Friday, December 15, 2017

Whistling is always predatory...

So that happened.

I've continued wearing kilts daily 7-8 months of the year. About once a week when I'm out and about I'll hear a guy whistle. At first I had my usual reaction and looked around to see the woman they were whistling at. Then I started seeing that sometimes they were looking at me and whistling at me. At first, it made me curious. Like what were they trying to communicate? I've been in plenty of queer settings where guys objectified me, and frankly, I enjoyed it. But this wasn't that. The whistles were accompanied by sneers and snickers. And gradually I learned to fear the whistles. They would always come from behind me. Sometimes I couldn't even tell who whistled. Internal reactions started kicking up. Somewhere in my childhood, I was bullied to the point that I developed some PTSD reactions and the whistles started pinging to that. I started feeling adrenaline spike and my internal 90 pound weakling wanted to run and hide. Hulk, my inner bully, started straightening up and would turn around looking for a fight. And somewhere in there, the real me would frantically try to scramble back into the drivers seat and keep the car on the road. Sometimes his ass is locked in the trunk.

This happened one time on my way into the dollar store to meet my spouse. I mentioned to her the fear reactions I was having, saying something about it feeling predatory. Her reply stopped my world cold.

Whistling is always predatory

Cue deep focus movie thing where the whole context shifts in the background and I'm disoriented in the middle of it because the world will never be the same.

Whistling is always predatory

The rest of the conversation is lost in the fog of the clarity of the moment she said.

Whistling. Is. ALWAYS. Predatory

Holy fuck.

How many times have I whistled at my spouse and thought I was complimenting her, and she was triggered AF? How much trauma have I participated in causing for people I loved? WTF. How the hell did this happen? How come no one ever told me?

Growing up, I was often told whistling was disrespectful. I fucking hate these kinds of rules. They were often well intentioned, tied to deeper truths, but they were just one more bullshit rule in a system of bullshit rules intended to norm me to standards I could never live up to. The actual problems they were tied to went completely unnoticed.

In reality, whistling at women participates in the objectification of women, literally turning them into things of beauty, physical objects to be consumed by our eyes. Turning a person into an object is one of the well-established mechanisms that supports our greater sexist rape culture. I had never considered that even if there is generalized consent with my spouse to compliment her, whistling was so closely tied with the system of objectification that whatever compliment was intended was lost in the fog of our wolf pack whistles.

Looking around at behavior like this, I've started to think that even if my partner sometimes likes attention from me like this, when we're around other people it will often cause reactions in other folks.

Well shit.

No idea how to end this thing. Retraining my brain on some of this stuff is really frustrating.

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