Here’s a question I never thought I’d hear my wife utter: “If there’s a really hot guy riding his bike with his shirt off, is it appropriate for a woman to shout, ‘Woo! Woo!’?”
This was strictly a hypothetical question, as Mary Jo said she’d thought better of letting this romance-book-cover-come-to-life in on her innermost thoughts. Even so, I told her, “Every man wants to hear catcalls from women—even when he’s not really hot and riding a bike with his shirt off.”
Or, more to the point, especially if he’s not really hot.
Women often seem surprised—or at least amused—that a man might like to hear a woman he doesn’t know tell him he’s hot. On the other hand, there are apparently plenty of men who would be surprised that lots of women don’t like it.
All those men would do well to do some ridiculously brief and incomplete Internet research. My such research dug up tidbits like these:
• From a Quora.com post: “With low self-esteem, a catcall is external validation that you meet society’s standards. If you don’t think you’re good enough, that catcall is something to celebrate.”
• From another Quora.com post: “Appreciating catcalls is similar psychologically to wishing you could be in Playboy. It’s a desire to excel at sexual beauty.”
• From ThoughtCatalog.com: “Believe it or not, most human beings have this thing called an inner monologue (that) prevents every mundane, offensive, inappropriate thought that crosses one’s mind from being articulated. It becomes especially helpful when you’re attempting to be a civilized person who respects other civilized people.
• And from a Men’s Health magazine blog: “My roommate and I received a ‘compliment’ about our legs while walking to the subway—courtesy of a man shouting from his car. When we completely ignored his subsequent offer to join him in the car he shouted, ‘At least say thank you!’ Apparently, not only should we express gratitude for his comment, it’s the ‘least’ we could do—as if he deserved a reward.”
That Men’s Health excerpt followed with an explanation that drives the point home: “Catcalls are comments directed at a woman to highlight a sexualized part of her body. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that simply witnessing a cat-call can result in anger toward men. Street harassment reminds women that they’re vulnerable to attack and demonstrates that ‘any man may choose to invade a woman’s personal space, physically or psychologically, if he feels like it,’ according to a Harvard Law Review paper.”
Personally, I’m with ThoughtCatalog writer. The other day my male brain went all kinds of haywire as I rode my bike—with shirt firmly on—past two shapely, well-tanned, nineteenish brunettes lounging on the beach in day-glo bikinis. It was a great view, but I kept my mouth shut. Or, at least, managed to stop stupid words from falling out of it.
I also have to admit that it would have made my day if they would have looked over their shoulders at me and said something like, “Hey, sweaty old guy in a tank top: Woo! Woo!”
And don’t ask me how I know they didn’t look over their shoulders.