I'd never had cause to think about the word "creepy" until an article pointed it out. As the article mentions, "creepy" is a word used disproportionately by women, and disproportionately to describe a particular kind of undesirable man.
It's true; if someone tells me someone else is "creepy," I plant a metaphorical red flag on that person's entry in my mental database. As women, the word "creepy" is used as a warning to other women. It is a warning which is not lightly given, and which is almost always taken seriously.
You can call a guy almost anything, and the woman you're talking to will brush it off as a bad day, a personality clash, whatever. But if you call a guy "creepy," she will sit up straight and shift forward. She may want details, or she may simply nod and agree. But no matter what, "creepy" is kind of a sacred word among women, if that doesn't sound too trite and overbearing.
"Creepy" unpacks as "someone you don't want to be alone with." It carries predatory connotations, and indicates lack of respect for boundaries. The (male) author of the source article moans that women brand a guy creepy "when a guy looks at a girl for a little too long, when he friends her on Facebook a little too quickly" but that isn't my experience. In my experience, it takes one of two things to earn "creepy":
1. A single, yet utterly outlandish incident
2. A pattern of stalkerish, too-forward, or boundary-ignoring behavior.
For example, she's not going to call a guy creepy if he friends her too quickly on Facebook. But if this is part of a long-standing pattern of inappropriate behavior, then it may well be the last straw that leads to "creepy."
(Note to guys: the best way to get yourself branded "creepy" is to give unsolicited back rubs to female coworkers. This behavior is more common than you might think.
Sub-note: if a woman's shoulders tense up when you walk up behind her and set your hands on them, this is not an indication that she is tense and needs a massage. It is an indication that you need to back away and NEVER DO THAT AGAIN.)
As the author relates in the anecdote he ends the article with, it is entirely possible to get the "creepy" label by accident. But the way to shake it is to BACK OFF. When you get right down to it, "creepy" is just a shorthand for indicating that "this guy won't back off."
I'm intrigued by his anecdote, though. I would like to see a transcript of everything he elided past. Which is to say, what happened on the walk home? I suspect that he tripped her "creep alarm" somehow during the walk; presumably by accident.
And there is the final lesson: you don't get called a creep at random. If you are a guy who has been called "creepy," it's not a death sentence. But it is an indication that you frightened her, however unintentionally. Food for thought, one should hope.
Photo credit: Flickr/pdeonarain