Nothing gets me riled up like articles on female travel. I'm sure the intention is good - reassuring women that it is safe to travel alone - but the reality is that mostly these articles reinforce the idea that women are delicate flowers who need special precautions.
After perpetuating these myths, the articles give a bunch of tips that either a) border on near psychotic paranoia or b) are equally applicable to men. Because you do realise, men can be victims of all kinds of attacks too.
Here are some truths:
Women are safer travelling.
Go look at the statistics. The least safe place a woman can be is at home with her partner. Travelling doesn't increase your chances of being attacked, raped or murder, it lessens them.
Safety is an illusion. I mean, I could be attacked sitting right here at home. Sure, they'd have to get passed a beagle and a bichon frisse to get to me but that wouldn't be impossible.
You don't need to be more aware or take any more precautions than you would at home. Gut instinct is your best guide and I think women develop that (and need to develop it) far more than men do anyway.
Men are as likely to be targeted.
Why is the safety advice never aimed at men? This may be only anecdotal but every story I've heard of incidents happening while travelling, have been told by men. Because I travel a lot in Japan, most of those stories start with "One time I was in Roppongi..."
I think it's men who need the 'how to stay safe while travelling' advice. And I'd head that advice off with this tip: if a really hot chick, who is way out of your league, starts cracking on to you, be on high alert. Don't drink with her, don't get sucked. You'll end up in a back alley with an empty wallet and a lump on your head. To sum up, don't think with your dick.
Some of the tips for female safety I've read have bordered on the downright stupid. Email a friend at home when you go out and get them to contact authorities if you don't email them again within an hour of your return time? Huh? Stuff like that is crazy obsessive and putting a huge burden on your friends. You think they want to be sitting at home constantly checking in on you? That's just bullshit.
Getting someone from your hostel to walk with you at night? Because all the suspicious characters are foreigners and all backpackers are honest, upright citizens? Even if you get another woman to hang out with you, what's to say she's not dodgy? There are backpackers who fund their travels by ripping off other backpackers. The same as asking some random stranger to watch your bags -- to protect them from random strangers!
Don't get drunk. Don't go out alone at night. Might be sound advice if you never want to have any fun. I'm not advocating getting stupid-drunk (although I'm not saying I haven't done it either... I remember one night in Kochi, well actually I don't remember it...) but don't stay huddled in your room alone, unless you want to.
Really, what it boils down to for anyone, male or female, is to keep your wits about you and don't do anything you wouldn't do at home. When someone is talking flat out to you in a foreign language and putting on the pressure, it's a fair chance they want to rip you off. Walk away if things don't seem right. Scream and make a fuss.
But the world isn't out to get you, your money or your virtue. Take sensible precautions then enjoy yourself.