Sorry, Being ‘Awkward’ Isn’t An Excuse For Being Creepy

I’m awkward, and you don’t find me snapping shots of women’s boobs.

I’ve been a nerd for as long as I can remember.

My dad raised me on video games and comic books, and it wasn’t long until I got into Magic: The Gathering tournaments, anime, sci-fi television, mIRC chat rooms and cosplay. You name it: if it’s nerdy I’ve probably at least dabbled in it.

For a good chunk of my childhood and teenage years I was used to being one of a small handful, or sometimes the only, woman in my group. I had the luxury of not noticing at first. I was stuck in this headspace where I very badly wanted to be a tomboy, and it’s only now that I’m can see that desire likely came out of wanting very badly to fit in with the people who made up my social groups.

Comments like, “Girls are so shallow and superficial. But not you Natalie, you’re like one of the guys” would make my weak. They made me feel successful because I knew from my time with them that girls were the lesser.

I heard the things they’d say about women. I participated in the sexist jokes and stayed quiet when they said they were going to “totally rape” their opponent in their next Magic: The Gathering tournament. It’s how I know for certain awkwardness isn’t an affliction these geeky guys suffer from that makes it impossible for them to relate to women. It’s a shield they hide behind so they can get away with being disgusting human beings.

I was at a convention with a friend who was wearing a costume that was a little revealing in the bust. Without warning, a guy wrapped his arm around her waist, leaned in with a pointed leer at her chest, and snapped a photo. She was left in a daze as he wandered off, and I’m sure that’s not the worst she got over the weekend.

We’ve all heard stories about nerdy guys using their awkwardness as an excuse. We may have even heard people try to justify it. “He’s just not used to being around girls. He doesn’t know any better yet.”

Here’s where I differ. If he’s 20 years old and hasn’t figured out that women aren’t property yet, I’m not obligated to give him a pass because he’s made shitty life choices.

Sorry, but nerd culture has been mainstream for decades now. You no longer run the risk of being beat up for having a Final Fantasy 7 sticker on your binder or a Dungeons & Dragons set in your backpack. Nerd culture is popular, ever-present, and even sexy – so sexy in fact, several conventions have had to start passing rules about ‘booth girls’, women who are hired to wear sexy cosplay to attract customers to specific vendors tables.

Recent studies show that nearly 50 per cent of gamers are women. Sorry boys, but your He-Man Women Hater’s Club has been infiltrated by the ladies. We’re everywhere now. We have movements like Geeks for CONsent, who have spent a lot of time making sure conventions have anti-sexual harassment rules. You don’t get to be disgusting anymore and pretend like it’s because you fall into the virgin nerd boy trope.

For one, being a virgin doesn’t get you a pass on anything. For another, there’s nothing actually wrong with being a virgin. If you think you have to have had sex to know how to treat women respectfully, your first sexual experience is going to be a huge disappointment – and probably a lot farther off that it would’ve been if you learned that other thing first.

Your decision to pointedly ignore the fact that we both exist and are actual people rather than sex objects for you to claim as per every John Hughes film to come out of the 80s, isn’t really my problem. You know better. And if you don’t, you should.

If you choose to avoid interacting with women respectfully, guess what? There are consequences! And depending on how disgusting you try to be, those consequences could end with jail time. And you don’t get to whine about how you’re a fully grown adult who was never taught how to behave in social situations properly with women, because the onus is on you to learn how to do that. The world doesn’t exist to educate you.

Comment: Do you think men pull the ‘awkward nerd’ excuse too often? Is it adequate justification?