I was catcalled for the first time when I was 12. I was wearing a yellow ‘Adventure time’ t-shirt and blue knee length shorts. My friend and I were walking down a small, suburban street, and a car slowed down next to us. A group of teenage boys inside leered and sang a tired chorus of “show us your tits!”, “nice pussy!”, and “are you legal?”. Laughing, they drove away. I turned to my friend, shocked. She gave an uneasy laugh and said “ah, boys”, in a way that was far too mature, too experienced, too normalised to be coming out of a child’s mouth. I brushed it off and decided that this was normal.
This wasn’t the first time I had been objectified or even sexualised by boys. It would prove to not be the last. More recently, I was waiting with my best friend for an uber, our skin covered in goosebumps from the cold. It was late at night and we had just finished a movie. We huddled together, keeping warm, when a car slowed down just in front of us. The streets were empty and it was just us on the footpath. The oh so familiar song of catcalling boys rang out at us, followed by a laugh. Different from when we were 12, the plastic novelty had worn off. As they drove away, we let out the breath that had been trapped in our lungs and linked arms. Pretending we weren't scared shitless we laughed and said “wouldn't it be nice to actually go out at night?”
People who catcall don’t see the effect of their shouts. To them it’s fun, to the recipients, however, it makes us feel unsafe and uneasy. Others experience it too. I decided to reach out to others about their experience with catcalling / harassment, the responses (kept anonymous) were immediate.
It’s not just Women having a hard time. Of the small sample of people I reached out to, 72 percent identified as Female, 20 percent as Male, 4 percent as Non-Binary, and 4 percent preferred not to say.
On average, the earliest age respondents remember being catcalled or harassed was 13. The youngest was 9. None of these situations were acceptable.
When asked why it was acceptable to catcall, most responses were along the lines of:
“If you think that’s acceptable, you need to re-evaluate your moral compass”
However, countering this, I received the following comment:
“Because anything can be identified as catcalling these days. It's a lot harder to talk to other genders without this word being openly used.”
There actually is a difference between compliments and catcalling. “Show us your tits!” is different from, say “You’re so kind.” “Screw me, sexy!” is not “Would you want to have sex?” “Nice ass” does not mean “You’re really pretty.”
Here’s a tip - when someone doesn't seem reciprocal in your attraction, leave it. Once you give someone a compliment and they aren't into it, leave them alone. Also - key point - commenting on a stranger’s body, under any circumstance, is unhealthy and toxic. It feeds into the useless rhetoric of objectifying others, further continuing our oh so toxic culture of making others feel fundamentally unsafe over things they can't change.
Moving on, catcalling is very rarely seen as a compliment.
When asked what people thought catcalling / harassment was indicative of in our society, the response was overwhelming.
“Toxic masculinity. The fact that men feel justified to make women uncomfortable for their own satisfaction proves that men have been taking advantage of their own male privilege for too long. They need to be held accountable for all the shit they’ve put women through forever.”
And most simply put:
Dear catcallers, next time you decide to harass someone I hope you think back to this article, these accounts. This behaviour will always be obnoxious, intolerable, and above all else, creepy as hell.
Don’t be that guy.
Victims of Unwanted Attention
“I was walking to work one day and a car drove past. He then proceeded to pull out in front of two cars until I had walked past. He yelled at me out his window as he slowly drove past before speeding off. He risked his life, and the lives of others, to get the satisfaction of calling out his window at me.”
“I have had my ass, boobs and waist grabbed countless times while being out drinking. I also once had someone grab my waist at a nightclub and tell me “maybe if you lost some weight you could come home with me”. I also run 3-4 times a week and I would say I have never been for a run without being catcalled (been running for about 4 years).”
“Sometimes when I’m walking down my own driveway my neighbours wolf whistle at me, call out rude things, etc”
“At a party in the halls of AUT, a girl came onto me and repeatedly I told her I had a girlfriend, however she continued to touch my inner thighs and flirt on me in a very strong harassing way until I had to leave the party.”
“Through high school (all boys), many guys would catcall me and whistle at me because I was gay, it happened multiple times mostly by a select group of them. Looking back on it I realised I had become so comfortable with it as I chalked it up to just “boys being boys” but after starting Uni and making a bunch of friends I realised after talking with them that this wasn’t actually okay.”