Catcalling is gross and shitty. I can't even begin to fathom why someone would do such a thing -- you know, unless it's one of those non-stranger, consensual sort of catcall situations.
The issue was recently captured in a viral video created by Hollaback!, a non-profit and movement to end street harassment:
Hollaback! admits that there were more white catcallers than the video represents, but says that many were off camera or muttered inaudibly. Not to mention that the woman in the video was walking mainly through nonwhite neighborhoods.
But one of the comments I noticed on the Youtube video suggested, "A PhD or CEO would never do this."
And there's truth to that-- this particular kind of harassment isn't acceptable in most educated communities. Yet I wouldn't say that lower-income men harass more. They just harass differently.
They learn to position their bodies in ways that make it difficult for the woman to create more space for herself when the guy gets too close (with her back against the wall, with him in the middle and her against the arm of the couch, etc.). They learn clever ways to ignore or refute her when she says she doesn't want them to walk her home/walk her to her door/enter her home.
They invite women out to coffee as friends, or to discuss a job opportunity... only to act all date-ly and make weird advances day-of. (If your intentions are romantic/sexual, you need to make that clear. Otherwise, you have no right to complain when the woman rejects you or gets offended by your hidden intentions.)
They learn how to get women to submit to unwanted sexual contact... and then make her feel guilty, like she somehow deserved it or consented to it or wanted it.
Both forms of harassment are threatening in their own ways, and there's obviously a pretty big spectrum (an action can be very low-level threatening, or it can be very imminent and overt). Maybe there's a 99% chance the guy saying, "Hey beautiful," doesn't want to hurt you -- maybe it truly is just a compliment about your body. But there's also a nonzero chance that, should you reject him or ignore him or respond the wrong way, he'll slice your face open with a knife. This happened recently in SF -- and it wasn't a one-time thing.
It's a familiar enough story. In fact, the same thing happened to 19-year-old Monique Henville at a nightclub in Cambridge. Except here's what happened to her after she rejected the guy:
"A guy approached me and when I ignored him, he poured alcohol in my face and smashed a glass on my face.
"When my friend shouted at the guy, his friend slapped her."
“Basically it happened after I said I wouldn't dance with him. “He kept coming after me, and then he poured champagne over me. When I asked him to go away, he did it again.
“The next thing I knew, he'd come back with the bottle and hit me in the face with it, and it smashed as he did that.”
Her attacker’s brutal actions broke her jaw in two places and she was covered in blood from the broken glass.
So, predictably, what's going to happen next is that some dumbass is going to be all like:
My point (in case you happen to lack intelligence and need me to spell it out) is that, as a decent human being, you need to be aware of and respect peoples' verbal and nonverbal cues. If you try to talk to someone and they ignore you -- LEAVE THEM ALONE! THEY'RE NOT INTERESTED. If you keep pushing when she shows no interest, you're no different from that creepy guy in the catcall video who walked alongside the woman for five whole minutes.
If you see a woman you might be interested in and you want to talk to her (and the situation is appropriate) -- go for it! But don't do it in a way that leaves her feeling cornered. Don't (literally or figuratively) make her feel like her back is against the wall. Don't touch her in ways that seem to make her uncomfortable -- I don't care what your pickup coach or sexologist or whatever said about "violating her physical space."
If she says she's leaving and she doesn't invite you, that means you're not invited. If she says she doesn't need a ride home, that means she doesn't need a ride home. If you're doing something sexually and she says to stop, that's not just her coy, crafty, woman-way of telling you yes. It actually means no.
Listen to what she says, observe what she does, and respect her. If you don't, you are in no way different from the street harassers.
And now, my side rant:
I don't know much about the pickup artist community, nor have I read The Game by Neil Strauss. But based on what little I do know, it seems like many of its strategies are inherently flawed. A lot of men who get into the community do it because they have a hard time meeting women. They're often not even looking for sex -- they're looking for a girlfriend. But when you use tactics like these, the best you're going to get is a one-night sort of deal. If you make a girl feel uncomfortable and disrespected, she won't want to see you again. (Kind of like how the catcallers never get dates with the women they harass.)
Yes, confidence and social skills are important. But you can develop these things in ways that... you know. Aren't manipulative and intimidating.
Start by reading These Specific Behaviors Will Make You More Charismatic -- Starting Right Now. If you like it, buy The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism. The great thing about this book is that its principles apply equally well to any social or professional situation -- whether you're presenting to a board or wooing a client or trying to chat up a woman at a party. It's not about manipulating. It's about being genuine and present. It's about overcoming self-doubt and negative thoughts. It's about respect.