The relative safety I felt as a solo woman travelling in Asia was in most instances less at risk than I felt in London. There were moments that I felt vulnerable naturally, but that was more a forewarning ushering up my guard than an actual life or death situation. Besides, reaching the ripe old age of (almost) 30 I feel I have enough life experience to arm myself with a decent level of common sense, at least enough to get by. There was however another aspect to my safety that I hadn’t considered. It came up again and again with other women – each one having her own handful of stories.
The biggest threat unfortunately, although somewhat inevitably seems to have been the men. I’m not talking about the man who will steal your bag, or the man trying to scam you. I’m talking about the man that makes you the unwilling subject of their fantasy, and then forces you to bare witness to it. Tourists, expats and locals although all have their own special brand of inappropriate, and are the small and unfortunate percentage representing the men of the world as fucking pigs. So to represent your cross section of creepiness, here is a cross section of my experiences over the last year;
-Foot fetish guy- this one happened before I’d even left the country. Tying to sell my stuff on eBay, I encountered a persistent buyer who successfully made me feel as dirty as my old converse, never placed a bid and still messages me to this day.
-Man taking bikini snaps on the beach- numerous.
-Bartender in Vang Vieng who told me he wanted to rape me. Not have sex with me, RAPE ME.
-Guy who dragged me into the toilets in Pai with the same idea.
-Mooning old man in Tokyo.
-Masturbation man In Penang.
-‘Grab her by the pussy’ in Kuala Lumpur.
-Creepy hands man on bus- also numerous.
-Group of men on Sydney bus- who chose to alight that particular bus licking their fingers and rolling them up my thigh.
-Grab your bum/vagina man in a club in Gili T. I actually said something to this guy. Feeling the courage and carnage from my Gin and Tonics. He was very apologetic as I frantically wagged my finger at him in drunken and dramatic fashion. I walked off feeling like I’d really accomplished something; like I’d stood up to all the perverts of the world. Only to be grabbed twice more on the way back to my friend.
-I wrote a part of this on the beach; and as I did a man stood in front of me and took photos- with the fucking shutter sound on. They always leave the sound on; the final insult so you know just enough to be sure it happened, but not enough to confront them. I wanted to say something, but I am on my own, and you’ve just made me feel degraded, an object, a shell of myself, like I don’t have the courage to stand up to you.
All of these incidents no matter how small bring out a certain unpleasant emotion inside that’s very hard to describe. A feeling that you gave pleasure to another person, who did not ask you to be a part of their fetish or banter. A certain feeling of violation that will force you to immediately go buy fried chicken to make yourself feel better, or less grubby. It’s not a nice feeling. And it’s not okay to do that man.