What Catcallers Are Actually Saying With Their ‘Compliments’

Adrian Williams
Adrian Williams

I’m pretty sick of Nice Guys trying to act like catcalling isn’t a big deal—that I have no reason to feel degraded, dirty, guilty, self-conscious, objectified, unsafe, and not in ownership of my own skin. It’s not a compliment. It’s not just “being polite.”

But I can see why some might think that. I think The Nice Guys assume catcalling involves illicit suggestions, crude comments, or even downright sexual threats, so when they hear us vent about being told to have a “blessed day” by a 40-year-old man on the sidewalk, The Nice Guys respond, “He was just being polite! What’s the problem?”

The problem is we don’t like it. The problem is it freaks us out. The problem is we know what he really means when he says, “Keep smiling.” Catcalling is rarely an overtly sexual suggestion. Instead, the unwanted comment is disguised as a polite greeting or even what some would construe as innocent praise, but the suggestive tones are so heavy that even the most polite choice of words couldn’t hide the fact that he’s mentally undressing us.

So, Nice Guys, here’s what these “innocent” and “harmless” catcalls actually mean.


Girl, your job on this earth is to give me something to look at. Right now, with your face in a neutral position as you walk to the bus stop, your job performance is unsatisfactory. I don’t care if you’re tired, bored, or even if you’re dealing with a death in the family. Nobody actually takes you seriously at your office, so there’s no point in being stressed out about work, either. It’s cute that you want to try to be a lawyer or a doctor or a professor or whatever little hobby you’re pursuing until you (obviously) quit to have some kids, but your value lies in your beauty, and your beauty depends on that pretty smile of yours. Stop depriving me of the joy I am entitled to.

“God bless you” or “Have a blessed day”

Whichever god I pray to has given me a gift today by showing me a beautiful woman. I could have walked down this street and just seen worthless, ugly bitches, and instead, I saw you, and your beauty inspired me to wish you a divine blessing. As a man, I am entitled to bestow my god’s blessings unto women I deem attractive, so you should be grateful to be my chosen recipient. Obviously, if you were a hideous tramp, I would not wish you any goodwill. Only beautiful women add value to my life, so they deserve to have a blessed day.

“I can help you with that” or “That looks heavy, doll”

I see you lugging that bag of groceries, and it’s a pity to see a weak lady have to carry her own food. I’m going to coopt some old-school chivalry momentarily to impress you. It almost could have been a kind gesture, but I’m choosing to pair it with a come-hither smile so you know my true intentions. But you have no right to get mad at me because all I’m doing is offering you a helping hand, and ignoring me while I’m being such a fine chap is something only an ugly bitch would do. Will you pay attention to me now? C’mon, baby, feed my ego.

“Keep smiling, gorgeous”

I like your smile, and it makes you more aesthetically pleasing to me. I’m giving you positive reinforcement to remind you what your purpose on earth is. Like a child, you need to be trained in how to behave properly. If you stop smiling, you will be worthless to me, like some fat whore wearing too much makeup, or some skinny bitch not wearing enough makeup. Your real value is in your looks—never forget. But I like what I’m seeing now, so keep it up!

Single-word comments like “Beautiful!” or “Gorgeous!” or “Wow!”

I think life is an art gallery, so I’m just walking around and throwing out assessments of everything I see. There are some real worthless pieces of trash walking out here, but you are a true work of art. I’m using sweet words like “beautiful,” so I don’t understand why you look so put off. It’s not like I called you “hot” or “sexy.” Don’t you ladies like being called beautiful? I mean, I definitely think you’re sexy, and I wish you were showing a little more leg, but I have a good feeling that what’s underneath those jeans is just as hot as what I see on your face. But yeah, I’m a gentleman, so I’m just going to use “beautiful” because I know you ladies prefer that. Since you’re attractive and therefore valuable to me, I’ll censor myself and say the words I think you prefer to hear. I can’t just keep these comments to myself, after all!

“Your man is one lucky guy”

Based on my two-second assessment of your face and your body, I have deemed you beautiful and therefore in a heterosexual relationship. Lesbians can’t be that beautiful—that’s why they became lesbians, right? —and ugly bitches die alone, obviously. I suppose you could be single, but I kind of hope you do have a man so that I can threaten his territory like a dog peeing on another dog’s fence. I don’t know anything about you, but you’re gorgeous, and I’m sure that’s the only reason your presumed man is with you.

“Damn, baby!”

I am making no attempt to sound polite. I don’t know you, but I want to push you against this building and have my way with you. I like to call you attractive women “baby” because infantilizing you makes me feel strong and powerful. You should still interpret this as praise because I wouldn’t want to touch you if I didn’t think you were attractive. I (probably) won’t actually touch you because that’s a crime—but I do want to, and isn’t that flattering? You should probably be very careful in how you respond because that body you have no ownership of is turning me on, and I may just interpret anything you do as an agreement to proceed with my having-my-way-with-you fantasy.

Repeating the same comment in a louder voice

I am a man, and I am entitled to a response from you. I have no idea why you have your head down and are ignoring me. You gorgeous, docile ladies always give in under a little pressure, so I’m just going to repeat myself to intimidate you. But don’t worry: I know there are some horror stories out there of guys treating their delicate misses wrong, but #NotAllMen, baby! Do you hear me? Are you listening? Okay, I wasn’t going to say this before, but I actually think you’re just a fat whore.

Honking, whistling, or gawking

I lack basic social skills. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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