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What is a Wolf Whistle?

By J. Beam
Updated Feb 28, 2024
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A wolf whistle is not a sound made by a wolf nor is it a way of calling a wolf. A wolf whistle refers to a specific whistle, one that is often used by men as a way to express notice or appreciation of the appearance of a woman. The wolf whistle is a two-fingered whistle, performed by placing two fingers in the mouth and expelling air over the tongue and between the lips. The characteristic rise and fall in tone of the wolf whistle is often duplicated as a fingerless whistle by those who can’t whistle around the obstruction of their fingers.

Though the wolf whistle has long been a way of open and expressive flirtation, it is rarely well received by its female recipients. Those expressing satisfaction of someone’s sexual appeal should use caution, especially in certain situations. In the work place for example, even a seemingly innocent wolf whistle could be deemed sexual harassment. Further, depending on the company of the target and how offensive she may find it, a wolf whistler could find himself in an awkward position to say the least.

The two-fingered wolf whistle may be a questionable means of flirting, but by rearranging the tones of a wolf whistle, it could instead elicit a different reaction if it is used to call attention to one’s self, like when whistling for a dog or calling a child. No matter how the tones are arranged, mastering the wolf whistle requires practice. Once it is mastered, its use is up to the individual mouth.

The typical wolf whistle used flirtatiously has been frequently duplicated electronically in the form of obnoxious cell phone ring tones and even truck horns. Wolf Whistle is also the title of a novel by Lewis Nordan in which a young black boy is murdered for whistling at a prominent southern white woman in 1955’s rural Mississippi.

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Discussion Comments

By Logicfest — On Jul 20, 2014

@Terrificli -- Want more evidence of how people regarded men who were called wolves? That term showed up at a time when Americans regarded wolves as dangerous, predatory animals to be killed.

That might seem strange in the 21st century when wolf populations have dwindled to the point that some breeds are in danger of extinction. But you've got to remember -- those things were killed like crazy once upon a time and that is one of the reasons they are rare today.

By Terrificli — On Jul 20, 2014

@Markerrag -- right you are, and the stereotypical wolf often wasn't too concerned about how old the woman was. Such a rascal would be labeled a sexual predator these days. No, calling a man a wolf was certainly not regarded as a compliment.

By Markerrag — On Jul 19, 2014

Heck, the wolf whistle as it was originally conceived was probably always a form of sexual harassment before such a concept was even developed. Back in the jazz age, the wolf emerged as a fellow who was almost predatory in his sexual desires. To be labeled a "wolf" wasn't exactly a compliment, and one whistling at the object(s) of his desire was exactly held in high regard.

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