Recently, I received a cat call from someone I had known for a few days. It was in electronic form. It was right here on the Internet. I barely knew the person. At the time, he did not have access to pictures of what I looked like. Oh, and by the way, it was on my birthday. "Happy birthday, sexy," he said.
This is not appropriate language from an uninvited stranger. This is a cat call. It feels the same as being hounded by a man on the street. And furthermore, it's happening over a medium that I, and many other people, access from home. So this is similar to getting a phone call from a complete stranger consisting only of, "Hey, gorgeous/sexy/cutie/sweetie." Or someone coming up to your door, ringing the bell, and doing the same. This is language that is uninvited, and I do not want this attention from strangers--I only accept such terms from lovers, and so do most people I know. Hearing them from a stranger is a violation.
This is gross. This is about entitlement. It can happen without anyone seeing your picture (yes, even on Facebook). It is not about what you look like or actual attraction, it is about power. It is about an assumption that you are required to be flattered. It is about ego. It is disgusting.
If this happens to you, own that this is a cat call and this is not okay. Strangers--people--should not behave this way whether it is offline or on. It is a violation of boundaries. Anyone who encounters this, regardless of gender or gender identity, has the right to call this out as creepy. This is not about unflattered people being difficult. This is about people trying to claim pieces of people's autonomy. Forcing a reaction. Expecting a reaction. And if that reaction is not given, complaining about it. I've seen those conversations, those gifs and memes. They are gross too.
People do not owe anyone being flattered by creepy behavior. This is a boundary breach and a form of stalking. We are not required to be flattered. We are allowed to edge people who act like this out of our lives. The same way wew would walk away from a stranger on the street who does this, we can, should, and will walk away from people on the Internet who act like this. We are not being difficult people. We are honoring our own safety. We have a right and duty to walk away from this and shore up our boundaries. This is not okay, and it never will be.