I can’t think of a single woman I know who hasn’t been catcalled.

Each has her own way of responding to it. I, for one, keep walking without acknowledging the rather primitive comments about my appearance until I get home and can rant about them online.

I have brave friends who will turn on their heels and yell profanities in the faces of men who whistle at them. These approaches may not be likely to change the behavior of the catcallers in question, but what will?

Catcalling exploits our conditioned impulses to feel shame due to its implicit power dynamic: Because of the taboo and intrigue that sexuality carries in our society, it can become automatically demeaning for women to be regarded sexually without their consent, in public or otherwise.

A man who makes a woman feel uncomfortable simply by advertising that he considers her a sexual object takes advantage of that fact. We may be able to stop catcalling by removing the societal sense of shame from sexuality, thus taking the air and the power out of the wolf whistle.

“Sex positivity” is a popular term floating around these days, but I’m not clear on what exactly it means. The gist of the concept, as I understand it, is that if we talk about sex more openly, it won’t be so taboo. Yet effective sex positivity is more complex than merely talking.

Conversations about sexuality that are truly positive address the ways we think sex should be perceived in our society and work toward shifting the paradigm in that direction.

A commitment to productive sex positivity requires normalizing not only the idea of sex, but also ideas like people’s right to have as few or as many sexual partners as they’d like without fearing judgment. It emphasizes both emotional and physical safety in any standard sexual education program.

True sex positivity indicates not only a change in the quantity of our discussions of sexuality, but also the quality at which we discuss it. Fun as it may be for a group of girlfriends to share their “sexploits” Carrie Bradshaw-style, productive and effective sex positivity involves not only exciting confessions but also just as many, if not more, awkward assertions. Sex-positive dialogue requires honesty, even when it may feel awkward, in order to reduce the stigmas surrounding sex in our society.

A change like the cessation of catcalling does not happen overnight, of course: It is a campaign comprised of smaller achievements.

Such victories might include a candid conversation between a sister and brother regarding comments he makes toward her friends.

Another could be conveying the importance of consent to children early in life as it applies to playing with peers or to their right not to show physical affection toward otherwise unknown relatives at family holidays.

Consent is a vastly important concept in discussions about catcalling. It adds insult to injury when a woman is not only publicly sexualized, but especially when it occurs against her will. She may feel more humiliated because of this unwanted interaction, through no fault of her own. Any shame associated with catcalling should be related to its nonconsensual, objectifying nature and should therefore be felt by the catcaller rather than the catcalled.

Sex positivity may never entirely eradicate the shame in sexuality, but perhaps it can help us redirect that shame to a more rightful place — those who seek to exploit others by sexualizing them. By magnifying and reflecting the discomfort that catcallers create back onto them, we may begin to change the tunes of their whistles to ones of respect.

In any case, the conversations we have about such things should not be limited to screaming between strangers in public or on the Internet.

At that point, it’s too late to prevent the problem: The productivity of the interaction is significantly limited and the sound is far less pleasant. I’d much rather hear the purr of thoughtful discussions when I walk down the street.

Molly Cooke is a junior in the College. The Accidental Feminist appears online every other Tuesday.

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