I simply never thought of how paranoid the average female has to be to simply avoid being attacked and how that paranoia effects how they perceive what I might have interpreted as an innocent gesture.It made me think about a small incident that happened to me, and the reactions I got when telling the story.
A little over a year ago (I cannot believe it has been that long!), I traveled Japan by myself. I booked my accommodations entirely too late, so I had to stay for three days over the New Year holiday in a tiny single room, in the cheapest hotel I could find, instead of the hostels I preferred. After those three days, I checked out to go to a hostel, as I had planned. The hotel owner was a middle aged Chinese man, and when I left he asked me what my next destination was. You know, friendly talk.
I was a little embarrassed to say that I was still staying in the same city--just changing lodgings (your hotel was only a desperate choice), but what else could I do? He asked me if I could continuing staying in his hotel; I said no, my other place has been already booked, you see. He said that he had a daughter around my age. She was studying in the US. He asked me if I knew how to get to my new hotel. Yes, I said, I had drawn a map. We talked about some other things.
Then he said that he was heading out also, and that he could walk me to the metro station. Here, I started getting uncomfortable. But hey, I thought, here I am, meeting locals! So what if he's an old man? That might even be better! It could be an interesting travel experience!
We walked to the station together. When we got there, he seemed worried that I wouldn't know how to purchase a ticket (as if I could have survived like that), and insisted on buying one for me. This involved him knowing my stop. I let him buy it. At this point, I mostly just wanted to get away and get to my hostel as soon as possible, to return to my familiar world of youthful backpackers and hip, lax receptionists. We got off at the same stop. He had a friend here he wanted to visit, he said. He said it more than once.
As we exited the station, he asked me again if I was sure of where my hotel was. What was its name? Perhaps he can help me find it. I absolutely did not want him to know where I was staying. I knew the name of my street and I knew the exit I needed to take, but I didn't tell him this. I didn't want him to walk me there. So we took a look at the station map. We see the street my hostel in on, but right there on the map was a little symbol of the hostel. Oak Hotel! My heart dropped. I was so angry at that map!
"Is that it?" He asks.
"I think so," I say, my voice small.
And we leave the station together.
About a block later, I needed to cross the street, and apparently he did not. He asked me again if I was sure I knew where I was going. I nod vehemently. Yes, yes, I'm sure. Thank you for your help. The cross signal chirps and I just start walking across, cutting off our conversation. Bye, I say. I know where I'm going, I say, rushing away. I wave a little, and leave, leave, leave.
Later on I sneak a peak back, there he is, on the other side, walking.
I head down the alley to my hostel.
When I got back to Hong Kong, I told this story a couple times. I felt a little bad, leaving so suddenly without much pleasantries, because, after all, perhaps he was truly concerned for a young female traveler like me. He paid for my metro ticket. Was I just paranoid? Did I just blow it up out of proportion in my head? Every single one of my female friends said no, he was definitely overstepping boundaries and being creepy.
My male friends thought it was not a big deal, that it was innocent, and that he was just being friendly and helpful, like Japanese people tend to be towards foreigners. One of them said, "But I'm a guy. Maybe for a girl, it would be creepy."
I thought, if he really was just being friendly, how could he not understand how uncomfortable his actions made me? He should've backed off and trusted me to take care of myself. One part of taking care of myself would be staying away from strange men, right?
I'm still not sure what to take from this. Just some food for thought.