As a woman in martial arts, I get creeped on a fair amount. Usually it’s harmless — social skills and an interest in martial arts sadly do not always go hand in hand, but most people mean well and aren’t trying to be as off-putting and occasionally threatening as they are.
One of the “unfair” things about “being” creepy is that it is entirely in the eye of the beholder. Your intentions may be entirely blameless, but I get to determine whether or not I feel creeped on, your intentions notwithstanding. Men I’m close with who would love to compliment women in what I think are entirely appropriate, non-objectifying, and really uplifting ways, don’t. Because they aren’t mind-readers, they don’t know how someone would feel about the compliment, and it’s more important to be respectful than it is to (maybe) light up someone’s day by sharing admiration for a choice she made. Doesn’t feel fair when you were just being nice? Suck it. Try being a woman for a week (or a woman of color or a trans* woman or someone in a position of vulnerability she did not choose) and then talk to me about unfairness.
But social skills (and most creepiness comes down to a lack of good social skills and manners) can be taught. Should be taught. If you’re a parent, take the time to teach. If you’re a grown up, do a solid and honest self-assessment and LEARN and CHANGE. Where to start? Well fortunately for you, a better writer than me has tackled the question. Check out Delilah S. Dawson’s post here. She’s doing it out of love, y’all.