Today I’m laying down a fresh new perspective on a tired old problem: creepiness.

Creepy (adj): Causing an unpleasant feeling of fear or unease. In lindy hop, a label given to a person (usually a man) who disrespects someone’s boundaries (usually a woman) in a way that makes her uncomfortable.

Women need to feel safe, respected, and able to maintain their boundaries at social dances. Usually women are unable to articulate exactly what bothers us about a creepy guy’s behavior. Many times we second-guess our feelings.

Instead of confronting you, we discuss it with each other. Before long you’re labelled as a “creep”.

I hypothesize that most “creeps” don’t mean to make women feel uncomfortable. I believe that if you understand exactly what you are doing and why it bothers us, you’ll respect that and change your behavior.

Are you secretly being called creepy? Take this quiz and find out what you can do about it.

1. Where do you look when you’re dancing with a woman?

“Her collarbone, neck, or shoulder.” Wrongo! A woman can easily mistake this for staring at her chest and feel extremely creeped out.

“Her eyes.” You probably think you’re making a deep connection by staring into her eyes. But unless you are lovers, this much intimacy feels creepy to the max.

“Anywhere but her.” Whether you’re nervous or showing off, this doesn’t set the right tone either. But you probably won’t be called creepy.

Best answer: Just over her shoulder, perhaps sometimes her feet. Several times per dance, make brief eye contact to connect visually. Also look around the dance floor so you don’t bump into anyone. Your partner will appreciate it.

If you're this brazen, your creepiness is no secret.

2. When you pull a woman into a very close position, what do you do if she squirms, tenses up, or stumbles?

“Hold her tighter and try to lead more clearly.” Nope, no good. These are often signs that she’s uncomfortable being that close to you. If she can’t get away from you, she’ll feel trapped. Your creep-o-meter just skyrocketed.

“That never happens.” Get a clue. You are probably not perceptive enough. Unless you only dance with a few people or never dance in closed position, chances are good that you’ve accidentally overstepped boundaries.

Best answer: Give her more space immediately. She might simply not be good at dancing that close together, or she might not be comfortable dancing that close to you. Don’t take it personally.

3. How often do you lead dips and tricks?

“I do tricks in most of my dances—they’re fun!” Hold up there, buddy. Dips and tricks are hard to lead and rarely musically and socially appropriate. Don’t dip with abandon; most women don’t like it.

Best answer: Occasionally, when appropriate, with good technique and a very capable partner.

4. Which parts of the female body are acceptable to touch during a dance?

Acceptable places to touch a woman in lindy hop.

  • Mid/upper back
  • Low back
  • Head and neck
  • Stomach
  • Hips
  • Hands
  • Arms
  • Thighs
  • Chest

Best answer: Mid/upper back, hands, arms only (for 99% of moves you do). For the vast majority of people you will dance with, cross every other body part off your list (and never grasp her wrist). If you so much as brush any other body parts, a woman’s alarm bells start going off.

Oh, and if you ‘accidentally’ brush a boob? Be glad you don’t get a punch to the face. Honestly. If you’re not apologizing profusely, expect to be avoided. Start paying better attention to where your hands are, ya creeper!

An exception: When you are in very close position and your torsos are leaning on each other. This is advanced technique and should be practiced with great awareness of your partner’s boundaries.

5. How often do you try to pick up women at a dance?

“All the time.” You’re kidding right? You probably shouldn’t be a lindy hopper. I’m sure there’s some great booty dancing down at the local club.

“Frequently, occasionally, sometimes. If I can.” Careful. You don’t take a girl home from a dance like you just met her at a bar. We have spider sense. We know when you’re there to get laid, and we will avoid you.

Best answer: Very rarely, because you’re interested in getting to know people for real. You understand that sex happens (woo hoo!), but it’s not your prime motivator for swing dancing.

6. Mark any of the following that describe you:

  • I’m 15 or more years older than the average age of people I dance with.
  • I can be a little awkward sometimes.
  • People have mentioned I have bad breath or BO.
  • I sweat through my shirt easily and continue dancing for a while before changing.
  • I occasionally need to tell follows how to do a move or lead more forcefully so they get it.
  • I dress sort of sloppily and/or don’t comb or style my hair.

Taken singly, these factors don’t equal creepy. But when taken in conjunction (especially with one or more incorrect answers on question 1-5), these traits can easily double your creepiness factor.

Quick tips if you’re concerned that your intentions are taken the wrong way:

  1. Dress neatly. Comb your hair. Wear deodorant. Brush your teeth, chew gum, gargle with mouthwash as many times as you need. And change your shirt as soon as you sweat through it. If that adds up to 10 shirts a night, so be it.
  2. Dance with people of all ages. Most of us try very hard not to be ageist. It feels weird when we notice an older man dancing mainly with much younger women. We’re protective.
  3. Never instruct on the social dance floor. If a lead doesn’t work, don’t force it.

“I got some answers wrong! Now what??”

If you’ve read this post and see yourself here, I salute you. It takes great guts to admit fault.

If you got several answers wrong, you may have a bit of a reputation. Here’s the best advice I can give you:

Focus on what you can do to make it right, not on how you were misunderstood.

No More Dance Rejection tileWomen will forgive you when they see you’ve changed your mindset and especially your behavior. That’s not only good for women, it’s great for your social karma!

For help conquering rejection, download the online course No More Dance Rejection!

Have you ever successfully rehabilitated your “creepy” behaviors? Share your story in the comments!