How to Get Freaky Without Being Creepy

One of the most common questions I hear is: how do I tell someone I’m into them without coming across as creepy. It’s a real big fear for a lot of people, especially men. Expressing desire without being pushy seems like an impossible task.

What is Creepy?

One thing that makes this difficult is that it’s hard to pin down what we mean by “creepy.” In sexual contexts, creepiness is being inappropriately physically or emotionally intimate for the situation, the connection, or the setting. It’s going past whatever the line is in the circumstances.

The challenge is that it’s not always easy to know where the lines are. They change frequently and what feels ok for one person or in one situation won’t feel ok for someone else or in a different situation. When you combine this with the cultural rules that say that you’re supposed to keep moving forward until the other person tells you to stop, you’re guaranteed to end up going to far. And while that’s certainly more common for men, I’ve seen plenty of folks of other genders do it, too.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are so scared of crossing the line and being creepy that they squash their erotic energy. Their desire to be a safe person results in their hiding their sexual desire. And when you make your sexual energy invisible, it’s difficult to be surprised when people have no idea that you’re interested in them.  Expecting someone to know that you want to ask them out when you’re doing your best to hide your desire is a recipe for resentment. I see this a lot in men who say that they’re “nice guys” and they don’t understand why they can’t get a date.

How to Get Freaky

It seems like it’s an either/or. Either you’re pushy and creepy or you’re friendzoned. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to step out of the false dichotomy. You’ll have to adapt this to each situation and each person, but here’s a formula for creating an enticing invitation. It’ll help you put your desires out there while also showing that you value the other person’s consent and boundaries.

Step 1: start with an “If statement”

  • If you’re available…
  • If you’re in the mood…
  • If you’re interested…

Step two: add a statement of your desire

  • I’d love to go out for dinner with you.
  • I’d love to kiss you.
  • I’d like to try that rope bondage thing we learned on that website.

Put them together and you get something like this:

  • If you’re available, I’d love to go out for dinner with you.
  • If you’re in the mood, I’d love to kiss you.
  • If you’re interested, I’d like to try that rope bondage thing we learned on that website.

The “if” part is how you show that the other person’s desires and consent are important. You’re demonstrating that you only want to do it if they want it. If they don’t, then you don’t. That keeps you from coming across as creepy.

The statement of your desire is what shows your interest. It’s a bold statement, which keeps you from desexualizing yourself. Make sure you don’t turn it into a question:

  • If you’re in the mood, may I kiss you?

Do you see how much weaker that is? It’s not as interesting as a bold invitation. And it’s unnecessary because the “if statement” already demonstrates your commitment to their consent.

I use this formula all the time. I use it with established partners and people I’m flirting with. I use it in work settings (“If you’re available next week, I’d like to schedule that meeting about the project.”) and I use it when I’m asking someone out. Whenever I want to ask someone to do something and I’m not sure how to phrase it, I go back to the invitation formula and it hasn’t failed me yet. That doesn’t mean that I always get what I want. That means that it always helps me figure out how to ask for it.

Four Possible Replies

When you offer someone an invitation, whether it’s for a first date, a first kiss, or anything else, there are four general categories of responses.

First, they might say “yes.” That might be all you need, or it might be the start of a conversation about where to go for dinner or what rope bondage technique to try. So you need to be mindful of next steps, especially with a new partner who you might not read as well as you’d like.

Second, they might say “no.” It’s important to try to view this as them declining your invitation rather than rejecting you. Having an invitation declined will be disappointing, but people say no for lots of different reasons, many of which have nothing to do with you. The more you demonstrate that you can receive that gracefully, the better. In some situations, it allows you to leave the door open for a future interaction. In others, you build up “reputation points.” For example, in many communities, your reputation will precede you and when people know that you can take no for an answer, they’re more likely to say yes. (This is especially true for men who want to approach women. Trust me- women talk with each other about these things.)

Even more importantly, when you think of a declined invitation as a rejection, you set yourself up for a shame spiral. That makes it much harder to try again with someone else. One of the best ways to keep that from happening is to thank the other person for telling you. Yes, I mean saying something like:

  • Thanks for telling me.
  • Thanks for letting me know.
  • Thanks for taking care of yourself.

I know it can be really challenging to do that when you’re feeling disappointed. But it’s important because it has a few positive effects. First, it shows that you can handle it. Sometimes, that means that the other person will be more open to accepting an invitation from you in the future. Sometimes, it helps you build a positive reputation in your community. And perhaps most important, expressing gratitude often makes it easier to not take their response as a rejection of you.

The third possible response they might have is a counter-offer. Maybe they’ll suggest a drink instead of dinner. Or they might want to go to a movie instead of a football game. A counter-offer is great because it means that you can look for the overlap in what you each want to do and try to find something that you’re both a yes to.

The final way they might reply is with request for more information. What kind of restaurant do you want to go to? Which rope bondage technique are you curious about? In these situations, there’s still plenty of room to negotiate, so it’s the start of a conversation. But it’s also an opportunity to look for the overlap between what you want to do and what they want to do. That’s how you get to a yes, although of course, there isn’t always that overlap.

Honoring Boundaries

One of the exercises I do with my somatic coaching clients is an exploration in boundaries. I take one of their hands in both of mine and I ask them to tell me to take my hands off of them. After I remove my hands, I ask them to tell me to put them back.

It sounds like a simple exercise, but there’s a lot of deep information there. For example, there are big differences between:

  • Take your hands off.
  • Please take your hands off.
  • I want you to take your hands off.
  • I’d like you to take your hands off.
  • I’m ready to take your hands off.

I don’t consider the exact phrase someone uses to be diagnostic, but it can be part of a larger pattern. And I’ve had plenty of folks report that it was new for them to tell someone to stop touching them and have it be honored. One woman burst into tears because I was literally the first man to stop touching her when she said, without requiring explanation, justification, or repetition.

That seems like a sad commentary on how badly we do as a culture when it comes to honoring boundaries and it’s no wonder that so many people have to deal with creepy interactions. There are clearly some gendered trends in this. Cisgender men are taught that the way to approach someone or push their boundaries until getting told to stop. When that meets the way that cis women are taught to not say no or are threatened with verbal and/or physical threats or violence when they do, we have a recipe for consent violations.

But I also see this happen in every gender combination there is. It can be harder to recognize creepiness when it comes from a woman (especially when it’s directed at a man). If you aren’t sure about it, imagine that the interaction took place with a man acting in the same way towards a woman. If that feels creepy to you, then ask yourself whether it feels creepy in other gender combinations. And if not, why is that?

Having said all that, it takes a lot of practice to be able to hear someone’s boundaries and not take it as a rejection. It takes practice to not try to talk them out of their “no.” It takes practice to not go into a shame spiral. Ideally, these are things we learn as kids, but most parents either don’t know how to do it or they don’t think it’s important. After all, if you want to teach your kids to respect a “no,” then you have to model it by respecting their “no” and that seems to be a deal breaker for a lot of parents.

As a non-parent, it’s easy for me to say this. But I work with a lot of my clients to help them learn these skills and I see how much harder it is to do as an adult, in much the same way that learning a language is usually more difficult for adults than for kids. That’s why I emphasize saying “thank you” when someone sets a boundary. It makes it a bit easier to get over the learning curve.

Be Mindful of the Context

One of the most important things you can do to avoid being creepy is to be aware of the ways that different situations affect what level of physical or emotional communication is appropriate. For example, the boundaries are different in work situations than they are at a party. They’re different when you move from one community to another, they’re different in various gender combinations, they’re different in sex-positive spaces, etc.

It can be difficult, though, because you might see a level of flirting or physical contact in some spaces and think that it’s ok to engage like that. But it’s much more likely that those interactions are between people who know each other, rather than something that anyone can just do. Those communities have a higher threshold for what kinds of behavior are allowed, but that doesn’t change the importance of consent and asking first.

Learn to Read the Energy

While the invitation formula is really helpful for a lot of people, you still need to be able to read the non-verbal cues and offer an invitation that fits the situation. That takes practice and it’s much easier to do that with a coach than on your own or with a partner. My colleagues at the Somatica Institute are trained to help you experiment and explore how to do that so you can build more confidence and expand your skill set. There are also folks who teach flirting workshops in different cities, though the quality of the information will vary.

Come To My Workshop

There are other skills that make it easier to express and talk about sexual desire or erotic energy without going too far. How to give and receive feedback, how to pay attention to someone’s non-verbal communication, how to ask for what you want- these are all things you can learn and my new workshop is designed to help you figure it out.

How to Get Freaky Without Being Creepy: Navigating Consent, Boundaries, and Touch

Exploring your sexual desires and fantasies can be amazingly fun, with lots of opportunities to create hot, sexy times with someone new or a familiar lover. But there are also lots of ways things can go wrong, especially when alcohol or the altered state of arousal kicks in. It’s easy to go further than you or your partner(s) want, which can cause some serious backlash.

The challenge is in navigating consent, boundaries, and touch without letting it kill the mood. When you can tune into your own desires and boundaries, pay attention to those of a potential partner, and get to the overlap of everyone’s “oh, yes,” that’s when you get the reward.

These are important skills that people of any gender need when navigating sexual situation. It’s more than saying the right words. It takes place on a physical, somatic level and your body won’t lie about it. Rather than ignoring your gut feelings, it’s the skill of listening to what you truly desire, moment by moment. It lets you drop deeper into the pleasure and it lets you build more passion, and it makes it easier to find the places where you both get what you want. The safer you and your partner feel, the higher you can fly.

Sounds great, right? But it’s not always easy to do, especially in a world that doesn’t give us the tools to make it happen. Charlie Glickman is a somatic sex educator and a sex & relationship coach. He’ll lead you through a series of fully-clothed non-sexual exercises to help you discover some easy ways to bring embodied consent into your sex life. You’ll learn:

  • How to tune into your felt sense of consent so you can track where your desires really are
  • Tools for letting your partner know that you value and honor their pleasure and consent
  • How to offer and receive an effective invitation for touch, sex, or anything else (including non-sexual stuff)
  • What you can do to keep things in the “oh, yes” zone and what to do when missteps happen

Come find out what you can do to make your sexy times hotter, juicier, and more passionate! These tools will work for any sexual activity, including BDSM and kink, and can be used by people of all genders and sexual orientations. You’re welcome to come with a partner, a friend, or solo.

People of all genders, sexual orientations, and relationship configurations are welcome.

If you’re interested in helping me arrange something in your town, I’d love to talk with you. Get in touch with me and let’s see what we can cook up. (Did you see what I did there?)

And if you want some one-on-one coaching, I’d be happy to talk with you about that. I offer a free Get Acquainted call and I work with individuals, couples, and poly groups over video or in my Seattle location. Send me a message and let’s see what we can do to help you make sex easy.