A Tricky Question, a Disappointing Response. May 10, 2013 9:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm referring to this question and this response. Look, Unified Theory, I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt here, and assume that maybe you didn't read the entirety of a rather long and rambly OP. And I actually agree with parts of your post - I hated the way the question was phrased as well, and I agree that the assumption that it's automatically creepy for an older guy to be attracted to a younger woman is both sexist and ageist. And, I agree with the many other posters stating the the OP that she handled the situation in a very naive way, and needs to give serious thought to how she sets her own boundaries in situations like this. But.

To minimize this guy's behavior by suggesting there was nothing creepy about it, when he committed at least two low-level sexual assaults on her (seriously: read the OP if you missed it), made boundary-crashing sexual comments, and then tried to put her down as 'asexual' when she shied away from sexually-charged questions, is quite franky disturbing, and the fact that your answer is getting a bunch of favorites on that thread is even more disturbing.

Metafilter, I am disappoint.
posted by Broseph to Etiquette/Policy at 9:33 PM (420 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

What do you want to have happen here? People taking sides? A discussion of...something? Just to be heard in your disappointment? Seriously asking, I don't know what community input you're looking for.
posted by donnagirl at 9:46 PM on May 10, 2013 [24 favorites]


Something good to keep in mind in these types of human relations questions is that you're only getting one side of the story.

That story was so wrenching to read, but MiuMiu didn't really have a question attached to her story. Should she despair of men? is about as close as she gets, and that's really stretching it. There's the opportunity for her to be directed to help that she could use to wisen up a bit (like therapy), but that's not exactly answering the question. I read the whole thing and by the end I really wanted to try to help her and at the same time thought the question should get deleted. Flagged as such.
posted by carsonb at 9:48 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Look, Unified Theory, I'd like to give you

Since your comments are addressed to a specific user, I'm unclear on why you chose to air them to the rest of us. Memail would seem to be the more appropriate avenue.
posted by nacho fries at 9:49 PM on May 10, 2013 [30 favorites]


Wow, that is a really tough question. Tough discussion, tough to write any good answer too.

I don't think that "leading someone on" entitles them to anything in any way, fuck that. I also think that this isn't some shitty "the implication" in it's always sunny type thing. This is more one of the situations where someone invites someone else to what's obviously a date, and then the other person realizes half way through(or even later) "ohhhh fuckkk, THAT'S what they were doing. fuck."

I don't really think this guy is a boundary crasher, because i feel like she didn't set boundaries much of at all. i am not saying this makes anything that guy did her fault. I just think that there was a lot of ambiguity on both sides, and this is a really cringe/wince inducing read.

I think that her post is essentially "this guy read way too much in to my actions, ugh"

I also think the pile on of unified theories' reply is kinda gross. The post itself bothers me. i mean "thinking middle aged men hitting on college aged girls is gross is ageist!" wtf? go back to tumblr. A lot of guys that age hitting on women this age are doing it to take advantage of how naive some of them may be. There is a huge power imbalance in many ways in this type of relationship, and it has an abnormally high chance of being unfair/fucked up in some way. You can't just flush that down the toilet and pretend it doesn't exist or happen. that's how it be.

I can really fucking feel this naïveté too, because i was homeschooled until highschool and was pretty god damn naive well in to college. that's part of why this was such a powerful wince for me. Ugh.

That all said, i'm going to make a most controversial statement ever here, and say that in my opinion this isn't a great use of AskMe. I think it's more of a "i really want to vent about this situation that upset me for two screens, and i tacked a vague question on the end".

On preview, donnagirl, i think he's saying "can we not jump to conclusions like this or assume that the guy has the best possible intentions by default and shit all over the girl?" which yea, i agree with. He's calling out something the community not only seems to be ok with, but piled favorites on. These type of threads happen pretty regularly, and serve a purpose.
posted by emptythought at 9:49 PM on May 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


I wasn't saying it wasn't a valid use of MeTa, I just seriously didn't know what use he wanted. Believe me, I live here, I get the purpose. :-)
posted by donnagirl at 9:51 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found that answer troubling, and several others as well. It made me think of this:

"Rape culture is blurred lines between persistence and coercion. Rape culture is treating diminished capacity to consent as the natural path to sexual activity."
posted by Ouisch at 9:55 PM on May 10, 2013 [50 favorites]


I also would like to add that i really feel that every constructive answer that could be given, is already in that thread. Nothing great is going to come from leaving it open. It's a borderline thread in the first place, but it got an absolutely bodyslam amount of answers for not even haven been up 3 hours yet.

There is no reason for it to become a megathread.
posted by emptythought at 9:55 PM on May 10, 2013


I wanted to call out that AskMe but in a broader context: The context of SERIOUSLY, ASK A FREAKING QUESTION ALREADY. People need to stop with the long, rambling screeds without an actual question attached. Is the question "How could I have handled this better?" Is the question "What was in this person's mind?" Was the question "Was I assaulted?" Was the question "Did I send mixed signals?"

We don't know, because there wasn't a question.

I keep seeing this and it is annoying as hell.
posted by Justinian at 9:59 PM on May 10, 2013 [57 favorites]


I contacted the mods early on regarding the askme, suggesting that they keep an eye on it, too many red flags and potential for it going sideways. But, at this point, I need to acknowledge that I may have been wrong, the responses have, in my opinion, been appropriate, folks have handled it well, even though they haven't all agreed. I hope the OP receives some useful feedback from it.

I see no point to this Meta.
posted by HuronBob at 10:01 PM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


It woudn't have been way out of line to flag it as a double, either.
posted by donnagirl at 10:02 PM on May 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


The question got a bunch of flags and I've been looking at it all evening. My general thinking was that it's a poorly-phrased question from somebody who is aware of the concepts of rape culture and sexism and boundaries without having any deep understanding of them, and who definitely needs help sorting through them. It's not a slam-dunk delete - it's answerable in some fashion even if it's not phrased as a clear question.

I also would like to add that i really feel that every constructive answer that could be given, is already in that thread. Nothing great is going to come from leaving it open.

We don't have a mechanism for *closing* AskMes - either they're open or they're deleted (or they're auto-closed after a year. Six months? I think a year.) There's no "this has enough answers" threshold for a deletion.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:02 PM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wanted to call out that AskMe but in a broader context: The context of SERIOUSLY, ASK A FREAKING QUESTION ALREADY.

Not only is it that, but it's one of those ambiguous posts about a contentious subject people like to get internet fighty about. It's a one two punch. No clear question, and then the subject matter.

It's the closest AskMe can get to one of the front page "a shitty thing happened" posts

Oh, and nomad, i'm clear on that. But if it's deleted and you have a direct link you can still read it, and she can still read it.
posted by emptythought at 10:04 PM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hated the way the question was phrased as well

The OP said English is not her first language.

Look, Unified Theory, I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt here, and assume that maybe you didn't read the entirety of a rather long and rambly OP.

You know what? If you come across a long and rambly Ask and you can't be bothered to read the whole thing, there is no reason to post an answer.

Nothing says, "I am an entitled, self-involved twit" more than when people write, "Haven't read your whole question, but, [answer]" or "Haven't read all of the answers, but, [answer]."

Finally, Broseph, when you call someone or a post out in Metatalk, it is good form to post a link in the thread.
posted by mlis at 10:06 PM on May 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


if it's deleted and you have a direct link you can still read it, and she can still read it.

It's seriously not a thing we would ever do without the OP requesting that we do so. If she gets in touch, we'll close it. Otherwise we won't.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:07 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


So this MeTa boils down to "I agree with about two-thirds of this answer, but I'm really disgusted with the other third".

Okay. Acknowledged, I guess.
posted by spaltavian at 10:08 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


We don't have a mechanism for *closing* AskMes - either they're open or they're deleted

MetaTalk "close to comments" functionality should be extended to the rest of the site.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:09 PM on May 10, 2013


MetaTalk "close to comments" functionality should be extended to the rest of the site.

Nope...
posted by HuronBob at 10:13 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have to ask, since I didn't want to do it there - am I the only one who sorta wonders if this person is trolling? I mean..all the escalating things that happen and all along she still just isn't sure at all if he is interested? seriously?
posted by citron at 10:17 PM on May 10, 2013 [14 favorites]


It is kind of ridiculous but, no, I don't think she was trolling.
posted by Justinian at 10:18 PM on May 10, 2013


And regarding all the "just say no" stuff, I thought this article was interesting:

Mythcommunication: It's not that they don't understand, they just don't like the answer.

It talks about how most refusals in social situations are polite, indirect refusals - and people generally have no problem understanding them as refusals. But when it comes to refusing sex, people who are sexually coercive suddenly claim to not understand the same type of normative, indirect refusals they understand perfectly well in other contexts.
posted by Ouisch at 10:19 PM on May 10, 2013 [87 favorites]


I have to ask, since I didn't want to do it there - am I the only one who sorta wonders if this person is trolling?

Yes, especially when you take into account the equally odd previous questions. Or maybe she just has issues. But it looks a lot like attention seeking. I started to wonder if her sister was dying of cancer.
posted by bongo_x at 10:23 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Holy crap, can we not turn this in to another layer of piling on MiuMiu? The entire premise of this thread was that being fucked up.
posted by emptythought at 10:26 PM on May 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sorry, I wasn't intending to imply that she's a Bad Person For Asking. Just that there are a lot of levels on which the question could be read as MeFi-problematic.
posted by donnagirl at 10:27 PM on May 10, 2013


This is one of the times when Ask is really frustrating. While there's a problem, there's no clear question. The OP probably needs more support/assistance than an online forum can provide.

Ask does a ton of good for Mefites, but it's not the venue to effectively solve problems like this one.
posted by 26.2 at 10:29 PM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Seriously, non-native English + she is struggling with some issues. I did not get the feeling she is a troll at all. Just because someones experiences are not consistent with the majority of mefites does not mean she is a troll.
posted by mlis at 10:32 PM on May 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't think her non-native English is in any way an issue. It was perfectly understandable. There simply wasn't a question. In any language.
posted by Justinian at 10:34 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let's try to avoid a) idle speculation about the OP, and b) making this into a proxy debate of the Ask Metafilter post itself. We can discuss in what ways this may or may not be a good question for Ask Metafilter, and how we answer such questions, but let's not drag the OP through mud here.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:34 PM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't think she's a troll. I'm also struggling to understand the intention of this MeTa.
posted by arcticseal at 10:34 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would have favored deleting the Ask, and the OP could have worked with the mods if she needed help framing this into some kind of question. It looks a hell of a lot like AskMeTherapy to me as it stands.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:35 PM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the point of this Meta was Broseph complaining inappropriately.
posted by Justinian at 10:35 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It talks about how most refusals in social situations are polite, indirect refusals - and people generally have no problem understanding them as refusals. But when it comes to refusing sex, people who are sexually coercive suddenly claim to not understand the same type of normative, indirect refusals they understand perfectly well in other contexts.

Or as Ani diFranco said,

I know that you feel my resistance
I know that you heard what I said
otherwise you wouldn't need the excuse

(That said, I think that when someone keeps saying yes out of a sense of obligation, then suddenly they get to a point that all their yesses have brought them to and realize they are suddenly beyond the pale, that's a far more problematic situation that isn't really as easy as "yes that guy is a creep and you are being taken advantage of.")
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 PM on May 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


I’m sorry, I should have kept that comment to myself as I don’t really know the facts.
posted by bongo_x at 10:38 PM on May 10, 2013


He's calling out something the community not only seems to be ok with, but piled favorites on.

Exactly this.
posted by Broseph at 11:04 PM on May 10, 2013


I love metafilter. I love AskMe. That said....

the OP has responded in the original thread, sounds like she's heard the responses and might reconsider the situation. Wonderful... I hope that happens, and I hope that responses over there acknowledge that.

Here in the Meta, do we really need to discuss this any further? Is there something to be gained?
posted by HuronBob at 11:04 PM on May 10, 2013


He's calling out something the community not only seems to be ok with, but piled favorites on.

Exactly this.


An indication of how much more open-minded the community is as opposed to a highly vocal minority.
posted by Ardiril at 11:37 PM on May 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


it's answerable in some fashion even if it's not phrased as a clear question.

Absolutely.

This young woman is a stranger in a strange land, but is by no means unintelligent-- in fact, she strikes me as quite sharp.

She doesn't know how to interpret what's going on because this is an alien culture, and about the best thing that could happen to her other than having people around her she can trust-- which she seems to lack completely-- is to get a reading on her situation from the natives.

Us, in other words; this question is actually a very good use of AskMe, in my opinion.

But I agree that Unified Theory's answer is shockingly bad.
posted by jamjam at 11:37 PM on May 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Let's try to avoid ...making this into a proxy debate of the Ask Metafilter post itself.

What is the purpose of this meta?
posted by inigo2 at 11:51 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This Metatalk, as far as I can tell, is focused on a specific answer, and Broseph's suggestion that it minimizes unacceptable behavior, and (I extrapolate here), how we should avoid that or whether it's fine.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:07 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The solution seems to be to provide a better answer, not to complain about it on Metatalk.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 AM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


She doesn't know how to interpret what's going on because this is an alien culture

I don't think you have nearly enough data to make that definitive statement.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:23 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


That answer by Unified Theory is itself really fucking creepy and should not be OK for AskMe.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:40 AM on May 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

That answer by Unified Theory is itself really fucking creepy and should not be OK for AskMe.
It's less against the guidelines then:
Your question seems to have attracted metafilter's surprisingly large cohort of men in their 50s who believe they have some kind of inalienable right to creep on who they please
?

You obviously disagree with the answer, but it's less clear why you think answers you don't like should be banned.
posted by delmoi at 2:15 AM on May 11, 2013 [20 favorites]


That answer by Unified Theory is itself really fucking creepy and should not be OK for AskMe.

Well, no.

Over the last couple years I have seen just this as being AskMe's greatest strength. People wade in with their assumptions and prejudices all a-flower and then, in response, the problematic aspects of those assumptions and prejudices get addressed in a reasoned and conscientious manner. Which I kind of think happens in the rest of the thread.

What I found most, uh, striking, about the question when I first read it, was how fictional it seemed. And that there was no 'question' per se. Other than, I guess, "Is life really this messy?" But, I think questions like these can be really good exercises for the community as a whole, where ideas about establishing boundaries and respecting boundaries others set up, can be clarified and agreed upon. And hopefully people who see sense in Unified Theory's answer, can also see how other's would find it objectionable.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:30 AM on May 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


The OP's statement describes a situation with the implied question "Who is in the wrong?" The called out answer says "You are."

I think everyone brings a lot of baggage to the interpretation of the question and the answer, but I don't think that baggage should determine if the question or the answer should stand.
posted by Mooski at 3:24 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


and the fact that your answer is getting a bunch of favorites on that thread is even more disturbing

FYI, you can turn off favorites. If you choose to show favorites counts, then I wouldn't put too much stock in one highly favorited comment, be it positive or negative. They're a low stakes sign of action by users and any particular comment or post doesn't signify anything.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:06 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fictional?? That kind of shit used to happen to me commonly and probably still would if I were still dating. For various reasons, some of us have giant neon signs above our heads that say "my boundaries suck, go ahead and ignore them, manipulate me, and/or guilt-trip me into anything you'd like!"

It comes, in my case, from a history of abuse and inappropriate behavior from parents and men with authority.

I guess googling "re-victimization" might get you a broader or more theoretical look at this concept that different people truly do have more susceptibility to this. Reading these really accusatory and disbelieving answers/comments has me feeling rather hopeless about actually being empathetically interacted with here so I'm going to step out of this thread for a while.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:26 AM on May 11, 2013 [69 favorites]


That answer by Unified Theory is itself really fucking creepy and should not be OK for AskMe.

Unified Theory's (UT) answer is problematic in that it excuses some of the obviously wrong actions of the guy.

That said, I was more trouble by your answer Blasdelb. You presume to know about a creepy old man contingent on the site and goes at great length to excuse the OP mistakes in terms of getting repeatedly into these situations. There's a lot of good points you make about the OP's intrinsic right to set her boundaries and have them respected. But that gets lost in your refusal to address some of the problematic behaviors of the OP, which she recognizes needs to addressed

Now you're in MeTa saying UT's answer shouldn't be allowed on AskMe. Your desire to control other comments, while glossing over problematic behavior and casting aspersions on the Mefite community, all in the name of good, is one of the most strangest rationales I've ever seen on the site.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:31 AM on May 11, 2013 [45 favorites]


and the fact that your answer is getting a bunch of favorites on that thread is even more disturbing

Heh. Knowing that merely favoriting something really pisses off certain Mefite hall monitor types not merely content with policing words on the page makes me wish there was a way to favorite it twice. Even if I disagree with it.

Now we are going after people who favorite things you don't find politically correct? The "two minute hate" quality of MeTa is astounding.

People favorite things for many reasons. You don't get to read their minds and determine that if they favorite something you don't like they are creeps who support rape culture or whatever the shaming term of art is this week.
posted by spitbull at 4:49 AM on May 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


I was pretty naive when I went away to college. I don't know if I was as naive as the poster here, but I also didn't go to a different country for college. I was also luckier than she is in that I lived on campus (and thus most of my mistakes were made with people my own age with whom I had some things in common and who were not unknown strangers in quite the same way) and I had quickly made friends my own age who were wonderfully willing to help me out with things, including bluntly saying "She doesn't like you. Go away." to a "suitor" when I was not able to do so. In retrospect, I should have followed even more of their advice than I did.

This poster really does seem to be all alone in a strange country and culture with nobody to help her navigate things she really doesn't understand. I don't think she's turning to AskMeFi for fun or trolling; I think she's desperate for assistance to explain some crappy things that have happened to her. I think helping her find resources in her own community to answer these questions is helpful. I think presenting her with multiple perspectives on her situation is helpful. I think some of the answers crossed the line into shaming her for her naiveté and potentially setting her up for even worse outcomes in the future.

And, finally, if she's not comfortable dating a man 30 years older than her, she is allowed to not be comfortable with that. That seems to be one bit of self-knowledge that she openly and clearly expressed. There has long been a chorus of people on AskMeFi defending the right to dump a person for all kinds of aspects of their physical appearance that they can't help, on the grounds that if you're just not attracted to someone then your relationship will not work. I don't see why not wanting to date someone the same age as ones parents shouldn't be included in that category.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:03 AM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


The OP made a post that even she describes as an 'Incident report', rather than an actual question. She throws in a couple of rather general questions at the end, and finishes with 'Whatever kind of comments would be appreciated :)'.

Unified Theory made a comment which addressed the topic.

The OP is an adult. She can take whatever she wants from the comments, including Unified Theory's, and discard the rest.

Basically, I don't think 'I strongly disagree with this answer' means that there is anything wrong with the answer.
posted by Salamander at 5:33 AM on May 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


Btw, what does "not ... OK for AskMe" mean, exactly?

That the mods should have deleted it? or that the poster shouldn't have posted it and is a bad person for having done so? Given you think Unified Theory is a member of "metafilter's surprisingly large cohort of men in their 50s who believe they have some kind of inalienable right to creep on who they please" it seems unlikely he would have thought that his comment was "not ... OK"

Also, what's with all the "Get Therapy" comments? If this girl is from another culture it's not all that surprising that she might not pick up various social cues. It sounds like she has no idea that older men might be interested in her, maybe where she's from that's very uncommon. It seems like she had no idea that older men would even contemplate it at all.
posted by delmoi at 6:13 AM on May 11, 2013


That answer by Unified Theory is itself really fucking creepy and should not be OK for AskMe.

Unified Theory's answer was perfectly fine in my view. I favorited it and explicitly endorsed it in my answer.

I remarked in my comment my distaste for the word "creepy". The reason is that "creep" is a synonym for "sexually undesirable man". How many times have I heard a comment tot he effect of, "omg, that creepy guy across the room just looked at me!" Guess what? A man looking at you in public is not a violation of your rights. You just don't like that a man you find unattractive possibly expressed interest.

If OP were attracted to this man, the question would have never been posted and they'd be enjoying the bliss of homemade pizza and massages.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:29 AM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


No, actually "creepy" is a synonym for "men who don't respect and actively seek to subvert boundaries." Bonus points for seeking out people with poor boundaries, either through past abuse, lack of support system, or being unfamiliar with local norms, and targeting them. Note that "old" is not a requirement (although they're easier to spot); there were plenty of young men exclusively going after the non-English speaking foreign students in my program who fit that bill too.

I was once a naive, foreign-looking, pretty young girl in the US. The cultural norms I was brought up with did not prepare me for the amount of creepiness directed my way. Combine that with the fact that mg upbringing made it hard for me to say "no" to older men, and you had a recipe for disaster. Luckily, I had good friends who guided me through that. The OP doesn't seem to, so I'm glad she's turning to AskMe.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:41 AM on May 11, 2013 [97 favorites]


The reason is that "creep" is a synonym for "sexually undesirable man".

False. It has nothing to do with expressing interest and everything to do with blasting past normal expectations about the boundaries of others as if utterly oblivious.

If OP were attracted to this man, the question would have never been posted and they'd be enjoying the bliss of homemade pizza and massages.

This is true, but the problem in the question has to do with someone who continually refused or sidestepped advances and found her refusals discounted or ignored. That's the problem, not the fact that she wasn't attracted.

Could she have been clearer and had better boundaries? Yes. But in fact, creeps do seek out people who have poor boundaries, because they are less likely to object to their transgressions. Where do we place responsibility? People making advances have the responsibility to do it appropriately and to seek consent.
posted by Miko at 6:46 AM on May 11, 2013 [51 favorites]


I've seen plenty of AskMe's with the question, "how do I know if this girl/guy likes me?" and many times the most popular answer is, "just kiss her/him!" Is that also low-level sexual assault?
posted by girlmightlive at 6:46 AM on May 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


I remarked in my comment my distaste for the word "creepy". The reason is that "creep" is a synonym for "sexually undesirable man". How many times have I heard a comment tot he effect of, "omg, that creepy guy across the room just looked at me!" Guess what? A man looking at you in public is not a violation of your rights. You just don't like that a man you find unattractive possibly expressed interest.

This has nothing to do with the post. He didn't just look at her from across a room. He touched her inappropriately, sexually, without her consent. She told him she was uncomfortable with his actions, apparently several times, yet he continued to do them. Meanwhile, she says in the post she views him as a sort of father figure because of their age difference, not a sexual partner. And she told him this.

She should have a right to choose who she wants to sleep with, and fool around with, without being pressured into it by someone who she views as an older, wise advisor. Without being mocked as asexual because she's not interested. Without being groped by the guy or tricked into touching /massaging him because he feels he can take advantage of the power imbalance in their relationship.
posted by zarq at 6:48 AM on May 11, 2013 [45 favorites]


The reason is that "creep" is a synonym for "sexually undesirable man".

Sometimes, maybe, occasionally, that might be true. To posit it as true in all cases, though? That's ridiculous, and does nothing but provide cover for all sorts of clearly inappropriate behavior. You should stop saying it. It's not clever, and actively hurts people.
posted by mediareport at 6:48 AM on May 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


This is a shitty callout of another user and should not be further entertained. The prohibition on arguing with other answerers in AskMe is not because MeTa is lonely and wants some activity.
posted by Etrigan at 6:52 AM on May 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is one area where the "get therapy" answers seem amiss.

She's from another culture asking a question about boundary issues and there are certainly a range of answers there, but saying "you should get therapy" doesn't seem helpful. For one, it doesn't provide insight into typical boundaries in US culture between older men/younger women. Furthermore, there's nothing in the question that suggests that her boundary issues are the result of anything other than limited experience - especially in a new culture.

If you haven't lived outside of your home culture, this seemingly obvious stuff is often the hardest to navigate. At home, she very well might have correctly inferred that this guy was interested in being more than friends as she would be fluent in the interpersonal cues. In a new place, not speaking the language natively, it's much, much easier to misunderstand what's going on. Communication is about so much more than the words we use and when the cues are all just a little bit different, it's easy to make mistakes.

I've lived in other cultures and have a spouse (and even an ex spouse) from another culture and it's this stuff that seems so obvious to insiders that causes the most tripping up. She may be from a culture where invitations to come over to your house are typically platonic and refusing is seen as highly rude (Portugal is like this - though the staying over part is definitely not a platonic thing even over there). To us, it's clear that going back to "my place" is a romantic gesture but that's not universally true.

(Unrelated example - in Iceland, at the end of the evening you typically say "Thanks for the night" which to an American sounds very significant and like "Oh wow, you really had a great time!" but actually it's just what you say and it would be extremely easy to misread. This is one of those things that took me a while to get used to and I initially found puzzling and it was even more puzzling to Icelanders that I was puzzled.)

Boundaries are hard to navigate when you're young and hard to figure out in a new culture. There is nothing about having difficulty with that that suggests a need for therapy. The therapy answers may even, to her, suggest that there's something wrong *with her* if she's from a culture where therapy is only seen as something for severe disorders.
posted by sonika at 6:55 AM on May 11, 2013 [20 favorites]


saying "you should get therapy" doesn't seem helpful

While I understand your argument about cultural context, I still disagree with that. Therapy is really very useful in learning that you are entitled to boundaries, how to develop and define them, and how to communicate them. Therapy can certainly take cultural context into account, and it can improve one's cultural competence wherever you're living. Therapy isn't only for people with whom there is something "wrong;" it's for people who need to develop themselves in ways that will make their lives less stressful.

I have lots of friends from cultures with different sexual/social mores, and once they have established competence they have no trouble understanding context in both, reading situations and switching back and forth as needed.
posted by Miko at 7:00 AM on May 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


This has nothing to do with the post. He didn't just look at her from across a room. He touched her inappropriately, sexually, without her consent. She told him she was uncomfortable with his actions, apparently several times, yet he continued to do them. Meanwhile, she says in the post she views him as a sort of father figure because of their age difference, not a sexual partner. And she told him this.

She should have a right to choose who she wants to sleep with, and fool around with, without being pressured into it by someone who she views as an older, wise advisor. Without being mocked as asexual because she's not interested. Without being groped by the guy or tricked into touching /massaging him because he feels he can take advantage of the power imbalance in their relationship.


Seconding this.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:01 AM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Therapy isn't only for people with whom there is something "wrong;" it's for people who need to develop themselves in ways that will make their lives less stressful.

I completely agree with this, though I still think that AskMe has a definite tendency to over recommend therapy and that it's not the greatest answer to this specific question.
posted by sonika at 7:06 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


She may not be a troll, but she seems like she is being disingenuous. I think that's what's evoking all these responses that feel like we are piling up on her.
posted by gt2 at 7:07 AM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


While the sexist double standard bothers me, I really cannot think of a culture in which it is not acceptable for much older established men to be romantically linked to attractive young women. I think the recoil/backlash about the word "creepy" as a proxy for "physically unattractive" is sort of amusing. Surely no one thinks there are not reasons other than physical attractiveness (money, power, social capital) that attract young women to older men.

If the genders were reversed in the question, the older person would come off like a sad, pathetic, self-deluded "Mrs. Robinson" character, rather than a creep or lecher, and I'm guessing many of the women would be offended. (I'd probably be one of them...)
posted by loveyallaround at 7:08 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right...so now we're rehashing the answers to the question in Meta instead. Why? If anyone thinks 'get therapy' is a bad answer, they're welcome to say so in the actual thread.

For what it's worth: I have lived in (several) other cultures as a young woman, and also spent years teaching ESL to students from cultures outside my own. I do not think the problems that the OP has been coming up against (repeatedly, according to her) are solely, or even primarily, related to linguistic/cultural differences. So, yes, I think she would benefit from professional therapy.

That's my opinion. Of course, you (general) may disagree. So...go post that in the thread, maybe, instead of coming to Meta to thought-police other posters??
posted by Salamander at 7:10 AM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've seen plenty of AskMe's with the question, "how do I know if this girl/guy likes me?" and many times the most popular answer is, "just kiss her/him!" Is that also low-level sexual assault?


Well, it's generally bad advice. Trying to ascertain whether someone likes you by kissing them is like trying to determine if $foodstuff is still OK to eat by eating it. However, as far as I can tell there is no rule against bad advice on Ask MetaFilter.

Unified Theory didn't answer either question being asked - they being "does this sort of thing happen a lot?", and "is it reasonable to conclude from this experience that most men's psyches revolve around sex?". Which is a shame, because those two questions are actually quite easily and usefully answered, and can springboard to suggestions about setting clear boundaries, resisting social conditioning to let creepy or unacceptable behavior slide, not assuming that someone is sexually uninterested in you purely because there is an age gap, and so on.

Unified Theory's advice seems to boil down to "you should feel bad, on account of being a bad person". The problem with this seems to be that it is not answering the question, because the question was not "Am I a bad person, and should I feel bad?"
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:11 AM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Surely no one thinks there are not reasons other than physical attractiveness (money, power, social capital) that attract young women to older men.

This is a red herring. Once again, we are not discussing the question of whether older men and younger women, or older women and younger men, who are attracted to each other should be able to be together. That is not the question here. We are discussing whether people of any kind should make sexual advances without securing consent.
posted by Miko at 7:17 AM on May 11, 2013 [21 favorites]


If the genders were reversed in the question

Well, if we lived in a culture where men lived in a near-constant state of high-alert because of a rape culture where women were the antagonists in equal numbers to the male perps, then running a "what-if" scenario where genders are swapped would be a legitimate exercise.

In the culture under discussion, though, I don't think the comparison holds.

I do agree though that we should keep an eye on "creepy old guy" generalizations. They are unfair, inaccurate, and inflammatory.
posted by nacho fries at 7:19 AM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sorry, please forgive me because I'm new and still figuring out how the different sections of the site work.

However, I thought what we were discussing was Unified Theory's, Broseph's, and others' *reactions* to the question. i.e. whether there is a "cohort of men in their 50s on Metafilter," etc. and not the original AskMe question itself.

I was commenting on that reaction, the reaction to that reaction (people favoriting that post) and just saying basically that if the genders in the situation were reversed, women in their 40s/50s (such as myself) might analogously be put off.

If I'm doing this wrong, please feel free to Memail me...
posted by loveyallaround at 7:23 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Unified Theory's advice seems to boil down to "you should feel bad, on account of being a bad person".

No, it doesn't. It boils down to 'You seem to hold some attitudes that I consider ageist and sexist and offensive, maybe that's part of your problem'.

You don't have to agree with UT, but s/he does not call the OP a bad person.

We are discussing whether people of any kind should make sexual advances without securing consent.

What? I thought we were discussing whether Unified Theory's post, and its subsequent 'favouriting' was okay.
posted by Salamander at 7:25 AM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


We are discussing whether people of any kind should make sexual advances without securing consent.

No, we aren't, I think we all mostly agree on that topic. The discussion here is about this particular question, helping the OP deal with unwanted advances. In that context, I don't think advice suggesting she learn how to set and communicate her boundaries is out of line. Although I wouldn't go as far as Unified Theory did in saying that the premise of her question is "way out of line". She's just confused and needs a little help. That's what we're here for.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:27 AM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I was responding to this:

This is a red herring. Once again, we are not discussing the question of whether older men and younger women, or older women and younger men, who are attracted to each other should be able to be together. That is not the question here. We are discussing whether people of any kind should make sexual advances without securing consent.

Also, perhaps I should say I'm certainly not a proponent of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or any of their distant cousins.

I was really just commenting on the reaction to the original question, not the question itself (which I would answer, frankly, in nearly exactly the same way as Michelle in California did, which is why I favorited her comment).
posted by loveyallaround at 7:27 AM on May 11, 2013


What? I thought we were discussing whether Unified Theory's post, and its subsequent 'favouriting' was okay.

And that has nothing to do with consent?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:28 AM on May 11, 2013


No, whether there's a problem with UT's post or not has nothing to do with the broader topic of consent. In my opinion.
posted by Salamander at 7:32 AM on May 11, 2013


It's peculiar to me that the time MeFi's collective focus on empathy is most often thrown out the window is when addressing each other. Strongly disagreeing with a comment is one thing. Doing the whole "AHA! I have uncovered a villain in our midst!" thing to a fellow MeFite is unkind. Alleging the existence of a cabal of middle aged sexual assault apologists on MeFi is paranoid and uncool.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:39 AM on May 11, 2013 [44 favorites]


Right...so now we're rehashing the answers to the question in Meta instead. Why? If anyone thinks 'get therapy' is a bad answer, they're welcome to say so in the actual thread.

I was under the impression that arguing with other answers is frowned upon in AskMe if one doesn't have an actual answer to the question. In this case, we're already talking about problematic answers here and I felt that this was the better place to say it.
posted by sonika at 7:41 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The discussion here is about this particular question

It became broader than that as a result of generalizations about whether people were confusing being older and in a relationship with younger people with behaving in a predatory fashion which seeks to ignore another person's boundaries.

But even if you reread the original MeTa question, the topics at the heart of this discussion are right there in the question.

I don't think advice suggesting she learn how to set and communicate her boundaries is out of line

Oh, I certainly don't either. It's an important life skill. At the same time, that helpful advice should not be offered at the exclusion of the idea that it is everyone's responsibility to secure consent before making sexual advances.
posted by Miko at 7:41 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


People's answers to that question reflect what jumped out to you, and what impression they gave you of the OP's asumptions.

Some people read the question and their takeaway was that the OP equates thinking about sex as "creepy" and that it's inherently wrong for older men to be attracted to younger women. If you thought the OP had this mindset, you're likely to think that disabusing her of those faulty assumptions will help her to prevent this problem again.

Why might someone read the question that way? Partly because of her "are all men pigs?" framing, and partly because of her previous question that was linked to in the thread. In that question (about crashing on a couch vs. bed), an older man was actually being explict about not taking advantage of her, yet that "creeped" her out. Further, her sort of rambling style of communication could make her seem clueless.

A whole other contigent read the question differently. They read the question as younger woman being taken advantage of by a predator. If you took the question this way, you're likely to think that the "support network" approach is needed: validating her feelings, and advising her to seek assertiveness training, and making sure she knows this isn't her fault.

Why might someone read the question that way? Because of the "touching" exchange and because of the inherent power imbalance of an upper middle class male and young foreign women. Further, her sort of rambling style of communication could make her seem vulnerable.

If the first group was being uncharitiable to the second group, they would describe they're outlook as overlooking the OP's lack of common sense in order to stay "on message". If the second group was being uncharitable to the first group, they would accuse them of victim blaming.

I think instead of this combative mentality, I think we should recognize that hard to read, long AskMes with unclear questions are going to strike different chords with different people. It's possible to miss details, or to forget them by the time you're reading the thing! Reading the question differently than someone else is not a good indicator of one's beliefs about feminism, sexism, etc. This is probably somewhere where we could all give each other a little bit of a break.
posted by spaltavian at 7:53 AM on May 11, 2013 [137 favorites]


I think we should laminate spaltavian's response and put it on the breakroom wall.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:56 AM on May 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


*nods vehemently*

*hauls over laminator and dumps it on the table*

posted by Salamander at 7:58 AM on May 11, 2013


Salamander: You possibly missed:
And it's hard to rule out (though only you can confirm this) a kind of weird fake naïveté ("gosh! You're attracted to me! Eww") that is rather offensive and unfair to this man, in that the relationship unfolded in very intimate ways and you're acting aggrieved by circumstances that unfolded and you had every chance to stop.
Emphases mine - and, TBH, if you're making up a quote in which the person sounds like a character in Clueless that's a warning sign.

However, we do seem to agree that UT didn't answer the question being asked. There is actually a way that his answer could be useful, which would have involved an explanation of how, regardless of the culture in the OP's homeland, in the US it is not considered universally and wholly unacceptable for older men to have relationships with, or to proposition, younger women - and therefore that her shock, surprise or disgust is only relevant insofar as she should be aware in future that a man (of any age) inviting her to dinner might be interested in a romantic or sexual relationship, and if their interactions subsequently involve inappropriate touching, sexual conversations or pressure to discuss sexual topics it is not unlikely that this is an attempt to move the relationship onto a sexual footing.

However, just telling her how offensive her attitudes to intergenerational romance are is more about UT than the question, just as Tanizaki's assertion that if the guy had been attractive it wouldn't have been a problem in this thread is more about Tanizaki than the question. Neither addresses the specific details of this question or its background.

A good AskMe response, as I understand it, either answers the question or critiques the question in a useful way. UT's did neither, and merely enumerated what was wrong, in his opinion, with the OP's attitudes. In fact, the characterization of the behaviors described as "opening up" seems to suggest that he skipped the part in the middle.

However, as I said, there's no rule that I know of about bad advice in AskMe threads, so that's probably moot, and therefore probably not something that will usefully be resolved in MetaTalk. Whereas a discussion of what a useful answer would look like is possibly a useful thing to have.

So, for example, the recent answer by Catseye seems like a good answer to me, because it answers both questions in a way which also provides insight into possible responses to this situation and similar occurrences in the future. Specifically, it explains with examples that this sort of situation is not universal but also not particularly exceptional, and that, while it does not provide convincing evidence that "most men's psyches revolve around sex", it is representative of a particular kind of socially-constructed behavior by certain men, which one can seek to recognize earlier and thus be able to respond to in a more informed and productive way.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


spaltavian pretty much nails this, and even the title of this MeTa acknowledges this truth: the natural consequence of poorly framed AskMe questions is the high likelihood of what many people will perceive to be ugly answers.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:09 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


He's calling out something the community not only seems to be ok with, but piled favorites on.

Exactly this.
posted by Broseph at 2:04 AM on May 11 [+] [!]


Your characterization of "two low-level sexual assaults [and] boundary-crashing sexual comments" is ridiculously naive about how people work. She wasn't comfortable, so she should have left — simple as that.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:31 AM on May 11, 2013


Also, just because it followed on shortly thereafter, iampoil's answer again seems like a good one. It answers the questions being asked, but does not limit itself to the terms in which they are framed. So:

1) Does this (what might best be described as sexualized interactions without a clearly stated expression of sexual interest) happen a lot, or is it just me?


Answer: it's not just you - it's a thing that happens, and over time people become more familiar with it and develop strategies for dealing with it.

2) Do men's psyches revolve around sex?


Answer: it doesn't actually matter, any more than it matters why on a psychological level you weren't interested in a sexual relationship with this particular guy. Most men, however much they might think about sex, are able to respect sexual boundaries in the outside world.

3) (From the title) Are most guys' minds creepy or sex-sex-sex?

Answer: Minds aren't creepy - behaviors are creepy, and they are creepy because they do not respect boundaries. Most men's behaviors are not creepy, but this is not universally the case. See the answers to questions 1 and 2.

This seems to be a useful answer not just because it addresses the questions being asked directly, but also because it would be useful to somebody else asking (or thinking of asking) similar questions. It's a good answer to an awkwardly phrased set of questions, which both responds to and critiques the questions being asked.

Spaltavian's appeal for calm is no doubt sensible, but I don't think saying "if you ask a long question, people are going to miss bits, or forget bits, or impose their own feelings" is the end of a conversation. It's probably the start of a conversation, and part of that conversation is around the question of whether, if you are forgetting parts of a question before you get to the end, or are distracted by emotions or recollections triggered by a particular part of the question, you are the best person to answer that question.

Checking back to see whether your answer actually addresses the questions asked (or explains why it is not, e.g. because the structure of the question seems intrinsically misguided) seems like a good sanity check, there.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:47 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


mlis: "Nothing says, "I am an entitled, self-involved twit" more than when people write, "Haven't read your whole question, but, [answer]" or "Haven't read all of the answers, but, [answer].""

While it drives me crazy when people don't read the entirety of a posting when it's on the front page I don't think there is necessarily a need to frame a AskMe answer in light of previous answers.
posted by Mitheral at 8:51 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Re: The cohort of older men on AskMe who feel entitled to creep on younger women:

Spot on.

I have a libido. My young, firm body doesn't want to get with older, less firm bodies. The only "older men" I've slept with have been really well-preserved. Is it ageist or sexist of me to want to sleep with young, athletic dudes? No.

While the OP in that thread seems naive and misguided in a lot of ways, the lack of empathy and weird, entitled dude comments make me sad and don't speak well of metafilter. You think boundary pushing and ass-grabbing is okay? Hope I never meet you off the Internet - yikes!
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:52 AM on May 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


It was a horrible post because she didn't ask a question, she just told us a story. I honestly don't know why it's still there.
posted by kbanas at 8:55 AM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


To add: Acting like a creep makes you creepy, regardless of your sexual desirability.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:01 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


ablazingsaddle, there is no call to insult other people here. This MeTa seriously needs to not turn into a discussion of who's firm and who's desirable.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:02 AM on May 11, 2013 [27 favorites]


ablazingsaddle: "I have a libido. My young, firm body doesn't want to get with older, less firm bodies. The only "older men" I've slept with have been really well-preserved."

Speaking of sounding like a creep on the internet ...
posted by barnacles at 9:06 AM on May 11, 2013 [66 favorites]


Re: The cohort of older men on AskMe who feel entitled to creep on younger women:

This is a "not even wrong" situation. If there is such a "cohort" they have not come to light in either the original question or this thread. Further, no one has expressed a right to "creep" on anyone, though some have objected to the idea that an older guy even thinking about younger women in physical way is "creepy" Additionally, the people who objected to said idea never indicated their own personal desire to be with younger women, nor is it clear that these men are "older" or even men!

This is this the sort of gratuitous "gross loser" mentality that people (rightly or wrongly) picked up on in the original question, and it distracted attention from the legitimate boundary issues in the question.

Is it ageist or sexist of me

No, you can to do whatever you want. No one said anything about anyone's personal preferences being agesit, only that it's ageist to assume older men are asexual. (Which is not to say the original question positied that, but again, they picked up on because the question shared some of the exclusionary, mocking language you use).

Also, no one cares who you want to sleep with, or your relative body firmness.

You think boundary pushing and ass-grabbing is okay?

Bad faithers gonna bad faith.
posted by spaltavian at 9:07 AM on May 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


No, actually "creepy" is a synonym for "men who don't respect and actively seek to subvert boundaries."

I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.

This is true, but the problem in the question has to do with someone who continually refused or sidestepped advances and found her refusals discounted or ignored.

Perhaps he ignored them because she kept coming to his place over a period of months for meals, sleepovers, and "hand massages". Actions speak louder.

He touched her inappropriately, sexually, without her consent. She told him she was uncomfortable with his actions, apparently several times, yet he continued to do them.

See above. Despite her words, she kept showing up. If she meant her words and he kept ignoring her, she had every right to make it clear she really meant it by never darkening his doorway again. Actions speak louder.

Go to a restaurant sometime and clean your plate. Then, complain about how awful your meal was. See how convincing your server finds you to be. (to make the experiment even more like the OP's question, do this for months at the same restaurant)
posted by Tanizaki at 9:11 AM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


and the fact that your answer is getting a bunch of favorites on that thread is even more disturbing.

Metafilter, I am disappoint.


What's troubling to me is this policing of other people's [+] activity and the public shaming of those you feel are sexist. Lots of things are creepy, OP.
posted by heyho at 9:13 AM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


I favorited Unified Theory's response. I am mid-20s and female, and was fairly innocent when I headed into college. Yet, the OP's actions and thoughts about things seem way out there even to me. She doesn't go much into her actions, but rather her response to his actions. So it's hard to tell how much she did to create the situation. If she's asking to meet up for dinner, and to hang out, and to crash on his couch, and then this older guy responds with things that seem like he thinks they're dating, and then she goes and cries when he tells her he's attracted to her, she is probably making him feel like shit, and making him wonder where he went wrong in his courtship of this nice younger woman who he thought he was building a relationship with.

The whole post is just riddled with wrongness -- things like he drove her to his place and then drank wine and couldn't drive her home, but just with that, this woman willingly went to his place for dinner and then thought he was going to rape her when she crashed on his couch. So she appears to have some really incorrect views about things that possibly created the situation and certainly are coloring her reactions. UT's answer was aggressively worded, but the sentiment was spot-on. It brought up a really good point that everyone else had been glossing over.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:13 AM on May 11, 2013 [30 favorites]


I supported deletion of the came-off-to-me-(but-maybe-not-to-you)-as-mean first comment in the trans* thread about the shaming doctor because as first comment it would affect the tone of the whole thread, and because the subject matter was itself so sensitive (plus general support for the mods' other reasons in that case).

I think this comment should stand (not that anyone was thinking of deleting it). It is in the middle of the thread with lots of different voices in it, and it can stand or fall on its own in the marketplace of opinions that is AskMe. If we don't agree with it we can write something in the thread that fully explains our view, as many people are doing.

Don't get me wrong, I think the response is overly harsh and it's not my view of the situation, but that's okay. I wish people were not like this, I wish that they would try to be more empathetic and genuinely helpful, but there is probably value to the poster in seeing the full range of opinions and responses to those opinions. For me there probably would be a boundary of meanness that someone could cross to warrant deletion in that thread, but this comment wasn't there. And if this comment had been deleted I can imagine the MetaTalk thread we would be having now.

Fwiw I think there might be a point at which it might be useful to consider whether someone was adding negative value to the site, if their main contribution was tough-love-bordering-on-name calling responses to AskMes, but that could just be me (and that doesn't apply to this case, I'm just making a general comment).
posted by onlyconnect at 9:13 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I didn't mean to insult anyone in particular, I just hate the idea that women having sexual preferences involving sleeping with dudes their own age is "sexist" and "ageist." The OP in that thread wasn't attracted to that guy.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:13 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just hate the idea that women having sexual preferences involving sleeping with dudes their own age is "sexist" and "ageist."

It wasn't her preferences that UT was talking about -- it was her idea that everyone thought like her, and the very idea of an older man being attracted to a younger woman so innately repulsive.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:17 AM on May 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


I just hate the idea that women having sexual preferences involving sleeping with dudes their own age is "sexist" and "ageist.

I hate that idea too, but it was never expressed. It was the idea that older men are "creepy" for thinking about sex, or being attracted to younger women is "creepy" That might not really have been the OP's intent, but the language she used made that a possible interpretation.
posted by spaltavian at 9:20 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


It kinda looks like the Asker is researching a story. Read both posts, it is even more so then.
posted by marienbad at 9:21 AM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, actually "creepy" is a synonym for "men who don't respect and actively seek to subvert boundaries."

I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.


The reason women don't use that word to describe men they find attractive is probably because it's hard to be attracted to someone who is creepy. Believe it or not, there is more to attraction than good looks, and there's nothing stopping a good looking person from being a creepy, candle-sniffing fuck-fence of a human being. This whole idea you are defending is misogynist and really sounds like something an MRA would say.

Incorrect: He's unattractive, and therefore creepy.
Correct: He's creepy, and therefore unattractive.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:28 AM on May 11, 2013 [76 favorites]


I can also attest to having known some men who were both good-looking and utter creeps.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


Yup... being attracted to younger partners is OK, and not being attracted to older partners is OK, too. It's not entitlement or ageism or any kind of oppression.

What's not OK is persisting when the person you're attracted to indicates they're not interested, or putting your hands on them without their consent. That's creepy.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:31 AM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


candle-sniffing

Etymology, please!
posted by spaltavian at 9:32 AM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, actually "creepy" is a synonym for "men who don't respect and actively seek to subvert boundaries."

I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.


I actually used this word to describe my (now ex-) boyfriend, to his face, even when I was still attracted to him and still in general wanted to be physically intimate with him, because he was acting like a creep. It was an isolated incident of him pushing my boundaries and I told him to stop because it was unpleasant and creepy. Of course, then I had to spend several minutes soothing his poor ego because I'd called him creepy and I was a mean, mean person who made him feel bad about himself. (There's a reason he's now ex.) Anyway, I can personally vouch for the fact that I have indeed used the word to describe a man I found attractive.

And generally, I agree with Sternmeyer that it's the creepy that makes the unattractive, rather than the other way around. I've seen plenty of pretty, pretty boys who were total creeps and nobody I'd want anything to do with.
posted by katemonster at 9:35 AM on May 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.

Okay, anecdata time. This past winter I went to a grand opening party for the new business of some friends of mine, and there was this guy there who was noticeably good-looking. Tall, athletic, handsome, like, speaking as a straight dude, it was clear to me that his looks were an asset to him picking up women. I'd lay money that a photo of this guy would be rated at least an 8 on any kind of bullshit hotness scale. And as well, he had some swagger that did not suggest to me that his confidence was holding him back.

But as the night progressed, I watched this guy corner and try to touch basically every woman at the party and every single one of them was repulsed by him. It got to the point where the women literally formed a tight circle to shoulder the guy out and to talk about how inappropriate he was. The guy ruined the night for a lot of people. (He was childhood friends with one of the business owners who had, apparently, a real blind spot for his behavior.)

I have a lot of thoughts about what I might have done differently that night to stop some of my friends from being harassed by this guy, and about what it might mean in that context for some of them to have spoken up and said, "you need to leave me alone" instead of just excusing themselves for drinks, about what good bystander behavior looks like for both men and women. But more to the immediate point, I have no doubt that this guy could have cleaned up, so to say, with (straight) women if he'd had the personality to go with his looks.
posted by gauche at 9:35 AM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


No, actually "creepy" is a synonym for "men who don't respect and actively seek to subvert boundaries."

I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.


A woman who's attracted to a man generally responds to his overtures with explicitly positive signals of her own. "Creepy" describes the guy who meets with negative signals and attempted boundary-setting, and yet still pursues the matter. In a sense, the woman's attitude toward the guy is just a confounder here; the real question is how he deals with her behaviors of rejection, should she perform them.

I'm confident that in observing an interaction between a male and female stranger, I could identify creepiness on his part even with zero idea of how she actually felt about him. And that's even if I personally found the dude ragingly attractive.
posted by Bardolph at 9:45 AM on May 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


My young, firm body doesn't want to get with older, less firm bodies.

Duly noted.

And thank you for keeping your young, firm mitts off those older, plusher guys. All the more for me!
posted by nacho fries at 9:48 AM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.


For a while I dated a guy who had a bunch of single male friends. Obviously I was very taken, and happy with the boyfriend I had, but we spent a lot of time around his single guy friends so I was able to observe them, sort of as an anthropologist would.

All of these guys had attended top universities and had great jobs that paid well. Ivy leagues, MIT, Cooper Union, etc. All of them were between 23 and 26 years old. They weren't universally model hot, but they were all attractive guys. They were all well groomed, well dressed, put together. I would call these guys the cream of the crop of American guys, in terms of their appearances.

And yet most of them were creeper Pick Up Artist types who would typically behave at any social function just like gauche describes. Having crass contests where they'd see how many numbers they could get. Trying to hook up with women right there and then at the bar. Too much touching, too much "let me buy you a drink", just plain TOO MUCH with the "single guy on the prowl" act.

Needless to say, all of them were single the entire time I dated that dude.

So, no, you can definitely be an attractive guy and also be creepy.
posted by Sara C. at 9:49 AM on May 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.

In my experience, the word "creepy" is used against attractive men most of the time. The sort of swagger that lends itself to creepiness often derives directly from the man's knowledge of his own physical attractiveness, as if that alone means everyone wants to fuck him.

(Sam Malone? Creep.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:50 AM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think there might be a point at which it might be useful to consider whether someone was adding negative value to the site

I believe this is what the mods do on a day-in, day-out basis. They're on it.
posted by nacho fries at 9:51 AM on May 11, 2013


Believe it or not, there is more to attraction than good looks, and there's nothing stopping a good looking person from being a creepy, candle-sniffing fuck-fence of a human being.

Best. Phrase. Ever.

(Also, Ted Bundy? Not my type, but I think a lot of the coverage at the time commented on his good looks and charming manner, while also noting that he was a serial killer.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:52 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.

Go to any bar or club. Good-looking guys get shot down for being ass-grabbing, lady-creeping dorks. I don't think it's unlikely that attractive, creepy men do better with women than unattractive, creepy men, all things being equal, but them's the breaks.

But it's this attitude, this whiny, women-are-shallow-and-say-that-ugly-guys-are-creepy thing that drives me batshit crazy. This entitled-to-your-affections thing drives me nuts. My poorly-put, typed out on a phone comments above - so sometimes some women don't find men attractive for a variety of reasons, including creepiness? Yes, and that's fine! We can make decisions about who we want to talk to/befriend/attend a furry convention/make pancakes/whatever with.

And thank you for keeping your young, firm mitts off those older, plusher guys. All the more for me!

This is why the world is a lovely place! People are into different people. It's cool. And women get to choose who they are into. Men aren't the only pickers.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:56 AM on May 11, 2013 [23 favorites]


Women are allowed to choose to whom they are attracted and to whom they are not. They are also allowed to determine whose behaviour they find creepy and whose they do not.

There is not a universal rulebook that ensures that if you look and/or act in X way, you are entitled to a woman's positive regard and/or attention.

Every human gets to be arbitrary and, yes, even unfair when deciding with whom they are willing to be intimate and who sets off their alarm bells.
posted by Ouisch at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


plusher guys

I love this so much.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:00 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Creepy is an interesting word and now thinking about it, when attractive dudes act like creeps I hear it termed "being an asshole" rather than "being a creep". Older men are both but in my anecdata, young, hot guys are "assholes" not "creeps" when engaging in this behavior.
posted by josher71 at 10:02 AM on May 11, 2013


There's also a weird psychological component to attraction where you can be strongly drawn to someone who is both creepy *and* homely. I've had this happen. I've done enough time lounging on the psychoanalyst's posh divan to now know what underlies it, and I don't "go there" anymore; but just wanted to point out that it's not only handsome-devil creepazoids who can worm their way into naive psyches.
posted by nacho fries at 10:05 AM on May 11, 2013


I think the OP's question boils down to is whether this guy was an aberration or typical.

I think the answer is that most straight American men who invite women they have just met to their houses are interested in them sexually and that this guy is not an aberration.
posted by parakeetdog at 10:09 AM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


"It wasn't her preferences that UT was talking about -- it was her idea that everyone thought like her, and the very idea of an older man being attracted to a younger woman so innately repulsive."

Yes, she made it very plain that the idea of an older man being attracted to HER was innately repulsive to her, which is you know, her response to have - not yours or any of the creep apologists in this thread or the other one. Not only is this totally ok but no amount of weaseling, or surprise cruise obligations, or repeated butt gropings, or fatherly advice is likely to change this.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:10 AM on May 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think the answer is that most straight American men who invite women they have just met to their houses are interested in them sexually and that this guy is not an aberration.

Yes, this.

Except she doesn't say what country she's in, and I am hard pressed to think of any country or culture where this would not be true.
posted by loveyallaround at 10:29 AM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Blasdelb, you completely ignore the comment you're responding to. No one said there's a problem with her preferences. And while I find this particular man's actions "creepy", the framing of the question was being read by some to be taken has "thinking about sex a lot is creepy, especially from an older male".

It boils down to "even nice, un-creepy older men might like younger women, so if you think an older man is making overtures at you, don't ignore it".

I'm not sure what you hope to achieve with your "creep apologist" bluster.
posted by spaltavian at 10:31 AM on May 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yes, she made it very plain that the idea of an older man being attracted to HER was innately repulsive to her

It's actually even more explicitly non-universal than that, if you look at the narrative. MiuMiu mentions her distant/estranged father several times in that thread, and explicitly says that she saw this man as a kind of stand-in for him. She also says that her father remarried to a much younger woman (suggesting that the concept of intergenerational desire is not wholly alien to her), and specifically describes the dude as "old enough to be my dad" and herself as "his daughters' age".

It doesn't take a Freudian to know which way the wind blows. She appeared to be looking for a father-daughter relationship, and he for a sexual or at least sexualized relationship. Those are both setups with a relationship to touch and intimacy different from those of, say, platonic friendship or professional collegiality. However, when it is revealed that they had these two very different visions, and that the massages that she had been seeing as an act of quasifilial duty were possibly for him acts of quasisexual contact, for example, a degree of freaking out is probably not wholly inexplicable.

Which is one reason why the dudes objecting to being made to feel unpretty are sort of barking up the wrong tree, and also why the answers I thought were good were good - because they went beyond the unusual dynamics of this particular interaction to highlight that, in general men were not creepy, but also that in general if someone touches you, and keeps touching you when you have asked them to stop, that is creepy, and it is not just OK but desirable to set boundaries, enforce them, leave situations in which you are uncomfortable and so on.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:39 AM on May 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


The "creep apologist" snipe and the "metafilter's surprisingly large cohort of men in their 50s who believe they have some kind of inalienable right to creep on who they please" remark are not, to my mind, conducive to fair-minded discussion. I would prefer that the people participating in this thread not be lobbed with shame-bombs. It stifles the conversation.
posted by nacho fries at 10:46 AM on May 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Why are you calling out UT's response in particular? Without taking a position one way or the other on the underlying question, I note that there were several responses suggesting that OP handled it poorly or wasn't justified in her reaction. Why is UT's any different from the others?
posted by tyllwin at 10:48 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, she made it very plain that the idea of an older man being attracted to HER was innately repulsive to her

Sometimes it is helpful to answer the question while holding back on any emotional repulsion you might feel towards the OP's attitudes. spaltavian wisely pointed out the fact that sometimes certain aspects of an AskMe post "leap out" at you, and you address those. I realize that sometimes the emotional offense might be too great to resist, but I think it would be helpful to *not* use this opportunity to tell the OP how wrong her attitudes are regarding May-December relationships.

Look, I've done this in AskMe before-- where sometimes I realize I just don't like the OP or am sort of irritated by the OP's cluelessness. And I have responded in kind when providing my "answer." But sometimes it is helpful to resist providing what you may regard as "tough love" but is actually just "venting."
posted by deanc at 11:27 AM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think part of the problem is that people are taking sides on who is taking advantage of who here. Assuming that the original question is an accurate representation of facts, I think there is the real possibility of two socially struggling people involved in a clusterfuck of awkwardness, mostly of their own making, not Snidely Whiplash, Criminal Mastermind VS Bambi, or Shallow Gold Digger VS Sweet Old Lonely Widower.

It’s a test, designed to provoke an emotional response.
posted by bongo_x at 11:42 AM on May 11, 2013 [34 favorites]


I think that's exactly right, particularly given the OP's latest update. "If you take care of me, I'll take care of you!" and the OP thinks he means cleaning his house? For fuck's sake.

I still don't get this callout. There was nothing guidelines breaking about UT's answer, and if you think it is wrong, make your own.
posted by Justinian at 11:47 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Zarq: She should have a right to choose who she wants to sleep with, and fool around with, without being pressured into it by someone who she views as an older, wise advisor. Without being mocked as asexual because she's not interested. Without being groped by the guy or tricked into touching /massaging him because he feels he can take advantage of the power imbalance in their relationship.

This is tap-dancing, but the rhythm is compelling. I'm not sure that rights are involved. The man acted inappropriately, and with deceit. She walked away from it, disappointed that he wasn't the good guy he purported to be. They both gave out clear signals. I have to step into the "creepy" camp on that issue because he was exhibiting certain signs of predation, but not simply because he presumed to make overtures to her.

If I understand UT's comment correctly, he believed the poster may have led the man on, at least to some extent. If so, the man had some reason to make overtures. This, to me is a situation where the one inference implies the other: He was not going to settle for a father/daughter relationship, and she hadn't yet come to grips with his intentions. She wanted something from him (friendship) that didn't quite match up with what he wanted from her. A period of negotiations ensued.

If this can be viewed as boundary negotiations, then the man was coming at a different angle toward something that seemed unworkable from his first tack. His apparent strategy, to me, is transparent and pathetic. He seemed to conflate her acceptance of him as a Samaritan with a provisional acceptance as a lover. It's clear (to me) that this was his dick informing his brain that the green light would come on momentarily, so he should just hang in there. In the meantime he looked for ways to move her into his bed by focusing on her vulnerability.

(I prefer to not go any further in speculating on the breadth and depth of his creepy-hood, because I just can't tell from this narrative whether he's simply a lonely old guy or an experienced predator.)

I don't see her as a victim here. The rule in play is: Yeah, listen to what they say, but make sure to notice which way their feet are pointing. This guy may be into actual creepy stuff, with his predatory theory of friendships, but it simply didn't get very far this time. Sifting out the ugh-old-guy bias, in this case he gets a measure of slack. She's entitled to her "old-guys, ugh" tastes in romantic partners. The old guy doesn't get arrested, and he doesn't have to wear a sign. I join UT in noticing that she participated in some measure of the boundary blurring--I don't maintain that she led him on. I stand by my notation of the man's creepy deeds. I also agree with Zarq, in that its up to her to choose those with whom she wants to be intimate, although I don't share the notion that the word "rights" extends to pressure from others regarding one's behavior.

As for the terms, they are toxic: low-level sexual assault? Even on the face of it, the way this whole thing transpired merits more than just an attack of the buzzwords.

Also, what bongo_x said.
posted by mule98J at 11:48 AM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hmmm i don't want to start a witchhunt of the older, saggier and creepier cohort of males here but the 9 harley davidson posts in mefi's history might be a good place to start.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:54 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bite me.
posted by Etrigan at 11:57 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


"No, actually "creepy" is a synonym for "men who don't respect and actively seek to subvert boundaries."

I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.
"

Saying shit like that? Makes you come across as a creeper.
posted by klangklangston at 12:24 PM on May 11, 2013 [30 favorites]


The question, klang, is whether, independent of his creepiness, you find tanizaki attractive.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 12:28 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dude, might want to ask for your comment to be deleted (and mine with it, if they'll do it); a non-apology after a nasty piece of snark doesn't undo the snark.

Sound advice, but now that I've set my place I'll learn more from eating it than from asking for an easy out; and that being said, I did flag the first post, but then just went and fucked up a second time. It's as if my unconscious is making the (persuasive) case that I should leave the computer and do something productive.
posted by mr. digits at 12:50 PM on May 11, 2013


The question, klang, is whether, independent of his creepiness, you find tanizaki attractive.

Do not do this here, period.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:00 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will believe this when I hear a woman use this word to describe a man she finds attractive.

You've heard many women in here say precisely this now. But something tells me that you still don't believe them, and didn't mean this as a challenge and that instead it was some very, very weird form of sour grapes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:07 PM on May 11, 2013 [25 favorites]


what exactly is the point of this metatalk, again? if you disagree with an answer you can make your own answer. "this is how metafilter works." if you don't like it you don't have to participate, and you can start your own online community, if you'd like.
posted by cupcake1337 at 1:14 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


when attractive dudes act like creeps I hear it termed "being an asshole" rather than "being a creep".

In my experience there's a notable semantic difference. A person "being an asshole" is being cocky, callous, smart-ass, jerky, betraying, unreliable, pushy, crude, disrespectful. A person "being a creep" is being ingratiating, oily, inappropriately intimate, obsessive, calculating, sleazy, presumptuous, unresponsive to boundaries demonstrated by nonverbal language or language signals of disinterest, resistant to disengaging, etc.
posted by Miko at 1:28 PM on May 11, 2013 [24 favorites]


The point of this metatalk is to provide a space for people to say this (again):

If an Ask post is poorly edited, poorly phrased or otherwise indigestible, don't look, don't read any answers, don't answer.

If an answer someway down a thread strikes you as incorrect, read the question again carefully and answer in a better way.

If there are cats involved, include pics.
posted by Namlit at 1:32 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


In retrospect, given the nature of the AskMe, the lack of specific question, and the "Any kind of comments are welcome!" chatfiltery ending, I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to delete it and tell the OP to try again with a better question.
posted by Justinian at 1:46 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or maybe I should just flag it and move on like my shirt says.
posted by Justinian at 1:52 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do not do this here, period.

What's the "this" you're referring to here? Pointing out the reductive, offensive absurdity of tanizaki's comment?
posted by to sir with millipedes at 1:55 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Brandon Blatcher: "That said, I was more trouble by your answer Blasdelb. You presume to know about a creepy old man contingent on the site...
There are a lot of people on metafilter who I will never get into an elevator alone with, but if there was still any doubt that there is a lot of creep apology here from that thread you need only look at this one. You've been here long enough to know that in just about any thread even tangentially related to women's preferences in men the same slowly rotating pile of male usernames will always show up to make sure we cannot miss just how many men feel themselves entitled to female desire, go out of their way to find any female exercise of agency problematic for them, and make sure we understand that any shitty things men might do to women are the fault of women who fail to do the generally ridiculous things prescribed for them to protect themselves with.
Brandon Blatcher: "...and goes at great length to excuse the OP mistakes in terms of getting repeatedly into these situations. There's a lot of good points you make about the OP's intrinsic right to set her boundaries and have them respected. But that gets lost in your refusal to address some of the problematic behaviors of the OP, which she recognizes needs to addressed"
At least from the question the OP did nothing wrong, foolish maybe, but only in ways which in the kind of world I would like to live in would be totally fine. There is absolutely nothing the OP did that needs excusing and I find it bizarre that you might think that there is some kind of shared responsibility for his aggressive creepiness going on here. I also do acknowledge the mistakes that the OP made in trusting her creep friend in that answer, I just don't blame her for his abuse of that trust.
nacho fries: "I would prefer that the people participating in this thread not be lobbed with shame-bombs. It stifles the conversation."
Unlike being a little over trusting of strangers, some things are in fact shameful to say in public. Declaring that despite this man's invertebrate weaseling, his surprise cruise obligations, his repeated unwanted butt gropings, his immediate possessiveness, and his clear attempt to trap the OP in his home; that clearly the only possible relevant problem with him is his insufficient physical attractiveness is indeed one of those things.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:55 PM on May 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


Pointing out the reductive, offensive absurdity of tanizaki's comment?

Did we need to have so many people answer that comment it though? I mean someone makes that comment any time we have any conversation about men and women interacting.

It's so pointless and wrong I wish we could just ignore it to prove its irrelevance.
posted by sweetkid at 2:01 PM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


clearly the only possible relevant problem with him is his insufficient physical attractiveness

Perhaps that was stated somewhere by someone here, and I simply missed it. Will you spare me having to re-read the thread, and point me to it?
posted by nacho fries at 2:09 PM on May 11, 2013


Here it is
posted by Blasdelb at 2:14 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


clearly the only possible relevant problem with him is his insufficient physical attractiveness

No one has said this. I hope no one believes it. What was said was that a lawyer picked at the exact language and suggested that had he been sexually attractive, some word other than "creep" would have been used. Even calling him a "perverted predator" (presuming that's what you think he is) would not have been excluded by the comment you reference. The comment was entirely about the general use of the word "creep," and not about the man's guilt or innocence of bad behavior.
posted by tyllwin at 2:28 PM on May 11, 2013


Thank you for the direct link.

I interpreted that comment a bit differently than you and some others in this thread. I don't entirely disagree with his statements -- isn't it true that if the OP had been attracted to the guy, this whole thing would be a non-issue? His advances would have been welcomed, and things would have gone in a different direction.

But I may be reading it in a way that is too removed from the context of the original question, and his responses within that question. Dunno.
posted by nacho fries at 2:31 PM on May 11, 2013


I had no idea there was even a specialisation in creeper taxonomy law. I guess a lot of the work is...

(Sunglasses)

Pro boner.

("Won't get fooled again")
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:32 PM on May 11, 2013 [21 favorites]


tyllwin: you interpretation of that comment is completely different than mine! I disagree with you in every aspect of your reading! I must express in the strongest possible way that the things you claim are obviously not in that comment are, to me, very obviously present!

Isn't human variety fascinating?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:36 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


isn't it true that if the OP had been attracted to the guy, this whole thing would be a non-issue?

Yes, it is true, because if she welcomed his advances, she would have given him a clear sign of consent and/or reciprocation, instead of repeated refusals that he ignored.
It escalated to my torso, thighs and butt, though lightly. At this point I say "What are you doing?! Stop!"
Then he would jokingly say things like "But you have a nice butt!"
I was annoyed but kept hoping there would be no more next time.
He also started asking me to massage him with his massage device.
I was like "Why don't you do it yourself?"
He said something like "Because I can concentrate on the relaxation when someone else does it."
I thought "Fair enough" and did it unwillingly because I was staying at his house and considered this task like cleaning the dishes.
As I was massaging him, he touched my butt, which really annoyed me because I had told him multiple times not to touch it.
So the next day, when he asked me to hand-massage him, I said I didn't want to do it and would only do the device-massage. He got mad and told me to get out of his room.
posted by Ouisch at 2:39 PM on May 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm not dogmatic about it. Maybe I misunderstood what he was trying to get across. Indeed, in my first reading of it, I thought he was just saying something true in the most trivial sense: that he was simply saying "had she wanted to go to bed with him, she wouldn't have been upset at his attempts to get her into bed with him." Which, while true, is utterly beside the point. So I'm trying to figure out what else he could mean by it, and sure, I could be very wrong. But to read it as "the only possible relevant problem with him is his insufficient physical attractiveness" is uncharitable to the point of being unwarranted.
posted by tyllwin at 2:43 PM on May 11, 2013


Even with our little tiny lady-brains, many of us are perfectly capable of finding a man attractive -- physically or otherwise -- while at the same time realizing HE IS A TERRIBLE PERSON AND WOULD MAKE A SHITTY PARTNER.

We are even capable of thinking, "Wow, this super-sexy guy who loves puppies and saves lives for a living who is totally into me would make an AWESOME partner," while simultaneously thinking, "I do not wish to engage in emotional or sexual intimacy with him at this time or maybe ever for a variety of personal reasons."

Just because he's attractive, even attractive to that particular woman, does not mean it's okay for him to ignore it when she says no.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:47 PM on May 11, 2013 [51 favorites]


(And Eyebrows is absolutely right, of course - "Being attracted" to someone and "Consenting to touch" from someone are still two entirely different things. I conflated them incorrectly in my comment.)

"Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is threatened, coerced, or forced to engage against their will, or any sexual touching of a person who has not consented."

"Groping is considered illegal when there is no consent. The legal charge can vary from state to state but generally is considered to be sexual battery, sexual groping, or 'unlawful touching.' In some jurisdictions, groping is considered 'Criminal Sexual Conduct.'"
posted by Ouisch at 2:53 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


>isn't it true that if the OP had been attracted to the guy, this whole thing would be a non-issue?

Yes, it is true, because if she welcomed his advances, she would have given him a clear sign of consent and/or reciprocation, instead of repeated refusals that he ignored.


I think a problem with this formulation is that, from a certain angle, it seems true -- "if she was attracted to him, she would not have minded" -- but it's a tautology. Of course if she found him attractive she would be more receptive to his advances, that's sort of what finding someone attractive means, right?

People (I've mostly heard this from men, but it's probably universal) who have been unfortunate in romance, especially people who feel unattractive due to age or looks or weight or whatever, read this as "if he was physically attractive," she wouldn't have complained," and they project their own feelings on the situation and feel hurt by proxy. Which muddles the reading of the situation.

As a bunch of people upthread have said, there are a lot of things that go into finding someone attractive or unattractive, and none of them excuse repeatedly violating boundaries (which is pretty much unattractive to everyone).
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:55 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Wow, this super-sexy guy who loves puppies and saves lives for a living who is totally into me would make an AWESOME partner," while simultaneously thinking, "I do not wish to engage in emotional or sexual intimacy with him at this time or maybe ever for a variety of personal reasons."

TOTALLY. I am a lady person who has very recently had almost these exact thoughts about various people I have dated. The problem comes when you say the things that make it clear about "do not wish to engage" and the person persists, regardless of attractiveness and whatever other awesomeness they may possess.
posted by sweetkid at 2:55 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I'm trying to figure out what else he could mean by it, and sure, I could be very wrong.

At the risk of stating the obvious, what he means is precisely what he says, that is:

I remarked in my comment my distaste for the word "creepy". The reason is that "creep" is a synonym for "sexually undesirable man". How many times have I heard a comment tot he effect of, "omg, that creepy guy across the room just looked at me!" Guess what? A man looking at you in public is not a violation of your rights. You just don't like that a man you find unattractive possibly expressed interest.

This is not about the OP at all, because the OP is not asking about being looked at - it's making the argument that "creep" means not "man who is engaging with me in an inappropriate fashion", but "man I am not attracted to who is engaging with me at all".

That's a Nice Guy/MRA thing - the idea is that women vindictively tar any man they are not attracted to, no matter how cultured his approach, with the creepy brush, while tolerating disrespectful behavior from men they are attracted to, because of the death grip their loins have on their brains. It simultaneously exonerates the dude, because him being called creepy is due to circumstances outside his control, and encourages thinking of women as not rational agents.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:00 PM on May 11, 2013 [47 favorites]


I've seen plenty of AskMe's with the question, "how do I know if this girl/guy likes me?" and many times the most popular answer is, "just kiss her/him!" Is that also low-level sexual assault?

It would be if the girl/guy had already asked them not to.
posted by Broseph at 3:02 PM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


In case we need more data points, there have been manymany men whom I have encountered who, in a still photograph, would be pants-tinglingly attractive, were it not for the fact that they were creepy. Also, I've been been the recipient of advances made by men to whom I was not attracted who were completely non-creepy and respectful. To me, at least, creepiness and attractiveness are utterly orthogonal.
posted by KathrynT at 3:10 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Creepiness is a behavior; attractiveness is not. So yeah, people can definitely be both, one, or neither.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:17 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm acquainted with a guy to whom I am not attracted at all. He's a very nice guy and we have good conversations, but he doesn't give me a thrill in my pantaloons. He'd like to date me, and he's made that clear to me. Do I think he's a creep? Nope. Wanna know why? Because he's never pushed that boundary, or refused to take me at my word that I don't want to date him. He asked, I respectfully said no thanks, and that was the end of that.

On the flip side of that, I know another guy who is very handsome. He sort of reminds me of Jon Hamm in the face. Intelligent, funny, nice face, blah blah. But he's a creep. Wanna know why? Because for Reasons, I don't want to fuck him, and he doesn't respect my boundaries AT ALL. He gets handsy. He tries to talk at length about how he'd love to show me a good time in the sack if I'd just stop being a prude and let him have me. I tell him no and to back off, and he says I'm just being uptight but he can sure help fix that, hur hur hurrrr. It's down to the point where I avoid social gatherings if I know he's going to be there. He is absolutely a creep.

So the bullshit idea that women only find guys creepy when they're not cute enough? It's just that -- bullshit. Take that bullshit somewhere else, bullshitters.
posted by palomar at 3:25 PM on May 11, 2013 [38 favorites]


he was simply saying "had she wanted to go to bed with him, she wouldn't have been upset at his attempts to get her into bed with him." Which, while true, is utterly beside the point.

It's not necessarily true. I, and I know many other women, can testify to incidents where we were attracted to a man, but found his attempts to get us into bed were unfortunately not appropriate - scary, coercive, sleazy, poorly timed, a bad idea, or disrespectful. So though there might be a general, in the abstract, sense that a person is attractive and it would be nice to go to bed with them, sometimes in the specific instance, no, it's not nice, and it can indeed get one upset.

Of course if she found him attractive she would be more receptive to his advances, that's sort of what finding someone attractive means, right?

No, not necessarily. Again, you can find someone attractive and still not be receptive to their advances.

Whether or not sexual advances lead to a sexual encounter is not determined by the existence of physical attraction. Attraction can be a precondition (it certainly isn't always), but it's not sufficient to result in an encounter. The negotiation of consent, either given and received by both parties, or forced by one party in the absence of consent by another, is what gives rise to a sexual encounter.

This refrain that all complaints about sexual encounters amount to a woman's seeking the most advantageous position does indeed come from the MRA idea complex.

The only true thing I think can be said about all this is that if a recipient of advances clearly gives consent (as in the case of someone who feels an attraction, wants to pursue it, and is not deterred by her partner's other behaviors or external factors), then she has given consent, in which case the question about whether she has given consent becomes moot. That's the tautology. If a recipient of advances does not give consent, then you have a problem of the kind in the questions.
posted by Miko at 3:33 PM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I believe that Unified Theory in now famous answer just pointed out, that the asker would recognize much earlier that the "old creepy man" is romantically attracted to her if she didn't consider men over 50 as being permanently incapable of being attracted to young women. That assumption UT has found ageist.
posted by przepla at 3:33 PM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

This is tap-dancing, but the rhythm is compelling. I'm not sure that rights are involved. The man acted inappropriately, and with deceit. She walked away from it, disappointed that he wasn't the good guy he purported to be. They both gave out clear signals. I have to step into the "creepy" camp on that issue because he was exhibiting certain signs of predation, but not simply because he presumed to make overtures to her.
The problem is she didn't give the guy clear signals within the context of American culture. It would have seemed like she was into him, or at least into a "roomies with benefits" thing, although it does seem like what he wanted out of the relationship was a little creepy, with the whole "It's all good. As long as you take care of me, I take care of you, you know what I mean?" line - it's like he wanted a little live-in maid/fuckbuddy, rather then an actual girlfriend, and someone who he knew wasn't attracted to him.

From a third-party view (i.e. mine) it would still be a little creepy even if it was with a girl who knew what was going on and was OK with it, especially if it was a foreign student who wasn't very familiar with the U.S.
posted by delmoi at 3:35 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I restrained myself from commenting because it was obvious that the OP hadn't taken any of the advice from the first question she asked. I feel like I'm part of a novel in the works or something. Lost in a park? Is this Little Red Riding Hood updated yet again?
posted by Ideefixe at 3:45 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Miko, maybe I've erred in trying to speak a little bit for a position I think Tanizaki has, rather than for myself. So, utterly independent of anything Tanizaki has said, the guy's behavior was not OK. My parsing of the situation may be a bit different from yours, but I still arrive at the same place: Not OK. I don't support what he did and I'm not holding his coat here. That said, I think there may be something to the notion that in general, the exact words used to describe his not OK behavior may vary according to how unattractive the victim finds him: that "creepy" also has a connotation of "repulsive" and that had an attractive man done the same bad acts, other words like, maybe "pushy," or "aggressive," or that all-purpose "inappropriate" might have been used instead. I think it's an interesting idea, but I'm not in love with it, and regardless, I don't see how it lets him off the hook.
posted by tyllwin at 3:47 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconding delmoi.
One day he came to sit next to me and massaged my back. I had to get his hand out when it started going under my shirt, but I didn't think much of it because I was busy talking to him about a problem and listening to his advice.
The OP still didn't recognized that she is being sexually pursued.
posted by przepla at 3:52 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


maybe I've erred in trying to speak a little bit for a position I think Tanizaki has, rather than for myself.

Maybe.
posted by Miko at 3:53 PM on May 11, 2013


Very clearly there are four categories one can fall into:

Creepy and Attractive
Creepy and Unattractive
Not Creepy (Nice) and Attractive
Not Creepy (Nice) and Unattractive

Tanizaki seems to think that there are only two categories: Creepy/Unattractive and Nice/Attractive. He is wrong.

But since that is not the subject of this MeTa, perhaps we need not parse it further....

I agree that UT is wrong, too, but it's okay to leave his comment up because of the many other comments offering different perspectives.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:57 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


After reading all of the comments here, I get the feeling that some members of Meta are hoping for a repeat of the annual summer Innocent Maiden Rescue. I'm not looking sideways at that particular event, but not every female under, say, 40, who asks a question on the green is in need of dramatic assistance.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:17 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure you and I are reading the same thread Ideefixe
posted by sweetkid at 4:19 PM on May 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


According to the French professor I had in college, who had a phd in French literature, "Little Red Riding Hood" is a morality tale about metaphorical wolves of the human male variety. It is a warning to naive young girls. The title refers to the clitoris, a fact that, as I understand it, is far more apparent in (the original?) French. It seems like an apt comparison, though likely somewhat unintentional since most people seem to not know this as a sexual tale.


Linky which talks about the story as a French sexual metaphor, though in rather different terms than what I had heard.
posted by Michele in California at 4:22 PM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Did somebody propose dramatic assistance?

most people seem to not know this as a sexual tale

Bettelheim says it doesn't matter whether you know, consciously. I think the first part is somewhat obvious, the clitoris comparison is a bit of a stretch for me, but if you believe him when he says this:
All good fairy tales have meaning on many levels; only the child can know which meanings are of significance to him at the moment. As he grows up, the child discovers new aspects of these well-known tales, and this gives him the conviction that he has indeed matured in understanding, since the same story now reveals so much more to him. This can happen only if the child has not been told didactically what the story is supposed to be about. Only when discovery of the previously hidden meanings of a fairy tale is the child's spontaneous and intuitive achievement does it attain full significance for him. This discovery changes a story from something the child is being given into something he partially creates for himself.
...then that interpretation is certainly available for those who make that connection.
posted by Miko at 4:56 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


i think there's a bit of people talking past each other. there are parts in her story where she's (unintentionally) sending signals that she's interested in him, and there are also parts where he does some inappropriate things. they're not mutually exclusive.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:02 PM on May 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


I usually lurk in MeTa, but I feel an urge to speak up because in all of the discussion around the word "creepy" I feel like we're moving far, far away from what this original call-out was about. So here's what I've got...I am a female in my 20s. I favorited UT's comment. Here is how I parse what UT was trying to say:

1. OP, you are erroneous in your assumption that older guys don't or shouldn't have romantic or sexual feelings towards younger women.
2. This erroneous assumption has resulted in you behaving in a way that reads clearly as intimate in a romantic sense.
3. The end result of which is that you are now in this very awkward situation. You should revisit and reconsider the assumptions you have about how older men don't or shouldn't have feelings towards younger women, because it is problematic and can be construed as offensive.

Had I been UT (and had I even wanted to touch this question with a ten foot pole, which I didn't), I might have included that her assumptions are problematic because it resulted in her ignoring a great multitude of red flag behaviors from older guy that she noticed as it was happening, up to and including the grab-ass stuff. Not to mention ending up giving the guy massages that she wasn't comfortable giving but did so anyway because she still, somehow, was maintaining her original assumption that older guys don't or shouldn't have romantic or sexual feelings towards younger women.

At any rate, I didn't see UT's comment as apologia for older men to be creepy towards younger women; it read to me like some "tough love" advice to reexamine some of her existing assumptions about older men as part of understanding why this happened and working to ensure that she wouldn't end up in this situation again. For her own safety.

For my part, this whole situation seems so completely beyond the pale for me that I join the others here who are speculating that this question might just be some epic crowd-sourcing research for a novel or short story. I have a cousin who grew up very sheltered in a country where women are typically expected to be demure and submissive, didn't really spend much time around men aside from her brothers until she went to college, admits even now that she kind of is clueless around men, and even she would've been able to discern that this guy was trying to get in her pants. Because I don't even know how much more blatant he could be after grabbing her ass or sticking his hand up her shirt.

This is not to say that if indeed the question is real that the OP "deserves" what happened to her or "was asking for it" - just that she very seriously needs to recalibrate her assumptions about men, as well as her ability to trust her gut when she doesn't feel safe, as well as her ability to set clear boundaries, as well as her ability to read situations and determine how risky they are (i.e. is is a good idea to get in a car and go to the house of someone I have only met once? is it a good idea to stay overnight at his house when I don't know him at all? etc.) For her own safety. It would be lovely if we lived in a world where we didn't have to constantly be on guard like this, for real, seriously, I would love it and it would make my life so much less anxiety producing...but...we don't. Ergo I don't think suggestions that she seek therapy or take self-defense classes are out of line; these are great ways to figure out how to be assertive and trust your own instincts and understand how to set boundaries. As a young foreign woman (student?) it seems a great way to help assimilate further into the cultural norms of the US.

As for whether or not UT's response was answering OP's question - it's hard to say because it's not entirely clear what her question was. If the question was "are all guys like this?" I do think in a sense UT did answer that; UT's answer was essentially "yes, given the signals you were perhaps unintentionally sending, many guys would interpret things the same way this guy did." But since she also asked for general commentary on the situation, I think that UT's overall advice also qualifies.

I am guilty of asking rambly questions in AskMe myself so I certainly understand how someone who is feeling confused, upset, uncomfortable, would end up writing what she wrote in the aftermath of such an awful experience. But this was a particuarly problematic AskMe and though it's far too late now it would have been good if it had been taken down with a request for OP to rephrase her inquiry with a clear question to be answered. Though I think that in spite of that there are many great answers in the thread, so it's not a complete disaster either.

And thus ends my first substantive MeTa comment ever, going back to my cave now.
posted by thereemix at 5:31 PM on May 11, 2013 [64 favorites]


And wow, I just wrote an epic tome. Sorry for the length.
posted by thereemix at 5:31 PM on May 11, 2013


The problem is she didn't give the guy clear signals within the context of American culture

And as others have said, compared to what? I suppose she could have grown up in a convent in Iceland or been raised by dolphins, true.

Patriarchy is global, and America ain't even close to the worst of it.

My view is that it's pretty obvious trollery, but downright brilliantly done. Very enjoyable. Would be outraged again. Two thumbs up.
posted by spitbull at 5:51 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


thereemix, you should do more of that. Right over the left field fence.
posted by spitbull at 5:54 PM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Aww, thanks spitbull. :)
posted by thereemix at 6:02 PM on May 11, 2013


1. OP, you are erroneous in your assumption that older guys don't or shouldn't have romantic or sexual feelings towards younger women.
2. This erroneous assumption has resulted in you behaving in a way that reads clearly as intimate in a romantic sense.
3. The end result of which is that you are now in this very awkward situation. You should revisit and reconsider the assumptions you have about how older men don't or shouldn't have feelings towards younger women, because it is problematic and can be construed as offensive.


I think this is a pretty excellent parsing of UT's comment, which while it had a little "tough love" snark I don't agree was a terrible thing and definitely didn't need deletion.

I got the feeling that the OP completely cannot consider that older men have sexual feelings toward younger women - for whatever reason that I personally can't connect to culture. I can't think of a culture where this is a widespread belief. However, her comments there plus in the 60-year-old friend question make me think she thinks an older man is just completely not able to have sexual feelings about her, so as thereemix says in 2), she disregarded EVERYTHING the man said and did because there was no way there was any attraction.

Personally, I find that deeply strange, and yes ageist in a strict sense, but she does need to be rid of that assumption real quick in order to not get into these situations again, and learn to assert her boundaries.

I don't think therapy is "over recommended" as said above. One of the reasons it IS recommended is that is an extension of the very action the OP (any OP) has taken in coming to Ask to talk about a problem. They want to present their problem and get an at least somewhat impartial response. This is something they can do with a therapist. It's just an extension of their initial action. There's nothing bad about therapy, it's not for people who are broken or full of problems, and it's a great place for someone who is new to a country and having problems adapting to social norms to learn better how they can do that.

I think we have an issue with some people (often young, under 25 but not always) coming to Ask and asking repeated similar questions that are barely questions but more "incident reports" or stories and then asking us to walk through them with them and explain it or fix it. It doesn't seem like a thing Ask should be doing. I don't really know what to do about it but I know with one other poster whose name I don't think is necessary to reveal, one of their recent questions was deleted because it was just another rehash of a social problem the poster seems to continue to have and that hints at much deeper problems below.

Perhaps this question should have been deleted too, or if MiuMiu continues the trend further posts should be deleted. But Ask can't really do detective squad on these little situations and definitely can't root out all the deeper issues for a poster.
posted by sweetkid at 6:19 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, personally I have thought this would be a good thing to discuss in MeTa (how do we deal with "issues" posters that post long recounts of Something That Happened with no real question) but have been reluctant to because I didn't want to call out any one poster.
posted by sweetkid at 6:28 PM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


The OP still didn't recognized that she is being sexually pursued.

So that makes it totally okay for a guy to refuse to stop when she finally did figure it out?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 PM on May 11, 2013


Do you honestly think that is what przepla is saying?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:51 PM on May 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Ah, wait, I'd misunderstood. My apologies.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:57 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who said it was "ok"? It was predictable. Big difference.

Life and death difference in some cases, in fact. You need to be able to predict when people will do things that are not "ok." To survive. In the world. As a human being. Without regard to your gender.

The real issue here, if this is not ace trolling, is how someone could be in such deep denial or so naive about something so culturally nearly universal. The issue is not cultural. A normal young woman of any cultural background smart enough to be a student in a foreign country and language normally knows about dirty old men and would not be shocked, shocked! to encounter lecherous behavior from one even under less murky circumstances.

Again this doesn't make assault "ok."

I'm surprised no one has even suggested the obvious possibility of this (willful sexual risk taking, denial of said risk) being a response to trauma. Or maybe someone did and I missed it because I am not really that interested in the question, pretty sure it's fake anyway, and more interested in understanding what feels like an increasingly censorious and hegemonic policing of acceptable discourse in this (mefi) community, on a wide range of issues.
posted by spitbull at 7:13 PM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm surprised no one has even suggested the obvious possibility of this (willful sexual risk taking, denial of said risk) being a response to trauma.

You know, I tend to think that sort of thing is always a possibility lurking behind such questions, and it's a good reason to withhold judgment or accusations of trolling or victim blaming. One doesn't really need to openly speculate in order to just remember that it could be present. There are a lot of reasons people do things that seem, to others, naive, confused, and fucked up - psychological reasons, substance reasons, cultural reasons (beyond even international culture, but perhaps sheltered or religiously oppressive cultures), cognitive reasons.

What they need is some help getting unfuckedup, about that particular issue but possibly others. But we can't always know what confused them, misled them, or fucked them up in the first place. The charitable assumption is that, even though this thing a person has done may seem so unbelievably stupid to us that they must be trolling, in fact there are a lot of real conditions that can contribute to this behavior in real life.
posted by Miko at 7:19 PM on May 11, 2013 [14 favorites]

You need to be able to predict when people will do things that are not "ok." To survive. In the world. As a human being. Without regard to your gender.
Perhaps if by "survive" you mean "avoid awkward situations" The odds of being actually murdered are going to be quite low (especially for men, in which case most murder can be avoided by following a simple 1-step "don't be a street-level crack/heroin/meth dealer" plan)
posted by delmoi at 7:22 PM on May 11, 2013


I don't think the question is fake. I think it might be by someone who for whatever reason likes or intentionally courts drama and attention in life and by posting here. Some of it kind of reminds me of situations sixcolors would get in (NOT conspiracytheoring at ALL that sixcolors is back or anything).

But some of her phrasing and the general sheltered-maybe-but-with-weird-and-sorta-offensive-way-of-commenting reminds me of sixcolors' work.
posted by sweetkid at 7:23 PM on May 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


You have a point, miko, of course. I'm letting my annoyance at the callout affect my sympathy for the original asker of the question.

I pity an actual traumatized person who has only AskMe to turn to for guidance. Therapy or the OP is exactly the right response.
posted by spitbull at 7:23 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agreed sweetkid... Especially given the prior question.
posted by spitbull at 7:24 PM on May 11, 2013


delmoi, I think a man who lacks street smarts is very much at risk of violence, albeit not as much as a woman, in much of the world. Granted I am sometimes in tough places.

There have been two severe gay bashing incidents in New York in the last three days. Being male doesn't automatically make you invincible.
posted by spitbull at 7:28 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The odds of being actually murdered are going to be quite low (especially for men, in which case most murder can be avoided by following a simple 1-step "don't be a street-level crack/heroin/meth dealer" plan)

Not especially for men. The odds of being murdered are considerably higher for men than for women, and not just for drug dealers. I think you might have meant the odds of being murdered specifically by your SO, but that's not what you did say.
posted by Justinian at 7:36 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. I'm dissapointed in metafilter too. Some of you can be so unspeakably arraogant, cruel, and outright prejudiced against people who live with a lot of boundary pushing, assault, rape, and mindfucks from men like this.

No wonder survivors have to become hermits. Even the supposedly progressive communities have no problem demeaning and judging people who they barely know for going through some awful things.

Yeah if you get sexually violated it DOES ruin your reputation! Keep that shit hidden and never ever tell. You were an idiot and your community will make sure you're insulted properly for your stupidy for being an easy mark.

Please defend the ability to do this to people! That's awesome. Barf.
posted by xarnop at 7:43 PM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's especially ironic when women with priveledge and men who have never even remotely been through this throw women like this in the garbage as head cases.
posted by xarnop at 7:44 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


what? was this posted in the wrong thread xarnop? I'm not getting the connection.


It's especially ironic when women with priveledge and men who have never even remotely been through this women like this in the garbage as head cases.


This doesn't make sense.
posted by sweetkid at 7:45 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I don't see it.
posted by Justinian at 7:47 PM on May 11, 2013


I mean, people who haven't had their boundaries completely plowed over from a young age don't know what it's like and should not be so arrogant about how great they are for never having dealt with that.

Yeah I know, people who haven't been abused don't. That's why it's so easy for you to stomp on the feelings of people who have and you don't care.

I get that you don't care and it's your privaledge that you don't have to care. Yet you all talk about how it's fine for a person to defend the sexual abuse of women who do not have good boundaries like it's fine because to YOU it's fine if this is an ok thing to do.

To some people this means you ARE siding with their sexual abusers. I don't care how you want that to come across, it's cruel.
posted by xarnop at 7:49 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, what do you mean? Who's "throwing women like this in the garbage?"
posted by Miko at 7:49 PM on May 11, 2013


People who apologize for the behavior of men like this and blame the op for having poor boundaries.
posted by xarnop at 7:50 PM on May 11, 2013


Yeah I know, people who haven't been abused don't. That's why it's so easy for you to stomp on the feelings of people who have and you don't care.

You should probably be more careful about your assumptions.
posted by Etrigan at 7:51 PM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


... this thing a person has done may seem so unbelievably stupid to us that they must be trolling, in fact there are a lot of real conditions that can contribute to this behavior in real life.
Not the least of which is that there are lots of people that have little or no social contact with people so far out of their age group, outside family. In such a circumstance, I could see someone forming a view, subconsciously, that people in their 50s are not sexual beings, which would explain (but not excuse) someone assuming that a person in that age group could not have anything but a platonic interest in them. I'm inclined to think that someone in their 50s should have enough life experience to understand that there is a power imbalance in this situation and act accordingly. It's not impossible that this situation is a perfect storm of a naive 20-something (20? 29? - a lot of life lessons can be learned within that range) and a socially clueless 50-something (50? 59? - probably doesn't make a difference) that leads to one sending signals of romantic interest and the other receiving those signals and acting on them without much thought of the broader issues. I'm not excusing his behaviour in any way, but I can see how this situation could have arisen with no initial fault on either side.
posted by dg at 7:51 PM on May 11, 2013


Stuff like this used to happen to me a lot when I was in college and in my early 20's. I had a really unstable life around that time, mostly due to a lot of family problems and living across the country from most people I knew. I felt really rootless, and in a lot of very literal ways I was rootless.

As a freshman in college I got into an abusive relationship with an older guy, made a lot of really terrible choices my parents weren't really able to help me navigate, and ended up leaving school and moving to a strange city to live with him. Ultimately I was able to leave him, but in doing that I left myself even more vulnerable because I didn't know anyone else in my city and found myself in a completely unstable living situation that persisted for years. Because this was all happening while I was in college, I was only nominally employed and never had any money. And, again, for a lot of complicated reasons my family wasn't available to me.

So I would float from fucked up life situation to fucked up life situation, having run-ins with decades-older men who absolutely did not have my interests at heart -- many of whom tried to convince me they were "mentors" or "trying to do me a favor" or the like. While I had the street smarts to know this was all very bad, I was still reeling from my abusive relationship and I definitely had material needs that weren't being met. I let myself be dependent on a lot of people like these guys MiuMiu keeps posting about.

Luckily not too many terrible things happened. And the terrible things that did happen were more in line with what MiuMiu asks about -- dudes sexually assaulting me in sorta borderline but still traumatic ways, people taking advantage of my naivete, etc. Nowadays I'm probably way too far on the "frigid bitch" end of things because I got burned one too many times striking up a conversation with the wrong dude.

As I said in the original AskMe thread, this all magically evaporated the second I finished school and got a real job and a normal living situation and had a little money to spend on myself. It was literally like I bought some shoes that cost more than $13 and suddenly no sketchy 45 year old guys ever noticed me again.

So I feel like we're probably not being trolled, just because I'm uniquely aware that this is all stuff that can actually happen.
posted by Sara C. at 7:52 PM on May 11, 2013 [37 favorites]


I'm trying to grasp your point xarnop. No one has apologized for the man's conduct at all.

I think most most of us think the guy in this story was a pig at best and committed sexual assault at worst. No one has said his behavior was ok. Or that she asked for it or led him on or all that usual rape excusing bullshit.

We are debating how someone could be so naive as to be completely unaware of her risk, and how it could possibly be helpful to her to afford her no agency in protecting herself by pretending she did nothing risky.

It is difficult to have a measured discussion of primal trauma, but we cannot grant the traumatized perspective complete exemption from accountability to facts.
posted by spitbull at 7:53 PM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

The odds of being murdered are considerably higher for men than for women, and not just for drug dealers.
But low enough to completely ignore, which is the point. Of course if you happen to know someone who seems especially stabby, or in other ways homicidal, you might want to stop hanging out with them. But the situation is so rare that it's just not something you really need to worry about.
posted by delmoi at 7:56 PM on May 11, 2013


"Nor does he sound "creepy." You got close to him and he opened up to you"

You're all cool with that?
posted by xarnop at 7:57 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


80 mefites are cool with that? More? Yuck.
posted by xarnop at 7:58 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


xarnop this finger wagging isn't helpful at all. I don't know who the "who" even is in "you're all cool with that?"

I felt like we were discussing this rationally and you're coming in here guns blazing for no reason at all.
posted by sweetkid at 7:59 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah I know, people who haven't been abused don't.

None of us have any way of knowing which other Mefites have or haven't been abused, and I don't see the point in speculating about this or critiquing AskMe answers on ad hominem grounds.
posted by John Cohen at 8:00 PM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Indeed.
posted by spitbull at 8:01 PM on May 11, 2013


Well if we're all discussing how the comment THAT IS THE TOPIC OF THIS POST is not problematic, then yeah I think the calm nice conversation you're having is kind of sadistic.

Many of the commenters speculate on how they don't understand how a person could have been so fucked with they would be trained not to see mens' creepy behavior for what it is.

If you haven't been through it, of course you don't understand it.
posted by xarnop at 8:02 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, look, it's the xarnop show!

Again.
posted by Wolof at 8:04 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Oh, look, it's the xarnop show!

Again."

I bet it felt good to say that.
posted by xarnop at 8:05 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the calm nice conversation you're having is kind of sadistic

Cite please. Also evidence of "sadism" if you don't mind.
posted by sweetkid at 8:06 PM on May 11, 2013


Look you know the comment I stated is really cruel, right? Or do you not think it is? I think being cruel and siding with cruel people is sadistic. And people who defend abusers over the people they hurt, um yeah are cruel.
posted by xarnop at 8:08 PM on May 11, 2013


xarnop: yeah I think the calm nice conversation you're having is kind of sadistic.

When you're at the point of thinking the conversation is progressing too nicely for your tastes, I suspect you might want to think about stepping back for a bit.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:09 PM on May 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


It may well be wrong but it isn't cruel.
posted by Justinian at 8:09 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is definitely the most disappointing AskMe/MeTa I've ever read re: gender. It is completely fucking weird.

This guy was a creep, young women are very very allowed to be creeped out by an older man's attraction to them (sorry!), and women are often put in the position of knowing someone may be taking advantage of them but needing to "make excuses" or play along because it's generally not OK to say no or out someone as a creep. Saying "you're being creepy!" is a "bitchy" thing to say that women only say to "men they find unattractive." (False.) Thus, it's not easy to accept that a person you have some good faith in ("what a nice guy, to want to be so friendly, he could be a creep but maybe there are nice people out there?") is actually a dirtbag who will unapologetically grope you.

Speaking from my experience the OP probably knew things were going "awry" (she did, after all, stand up for herself when he touched her) but thought that the foundation of their "friendship" was firm enough that she just had to head off some inappropriate advances-- if there was trauma in her past, she was probably used to "heading off" bad behavior and then firmly shutting it out of mind so she doesn't have to deal with it on a conscious level most of the time. This is a super common response IMO.

Also, I have to say-- let's be real, most young women don't "expect" competent 50-year-old men to come on to them sexually, because it's generally not socially acceptable or desired, and thankfully most decent 50-year-old men don't do it. ("Playful" flirting and winking aside.)
posted by stoneandstar at 8:09 PM on May 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


/ backs away

This shit is what I mean. Every bit as abusive and exclusionist as the most patriarchally sexist stuff you could say, but ok because why?
posted by spitbull at 8:09 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think we're being trolled by the poster. Other humans can be hard to figure out, and for those who have a more difficult time with that than others, "going with the flow" is the default response - they don't recognize when they're in a bad spot, or convince themselves it's because they're no good at reading other people. They may need some help understanding how other people think and feel in the aftermath, and how to reconcile their own feelings about what happened. That's OK.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:09 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man. I need to preview before posting. Things went downhill in a hurry from when I began to when I hit post... kinda nasty in here, now.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:11 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, xarnop, if your intention was to blow up the thread, congratulations. If your intention was to add to the thread or contribute something meaningful, well, you didn't succeed.
posted by Justinian at 8:12 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


I just don't get why everyone is cool with people saying sexual abuse is not creepy. Why can we not call sexual abuse apologism what it is?
posted by xarnop at 8:12 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


stoneandstar, there are a ton of people saying things that you're saying in this thread, so I don't even know what you are talking about.
posted by sweetkid at 8:13 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are asserting facts not in evidence. Favorites do not mean "I agree".
posted by Justinian at 8:13 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Alright, ya'll have a nice conversation about how sexual abuse apologism is ok if it's said nicely or something. Night.
posted by xarnop at 8:14 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Good, maybe the thread will settle down again.
posted by Justinian at 8:14 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


xarnop, the bit you're quoting from UT's answer (that he "opened up" to her and wasn't creepy) is not something I agree with. But the rest of UT's points are valid and worth noting and I did agree with them, hence I hit the [+]. I can't imagine I'm the only one who felt this way. Sometimes if an answer is 90% really good and 10% not so good I'm okay with favorite-ing because the 90% is important enough that I feel the need to endorse it.

I'm also not comfortable with the policing of who favorited what comment and how many people favorited it and what-not, especially since it has come up in the past that not everyone uses favorites as an "endorsement."

xarnop, I understand that this is a hot-button issue for you but please don't assume that everyone here who found aspects of UT's answer valuable are coming from a place of privilege. I too have been raped, I have been in an abusive relationship, and in both cases I had a lot of trouble realizing that what was happening to me was wrong because of the way I had been raised and what I had been taught was acceptable behavior. I think it's kind of crappy that I feel right now like I need to justify to you that I have some sort of credibility to weigh in on this issue because fucked up shit has happened to me.
posted by thereemix at 8:15 PM on May 11, 2013 [24 favorites]


Xarnop, you're jumping to the worst possible conclusions and making some pretty nasty accusations here. This maybe isn't the best way to approach the subject.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:15 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have yielded and conceded the point about trolling, by the way, in response to miko's eloquent comment. I will stipulate the poster is real and telling some version of her truth.

Denying her any agency at all is some sexist BS. It's not feminist. It's not empowering.

I'm sorry for your very evident personal trauma. It doesn't mean we all must yield to your perspective.

On edit that was to xarnop
posted by spitbull at 8:15 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


sweetkid, people are still discussing "why" the OP did what she did, I gave my answer, which did echo some other answers. I'm sorry if you didn't like it. I guess.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:17 PM on May 11, 2013


I'm sorry if you didn't like it.

Is that what I said?
posted by sweetkid at 8:17 PM on May 11, 2013


No, you were just kind of a jerk to me for no reason?
posted by stoneandstar at 8:18 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean you "didn't even know what I was talking about" so I assumed you didn't like it. Maybe you shouldn't have responded with such knee-jerk dismissiveness.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:19 PM on May 11, 2013


You've been here long enough to know that in just about any thread even tangentially related to women's preferences in men the same slowly rotating pile of male usernames will always show up to make sure we cannot miss just how many men feel themselves entitled to female desire, go out of their way to find any female exercise of agency problematic for them, and make sure we understand that any shitty things men might do to women are the fault of women who fail to do the generally ridiculous things prescribed for them to protect themselves with.

This.
posted by medusa at 8:20 PM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I disagree that I was being a jerk. You just charged in here same time as xarnop to tell everyone you're disappointed with the thread and how we're doing it rong.

I didn't realize you were also making a comment on the topic itself.

I usually agree with you so you could maybe chill.
posted by sweetkid at 8:20 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dude thought they were dating and was "taking it slow". He said they should "take a break" you don't say that to your buddies. OP had a different take on it.

Obviously I am torn between well all that seems like date activities and what kind of creepy motherfucker would make pizza for a woman and let her sleep at his house and think they were dating.

The ironic part is that if he had never done anything and continued to pine away we would hate him for being one of those asshole nice guys that secretly has feelings for their female friends.

All in all it makes me glad I hate other people.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:24 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


young women are very very allowed to be creeped out by an older man's attraction to them
Are you saying that an 'older man' is automatically creepy by being attracted to a young woman? What constitutes an 'older man and a 'young woman'?
posted by dg at 8:24 PM on May 11, 2013


Uh I guess I'm willing to chill, but dude, you were dismissive for no reason, without even (apparently) reading my comment. In fact, saying I "charged in" because I wasn't participating in the pre-existing conversational off-shoot (that I don't find particularly compelling or on-point) was also random. So maybe you can chill.

To quote the tagline in here, dg, did I say that? No, it's not automatically creepy. But if an older man is coming on to me and it feels creepy, it feels creepy. Will it feel creepy 100% of the time because of some inherent moral feature of attraction? No, I don't think so. But if a man is making his attraction to me known and I find it uncomfortable or weird... am I supposed to pretend I don't? If he reminds me of my dad and that automatically squicks me out, do I have to "open my mind" to new, uncomfortable experiences? Uh, no.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:28 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I have to say-- let's be real, most young women don't "expect" competent 50-year-old men to come on to them sexually, because it's generally not socially acceptable or desired, and thankfully most decent 50-year-old men don't do it.

Most women don't "expect" it but once an ass has been grabbed I think it's reasonable to say "Hmm, I guess he is coming on to me sexually." And then determine "I don't like this," if in fact they don't like it. And then take action.

Which is in fact what MiuMiu did - she told him she didn't like it, but he kept doing it, and she went along with it because she still was assuming that he couldn't be coming on to her because of her age. It is this particular assumption that kept this scenario going on longer than it should have. I really don't think anyone here is saying that she isn't allowed to be grossed out by this or that grab-ass behavior is okay even if she says it isn't or that she should just suck it up and be his sex kitten because she didn't understand what was going on. I think what people are saying is that in order for her to stop getting into this situation - which she admits keeps happening to her - is that she needs to do some work on learning to assert boundaries. I don't see this as BLAMING her for not having boundaries. I see this as pointing out to her that this is something she needs to consider, to keep herself safe and to avoid getting into another situation that makes her feel gross and awful.

No one at all has said that it was okay for the guy to behave this way. I don't see it. I don't get it.
posted by thereemix at 8:29 PM on May 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


Personally I don't give the guy a pass at all, he did a ton of inappropriate things.
posted by sweetkid at 8:30 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a lifelong feminist male, I understand the urge to draw a line in the sand and stand for no bullshit. I do.

But there is something that might be worth considering regarding that kind of moral absolutism as it's been exercised throughout this thread in coming down on people like Unified Theory. And that is this: we're people from a shared community with whom you probably share a fair number of values with, or else either you or we wouldn't be here.

If you feel as though, even for folks here, it's just fine to go straight to accusing them of being apologists for sexual assault (or really, whatever form of judgment we're down to at this point), to whom exactly are you willing to give the benefit of the doubt? Even if you think you do have a precise handle on their viewpoints on sexism, predation, etc. from a few comments, what makes you comfortable officially labeling them Beyond Hope and Part of the Problem?

If you can't break out the respectful discourse and the sincere, non-asshatty attempt to bring someone around to your side, even for your fellow MeFites, who are you saving it for?

And for my money, thereemix's take on UT's comment is not only more charitable, but clearly has a better handle on the apparent intent behind it than the OP of this MetaTalk thread
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:31 PM on May 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


Ok, men's cabal, we need to leave now. With me bros? Dudes? Guys? Fellow pigs!
posted by spitbull at 8:32 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love how I'm suddenly on the wrong side of feminism all of a sudden. Because why exactly?
posted by sweetkid at 8:33 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


This has become incoherent and surreal.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:34 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Because coffee is for closers.
posted by Justinian at 8:34 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I apologize. I'm, just ready for a world where people don't berate and judge people who are being abused and having their boundaries violated by saying they're asking for it by "opening up" and people who clearly are abusing them are not being creepy and that's what we have for a good answer.

THAT is what I find creepy. That's the best we can do? Come on, metafilter is an educated and empathetic community in general. I just believe metafilter can do better than having 80 people stand behind a comment that is telling someone dealing with abusive behavior that it's not creepy or abusive.

Irecognize lot's of mefites would love it if I would never participate in these discussions but I think it's important that survivors (whether in agreement with me or not) participate in com,unity discussions like this even if their voices shake and they have emotions that aren't pretty. Otherwise the community decides without imput from people who have been through these things. And I know for sure there are many who have been through a lot of abuse and can't handle the callous comments people make scrutinizing and pathologizing abuse survivor behavior. They can't share their voices. And oftenpeople talk about how normal the abuser is and how OF COURSE the abuser was just making normal sexual advances and the weird boundary crazy lady just brought this on herself.

That is NOT giving agency, that is just blaming people who are being abused and simultaneously telling them they are dealing with normal sexual advances. Telling women who have been abused repeatedly that they need to be more responsable for defending themselves when men have sexually assaulted them as many times as many women have been through is ignoring the ways that even smart women cope with repeated sexual assault and people who stomp all over stated boundaries.

"No one at all has said that it was okay for the guy to behave this way. I don't see it. I don't get it."

Yes someone did say pretty much that. So if you disagree with that person's comment (the subject of this meta) you can say so but don't fuck with people's heads by pretending it wasn't said exactly that it was not creepy for the guy to behave this way and asked for by her actions. And favorited 80 times by mefites, which might not MEAN to be an endorsement but sure is likely to come across that way to the OP.
posted by xarnop at 8:35 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


xarnop, where in UT's comment was that said? I am not being obtuse, I just don't see what you are seeing and am trying to understand the disconnect.
posted by thereemix at 8:37 PM on May 11, 2013


To be clearer, where did it say "it was asked for"? That's what I am not seeing.
posted by thereemix at 8:38 PM on May 11, 2013


Ah, ok here:

"Nothing about your narrative suggests that his "psyche revolves around sex." Nor does he sound "creepy." You got close to him and he opened up to you."
posted by xarnop at 8:39 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just think it's extremely important that people sorting through having their boundaries blown over like this do not need to have good adviced mixed in with "and the guys behavior is normal considering that you hung out with him".

Hanging out with a guy should not give him the right to blow over a woman's sexual boundaries like this.

It's not a minor point, it's a HUGE DEAL.

But maybe just to me. If any other survivors need to hear that, I just want to see it said more explicetly than the crowd here seemed willing to state.

I think boundaries are hard and I'm actually sympathetic to people who violate boundaries and are kind of self deluded about what they're doing. But a strong community response against that can mean people who think that behavior is normal and all the guys do it, might rethink that their whole community has their back.
posted by xarnop at 8:44 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Are you saying that an 'older man' is automatically creepy by being attracted to a young woman? What constitutes an 'older man and a 'young woman'?

Also, I do not care about these questions, because I am absolutely not trying to categorize this situation as creepy and that one as not, or whatever (maybe another time!). I am 100% saying that if you find someone's sexual come-on creepy, that is a valid response.

Yes someone did say pretty much that. So if you disagree with that person's comment (the subject of this meta) you can say so but don't fuck with people's heads by pretending it wasn't said exactly that it was not creepy for the guy to behave this way and asked for by her actions. And favorited 80 times by mefites, which might not MEAN to be an endorsement but sure is likely to come across that way to the OP.

Yeah, exactly. The conversation seems rather twisted now, but I read a lot of this thread and the OP and the comment referenced in the OP, and there was some clearly victim-blaming stuff going on. So being sad and disappointed and angry about that in a place like this is valid.



And with ref to UT's comment, this:
And it's hard to rule out (though only you can confirm this) a kind of weird fake naïveté ("gosh! You're attracted to me! Eww") that is rather offensive and unfair to this man, in that the relationship unfolded in very intimate ways and you're acting aggrieved by circumstances that unfolded and you had every chance to stop.

... is saying that "only she can confirm" whatever, but then also implying that she's being weird, fake, offensive and unfair, because she was surprised a man would be so snakey and awful about his attraction to her. (I'm willing to think he's being deceptive if he knows she has a boyfriend, knows he doesn't like him touching her, and still persists. She told him not to touch her, and he continued. It's really hard to call "mixed signals!" when she has explicitly given a "no" signal, and no explicit "yes.")

And yes, calling what he did (groping her, implying exploitative things about their power imbalance, becoming possessive re: her boyfriend, and refusing to stop asking for massages when she was uncomfortable) "opening up" is beyond charitable and is just being an apologist to me.


I don't know, maybe people who haven't been in very unfortunate, imbalanced situations with very older men/women who are subtly taking advantage of them have a hard time imagining how disorienting it is? Even if you feel you have a sliver of awareness that they're taking advantage of you, it never seems entirely real... much like any kind of abuse.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:45 PM on May 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


and she went along with it because she still was assuming that he couldn't be coming on to her because of her age.

There is kind of a weird thing that happens in your brain (or maybe I should say in my brain) when something like this is happening to you.

You run through sort of a litany of feelings, a little bit like the stages of grief or whatever. It's weirdly like the cloud of feelings that happens when you kiss someone for the first time or realize you're about to have (consensual) sex, except reverse the positive and exciting feelings for really bad feelings.

A strong component of that litany is second guessing your assessment of the situation. "Is this really happening? Omigod this is happening. Maybe I'm not judging this situation accurately. Nope, dude just grabbed my ass. Fuck. But maybe, I dunno, that wasn't REALLY my ass. Maybe that was my lower back? This can't REALLY be happening? Oh, man, I think this is happening..."

I had an experience very much like OP's that even included inappropriate ass-touching, and to this day there is a tiny part of me that wonders if I didn't make the whole thing up. Or, like, maybe there was some innocent read of the situation? Despite the fact that a dude cornered me against a wall and held me in place so that he could grope me. It was so pure an example of sexual assault that it was like I couldn't even believe it was happening at all. Like "this is too much like sexual assault, therefore I must be misunderstanding some social cue that makes it OK."

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, is what I'm saying.
posted by Sara C. at 8:46 PM on May 11, 2013 [50 favorites]


You're entitled to that opinion obviously. But even if we were to grant you're correct, what are you asking for? The answer to be deleted? Or are you just venting?
posted by Justinian at 8:46 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


sorry I fell behind in the thread, I meant to reply to xarnop.
posted by Justinian at 8:46 PM on May 11, 2013


stoneandstar, I was asking if that was what you meant - I probably didn't make that clear enough. I'm still not sure if that is what you meant, but your further comment that 'if an older man is coming on to me and it feels creepy, it feels creepy' is interesting in that you felt the need to qualify the reasonable view that unwanted sexual attention from anyone is unacceptable by specifying that unwanted sexual attention from an older man is unacceptable. I appreciate that one is a subset of the other (and you may have just been putting things into the context of the current discussion), but the age-specific qualifier irks me more than it should.
posted by dg at 8:48 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if you disagree with that person's comment (the subject of this meta) you can say so but don't fuck with people's heads by pretending it wasn't said exactly that it was not creepy for the guy to behave this way and asked for by her actions.

I understand that this is a very sensitive issue for you, xarnop, but I think that labeling any response that disagrees with your feelings as "fucking with people's heads" is... uncharitable at best, to put it extremely kindly.
posted by palomar at 8:48 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, thank you for clarifying xarnop. Well, I mentioned before that I don't agree with UT on "You got close to him and he opened up to you." But I do agree with UT that nothing about her narrative suggests that his psyche revolves around sex.

I still am having a hard time looking at this as "and therefore you were asking for it." I think what UT is doing is explaining how MiuMiu's wires got crossed with older guy. In that regard, I think it is useful for MiuMiu to see how her actions could have been interpreted, since she seems to genuinely not understand how and why older guy was coming on to her.

I completely agree with you that just hanging out with him doesn't give him the right to violate her sexually. And I absolutely do not think that sexual boundary violating behavior is normal or okay. But I don't think it is unhelpful to explain to her that there are people in the world who will interpret her actions as romantic-ish, because that gives her something concrete to think about as she goes along in life trying to avoid this happening to her again.
posted by thereemix at 8:50 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


That was certainly an uncharitable assumption. I did indeed wonder why people stand behind that comment so strongly but there are possibly reasons that are respectful to survivors that could explain it.
posted by xarnop at 8:51 PM on May 11, 2013


The charitable assumption is that, even though this thing a person has done may seem so unbelievably stupid to us that they must be trolling, in fact there are a lot of real conditions that can contribute to this behavior in real life.

And this is why i wrote my fairly compassionate post at the very top. This thread has gotten pretty damn far afield like... Wow.

In the end, I really think we're not getting enough context or info to go a lot of the places that we're visiting here. And this entire situation has left me pretty bemused. This, and the last giant fighty MeTa about tanizakis post(oh look! He showed up here and in that thread to pull similar shit again! Awesome) have just made me go "REALLY!??!" So many times. So. Many.

There's an awfully large amount of sympathy rationing going on in here. As if its some limited goddamn resource. Like, a big inquisition going on to figure out if this lady made even one mis step, much less multiple ones, that would justify throwing her under the bus and going "well, she started the fire, we can't waste sympathy on this".

There's a fuckton of "I'm not blaming the victim, but he did XYZ and she did XYZ so it's BOTH of their faults". In the end it sounds exactly the same to me as the people who go "we'll she proceeded this far with a guy, said she wanted to have sex, then changed her mind right when he was just starting to do it. She already got him that far, what did she expect?"

The rape culture is strong in this thread. Sit the hell down and think about what you're saying. This question was basically "i ended up in this awkward situation, where I went far down a road I didn't want to without realizing it. How do I avoid this? Will all guys lead me down this road?" And most of this thread, and the highlighted post, are "well, you went down that road. What did you expect?"

Sit down and think about what you're saying in this context.

(Ugh, my phone posted this half baked without me intending to)
posted by emptythought at 8:52 PM on May 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


theremix, I totally agree and that was done throughout the thread.

Only UT's comment got 80 favorites which did make me wonder if that was the aspect of the comment being favorited.
posted by xarnop at 8:52 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Excellent rendition of how these situations can be surreal, Sara C. There's another dimension to the "incident report" that I think is contributing: the guy is a widower. Were I in Miumiu's shoes, I'd be wondering, does that mean he's super awkward and clueless from being out of practice, or was bringing up the dead wife part of the manipulation associated with the (gross, creepy) massage gambit (among others), or is he just lonely, and must I cut him some slack for all if the above, etc. etc. etc. And while not defending his actions in the least, he may be stuck at mid-20s functionality and 1970s frames of reference when it comes to figuring out male|female stuff. That, coupled with Miumiu's naïveté and porous boundaries--what UT was driving at--is a very unfortunate mix.
posted by carmicha at 8:58 PM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


She already got him that far, what did she expect?"

I think there's a difference between "what did you expect" and "next time, try setting boundary A, B, and C before you get to the part where dude toes the line on boundary Z."

I also think there's a massive difference between "well don't wear a short skirt" victim blaming and, like, seriously, kid, don't go home with strange men you meet while lost in the park.
posted by Sara C. at 8:59 PM on May 11, 2013 [42 favorites]


As I was about to say before my phone wrecked my post, I think the issues with this features post are the same as the ones with tanizakis post from the last giant meta.

He may be right, but the way he's saying it and some bits of it are anywhere from raising an eyebrow to openly a lot less than I'd expect from this community.

It's the urge to go all "tough love" at the wrong times, and just be really terse and "wake up call"-ish that gets to me. The approach is just a bit... No.

Especially in this context, when you really need poise to not sound a bit like you're an ass and missing the context of how a hell of a lot of people handle this stuff.

The 80 favorites kinda disgust me honestly, when you're really thinking about how a lot of people go "tough love" and "I'm not blaming the victim, but bla bla bla no one is this naive you know exactly what you were doing" on this kind of stuff.
posted by emptythought at 8:59 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't speak for the other 79 people who favorited UT's comment, but that is certainly not what I was favorite-ing. I was favorite-ing the explanation of why older guy misunderstood - because it was spelling out specifically to her where the wires got crossed. If she is indeed someone who has come from a background where she wasn't taught how to be assertive in setting boundaries or even what acceptable boundaries should be, that might be an entry point for her to think about. Honestly, I just want her to be safe - I was terrified as early as "the pizza place was closed" in her story. If she doesn't know or understand why the whole situation was unsafe from the start, I am not condemning her for that - I just want her to understand the risk so that this OR something even worse doesn't happen again.
posted by thereemix at 9:01 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry the above was for xarnop's last comment to me.
posted by thereemix at 9:02 PM on May 11, 2013


I also think there's a massive difference between "well don't wear a short skirt" victim blaming and, like, seriously, kid, don't go home with strange men you meet while lost in the park.

Yea, but the way this post was phrased leaves a hell of a lot to be desired on that front. It really comes off like that. I definitely saw that the first time I saw it after entering the thread, reading the main post, and scrolling down. I was honestly shocked.

There could be constructive responses about inexperience, etc that weren't such a bucket of cold water like this.

The points about ageism and shaming older men should almost be a separate discussion too. Using that as a rolled up newspaper really detracted from the other points being made, and would make a lot of people just dig in.

Weren't we just discussing in the last mega thread how presentation, compassion, and general niceness is key? That post just came off completely on the wrong foot to me.
posted by emptythought at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my mind, it really isn't about her actions at all. There is no way of know if it what she did, if she could have done anything differently, or even if it was her actions at all that led him to weave a certain scenario in his head. Simply being friendly could have been enough. We know nothing about this guy, think of it this way, she went back to his house for pizza, but he invited a stranger to his house and let her sleep over. You can't make yourself responsible for people's mental state and second guess your actions. The onus is entirely on him here.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]



She already got him that far, what did she expect?"

I think there's a difference between "what did you expect" and "next time, try setting boundary A, B, and C before you get to the part where dude toes the line on boundary Z."

I also think there's a massive difference between "well don't wear a short skirt" victim blaming and, like, seriously, kid, don't go home with strange men you meet while lost in the park.


Damn favorite machine won't let me favorite the same comment more than one time!

Seriously, this. If we can take any part of the question as 'how do I avoid these situations again?' a lot of people were suggesting actual things. Therapy, learning boundaries etc.
posted by sweetkid at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


80 favorites doesn't really seem to be that depressing - in a large community, you're going to get some weirdoes. 170-odd people, as mentioned above, favorited orthogonality's godawful "I bet she wouldn't be complaining if a good-looking guy had propositioned her in a elevator" comment.

80 people favoriting a comment which is basically about how older men are still sexual beings, damnit does not seem exceptional. Some people bookmarking it, some affronted older men, some people who don't like women much, some people who didn't read it very closely and came away with one of the charitable glosses related here. It's hardly a referendum on the whole site.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:08 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


In my mind, it really isn't about her actions at all. There is no way of know if it what she did, if she could have done anything differently

If she just said 'bye' after he helped her get out of the park?
posted by sweetkid at 9:11 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


80 people favoriting a comment which is basically about how older men are still sexual beings, damnit does not seem exceptional.

Well, and I don't even necessarily think UT was saying this as a defense of the feelings of the over-50 cohort - the way I was reading it was "don't make assumptions about older men's sex drives; you did so here and it caused all of your actions to be interpreted as romantic towards him." I can see how people think this is blame-y towards MiuMiu but I parsed it as "this is what you need to understand going forward if you want to avoid this again." As in, giving her concrete advice on what not to do. It could have been phrased more gently. I'm a fan of "tough love" but I understand why it rankles others.
posted by thereemix at 9:14 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


In the end, I really think we're not getting enough context or info to go a lot of the places that we're visiting here.

Part of the problem is that people naturally bring their own baggage to these discussions.

Sometimes, this can be quite helpful -- especially with AskMe questions where someone is in an abusive relationship, like this one. Other times, well, this thread has seen several examples of people reacting defensively and bringing up subjects and hypothetical situations which clearly don't apply to the OP, her situation or her post -- at all. Those commenters want to take the conversation where they want it to go, rather than addressing the facts at hand.

The good news is, there are many people here who have been in similar situations who can effectively guide her towards extricating herself.
posted by zarq at 9:17 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sweetkid, all those other posts said it a hell of a lot better than the featured ones. That's like the crux of my, and many others points.
posted by emptythought at 9:19 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


There have been several comments by posters explaining why they favourited the comment, but again, I think it useful to reiterate: people use favourites for different reasons. If it offends you that a comment has been favourited, perhaps think about turning them off. Trying to be the favourite police does not really have a chance of going well here, and if you have any doubts, the very long threads surrounding the introduction of the ability to hide favourites are still around to be read.

As for the situation itself, well, I think the guy was a creep. I think nearly everybody has agreed he was a creep, though some people haven't expressed it as forcefully as others. But the original AskMe question included the poster saying, Then I started crying because I was overwhelmed with disgust that a man old enough to be my dad was looking at me like that the whole time, and I don't think it's unfair for others to suggest that this inability to think of older men as being able to find her desirable led to her misreading/dismissing the situation she was in.

And the idea that there has been assault apologia or gaslighting going on in this thread takes an awful lot of effort to ignore what has been some pretty good-faith discussions involving differences of opinion. I'd suggest rereading splatavian's and DirtyOldTown's comments before making widespread accusations about the userbase.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:19 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's my point though, the fact that some women are stupid enough to believe that men who want to be friends with them actually want to be friends and strangers are safe to become friends with is not a sign that women who get close to a man believing HIS CLAIMS he is platonic are asking for their boundaries to be violated.

Some people just haven't learned how terrible the world is.

Or they already learned and can't psychologically handle seeing how horrible a large portion of people who approach them really are. It feels safer to believe the lie that people who talk to you aren't thinking about violating you or hurting you because they can tell you're prey.

I don't talk to guys because of this, because people assume because I am noticeably cognitively disabled and find it hard to read people or situations it gives them a right or ability to abuse me.

And the general public feeds that when they teach that stupid women deserve what happens to them. Some people have a hard time figuring out how to protect themselves from these things and it doesn't mean they aren't trying or that they deserve or asked for what happened.

Or that the people who take advantage of it don't most often know exactly that they're pushing the boundaries of someone vulnerable in a way that is making them feel vulnerable and overpowered.
posted by xarnop at 9:19 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]



Sweetkid, all those other posts said it a hell of a lot better than the featured ones. That's like the crux of my, and many others points.


What is this in reference to? I'm confused.
posted by sweetkid at 9:20 PM on May 11, 2013


If she just said 'bye' after he helped her get out of the park?

Good point. She could have also asked a hotter guy. Maybe that is the real lesson here.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:20 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


thereemix: I can see how people think this is blame-y towards MiuMiu but I parsed it as "this is what you need to understand going forward if you want to avoid this again."

It absolutely blamed her for creating and perpetuating the situation and also told her that she was being offensively sexist and ageist. He also accused her of lying about her feelings. The "weird fake naïveté" bit.
posted by zarq at 9:23 PM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


If she just said 'bye' after he helped her get out of the park?

Good point. She could have also asked a hotter guy. Maybe that is the real lesson here.


What? No idea what this means.
posted by sweetkid at 9:23 PM on May 11, 2013


the fact that some women are stupid enough to believe that men who want to be friends with them actually want to be friends and strangers are safe to become friends with is not a sign that women who get close to a man believing HIS CLAIMS he is platonic are asking for their boundaries to be violated.

Please stop putting words in people's mouths.

I ask you, as a survivor of sexual assault.
posted by Sara C. at 9:25 PM on May 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Everyone needs to know how to protect themselves and maintain boundaries in a world in which creeps do, indeed, exist. No one would dispute that.

The flipside is that, in a conversation about a situation like this, a disproportionate emphasis on what the woman could/should/would do to prevent the situation from happening actually goes beyond just encouraging her to be safe, and actually helps to reinforce rape culture - wherein sexual assault is accepted as a natural inevitability, like tornadoes, that we must guard against, rather than placing any of the onus on the man to communicate clearly and obtain consent before touching someone who has already refused them.

Women (and all people) should, of course, learn to protect their boundaries and to be on guard. But an equal amount of emphasis should be placed on the responsibility of the pursuer to 1) be clear about their intentions, and 2) accept refusal when it is given.
posted by Ouisch at 9:27 PM on May 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well I still see the comment that "she got closed to him and he opened up" means she was asking for this kind of advances that went beyond her stated wishes.

Assuming good faith on your part, how are you interpreting that statement?
posted by xarnop at 9:27 PM on May 11, 2013


the fact that some women are stupid enough to believe that men who want to be friends with them actually want to be friends and strangers are safe to become friends with is not a sign that women who get close to a man believing HIS CLAIMS he is platonic are asking for their boundaries to be violated

What the actual fuck are you on about.
posted by elizardbits at 9:27 PM on May 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


I don't yay elizarbits is here to be mean too! yay
posted by xarnop at 9:28 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Probably I don't mean anything, it's the silly xarnop show omg lol wtf.
posted by xarnop at 9:29 PM on May 11, 2013


It absolutely blamed her for creating and perpetuating the situation and also told her that she was being offensively sexist and ageist. He also accused her of lying about her feelings. The "weird fake naïveté" bit.

I'm going to have to agree to disgaree with those who read this as blame in the context of the whole of UT's answer.

As for his accusing her of lying about her feelings, I agree that that was fucked up. (I thought this whole thing might be a troll earlier but Miko made a comment earlier that I cannot locate at the moment that caused me to reconsider this notion.) The lying accusation falls under what I said earlier about how if the majority of the answer seems valuable to me I am inclined to favorite it even if there are bits in there that I emphatically do not agree with.

Which comes back to the point that not everyone uses the favorite feature the exact same way. Some people only favorite things they agree 100% with. Some people are like me and favorite things that they think are good advice even if they don't agree 100%. Some people use it as a bookmark. Some people don't use it.
posted by thereemix at 9:29 PM on May 11, 2013


What? No idea what this means.

That if she could go back and do things differently she could have picked a guy she wouldn't mind coming on to her.

Unfortunately she can't. She acted in good faith, and was if anything a bit too trusting, she isn't responsible for how people interperate her actions. His brain is his own. Whatever scenarios he constructed could have happened no matter what she did.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:29 PM on May 11, 2013


the fact that some women are stupid enough to believe that men who want to be friends with them actually want to be friends and strangers are safe to become friends with is not a sign that women who get close to a man believing HIS CLAIMS he is platonic are asking for their boundaries to be violated

What you are doing right now is not okay. If you can't participate in a discussion of an issue that is sensitive for you without distorting other people's comments to make them look worse, then that's a strong sign that it's time to walk away for a while. I'm saying this in kindness. Please stop.
posted by palomar at 9:30 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Xarnop, it sounds like you're really emotional about this. Unfortunately, that isn't helping you make understandable statements. I'm having trouble following you myself -the only thing that's coming through is your general state of upset. Maybe it'd be better to come back to this after a bit of a break?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:30 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


the fact that some women are stupid enough to believe that men who want to be friends with them actually want to be friends ...
Given that you don't know me at all, I'd appreciate you not judging me like this.
posted by dg at 9:31 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey hey I didn't say anyone here said that. It's a common thing that is put on women like me all the time so I hear it EVERYWHERE.

Ah also "stupid enough to think men who want to be friends with them mean what they say" is sarcasm because most people when through a phase or continue to have a phase where they believe men and women can hang out, even in each others houses and alone, and be platonic friends.

It's not a stupid or pathological thing to believe at all.
posted by xarnop at 9:33 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


xarnop: And the general public feeds that when they teach that stupid women deserve what happens to them.

Victim blaming of women isn't restricted to accusations that they are stupid.
posted by zarq at 9:34 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is this in reference to? I'm confused.

this post, sorry, I should have linkquoted as I usually would but I'm on my smartphone.
posted by emptythought at 9:34 PM on May 11, 2013


She made the mistake of assuming good faith in another human being and you're telling her not to be friends with men when they say they want to be platonic friends.

That's a HUGELY different message than most people are taught and it's totally not surprising she hasn't gotten that memo yet. Yes she needs to get it, but that doesn't mean there's something awful about her for not assuming the worst of people which doesn't feel good to do.
posted by xarnop at 9:35 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Women (and all people) should, of course, learn to protect their boundaries and to be on guard. But an equal amount of emphasis should be placed on the responsibility of the pursuer to 1) be clear about their intentions, and 2) accept refusal when it is given.

I agree, of course. And I think that's best practices when we're talking about a theoretical situation. Like maybe an FPP on the blue, or possibly in this thread, though I don't know how we'd divorce this conversation from the AskMe it relates to.

But when someone makes an AskMe and is like "I met this random 50 year old dude in the park and he asked me out so I got in his car and the restaurant he wanted to take me to was closed so we went back to his place and then I slept over despite my extreme fear that he would rape me and ... WTF?????", I don't see how anyone could answer responsibly without telling her that she needs to learn to set some boundaries.

That's an actual situation that is unfolding, and which in the case of the OP seems to reoccur with different older men that she encounters. Are we supposed to refrain from giving advice? Are we supposed to tell her "no, sweetie, men aren't all bad and just keep doing what you're doing, you'll kiss the right frog someday"?
posted by Sara C. at 9:35 PM on May 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


That if she could go back and do things differently she could have picked a guy she wouldn't mind coming on to her.

That's not what I said. Suddenly I'm saying "if the guy were hotter she would have loved the attention?"

You're saying there's nothing she could have done differently to avoid the situation, or to avoid situations like this in the future. I disagree. She didn't have to start a relationship with a stranger met in a park. This isn't just my opinion, and I don't think it excuses HIS behavior, at all, but I do think it's valuable for people to know how not to get in a situation that is going to make them uncomfortable. I don't think it's helpful to say that she could have done nothing differently, and I definitely don't think "she shoulda picked a hotter guy wink wink" is what I was saying at all.
posted by sweetkid at 9:36 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah sorry, the sarcasm didn't work, the point is society SHOULDN'T call women stupid for this.
posted by xarnop at 9:36 PM on May 11, 2013


'Society' also shouldn't assume that men can't like women platonically or that every time a man talks to a female it's because he's trying to get into her pants. Oh, wait, society didn't say that, you did.
posted by dg at 9:40 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are we supposed to refrain from giving advice? Are we supposed to tell her "no, sweetie, men aren't all bad and just keep doing what you're doing, you'll kiss the right frog someday"?

Not at all. I think much of the advice given was good. However it was definitely heavily weighted in one direction, which bothered me, especially given the presence of comments that seemed to me more overtly blaming and derailing.
posted by Ouisch at 9:41 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's not what I said. Suddenly I'm saying "if the guy were hotter she would have loved the attention?"

What? No I'm not even disagreeing with you or implying you meant anything. I agree with you she could have just went home.

I was saying it could have been a "meet cute" story if not for the fact that the guy was 50. So I'm saying the real lesson is always ask for directions from people you are attracted to.

The real lesson is I gotta stop making light of stuff.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:41 PM on May 11, 2013


"'Society' also shouldn't assume that men can't like women platonically or that every time a man talks to a female it's because he's trying to get into her pants. Oh, wait, society didn't say that, you did."

That's why it's so weird to call women who give men the benefit of the doubt stupid or naive when so many men want us to assume good faith in them.

I used to be the girl who did that because I cared about men's feelings and didn't want to be a mean feminist and call men out in mean ways or assume the worst of them.

It worked out really well for me.
posted by xarnop at 9:42 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Some people are like me and favorite things that they think are good advice even if they don't agree 100%.

That's perfectly reasonable as an approach, sure - although in this case it was terrible advice, since it was in effect advising her to see the boundary-pushing, instigation of sexual conversations, requests for massages and anger at refusals and repeated touching in the face of requests to stop as "opening up".

However, terrible advice is not in itself deleteworthy, as far as I understand it. I'm still not exactly sure what this MeTa was intended to achieve, in those terms, although the discussion has been interesting.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:42 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, I think a good way of giving advice in a situation like this is to give some combination of messages that include, "Yes this happens, no it's not okay, and it's also not your fault - but here is how you can help protect yourself/be safer." Without the first part, the last part comes off as blaming. It also ignores that many woman have been socialized to not defend themselves in the first place.

Is this where I identify as someone who has experienced sexual assault? Well, okay whatever. I am.
posted by Ouisch at 9:44 PM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


it could have been a "meet cute" story if not for the fact that the guy was 50.

Oh, come on now. I'm going to take it that you're joking, but haven't we been through enough testimonial now to realize that even if he was 25, that's no guarantee of a "meet cute" story, or better boundaries, or personal safety? I'm sure you were "making light," but is a thread like this a great place for comedy lines?
posted by Miko at 9:44 PM on May 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Oh, come on now. I'm going to take it that you're joking, but haven't we been through enough testimonial now to realize that even if he was 25, that's no guarantee of a "meet cute" story, or personal safety?

I was going to be glib and say "well people meet, get along well enought and reproduce all the time there is a non-zero chance it could have worked out". But ultimately you are right, I apologize to everyone.This is a serious situation and I am minimizing it by implying that life is like a romantic comedy in any way.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:51 PM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


but the age-specific qualifier irks me more than it should.

If you've read any discussions on age difference on the blue you might have noticed that metafilter doesn't do that topic very well.

Back when I was in college 'freshman day' was always a big deal. Parents would drop off their 18 year old daughters to check into their dorms. Often, this was their first time away from home, away from parents and friends. They were overwhelmed, lonely, nervous, and much less experienced in all kinds of social situations. There was always a segment of upperclassmen that did everything possible to take advantage of the difference in experience, power, etc. Basically, they were the guy in the story, but much younger.

The age of the man is important here to understand the ask-mefi question, and it helps when trying to give an answer. The OP thought the age difference meant something that it actually didn't mean. That's a problem, and important. And he took advantage of her preconceptions about the age difference.

But a creepy guy is a creepy guy, whether 22 or 52, and (in the big picture), attaching an age to general creepiness, isn't helpful, I agree.
posted by justgary at 9:52 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


xarnop: Yeah sorry, the sarcasm didn't work, the point is society SHOULDN'T call women stupid for this.

Yes. My point was that this is part of a larger problem.

I'd like to mention that I have had a lot of trouble parsing your comments in this thread. Sarcasm is not always easily discernible when all we have to work with is text. And while I will freely admit that perhaps I'm just not smart enough or quick-witted enough to pick up on it all the time, I don't seem to be the only person here having difficulty.

On the one hand, you've said things that I totally agree with. I also feel very strongly that sexual abuse survivors (of which I am one) should not be blamed in any way for what happened to them. On the other... you make comments that I interpret as "some women do ask for their boundaries to be violated." Which makes me want to throw my keyboard at my monitor.
posted by zarq at 9:52 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Thanks for that.
posted by Miko at 9:52 PM on May 11, 2013


But Ouisch, that was the upshot of a lot of the advice in the AskMe. So where does that leave us? There were some shitty answers in there, but there were a lot shittier answers than "don't go home with random dudes you meet in the park".

I mean, in a theoretical sense I suppose we can throw out there that victim blaming is bad, but I really don't think the problem with that question was the victim blaming, like, at all.

I mean except for UT's answer, which was just beyond the pale gross and bad. But I don't exactly see UT here having this conversation, so it's sort of a moot/pointless thing to add.
posted by Sara C. at 9:56 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then we disagree. Let's leave it at that.
posted by Ouisch at 9:58 PM on May 11, 2013


but the age-specific qualifier irks me more than it should.

Tell me about it. I'm 50, and seeing that specific number attached again and again and again to "creep" and "creepy" is rather dispiriting.
posted by nacho fries at 9:58 PM on May 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


""some women do ask for their boundaries to be violated."

Where am I saying that? I'd like to clear that up because it's something I certainly not agree with in any capacity.
posted by xarnop at 9:58 PM on May 11, 2013


It's probably your sarcastic posts, xarnop. Since sarcasm doesn't translate well in text, it's very hard to figure out what you're actually trying to say, and I can only speak for myself when I say that it makes me not want to participate in this discussion with you.
posted by palomar at 10:00 PM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Well I respect if you choose not to respond to my comments. I try not to be sarcastic but sometimes when I can't believe how horrible some ideas are it's hard to talk about the fact people think that way without sarcasm. I apologize my coping mechanism makes my communication style unpleasant and I do agree this on my end. One day when they figure out some cure beyond the oodles of therapy and meds and various every single thing you can do, I will be able to write coherently but I'm not sure that will happen, ever.

So you and the many people who find my comments grating are welcome to not engage with my comments and I'm sorry for emotional upset that might occur from my participation.
posted by xarnop at 10:04 PM on May 11, 2013


If you can't stop yourself from being sarcastic in this thread or about this topic, xarnop, maybe you should take a break and step back for a bit. As someone who's been through rape and sexual assault, I feel really uncomfortable and upset by some of your comments.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:05 PM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Tell me about it. I'm 50, and seeing that number attached again and again and again to "creep" and "creepy" is rather dispiriting.

I understand that this can be hurtful, and it is of course an unfair stereotype. But in the context of a world where women are frequently sexually assaulted and harassed by men, and in this question in particular where a woman's boundaries were repeatedly violated by a man with whom she perceived there to be some power imbalance (she mentions the age difference, as well as her tendency to want a fatherly influence), it comes off as a little strange and perhaps entitled to center the conversation about this relatively minor thing.
posted by Ouisch at 10:06 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sexual assault is not a topic that deserves to be met with or discussed through sarcasm.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:06 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


sweetkid: "I don't think the question is fake. I think it might be by someone who for whatever reason likes or intentionally courts drama and attention in life and by posting here."

Jumping waaaaaaay back in the thread, but I think sometimes posters who are not native speakers of English, who write excellent English, but not quite idiomatic English, can be in a bit of an "uncanny valley" for native speakers. My first read-through of the question made me feel uneasy, and wonder a bit if it was "trolling" or a very, very young teenager exaggerating for effect. I thought it was probably in good faith, but I did feel uneasy. (And I therefore didn't post to the thread.) I've noticed that people with great-but-not-idiomatic English are a bit more likely to get grilled, accused of being misleading, or wildly tone-misinterpreted in a thread. I think that's absolutely natural and not something we should go around getting blamey about -- the "tone" of such a post is a bit off-kilter because of unfelicitous word choices or odd turns of phrase ("hand massage"), and people react to that without quite being able to pinpoint why it comes across as not-quite-straightforward. But it helps to be aware of it, I think, that sometimes things come across as contrived, artificial, or lacking in candor, when in fact the poster is just a nearly-perfect (but not quite perfect!) writer in a non-native language. And I think that's some of what was at work here and why people were reacting very strongly and sometimes a little strangely.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:06 PM on May 11, 2013 [21 favorites]


For those concerned about favoriting (and other issues) in the original post, I'd just point out that a contentious Metatalk about any post is likely to create an "artificial" situation in the original thread, both in terms of favorites, number of comments, and positions those comments take. People get angry, emotional, upset, dug-in, and frustrated with each other in these Metatalk threads and often "take sides" to emphasize their point in the original thread... and the actual person and their problem can become collateral damage, to some degree, in a battle over general issues.

This is one reason I have deep, deep reservations regarding Metatalk posts about Ask Me questions and answers, and get a sort of stomach clench every time one comes up, and why I ask for people to not try to deconstruct the original poster or make this the Ask Me thread by proxy where people can say pretty much anything rather than be bound by Ask Metafilter guidelines.

This is a problem I'd like to talk more about, but for now, in this thread, wow... I'd like to make a plea that everyone take a breath, and try to be civil with each other, and also reconsider remarks about the OP of the original post. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:09 PM on May 11, 2013 [20 favorites]


Yes I'm happy to try not to use sarcasm but I think some of the garbled speech is that I simply have garbled speech/typing. I don't think I can ever listen to sexual abuse apology without having my speech impaired. I'm not sure that asking survivors to not partipate in discussions that relate to how the community treats them because of difficulty typing clearly in such conversations is a good thing.
posted by xarnop at 10:09 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


it comes off as a little strange and perhaps entitled to center the conversation about this relatively minor thing

I'm not sure I follow -- are you saying the conversation in this thread has focused overly much on the age factor, or that I myself am centering my portion of the conversation on that topic?

By the way, the age-centric stuff in this thread isn't personally hurtful to me. People can think whatever suits them about aging. My own experience of 50 has been positive; it's been the best year of my life so far. It's just the juxtaposition of that particular number with the creeper that makes me twitchy.
posted by nacho fries at 10:13 PM on May 11, 2013


All due respect, xarnop, but many other posters in this thread who also identify as abuse survivors have asked for a stop to the sarcasm because it is upsetting to them. I'm sorry that you were abused, but when your coping mechanism is one that makes having a discussion about this issue impossible without causing upset to other survivors... well, at what point is there room in the world for anyone's hurt besides your own? At what point are you expected to manage your boundaries well enough to participate in a sensitive discussion without stomping all over someone else's boundaries?
posted by palomar at 10:15 PM on May 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


Sorry nacho fries, you're right - it certainly hasn't been the center of the conversation as a whole here. It is probably just me, but when it came up in the original thread and again here, it just struck an off-note to me.
posted by Ouisch at 10:17 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think I can ever listen to sexual abuse apology without having my speech impaired.

Word of advice?

For your own sanity, stay away from stuff about sexual assault if you feel this way.

I say that with all kindness, though I guess it doesn't come off that way.

The vast, vast majority of any talk about rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, abusive relationships, and to an extent even "rape culture" on metafilter gives me the flying wiggins. Not so much because the discussion is bad -- the conversation on this at metafilter is a zillion times better than just about anywhere else.

But it always brings me back to this place. I'm never sure if I can trust myself to be entirely rational, or to keep the gloves on, or to avoid obnoxious "byeeeeeeee" flouncing. So I just stay away. It's just not a conversation I need to be a part of all the time. I guess this is what people mean when they talk about "triggers".

Obviously I'm participating in this now, mainly because the original AskMe question really hit home for me.

But seriously, if you don't think you can stay composed, just don't participate. It's the only way to keep a cool head about something so intense.
posted by Sara C. at 10:18 PM on May 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Like I said there was one sarcastic comment that I'm happy to retract. I sincerely think that you might be reading my dyslexic word use as evidence of sarcasm that might not be there. I said that I thought it was cruel and sadistic to side with abuse apology and I still think that but I'm happy to here why some people did not think the comment in question was normalizing the actions of the abusive man.

That was not sarcasm but I can appreciate that it was inflammatory and am happy to hear why others interperet the same situation differently.
posted by xarnop at 10:18 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's why it's so weird to call women who give men the benefit of the doubt stupid or naive when so many men want us to assume good faith in them.

Xarnop, no one said the OP was "stupid" for not given men in general the benefit of doubt. The argument was that it was naive to not think this specific man was sexual interested in the OP after this man's specific actions.

There's a difference between "this is your fault" and "there are a couple things you could have done differently/things you missed that would have led to a better outcome for you". The part of UT's comment that seems to really bother you wasn't a general statement about male entitlement, but a reaction to the off-putting framing of the question (the inherent "creepiness" of an older guy being attracted to a younger woman) that went off the mark.
posted by spaltavian at 10:23 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


xarnop, that was my takeaway from this: the fact that some women are stupid enough to believe that men who want to be friends with them actually want to be friends and strangers are safe to become friends with is not a sign that women who get close to a man believing HIS CLAIMS he is platonic are asking for their boundaries to be violated

I know that you clarified your meaning and emphasized that you were being sarcastic later in the thread. But still, anyone who didn't read your sarcasm probably felt you were calling women who believe it possible for men and women to have a platonic friendship stupid.

So you and the many people who find my comments grating are welcome to not engage with my comments and I'm sorry for emotional upset that might occur from my participation.

Abuse, rape and particularly sexual abuse of children are all topics that I find particularly difficult to talk about here. I very often literally clench my jaw and grind my teeth when writing out comments on those topics. And I try very hard not to turn comments about them into rants. I write them and rewrite them and sometimes just delete them unposted. Because I went through it myself and have trouble thinking objectively and expressing myself without anger.

It's not so much that your comments are grating. Again, it may be that this is all my problem and I'm missing some obvious cues. But the sarcasm makes it hard for me to figure out where you stand, whom you are condemning and what your feelings really are. I read at least a couple of your comments as blaming women and it upset me, so some of the things you said sarcastically in this thread gave me a very emotional reaction.
posted by zarq at 10:24 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


All due respect, xarnop, but many other posters in this thread who also identify as abuse survivors have asked for a stop to the sarcasm because it is upsetting to them. I'm sorry that you were abused, but when your coping mechanism is one that makes having a discussion about this issue impossible without causing upset to other survivors... well, at what point is there room in the world for anyone's hurt besides your own? At what point are you expected to manage your boundaries well enough to participate in a sensitive discussion without stomping all over someone else's boundaries?

xarnop I do not want to pile on you but I am uncomfortable with the fact that there are a lot of people here including myself who have felt the need to mention that they too are survivors of sexual assault as a justification for how we are responding to the original question, UT's response, and your contributions to the discussion. I cannot speak for the others who have mentioned their being a survivor, but I am not that comfortable talking about what happened to me in as public a forum as this because there are people IRL who know my username here who do not know what happened to me and I don't want them to know because I don't want to deal with what I know will be a lot of victim-blaming bullshit that will just reopen all of the old wounds when I have spent a great many years learning how to process and move on from what happened. I really do hear where you are coming from, I think more than you think I do. Survivors of abuse can and should participate in these discussions if they want to, but I think that you are making a lot of unfair assumptions in your comments and it feels like you are coming from a place of "No one here understands this because they didn't have fucked up things happen to them all their life" and then it has the potential to turn into a hierarchies of pain competition and I don't think that would be constructive. I know you are not intentionally doing this and I do think your contributions are valuable and important but some of what you are saying and how you are saying it is really upsetting me.
posted by thereemix at 10:25 PM on May 11, 2013 [36 favorites]


thereemix, thanks for saying that.
posted by zarq at 10:27 PM on May 11, 2013


Again I really think my dyslexia is more prominant than my sarcasm and I apologize because if I could convey myself accurately you would certainly not feel that I want women to be blamed ever, or anyone to be blamed for this.

People who are naturally trusting and see the good in people and want to believe in them can be so abused. And no it's not their fault.

Even if they never figure it out, it's not their fault. Of course survivors can have whatever opinion they want, but I know as a survivor I blamed myself for a long time and in fact felt like it didn't even matter if more abuse happened because I was so stupid for letting these things happen.

I don't want anyone to feel that way and I do think it's helpful to point out, for those of us who don't want to victim blame, that the comment in question in this thread is problematic and I think worthy of discussion. It's metatalk everyone can talk here, and survivors are welcome to disagree with me, but I think the comment was rooted in a mean spirited level of blame that sometimes survivors take out on themselves too.

It also is REALLY important not to normalize abusive behavior and I see others think the comment didn't normalize his behavior so I guess we can just disagree.
posted by xarnop at 10:32 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm never sure if I can trust myself to be entirely rational, or to keep the gloves on, or to avoid obnoxious "byeeeeeeee" flouncing. So I just stay away. It's just not a conversation I need to be a part of all the time. I guess this is what people mean when they talk about "triggers".

Obviously I'm participating in this now, mainly because the original AskMe question really hit home for me.


Sara C. - Your comments have actually been very enlightening and your description of the surreal aspect amazing. I don’t think it’s fair that you, or anyone else, have to expose yourself in a public way to educate the rest of us, but I appreciate the effort.
posted by bongo_x at 10:36 PM on May 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


Also if anyone wants to memail me any comments other than the one comment containing the word stupid that sound like I think survivors deserve blame, I would be interested in knowing so that I can understand where my communication fails me.
posted by xarnop at 10:51 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Victim blaming is definitely bad, but so is telling someone whose actions and behaviors are definitely contributing to a pattern of victimization that they should keep doing what they're doing because they can't possibly be at fault since only a victimizer can bear blame during a bad situation. There are ways to be proactive about your safety without buying into the bullshit that is "the victim was asking for it because of X".

That's what the answers that thread really struck me as, anyway. The sexual assault aspects aside, there was a distinct sense to me that MiuMiu has some serious problems with boundaries in the thread in question (as well as many of her previous questions) and I don't think telling her, no this is not your fault, and here's how to really get a better sense of reality so this doesn't happen again (though it might) is victim blaming. TU's comment was just on the cusp of being an appropriate reality check, but fell short in the end, and that disappointed me because I wanted to respond to the post with a similar admonition but knew that TU had already set a precedent that would get many people up in arms. Now we're playing that scene out again here, and it's hard to watch.

But I have had a very specific process of dealing with the sexual assault I've encountered, so my thoughts may be coloring my judgement.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:53 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Aww, thanks, bongo_x.
posted by Sara C. at 10:53 PM on May 11, 2013


Xarnop, take a break from this thread now. Everyone else, please continue if there is more to discuss productively, but let's drop the back and forth with xarnop now. If we're pretty much done otherwise, I can close this.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:59 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


oh god please do.
posted by elizardbits at 11:02 PM on May 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Victim blaming is definitely bad, but so is telling someone whose actions and behaviors are definitely contributing to a pattern of victimization that they should keep doing what they're doing because they can't possibly be at fault since only a victimizer can bear blame during a bad situation.

I agree that this would be bad. I certainly wasn't intending to do this with my comments, and I don't recall seeing it happening in the thread, either.
posted by Ouisch at 11:09 PM on May 11, 2013


That was me playing devil's advocate for TU. My response to MiuMiu's post was honesty really similar to TU's, because while I could totally empathize with what had happened to MiuMiu I was also super bewildered and slightly perturbed by how she was describing what happened, and seeing TU's response (though harsh) made me feel like someone else was seeing the same, flawed, patterns of behavior that I was. I should have clarified my previous comment to communicate that more accurately. My bad.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:18 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I, for one, think that this was a productive MeTa thread. I learned something super interesting in some of the rape culture links up top (especially the mythcommunication one about indirect refusals). Also, I think that the OP would get at a much more nuanced perspective on her question, and situation, by reading all the opinions here.
posted by htid at 11:20 PM on May 11, 2013


I'm glad to hear that, htid. My feelings since starting it have been ambivalent to say the least. But I learned some things as well, and there were some wonderfully articulated responses in amongst all the arguing and hurt feelings, so there is that.

I tried to make my OP about the action, not the person, but I can see how my post would come across as hostile, shaming, etc. And I do regret that, because Metafilter has been a great, positive place for me, all in all.
posted by Broseph at 12:01 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


This has been a depressing thread, but I agree that there have been some really valuable comments and insights within it.

It is worth being reminded that we should treat other MeFites as acting in good faith in discussions of sensitive subjects like this, and not assume the worst interpretations of their comments. I do wish, though, that we as a community were a little better at extending this compassion and good-faith presumption to MeFites who are asking questions like this one, and not let our general enthusiasm for 'tough love' responses override that. Calling someone's naïveté "weird" and "fake" crossed that line for me, and I'm glad we could have a discussion about it, even if that discussion got messy.
posted by Catseye at 12:26 AM on May 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


Tell me about it. I'm 50, and seeing that number attached again and again and again to "creep" and "creepy" is rather dispiriting.
Me too, for exactly the same reason.

I understand that this can be hurtful, and it is of course an unfair stereotype. But in the context of a world where women are frequently sexually assaulted and harassed by men, and in this question in particular where a woman's boundaries were repeatedly violated by a man with whom she perceived there to be some power imbalance (she mentions the age difference, as well as her tendency to want a fatherly influence), it comes off as a little strange and perhaps entitled to center the conversation about this relatively minor thing.
Well, it's not even on the same planet of hurtful as being sexually abused. But yes, it's hurtful to be automatically branded creepy just because of my age. Doubly so within a community that is less likely to indulge in knee-jerk stereotyping than just about anywhere else I've seen. Triply so as someone who already has almost no self-confidence with women when there is the slightest possibiliy of any romantic outcome and who, at 50, is facing spending the rest of his life alone because of it. If these intelligent, knowledgable, cool people think I'm a creep, well what chance do I really have?

I'm not looking for sympathy or to pretend that anything I have to worry about is anything close to what abuse survivors deal with every day. Just trying to explain why I arced up about the age thing so much.
posted by dg at 1:10 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is worth being reminded that we should treat other MeFites as acting in good faith in discussions of sensitive subjects like this, and not assume the worst interpretations of their comments.

For some reason I thought this would be a basic tenet of this site. And yet we need like, a message above the askme comment box that says this. Beyond what the "only post constructive things that answer the question" one says.

Because while this is a contentious subject, I see the same issue creep up in relationship threads as well, and many others. And it's something I see a lot on other parts of the Internet too.

It's a sort of contrarian, devils advocate-ish "lets take a look at this from the other side, what if we read your comment this uncharitable way?" Thing. The problem is, it often wrecks the thread in to either a pile on of whatever that was thematically. It's all the other persons fault? Well let's read it all like that. Omg, DTMFA! It's all your fault for not doing XYZ? Well let's burn you down!

It reminds me of the negative early comments on the blue thing. But in askme, it's more like negative comments any time before the thread is almost dead. It only takes one person reading what was written in a certain interpretation and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon as if the Internet detective squad cracked the case.

Yes, sometimes someone is blatantly trying to frame something in a BS way, but a lot of the time it comes off as "let's read this post in the least charitable way possible" and comes right back to what I was saying about how hey, is sympathy and compassion some precious limited resource?

It's a cynicism and attitude thing, and a lot of times it almost strikes me as bad faith. Ugh.
posted by emptythought at 1:22 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hi!! This is OP here :)
I'm sorry I'm replying so late! I just finished reading all the above.

Thank you to all of you very much for all the navigation advice, constructive criticism and helpful info!!! I'm still digesting them but can see that this is obviously a very controversial topic (sorry to start the stir) and I need to start really being careful with my thinking and actions.......

These two people said things that I think are close to what I was doing (thank you!):

stoneandstar:
"Speaking from my experience the OP probably knew things were going "awry" (she did, after all, stand up for herself when he touched her) but thought that the foundation of their "friendship" was firm enough that she just had to head off some inappropriate advances"

Sara C.:
"Like "this is too much like sexual assault, therefore I must be misunderstanding some social cue that makes it OK."



As I look back on the incident, I was getting more and more grossed out by his touching and all that, but I also felt confused by them because I had thought we were friends.
And I don't mean to offend any of you, but at that time I thought:
"Well, all these actions seem so perverted, but what do I do? He's still my friend, right? I mean, he has done many nice things for me, too. I guess he's just a naturally perverted person, which is gross, but he can't be serious about me, so I probably don't need to say something that might piss him off or end friendship. As long as he's not serious, maybe I can handle this for now, and hopefully he'll soon grow out of this weird inappropriate phase. Ahh but it's still gross! And why does he say weird stuff like:
Him: "It's impossible not to touch you."
Me: "You mean you can't control it?!"
Him: "Well... it's like asking the sun not to rise, haha." (instead of directly answering)

So as I was basically doing all this indecisive thinking, it went on... and finally finding out him being serious was just a omg-collapse moment for me.

Thank you again for all your participation!!!
posted by MiuMiu at 2:11 AM on May 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


Hi MiuMiu -

Glad you're feeling better and getting a bit help here - I remember being homeless and accepting an offer of shelter from an older guy at a recovery meeting who later turned out to be an abuser operating under the guise of a 'helper'. While the situations are not an exact match - I got away in time and it looks like you did too so that's great.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:32 AM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I remember being homeless and accepting an offer of shelter from an older guy at a recovery meeting who later turned out to be an abuser.

I do wonder if men and women are wired differently in this respect? Back in my teens, I had quite a lot of experiences with older men pretending to be something else in order to try and get in your pants. I don't ever remember being surprised by it though. Perhaps there's something in teenage boy culture that propagates the message that the *only* reason older men would be interested in us is to try and have sex with us? Teachers, scout leaders, vicars and choir masters were all continually suspect.

As example of this process at work can be explored through a critical look at one of our local bogeymen, Purple 'let me touch your muscles, boys' Aki.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:51 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I too found the 85 favorites on that comment somewhat disappointing - I guess I expected something else from Metafilter.

Also, I know xarnop may have upset some people in this thread, but I'm still grateful she added her voice and opinion to the discussion. Perhaps some of her comments could have been better phrased, but I support and appreciate the gist of what she is trying to say.
posted by aielen at 3:24 AM on May 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


This thread seems to have devolved into anecdotes about older sexual predators. I'm wondering what exactly these anecdotes are supposed to reveal about wider tolerance of any kind of sexuality in older men. This for me was the reason that the original AskMe question was objectionable, it seemed to suggested that any kind of sexual need in men over 50 was 'creepy'. This is not to argue against the idea that some men over 50 will be creepy but the list of stories does not speak to the wider issue, it merely throws mud to obscure the orginal objection. Its on a par with saying you got mugged by a black man so you need to be careful around all black men.

Purple Aki though, there's a name I never expected to see on MeFi.
posted by biffa at 3:45 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering what exactly these anecdotes are supposed to reveal about wider tolerance of any kind of sexuality in older men.

That certainly isn't the issue that I was addressing. I just found it baffling that a young woman would voluntarily go home with a strange man that she met in the park and not suspect that sex was his primary agenda. My point was that that would be the first thing that would spring to mind for a young man.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:30 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just found it baffling that a young woman would voluntarily go home with a strange man that she met in the park and not suspect that sex was his primary agenda. My point was that that would be the first thing that would spring to mind for a young man.

I think it is also the first thing that would spring to mind for most young women. NOT victim-blaming, simply pointing out that her behaviour is an outlier to the norm in my experience.
posted by bardophile at 4:41 AM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


MiuMiu, you didn't start the stir, you just lifted the lid ;-). I hope you can get something useful as as result of asking your question.
posted by dg at 4:45 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


it seemed to suggested that any kind of sexual need in men over 50 was 'creepy'

That would be pretty awful, but I don't think that's what was being expressed. I think if you view someone else as a parent-"type", and that person hits on you, you will probably find it extremely unsettling, whatever word is used to describe it. (I'm crazy in love with a wonderful man in his 50s, fwiw, but I'm his age. If I was trying to drum up action with someone 20-something, I would fully expect them to consider it creepy*). I don't think it's specifically a man thing, or even an age thing, so much as an age-difference thing.

Think of it this way: if you met a nice person in his/her 80s who was interesting and kind and helpful about giving you advice, etc. would you think of them as a potential sexual partner? Or would you be more likely to view them as something more akin to an aunt or uncle / motherly or fatherly-type person, in general terms? Because that's the sort of age difference we're talking about. This does happen and works out for some people, but generally it's not surprising that someone 30 years younger is probably not thinking of you (general "you") in a sexual way.


* and vice-versa; I'd feel very disturbed if the whippersnapper were hitting on me. Get off all my lawns!
posted by taz (staff) at 5:08 AM on May 12, 2013 [29 favorites]


I'm wondering what exactly these anecdotes are supposed to reveal about wider tolerance of any kind of sexuality in older men.

That there is an unsurprisingly widespread, geographically unbound social awareness of how a swath of older men use power imbalances to satisfy their sexual appetites, which translates not only into gut-feeling wariness when faced with it (in most), but aversion of situations conducive to it. And even then, that wariness does not keep one safe.

Also, that this social awareness is rooted in a painfully-long history of patriarchal systems making it that much easier for older men who are interested in exploiting younger women to do so.

I've been following the AskMe and MeTa posts since they began, and I did not witness a gavel-swing moment for tolerance of older men's sexuality. The anecdotes are relevant to the circumstances surrounding the OP's question, which DID include a power imbalance and sexual assault. That isn't an attack on older men who continue to be sexual beings; it's a discussion of older men who continue to be sexual beings and exploit people's weaknesses to do so. Am I missing something?

Its on a par with saying you got mugged by a black man so you need to be careful around all black men.

No, it absolutely is not, and drawing that parallel was not necessary.
posted by Ashen at 5:27 AM on May 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


Its on a par with saying you got mugged by a black man so you need to be careful around all black men.

But... nobody said "50 year old men are all creeps, just avoid them!!" Like, not even close. I do have friends and mentors who are 40-50 year old men (professionally, academically), and if they think about me sexually, I don't know about it, because they have tact and social skills.

However, most young people (younger than 30 mostly) are going to be relatively uncomfortable when they're hit on by a man or woman much older than them, not least of all because to be an older adult and hit on a very young adult usually requires some kind of trespassing of typical social boundaries.

I doubt anyone is saying that 50-year-old men are so disgusting, how could they think about sex, because when I think about a 50-year-old man in a relationship or having sex with a woman close to his age, it seems very normal. But the conversation is always about the right of older men to pursue younger women. I do think it's a bit of an ethical issue-- be attracted to whomever, but having sex with people who are in maturity much younger than you and who are inclined to trust you as an authority figure or even a father figure should maybe ring some alarm bells, especially if they are observably naive about your interest in them.

I mean, Catcher in the Rye is basically about a young man learning/ruminating on the fact that though older people seem like they should protect and help younger people, they take advantage of them (sexually and otherwise) instead. There is a bit of a learning curve once one becomes sexually mature-- it doesn't always mean they're emotionally mature or ready to be 100% callous and adult. They're still learning about trust.

I don't understand why "older men expressing attraction to younger women who they treat as their mentee or 'young ward' is uncomfortable" is the same as "gross, old men!" Or why these discussions of older male sexuality are all about how older men have the right to hit on younger women, when come on. Pick on someone your own size, maybe. (There are exceptions to the rule, but I really think they are exceptions.) Older women are not told they have the pick of the litter because everyone is aware that younger men will probably chase younger women.

It's not because the bodies or psyches of 50-year-old people are repulsive, either (though there is a weird idea in our culture that because women are "less physical," they don't care about looks or youth). It's because there's an obvious, notable difference in emotional maturity between a 23-year-old and a 50-year-old, and that is disturbing. The fact that there's a stigma around age and older bodies might make that seem more offensive but I think the part that people would call CREEPY is the actual behavior, and the fact that most 50-year-old men don't just wake up with 50-year-old bodies-- they have also had 20+ extra years on the planet to develop emotionally and lose some of their vulnerabilities.

I was on my break from work a few weeks ago at a lunch counter when an older guy, probably between 50-55, started chatting me up rather weirdly. He sat down next to me, asked me my name, told me I was a beautiful woman, and tried to give me chocolate. That was fucking weird. And for the record, he was a good-looking guy. But when someone lacks the social cues to NOT try to seduce a younger woman with candy when she's obviously on lunch from a professional job is just fucking ughh it's like a worm crawling through my brain, gross. Creepy. It has nothing to do with the inherent ickiness of age and everything to do with inappropriate behavior.

If an older man is using his age specifically to act like a father figure and then leverages that for sex, it's pretty difficult not to feel ultimately creeped out!

In fact, it's the people on the side of 50-year-old people who are saying "yeah, most older men are trying to sleep with you, how dare you assume we're not," so whatever. My point is that not all men are creepy, despite how sexually interested they are. Some have manners, respect, and self-control. At any age. There are many older men in my life who I would feel very comfortable spending time with, because they don't have the habit or inclination to take advantage of the inexperience of younger people.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:05 AM on May 12, 2013 [42 favorites]


And I appreciated xarnop's comments and didn't have a difficult time parsing them, but that's just me.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:09 AM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


(Anyway, taz expressed much thoughts much more concisely and less bitterly.)
posted by stoneandstar at 6:10 AM on May 12, 2013


I too am upset by the reaction to the question, and the skepticism about its being posed at all.

I'm not young, nor a foreign student, nor even particularly naive, but I have seriously contemplated posing a similar question, because of experiences like this and a subsequent experience in which an attached colleague came on to me very inappropriately, then went out of his way to paint it as an error of judgement and assure me we were colleagues and friends, *then* by a combination of circumstances that I no longer believe arose by chance, ended up being my only ally at that workplace when I was effectively mobbed.

Of course, both of them were just grooming me. In case anyone didn't read the first link, the first guy accused me of leading him on in order to extract conversations and car rides to the hospital, precious "resources" of his that I thought were signs of friendship when I particularly needed a friend, but which he wouldn't have shared if he'd known in advance that he wouldn't have been paid for with sex.

Now, both of these situations were, for me, situations of dire need and vulnerability in which the offers of assistance and moral support were real lifelines to me and I accepted them from that position. Yes, I was especially suspicious in the second case but, if I'd believed those suspicions, I would really have had to believe the absolute worst of someone who was trying to help me, and helping me in ways that nobody else was; and in the end you have to trust someone, right? Besides, he was younger and really hot and always talking about his GF and just, overall, not in the category of guys I thought needed to be screened for sexual designs on me; I figured even if he did have a little crush on me, ultimately we had a friendly professional relationship... Yeah. That turned out exactly the way everyone here will already have expected it did, but to me it was all horrifyingly new.

[p.s. That would be an example of an attractive man whose approach nonetheless rendered him completely creepy]

And the question I seriously thought about asking was this: if, in a situation of dire need, a man offers me help, should I always refuse it because there could be ulterior motives behind it? Men, have you ever offered help and moral support to a female friend in need and *not* been expecting more than friendship in return? Maybe not a sleazy casting-couch way, but perhaps in an XKCD We Could Be Friends!!! way?

Now, I didn't ask the question, in part because I know what the answers would be anyway (the thread in question confirms that) but also because it's offensive (and besides what guy is going to chime in and say "yes I would totally expect a woman who availed herself of my resources to contribute resources of her own, and I don't mean domestic maid service either"? Oh, wait).

But the thing is, even though I decided not to ask such an offensive question, the next time I'm in dire need and a man offers a helping hand, I am seriously going to have to consider what I might be getting into, however friendly or harmless he might appear. It's still going to be a question for me, even if it isn't a suitable question for the green. And if I get the answer wrong a third time, I might be faced with consequences I can't recover from. Yeah I shouldn't ask such an offensive question, but also, it's offensive (to me) that I actually have this question in my head, needing answers.

Society' also shouldn't assume that men can't like women platonically or that every time a man talks to a female it's because he's trying to get into her pants. Oh, wait, society didn't say that, you did

Except that society does say this. There are entire Hollywood classic blockbusting movies about how men and women can't be friends. Maybe it's not an open and shut case, but there are more than enough comments on the green every day that support the idea that male-female friendships are inherently sexually charged and ambiguous, or likely to be.

the fact that some women are stupid enough to believe that men who want to be friends with them actually want to be friends and strangers are safe to become friends with is not a sign that women who get close to a man believing HIS CLAIMS he is platonic are asking for their boundaries to be violated.

As upsetting as this comment may have been to a lot of people, I was glad it was made because I do think I saw it underlying some of the comments in that thread, I often think I see it underlying some of the comments I read in some other threads, and as for my own personal experience I had plenty of people say this to me in both situations. Yes, apparently letting a man drive you to the hospital can constitute "leading him on" if you don't do it exactly right, and (so I was told) the response of the guy in the first anecdote was really "quite nice from someone who's just had his hopes dashed," and so this led me to agree to be friends with him partly because it's what I thought was fair and partly because we had to work together and I couldn't get away. And being friends was itself considered leading him on! Kind of like continuing to accept inappropriate touching in return for a place to stay even though you've said you don't want it.

Do I think the points about agency, boundary setting, and comprehending how situations are likely to be read whether we like it or not - aren't those essential points that had to be made and shouldn't have been left out? Oh hell yes, and it seemed like either those points answered the question or provided a worthwhile critique of the question and it does nobody any good to say it's predation and it's always the predator's fault. If the predator were here asking the question then "it's the predator's fault" would be a sufficient answer, but somehow predators don't tend to come on here and thoughtfully deconstruct their own conduct, so we're left with the victims asking us to interpret what happened and we can tell them how they could have responded differently without becoming victim-blamers.

As for the naivete: I myself would never have considered getting into a stranger's car or going to a stranger's home after meeting them in the park and the societal prohibitions against that are so obvious that it's no wonder people are responding with disbelief to that aspect of the OP's story. I don't know why the OP thought that was a good idea, I do know there are some cultures in the world where it is normal to get into a stranger's car (as incredible as that might sound to some MeFites, it does happen) and stay overnight with them, and also to share a small living area and to sleep in the same small space with total strangers for that matter. People may freak out about this and suggest therapy, and they may be right, but it may be as much differing cultural expectations as anything. I myself was totally shocked to discover that North American adults, in professional situations such as conferences, are *actually expected to share hotel rooms* and, worse than that, that they *actually agree to do so* or even *pay for their own room out of their own pockets!!!!* As outrageous as I think that is, apparently it's a cultural norm, and so I don't tell these room-sharers to run out and get therapy to figure out why they think they deserve so little space and privacy while doing a highly skilled job at the rightful expense of their employers.

I would also add that I've had no shortage of nonambiguous, fully platonic male-female friendships that did actually include overnight stays with nonetheless, no suggestion of sexual tension or obligation. Meanwhile, I daily encounter people who seem to be in an entirely different culture about this and for whom saying "pass the salt" could be enough to constitute a come-on. Rather like Ask-Guess culture, only with shags. If a person from my culture interacts with a person from the other culture, hilarity ensues and no mistake.

So I disagree that this is a non-question or an incoherent question. I clearly see what the questions are here, and I think they were worth both asking and answering. Accusations of naïveté (and what an accusation!!!!) are understandable, but I also perceived a tone of "contributory negligence!" coming through in the answers which I really object to.

Oh and. Some years ago I saw a documentary about Rose and Fred West, and they had a babysitter? Housekeeper? Who had a history of having been sexually abused in her own childhood. So she knew the Wests, and they picked her up for a lift in their car, and they also touched her in appropriately and made inappropriate comments while she was in the car. Well, she made her displeasure known, but she didn't try to get out of the car and she continued to interact with the Wests and even work for them despite her objections to their treatment of her and what she could see of how they treated the children (and she saw only part of the picture IIRC). This was some decades ago, and it was well before there was any established etiquette for saying "hey, could you stop sexually assaulting me please? Cause otherwise I'll have to shun you." This woman wasn't particularly mentally disturbed nor was she ill intentioned, but she had learned throughout her life that groping was just something she would have to put up with, if the gropers wouldn't agree to stop when you asked. Tis was the 80s, there was no MetaFilter she could go to to ask, "hey what do I do about my employers groping me and seemingly being inappropriate with their children?" In fact not only was there no MetaFilter, there was precious little information available through any channel so as easy as it might be for us to condemn this woman from our perspective, she was doing the best she knew how to with the information she had, which was not much.

Now even then I was pretty advanced in the school of human relations and their nuances, even though these were my pre-MeFi days. And watching that woman's testimony was the moment in life when, for me, the penny really started to drop that abusers seek out people whose boundaries they can violate and if you've been trained early to take a certain kind of abuse you will tend to go on getting it.

So when someone comes to us with a question that seems really naive it would help if we remembered that actually, the vast majority of humanity hasn't spent years processing the collective wisdom of MeFi and also, when you're learning something, you don't know it already.
posted by tel3path at 6:36 AM on May 12, 2013 [54 favorites]


I'm just point out that Unified Theory's response had 12 favorites before this MeTa was posted.

Like many here I favorited it to make the point that calling out a comment for how many favorites it has, and therefore accusing everyone who favorited it of letting down the feminist side and bringing shame upon themselves and metafilter for sexually incorrect thinking is some rank bullshit. And that is how this MeTa was framed. Those favorites do not mean 80+ Mefites support rape.
posted by spitbull at 6:37 AM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


IOW, apparently at least one person that favorited it had a tiresome axe to grind. Go you, I guess.
posted by zarq at 7:18 AM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've never been part of the anti-favorites brigade on Mefi and in fact have always enjoyed the feature, if only for the acknowledgement that someone out there is actually reading my modest contributions to the site.

However watching grown men and women endlessly speculate and theorize on the motivations behind favoriting behavior, using favorites as a way to point out, "Here is a list of all the deplorable human beings on Mefi since they favorited a comment I disagree with" comes off as pretty infantile and makes me better understand the viewpoint of those who have turned them off altogether or think favorites are a detriment to the site.
posted by The Gooch at 7:36 AM on May 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


The Gooch, I agree with the entirety of your comment.
posted by bardophile at 7:50 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Me too. Honestly if someone's "favorite" makes you think they approve of sexual abuse you should probably just turn them off.
posted by sweetkid at 7:52 AM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Honestly if someone's "favorite" makes you think they approve of sexual abuse you should probably just turn them off.

Agreed, and though I don't suffer from that problem, you've made me realize how often I skim threads, looking for double-digit favorites before I stop to actually read a comment. That's silly, and reason enough for me to turn them off for a little while at least.
posted by Mooski at 8:16 AM on May 12, 2013


yeah, I've just hidden mine for a bit. I found the favorites-shaming pretty disturbing, as well as the accusation that basically everyone in this thread supports sexual abuse. Honestly, never been accused of that before.
posted by sweetkid at 8:20 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


One person's axe to grind is another's point to make.
posted by spitbull at 8:21 AM on May 12, 2013


If your axe has a point, you were grinding it for too long.
posted by Etrigan at 8:37 AM on May 12, 2013 [15 favorites]


yes, it's hurtful to be automatically branded creepy just because of my age.

As stoneandstar ably pointed out, it's not the age in isolation. It's behavior. It's perfectly normal for people in their 50s to be sexual beings. I certainly plan to be one. But sexual activity, in a principled person, comes with responsibilities, and not taking advantage of others' vulnerabilities, whatever they may be, is one of those. That's nothing at all about age. It's about negotiating relationships with other people responsibly and not taking advantage of a person's youth or inexperience as a way of gaining access to them which you might not otherwise have had.

I do wonder if men and women are wired differently in this respect?... Perhaps there's something in teenage boy culture that propagates the message that the *only* reason older men would be interested in us is to try and have sex with us? Teachers, scout leaders, vicars and choir masters were all continually suspect.

Not "wired" differently, but certainly trained differently. With women, there's a lot of conditioning that goes on that is incredibly hard to navigate - be open, friendly, and nice but be self-protective, guarded, and wary. Often a stereotype is presented - for instance, don't get into a car with a creepy guy - but the stereotype of greasy-haired, slinking creeper does not actually match up to the actual nature of sexual predators, who are often likely to seem cool, kind, helpful, mentor-y, "hip," attractively mature, and generally awesome to young women. So you have been prepared to be on the lookout, but your antenna are often improperly tuned to the wrong set of red flags. Once a move is made, they've already ingratiated themselves to you as "friends," mentors, supporters, and can even try to flatter you that it's you who makes them so crazily uncontrollable, that you are the magical exception to the rule, a very special person. They're not a creep, you're just irresistible. This is somewhat difficult to parse as a young person who's never gone through it before.

The ability of predatory men to insinuate themselves into your life with behavior that seems entirely benign and wonderful for a long time is truly amazing. This may or may not involve the same techniques of seduction that predatory men use on boys. I don't know. At least some of the time it's the same - I recall this astounding New Yorker story about a teacher at Horace Mann School, whose charisma and psychological manipulation were extraordinary and seemed to lure lots of young men to him. It doesn't read that differently from some situations with young women that I know of.

So I think it may be largely down to individual psychology as well as gendered social training. After all, there's no shortage of young men who have been abused in this way. Predators are actually kind of good at identifying people who they think will have poor enough boundaries or great enough need that they won't rebuff them. I don't know how often that arises to the level of consciousness, but it's true, not everyone is targeted. So it may not be that "boy culture" protected you better, but that your individual psychological makeup coupled with your particular social set acted as protective factors.
posted by Miko at 8:41 AM on May 12, 2013 [30 favorites]


Like many here I favorited it to make the point that calling out a comment for how many favorites it has, and therefore accusing everyone who favorited it of letting down the feminist side and bringing shame upon themselves and metafilter for sexually incorrect thinking is some rank bullshit. And that is how this MeTa was framed. Those favorites do not mean 80+ Mefites support rape.

I guess we can add "strike blow against the dark forces of sexual correctness" to "express approval" and "bookmark" on the list of "what people use favorites for. Which is a useful reminder that it is unwise to assume that favorites are endorsements. In this case, they are a way to make a point about a MetaTalk thread, unconnected to the quality of the advice in the comment itself (which, as noted, was terrible).

In a perfect world, I suspect favorites in AskMe should probably function slightly differently from favorites in MetaFilter generally - by being used primarily to denote "I think this is a useful answer". But you can't legislate for that: answers are going to get favorited as bookmarks, or because someone thought the answer was so entertainingly bad that they wanted to come back to it later, or, it seems, to make a point about their feelings about a different post by a different user on a different part of the board.

As long as people know not to take the favorite count seriously - that is, not to think that lots of favorites means that lots of people think this is a good answer - there's no real problem with that, right?
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:12 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I was trying to drum up action with someone 20-something, I would fully expect them to consider it creepy

Well, as an older woman who has had a number of great relationships with significantly younger men, I would have to disagree that the age difference alone makes romantic interest creepy; and I think those particular young men would agree. Those relationships meant a lot to me, and to the guys. They were positive and healthy.

If you find it personally creepy, that's fine; but please don't ascribe feelings to others (the younger men) that they may not have. It perpetuates a narrow view of what constitutes an "acceptable" age gap.
posted by nacho fries at 9:45 AM on May 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think if we're talking about consensual ongoing relationships where everyone is clear what it's about, then, sure, fine, whatever floats your boat and whatever. I tend to be attracted to older people, myself, and see nothing inherently creepy about it.

But a 30 year or more age difference, when the younger person is especially young (say, under 25), presents a lot of potential problems. And I think it's naive not to acknowledge those problems. This isn't to say that all relationships like that would have power imbalances, or gaslighting, or one partner using the other. But those are definitely potential issues that arise pretty frequently in situations like this, and it would be smart for any 20 year old woman who is approached by a 50 year old man to be aware of the possibilities.

It certainly seems stupid to me for a 20 year old woman who is approached by a 50 year old man to simply assume that he couldn't be sexually interested in her, at all, and must just want to mentor her. And it seems dangerous to me for that woman's 50 year old partner to enable that fiction up to the point where he's coercing her into sex.
posted by Sara C. at 9:53 AM on May 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think in any relationship where there is a significant power imbalance -- friendship included, but particularly romantic -- the person in the one-up position absolutely has an extra duty of care to make sure that they aren't enabling or encouraging any sort of unhealthy dependency or controlling dynamic. In the OP's scenario, the man was derelict in his duties in that regard.

But it's also the duty of the person in the less-powerful position not to exploit the other person's power for self-gain. If I develop a relationship with someone with more resources than me, in order to get myself something I should probably achieve through my own efforts, then that is pretty creepy. I take a somewhat dim view of "mentoring" outside the realm of professional contexts, where there are processes in place to keep the mentor-mentee balance healthy and appropriate.
posted by nacho fries at 10:10 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


But it's also the duty of the person in the less-powerful position not to exploit the other person's power for self-gain. If I develop a relationship with someone with more resources than me, in order to get myself something I should probably achieve through my own efforts, then that is pretty creepy.

I guess, but that's not what's happening here. I'll also say that in all my years dealing with the dating landscape -- which has included a lot of experience as the Younger Woman -- I have never come across any relationship with that dynamic. It's something to watch out for, for sure, but in my experience it's nowhere near as prevalent as the Older Dude who wants to "mentor" you, by which he means buy you a slice of pizza and then fuck you.
posted by Sara C. at 10:20 AM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Dear Dudes,

I know a lot of you, and 99% of you are awesome, whether I am friends with you or not. Most of you go through your day doing your best to interact with people as individuals, not as genitalia or as potential sexual conquests or rivals. We have nice conversations, you are interested in things, we talk about the unseasonable weather, and never once do you stare inappropriately at my boobs or assume that "wow, did you see that thunderstorm?" means "Let's have sex!" Don't worry. You are not creepy. Some of you are in relationships with women (or men) who are much older or younger than you are, or from a very different socioeconomic background, or who worked for you or for whom you worked, and because you exist in a society and are aware of it you thought to yourself, "Hm, some people are going to think this is weird. Is it weird? No, I think it's cool. I should talk to my partner about this somewhat non-standard situation and make sure it's okay. Nope, s/he's cool with it too."

There is a very small subset of people who share the same sort of external genitalia as you who engage in behavior labeled "creepy." You are not creepy. You are an awesome dude. You don't take advantage of power differentials, or engage in gaslighting, or refuse to take no for an answer, in order to get women who don't want to have sex with you to have sex with you. You can work professionally with women and engage in social interactions with them and do minor favors for them without thinking they want to see your penis.

Now and then you will do something awkward that you didn't realize was going to be creepy. It's okay! We all do it sometimes (women can be creepy too!), violating someone else's boundaries in a way that suddenly renders the situation uncomfortable. Apologize, move on, and realize that in a general way, your awesomeness outweighs a creepy moment or two. It isn't always salvageable, if it's your first impression, but most of your friends know you are awesome and won't worry about it.

So don't worry, dudes. We know 99% of you are awesome. We're sometimes a little slow to warm up because the world can be a threatening place for women, but we know you're overwhelmingly good dudes, and that it's a little unfair how a handful of creepers, because they're so noisy and inappropriate and scary, can make women wary of all men. It'd be cool if when you saw dudes creeping you told them to cut it out, but it's okay if you don't want to because you're not required to be a spokesman or policeman for your gender.

Keep being awesome, dudes.

Love,
Eyebrows
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:24 AM on May 12, 2013 [36 favorites]


I guess, but that's not what's happening here.

She said she was, in part, seeking a father-figure type relationship. When she was having (unspecified) troubles at her apartment, she chose to stay with him (rather than, say, other friends more her age). Is that not basically tapping into his greater resources for her own self interest?
posted by nacho fries at 10:27 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


All friends tap into each other's resources for their own self interest if that's the case.
posted by tel3path at 10:30 AM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Dear Dudes,

We prefer "Righteous MoFos," thank you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:31 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay, consider yourselves the Righteous MoFos of MeFi. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:34 AM on May 12, 2013


We don't actually Fo our Mo's though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:35 AM on May 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


(Hey, as everything else seems to need explicitly spelling out in this thread, I thought I'd better make that clear as well.)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:37 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's something to watch out for, for sure, but in my experience it's nowhere near as prevalent

Back in my "Hollywood" days, I saw the dynamic fairly often. The younger protege often had a great deal of power in the relationship (in relationships that were male-male as well as female-male; may have been some female-female ones as well that I'm forgetting). Could be one of those "mostly in L.A." things, though.
posted by nacho fries at 10:41 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


But if both people have equal power and are both getting things out of the relationship, that's a different dynamic than "young powerless person uses older person for their own gain". In the "Hollywood" sense, my guess is that the older person gets the status and personal enjoyment that comes with having a beautiful young thing on their arm, and the younger person gets a valuable connection/mentor.

I personally wouldn't want to be in a relationship that mercenary, but whatever floats your boat.

I've never seen a comparatively powerless young person prey upon a well-meaning older person who thought it was love.
posted by Sara C. at 11:02 AM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


"We don't actually Fo our Mo's though."

'Cuz, ya know, that would *really* be creepy.
posted by Ardiril at 11:08 AM on May 12, 2013


I've seen it. It happened to a friend of mine (male), who became involved with a much younger woman (30-year age difference).
posted by nacho fries at 11:09 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Well, all these actions seem so perverted, but what do I do? He's still my friend, right? I mean, he has done many nice things for me, too. I guess he's just a naturally perverted person, which is gross, but he can't be serious about me, so I probably don't need to say something that might piss him off or end friendship."

MiuMiu, I hope you are still reading, because I am really worried about you, and also very frustrated with you at the same time, and this quotation helped me figure out why. I hope I can help both of us by going into this a bit.

You have some very disturbing preconceptions about older men. When some users have tried to touch on that one issue of yours, suggesting everything from reading books to getting therapy, other users got upset and equated it with victim-blaming. They think we are saying you deserve to be molested, abused, sexually assaulted.

This is NOT at all what I am saying. I also don't think ANYONE is saying that here.

I, like other women in this thread, have been raped. It was incredibly traumatic for me, in part because he was someone I knew and trusted. I do not wish that experience on anyone. i don't think anyone deserves to be put through what we have gone through. it took a long time for me not to lame myself for what happened, even though I know intellectually that you can do everything 'right' and still be a victim. I also know that you can make some really bad decisions and still walk away unscathed, because when I was much younger I did some pretty foolish things myself, believe me!

That doesn't mean I think continuing along blithely throwing yourself into dangerous situations is wise for anyone, though. And when I see someone continuing to put herself in danger, I feel the need to tell her so.

So, now you know where I am coming from when I say to you that older men being attracted to younger women is not a 'perversion'! Men in their 50s, 60s and 70s have healthy, active sex lives, many of them with women in their 20s and 30s, and there is nothing wrong with that. The women and the men are thrilled with their sex lives, everything is healthy and natural, and they are all consenting adults. If that sickens you or grosses you out, that is your issue, okay? Not theirs.

Now, if you don't think of any older man as sexually appealing, that's fine! If you look on them solely as father figures, that's fine, too!

But you should never make the automatic assumption that a man you meet views you as a daughter, or a friend, just because you see him in that light given your own prejudices.

There are men who prey on women. That's just a fact. I feel that you are putting yourself in danger by continuing to rely on older men to "take care of you". I don't know why, given the way you feel about older men, you would even choose to sleep in their homes, frankly. So let's look at why that might be.

Take age completely out of the picture. If these men were in their 20s, would you stay with them?You are not paying rent, right? So it seems like a very one-sided arrangement. You need a place to stay, I get that. But why do you keep ending up living with men? Surely you've thought about this before. If you feel like a man is more likely to let you stay with him, rent-free, than a woman, stop and consider why you feel that way.

Is it because men tend to want to do things for you? Why is that? Right now, you are using terms like 'mentor' and 'friendly advice'. But what if we were talking about men your own age?

When you take age out of the equation, I think you'd have to say, 'Well, guys are more willing to do things for me because maybe they find me attractive."

Can you see why it might not be a good idea to live alone with a man when you know you are not attracted to him? When you do not, and will not, ever want a sexual relationship with him? The two of you are not on equal footing. You are depending on him for a home, for shelter. He wants you there solely for your companionship. It is unfair to both of you, and potentially dangerous for you if he thinks you 'owe' him for that shelter.

You are playing with fire every time you put yourself in this vulnerable position, and if you run into a man who preys on women, MiuMiu, you WILL get burned.
posted by misha at 11:25 AM on May 12, 2013 [47 favorites]


It is unfair to both of you, and potentially dangerous for you if he thinks you 'owe' him for that shelter.

Or, if *you* think you owe him for that shelter.

Doing things that squick you out (massage, e.g.) because you feel it is owed, is a 100% clear signal that the dynamic is not a healthy one for you.
posted by nacho fries at 11:33 AM on May 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


I originally favored UT's comment because I thought it was a comment the OP should read that would help describe the man's perspective. I DO NOT think his perspective is ethical and I still think of him as a creep. However, UT's comment likely shows what the man was thinking...and what most men who invite a woman home after meeting her so quickly are thinking.

The OP does not deserve to be assaulted. However, the point of view of the man is that he feels he is "owed" and that she is giving him signals that she is interested in him.

I think the OP was asking whether most men are like this man. I think she wanted to know if she should set her compass to trusting these older man or not. I think UT's comment shows that she should not trust these older men.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:38 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is that not basically tapping into his resources for her own self interest?

Is that assuming he's powerless to assert a boundary if he finds she's becoming more of a moocher than a friend?

Based on Miumiu's breakdown, it seems he actually came out pretty honest and realized that trying to treat Miumiu like a similar-aged potentially sexual companion was in fact a futile effort. He was probably honest when he initially told her that he wasn't attracted to her, because he honestly didn't think he was. But then when he was triangulated into the role of rescuer, it played out as an opportunity for him to come to terms with the reality that she is an attractive woman who he does find attractive. Miumiu was acting like a close friend already (staying over, giving massages, heck he may have even wondered if it was her way of hitting on him! especially with the intimacy of giving physical touch instead of saying a firm no), and in getting to know her, he realized that he is in fact lonely for a woman companion (with whom he can share a sexual relationship also). My take on it is that the guy was navigating new territory and trying to figure out his boundaries for himself, resorted to increasingly passive-aggressive tactics when the relationship wasn't becoming what he wanted either, and and in the end came to clearer terms with himself. If he had been a "bad" person, he could have easily run with the situation to a darker place from there, and he chose not to.

I don't think 'male culture' has an answer for this area of the human condition --where young women have naive expectations of what men are capable of providing (in this case, a sexually inert father/mentor-type attachment with a non-relative). Even though I favorited UT's comment, I actually agreed with xarnop's: "you're also lying to yourself to keep going with a form of intimacy that is not really possible".

I say this as someone who's had her own close calls, not knowing how to navigate this stuff and initially equipped with only naive/passive coping skills. IMEs with a few of these older "mentor"-type men, it seemed to me that the myth of "real men have all the answers" lends real harm to both parties. These men had no answers for me, yet they tried to act like it, and in doing so only became more aware of the lack of certainty they had about themselves and how their life was going. They seemed willfully unconscious of themselves (at the same, arguably, I was not wholly conscious either --of myself, my expectations, and the true meanings of their behaviors).

It also seemed to me that there must be something very unsatisfying/ungratifying about male existence --something that male culture has only vague answers for if any (and that 'the patriarchy' traumatically fashioned "answers" for). I'm not suggesting that ALL men, or even the majority of men, wind up this way in older life. But as a person whose early experiences of men (often enough) were of those sexually/emotionally unsatisfied at their advanced stage of life, it has left me wondering about the gaps in the 'male condition' (let's call it). Of course, not saying the there aren't any such gaps in the 'female condition', not by a long shot.

That said, I'm actually quite optimistic that things are changing in a slow, unseen kind of way. I have faith that there are men navigating their equivalency of this territory, and that someday meaningful collaboration on these issues by both sides will be possible. Considering how frequently discussions like these happen in the public domain TODAY (as opposed to even 20 years ago), I think the dialogue has come a long way.

Also, FWIW, I'm really glad I'm in my 30s now.
posted by human ecologist at 11:46 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also seemed to me that there must be something very unsatisfying/ungratifying about male existence --something that male culture has only vague answers for if any (and that 'the patriarchy' traumatically fashioned "answers" for). I'm not suggesting that ALL men, or even the majority of men, wind up this way in older life. But as a person whose early experiences of men (often enough) were of those sexually/emotionally unsatisfied at their advanced stage of life, it has left me wondering about the gaps in the 'male condition' (let's call it). Of course, not saying the there aren't any such gaps in the 'female condition', not by a long shot.

This is not surprising. The Patriarchy is not "rule by men." It's "rule by Patriarchs" -- older, socially and economically powerful men. Not every man gets to be a Patriarch, and the system needs a lot of surplus men to make it work -- young men to die in wars, middle-aged men to do the boring work of keeping the system running, and, I suppose, lonely old men to be a warning. The thing that most men don't get, even as they eye the brass ring the Patriarchs hold out (and maybe try to uneasily distance themselves from women and other "not-men"), is that the Patriarchy is not their friend. So many men, instead of making common cause with women, ally themselves with the very forces that are holding them down as well. It's maddening.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:56 AM on May 12, 2013 [22 favorites]


it seemed to me that the myth of "real men have all the answers" lends real harm to both parties.

Perfectly said, and quite true in my experience.

But like you, I am very optimistic that things are getting better, and will continue to do so. One of the under-reported pleasures of aging is witnessing the improvements in how men and women engage each other. It's so much better, in so many ways, than even 20 years ago. The free flow of information (thank you, internet) and the mobilization of like-minded people to think through difficult social problems has made at least my day-to-day life qualitatively and quantitatively better than when I was a young lass. I see it across all spheres: personal, professional, intellectual.

A huge part of this is the fresh thinking and energy of the younger ones among us. You people are rocking my world with your innovations and "disruptive" improvements.

(Wow, that is a lot of sunshine pouring out of me. Sorry for the effusiveness, but maybe a dark thread can use a little love?)
posted by nacho fries at 12:15 PM on May 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


misha, thank you for this great comment. You've managed to sum up how I've felt about this issue so thoroughly and so much better than I was able to earlier. I really hope MiuMiu is still reading, too and that she sees what you wrote.
posted by thereemix at 12:16 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish I could favorite misha's comment multiple times.
posted by palomar at 12:26 PM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've never seen a comparatively powerless young person prey upon a well-meaning older person who thought it was love.

You know, I've been thinking about this, and I've seen it quite a bit, though in retrospect the younger person wasn't exactly powerless; the power lay in the younger person's sexual attractiveness.

There's a stereotype of the heartless, bitchy gold-digging younger woman. I don't think anyone is really heartless, and I don't think 'gold digging' is behavior only women engage in.

In the situations I've known of (and wow, there really are quite a few!), the older person, though wealthier, was naive sexually or romantically. The younger person was very confident sexually, knew they were attractive, and pretty much just used that to get gifts, dinners, etc. from the older person, who was completely bowled over by such an attractive person giving them the time of day and, yes, came to believe they were both deeply in love.

Girl we went to school with pulled this all the time, in fact. She was a pretty, popular, but deeply manipulative young woman.

She had a pattern of dating socially inept guy, moving in with him, and then ditching him only after she'd fooled around with guy #2 and set up a safety net for herself. Guy #2 was always materially better off than guy #1, but just as socially clueless. These guys would really fall hard for her, and she'd sometimes go back and forth, stringing them along. It wasn't at all rare for her to move directly from guy #1's apartment into his replacement's bigger, better place, often with the help of #1,#2, and future guy #3.

This girl had often made personally disparaging remarks about a certain older guy we knew, who had a bit of a crushon her but never made a move because of her obvious disinterest. He changes jobs, becomes more successful, and suddenly she's emailing him, moving in with him, getting him to pay off her excessive credit card debt. She was very transparent about the sudden about-face, "He's making good money now...have you seen the car he drives?" Ugh. Thankfully, that one didn't last long.

She barely passed French (without knowing a word; the girl pronounced faince FEE ONZ for gods sake) by deliberately seducing the teacher at her college to get her grade changed. She apparently tried and failed with a couple other professors as well.

I have lots more examples, with people other than this girl, and yes, at least one younger guy.

Of course, that doesn't in any way negate how frequently the older person in a position of authority is the predatory one! Just, anecdotally, in my experience both are common, and sometimes it is hard for anyone not involved to determine which, if any, scenario is playing out, especially since we all bring our own values, baggage and assumptions to the table.
posted by misha at 12:31 PM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I ran out of favourites today but JUST WAIT TILL TOMORROW
posted by tel3path at 12:47 PM on May 12, 2013


I've never seen a comparatively powerless young person prey upon a well-meaning older person who thought it was love.

I lived in a gay neighborhood for the majority of my 20s. And while I'd never want anyone to think I was generalizing about relationships between older men and younger men (let alone about gay men when I am a boring old breeder) I don't think I'm out of line when I say this is not at all uncommon with gay dudes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:58 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Could be one of those "mostly in L.A." things, though.

Thank you for that. I was hoping we'd be able to work "L.A. is terrible and here are some silly cliches to prove it" in here somewhere.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:05 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but again in that context the older person gets something in exchange -- the status of having a hot young thing.

Maybe the older person didn't want a tit-for-tat arrangement, but just like it can safely be assumed that a 50 year old who asks you to come to his house after meeting you in a park wants something from you, it can also probably be assumed that an incredibly hot person who just happens to be attracted to you, despite all odds, also probably wants something from you.
posted by Sara C. at 1:05 PM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really appreciated this discussion and many of these comments stand out to me, such as tel3path's description of empathy with the OP and Sarah C.'s description of what goes through your head when you are experiencing sexual harassment/assault in the moment. There are many other comments in here notable for their excellence.

I do wish we would be kinder to each other on the site in general, though I understand this is personal and not everyone's preference. To be clear I am not asking the mods to enforce my personal preference and delete a larger number of mean comments. People want to vent sometimes. There was a point in the thread when xarnop was having a hard time and things started turning into a bit of a pile-on. I understand that some people had trouble parsing her comments (I did not have trouble with this, honestly) and it seemed to turn into one person against ten, which is okay in itself, but I don't really think it is ever productive to say "what the fuck are you on about" in MetaTalk. I was surprised at that and at who favorited it and at some of the other comments with favorites aimed her way. Not the ones gently suggesting she step away so her emotions wouldn't interfere with her writing, but the ones that added scorn or dismissiveness to the mix.

I understand that people here have said that they don't like favorite shaming because it is sort of high school cafeteria behavior. I guess I would just like to say that I have engaged in contentious MetaTalk threads where, for some period of time in the thread, it was me against everyone else. It has hurt to be in that position and read comments that insult and dismiss my point of view, and then look at the favorites of those comments and see people I respect. When you're in that position, you can handle that people think you are wrong, but the scorn and insults add another layer. I wholly understand that this is the price you pay for Internet discourse. You can't have a thin skin and you have to get over yourself. I have learned from these discussions, and they have helped me grow tougher, frankly. Plus, it is so much more civil here than many, many other places. At the same time, I don't think it's bad to observe that some favoriting behavior is sort of weird and mean, and that saying favorites don't really mean anything isn't strictly true. I'm not saying people can't or shouldn't use favorites to mean different things, but I guess at least that people should know that if they favorite something dismissive or hurtful there is some chance that someone will feel dismissed and hurt by it, particularly when that person is expressing a minority opinion here. (And wow, reading this over I wonder whether I owe Tanazaki an apology.)

Even while I say this, I know that there is a lot of conflict on the site over the MetaTalk of now that is much less death-by-Thunderdome-via-scullfucking than the MetaTalk of e.g. 2002 when I joined. Some people really loved it the old way, so talking about being kinder when insulting people in MetaTalk used to be a fine art is probably an insult in and of itself! I don't know, I don't have an answer for that. I'm not trying to enforce my POV, though, just explaining it.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:07 PM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Taz: If I was trying to drum up action with someone 20-something, I would fully expect them to consider it creepy

Yo taz i love you, but equating an older woman hitting on a young man with an older man hitting on a young woman just doesn't work in a million billion ways. That dog won't hunt, as they say.

I could seriously write a bazillion paragraph post on this, but i feel like the majority of basically everyone in this thread knows that, and that equating the two is some kind of egalitarian future yearning pipe dream.

Beginning with the fact that men are seen as the sexual aggressors in any situations 99% of the time(even often when they aren't, and it was a fairly mutual situation, it defaults to such). They were raised as such basically from puberty by their peers, implicitly by their parents(how many times have you heard of a boys girlfriend/partner/etc in highschool being allowed to spend the night at his house, vs a boy being allowed to stay over at the girls house? i'm aware there's other things behind this, but a major one is the whole pitcher/catcher relationship here).

To some extent an older woman is just seen as even more feeble prey, in this fucked up prey/predator relationship.

I've had several friends who had "creepy" encounters with older men, i think most people have at least a friend who they've talked to about this. What i also have that i feel is fairly unusual, is an acquaintance/friend-of-a-friend who was in the opposite situation.

He was courted by an independently wealthy older woman around that age, who was retired. She lived in a mansion near Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, ETCs houses. I forget exactly how he was courted, but i know it started very similarly to this story. A sort of "oh, i can help mentor you and line you in to your first good professional job, lets hang out and be friends!" kind of thing. Pretty quickly she was buying him lavish gifts(and i don't mean minor stuff, like a new BMW), taking him on trips, and calling him up to get him to come over nearly every day. Then she started propositioning him for sex, and framing it like she was owed it for all the help/gifts/etc she had given him. Eventually she started stalking him, and i think even hired a PI or someone else to report on his movements/actions/activities/entire life. She started trying to scare off and intimidate other women in his life and all this other ridiculous stuff. It got more and more controlling, predatory, and abusive until he nope'd out of the entire thing.

And you know how this was all presented? the exact same way someone would present a gazelle trying to fight a cheetah. Pretty much as "haha, that prey tried to attack the obvious predator? you put her in her place right?" despite the fact that he literally had to move to get away from her. Him, and all the other dudes around clanging beers together regarded it as a complete joke, as if it happened in a video game and presented no material threat.

This isn't naïveté on the part of one person here, this is the basic structure of society. An older woman hitting on a young man is a "cougar", an older man hitting on a young woman is a "creep". This isn't misandry, and there's a lot of social constructs surrounding this entire thing. A man is still seen as the pitcher in almost every situation, by himself, his peers, and a lot of women. The reverse is true of a woman being seen as the catcher despite her being in an advantageous position over the man.

A young man just would see this as something relatively harmless and a joke for a multitude of reasons, mostly revolving around the fact that a woman isn't sexually threatening basically 99% of the time. An older man has this potentially massive aura of a big stack of different types of power differentials that they would have advantageous, and threatening positions in when relating to a young woman in this type of context.

So yea, pulling the old "lets reverse the genders!" thing doesn't work here. At all. even as a mental exercise.

Anyone who wants to get outraged at my predator/prey thing should really think about the way they would answer both of these questions out of this context too. Because i see some really, really different answers for "Ahhh, this guy is being creepy and coming on to me sexually in a disturbing way", or even general "i'm a woman and my male SO/sex partner is acting poorly" vs "I'm a man, and my lady SO/sex partner is acting badly" questions. Even internet liberals often fall right in to this one because of how fucking hard we've all been conditioned. And i mean, this is one of those things that's pretty hard to refute when the high 90's percent of rapes, including against men, are by men.

To sum up part of my point, I basically never see anyone discussing this type of "Sugar mama/cougar" type thing and even considering that older woman a sexual threat in any way. It comes up 100% of the time when talking about a "creepy" older man.

I feel like i myself am once again taking the comments far afield here though, so uh... oops. I was just really, really bugged by that whole "lol lets reverse the genders!!" thing. And i want you to know, taz, that i was trying my hardest not to come off as shitting on you here. It's just that gender swaps on this type of thing really grind my gears.
posted by emptythought at 1:19 PM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was hoping we'd be able to work "L.A. is terrible and here are some silly cliches to prove it" in here somewhere.

Your words, not mine.

I love Los Angeles. My "mostly in L.A." qualifier is based on my own observations within the entertainment industry here in L.A. Because I have no direct experience of that industry in other cities, I'm unable to provide any inside intel on them.

If you feel my characterization is a silly (i.e., false) cliche, and would like to present evidence (either anecdotal or statistical) to show me where I'm wrong, I'm all ears.
posted by nacho fries at 1:21 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a special comment.

Favoriting this comment can only be taken as an endorsement of sexual abuse and nothing else.

That should clear things up, because right now I am a bit paranoid about what people make think to me based on my favorites, many of which are of the 'wtf, did they just say that?' variety.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 4:16 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The OP does not deserve to be assaulted. However, the point of view of the man is that he feels he is "owed"

UT's comment was problematic, but this does not describe it in any way, shape or form. This is moving beyond uncharitable into dishonesty.
posted by spaltavian at 5:40 PM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Almost everything about MiuMiu's story and this thread makes my skin crawl.

The series of comments beginning with Miko and ending with nacho fries, plus misha's, are all excellent and I think collectively make the salient points:
  • Guy acted in a predatory manner and violated boundaries
  • Where there's a big power imbalance (as always) the greater responsibility lies with the person who has the greater power
  • Older men being predatory with much younger women is a commonplace reality
  • There is nothing objectively "creepy" about large age differences in sexual relationships (or in attempting to negotiate a sexual relationship) providing that it's mindful of boundaries and situational appropriateness and not built around a power imblance but...
  • ...for either party to be willfully oblivious to those previously three points is pathological
  • There's something just fucked-up with an adult looking for and finding mother or father figures in people who aren't their parents, especially when the gender matches their sexual preferences
I expect some will take issue with that last point, but there's mentoring and then there's "father figures" and those are not the same things. The former is what healthy adults do. The latter is what (on either side) people who need therapy do.

I do not accept the claim that any young woman would not, in our culture, intuitively and deeply understand the enormous psychological freight of "father figure" and what it brings to any relationship, in any context. That is to say, this is very, very far from a friendly "hey, dude, can I have a place to crash for a few nights?".

Furthermore, I have even more trouble with any older man in our culture not being acutely aware of the hugely distorting psychological dynamic of being seen as a "father figure", including pretending to not being aware that a young woman saw him as such. In my experience, even a little bit of it shines like a beacon. I find it deeply uncomfortable, some other men find it appealing but, either way, it's not something you don't know. This guy definitely knew it, was using it, and then violated boundaries (that is, sexually assaulted her) that are clear and which he oughtn't have violated in even a much less problematic context.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:55 PM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why does this thread make your skin crawl then, Ivan Fyodorovich? I think people have pointed out that the man was taking advantage of her looking at him as a father figure. And there has also been speculation about how much she might have willfully misunderstood his intentions.
posted by sweetkid at 6:19 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's harder to explain than I expected it to be. I drafted and erased and rewrote that comment many times over an hour and I don't find it satisfactory.

To be clear, I'm not asserting that she willfully misunderstood his intentions. I'm a little dubious about her not being aware of sexual stuff, but not actively disbelieving. My complaint about her is that the father figure stuff absent sexual vibes is already very problematic. It's worse if she is/was aware of the sexual stuff but willfully misunderstanding; but I'm fine with taking her at her word ... and I'm still very weirded out about it.

And I think the guy's part in things is self-evident for why it bothers me.

Your question is really about how I view the response here and, at the most obvious level, it's that there are those who defend the guy as if this were some idealistic context where it is only about the fact that there's nothing wrong with 50 year old men finding 25 year old women attractive and not, you know, the entire cultural context surrounding this and what the guy actually did. And, on the other side, defending her as if it were only about accepting help from a stranger and seeing someone else as a mentor and not, you know, the entire cultural context of "father figures" and young adult women and, for that matter, an adult looking for another adult to act in a parental role.

The level below that is harder to articulate but really is just that all of this icky stuff is so endemic in our culture that we would all argue this stuff and project onto this and be defensive and not just go, dang, these two people seem to have some emotional issues and boundary issues and in ways that are sort of icky so why are we arguing about this?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:35 PM on May 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


yea, I think that makes sense.
posted by sweetkid at 6:38 PM on May 12, 2013


OP here!! Yes, I'm still reading :) Thank you...

I'm sorry about my disgusting view of having looked at him as sort of a father figure... Yes, I agree, it is messed up :/
I was an only child for a long time before my dad remarried and things went downhill, and I never had a mom in my memories, so I think this might be contributing to this thinking :/ but I should do as much as I can to change that.

As for this guy, though, I only saw him as a father figure maybe like 10%. And only in the beginning! 90% was just "a mentor-ish friend who seems social enough to want to hang out with young people." (He has many friends and is very friendly even to strangers of any age on the streets.)

And misha, thank you for your comment. I'm not sure how to answer the "why keep ending up living with males?" question... I thought about it, and it just seems lately whoever that offered me help happened to be a guy... but I realize me depending on them is not good. As someone else noted, I should try to get to the stage of independence with shoes more than $15 as fast as possible so that I don't fall for these kinds of nice yet potentially problematic help.

Oh and another thing I remembered --- during the stay this guy said "You can stay here as long as you want as long as you keep making constructive suggestions about my place." after I helped him figure out how to organize his furniture & art. I guess it was a joke...
posted by MiuMiu at 6:44 PM on May 12, 2013


I think this might be contributing to this thinking :/ but I should do as much as I can to change that.


So, are you in a position where you can get access to therapy? Because I think it could really, really help you with those questions and that plan to make a change.
posted by Miko at 7:04 PM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Miko's comment rang a lot of unfortunate bells in my mind.

For a few years in my mid/late teens, my father was out of the picture, my mother was working overtime, and Mom's sister L. (who was and continues to be Bad News) was living with us. I ended up taking a job at a record store in town, which gave me a roll call of middle aged men who I saw as father figures.

At the time, I was the kind of intelligent, well-read teenager who was way out of step in her suburban high school. My classmates didn't share my interests, some of which included listening to obscure British punk from the '70s and obsessively rereading Psychotic Reactions and Carbeuretor Dung. But here were these guys who had gone to CBs and saw the Clash and Patti and Television and (if they were to be believed) partied with Lester Bangs. And they were seeking me out as a sparring partner and audience to the stories of their glory days! And they told me all the things my parents didn't have time to tell me, like how smart and funny I was and how I was a great writer and how I had great taste and was going to change the world. Sometimes they'd even invite me to tag along with them when they attended shows I could get into or would serve as a wingman to R-rated movies.

But.

After a while, their stories about taking midnight bus trips to the Bowery gave way to less savory tales. Sometimes it was just a ridiculous comment that made me uncomfortable. ("the Bible is a Marxist document!" Yeah, okay, Pops...) Many times it would be a graphic running tally of the unattainable women they found attractive, or how such-and-such coworker of theirs had friendzoned them. Time and again I would change the topic, only to have them zero right back in on it like a missile in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. When I tried to set boundaries with them, they would use some line on me like, "Women see me as a sexless creature, like a eunuch. But I have needs!"

I didn't present myself as a sexual being to them. I wore ill-fitting corduroys and army jackets like I was an alternate universe, math-averse Lindsay Weir, I walked with a slouch to hide my build, and I avoided the topic of sex strenuously. It's not like Tom Verlaine was going to climb off my copy of Marquee Moon and relieve me of my virginity. For all the countless hours I spent with these men I saw as father figures, they made me feel like an idiot for liking feminine things, but I was expected to listen raptly as they described what they wanted to do to Britney or when they complained about how music by female artists made them feel "left out".

When I read MiuMiu's post, my heart sank for her. I know what it's like to be taken in by someone who makes you feel special, and how hard it can be to cut those ties. When I finally decided to stop taking phone calls from the various middle-aged men I had befriended, I felt as though I had no one. My parents vaguely knew of these friendships, but they were unable to stop them, and it took me many years to find friends my own age and who weren't going to take advantage of me. I see these guys now on the street and I find ways to avoid them, but I don't know what makes me angrier: the way they treated me, or the years I wasted on their one-sided friendships that left me weak and powerless.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:54 PM on May 12, 2013 [18 favorites]


MiuMiu, do you understand why so many people are suggesting you get therapy to help you develop a better understanding of how to trust your gut and set appropriate boundaries with men and other people?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:52 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry about my disgusting view of having looked at him as sort of a father figure... Yes, I agree, it is messed up :/

MiuMiu, this is why you would perhaps benefit from some therapy or confidence training. Not because you were looking for a father figure (which is yes problematic) but because you're apologising for your feelings. You need more skill in occupying your own space and the boundaries around it, unapologetically.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:46 PM on May 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


MetaTalk: Honestly, never been accused of that before.
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone else noted, I should try to get to the stage of independence with shoes more than $15 as fast as possible so that I don't fall for these kinds of nice yet potentially problematic help.

Sure, but in the meantime, stop making friends with strange men you meet in random public places. Or if you're going to make friends, at least get to know them before you start staying over at their houses.
posted by Sara C. at 10:14 PM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure it's helpful for MetaTalk to turn into AskMetaFilter. If you have advice for the OP that fits the strictures of AskMe, her thread is still open. If you have other advice, like "That's fucked up" or "Gosh you need therapy," maybe write it out on a Post-it and then count slowly to ten.
posted by cribcage at 10:25 PM on May 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, we've sort of been all over the place in this thread, but we need to try to separate the streams: don't debate and argue with other people in the Ask Metafilter thread, and don't use this Metatalk thread to branch out into a direct advice-session with MiuMiu, which might be something that can be pursued via Mefi mail if she would like some more input.

And folks, seriously, going forward, if we need to go forward (do we need to go forward?), stop with the armchair psychoanalysis and personal criticism of the OP so she doesn't feel like she needs to come into the thread and apologize and give us her personal history and inner thoughts. This is not abstract, this is a fellow member and it needs to stop.

MiuMiu, you don't need to explain yourself here; your question happened to have a lot of aspects that people have specific, personal strong feelings about, and that has led to this sort of intense discussion. I'm sorry that you became the center of the storm in this way, but it's really more about people talking to each other about their thoughts and differences. You don't need to apologize or explain any more.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:33 AM on May 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


When she was having (unspecified) troubles at her apartment, she chose to stay with him (rather than, say, other friends more her age). Is that not basically tapping into his greater resources for her own self interest?

I feel the need to speak to the "tapping resources" aspect of male/female relationships, and the assumption that something like someone staying at your house means you are taking advantage of them.

Friends help each other.

That's part of the point of having friends, besides the awesome inside jokes and (in my case) very cheap iPhone.

Giving a ride to the hospital. Visiting in the hospital. Sleeping over a few nights if you're homeless. Helping someone move. Buying each other meals and gifts. Those are all friend sorts of things, and the implication that if I accept these from a friend, and the friend happens to be male, I am tapping into his greater resources and taking advantage of him/leading him on is deeply troubling.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:46 AM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can't speak for others, but I favourited the "what the fuck are you on about" comment because I took it to mean 'I don't understand what you're saying at all' and that was exactly what I felt like saying, too.
So instead of posting a repetitive comment, I favourited one that was already there and represented my feelings.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:49 AM on May 13, 2013


Blasdelb, thanks for letting me know "[t]here are a lot of people on metafilter who I will never get into an elevator alone with". And I'm flattered that a comment I made almost two years ago has stuck so firmly in your head.

While I'm certain that, like most people, I'd have no desire to ask you up for coffee, it is good to know I won't ever have to endure a close-quarters exposure to stink of your youthful self-righteousness.

Please do trudge up the stairs, and remember to congratulate yourself on your progressive inclusiveness with every step.
posted by orthogonality at 3:19 AM on May 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Giving a ride to the hospital. Visiting in the hospital. Sleeping over a few nights if you're homeless. Helping someone move. Buying each other meals and gifts. Those are all friend sorts of things, and the implication that if I accept these from a friend, and the friend happens to be male, I am tapping into his greater resources and taking advantage of him/leading him on is deeply troubling.

Nah, of course not. But as soon as he starts touchy-feelying you as you go past in the kitchen, you either have a straight-up conversation with him or you GTFO. Both for your own comfort AND because once you intuit that he wants to be more than friends, you are, in fact, leading him on and taking advantage.

The OP seems to be really lacking in the intuition bit. In her twenties, mind, not her teens. I doubt it's something that can be remedied by Metafilter, which is why some of us suggested therapy. We're not insulting her, we're genuinely trying to help. It's got nothing to do with blaming her, it's just dangerous to wander through life with no sense of these things.
posted by Salamander at 3:37 AM on May 13, 2013


Also...sometimes there seems to be no shades of grey in these conversations.

I mean, it would be wonderfully helpful and awesome if adults went around saying to each other, 'Excuse me, would you mind if I touched you to signify my sexual interest?' but it's not going to happen. Not 'shouldn't', but 'won't'. Women need to develop some common sense about this stuff, and take some personal responsibility, to get by in life. That's not victim-blaming, it's a fact.

To my mind, a helpful answer to an AskMe about a man crossing sexual boundaries is not 'You did nothing wrong and he's a creepy creepster', particularly if it doesn't also include 'You need to do x, y and z if you want this to stop happening'. People can only control their own actions.
posted by Salamander at 3:44 AM on May 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also also...ohgodwhythefuckdidIwadebackintothisthread *RUNS*
posted by Salamander at 3:46 AM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Nah, of course not. But as soon as he starts touchy-feelying you as you go past in the kitchen, you either have a straight-up conversation with him or you GTFO. Both for your own comfort AND because once you intuit that he wants to be more than friends, you are, in fact, leading him on and taking advantage."

If one of the people involved is homeless (not saying that relates to the OP) and unable to create enough income for housing and food, that can damage a person's feeling of personal power and worth to reject unwanted advances when they have basic needs they are needing to get met.

I hope no one really believes that people on disability or foodstamps owe society sexual service for getting their basic met. The fact that our social service system has abandoned many people who need it is shameful to our society, not to people who endure unwanted sex for basic needs. And many homeless, disabled, and abused people get trained to believe they don't deserve basic needs met unless they can do something for others and that if sex is what others want, they owe it to anyone who offers them housing, food, or even friendship. The need for parenting when you haven't received enough parenting is a real need and the fact that people tend to not do this for each other unless they can get sex out of it is a shame.

Again trained therapists can often help people find safe ways to meet these needs, however good therapy is expensive, and if someone is having a hard time meeting basic needs is unlikely to be getting the kind of therapist who is extensively trained and experienced enough to know the right way to help someone with issues like this (who often has very few tools to explain or know what they even need out of therapy to begin with). Therapy for poor people is usually geared toward employment and meds and in homeless population neither work very well which is why most people who work in homeless services prefer housing first models of helping people rebuild their lives.

Survival sex is a very common thing among homeless people and it IS ABUSE. If you really care about the needs of homeless people, donate to housing first initiatives in your area. Don't let someone stay on your couch and think it gives you some right to grope them up because they are "Abusing you" for needing shelter. If you have a job, and a house, and the capacity to take care of yourself you're way ahead someone with homelessness issues who in crisis and making decisions about survival often based in fear, uncertainty and social disenfranchisement and yes, you have more responsibility in such a situation.

If a woman seduces a man to get his money that's one thing but letting someone crash on your couch for a while and then telling them they now owe you sex even though you said it could be platonic is really abusive.
posted by xarnop at 4:07 AM on May 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm going to close this up now. I think everyone has pretty much had a chance to say their piece on this in terms of site standards, and at this point we're really kind of repeating ourselves, flogging and reflogging social/gender, etc. issues that are much larger than our goal here of working out questions of site policy and participation, as well as kind of pulling up old stuff to fight about, and continuing to use the thread to analyse and/or criticize the OP of the Ask post.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:12 AM on May 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


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