If you’ve been honked at, whistled at, or Sexy niyo miss-ed at—you’ve been catcalled. Anytime a stranger-or worse, an acquaintance, felt he had the right to comment on your body or had the audacity to ask you for a kiss—that was a catcall. It’s something every woman has experienced, and people who defend it don’t realize how damaging it can be.

Catcalling isn’t a form of flattery, despite men’s claims to be doing it as such. It’s about a sense of entitlement. To them, “every woman is fair game regardless of what time of day it is or where you are or what you’re doing.” Do you know what happens to a woman when she’s catcalled? It is like a shock to the system. We are all of a sudden hyperaware of every little thing about our body. “What happened? Am I okay? Am I covered? Is something sticking out? Is someone following me? How long before I get there?” We become uncomfortable. We become threatened. We become unsafe.

What’s worse is that when we refuse to smile back or acknowledge the catcaller, it is often followed by further name-calling: Bitch. Baboy. Puta. Pangit.

Catcalling is a form of sexual harassment because it perpetuates rape and violence. It dehumanizes women and supports the idea that women only exist for men’s pleasure. It is also a gateway to physical harassment. If you send the message that verbal harassment is justifiable, you are telling people that all forms of harassment is excusable. You are giving a voice to those who don’t deserve it: the men who objectify, taunt, and harass women from the comforts of their masculinity.

This story originally appeared on Cosmo.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Femalenetwork.com editors.

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