What exactly IS the motivation for catcalls then? Just because you aren’t walking around consciously thinking about intimidation doesn’t mean that isn’t what is in play. What does the guy who does that hope to gain? Does he think the woman will run over and give him her number? No, the purpose (whether it’s conscious or not) is to demonstrate that women in the public sphere are the property of the males they encounter. They get to tell them to smile; they get to comment on how their appearance appeals to the men they see — as if that is the woman’s sole purpose in life, to be appealing to men. They get to demand their time and attention just because they are out in the world. Never mind that some 50% of women who’ve been catcalled get groped too and that more than 70% get followed.
I’ve been in sex clubs, half naked, and been treated with more respect than I have been fully dressed on the streets. I know from firsthand experience the difference between catcalls and actual compliments, so don’t even try to assert that it’s an attempt at a compliment.
The fact that you don’t believe in the great perponderance of studies and academic analysis of the role of power in these cases simply speaks to your mindset and not to the validity of the evidence. And it’s not complicated when you treat the woman you want to meet as a person. If you walked up to a guy who you wanted to be friends with and tried to initiate a conversation, you’d know whether or not that guy was receptive. You’d pay attention to how friendly he was in return; what he said, if he turned to face you, or turned partially away from you. The same goes for women. Resorting to “women are all so mysterious and complicated; it’s unknowable what they are thinking or how they might respond” is lame. And if you can’t make any headway on that by treating women as “friends not food” then read one of the hundreds of articles out there on the interwebs about how to do just that that will give you more specific guidelines.
Even Playboy magazine is on board.