Very sad news today- a traveller was shot dead in the Honduras yesterday after thieves attacked him for his camera and a backpack full of valuables.
San Pedro is recognized by the Lonely Planet as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, which doesn’t mean travellers should never go there, but it does mean they should take some sensible precautions. Let’s go over to CNN (although there are only about a million sites that will give you very similar advice) and check out their advice for travellers, shall we?
Some tips to avoid getting robbed while on holidays:
Don’t be drunk. Kind of an obvious one, no? The vast majority of people in any country you go to are decent and kind and don’t want to hurt you. But some aren’t. And nothing quite says “prey” like a wasted foreigner, so go easy on the alcohol until you know the lay of the land a little better.
Don’t dress rich. Flashing your expensive watch or jewellery or electronics, especially in an environment where a lot of people are poor, is gonna get you in a world of trouble. Another way of expressing this is don’t dress like a tourist. You may BE a tourist, or even a very experienced traveller, but advertising your status as a non-local is likely to invite a bit of misfortune, so put away your New York Yankees t-shirt and your socks and sandals and try to blend in a bit.
Watch out for kids. The predators won’t necessarily look like what you expect them to look like. A ten year old kid in Houston isn’t likely to be a huge threat. A ten year old kid in Rio de Janeiro is another story altogether. Pay attention and don’t assume you know who the thieves are going to be.
Watch the people watching you. Drugs and alcohol will make would-be predators a little more bold, so keep an eye on who is watching you, and use eye contact to let them know you are not the prey they are hoping for.
Don’t be low-hanging fruit. Use your body language and demeanor to convey that you are not likely to cave in easily and that picking a fight might be a bad idea. Let would be muggers decide to wait for someone more vulnerable to come along. Again, it helps it you are sober.
Recognize when a bad situation is happening and get out of there. “Always err on the side of caution and get out of there fast as you can, preferably to a well-lit place with lots of people”. When you sense you are in danger, it’s not time to ruminate on the particulars of the local criminal code and ponder what is and is not allowed. When you sense, danger, get the hell out of there!
Does anyone seriously object to this kind of advice? When you travel (which is an awesome, life-enhancing experience), you need to understand that you can end up in some dangerous situations, and that there are some reasonable safety measures that can and should be exercised. Keeping your valuables hidden doesn’t condone robbery, it just acknowledges that robbery happens, and it’s best to try and avoid it, if you can.
Sure, people can take all of the above precautions and still get robbed, but that’s hardly a convincing argument for taking no precautions at all!
Now, let’s go back and take a look at this young lady again:
You know who this is? This is a tourist. A young traveller exploring a new landscape with which she has very little familiarity and probably zero experience. She is a voyager to a new world of sexuality and desire, and that land is populated mostly by people who will do her no harm.
And a few people who most certainly will.
What kind of advice should we give her? How about the EXACT SAME ADVICE we would give her if she was heading off for a weekend in Bangkok with her friends?
Pay attention to how you are dressed
Don’t be drunk
Don’t flash your valuables
Keep an eye on who is watching you
Travel with friends
Use your body language to let predators know you are not easy prey
If you sense a problem, get the hell out of there
Oh, but if you give young, inexperienced sojourners that kind of advice you are “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”. And naturally, by “sojourners”, I mean women, as there is a rather notable cultural silence when it comes to advising young men how to navigate uncharted waters and avoid falling victim to predatory women. As we all know, no man has ever been raped by a woman. No man has ever been drunk and taken advantage of by a woman. No man has ever heard “don’t worry, baby, I’m on the pill” only to face 25 years of child support for a child he didn’t plan and doesn’t want.
Really? How did we get to the point where suggesting that young women, new to the territory of sexuality, should simply be thrown out into the arena with no preparation and no understanding and no ability to protect themselves?
See, this is the wrong question. It’s not “are you asking for it?”, it’s “are you going to get it?”, and the answer, depending on the circumstance, can vary quite a lot. Surrounded by (mostly male) police officers at a “protest”? Nope. You can probably count on those men in blue to protect you. In the middle of Central Park on a Saturday night, smashed out of your gourd? Oh, honey, I hope you have a rape kit tucked in those pants, because chances are, you’re gonna need it.
And that will partly be your fault for being such a fucking idiot.
It doesn’t seem the slightest bit controversial to advise travellers to take some precautions to protect themselves when they are in a new place, unfamiliar with the terrain or the customs or possibly even the language. Sexual “tourists”, those darling neophytes, the absolute beginners, are no different. Until you understand what reactions you provoke, and what the consequences of that might be, and until you have the skills and the knowledge to manage the situation, there is a huge onus on YOU to behave in a way that keeps trouble at bay.
And when you gain that experience, you STILL have some responsibility to protect yourself. You can travel to the savannah a million times, but a rhino is still a rhino and if you get too close, expect to get gored.
You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate. So learn how to negotiate. Or stay home.
Lots of love,