As always, I am not a trained professional nor have I been educated on anything with this matter. Everything I say comes from personal experiences or research that I've done online. If you are dealing with any sort of problems, I strongly urge you to seek professional help.
If you have any topic suggestions (you will be given full credit for) please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to write a guest post, it will be as anonymous as you want it, and you can privately discuss details with me over that same email account.
Flirting is how you act when you're attracted to somebody or want to be in a relationship with them. You tease each other, play around, compliment each other in cute ways, have innocent physical contact, etc. It can be sweet and it can be sexual, depending on the people involved, but it is never meant to make the other person feel uncomfortable.
Catcalling or wolf-whistling is when you yell things of a sexual nature or let out a loud whistle that reminds me of a gym teacher's whistle when the class pissed them off. Guys do it to women, or in the worst circumstances young girls, but I have never seen a woman do it to a man. Why? Because we don't like it. It's not a compliment and it automatically makes women's defenses go up to protect themselves, against what sounds very predatory.
If you're walking down the street and you pass by a girl with the most beautiful face you've ever seen and a body that would make swimsuit models turn green with envy, do you honestly think yelling something like, "NICE ASS!" or "EY HOW YOU DOIN'?" or "CAN I TAP THAT?" or letting out that gym-sounding whistle will ever actually let you near them?
You might be stupid if you answered "yes" to that question. I would highly reccomend getting checked.
The correct answer is NO. They're going to get nervous and probably either look for a safe place to go into or pull out their pepper spray- possibly both.
Now, if you're walking down the street and you see that same woman, what might actually get you a phone number or a date? Perhaps, I don't know, if you walk up to her and politely say something like, "Excuse me, but you have (insert compliment here) that I have ever seen. I was really hoping that I could get your number or maybe meet you for coffee some time?" Now, with that compliment, you have to be careful still. Don't make it sexual. Make it about her eyes or her hair or another facial feature. If you say she has a nice ass, you are within slapping distance, so you have been warned.
Though, I wonder if that's why people do catcall. They're able to treat women as nothing more than sexual objects, while at a safe distance so that they can't be slapped or sprayed with mace.
I'm not the type to sit around and take it though.
On my birthday last year, I walked through the food court of the mall I work in. When I passed by a table of guys, one of them whistled at me. I walked right back over to the table and asked, "Excuse me, but did one of you just whistle at me?"
"No, it was him! It wasn't me!" All three of them started pointing at each other and none of them would own up to me.
"I don't care who did it. I'm here to tell you not to do it again. I am not a dog and I will not be treated like one."
"No, it wasn't me!" They all argued.
"I don't give a fuck if it was you or your buddy. I'm not a dog. You will not treat me like one. You will not treat any other woman like one. Don't ever try it again. Women are your equals and do not deserve to be treated like animals. Do I make myself clear?"
The actual conversation/argument lasted about half an hour because I refused to walk away until I got an apology. The thing is, I was fairly safe because I was in an area highly patrolled by security guards that knew who I was and in a busy space where I knew many people. I responded one time, when I ended up in danger.
I was walking home and just as I crossed the street, a guy leaned out of his car and started screaming vulgar things with his friend. I turned around, threw my middle finger up in the air, and screamed "GO FUCK YOURSELF" before I turned right back around and started walking home again. Then they turned onto the street that I was in and started following me. Obviously, I got away fine, but that could have ended horribly for me. I have another similar story from when I was in sixth grade but that's for another time.
By all means, stand up for yourself and for women everywhere, when you are safe. Don't put yourself at risk because somebody else is stupid.
Catcalling is wrong and should be stopped, but start with teaching your sons, nephews, the neighbor kids, and the kids you babysit that it is wrong to do. Getting into screaming matches can end horribly and this is one of those situations where I want you to learn from something that could have put me in serious danger. Don't put yourself in danger. Just teach the next generation how to treat women and then there will be nothing to worry about.
On the final note, catcalling is sexual harassment 100%. However, flirting can end up being sexual harassment if the person on the receiving end isn't actually okay with it. Always make sure you're on the same page so that nobody ends up feeling uncomfortable.