instinct. Yes, it is possible to be overly paranoid, but that’s something to deal with when we’re not having those warning bells go off. Better to commit a social faux pas than to be in a dangerous situation. I’m sure many of us (including myself) have not known what to do in those situations and have let things go farther than we’re comfortable with. I’m not saying this man had any intentions other than being really creepy, but it’s best to be safe.

  • badkitty September 20, 2010, 4:27 pm

    Oh you poor girl, I feel for you! Probably every woman has been caught in a situation like this at some point, and the first time we have absolutely *no* idea how to get out of it. I’m convinced that some men simply take advantage of this known weakness and press the conversation well past the point of frightening the young woman. I’m not sure why they do this, since it generally doesn’t lead to any physical gratification… maybe they just enjoy the control aspect of watching someone panic and squirm in a situation in which they have trapped themselves? Male or female, some people enjoy the discomfort of others, and they are creepy! I don’t believe that this can really be called a “cultural” issue, because it happens to women of the same race-ethnicity as the male perpetrator all the time. (I also know some Pakistani gentlemen who would have read this guy the riot-act for even approaching a strange young female in an isolated location like that!)

  • Simone September 20, 2010, 4:30 pm

    You did nothing wrong. Next time, listen to your feelings earlier, though. Unfortunately this is a bit of wisdom that I learnt as I grew older and so rarely need it now. But I really could have used it in my early twenties.

  • Blueberry September 20, 2010, 4:53 pm

    @Shayna

    Did he speak with a slight accent? If so, then he is notorious for that in downtown Calgary.
    I pretended not to speak English when he approached me with the same line.

    A friend of mine was chased by him asking to kiss her feet and she almost ran into traffic. Luckily, she was on the corner of an intersection with plenty of people and he stopped when a man in the crowd threatened to beat him with a steel briefcase.

  • Monica September 20, 2010, 4:54 pm

    I am thirding (or fourthing?) the previous plugs for Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear.” READ IT. Make every woman you have ever cared about read it. This book can and will save a life. Not to mention help you give yourself “permission” to be bold. Like Mr. de Becker says, I’d rather have a man who makes me uncomfortable consider me or call me a rude b*$#h than to risk being a victim so I can be considered nice and polite.

  • geekgirl September 20, 2010, 4:58 pm

    I live in the same area and this happens a lot. A lot of men around here seem to think any woman alone is not only fair game, but is actively seeking a sexual encounter with any man who offers. I normally
    1) Say I just want to read, and I’m not interested in conversation
    2) Sneakily shift a ring onto my wedding finger
    3) Finally, get up and walk away.

    I would never NEVER engage them in conversation, because any reply automatically becomes ‘yes, I will have sex with you’ in their mind. But no slapping, or hitting, or aggressiveness, because they will be aggressive back.

  • Tara September 20, 2010, 5:10 pm

    I’d like to point out that while in the days of yore it was very acceptable for a woman to slap a man who was being vulgar, these days that’s considered assault. As it should be. Never answer rudeness with violence.

  • Dina September 20, 2010, 5:39 pm

    I admittedly haven’t read the comments, but I’ve seen a lot of people telling the OP “oh you should have done this” or “oh I would have done this.” While it’s all well and good to say that from behind a computer screen, you’re not in that situation, and I think it’s important to remember that women in our society are socialized to accommodate men no matter what. And that’s not easy programming to break.

    I’ve found myself in similar situations before, and even when I firmly say “no” or turn my back, that’s never dissuaded the truly creepy. For many of these men, it’s a power game. They’re trying to make you feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, I still haven’t found a good way to keep them away (other than never talk to anyone again, which is really no fun).

  • Rebecca September 20, 2010, 6:13 pm

    The guy was a creep, that’s for sure. I’ve had many such encounters myself. Even when they are not actually saying anything inappropriate (such as “teach me about romance” – EW!!) sometimes you just want to sit on a bench and read or eat your lunch, ya know? It’s such a shame that some men don’t get this and see a woman reading alone on a park bench as an invitation.

    The OP says she is young. When I was young (early teens to mid 20’s) I also fell into the trap of thinking I had to think up a “polite” way out of such conversations. Now I cut them off at the pass at the first sign they are eyeballing me. They get totally ignored, and any attempts at conversation are cut off curtly. (If he mentions sex or any part of my anatomy – all bets are off and he will be told to get lost. In fact now that I have a cell phone, I’d probably pull out my phone and call the police right then and there, in front of him).

    Of course, sometimes a stranger will come along that seems non-threatening and friendly and you don’t actually MIND talking to them, or at least a small exchange in passing, but if they cross any line at all (like not “getting” when I want the conversation to end) I will become my curt self again and any further attempts, I will get up and move.

    I really think it’s too bad that I have to be the one to move if I’ve chosen a nice spot to read and I was there first, but sometimes it’s the only way to get rid of them. In fact it makes me downright angry that someone has to come along and ruin my enjoyment of my lunch, my book, the park, etc.

  • Cooler Becky September 20, 2010, 6:23 pm

    People don’t generally hit on me. I may chat to someone on the train on the way home, but I think I give off a “back off” vibe to creeps. The last creep that tried to touch me got a hardcover Bible to the face.

  • Kovitlac September 20, 2010, 6:58 pm

    As so many others have said, this is something that I’m sure has happened to all women at some point.

    I actually had it happen to me while working my retail job. I was a fairly new employee, and overly tolerant of bad customer behavior (I still send to be. I’m a very timid person).

    The customers were two teenage boys, younger then myself by about 3-4 years. They came off as being sleezy and disgusting, and were both total mall rats. They’d come by almost every day and try to convince employees to sell them M-rated games, which they were not allowed to buy for lack of having an id on them. They’d especially target the girls, and would hang around and try to talk for quite awhile, until the store manager would show up. At one point, both guys cornered me in the store, asking to know when my break was (I simply said I didn’t have one), and attempting to convince me to leave work and go hang out with them (yeah, I lose my job. I don’t think so). One of them took hold of the keys that hung around my neck in some creepy effort to flirt. i immediately excused myself, but I was so ashamed that I let it get that far that I didn’t tell my boss.

    Although I disagree with my boss on a lot of store-related things, he really is great when it comes to deal with trash. Both boys were soon banned from the store. I’ve only ever seen them a couple times since, and not in over a year now.

    So yikes, I know how you feel. Here’s hoping we learn to not take that sort of crap from people 🙂

  • Tundra September 20, 2010, 8:01 pm

    It’s happened to me before too, online and in real life. It’s confusing and hard to deal with. You sort of want to be polite, then it goes way too far. You might feel like you should talk with him because you’re both new to the country. I know that i answered way more personal questions than I normally would, when I was travelling and talking with other tourists or locals.

    … I really don’t mean to be racist here (and yes I know that saying that makes it immediately sound like I’m going to be racist) but I’ve had trouble with guys from that country pushing the limits too. (Of course there were also many who walked straight by me, stayed with their friends, asked me for a pen , wrote something, gave it back, went on their way, and people who were actually friends). How people from that area push the limits, I’ve never seen/experienced from others (so far). I really think in many cases, it’s cultural differences and not being used to how women in England/Australia/USA etc live and act. They’re not sure how to deal with it but think they’ve hit it lucky, and we’re not used to the directness so humour them for a bit then don’t know what to do. Obviously, don’t shut down all guys from Pakistan, but we should learn to not keep talking if we feel uncomfortable.

  • Emily September 20, 2010, 8:10 pm

    I take the train to school in Chicago everyday and one day this man was walking around asking people to throw away his can of “soda”. Eventually he walked up to me, a girl sitting alone (I was about 18 at the time). He asked me to throw away the can and I said no and went back to my book. Well he decided to sit next me and talk to me. He started saying stuff like “I know you are a nice person even though you won’t do this for me” and also describing what I am wearing and how my dress looked nice with my boots and bag. I was leaning away from him, but he kept leaning toward me. I didn’t know what to do and the train was full of people and no one was helpig me. They were just looking uncomfortable and stareing out the windows. Eventually an older man, maybe in his fifties, stood up and yelled at the guy to back off or he would call the cops. The guy turned his focus to the other guy and said he wasn’t doing anything, but the older man insisted that he get off the train or the police would be called. The creepy guy got off the train and I thanked the man for helping me out.

    We need to help people out when they are in situations like this and not just look away.

  • RoaringGirl September 20, 2010, 8:13 pm

    “Again–GIRLS ARE RAISED TO BE WAY TOO NICE. ”

    This is the crux of the problem. How many young women have ended up in situations they didn’t want because they didn’t want to be thought of as “not-nice?” Being “not-nice” is often seen, I posit, as being outside of social norms, the reasoning going something like this: being “nice” = “good person” = “person who is playing by the social and cultural rules.” Disturbing things are therefore not supposed to happen if you are “nice”–it’s an inexplicable punishment that must be linked to some unnoticed deviation in behavior.

    So, you double down on niceness to make the disturbing person or event go away, right? “Look at me,” you tell the universe, “I am clinging as if my life depends upon it to every tiddle, every jot of nice-i-tude that I can conjure up! So, this disturbing thing happening to me goes away now, yes?”

    And of course, there are many, many men in the world who know who to take advantage of this. The creep the LW encountered was a manipulator like any other–ethnicity has nothing to do with it. I am in fact willing to believe that the vast majority of manipulative creep stories we can muster up on this board involve white men of European descent (and Christian to boot, however nominally), so this is just a red herring. This important point is that this guy was trusting that you would defend your “niceness”–the only question for him was, how far will she go in her defense once I begin to challenge her, openly questioning whether she is indeed “nice.” (Of course, the actual word “nice” doesn’t have to crop up at all, case in point: “he asks why I keep saying that [“No.”] and seems to be getting bothered by it and tells me that I should stop doing that.” I.e., he’s telling her that she’s not being “nice” to him. And what is the LW initially worried about? Should she continue being polite! He had her right where he wanted her, for a while at least…).

    There was a rash of rapes in the neighborhoods around my Alma Mater a few years ago. Perp got in through unlocked doors all hours of the day and night. Now, in some cases the door may just have been unlocked–these things happen. In other cases, however, it seems that the rapist was able to play the “But I thought you were nice card!” to get young women to open the door: I thought it was very interesting that the Chief of Police felt the need to tell young women that refusing to open their doors to black men they did not know did not make them racist!!!

    Worrying about etiquette in a situation like yours, LW, is like worrying about whether it is polite to refuse entry to a man you worry may be a rapist. ETIQUETTE DOES NOT PROVIDE THE ANSWER ANYBODY NEEDS TO EITHER SITUATION. (What next, how to be polite to stalkers?)

    And as for the creep, yeah, he’s just fine. Once he knew he couldn’t manipulate you into having sex with him, he simply moved on to someone else. And if that girl isn’t compliant, the next one may be. He’s found them, the girls so terrified of “not-niceness” that they’ll give him those five minutes of “romance,” and he’ll find others. And many of them, poor things, will be convinced that it wouldn’t have happened had they been more polite…

  • Tundra September 20, 2010, 8:24 pm

    Emily: I’ve been told that in situations like that, you should ask someone for help. They’ve done studies on it. If someone sees someone in trouble, but everyone is around them, then it’s everyone else’s problem. If (and this happened in the study), you call out to someone specific, or actually SAY ‘help’ then it becomes people’s problem. And then if ONE person out of a crowd starts helping, the others do too. Of course it’s hard on a train to be like ‘hey, can someone help me?’ but that’s just due to our own fears that no one will help, or that you’ll embarrass yourself or that you ‘should’ be able to handle this yourself.

  • Princesssimmi September 20, 2010, 8:30 pm

    Psyche: same thing happened to me. When I was 14 I walked up to my nan’s local shops to get a few things- I think something like bread and some grapes- and on the way back I was stopped waiting for the light to cross when a man about 20-22 asked for the time. I truthfully answered I didn’t have a watch. Then he asked how to get to the park. I gave him directions and started to walk away. He then asked for my name. Cue alarm bells. I told him my name was Jessica, which is very different to my real name. I tried to walk away again, and he got up off the fence where he was sitting and started following me. I don’t remember much else of the conversation except I remember he said his grandma
    lived in the area which is extremely weird in itself as the area is made up exclusively of Italians and Greeks and this guy was definitely some sort of Indian or Pakistani. Anyway I kept trying to walk away and when I tried to cross the street I turned my back to him for a second and he grabbed my hand and shoved it down the front of his track pants. I screamed and took off up the street and he kept following me all the way back to my grandma’s place. She had a walking stick at that stage and she threatened to hit him with it if he came any closer. I ended up going home that night but the bastard had the audacity to come back the next day looking for me. Nan ended up calling the police to make him leave.

    My reaction to this happening now would be to either duck into a shop to get away or threaten to hit him if he came any closer.

    Don’t be a doormat. They think that ‘white girls put out’. I can assure you, all my Indian co-workers at my other job have been informed otherwise. Most of all don’t be afraid to drop a few f-bombs if required, as they find this very unattractive.

  • Susie September 20, 2010, 8:32 pm

    I had a similar experience in Paris once. Usually refused to talk to strange men, but this guy was over 80, so I figured chatting wouldn’t hurt. Within 5 minutes he had invited me to move to Brussels with him and be his mistress. I avoided that park for the next 3 months!

  • Hal September 20, 2010, 8:47 pm

    The writer was way too compliant. She stated that she sat on that bench to read and to let her boyfriend have some quiet at home. She should never have allowed that man to change her intentions. Women must join the fight against intrusive and possibly dangerous men. Never reply to any stranger. Leave at once. Never be shy about shouting for help. It may seem extreme but I believe behaving this way might just save another woman from unwanted attention or worse. No respectable man would ever speak to a female stranger. And, we men are very aware of the woman who initiates a casual conversation with us in public. Same thing. People of worth never engage in public conversations. People of worth are not afraid to appear rude to aggressive people. If you had sat in a bar alone then the rules would have been different.

  • kingshearte September 20, 2010, 9:04 pm

    I have nothing new to add, really, but I just wanted to add my sympathies that this happened to you. But I hope you’ve read all these comments, so that you know you’re not alone, and that something like this has happened to pretty much every woman at least once.

    Coulda, woulda, shoulda? Whatever. It happened, and you didn’t know what to do. I just hope that if nothing else, this has been a learning experience. Some guys are jerks, and if you let them, they will come on waaaaaaay too strong, and make you uncomfortable. So I hope that the next time you find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll have the confidence to be a frigid bitch, or a lesbian, or whatever other epithet some dude may toss your way as a result of your failure to respond fawningly to his unwanted advances. And don’t back down if they try to tell you they’re just joking, or that you’re taking it all too seriously, or whatever.

    Bottom line is, you owe this man and his ilk nothing, and don’t let anyone (especially them) convince you otherwise.

  • kingshearte September 20, 2010, 9:08 pm

    It occurs to me, btw, that the first line in my second paragraph in my first response may have come across as dismissive, and that’s not how it was intended. It was meant as an assurance that we have all been in that position where we didn’t know what to do, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it.

  • Emily September 20, 2010, 9:16 pm

    Creepers gonna creep, and they’re probably gonna creep on you. This is NEVER your fault. It’s easy to say “You should have…” because we all know what we’re supposed to do. When it comes down to it, however, we often forget our shoulds and fall back on our unfortunate training.
    There’s no answer but to change the training.
    I’m sorry this happened to you. All of you.

  • Patty September 20, 2010, 9:33 pm

    It’s called “get up and walk away.” No reason to feel bad. You have no clue what his intentions were.

  • Princesssimmi September 20, 2010, 10:19 pm

    Can I just add, once the guys I work with got it through their heads that I’m not interested in seeing/dating/sleeping with them, we actually became quite good friends, and often catch up for a meal or a drink outside of work. They’re not bad, they’re just reacting to our stereotype of being ‘easy’ and I was reacting to their ‘sleazebag’ stereotype.

  • Kriss September 20, 2010, 10:31 pm

    Politeness and safety do not go hand in hand. When confronted with a creepy guy etiquette goes out the window and getting away safely and without escalation is the only goal. There is no correct fork to use when running away from a creeper so don’t worry about rudeness. Just get away.

    I think it isn’t so much about being polite as it is pride. We’re raised to take pride in our manners. Much like how boys can be too proud to back down from a fight, we’re too proud to pull out the cold shoulder when we should. When a creeper plays the “but I thought you were nice” card they are calling out our womanhood and we need to defend that. Not all that different than when a guy has his manhood called into question and he has to defend it. Pride is an ugly thing so we don’t want to see it that way. It’s much easier to see ourselves as victims of social norms.

  • sam September 20, 2010, 11:06 pm

    I used to try to be polite, but the more it happens, you just learn to ignore them, tell them off or remove yourself from the situation.

    Quick story: I was recently walking down the street listening to my iPod (so I really couldn’t hear anyone talking to me) and this guy started “stalk walking” me (for lack of better term) and I think he was trying to talk to me. After figuring this out, I tried to outpace him, and eventually started making plans to dodge into a coffee shop because I was panicking . After finally losing him (or so I thought), I all of a sudden feel a hard “grope” on my butt; it was genuinely painful, and I have a mark. Without even thinking about it, I screamed “Get the f*ck away from me!” He finally backed off, with this stupid smirk on his face. And people were looking at me, like I was the crazy one. I know that what I said was not the most polite phrase, but I know that if I had engaged him or if I hadn’t brought attention to him, it could have been much worse.

    Don’t worry about being polite to creepy people! They do not deserve your courtesy.

  • Scritzy September 20, 2010, 11:35 pm

    Amped up, heck! This story gives me a whopping case of the skeevies!

    Fortunately, I have a look that apparently translates into, “Do not get within 10 yards of me or you will be very sorry,” because I’ve been able to cut people dead with it. I also tend to walk along with my fists clenched. I learned such an attitude because I am somewhat socially awkward, and I’d rather look like a poison fish than someone who can be easily intimidated.

    Safety trumps etiquette. Always.

  • The Cat Whisperer September 20, 2010, 11:41 pm

    Just read through the most recent comments and wanted to add something: rational, sane people tend to have a “default assumption” that everyone they encounter is rational and sane and is going to act that way.

    Many dangerous people have some form of mental illness. These people are not going to act in rational ways, and applying expectations of reasonable behavior to them could get you hurt or killed.

    These people also don’t always give clear indications that they are mentally ill and irrational. You cannot always tell immediately that there is something wrong with them. Sometimes all you have is a vague feeling that something is making you uneasy.

    If someone is giving you a “wrong” vibe, it is always better to remove yourself to safety than to take a chance. And it is always, always, always better to remove yourself to safety than to become confrontational.

    The Admin, in her response to the OP, mentioned slapping someone in the face. IMO, unless you’re slapping someone because you have absolutely no choice to do anything else to protect yourself, slapping someone who may be irrational would be a very dangerous thing to do. If the person is irrational and prone to violence, they will immediately escalate the violence.

    Your best choice is always to try to remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation if you have that option. And the earlier you recognize that a situation may be dangerous, the better your options are going to be.

    Don’t take chances of confronting someone physically or verbally if you don’t have to. Get safely away from the person or situation, and then try to get someone whose job it is to deal with dangerous creepy people involved– police, private security, someone who is trained/equipped to handle a potentially violent, dangerous person.

    Safety for yourself first. Top priority.

  • Bee September 20, 2010, 11:45 pm

    While I may go to eHell for this one, when your safety is at risk, etiquette be damned! 🙂 Though hindsight is 20/20, and I’m sure OP thought of a million different ways to handle it once she had removed herself from the situation.

    I remember walking back home after being at a university lecture. I was less than 100m from my front door, when a car full of men stopped beside me. The front passenger leaned out the window and asked me if I’d like to go to a bar with them. Besides the fact that I didn’t know any of them from Adam, it was about 10am!Then when I told my boyfriend (at the time) about it, he got mad at me! Said I must have done something to encourage them. Weirdo.

    Anyway, I’m glad you weren’t hurt, and if it ever happens again, you’ll be prepared.

  • Candra September 20, 2010, 11:51 pm

    Ugh. I know exactly how this feels.
    (1) When I was 11, I was sitting in a hot tub at a campground my family was staying at (my brother and sister, along with a crowd of other kids similarly aged and older, were in the main pool. I was one to soak, myself.) when a man probably in his 40s or 50s came and sat in the hot tub with me. He started asking me all these questions about myself in total creeper-like fashion, and I didn’t know what to do. So I excused myself and told my older sister what was going on. We left.
    (2) After a mere week starting my current job, the 42+ year-old delivery driver (I was 17 at the time) whom I see several times per day decided to start hitting on me just to see how far he could go. At first he simply asked “do you mind compliments?” to which I replied “um…no? I guess?”. Later in the day at his next delivery, he told me I was beautiful, which I ignored. Then the next day, he told me “If I were I a little bit younger and you were a little bit blind in one eye, we could have some fun”. I gave him a disturbed look, and had no idea what to say so I just walked away. He later asked if that was a bit much, and I said “um, YES.”. I have told him numerous times now to buzz off, and he now leaves me alone.
    (3) Most recently, just a month or so ago, a man walked up to me in the grocery store while I was minding my own business looking over my list, and told me he liked my walk. “Um..thanks…” then he went on. “You know what I like about you is your curvy body…you’ve got these voluptuous hips…” while making motions with his hands, referring the the curve of my hips (EW. REALLY.) I walked away. Just left. I didn’t know what to say.

  • LilyG September 21, 2010, 1:53 am

    Another plug for Gavin deBecker. He has very good advice that will allow you to accurately judge the situation. And he has the chops for it. I bought both books for my 19 year old daughter when she went off to college in Chicago.
    I also taught her it was better to be thought rude and stay alive and unharmed than to be a polite victim. We both mastered the “bitch face” and the hissed “Get the F**K away from me, Mac”. Works wonders.

  • Rebecca September 21, 2010, 2:29 am

    I also think there is a certain breed of men (and they come in all ethnicities) who enjoy making women feel uncomfortable. It gives them a sense of power. And they do pick on younger women, not just because they are young and pretty, but because they often haven’t yet learned to speak up for themselves. They know, for example, that a 14-year-old is unlikely to make a fuss and instead will squirm and cringe and try to look for a “polite” way out.

    So I doubt these guys honestly think they will get “lucky.” Instead they get enjoyment out of the woman’s discomfort and/or fear.

  • MeganAmy September 21, 2010, 3:03 am

    I sympathize with you. I agree with the others. I was too polite when I was a young teenager living in a big city and being approached by weirdos on the subway. I finally learned to end conversations like that very quickly, but it takes practice. Sadly, there are enough weirdos out there that there are ample opportunities to practice. For this reason, I try to stay in well-populated places, so at least there are witnesses and these creeps aren’t likely to get physically aggressive. You still have to make sure you’re not followed back home or to work, etc.

    Sadly, the following happened to me on two occasions. I was about 18 years old each time. I was on a packed subway and we had to stand. A man approached behind me and stood up and then placed the front of his body directly behind mine. As the subway bounced on the tracks, he gyrated. Ewww! The first time, I was so shocked that I froze for a few seconds and then finally managed to make it to the exit and leave at the next stop. The second time, my mom was with me, she yanked me away and yelled at the guy “What a weirdo! Go away!”

    I just wanted to echo Joe J, JS, Chanel, Monica and The Cat Whisperer’s recommendations of the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. Definitely worth purchasing and reading as it tells you to trust your instincts. In the book, he gives an example like “The deer survives because it doesn’t say ‘Do you think that’s a nice lion? Maybe it doesn’t want to hurt me. I shouldn’t run away. I don’t want to hurt its feelings.’ The deer doesn’t hesitate. It just runs away and it always survives.”

    I would imagine that book is good for anyone to read, including men, because a lot of predator-like people can use the tricks of “innocent conversation” to take something from you. I’ve had male friends followed late at night by other men for one can only imagine the reason. I’ve heard of stories where thieves followed people home because they liked their sports cars and wanted to know how to get at them. Kidnappers following young parents hoping to snatch the new baby. You name it. It’s good for everyone, male and female, to be aware of unnecessary attention and intrusive questions.

    I agree with the others who said it’s best not to slap someone in this situation. First, because you don’t want to use violence unless it’s in self-defense, regardless of which gender you are or your recipient is. Words can be used instead; no need to escalate beyond that. Second, because he could have then grabbed your wrist. As others have said, it’s best to keep some physical distance between you. In case you need to run. It’s nice to have a head start.

  • Princesssimmi September 21, 2010, 7:44 am

    MeganAmy- thank you for reminding me of this one-

    My Mum works as a physiotherapist and always advises extreme caution to males and females regardless of age or physical strength. When she was first practicing physiotherapy, she had a case that will shock and disgust all of you.

    A man about 24-25 had been out for a few drinks one night. He met another man there and after a few drinks this other man invited him to another party on an estate nearby. He went willingly- they’re not sure if he was drugged or just drunk. When he arrived with this other man, a group of men waiting there attacked him, incapacitated him and raped him with a broom handle. He almost died, had his bowel and stomach ripped to shreds, and had to have all his intestine removed and had to have a colostomy bag fitted. I don’t remember all the details but it still scares that pants off me every time I think about it.

  • Bint September 21, 2010, 7:48 am

    ‘No respectable man would ever speak to a female stranger. And, we men are very aware of the woman who initiates a casual conversation with us in public.’

    I just don’t believe you can generalise like this for the entire world. I work in the same city as the OP (London) and people where I live frequently start conversations with each other in public when they’ve never met. There is no pervy intent and 99% of the men certainly don’t have issues with women initating casual conversation. It’s just friendly chat as part of a community.

    The inner voice other posters have referred to is vital here. It will warn you when to leave, but it will also recognize when someone is being simply friendly.

    I also object to the idea that women shouldn’t initiate conversations with men because they may be seen differently and assumptions made. Way to take away MY rights and justify some perv’s twisted beliefs.

  • Shannon September 21, 2010, 8:08 am

    Ah, subway gropers. A friend of mine was on the Metro during rush hour a few years back, and a guy brushed her boob. She was numb with shock and unsure what to do. Luckily, an elderly lady cried, “I saw that! Don’t do that!” and thwacked the guy over the head with her pocketbook.

    I don’t know why, but the mental image of a pervo getting his from a little old lady is inordinately satisfying.

  • Shayna September 21, 2010, 10:12 am

    @Blueberry

    >>Did he speak with a slight accent? If so, then he is notorious for that in downtown Calgary. I pretended not to speak English when he approached me with the same line. A friend of mine was chased by him asking to kiss her feet and she almost ran into traffic. Luckily, she was on the corner of an intersection with plenty of people and he stopped when a man in the crowd threatened to beat him with a steel briefcase.<<

    To be honest, this was about 7 years ago, so I don’t remember if he spoke with an accent or not. I just remember how he looked. He was shorter than I, so probably 5’2″, I would say in his 50s, gray hair. And he was Caucasian. He just had a “creepy” look about him, not that the description I gave is creepy, per se, just that this guy made my hair stand on end. I even remember what he was wearing: black dress pants, a black T-shirt, black baseball cap with some white writing on it, and those older-style black Reebok sneakers with velcro fastenings, and a black jacket with a red inner lining. Amazing that I can remember all those details, but it’s seared into my brain. And my incident didn’t take place downtown. I lived on Bonaventure Drive and 86 Ave SE, right across the street from the Co-Op shopping centre, and that’s where it happened. If this is the same guy you’re talking about, I guess he gets around, doesn’t he? Ugh. I can’t believe he’s still going at it. Persistent, I have to give him that.

  • RP September 21, 2010, 10:35 am

    I’ve been in similar situations due to the fact that I went several years without a car.

    I think creepers like bus stops because they know that people waiting on the bus are a captive audience. Worse, in the city I live in, nearly all the buses operate on an hourly schedule and, depending on the route and time of day, don’t stay on schedule.

    I firmly believe that the overpopulation of creeps in the area helped lead to the local grocery getting shut down. The store itself could have been better but I stopped going there because I couldn’t even walk past the bus stop, much less actually wait there, without someone harassing me. It happened at other stops and other locations too but that was the only location it seemed to be a GUARANTEED occurrence.

    I also agree with Cordelia that the second they put your hands on you there is no obligation on your part not to use your own hands to make them stop. I’d also like to point out that if you fear for your safety you don’t have to wait until you’ve actually been hit or molested for it to be self-defense, at least in the USA. It may be harder to prove but there is no legal requirement for you to let yourself be harmed first in order to engage in self-defense.

  • ferretrick September 21, 2010, 11:42 am

    @Candra: In both examples, you’d should either tell the creep to get bent yourself, or get an authority. We had a copier repair man make lewd comments to our receptionist. Whistling low, muttering humina, humina or something like that under his breath. When the receptionist came to my office nearly in tears, I walked up, told him to get out of the building and not come back, and called the company he worked for. I can only assume (hope) he was fired. No manager worth his salt is not going to back you-and if they don’t, go to H.R. Its still sexual harassment, even if the guy doesn’t actually work for the company.

    In the grocery store, don’t leave-you have your shopping to do. Ask the nearest employee to get the store manager NOW. Then tell him/her that this customer is making inappropriate comments to other shoppers and ask to have them escorted out. If they don’t, then take your business elsewhere. No store will put up with creeps driving away actual paying customers.

  • Christina September 21, 2010, 12:09 pm

    After reading the comments I am struck my how many of us have dealt with “creeps” at one time or another. I came from a relatively uptight mother who didn’t talk much about “certain topics” but thankfully I had many “street wise” cousins and friends who clued me in to the dangers of the world. Still I had a couple of very close calls growing up. One with a guy trying to lure me and my friend (we were both 9) into the bushes behind the playground…if not for my inner voice screaming RUN at me, we might have become a statistic that day (this was in the mid 1970s long before “stranger danger” lessons in school.) Another time, in High School I was attending a party and staying sober, shocking, I know! Anyway, this guy came on to me and had his hand up my shirt before I could get away from him. I made a huge scene, screamed, cussed, informed him my father was in law enforcement and if he didn’t get his blanking hands off me he’d be looking down the barrel of my dad’s gun, etc. He was a star athlete at this school and nearly everyone accused me of making it up, even though they all saw him pinning me down shoving his hand up my shirt. I was furious with my friends, but now that I am older and wiser and see that many people don’t know how to help in a situation like this or even how to react themselves when accosted by some creep. I believe my friends were afraid to speak up for what was right and instead chose silence as a way to protect themselves from being victimized like I was. The good thing about my reaction to that encounter is I got a lot more respect from the boys at school. They kept a healthy distance and when I said “No thanks” to their advances they listened. I am still friends with many of them 25 years later…the girls, my “friends”….not so much.

  • Louise September 21, 2010, 12:53 pm

    This thread is breaking my heart, because it’s so sad that so many women have had to put up with creeps and weirdos. I wish every man in the world could read this thread so he could get an idea of what women encounter every day. I think previous posters have raised excellent points about cultural differences and girls being conditioned to “play nice” in uncomfortable situations, which is sometimes referred to as “nice girl syndrome.”

    Regardless of whether the man in the OP was culturally clueless or fully aware of what he was doing, the best thing to do in that situation is just walk away, hopefully into a crowd. It’s a shame some creep spoiled her afternoon, but that’s the best way to “win” — and I put that in quotation marks because it’s not much of a victory when you have to spoil your afternoon to escape harrassment.

    In my experience, when a stranger asks a woman for her name, it all goes downhill from there. (I’m not talking about an encounter in which there’s some conversation and then one person says, “By the way, I’m Pat. What’s your name?” I’m talking about when you’re sitting on a bench minding your business and a random man asks right off the bat.) If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, don’t. Deflect. Resist the urge to cater to random people. Random man won’t like it, but that’s his problem. It’s sad that we live in a world in which a woman who stands up for herself is insulted as being a [w]itch. Maybe we’ll have made more progress in another 100 years.

  • Xtina September 21, 2010, 1:03 pm

    I have to agree that it is unwise to slap/hit/kick a creep unless he has physically touched you as well. Touching him could open the door to him retaliating, grabbing you, etc.–but if he does touch, react quickly and get away or call for help.

    I once had an older man in a bar–probably 60 (I was 21)–start chatting me up and it escalated to him telling me what a nice body I had, like a stripper (nice comparison there–I’m sure every woman aspires to look like a stripper). I was standing there with my mouth agape and in that split second, he had actually reached out, lifted up my shirt, and was looking at my breasts. I screamed and slapped his hands away and it was right at that moment that one of my friends (himself a 6’6″ off-duty bouncer) literally yanked the guy off his barstool, slammed him up against the bar, and he and the bartender threw the guy out the front door of the place–just like in cartoons. I still laugh as I remember the look on the guy’s face as he hit the pavement outside. Hopefully he learned his lesson.

    Anyway, my lesson that I took from that is that it only takes the blink of an eye for an assault to take place. Be prepared–I sure didn’t see that coming, and I feel fortunate that all I ended up with was hurt pride.

  • Ellen CA September 21, 2010, 1:24 pm

    There have been plenty of folks here recommending Gavin DeBecker’s “The Gift of Fear” and I want to add my name to that list. After reading it myself, I sent it along to my neice who was just moving to a new city with orders to read it and live by it.

    We’re not just talking about being inconvienced by a stranger, your “inner voice” of caution can literally save your life.

  • geekgirl September 21, 2010, 2:58 pm

    Susie – I got approached by an older man in a park in Paris too! Was in Jardin de Tulieries? Actually, he was quite polite and nice so I chatted for a while then when he gave me the line, turned him down. He was quite nice about it, so I didn’t really classify him as a creeper. He may have been trying it on but he was far less creepy than the men in London who try it on. (Most men in London are lovely btw!)

    I’ve learnt to handle the ‘aren’t you going to be nice?’ line. I look them in the eyes and say ‘I’m not nice. I’m a complete bi**h’. That often does the job.

  • Nichs September 21, 2010, 4:07 pm

    I definitely think that women need to ge taught not to stand for behavior like this. When I was 18 I worked as a cashier/quasi-waitress at a pizza joint. One day, a man who looked to be in his mid-20’s or so came in to pick up a pizza. I always tried to be friendly with the customers, so I smiled at him and cheerfully rung him up. As I was doing so, he told me I was beautiful. I was surprised, but a little flattered, and thanked him before going back to the transaction at hand. However, he refused to drop it, and kept remarking on what pretty eyes I had and asked me if I would like to go out with him sometime. I was surprised and a little scared, but had been taught to always be polite to customers, so I said something about being in a relationship and tried to get back to ringing him up for the pizza. This didn’t stop him, though, and he kept saying he wanted to take me out, but just as friends, so it was ok that I was in a relationship. Finally he paid, I gave him the pizza as quickly as I could, and he left the store.

    I was still somewhat in shock, but I told my manager about it. She said that if that ever happened again for me to get her immediately. Later, when I told my therapist about the story, she told me that it was a good example of how people, especially women, are conditioned to feel the need to be polite even when others (especially men) are being horribly innappropriate to them. This stuck with me, and I think it’s important to warn girls at a young age that there are creeps out there, and you don’t have to put up with it. I definitely feel for the op. It’s so easy to not know how to react in these situations, or to feel that you need to be “polite” at all times.

  • Challis September 21, 2010, 4:48 pm

    While living in Mexico, out walking my dog, I was asked a question by a tiny, old, & obviously drunk man. I didn’t really hear him and he was slurring so I just told him. “no hablo español”
    well he proceded to talk to me, and I kind of just smiled at him and reapeated that I did not understand spanish.
    well, then I heard him ask, “Do you want sex?”
    I let him have it after that, yelling (in spanish) “what the hell are you thinking asking something like that, you should be ashamed, get away from here right now, my husband is in that building right there and I am going to tell him to come out here and talk to you about how to treat women!” (I didn’t know the correct way to say ‘kick your ass’)
    he stumbled quickly away.
    (my boyfriend and I were not married or even engaged at that time)

    I also worked at a resort hotel for my first year in Mexico, and my Argentine girl-friends at my job asked me about words they could learn to tell the American men who were acting in approiate.
    I advised them that they did not need to learn vulgar phrases, just to use the english that they already know and say something like, ‘excuse me sir, how would you feel if a man spoke to your daughter/wife/sister/mother like that? Don’t act like a perverted old man just because you are on vacation, This is my job, and just because I am in a bathing suit does not mean you can speak to me/touch me like that.”
    of course, a drunken tourist is a different kind of creep than what the OP was describing.

  • irish September 21, 2010, 5:57 pm

    I noticed Bint’s comment on ‘No respectable man would ever speak to a female stranger. And, we men are very aware of the woman who initiates a casual conversation with us in public.’ and scrolled back up trying to find where it had been… Hal says that if the woman had been alone in a bar the rules would have been different??!!! No no no no!!! NOBODY deserves to be harassed and asked creepy questions. Now this may be more likely to happen to a woman alone in certain bars, or bars in dangerous areas, but the whole point of most people’s responses has been that women have the right to sit alone, work, walk, or use public transport without being abused, and I would add to that the right to have a drink alone in a bar. Maybe, men might approach her with intent, but that does not justify pressing a sexual conversation that she’s not comfortable with. And at least in a bar, there are staff she can tell about the creepy man who’s bothering her.

  • Tundra September 21, 2010, 8:20 pm

    Oh and Creepy Guy now still creeps about on university campus, joins things like the chess club, spectates the games from 1 metre away and makes inappropriate comments there instead, and the sci fi club and laughs uproariously at anything implying sex or an argument between a man and a woman, while sitting rows and rows behind everyone else because no one there will talk to him either. But at least he isn’t touching anyone there.

  • MeganAmy September 21, 2010, 10:22 pm

    I think the creepy people like to target women who seem like they will be weak and not defend themselves. A lot of people confuse politeness with weakness.

    About 10 years ago, I worked with two women (in their late-20s) in a large city. One was from San Francisco and had grown up in a very rough neighborhood. She told me that they’d been walking one late afternoon and a man (around age 50), possibly homeless, kept following them, no matter where they walked. They walked faster and tried to get him to stop and he just sped up. Finally, the San Francisco girl turned around, looked him in the eye, stuck out her hand so that her palm was facing him and said firmly “STOP! Stop following us.” She said he got timid and left.

    I was shocked that she handled it that way and that it worked. My reaction would have been like our other coworker, just to try to ignore him and get away. But the San Francisco girl told me that guys like that 1) don’t understand subtlety and 2) are looking for someone they can intimidate.

    I was impressed that it worked and had never thought of that before. In their case, it was good that there were two of them, and that they probably weren’t too far from more populated areas, so I don’t know if this would work in all situations, but it was interesting to learn.