How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy

One of the lessons highlighted in the thread “Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter” is Gender ratio matters.

There have recently been a number of articles addressing one social skills issue that might be affecting this, from the perspective of a geeky/​sciencefiction community with similar attributes to LessWrong, and I want to link to these, not just so the people potentially causing problems get to read them, but also so everyone else knows the resource is there and has a name for the problem, which may facilitate wider discussion and make it easier for others to know when to point towards the resources those who would benefit by them.

However before I do, in the light of RedRobot’s comment in the “Of Gender and Rationality” thread, I’d like to echo a sentiment from one of the articles, that people exhibiting this behaviour may be of any gender and may victimise upon any gender. And so, while it may be correlated with a particular gender, it is the behaviour that should be focused upon, and turning this thread into bashing of one gender (or defensiveness against perceived bashing) would be unhelpful.

Ok, disclaimers out of the way, here are the links:

Some of those raise deeper issues about rape culture and audience as enabler, but the TLDR summary is:

  1. Creepy behaviour is behaviour that tends to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

  2. If a significant fraction of a group find your behaviour creepy, the responsibility to change the behaviour is yours.

  3. There are specific objective behaviours listed in the articles (for example, to do with touching, sexual jokes and following people) that even someone ‘bad’ at social skills can learn to avoid doing.

  4. If someone is informed that their behaviour is creeping people out, and yet they don’t take steps to avoid doing these behaviours, that is a serious problem for the group as a whole, and it needs to be treated seriously and be seen to be treated seriously, especially by the ‘audience’ who are not being victimised directly.


Despite the way some of the links are framed as being addressed to creepers, this post is aimed at least as much at the community as a whole, intended to trigger a discussion on how the community should best go about handling such a problem once identified, with the TLDR being “set of restraints to place on someone who is burning the commons”, rather that a complete description that guarantees that anyone who doesn’t meet it isn’t creepy. (Thank you to jsteinhardt for clearly verbalising the misinterpretation—for discussion see his reply to this post)