Off-Third: What to get your catcallers for Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air, and verbal harassment is on the street.


Aaliya Luthra

Listen up, ladies. (Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Lily Ritterman-Peña, Contributing Writer

Off-Third is WSN’s satire column.

As a single woman in New York City, figuring out what to gift your street harassers can be tricky.

There are a lot of things that make New York City unique, but there’s one thing that makes women feel at home, no matter where they are: being subjected to verbal harassment as they walk down the street. At every street corner, a man tells you something about your appearance, your attitude or your utter existence. The feeling of being watched and commented on is sublime, kind of like when your heart drops into the pit of your stomach or when you find bed bugs in your mattress. 

As Valentine’s Day approaches, this heartwarming feeling can be felt all around the city. So why not show our appreciation for these men, who add so much to our lives? I hope this list will inspire you to find the perfect do-it-yourself gift for all the catcallers in your life.

For the catcaller that cycles their way around, I recommend giving their bike a renovation. Getting something new is great, but making improvements to what someone already owns makes a gift sustainable and affordable. Make sure to take the bike while it’s parked — you don’t want to spoil the surprise! Broken things are really in this season, so throw the bike in front of a bus to give it that avant-garde-distressed look. He might not be able to use the bike, but I’m sure he’ll appreciate it as a work of art. It might also encourage him to start riding public transportation, so that he can reach a whole new demographic of women.

This gift would be perfect for the cyclist that yelled sexually explicit comments at me while I was standing at an intersection with my parents. I wish I could see his face when he realizes how I upgraded his sweet ride.

Having the superhuman ability to smell things from blocks away is a legitimate problem for many catcallers. Early one morning, a man announced to the whole street that he could smell my stench. At first, I was embarrassed, but then I was utterly impressed. Could he really distinguish a smell from that far away? How disruptive it must be to have the ability to smell so well!

Foul odor can be extremely disruptive and cause headaches, so gifting smelling salts with scents extracted from the East River might be exactly what they’re in the market for. While it might make them feel ill, the complex fragrance is so powerful that they will completely forget about the smell between strangers’ legs! Maybe then they will comment on and appreciate other things around them, like the sun in the sky or someone’s cool shoes!

For catcallers that hang out in a posse, I recommend gifting custom-made, matching sweatshirts. Nothing gives sexual harassers more legitimacy than being in a group, and these will make the perfect gift for the whole crew. These sweatshirts will read “SEXUAL PREDATOR” on the front, and the catcaller’s full name, address and place of work on the back — just to make sure catcallers always know who their buddies are!

This gift would be perfect for the large group of men who commented on my breasts and pulled at my dress while I was walking through Washington Square Park. While this gift requires a bit of research, you would be doing a big service to the next person they interact with. 

Once this information is on the sweatshirt, more people will be able to keep track of it and share their appreciation. They might even put up posters. A lot of catcallers catcall because they feel like they are anonymous. I believe that we, as a society, should change that — we should be able to contact their friends, family and places of employment to let people know all the delight they bring into our lives.

I hope that sharing my experience can bring light to this terrible issue plaguing our society. Finding the perfect gift to get someone is truly torturous. So this Valentine’s Day, feel free to give these ideas a try for the special men in your life. Happy gifting, and happy Valentine’s Day!

If you or someone you know has experienced an incident of sexual misconduct, you can visit NYU’s resource page or contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Lily Ritterman-Peña at [email protected]