23 Men From 18 Different Countries On What They Think Of Catcalling

Photo: Kevin Ocampo/EyeEm.
No woman I know skips home with an enormous smile on her face, runs through the front door, throws her arms around her boyfriend’s neck and squeals, "Honey, three men in a van just rolled down the window and said 'Look at those tits, lads!'" I mean, I’ve done some distinctly odd things in my time but I’ve never considered standing outside the pub on a Friday night with a bottle of Rekorderlig in my hand, shouting "Get your dick out!" to a random passing man.
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Catcalling is as rife as it ever has been, and I don’t understand why. I’m forced to believe that men do it solely to embarrass women, because this is exactly what it does. I’m a confident woman but nothing irks me quite as much as being jeered at in the street by a group of strange men, and not being able to retaliate because I know that giving them a reaction will just make it worse.
Perplexed by the persistence of catcalling in 2017, I decided to ask 100 British men exactly what they thought of it by creating a survey using Survey Monkey, which I then shared on Twitter and Facebook. Then I thought, 'Why stop there?' and asked all of my friends who are either foreign or living abroad to share it with their communities. To my surprise, 1,780 men replied, from 63 different countries; below is a collection of the most diverse opinions from the batch. Full disclosure: it was stated on each page of the survey that answers would be included in an article, but in order to protect privacy – and get honest opinions – it was anonymous apart from age and country of residence.
Some of the responses I expected; many men agreed with me that catcalling is immature and humiliating (probably more so for the man making the comments than the woman he has to resort to embarrassing in order to communicate with). But other responses shocked me – not only because of the attitudes towards catcalling but also because of how potentially dangerous these misconceptions could be. "It's funnier if she's less attractive [...] I don't mean any harm" being one of the worst.
So here's what I learnt from my mini study. I have no doubt that the responses will surprise you as much as they surprised me ...

Pakistan

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Man, 33, Multan
“Catcalling is something that I see happen frequently. In fact, I think one of the main reasons that men in Multan do it is because it is a habit that they can no longer break – they probably don’t even know themselves why they do it. It is something that men here do for genuine physical needs; they sincerely want the lady to notice them. I think that men who catcall are morally unstable and I feel embarrassed when men do it in my company, but it is an ingrained behaviour.”

China

Man, 21, Hong Kong
“The reason why there seems to be a lot of catcalling behaviour in Hong Kong might be because of the amount of super-rich men that live here. I do think there is a lot of misogyny in this city; perhaps it has cultural roots – China, I feel, places a higher importance on men than women – or perhaps it is the fact that many men in Hong Kong are extremely wealthy and feel they can buy women without actually using any charm. I think catcalling is incredibly superficial and tactless, but who needs tact when so many women fall for your money?”

Egypt

Man, 25, Cairo
“I wouldn’t get involved if friends of mine were catcalling women in my presence. From my point of view, in Middle Eastern culture many men are brought up to see women as objects and this can impact their perception on how to properly treat women they don’t know. Since my younger sister has grown up, I am starting to see that this behaviour is disrespectful, but I can’t see how it could change.”
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Germany

Man, 30, Düsseldorf
“In my opinion, ‘catcalling’ is common in my city. From experience, I know that guys think it is funny but deep down they feel the need to publicly assert their interest in women. They are probably dealing with feelings of inadequacy among their friends when it comes to female attention, or perhaps they are insecure about their sexuality and need to continuously clarify that they are straight and attracted to women. I would certainly be embarrassed if one of my friends catcalled a woman in my company and I would want to apologise to her on his behalf.”

Ghana

Man, 24, Elmina
“I don’t think I have ever seen a man make sexually derogative comments towards a woman around here. Men are actually more likely to tell me as a man that they think my girlfriend is beautiful. On numerous occasions, other men have slowed their car to tell me that I am very lucky and that I should look after her. Ghana is pretty modern in terms of attitudes towards women, particularly in comparison to other African countries, and I don’t think that any man would want to offend a woman. We treat our wives likes queens.”

Italy

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Man, 32, Massa
“This sort of thing is so normal around here. Why would I not want to compliment a woman if I think she is beautiful? I understand that it is important not to be rude, but I am surprised that anyone would be offended by this.”

Lebanon

Man, 25, Beirut
“I see this happening all the time in Beirut and I think the men who do it are complete idiots. In a warped way, I think it happens more often in Lebanon compared with other Arab countries because women actually have more rights here. From my experience of countries such as Saudi Arabia, women are extremely conservatively dressed and men would never under any circumstances make rude comments towards her.”

Mexico

Man, 31, Mexico City
“Latin men are the worst for catcalling. It seems to be ingrained in our culture. I think we know that all it does is irritate the woman but we can’t seem to help it. Most of the time, we will catcall because the girl stands out to us, not necessarily because she is extremely beautiful, she just looks different and caught our attention. I think female tourists, especially from the UK or America, are complimented by it more than Mexican women, maybe because they are less used to all of the attention. Mostly they just stood out to us because they have lighter hair, skin and eyes.”
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Norway

Man, 22, Aalesund
“I guess the only reason you would catcall is either to show off or because you thought a girl was completely out of your league. It isn’t something that I see happening around here but I have no doubt that it does exist and could be taken offensively. If it happened in my company, I would absolutely make sure that the girl knew that the comment was intended as a compliment and was in no way supposed to make her feel embarrassed or upset.”

Australia

Man, 28, Melbourne
“It's sad, but I think men believe they are actually complimenting a woman by catcalling her. I've been in the company of men who've done it to outright humiliate a woman though – for example, as we've approached, they've insulted and joked about her appearance and then whistled and made sexually derogative comments as we passed. I like to think that now I'm a bit older, I would intervene and defend the woman in question, but it isn’t something that happens frequently enough for me to really know. It's so uncommon that it would really stand out to me if it did happen.”
Man, 27, Byron Bay
“I don’t really see this kind of behaviour around here; it's the kind of thing that happens on TV. I think it's really unnecessary and sexist, but it's usually just ignorant youths trying to show off their masculinity to their friends. It's the behaviour of the narrow-minded and uneducated.”
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Singapore

Man, 26, Singapore
“I can’t really believe that this is something that happens in this day and age. It is certainly not common in Singapore, I think it is really insulting.”

South Africa

Man, 34, Cape Town
“South African men in general have the worst reputation when it comes to how we treat women, but I don’t really think that catcalling is something that happens a lot. Culturally, many South African men have grown up around women being treated in a derogatory manner and therefore don’t know any different. Men here typically feel entitled and some feel the need to explicitly express their interest without any kind of retribution.”

Spain

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Man, 25, Benidorm
“The way catcalling is described here is virtually non-existent in Benidorm. Throughout the summer, there are an enormous amount of British tourists who travel here for sun and cheap alcohol and the way British men and women interact is really unusual to me. Both sexes are extremely direct and often promiscuous. A Spanish man is more likely to pay a genuine compliment to a woman and not expect immediate sexual compensation like British men seem to.”
Man, 29, Barcelona
“I guess catcalling is prevalent in Barcelona, but I don’t think men mean any harm by it. I am surprised that a woman would find it derogatory for a man to tell her that she is beautiful – I tell a woman that she is beautiful because I like to make women feel happy and confident and let them know that I am interested in her.”
Man, 18, Seville
“Certainly, there are many men who believe that women are beneath them and I think that this is what they are trying to point out when they catcall. There is so much sexism in mainstream music and young men trust what they hear. If they see music artists being supported and celebrated when they create music that is sexually offensive to women, then how are they to know that it is wrong?”

Turkey

Man, 25, Istanbul
“Many men would look on from afar without really trying to hide their appreciation of the woman’s appearance, but I don’t think it is very common to actual say something. I wouldn’t say anything if a man did say something, he would only be trying to get the lady’s attention and that is none of my business. It is each to their own.”
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Man, 36, Antalya
“I guess you would have to be pretty insecure about your identity as a man to have to resort to this kind of behaviour. Either that or they feel that their chances of success with a beautiful woman are so slim that they have to call on their primitive instincts in order to establish a dialogue with a member of the opposite sex. However, I don’t believe that it is a hugely common problem in this city.”

United Arab Emirates

Man, 25, Dubai
“Before I say anything, I am categorically not saying that the way a woman dresses means that she is ‘asking for’ any kind of unwelcome attention. However, traditional Emirati women dress very conservatively and this is what Arab men understood to be normal for a long time. Now, so many Western women live and holiday in Dubai and they dress dramatically different to how a woman from around here would ever dress, and this can mean they attract the wrong kind of attention. Many Emirati men, especially from older generations, are quietly offended by the way Western women seem to completely ignore their established cultural norms, but wouldn’t risk commenting for fear of causing offence. Younger men are more likely to make lewd comments, and unfortunately they possibly interpret the way Western women dress as them encouraging sexual attention.”

United Kingdom

Man, 27, Bournemouth
“Obviously, I know this happens a lot, but it's always a lower class of man. If that is the only way you can speak to a woman then there is something wrong with you. It's really embarrassing, I definitely wouldn’t associate with a man who did that.”
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Man, 26, Liverpool
“I do it all the time to embarrass my friends. I know it's immature but it's almost like I can’t help it. I don’t care what the girl actually looks like, in fact it's funnier if she's less attractive because it would wind my mates up more. I don’t mean any harm towards the girl at all.”

USA

Man, 38, Philadelphia
“Catcalling is so embarrassing; in my culture it would only ever be brought up as a joke. I can’t imagine a single man that I know seriously trying to get the attention of a woman in this way, and if they did then everyone would mock him for being a prat.”

Venezuela

Man, 30, Caracas
“Catcalling is so common in Caracas that every woman I know completely expects it and accepts it as normal behaviour. It is a man thing; every guy wants to be seen as the most ‘manly’, and showering women in attention, whether it is welcomed or not, is just part of the course. Venezuelan women are so used to this behaviour that it almost never leads to any kind of romantic or sexual relationship.”
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