Travelling With a Vagina – The Grim Truth (and Why You Shouldn’t Let It Stop You)

We’ve been reading loads of travel blogs lately, and one of our favourites is the lovely Danie at likeridingabicycle – she’s hilarious, ballsy and shares our love for bright hair colours, hitchiking and random adventures (so, you know…this isn’t a slight on her at all, merely a counter-opinion) – but this post about female travel safety struck a chord with both of us.

Firstly, we agree with the overall sentiment (and pretty much all points 3-6 but Susan has some small issues with 3 and 4 too) – women SHOULDN’T BE AFRAID of travelling alone or otherwise because of men, however it is a sad fact that there are dangers to women that don’t apply to men on the same scale (not to negate the fact that men are assaulted by women too and same sex assault occurs, but this post is speaking about our experiences as women from men). Still, the threat of being sexually assaulted SHOULDN’T STOP YOU FROM GOING ANYWHERE. The same way as you shouldn’t let the fear of being mugged stop you – these things happen everywhere including your home town (so location isn’t even a variable in this equation) but as a woman generally on this planet in this time, there are dangers that you must be aware of. Like we say – don’t live in FEAR, just be aware that the rules are sadly sometimes different for you.

So here’s where it gets grim (we usually prefer to keep this blog cheerful and upbeat, but bear with us – it will get to a positive ending we promise!). Both of us are rape survivors (we knew each other for years before this, it’s not the thing that brought us together) . For both of us it happened in our hometown, minutes from where we lived and for both of us the perpetrator wasn’t anyone we knew – it was a random bloke prowling the streets at night. While we can’t say that the ordeal hasn’t changed us in some way, if anything it has resulted in us both being MORE willing to take risks, talk to more strangers, and to visit places that your everyday person might label “dangerous” (see our first hitchhiking adventure doing Glastonbury on not one pound, where all of our friends tried to stop us and we lied to our families about it as they were so worried but we felt protected by “lightening doesn’t strike 3 times man!” and it really was spectacular and supported our faith in humanity (even though we did get wanked on in a privet in Swindon, see Ride #2 in the former link, we just found that the most hilarious thing ever and didn’t feel even slightly unsafe)). We’re both determined that one horrible experience and a couple of horrible people won’t spoil the world for us, nor will it spoil us for the world. We refuse to be scared -we will NEVER be scared! Even at the time, what both of us felt was ANGER and not fear. Anger that someone felt so entitled to take it upon themselves to hurt and violate us without any provocation.

Which leads us back on to the post in question and point number 1:

Most people have no desire to rape you. And if they do want to rape you, they probably still won’t.

Jill’s two-penneth:

This sounds exactly like me in my early twenties – naive and convinced I was invincible. I can remember myself saying to someone back then that it seems quite conceited for a woman to worry about being raped – like you’re that gorgeous that people just can’t even hold themselves back even when you say no. And I frequently used Courtney Love’s “well it won’t happen to me – I have no victim energy”.

Susan here:

Of course not everyone wants to rape you (regardless of how you look) but it only takes one. And what’s not addressed in this statement is that lots of rapes happen WITHOUT THE RAPIST THINKING THEY’VE RAPED! We can’t speak personally on this as we are “traditional” stranger jumping out of the dark rapees (mine did run away afterwards shouting “I’m sorry, I thought you were a prostitute!”, even though I was out walking my dog and even if I was a prostitute that doesn’t mean you jump on them and pin them to the ground covering their mouth while taking kicks and punches and eye gougings then forcing yourself on them and not paying them!) but so many people are raped because men are taught from an early age by all those classic comedy films that to get sex you need to be persistent or get the person drunk and no means maybe until you push and push then you’ll be rewarded with sex. And they honestly don’t understand that just because a woman isn’t kicking and screaming that it’s still rape (no excuse at all but fact). The scary thing is that as soon as people know you’ve been raped they open up about their experiences and I was so shocked by the stories I was told by my friends – my strong, adventurous, crazy ass friends. So actually and statistically (insert study please Jill as I’ve only got me phone and you’ve almost got a masters in this now. Big Data obv not raping) , if they truly want to, they will.

And point number 2:

You are strong. And I think we can be pretty certain that even a weak woman would become the Hulk when fighting for her life.

Susan:

I really hope that you never have to test out this theory. I was a LOT luckier than Jill (see her account below mine) and, after trying to talk to me when I was walking my dog after work one night and I’d given polite replies and tried to walk away, my rapist didn’t hit me so much but I was pinned where I couldn’t move. I tried punching him in the face, eye gauging, kicking him in the balls – fucking LIES that this stops anyone! All I felt was furious anger, I remember screaming “How fucking DARE YOU YOU CUNT? I’m going to fucking KILL you!” then remembering that people say you should scream “fire” as people respond more, my mind was so clear as it was happening, disbelief and attempted problem solving. This was 2001 where mobile phones were a luxury but I was working in door to door sales so I had a work one like a brick so after everything you’re ever taught as a a defence didn’t work I decided to lie limp and slyly get my phone out and call the police, however he heard the keys beep and tried to stop me so I resorted to using my brick as a weapon and hit him in the eye with it. That’s when I got really pinned down in the mud and bushes so tried calling my dog, Weiland, to attack. I think he maybe sniffed the bloke as he was useless (and the “kind” police detective said they’d omitt me asking Weiland to attack from my statement as if they did find the guy he was could get Weiland euthanased for attacking him! What kind of a world is that?!). Anyway, the guy was still afraid of Weiland sniffing so I managed to get out from under him and run away, then got rugby tackled from behind and we rolled down a hill through sharp bushes that hurt us both so at the bottom I started talking to him and asking why he was doing this, what sort of a man was he to have to resort to this? And I was so lucky that I got through whatever haze he was in that he decided to lie to himself that what he was doing was buying a prostitute, and I felt so calm I sternly corrected him and explained it’s still rape even if I was a prostitute, then kept him talking by negotiating a price as I could see he was coming out of whatever haze he was in. Then that’s when he ran away.

Jill picking up from the point number 2 quotation:

I’m pretty sure I said this too, giving examples of women lifting trucks off their children to save them etc. I said both of these things and I completely believed them. I believed them in August 2008, walking home from a night out with friends – safe in the assumption that if a man hiding in the back streets wanted to rape someone, it would be a mortal drunk, stunningly gorgeous and slim scantily-clad eighteen year old, not a self-assured and scruffy 28 year old hippy. I believed them as a stranger approached me and tried to strike up a conversation (I’ve made some great friends by talking to randoms at the end of the street in the early hours of the morning!). I believed them even as he tried to grope me and I shoved him away and walked quickly around the corner to my street. Then he charged me into a brick wall, knocking me unconcious and when I came around he was on top of me, my dress was around my waist and yeah, that was about the moment when I realised that point number one was a lie.

Of course I struggled and fought – I too thought I was strong. I’d done a few martial arts and could hold my own in a scrap once the hulk-rage descended. But every punch that I landed was matched by one of his, every scream enraged him further. The blows got harder the more I struggled, and as I felt my front teeth crunch and my mouth fill with blood, I realised that point two was a lie too. The sad reality is that there are limits to how many times you can have your head pounded into the concrete before you just give up and let someone do whatever they want to you, just so you don’t die.

Susan again, I have issues with #4 also:

If you are a pretty girl, men will hit on you. So sue them! Don’t tell me you wouldn’t flirt with some guy you find ridiculously attractive. Once again, just ‘cause a guy might make some remarks that are mildly creepy, does not mean they are going to jump you. They’re just hoping you might jump them.

Ah the old “Boys will be boys” reasoning. Okay so Danie is obviously a pretty girl but rape has got nothing to do with that! I’m in the middle of a big solo travel now and my favourite places are the Caribbean islands but boy do you have to be firm and fight the men off with a stick, I’ve had to punch guys in the face more than once because they wouldn’t take no for an answer and that’s nothing to do with me being superior and hot as fuck, I’m a fat, pink middle aged woman FFS! Obviously I’m the wittiest as well as the whitest though 😁. If I was someone who was afraid to use violence (which of course is a last resort and be careful of the situation before you do) then my response to point 1 above comes into play of them not thinking it’s rape as you’ve gone into shock and they think that’s consent.

Jill back!

God that WAS grim wasn’t it? Sorry to haul all that baggage onto you dear readers, but the argument really needed some context. It was a really shit thing to happen, but actually some good came of it – I was awarded some criminal injuries compensation which gave me the means to quit my job and go travelling which was something that I would never otherwise been able to manage. I spent an amazing month in Guatemala, and joined a trip around some of South America (admittedly, with a load of gap year students on an organised trek – mainly for the benefit of friends and family who were shitting themselves daily at the thought of poor fragile, unstable and damaged little me heading off into the unknown on my own) and from then on the travel bug had well and truly bitten – no longer would I be satisfied with the usual couple of European city breaks a year when there were so many beautiful, wild and interesting places that were begging for my eyes and feet on them!

This was where it all started for me really, and hooking up with Susan who had not only been through a similar ordeal, had the same outlook, had also just returned from a huge round the world trip and was one of the best things that ever happened to us both.

We’re now thinking that this post should be titled “EXISTING” rather than “travelling” with a vagina, since this stuff can happen anywhere and no woman should let fear rule her life or you’d never leave the house! I guess what we’re trying to say is not to be naive and pretend that the risks aren’t there, but TRAVEL! Talk to strangers! Make new friends!

And don’t let fear or anyone else spoil the world for you.

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