Clearly, catcalling and other forms of street harassment make our blood boil—just look at all the articles we’ve published about how it makes us women feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and downright disrespected.
This time, we wanted to know what our male peers think, since men are often excluded from the catcalling conversation by virtue of their gender being the usual perpetrators of street harassment. We spoke to six Pinoys. Here’s what we learned.
1. Some men stand by catcalling as an innocent way of complimenting a woman.
While he has never catcalled himself, Reggie, 34, a university instructor, believes the reasons a man might catcall are to socialize or strike up a conversation, or to show appreciation for a woman’s beauty. Reggie says, “Men might probably just continue to do it here in the Philippines because of a lack of social understanding about such things, or perhaps because they may not view it as a harmful thing.”
Jim, 35, a development worker who admits to smiling and saying “hi” to female strangers, clarifies that some men catcall not to offend but to merely show that they like what they see. He says that the intention is apparent in how the catcall is delivered, which is why he claims to always do it politely.
2. Other men believe catcalling is a sign of insecurity in a male.
Chris, 31, a science communicator, says that a man’s lack of self-worth may feed into the practice, as insecure men feel the need to catcall “to hide their insecurity at not being able to attract the female with their own worth.” He continues, “They catcall, despite knowing that it probably won’t work, on the off-chance that it does work.”
Lee, 28, a digital marketer, agrees. He shares that he has never felt the need to catcall because he has always been confident enough to ask a girl out in a proper fashion (read: NOT on the street).
3. Other men acknowledge that catcalling is an ugly product of patriarchal thinking.
Raymond Peter “Koko” Campiglio, who runs the Facebook page Catcalled in the Philippines, says, “Guys engage in catcalling because our macho society normalizes it as some form of rite of passage and daily show of ‘manliness.’” According to Koko, our male-dominated society emboldens men to keep doing it. “Subconsciously, catcallers are aware of the power catcalling brings them due to the fear they instill in the catcalled.”
Chris echoes this sentiment, pointing to “male privilege” as the culprit behind catcalling. “Men feel they’re entitled to a woman’s body, which includes having the right to have a public opinion about it, because they feel that if they don’t, they’re not ‘man enough.’”
4. The men who don’t catcall cite these as their reasons: empathy, respect, and basically not being a creep.
While Reggie believes that catcalling can be a form of giving compliments, he refuses to do it simply because he doesn’t want to make a girl squirm. “I personally shy away from the idea of giving such compliments to strangers because I might make the person uncomfortable,” he says. “Besides, some things are just meant to be said when you and the person are actually close rather than just acquaintances, let alone strangers.”
Lee likewise credits empathy for giving him the good sense to leave a stranger be. “The few times I’ve wanted to catcall, ‘di ko ginawa because I knew I’d feel like shit after, knowing it would make the woman feel like shit,” he reveals.
For Koko, it all boils down to respect. “I respect women but I also respect the privacy of other people. Even if you are in public, people are still entitled to a degree of privacy.”
Chris would never catcall because he finds the act “gross and offensive.” “I don’t go out thinking that strangers, male or female, are walking around asking for my opinion regarding their body, or that I’m entitled to publicly judge them about it,” he says. “And it’s really creepy. Why would you want to be a gross creep?”
5. Being in the company of other men makes a man more likely to catcall.
Kevin, 31, an entrepreneur, confesses that he used to blurt out statements like “I think I just saw an angel!” at girls passing by as a way to get hyped up with his male friends. “Back then, I assumed that all women take it as a compliment,” he shares. “Stupid, right?”
Now that he’s older and his girlfriend has schooled him on how nasty catcalling is, Kevin has seen the error of his ways and has realized that “unwanted attention makes women uncomfortable.”
Jim agrees that catcalling often happens when a man is in the company of other men, due to “macho culture” and the “bragging rights” it affords those bold enough to call out.
6. Men continue to do it because, on rare occasions, it actually works.
While he insists that he greets female strangers just to be friendly, Jim admits there’s some hope mixed in because “you never know when you’re gonna be lucky.” In fact, when he was in his 20s, he once ended up sleeping with a woman he had just said “hi” to on the street.
While that experience is more the exception than the rule, Jim finds no issue with catcalling because he’s “never been slapped or given the finger for doing it.” He continues, “Even when the reaction of the girls was like a bit of shock, I still believe they were not offended.”
Kevin shares the story of a friend who managed to get a girl’s digits with a catcall: “He started with a catcall, but he politely apologized to the girl, formally introduced himself, got her number, and the rest is history.” In his own experience however, save for one instance when a girl smiled back, most of the time, the girl would just go about her business and “ignore the shit out of it.”
7. Not surprisingly, when catcalling happens to someone they know and love—their partner, sister, mother, or friend—they get angry. VERY ANGRY.
Koko, who is inundated day by day with harassment horror stories sent to Catcalled in the Philippines, says, “I already react pretty strongly when it’s done to strangers; it’s significantly amplified if done to someone I care about.”
Kevin admits that if his loved ones were catcalled in a sexual, offensive manner, “I’d probably do something about it and start a fight.” Similarly, Chris says, “If I were present, I’d be forced to confront the catcaller and possibly engage in fisticuffs. If I weren’t present and they would just tell me later on, I’d be very angry.”
Even Jim, who thinks catcalling is generally harmless, says that if a catcall directed to a loved one is derogatory or malicious, “I could react violently.”
8. Some men believe that people—both men and women—cry “harassment” way too easily.
While he is all for equality between men and women, Reggie thinks minor things like a compliment from a complete stranger tend to get blown out of proportion these days, and terms like “misogynist” and “harassment” are thrown around too much.
Reggie’s solution? If you’re really offended, tell your catcaller. “If a guy should be catcalled and the guy doesn’t like it, he could just tell the woman that he has been offended—and the same goes the other way around.”
“A simple feeling of being offended should be addressed with the least amount of issue-mongering,” Reggie continues. “Both men and women should learn to respect each other, and if it would do you good to tell your offender, then so be it.”
9. Some men are just as sick as you are of the “not all men catcall” and “men get catcalled, too” defenses other males resort to when the issue of catcalling comes up.
“That is actually rooted in insensitivity and shifting the blame to a specter of ill respect rather than addressing the fact that even though catcalling does happen to men, it happens more often and more openly to women,” Koko says. He also finds the “not all men” defense silly. “Men should just apologize and do something about it. People who say that want, but also don’t want, to do anything about it.”
For Chris, such twisted logic owes itself to, again, male privilege. He says, “Yes, not all men catcall, and some men get catcalled, too. That doesn’t mean you should defend catcalling.”
Lee believes that, “if we want to fix this problem of catcalling, it has to start with men coming to terms with the fact that majority of catcallers are men.”
10. If a man really wants a legit chance with a female stranger, he should consider the context before he opens his mouth.
While Koko advises against coming up to strangers like it’s NBD, if a man really wants to, the streets aren’t the place for it. “There are places that cater to activities that allow you to talk to strangers, like mixers, office parties, or any major group gathering where people are encouraged to mingle,” he offers.
Kevin would look at a lot of factors before making any move on a total stranger, including: “a) the time of day, b) the venue, c) whether you are appropriately dressed, d) the right occasion, e) the tone of your voice, f) the words you choose, g) the way you approach her, and h) the possibility of rejection.”
Lee recommends this strategy: “Go to a bar or coffee shop, harden your balls, strike up a conversation, and pray to whoever that she gives her number. Kung ayaw, move the fuck on. There’s also Tinder.”
Chris has had some luck chatting up a stranger, but it certainly didn’t happen while they were passing each other on a sidewalk. “The few times I’ve gotten the attention of a female stranger was when I helped her sincerely with something, like if she’s carrying a heavy load, or if she’s having difficulty choosing between a porterhouse or a ribeye at the supermarket to cook for dinner—which really happened,” he reveals.
“I find you can make friends better that way, versus catcalling,” Chris continues. “I would think this is obvious, but no, men can be very disgusting and stupid.”