So, my friend hooked up with a local guy on a Caribbean island. All was hot and heavy for them. He arranged for us to all go to a beach bar with a bonfire one evening. Most of the people on the island had motorcycles. So, my friend rode with her guy, and one of his friends gave me a lift to the party. I felt safe–after all, we’re with the fricking locals, right?
Shortly after we arrived at the beach, my friend bails with her dude, leaving me with the friend. The guy looks at me and says, essentially, “Your friend is putting out, so why won’t you?” I told him he was definitely out of luck. He then leaned in very close and whispered, chillingly, “You are a foreigner, I gave you a ride here, and I can take anything I want.”
So, there’s this reputation that American and European women have in the Caribbean: We are all sluts, but especially the Americans. This is not exactly breaking news. It goes like this: About a zillion times a year, horny coeds, bored marrieds, divorcees, and other whatnot lonelyhearts descend upon the lovely beaches of the Caribbean, and say to themselves…”Why, I need to get myself an island boy.”
That’s what my friend did, anyway. (That’s not to say I’ve never done the same myself, but let’s keep the discussion focused on just one aspect of my poor decision-making skills right now, okay?) So there are men throughout these popular tourist destinations whose primary exposure to foreign women has been those in party/get laid mode. Of course, they are wildly disappointed when they encounter someone who’s not putting out, at least not for them.
It sucks, but that is the reality. Am I blaming the victims here? Absolutely not. I’m just stating a very real stereotype about women travelers that is not uncommon to encounter in the Caribbean. Knowing that people may be thinking about you with this stereotype in mind can be helpful in making safer/wiser choices than I myself have.
I had to admit, the dude pretty much held all the cards at that moment. Once again, I found myself, alone, in a foreign country, in the dark, with a virtual stranger about to jump me. My internal dialogue this time was slightly different from the first episode:
“Wow, jackass, you just managed to put yourself in an incredibly stupid and dangerous position again. If you actually survive this, you should probably just burn your passport, moron. Oh, and lose the fucking friend who just abandoned your ass, too. Also, how the hell do you think you’re getting out of this one?”
I activated my inner bitch, and told him to stop assuming American women are all sluts and drive me home. I invoked the name of the inn’s owner, who was a friend of his. This approach worked, even though I didn’t actually expect it to at the time. But why not give it a shot when you’ve got no other options, right?
As with the Italian military guy, I have no idea why or how my response got me out of a very threatening situation. I can only chalk it up to stupid, fickle luck and men with more bravado than actual determination. I am rather short and not at all intimidating, but maybe it was my internal conviction in both situations that I was prepared to fight both of these larger, and scarier, men. (Also, I am certain that even if I had fought back, they would have won, hands down.) If that came through in my words, and tone of voice, I have no idea. So, basically, we’re left with luck.
My point–and I do usually have one–is that there’s no right answer. You should travel the way you want, the way you’re comfortable with. The way you feel safe. And, of course, even there is still no guarantee that you’ll be safe from either circumstance or poor judgment.
There’s a great post over at Almost Fearless that dispels many of the myths about women traveling solo. In fact, she makes the very valid point that Americans are often statistically safer when we’re not actually at home…
Oh, and travel rule #2? Never do the locals. Or at least, don’t travel with a dickhead friend who abandons you so she can do the locals.