I was walking down the sidewalk the other day with some friends, minding our own business and engaging in stimulating conversation about butthole bleaching. Out of the blue, a piercing whistle from a passing truck interrupted our chatter and was promptly followed up by a “Hey, shawty! What’s good?”
“Ugh,” my friend spluttered, “catcalling is so disgusting. Does he actually think I’m going to hear it and get all hot and bothered and jump in his nasty truck with him for any reason other than to smash him through his own windshield?”
Her comment made me consider the situation. The answer is no, he doesn’t think that at all. So why do men still whoop and whistle, if no catcall in the history of catcalling has ever resulted in a successful sexual encounter?
Some people are genuinely under the impression that there is nothing sexist about catcalling, that it is mere harmless flattery. These are the same people who reason that “if black people can say the n-word, why can’t white people? That’s reverse racism!” (Subtext: idiots.) Catcalling is sexist BECAUSE they don’t expect a response. It is essentially flirt-rape. The perpetrator extends a nuanced invitation for you to touch his genitals, and your opinion factors into the situation not a whit. He is saying that he controls your body to the extent that he doesn’t even need your permission or your interest to proposition you. The implication is that you belong to him, and the only reason his junk isn’t in your mouth RIGHT NOW is because he has given you permission to go to work/Starbucks/your MMA class instead.
Clearly, this behavior is inappropriate. The real question is, how do we respond to catcalling in a way that will actually discourage it? The first thing to keep in mind is that gentlemen were raised as gentlemen and will continue to grow as gentlemen, and the same goes for pigs. Some people were never taught to respect the feelings of others, and your input is probably not going to change that. However, as they say, it’s worth a shot.
Ignoring catcalling is usually ineffective. My mother used to tell me when I was a wee lass and some six-year-old problem child with an asshole for a face was bothering me at school, “If you ignore him, he’ll go away.” Sometimes this is true, and you will likely walk away from the incident physically and mentally unscathed, but women have been ignoring hoots and hollers since, I imagine, the early days of humanity, when early woman debuted a newly shortened mammoth-skin hemline and began turning Cro-Magnon heads everywhere. It doesn’t help.
Fighting back can be an equally big waste of your time. You are not only giving him the attention that Daddy never gave him and which he so desperately craves, but you are giving him further opportunity to assert his sexual dominance over you. The fact that he, as a citizen of the free world, still has every right to say those things to you even though you’ve made it clear that you don’t like it, is analogous of his assumed ability to do other things to you that you don’t like.
My one and only suggestion for dealing with this kind of occurrence is to catcall him back. First of all, this is the last thing he is expecting; he probably won’t have a follow-up beyond “Nice legs!” But in addition to throwing him off his game, it may give him the unexpected realization that you are in control of your own sexuality. You have desires just like he does, and the ability to act on them. Instead of being a plaything, subject to his sex-driven whim, you are objectifying him the way he was objectifying you, thereby weaponizing your own femininity.
Now for the disclaimer: I have used this several times on unsuspecting victims in urban areas, and none of them have ever chased after me, convinced that I was begging for a sexual tryst. The type of people who are insecure enough to be making distant, half-assed advances on you are normally not the type of people who are actually interested in putting any effort into you. But use common sense. If this encounter occurs when you are alone late at night, it may be best to just duck into the nearest Wawa and call the police instead of conducting sociological experiments. Use your best judgement.