I responded, "You constantly hear women say that they're 'creeped out' by unwanted attention from guys, or that certain guys are 'creepy,' yet no one criticizes the women for saying this. The only ones worthy of criticism in these cases seem to be the 'creepy' guys. Why can't guys react the same way to such unwanted attentions [from other guys]?"
This friend later suggested that I wrote the post because it made me feel more masculine; I thought I was being self-deprecating about my own insecurities. Oh well.
In any case, the issue of disgust merits discussion: who exactly is creepy, what makes them that way, and who has the right to label someone that way?
Creepiness, like beauty, seems to be in the eye of the beholder. The deciding factors seem to be age, gender, and distance from the sexual norm.
If an eight-year-old has a crush on another eight-year-old, we consider it cute. But if a forty-year-old has a crush on an eight-year-old, it's creepy. There is near universal agreement on this, especially since he'd be breaking the law by acting on that "crush."
But what if such a person doesn't intend to molest, but only to observe, and store away potential masturbatory fantasies for later? Are we still right to be disgusted by him? After all, he can't help who he is, anymore than a regular homosexual can.
(I actually have more sympathy for child molesters than most. Imagine for a moment that you are attracted to eight-year-old boys, and you can't help this any more than you can help being attracted to whomever you're attracted to now. You find the idea of a smooth, hairless, innocent little child infinitely more appealing than some big, hairy, wrinkly, cynical grownup. You know that taking advantage of children is wrong; yet they are the only ones you're attracted to. Would you be able to go through your entire life without indulging yourself even once?)
Middle-aged women freely -- and frequently -- express their disapproval of older men who date, or marry, much younger women. We've all heard such clucking. Yet when it comes to "cougars," you never hear middle-aged women express disapproval. Their attitude about that phenomenon is more, "You go girl!"
I've heard several women express their disapproval of Hugh Hefner for his much younger girlfriends, and now, wife. By contrast, there has been a deafening silence about Madonna and Demi Moore, both of whom favor men far younger than themselves.
The age factor aside, a woman who comes on to a man is never called a "creep" or "pervert." Yet men who come on to women get called that all the time. Why one but not the other?
(It is equally true, as many women have pointed out, that it is unfair to praise men with a long list of partners as "studs," yet label their female counterparts as "sluts." But if that logic holds, then we should also get rid of the double standard described in the paragraph above.)
Homosexuals used to be called "queer." This is because most people perceive them that way; if you're not used to them, they can seem weirdly perverse. This term has fallen by the wayside -- except for a few gay activists who embrace it -- but I've heard too many people describe being creeped out by an approach from a homosexual not to think that that is a natural instinctive reaction.
Should we guard against such instincts? I'm for gay marriage, because I'm for equal rights. And I'm certainly against violence against or bullying of homosexuals. But does this mean I have to pretend to deny my own natural reaction? Wouldn't that be dishonesty? Or is it just good manners?
(Come to think of it, good manners usually boil down to tactful dishonesty.)
Another issue is the difference between simply seeing a homosexual on the street and having one actually make a pass at you. Does the latter give you the right to be creeped out, whereas the former does not?
Generally, the further you get away from what's considered the norm, the more people are disgusted. Otherwise, why would people be creeped out by a woman with facial hair but not by a man? They react that way because that's just not the way it's supposed to be -- and it's a very rare condition. A lot of people find circus freaks scary. Is this reaction evil, or even politically incorrect? It seems hard to condemn anybody merely for being fearful.
How about perversions among heterosexuals? Mocking men who see dominatrixes seems to be a staple in the movies. Why is it okay to mock them but not homosexuals? Who gets to label something as a (shameful) perversion?
These are all dichotomies worth pondering -- especially those which give off a not so faint whiff of hypocrisy.
My takeaway is, everybody has the right to be disgusted by whatever they're disgusted by -- as long as it doesn't infringe on anyone's legal rights. But as long as whoever is disgusting them is minding their own business, good manners dictate that that disgust not be expressed.
At least within earshot.