As a solo, some would say “pretty” female traveller, I have experienced more than my share of sexual harassment in the form of lude comments, whistles, honking horns, physical motions and in a handful of moments been touched without my permission. I know I am not alone in this painful, intolerable form of female abuse that pandemically plagues the entire world. There is not one country or state in the USA where I have not been subjected to some macho man and his ludicrous attempt to either hit on me or make me feel small, helpless and endangered.
I am saddened that writing a blog like this is something I feel compelled to do but if we all unite as a single voice, and do not let the small minded men treat us poorly, we may change the way our daughters and granddaughters are treated.
Over the last five years I have travelled to 33 nations and have found that these four accessories definitely limit the amount of harrasment thrust upon me. They are inexpensive and I bet most of you have them in your travel bags already. When utilized appropriately they can totally change your experience abroad and keep the bad comments at bay.
Sunglasses are a great way to limit the amount of sexual harrasment and male interaction you experience when walking about. They are most effective when in market places and are a favorite accesory of mine because they hid which direction my eyes are looking. I have found men are less likely to engage with me if they can’t make eye contact with me. In the USA male, female eye contact is normal but in some countries it is perceived as permission to make a move on a female, in others it is disrespectful or flirtatious. Avoid the cultural confusion and just keep those dark sunglasses on, ladies!
I love listening to music and, when traveling, enjoy jamming out to whatever the cultural musical sound happens to be. And during my rocking out moments, I have noticed that there has been less chatter from men. Even in the moments when my music is off and I have mindlessly kept my earbuds in the fellas have kept the cat calling to a minimum because they think I can’t hear them! It’s the perfect way to “ignore” a person and earbuds seems to be the universal signal for “I’m not available to chat right now”. My suggestion, keep a pair of earbuds on at all times and if you start to hear the harassment, slip them in your ears and you’ll instantly hear less chatter from the foolish men who let their hormones run their mouths.
A scarf is not only for fashion and warmth but now is a weapon against the perverse minds. It’s sad that we live in a world where young boys are not raised to honor and respect women, nor control themselves when they see bare shoulders or a hint of cleavage. If you are visiting a region, say Morocco or Jordan, where it is not the cultural norm for a woman to walk about with barren shoulders, drape your scarf around your like a shawl and it will definitely prevent many men from harassing you.
I experienced this first hand in Lebanon in the Fall of 2016. I was walking about Beirut, which is extremely liberal in comparison to other Middle Eastern nations but upon seeing men following me on ther motorbikes and by foot, I quickly ducked into a small boutique and picked up a light scarf to cover myself. As soon as I did this the “admirerers” became a lot fewer.
A wedding ring set is the most extreme I will go when traveling to ensure that I receive the utmost respect from the opposite sex. One point in my life I was married and noticed a significant difference in how I was treated when wearing the jewelry and even after the divorice I played with wearing a separate set I purchased for myself to break out when feeling like an extra level of respect was warrented.
When wearing my beautiful turquoise and white gold set, made by Native Americans, I typically do not have men making sexy remarks, instead they ask: “Your husband let’s you travel alone? Your husband approves?”. These comments only make me laugh rather than feel threatened. The only downside? You may see a hottie at the market or bar and forget you are wearing your “wedding band” when you give him a wink, so wear it wisely.
How to React when The Accesories Don’t Work
I am by no means a weak woman and definitely not someone who shys away from conflict or confrontation; however, I do believe that whenever possible it is always best to take the less dangerous, more predicatable exit from a threatening situation when it comes to men. Unfortunately, sometimes the accessories don’t work and I am forced to react more assertively to the harasser. Below are my go-to reactions that are not meant to be aggressive but seek to provoke thought and leave them confused.
1 ) I don’t react and act as if they harasser doesn’t speak my language or as if I have not seen their disgusting gestures. Many times the perverse don’t have any agenda other than to get a reaction, so if I don’t give them what they want than they lose.
2 ) If a man gets close to me, touched me and I am forced to acknowledge his presence I will respond by asking: “Would you approve of a man saying or doing this to your mother, sister or daughter?” Then I walk away and leave them thinking about what they said.
3 ) Only if physically hurt or grabbed will I do this and I don’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t trained in self-defense. If a man grabs me and we are in a well illuminated or trafficked place where other people can aid me if he reacts with more invasion of my personal space, I will grab his arm very firmly and tell him never to touch a woman he doesn’t know again and then ask the same question listed above before walking away.
Cynthia is a recovering Travel Director turned TV host, creator of Her Drive Podcast, and lover of all things adventure, unicorns, van life, and wellness-focused. She can be found dining wherever octopus is on the menu.