Wise Guys: Why Do Men Cat Call?

Advice from three of EMandLO.com’s guy friends. This week they answer the following: “Why do men cat call?” To ask the guys your own question, click here.

anonymous_suitStraight Married Guy (Figleaf): I’m embarrassed to say that in my late teens when I worked on construction crews I’d join my, um, colleagues in catcalling women passers-by from high up on the scaffolding. And I’m pretty sure I did it for the same reason most of them did: to reassure each other, and possibly ourselves, that we weren’t gay. Or at least that we were all on the same page. And yeah, that sounds as stupid now as it actually was then. Call it homophobia-phobia. It’s a completely unnecessary anxiety that I think drives a lot of guys to do some pretty damaging stuff.

joel_derfner_100Gay Engaged Guy (Joel Derfner, author of Swish): Evolution. It’s mating behavior. I’m absolutely certain of this, because, as somebody not bound by traditional gender politics, I’ll tell you that the first time a man cat-called me, in the summer after my senior year of high school, I just about melted into a puddle of goo, which would have been unfortunate, given that I was driving at the time. But I would have been on my back for him in thirty seconds if he’d followed up. The power imbalance between men and women has made cat-calling inappropriate in our society, but at least so far the survival of the fittest hasn’t noticed.

Straight Single Guy (David Grossman): Men cat call because they’re rude, immature bastards. Real men know how to talk to women.

Our “wise guys” are a rotating group of contributors, some of whom wish to remain anonymous and some of whom like the attention. David Grossman recently graduated from Stony Brook University in New York; this week’s Gay Engaged Guy is Joel Derfner, author of Swish; and our Straight Married Guy is Figleaf, the guy behind RealAdultSex.com. To ask the guys your own question, click here.


  1. I personally hate getting cat-calls. I am perfectly fine walking down the street without a peep. In fact, I prefer it. It’s the cat-calls and straight up disrespect from males that make me feel insecure. “Do I look slutty today?” “Like a hood-rat?” “Is this skirt too short, or shirt too low-cut?” If you must let me know I’m looking attractive, do so in a respectful manner please.

  2. Ntop- Yeah, I’ve heard that about Italy, and I’ve always wondered why women feel differently about it in Italy. I’m thinking it’s mainly because of the actual words that they say. Usually when we get cat-called in the U.S. it’s noises or words that imply sex. And that implication coming from some random guy on the street and his buddies is usually not appealing for a woman. But if a guy simply said emphatically, “beautiful!” or “wow!” or “gorgeous” or whatever, I think women would be a lot less skeeved out and a lot more flattered and pleased. It’d be nice to think (wish?) that guys on the street are thinking more in the vein of “that woman is beautiful” rather than “I wanna f*ck that woman, don’t care who she is or whether she’s interested in f*cking me.”

  3. I think the way in which catcalling is perceived depends on the country/culture. I live in Italy and catcalling is very common here; it’s not sleazy (although it does get annoying sometimes) but a friendly acknowledgment of beauty. A man may walk past a woman on the street and in passing and say “complimenti”, or “bella” etc – it’s not rude or stupid, it’s a compliment and should be taken as such.
    Although I should add that depending on the area, such catcalls can sometimes get ‘creepy’ or slightly discomforting. But as with anything, it depends on the person as well as the situation.

  4. ^ Yeah, I agree. My girlfriend gets catcalled pretty regularly and it just makes her uncomfortable. (Dumb) guys may not realize it, but it’s threatening.

    Actually, fuck that. Guys aren’t stupid – they realize it’s threatening and rude. I mean, if I were walking down the street and a bunch of girls started yelling at me and jeering and snickering among each other, I wouldn’t take it as a compliment. I would think they were making fun of me. And if it were a group of guys? I’d think they wanted trouble.

    Catcalling is just stupid. Like I said before, it’s not a genuine attempt to meet a woman. I call bullshit on the “hot women bring out the animal in men” defense. The animal in ME makes a genuine attempt to meet a woman and ACTUALLY SLEEP WITH HER if I find her attractive.

  5. Catcalling is not acceptable. If you want to let me know I’m attractive, say so. But I personally don’t like walking down the street feeling like I’m there to put on a show for other people; I just want to do my thing and not be put on the spot for doing so. Men can walk down the street and be left alone, though they may be ogled or hit on; it’s not remarkable. Yet for some reason, in our culture, a woman can be yelled at by strangers with dubious intentions, and it be seen as a compliment. I believe the origin of catcalling actually has more to do with the fact that women weren’t originally to be expected to be seen in public space at all, and by simply going out, a woman was putting herself in danger. I don’t like thinking about that. And I don’t like the idea that other people have the right to single me out to others just because they think I might be attractive. The whole, “it’s natural for a woman to bring out the animal in a man” mentality is the same that justifies rape, and I want no part of it. I just want to buy my groceries, dammitt!

  6. Actually, I know a lot of guys do it to be obnoxious but there are some that catcall to make a woman feel disgusted and flattered at the same time. So many women complain about men noticing them on the street, but let that same woman have a “bad hair day” and walk down the street without a single catcall or grow older or pregnant or whatever, and it just feels different. What? No one catcalled me today? What gives?
    Women don’t need to be catcalled but there is satisfaction in knowing someone finds you attractive and are blatant about it. The whole “you’re so hot you bring out the animal in me”. It’s a juvenile way of showing attention. It doesn’t always have to be a negative thing nor should it be taken so seriously, sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with that particular woman. Obviously there are limits to what is acceptable forms of catcalling.

  7. I personally don’t cat-call, but I think men who do are trying to amuse themselves and their dumb friends. It’s not a genuine attempt to meet the woman being cat-called. Or if it is, it’s grossly misguided.

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