Wolf Whistles

ConfusionOn the road today, I stopped in a midwest town to fill my tank.

After emptying my, ahem, “tank” in the store, I was walking back to my car when I got what I’m sure makes every woman’s heart go pitter patter with joy: a wolf whistle.


My back to the offender — big pickup with a few buddies is my assumption though I didn’t turn to look — I rolled my eyes and continued walking.

So he tries again louder, faltering just a hitch on the opening note.

It at least garnered him a snicker once I got into my car. But I knew better than to look back. I was ready to let it go but damn if it didn’t get under my skin.

I tweeted out “Yeah buddy, whistle again louder, because the problem the first time was that I didn’t hear you.”

The more I think about it, the more it bothers me. I just don’t understand.

I had this whole post in the works about being open, belonging and other nice fluffy feelings. But apparently my theme for the week is the pickup game and so I’m rolling with it. Stay tuned to the end for your chance to win some payola at uncouth boys’ expense.

Oh and if you missed my guest post on my friend Gutsy Geek’s most excellent site, please check it out and give a girl some feedback.

What the hell is up with a wolf whistle?

Seriously, I want to know.

My Portland biking friend Elly Blue wrote this great piece on street harassment as a growing trend and how to deal with it. Although it probably falls within the confines of “harassment” luckily mine is a pretty benign case. I didn’t really feel harassed, more amused, and then bemused.

Should I take it as a compliment?

I wear skirts to travel. It is summer and I’m wearing my little black dress “uniform” just about everywhere. They are comfortable and with a warm smile can come in handy when you need a hand. But I am by no means flashy or strutting as I’m walking out of a gas station.

Sure, my ego is stroked a little. I snicker and try to take it as a compliment.

But then what type of dude offers that type of “compliment?” And it is it really flattering to get such from that kind of guy?

Not really.

It is actually pretty degrading.

Is that the point?

Is it a condescension? A compliment? An actual overture?

I can’t think that boys — sorry fellas, I have yet to ever hear a woman wolf whistle in a non-joking to a friend manner so this is totally your area — I can’t think that ya’ll actually think that is going to get you any positive attention right? Is it just a ploy for any type of attention?

I just don’t get it and I want to know.

This is where I need your help.

Readers Riddle me this: what is the point and purpose of a wolf whistle?

Give me your thoughts or ideas in the comments or you can tweet me. This is a serious request for information. I’ll paypal coffee or beer or even book money to the best answer.  It’ll be announced with the answer in my email on Friday. (if you’re reading this later, go ahead and comment, I’m free with my tips for good service and good information whenever it comes)

Please help an inquiring mind.

Even in annoyance or confusion, may we…

Always be IN,

Jo Signature



  1. Caroline says:

    Sometimes I wolf whistle my friends. I’m a good whistler. I’m telling them they’re doing something good, usually during a bike race. Is that OK?

    I think when someone does it to someone on the street it’s their inner dialogue about how someone is looking good, just bubbling to the surface in a simple whistle. Maybe it’s so pressing and subconscious they don’t even have time to put words to it, just the universal Woo-Woo. Wowy. I never saw it as a mean or harassing thing to do, but I can see getting annoyed when you don’t want any attention. Anyway, men are pigs with one track minds, I think we all know that. Exhale, keep walkin’.

    • I confess Caroline I have wolf whistled at my friends too. I think it is fine if you know the person — it falls into a different category then from a stranger. Your thought about it being sorta blurt out without thinking is interesting. I find the tone is usually a little more calculated, and in my case it was repeated, so your end advice is, indeed, I think the best course of action.

  2. UPDATE: I have posted the quandary in a private GoRuck Tough group (lots of guys to pump for information). The consensus there seems to be it doesn’t have anything to do with the girl at all, it is more of an attempt at some proof of masculinity to one’s friends. This is a relief a little but more annoys and outrages me as it further classifies woman as just object and not, you know, human.
    As I launch over to Italy I am interested to compare behavior. I have heard there was a concerted effort to rebuff and class-up the old Italian “wolfish” stereotype.

  3. uncle Jim says:

    what’s a wolf whistle?

  4. Hi- I live in Japan in a city center next to a shopping center for young fashion conscience ladies- and although I don’t whistle, I often feel the urge to express my appreciation to the wonderful works of art weaving wonderfully along the streets near my home. It would be even more socially inappropriate here, where even eye-contact and a smile can cause embarrassment. I also believe that women are much more concerned with how other women judge them- perhaps sensing our more one track male focus. However, I have shown appreciation for a particular spectacular – how can I say it- animated ambulation?- by simply saying, ‘nice shoes’ (if they were), and I almost inevitably receive a smile and a look of grateful appreciation. I’m sure this isn’t the entire picture, but I couldn’t resist adding my thoughts- thanks.

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