Motivations Behind Catcalling

Motivations Behind Catcalling: Exploring Men’s Engagement in Street Harassment Behavior - Kari Walton & Cory L. Pedersen


‘Catcalling’ is a common form of street harassment, often described as sexual harassment from a stranger in a public place (Bowman, 1993; Kearl, 2010). In most cases, it involves a man intruding on a woman’s attention using words, whistles, sounds, or gestures, which essentially define the woman as a sexual object (Bowman, 1993; Gardner, 1995; Kearl, 2010). The present study explored men’s motivations for catcalling. A secondary purpose was to investigate the characteristics of men who catcall relative to those who do not. 258 men completed an online survey, which included a demographic questionnaire and measures of sexism, masculinity/femininity, social dominance, and attitudes toward sexual harassment. Also included was a measure developed specifically for the current study, which explored motivations behind engaging in catcalling as well as reactions that catcallers hope to elicit in their targets. We determined that the most frequently reported motivational category for catcalling was flattery and flirtation (i.e., motivated by the intent to flirt with or compliment the target), and the most commonly desired reaction from recipients was friendliness. Further, we determined that men who reported having engaged in catcalling demonstrated higher levels of hostile sexism, self-ascribed masculinity, social dominance orientation, and tolerance of sexual harassment.

Oral presentation delivered at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Virtual Conference, 2020.

© A.P. 2017 for O.R.G.A.S.M Research Lab