What Makes a Man Come Off as Creepy?

Pars Sahin / Unsplash

Source: Pars Sahin / Unsplash

No man wants to be seen as creepy. In fact, some avoid it so much that it affects their ability to pursue romantic interests.

But according to Blaine Anderson — an online dating coach from Austin, Texas — there’s a big difference between turning someone on and looking creepy.

In fact, she suggests that avoiding nine telltale behaviors associated with creepiness (e.g., staring, unwanted contact on social media, making inappropriate comments, controlling behaviors, pressure for sex, etc.) is a surefire way , to avoid making it sound scary alarm.

I recently spoke to Anderson to discuss her ideas and learn about some dating tips she has for guys. Here is a summary of our conversation:

Mark Travers: You recently conducted a survey on what it means to be creepy in the context of online dating. What inspired you to undertake this effort, how did you do it, and what did you find out?

Blaine Anderson: Earlier this year, I noticed an increase in the number of potential clients contacting me and saying something like, “I’m scared of approaching women because I don’t want to be perceived as creepy.”

As I heard this feeling over and over again, I realized the following:

  1. “Creepy” lacks a clear definition in a dating context
  2. The ambiguity about what it means to be “creepy” is problematic from a dating perspective

If it were clear what makes a behavior creepy, men wouldn’t worry about being unintentionally perceived as creepy. But because it’s unclear, the fear of being creepy can create deep social anxiety in many men.

The confusion about what’s scary and what’s not is also a problem for women. Obviously, women don’t like being exposed to scary behaviors, so greater clarity about what is and isn’t scary could make women less likely to have scary experiences.

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Perhaps just as importantly, it’s also bad for single women when awesome single men don’t approach them for fear of being perceived as creepy.

These issues inspired me to nail down a clearer definition of “creepy” in a dating context. I decided to commission census-style survey data from 2,000 American women, ages 18-40, to understand exactly what behaviors are scary, and census-style survey data from 1,000 American men, ages 18-40, to understand the extent of the to understand “I”. I’m afraid of approaching women’ problem.

The findings fascinated me. The most important learnings were:

  • Females experience creepy behaviors on a regular basis. 82 percent of women said they experienced creepy behavior “sometimes,” “often,” or “always.”
  • Men avoid women for fear of being creepy. 44 percent of men said that being scared of being creepy “reduces their likelihood of interacting with women” in general, which increases to 53 percent of men who said they were single.
  • There are nine creepy behaviors men should avoid. Some are more obvious than others. The full list is (1) staring, (2) unwanted social media contact, (3) inappropriate comments, (4) controlling behavior, (5) doesn’t accept “no”, (6) unwanted physical contact, (7) sex pressure , (8) attachment and (9) physical stalking.

MT: What exactly do you tell men so they don’t look creepy?

BA: Most men don’t need an expert to tell them that behaviors like pressure women to have sex or physical stalking are wrong. The creepy behaviors, which are the most subtle, require the most attention because they are the easiest to display unintentionally. The top 3 are:

  1. stare
  2. Unwanted contact on social media
  3. attachment

MT: What do you think are the most common pitfalls when it comes to online dating, for both men and women?

BA: I like to say that online dating offers a very “shallow” experience.

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Each service has its own flavor (e.g., Bumble, women’s news first), but whether you use Bumble, Tinder, The League, or anything else, your profile will consist of the same few photos and lines of text. This lack of depth means you’ll never be able to communicate who you are (or understand who you agree with) with the same depth as you can in a 60-second face-to-face conversation. For this reason, I am more and more pleased that my clients learn to get to know potential partners personally.

Women tend to struggle with a “needle in a haystack” problem. As a woman, it’s difficult to get the information you want to know about a potential partner from just a few photos and lines of text. It’s easy to experience a stream of disappointing dates with incompatible people and feel discouraged from online dating as a result.

On the other hand, men are more likely to struggle with a “one in a crowd” problem. The majority of men on dating apps have indistinct profiles and therefore don’t get many matches. This leads to the widespread, albeit untrue, feeling that dating apps are being rigged against men.

MT: Do you have a favorite online dating service or does it depend on your client and their background/interests?

BA: For my clients looking to go out online, I often recommend Hinge as a good place to start. Hinge is easy to integrate and use, it has a large user base of attractive singles, and I like how they market their service as “for deletion”.

I step back and help my clients find the right channel to meet women based on their personal interests and preferences, be it online or in person.

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Historically, many men have had this misconception that they should meet women in bars and if they can’t, something is wrong. This couldn’t be further from the truth today. There are endless ways to meet women outside of bars, both in person and online, once you learn to market yourself and build confidence in your approach.

MT: Aside from not being seen as creepy, what are your top tips for guys looking to be more successful at online dating?

BA: Here are three tips especially for online dating:

  1. Get an outside opinion on your photos. From coaching over 1,000 men, I’ve learned that few men can reliably predict which photos of themselves are attractive and which are not.
  2. Be as specific as possible in your written bio and prompts. If you’re just communicating general things that could apply to almost every other man on the app, like “I love to travel,” you won’t differentiate yourself and you won’t get many matches.
  3. Your profile’s performance reflects the effort you put into it. A lot of guys race through creating their profiles after downloading a dating app so they can start swiping as soon as possible. This is usually an extremely unsuccessful strategy.

My number one tip for men in general is to depersonalize rejection. A woman’s interest in you can depend on hundreds of factors that are not only beyond your control, but may also be completely independent of you. Accept that rejection is part of the process. It often has nothing to do with your approach, and even when it does, rejection reflects less of a character flaw or personal deficiency and more of an opportunity to improve.

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