Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth
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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Guys Explain the Common Catcall

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Welcome back to Guysourcing, where a panel of helpful gentlemen answer your questions! This week, again by reader request, we asked, "how do you feel about men who catcall at women? Have you ever done it? If so, why? Do you understand why other men do it?" Read on for the guys' responses.

Schrödinger's rapist

What, no. That is unacceptable. There is no such thing as catcalling, there is just street harassment. I mean — Schrödinger's rapist pretty succinctly covers the crux of the matter, but it has extra layers on top of that; women's bodies as public property that anyone can comment on, that anyone can say any sort of sexualized slurs about ... and then women are supposed to take it as a compliment? No. It is about power, not about ... whatever fairytale someone might spin, about compliments or even picking up women. I wish I had a better tactic for saying something about it when it happens out in the world; I don't know the best way to "check" it, externally, when someone else does it. I tend to think Hollaback has the right attitude about it, but I also realize it isn't incumbent on victims to change the behaviors of the people who harass them.

Yelling vs. staring

I think men who catcall women on the street are a bunch of giant assholes. I just don't get this at all. Is this a mating strategy that has ever worked for anyone? Has a woman ever once stopped for a guy and said, "Oh, you like this? OK, let's go screw!" And it's just so awful and degrading for women, and it must be awful to endure such a random act of vocal violence while walking down the street.

I have never catcalled anyone, but I will say, when I see a hot guy on the subway, I will blatantly stare at him until he gets off or I get off or I get off thinking about him getting off. Whichever happens first. I won't say anything, but, man, will I lech. I guess I'm not that much better.


Male bonding

Catcalling is, in general, a way to relieve boredom during a dull workday and establish "hey we are all straight!" amongst guys working together. I spent my high school and college years (so eight years total) working a union job for a union grocery store and every so often when we were unloading trucks someone would call a catcall when an attractive woman would walk by. Then, most of the other guys would join in. It wasn't an attempt to hit on the woman or to be threatening. It was just a way for the dudes to blow off a bit of steam and be like "We are men!" I don't think I participated at the time though I can't say for sure (we are talking 20 years ago.) During most of the time I was unloading trucks and stocking shelves for ACME I had a girlfriend who was also working there, so I think that I didn't participate just to not get in trouble - which was considered totally cool, I'd validated my "straightness" by having a cute girlfriend everyone I worked with knew. I might have done so once or twice on a boring night - I don't want to claim to be a saint. If I did so, however, it would have just been to pass the time and male bond a little bit. These days when one of my female friends comes into the bar with a new haircut or has obviously made an effort to make herself look better than normal my friends and I (both male and female) will catcall her when she first shows up - but that's just to show we've noticed she looks pretty that night. And it's in good fun.

Just go up and say hi

I don't get it. That's...really all I can say on the subject. Straight men, why would you do this, ever? Actually, scratch that, why would any guy do this, ever? In what Pacey-Witter-grows-up-to-be-a-superspy-for-SCIENCE! alternate reality is catcalling considered in good form, taste, or hygiene? Really, people. Just...don't do it. Period. If somebody's pretty/handsome/aesthetically pleasing enough for you to consider hollering at them from across a crowded room/street/what have you, then guess what? Going up and saying hi? Probably a more effective (and definitely a more respectful!) alternative.


A cartoon education

I think I probably learned that catcalling is highly ineffective and inappropriate from cartoons. Whenever a wolf whistled or eyes popped out of a pig's head and the subject of their attention simply ignored them and kept walking, I guess I figured out that they were animals in more than just form. Talking to a woman doesn't seem to happen when you're yelling at her. Even more strangely, I might've even been a little afraid of moving to or even visiting New York for a while because I had a vision of lots of construction workers yelling at every passerby, most notably every attractive girl. But I realized that too was a stereotype from a bygone era. Construction workers have jobs they're probably a little more occupied with (jackhammers don't seem to safely operate themselves unless they're in commercials) and I've yet to see one catcall since moving here. Which is why, if I've ever catcalled a woman, I think I've only ever catcalled someone I know who understands the irony of a hearty "Hummina hummina hummina!" or "Hellooooooooo, nurse!"


My first thought is that it's stupid because seriously, when in the history of the universe has any woman ever been like "I'm going to go have sex with that construction worker who just told me I have a butt that won't quit?" Obviously it's also really gross.

I've definitely never done it. I'd have to assume for men who do catcall, it's simply a source of entertainment. I don't think anyone expects to get a date that way, but maybe sometimes they're genuinely viewing it as a compliment? That seems insane, but you never know.


Pondering the stats

I've never catcalled. I assume that it's done in hope that the recipient will think "I find this guy attractive and he clearly likes me. We should have sex!" I guess the best way to understand it as a guy is to think about what I'd think if a woman catcalled at me. Best case scenario: If it were someone I found attractive (that may be a paradox, on account of the catcall), I'd probably be flattered. And if I were interested in casual sexual encounters, it seems like a pretty straightforward way to cut to the chase., I suppose in a fantasy world where I'm earth-shatteringly handsome and have enough charm to transition from catcall to sex, I can understand the motivation. This is one of those situations where it'd be fascinating to see statistics — like percentages of catcall conversions to sex.


"A foreign concept"

I honestly think the last time I catcalled someone was back when I was aged in the single digits. I'm pretty sure I picked it up from cartoons or something of the ilk, but have never used it to try and pick someone up. To be honest, if I could pick someone up with a catcall, they probably wouldn't be the type I was going for.

I don't think I've ever seen someone catcall in real life, mostly just in media. I'm sure there are guys that do it, and I'm fairly sure that it doesn't do them any good. To me a catcall is a wordless way of sexually harassing someone. It's akin to saying, "Hey baby, I wanna put my thing in your thing while grabbing your other things."

I wish I could be a bit more enlightening on the subject, but the thought to catcall someone has never really occurred to me. It's such a foreign concept that I google'd, wiki'd and went to Urban Dictionary to make sure that there wasn't some additional meaning to the term.


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