A Question for Men

by cacophonies

This is really meant to be more light-hearted than anything, mostly because I doubt that any of the men reading this post would fall into the category of people that I’m really addressing, but:

Men, adolescent males, etc., what, exactly, are you thinking to yourself when you whistle at a girl and say something to the effect of, “hey baby, lookin’ good!”?

After work today, I went on a short errand to pick up some beer and smokes for myself and imnotme. What happened in that 20-minute span of time was this:

I walked into the convenience store, walked up to the counter, where the young-ish male working behind the counter greeted me by name (he always does; he remembered from my card, or ID, I guess) and lamented about how I never come in anymore. This interaction, in and of itself, is not necessarily problematic. It’s more innocently flirtatious than the others, but still irritating when it happens… every single time… that I go into this store without imnotme. When he’s with me, dude says nothing.

I leave with my cigarettes, and I head next door to the liquor store, where the group of 20-something men in an idling car whistle at me. I keep looking down, knowing from experience that eye contact only invites more obnoxious comments, propositions, or whistles. The guy who left the car to go inside looks at me, and I can’t tell if it’s a glare, or somehow “appreciative.” It wasn’t a casual glance. I go inside and I buy my beer.

I leave without incident, drive home, and park in the garage. I walk through the backyard to get to my porch. Next door, a group of maybe 5 20- or 30-something men who live there and hang out there are talking and joking. When I get to the middle of my yard, conversation comes to a halt. I’m not exaggerating; the deadening silence was noticeable and incredibly awkward. I walk faster to get to my door, looking down. One guy says, “hey baby girl…” I glance up and wave with my free hand, not saying anything. He continues, “with your fiiiine self…”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit at that, because it kind of seems completely fucking ludicrous for anyone to think that someone talking like that to a perfect stranger will yield anything but uncomfortable responses and quick exits.

My point, and question, is this:

Why do (some) men do this? I know this is not a universal trait that men share; please don’t read this and think I’m accusing anyone male of being guilty of this annoying and uncomfortable habit. It’s only a certain breed of weird men that do it. But I also know that, for the men who do this, it’s not because they actually think that the woman is necessarily super attractive, or because they actually want to “get with” her.

I don’t know any woman who has ever answered any such advance positively and formed a relationship, or hell, even a one-night-stand with the guy. Do men actually think that this is an effective way to meet women? I can’t possibly say that I think that to be the case. So what is it, then? If it’s not legitimate attraction, then the next motivation in line has got to be intimidation. Objectification. Etc. Most males who engage in this behavior can tell how uncomfortable it often makes the woman, and I think that eggs them on. Rarely, if ever, do I see women behave toward men in the same manner.

I challenge you to actually find a woman who is consistently appreciative of this kind of behavior. I cannot speak for all women, but it does not make me feel flattered. I know that they say the same thing to every other woman that crosses their path, unless they say something outright mean, instead. What, exactly, is with this behavior?

Anyone have any light to shed on this?

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20 responses to “A Question for Men

  1. To catch the most fish, cast your nets wide. Period.

    • I’m trying to avoid the stereotype of men just wanting sex all the time, no matter what, regardless of anything else. I can’t possibly believe that all men who do that are just that desperate for sex, which is what I assume you’re getting at.

      I don’t think that men are that stupid and savage. That’s pretty sexist, in my opinion.

      • You want to avoid the idea that men that are hitting on you are interest in sex?

        Ok, try an experiment (if you can do it safely)… next time respond favorably to such an action and see how quickly the conversation turns sexual. Will it 100% of time time, maybe not, but it will be close.

        I’m not lumping men together, I’m lumping people who practive the same behavior together.

        • Ok, try an experiment (if you can do it safely)… next time respond favorably to such an action and see how quickly the conversation turns sexual.

          I already assume that the actions are sexual, considering the fact that I can’t imagine someone saying, “Hey baby girl… with your fine self…” is just being innocently friendly. What I was really trying to get at was why anyone would think that that would yield positive results, because I can’t imagine that it actually works. With that in mind, I then wonder why they would do it, in the first place. But you basically answered that question.

          So it looks like we’ve got one vote for “they do it with the honest intent/hope of getting laid.”

          • No, it doesn’t yield results very often, however it also requires a minimal amount of effort. It is much easier than carrying on a conversation, for example. Yet it does infrequently produce results, I’ve seen it. Why would they continue if it didn’t.

    • Sounat, were you raised under the expectation of portraying masculine or feminine social traits?

      • Do you really have to ask or are you just not wanting to assume?

        • I was just wondering if I should gag about the fish catching metaphor or if it was meant to be sarcastic.

          • Well, it was not meant to be sarcastic. I really do believe that is the motivation for the described behavior. However, it is not a behavior I generally participate in myself.

            If you’re wondering if I am being sarcastic or not, why don’t you simply ask that?

  2. Now, boys, let’s behave and try to have an intelligent conversation.

    • Hey now! I never intended to be snarky, I just thought a more round about approach to that question was warranted since I don’t know the commenter. I also thought that any defense of that comment made in earnest was easily befuddled. Which I still believe, since it is highly disrespectful to treat women as though they should be constantly praised or paid attention to only for their potential for parting their knees.

  3. Rarely, if ever, do I see women behave toward men in the same manner.

    I do. Although most men in Scotland wear the same casual wear most of the time as anywhere else, its quite common to see men in the national costume. “Are you wearing anything under your kilt” is a common catcall from young women.

    I suspect the motivation for both males and females has more to do with homosocial bonding with the catcallers’ peers than any genuine attempt to get laid. It does seem to be a group activity.

    • I think this is insightful. Daran has made me reconsider my position. I wonder if this is always the case though? A lone actor making a cat call is certainy not unheard of, and I certainly do still think that the advances are a geuine solicitation.

      • It’s a good point, for sure.

        As far as one lone person doing it, it definitely happens, like my convenience store example. And how it’s certainly mean to be flirtatious, otherwise he’d behave exactly the same when imnotme was with me. Like I said in the post, though, that in and of itself wasn’t necessarily problematic. It’s the group thing that is.

        • Your convenience store example wasn’t an instance of cat-calling, but of someone being chatty and friendly. I can’t even tell from your description that it was even “flirtatious”. The only support you give for that interpretation is that he doesn’t do it when imnotme is with you, which isn’t conclusive. He might have some history with imnotme that you don’t know about. In any case, men have good reason not to risk antagonising women’s (potential) boyfriends, whether or not they are romantically/sexually interested in the woman.

          Assuming that it is flirtatious, then from an ev-psych point of view, it obviously falls into the category of “low-investment strategies”. That doesn’t meant that this is his motivation. Flirtation is enjoyable in itself.

          You, however, are not enjoying it, as far as this individual is concerned. Either he’s not reading your lack of enjoyment, or he’s disregarding it. I have no way to tell which.

  4. I think the points about catcalling being a ‘low investment strategy’ for getting laid, and about it having a homosocial bonding aspect, are both valid points.

    But I think there’s another aspect to this as well that’s directly connected to the discomfort women often feel when it’s directed at them. Women often experience it as aggressive or even hostile, and I think that’s a real undercurrent to it. Sex roles still compel men to be the initiator when it comes to sex, and for the vast majority of men that means becoming inured to repeated rejection. Catcalling could function as a kind of ‘dry run’ activity of getting used to expressing one’s sexual desires to someone who is indifferent or contemptuous of them in a situation where public ‘rejection’ is fully expected. By (occasionally? often?) making the woman uncomfortable (by making her think about her sexuality when she doesn’t want to or even prompting concerns about her physical vulnerability), the catcaller could be deriving a kind of psychological ‘win’ from the exchange even though the overt outcome is almost always rejection (i.e. ‘I made not have been able to have sex with you, but at least I’ve been able to affect you’).

    • This is a really great analysis.

    • I think the points about catcalling being a ‘low investment strategy’ for getting laid, and about it having a homosocial bonding aspect, are both valid points.

      I find it difficult to believe that men catcalling at women is a strategy for getting laid. It would seem to have negative utility in that regard.

      But I think there’s another aspect to this as well that’s directly connected to the discomfort women often feel when it’s directed at them. Women often experience it as aggressive or even hostile, and I think that’s a real undercurrent to it.

      Never underestimate the ability of people to be oblivious to the effect they have on other people. (I speak as someone whose obliviousness gets him into trouble with depressing frequency.)

      That said, I agree that it does seem to have a hostile or threatening undercurrent.

      Sex roles still compel men to be the initiator when it comes to sex, and for the vast majority of men that means becoming inured to repeated rejection. Catcalling could function as a kind of ‘dry run’ activity of getting used to expressing one’s sexual desires to someone who is indifferent or contemptuous of them in a situation where public ‘rejection’ is fully expected.

      I find it difficult to believe that it could function like this. Moreover your following point would seem to contradict it. Make a serious approach toward a woman – and being rejected – is a “loss” for a man. To get used to it, you have to experience losing, yet as you go on to say, a catcall is a “win” over the woman.

      By (occasionally? often?) making the woman uncomfortable (by making her think about her sexuality when she doesn’t want to or even prompting concerns about her physical vulnerability), the catcaller could be deriving a kind of psychological ‘win’ from the exchange even though the overt outcome is almost always rejection (i.e. ‘I made not have been able to have sex with you, but at least I’ve been able to affect you’).

      This is much more plausible. Many men have been hurt – repeatedly – by women, whether through dating rejection or otherwise. Similarly many women have been hurt by men. And we can see that this often results in feelings of resentment directed toward the opposite sex generally. Catcalling could be a “low investment strategy” for some men to attack women.

      It would be interesting (but empirically difficult) to correlate catcalling activity with dating success. I suspect the correlation would be markedly negative.

      • Catcalling could be a “low investment strategy” for some men to attack women.

        The trouble with my, and I suspect everyone else’s here, speculation is that none of us seem to have ever engaged in the activity. We need someone who has to comment.

    • Very well stated ballgame. Thanks very much for your input.

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