Catcalling – Compliment or Harassment?

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I recently did a few polls over on our Instagram stories about whether people had experienced catcalling, and how it made them feel. I also asked about experiences with sexual harassment, which I will write about in a separate post as I have quite a lot to say on the matter. This post is going to focus specifically on catcalling.

So what is Catcalling?

Also known as street harassment, catcalling is a form of harassment that includes (but is not limited to): wolf – whistles, honking, following, unwanted comments and sexual advances. This typically takes place in public spaces such as streets, shops and transportation.

My Experience

The earliest memory of being catcalled, that I can remember, was being 12 and walking back from a friends home and having a van of men drive past honking their horn and shouting at me. At the time although I didn’t know the term ‘catcalling’ I knew what they were doing left me conflicted. Should I appreciate the fact that they clearly found me attractive, even if it left me want to run into the nearest house to hide until they were gone?

That wasn’t not the last experience of catcalling I experienced. As the years have gone on I have experienced cars & vans beeping their horns at me, men wolf whistling at me and shouting things like “nice arse/tits”. The list is extensive, and I know that I’m not alone.

I know some people find the attention flattering, and if that applies to you then who am I to tell you otherwise. However, I think we need to look at the masses who find the attention uncomfortable and clearly make some sort of change. For a number of years I would make sure that I never left the house without headphones, for fear of having to listen to men leer over me. I don’t feel it’s a compliment, and it personally leaves me feeling worse about myself rather than better.

Recent Experiences

More recently I have been out with Grayson, my 2 year old son and have cars beep at me and men whistle at me. It makes me even more angry than before that I can’t be safe from the unwanted attention when I’m with my baby. I don’t want to experience that, and I don’t want Grayson to witness it.

I know people will argue it’s a compliment, and that if you don’t enjoy the attention you’re being overly sensitive. That isn’t the case though, I think if the vast majority is saying this makes me feel uncomfortable and shit then we need to be listening to that.

If you see your friends catcalling, ask them about it. Say “have you considered that she/he/they might not appreciate that” or “how would you feel if your child/sibling/friend came home upset because someone had done what you’ve just done?”.

The more we start to call out the behaviour and pick it apart, hopefully more people will begin to understand there are better ways to do things.

Your thoughts

What’s your opinion on catcalling? Do you take it as a compliment, or does it leave you feeling uncomfortable? Let us know in the comments below. Also, check out our reviews and opinions page for more content.

13 thoughts on “Catcalling – Compliment or Harassment?”

  1. I have not had catcalling that I am aware of. But I do remember being called fat once. (I was a size 14 in a padded winter jacket when I experienced that.)

    But had I been catcalled, I would find it uncomfortable.

    • That’s still just as bad!! I don’t think you should ever comment on other people’s appearances in anyway unless you’re being respectful towards the other person

      • So true and the bloke that said was known not to be a popular one. That comment was damaging, as I was self-conscious about my weight, even though I wasn’t fat.

          • With hearing he was a nasty person and trouble maker, then for him, I would say he doesn’t care.
            I was upset from it. I can’t remember when I got over that, but weight worries were always there back of mind as in self-conscious wise even though I had no reason to.
            I changed my walking route and went the other way on my street, because the other direction, after that I had a couple of incidents which lead for me not to feel safe.

  2. As a male I’ve never experienced cat calling as such, more older women trying it on down the pub, but I think for men it is a different experience in a way.

    I can imagine it being very distressing and uncomfortable for a woman or child to go through and experience.

    • It does seem to be slightly different, but not always and I don’t think women are innocent of it, I’ve known men to be on the receiving end of unwanted comments.

      It’s definitely not a positive experience and that’s putting it lightly!

      • I’m sure there are women out there who have.

        Is it just some kind of male bravado or persona, a way of showing off in front of others why they do it, or find it comical to do it at times in some aspects. I don’t know its something I’ve never understood. (think it’s my upbringing my old man was always a respectful man so me and my brother were raised to be the same.)

  3. I once had my arse slapped while standing at a bus stop, with my boyfriend. Another time a friend and I walked past a big group of lads and were proposed marriage to (in France), our hands grabbed and held onto – that verged on scary. I’ve had horns beeped at me too.
    It’s all these micro-aggressions that make people (of any gender) uncomfortable being out alone or afraid to dress or act in their own way. #LeanIn

    • I’m so sorry you had all that happen to you, the France experience sounds especially scary. I know for a long time it affected whether I would go out alone or how I’d dress if I knew that I did had to walk by myself. Which in hindsight is really awful that anyone should ever have to think about that.


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