Love + Radio, review: A meeting with a serial catcaller left me with mixed emotions

"An Old Lion, or a Lover's Lute", the latest instalment of the podcast series, focused on a predatory numbskull called Jerome

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The Independent Culture

Mainstream radio is full of good people, or at least people trying to be good. They may be reformed or repentant, misguided but well-meaning, or simple self-appointed saints. But the airwaves are, for the most part, full of people offering up their best side and hoping against hope that you and I will like them.

But what about the cads, the crackpots and the ne'er-do wells? What of the douchebags who would sooner see a plague descend on humankind than modify their behaviour to accommodate anyone else? Aside from the odd inflammatory phone-in programme, these people are rarely heard. They are unreliable and potential loose cannons, and what producer needs that?

This week, though, I met Jerome, a man from Oakland, California. Thirty seconds in his company and I was ready to knock his teeth out. Jerome had recently copped an eyeful of a 26-year-old producer named Ana, and catcalled her on the street. But rather than ignore him, or shout back, or ask for his mother's number so she could repeat what her son had just said down the phone (man, I've always wanted to do that), Ana did something else. She asked him if he would sit down, tell her a bit about himself and explain why he thought that it was acceptable to shout at women like that. Then she turned what he said into a podcast.

The episode is called "An Old Lion, or a Lover's Lute" and is the latest instalment of Love + Radio, a podcast series that is featured on Radiotopia. If you haven't heard of Radiotopia, well, it's time you did. Launched just under a year ago, it's a website-turned-treasure trove of freethinking US podcasts, including 99% Invisible, about architecture and design, and Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything. The programmes are also sponsored by Mailchimp, which I wouldn't normally mention except that their ad is guaranteed to make listeners mourning the end of Serial come over all unnecessary.

But back to Jerome. He was in his fifties and liked to sleep with girls who were around 21 since they were unsullied by too many sexual partners. He had a penchant for hot girl-on-girl action ("it's the American dream," he mooned), a subject he was happy to broach with potential conquests within minutes of meeting them.

He reckoned that if he hollered at 10 girls, he could probably get five of them to part with their phone numbers – and four of those would end up sleeping with him.

He believed men couldn't be expected to control themselves in front of a woman wearing even mildly figure-hugging clothes: "If any man see that, the first thing that come into his mind is 'Imma need that'. It ain't nothin' personal."

Jerome was a predatory numbskull all right, though, due to Ana's intuitive questioning, the more we got to know him, the more interesting he became. He had had his heart trampled on in the past and it was with palpable sadness that he said that if he could go back and do things differently, he would. It became clear that Jerome wasn't wilfully cruel, he just wasn't very clever; his view on the world was narrow and he lacked the empathy to see how yelling at women on the street, and treating them like handbag-carrying vaginas, wasn't OK.

In my world of liberal-minded cosiness, his was an unreasonable, exasperating and frequently hateful voice, but it was also an unusual one. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have a drink with the guy. But I'm still glad I met him.