One thing I’ve picked up from my time in the manosphere is that a lot of men think women are too liberal with the word “creepy.” They think that women summarily apply it to every man they find sexually unattractive, as though “sexually unattractive” were a subset of “creepy.” While I’m sure that some women label every unattractive man “creepy,” most of the time it is a knee-jerk assessment. Creepiness is a woman’s gut telling her that something is Not Right. Every woman has had at least one experience being in the presence of a truly creepy man who set off every red flag in her head and made her want to run away as fast as possible.
Most of the time, creepiness stems from some degree of social inability. People expect others to relate to them in a culturally accepted way, and deviating from these socially acceptable cues will set off alarms in people’s heads. Probably the biggest creep factor is a combination of staring and lurking. Staring makes people uncomfortable because people aren’t accustomed to prolonged looks, and lurking makes people uncomfortable because people interpret prolonged eye contact as a reason to approach. A woman who is getting looks from a man will usually expect him to approach her and begin conversation. However, if he continues looking but never tries to talk to her, she will start to feel uncomfortable and possibly threatened. If the man has other unfavorable social markers such as hygiene and grooming issues, he’ll easily fall into the creepy category.
Icky touching is another creepiness factor. Most people touch in accordance with the level of intimacy they share, starting with hand-to-shoulder and progressing to fuller bodily contact. Creepy touching is touching that is inappropriate to the level of intimacy that two people share, or goes on too long to be plausibly innocent, or seems gratuitous to the situation. For example, if some guy you don’t know too well is always coming up behind you and putting his hands on your shoulders and rubbing them as a means of starting interaction with you, that’s creepy.
Invasive conversation is likely to set off the creepy alarms as well. By invasive conversation I mean conversation that is overly focused and inappropriate to the level of familiarity with the other person. One time I was in a group where a man was asking another woman in the group a lot of detailed, personal questions about herself – questions that a normal person would not ask of someone they had just met. The woman tried to answer the questions as politely as possible, but when he left, she turned to me and asked, “Did that guy seem creepy to you?” To which I answered, “YES.”
Off the top of my head, the three issues I’ve mentioned here are the main ones that trigger the creepy factor (at least outside of truly, unmistakably socially “off” behavior). What creepiness is NOT is social awkwardness. You are not creepy if you’re shy, or bumbly, or prone to stick your foot in your mouth. As I said before, creepiness is really about that gut-level feeling that something is Not Right in the way another person is interacting with you and that it could possibly put you at risk.