Just because you're on the spectrum or neurodivergent, doesn't mean you have a right to be creepy.
Life isn't fair.
Most of us have known this since we were children. Life isn't fair — and that's just so unfair.
One example of life not being fair that's come up a few times, lately, is the fact that flirting with women is harder for people with autism or who are otherwise neurodivergent.
The reason it's been coming up is that I've written a couple of posts about how creepy men who don't want to come across as creepy anymore can be less creepy. These posts include:
In short, the main takeaways from these articles are:
1. Flirting is fun when reciprocated and mutually enjoyable.
2. Flirting is creepy when it is not reciprocated and mutually enjoyed.
3. Pretending that the "exact same behavior" is either seen as flirting or harassment depending on the guy's attractiveness is TOTAL FUCKING BULLSHIT, because it COMPLETELY erases the woman's agency in the situation.
If she's not flirting back and the guy continues hitting on her, he is ABSOLUTELY NOT doing the "exact same thing" as a guy who is flirting with a woman who is showing interest and reciprocation.
The one is making creepy, unwanted advances. The other is flirting. HUGE difference.
If you don't understand the difference — if you don't see why a woman needs to be an enthusiastic partner in order for your flirting not to be creepy, then THAT IS WHY YOU ARE CREEPY.
Your problem isn't your social skills. It's your lack of human decency.
One or more of my articles must have been shared on some kind of autism forum recently, because I've received a few comments and notes — enough that I wanted to address them in this post.
A few individuals have reached out simply to lament, It's really hard to flirt when you're neurodivergent, and it's not fair.
I totally agree. Flirting and dating are tricky even when you don't have differences that make it difficult to pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues. It sucks and is not fair that it's so much harder for some people than it is for others.
The best book I've read on this topic, and one I'd love to hear your thoughts on if you're part of the neurodivergent community, Olivia Fox Cabane's The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism:
The Charisma Myth correctly states that social skills are just that: skills. Some people learn them easily and automatically, with little to no conscious effort. Others — even those who aren't on the spectrum — have to put active, conscious study into developing social skills and situational awareness.
Again, yes. It is unfair that some people need to read and practice these skills. But life isn't fair, and I'm sure you have your share of unfair advantages and privilege in this world, too.
If you have the willingness to work on your social skills, you can avoid past mistakes and act in ways that women won't describe as "creepy."
And here's where some of the feedback I've received gets wonky:
Some of the guys who have reached out seem to think that because social skills are hard for them, that they have some kind of right to creep out women — and that if we don't want to feel unsafe or uncomfortable, we are "ableist."
Nope. Nope, nope, nope.
FIRST OF ALL, if you think you have a "right" to make women uncomfortable, THAT IS EXACTLY WHY YOU ARE CREEPY.
The problem isn't your social skills. It's your lack of humanity and human decency. Yes, you have a disability. That sucks! However, your disability doesn't mean I deserve to feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Your disability doesn't mean I have to endure your creepy comments about my body or inappropriate touches.
If you make me uncomfortable, I get the fuck out. I don't wait around to see if someone whose behavior indicates a lack of respect for (or awareness of) my boundaries, dignity, or safety, is going to hurt me.
I get the fuck out. I scream no in his face. I tell him to leave me alone and get his hands off of me.
I don't care about your feelings. I care about my safety.
And here's a little hint: if I'm screaming at you, it's not because I'm crazy or mean or unreasonable. It's because you are.
As I wrote in If a Girl You Were Hitting On Was Rude to You, It's Probably Your Fault:
If I had to yell at you, you fucked up.
It is unsettling to me how many people have commented or emailed to suggest women endure danger, objectification, and discomfort, just because someone else is on the spectrum. For example, this comment:
No, DB. It's not "ableist" to want to feel safe. But your creepy male entitlement is showing.
Then there's Doubter:
Yes. Feelings can be wrong. But it would be outrageously stupid not to remove yourself from a creepy or dangerous situation because you might be "wrong" about feeling unsafe.
I don't give a shit whether someone "means me absolutely no harm but is socially inept." I'm not a magical, miracle, mind reading fortune teller. All I have to go on, to decide if I am safe or not, if your behavior. If YOU are acting creepy, YOU are the problem, not me.
Also, on the topic of male entitlement: it's not my job to educate and rehabilitate someone who is socially inept. You're not entitled to my affection or attention, just because you're on the spectrum. It's not women's job to do the emotional labor of educating someone they don't know and don't feel comfortable around.
Figure out what you're doing wrong, and stop doing it. Otherwise, like I said, your problem isn't your social skills. It's your humanity.
I've received several other notes and comments that are similarly creepy and bizarre... as well as a few that are a little more reasonable. For example, Danny wrote:
So.... you see the difference between Danny and DB and Doubter, right?
DB and Doubter are all, "We're creepy, but we're disabled, so suck it up and sacrifice your safety and comfort, ladies!"
Danny is all, "I am trying to improve, and here is why it's hard."
Of the three of them, Danny is the one I'd be most likely to date, because he's the only one who seems mature and adult enough to take accountability for his mistakes and try to improve. The others just make excuses and whine — and this is a VERY unattractive trait in men.
I'll add, Danny, that you are not alone in being confused about whether and when women are flirting. As I wrote in We Tell Girls to "Look Out For Each Other" At Parties. Boys Should Be Looking Out For Each Other, Too:
Most men are terrible at knowing when women are flirting, regardless of whether or not they're on the spectrum.
Then there's CG's message, which, while not creepy and entitled, highlights the fact that life is just not fair.
I do see the perspective. It sucks, it's not fair, and I feel deep empathy for anyone who is struggling to connect socially. If I could solve any problem with the snap of my fingers, it would probably be loneliness (which is why I've spent so much time writing about it). I see the Catch-22: the only way to improve your social skills is through practice, but because you need to improve your social skills, most people won't want to practice with you.
(Two REALLY easy rules for getting started, though: 1. Keep your hands to yourself. It's very creepy to touch people who don't want to be touched. 2. Don't make comments about her body or appearance. That violates social convention and is seen as creepy by most women. These are both very easy rules to follow if you actually care about not creeping out women.)
It sucks. It's not fair. But I see hope for men like CG, because they are learning and trying. By practicing their social skills, identifying and ceasing problematic behaviors, and developing other parts of themselves (because people are more likely to accept the bad/difficult/awkward when the good is better — see also: Girls Don't Like Guys BECAUSE They're Jerks. They Like Them DESPITE Being Jerks), there is definitely hope for improvement and meaningful connection.
But I'm not going to apologize for saying women should absolutely never be told or expected to endure discomfort or danger to appease or "affirm" someone else.
The sooner you get this idea out of your head, the sooner women will stop calling you creepy.
9/7/2021 02:25:50 pm
This is the article I didn't know I needed to read. THANK YOU. I'm so tired of men justifying their poor social skills/creep factor or acting like it's impossible to improve. Honestly, a lot of people have made "awkward" their identity and they don't want to improve. People who are on the spectrum deserve any kind of assistance that would be helpful to feeling ready and able to engage in normal social interactions - but it's not a free pass to act however you want without criticism.
9/12/2021 05:17:55 am
Liz, your comment is too cursory. Do you have tangible, specific wisdom to share with those on the spectrum as to how to meet your expectations?
9/12/2021 08:36:15 am
And, Liz, I am also so tired of people who complain about others who have poor social skills/creep factor, but are too intellectually lazy/incompetent to impart solid advice as to how to cure this social disease that you feel so negatively effected by.
9/14/2021 03:37:05 pm
9/10/2021 04:14:28 am
I have a friend on the autistic spectrum who was in this situation. He was also an alcoholic. He turned his life around after he stopped drinking. He then became friends with more women, which he had not done before and learned better how to talk to women. He struggled for a while to find a girlfriend but he got there in the end and is getting married next year.
9/12/2021 08:59:25 am
Ava, is this book you promote by Cabane as good as you say? Will I, and others like the one's you complain about, find answers and guidance that you neglect to offer to redeem themselves in your eyes and become "normal?"
9/14/2021 02:02:51 pm
9/14/2021 03:43:11 pm
10/25/2021 01:20:08 pm
10/25/2021 08:02:23 pm
9/12/2021 09:22:04 am
"I see the Catch-22: the only way to improve your social skills is through practice, but because you need to improve your social skills, most people won't want to practice with you."
9/14/2021 03:50:48 pm
Having read this comment, I'm going to double down on my previous suggestion that you reflect on your entitled attitude. Women find this REALLY creepy, because what ELSE of mine do you think you're entitled to?
10/17/2021 08:21:31 pm
I will give it a read. And, yes, I would be open to writing a post about it. That was very nice of you to offer.
5/26/2023 01:40:11 am
"If you were a piano teacher, don't you think it would be pretty presumptuous for me to demand free lessons from you?"
5/26/2023 09:19:14 am
Learning to play a piano is optional.
5/26/2023 09:21:02 am
And, just so you know, I am not an extrovert at ALL. People mistake me for one, but I'm very much an introvert.
9/16/2021 09:25:21 pm
"It's one thing to show genuine interest in someone's opinion. 'Oh, you think pizza is the best food? How come? What's the best pizza you've ever had?'"
9/17/2021 11:24:58 am
Dan, it really seems like you're missing the point.
9/30/2021 04:18:29 am
But they’re less creepy when they’re deemed attractive, you’re very shallow
5/26/2023 09:12:15 am
When attraction is mutual, then flirting is more likely to be reciprocated.
5/26/2023 01:52:35 am
5/26/2023 01:53:47 am
but if THEY are an aspie
5/26/2023 09:09:38 am
In the first example, I said that men don't have a right to make women uncomfortable, even if they're neurodivergent. Women do not have a societal or personal obligation to educate and rehabilitate men.
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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