The 5 Worst Catcalls

Illustration for article titled The 5 Worst Catcalls

"Babe" is the most hated pet name and "gorgeous" is the most acceptable for couples to call each other, according to a recent survey. But what about all of the pet names men use to catcall women whom they have never slept with or even high-fived?


Siteopia recently polled 2,000 Brits to find out the most despised and most tolerable pet names for couples to call each other. The Most Hated Pet Name Of All Time is "babe," which is weird, because even the most fervent anti-pet-namers I know have, at some point, accidentally (and unironically!) called a partner "babe" or "baby." (The latter is apparently less offensive; it only ranked #17.)

The study's findings are a bit confusing, because Siteopia doesn't specify whether the survey-takers were talking about pet names that they call their spouse on the regular, obnoxious pet names they've overheard couples call each other (the worst one I've ever heard is "grumble-grums"), or pet names they call each other when their partner is out of earshot. (Well, some men did say that they call their wife "the old ball and chain" when she's not around. Original!)

But I've had way too many of the pet names on both the Most Hated and Most Accepted list hollered at me from random dudes on the street: Darling, Lover, Sexy Legs, etc. Here are my top 5 least favorite catcall pet names:

5. Baby

"Baby" may be the most annoying pet name in the minds of Siteopia's survey-takers, but I think it's the least annoying catcall because it's so inoffensively banal. "Baby" is like the vanilla of catcalling. It feels almost half-assed. If you're going to try and assert your masculinity over me in a public space, can't you try and be a little more original?

Alternatives: Babe, Baby Doll

4. Sexy

It's gross whenever a stranger yells "SexXxXy!!" at you — particularly when you're not trying to look sexy for anyone, like when you're wearing sweats and a T-shirt with stains on it en route to get your allergy prescription — but at least it's straightforward. A "sexy" is so obvious that you don't feel the creepy pseudo-intimacy that comes along with other names further down the list...


Alternatives: Sexy Legs/Lips/Insert Body Part here, Sexy Mama

3. Princess

PSA: You should never call any girl a "princess," but you should definitely never call anyone over the age of nine a princess. Unless she is actually a princess. Which, unless you hang out near Buckingham Palace, she is probably not.


2. Sweetie

"Sweetie" is a few notches ickier than "sexy," because it's not just your looks that are being ogled: it's your personality. A "sweetie" said in a lecherous tone sends (the wrong kind of) chills down my spine because it infantilizing, patronizing, and connotes little-girl subservience. The worst part is that people sometimes think you're weird for being offended by a "sweetie," because it's, well, sweet. So the catcaller gets to be all butt-hurt and think you're a bitch if you don't respond well to his "nice" sentiment.


Note: I have friends from the Midwest who don't get offended when they're called "sweetie," because they say it's more commonplace there. Maybe it's a coastal thing? Few strangers say "sweetie" to adult women in California (where I'm from) without iffy motives.

Alternatives: Sweet Thing, Sweetie Pie, Honey

1. Whistling/Kissing Sounds

THERE IS NOTHING WORSE THAN THIS because it makes you feel like you're not even a woman, just a barnyard animal, or maybe a piece of furniture. Maybe even worse: that teeth sucking sound.


Extra Credit: "Smile!" NO I WILL NOT.

Image via SVLumaShutterstock.



Thick skins, people! Don't let anyone make you feel like a barnyard animal, particularly when they're the ones making the zoological noises! Give a withering look of disdain and disgust at anyone who would lower themselves thusly, be glad you're better than that, and move on.

And please, there are a shit ton of things worse than whistling/kissing noises, even in terms of street harassment. How many times I have had my ass grabbed from behind... But have your own innate dignity and self-possession that some jackass isn't going to disturb by acting like a toddler. They're the ones embarrassing themselves.

Incidently, as a Cali person, I actually kind of like being called sweetie or sweetheart, although I don't hear it much. It at least shows a kind of familiar affection that seems particularly non-threatening and friendly (although I really don't regard any of this as threatening, just stupid and obnoxious).