No, I am not a prostitute! I am just a BLACK Woman that TRAVELS!

Attention! Calling all Black Women! Calling all Black Women that travel. Have you ever found yourself in this encounter: you do not speak the local language and somehow a tourist might ask you about what your “country has to offer. ” Well, after you politely let this person know you are not from this country, they look at you quite perplexed. At the same time you realize this tourist was not attempting to find out the most popular destinations, but how they can get in your pants because they seem to think you are a prostitute or a really “fun girl”,  looking for an “American/European” white friend that might (if you are lucky, become your husband!)

On my last trip to Jamaica, my boyfriend and I were at Ricks’ Cafe in Negril, Jamaica. Did I think we stood out? Well, one can say a white man who is about 6’5 and about 300 pounds stands out in Jamaica, right?  I am  a Black woman who is 5’4 and (well, you know a woman never shares her weight. So this is where you imagine whatever number you want 🙂 Do I think we stood out? Not totally, because we were at a very touristy place. I am sure depending on the setting we might have stood out, but honestly, every other place we went, people easily discerned that we were a “committed couple ” and that he did not just meet me the hour before.

As I surveyed the cliff divers and took in the entire place, I  saw a  few more interracial couples. But, not the type where you want to start-up the conversation. Unfortunately, it is the cliché old white man (about 50 or 60) and his “girlfriend” is no older than 25. Maybe, you see this all the time, but I know the deal, because some of his friends were making eyes with me to see what my deal was.

Now, one might say maybe it is a coincidence. Hmmm, but this happens in almost every country where I travel. Not, just where Black people are the majority. So, no, it can not just be a coincidence. Whether it be in East Africa where the Indian men would approach me, propositioning high ticket items, trips and “best of all” free food (yes, this happened). Or the men, in Italy that would ask, if I was looking for a visa, or the number of friends that have stories not about men just wanting to get with them but men that sincerly think they are prostitutes or providing sex services.

I realize this is the part where I am not the “crazy” one. How weird is it that I travel while Black?  Obviously, my lack of the local language, facial features, clothes, mannerisms, might provide context, as to what part of the world I am from. That is the rationale that I hear so many of my other friends state. But for so many, a Black woman travelling can only mean one thing: looking for a way to get of her country or advance the “only way” she can.

I have seen sex workers in all countries where I have travelled and yes, I see them in the States as well. It is just interesting that the first thing that comes out of people’s mouth is only my ability to open my legs or insert genitalia into my mouth (or any of my other holes).  Somehow, even in my travels, I am still sexualized and made to feel as though, my only assets are my breast and vagina. And when I listen to my white and Asian girlfriends trips around the world, of course men approach them, but in a totally different context. I wonder, how many times, my white friends that have done around the world trips, were asked are you a prostitute? I have a feeling it is a totally different answer. I am just a Black Woman who has access to a passport and loves to travel. Somehow, I do not remember that translating to prostitute or sex worker in any langauge. ~ Erzulie

Sunset at Rick's Cafe

One of the cliff divers at Rick's Cafe

Does this translate to Sex worker?


~ by travelling womanists on May 13, 2011.

11 Responses to “No, I am not a prostitute! I am just a BLACK Woman that TRAVELS!”

  1. Nice feet the two of you. Well, Missy, you are beautiful and have an amazingly sexy body… However, you or any other woman who enjoys traveling should have to endure such behavior. Personally, I have to say, throughout my travels to Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, I have never encountered such experiences before. Not sure how I would respond if I’m ever faced with a such a proposition.

    • Haha, thanks about the feet comment. Thanks so much for your feedback. I am happy that you have never had to experience it. It is great to know there are people that do not see Black Women travelling as a paradox.

  2. I’ve had this happen even in countries where Blacks weren’t the majority. I had it happen in Hong Kong with an Arab man…and possible a French man that we (me and my best friend, also Black) ran into twice.

  3. I am a white American woman with blond hair and blue eyes. When I was 18/19 I spent a year in Turkey where most people assumed by my looks that I was a Russian prostitute. Speaking Turkish or English did nothing to dissuade them. I never got offers for dinner, trips or visas…instead I got followed, shoved into alleyways, and pulled into cars.
    It was devastating as a young woman living there alone. I was too ashamed to tell my Turkish friends because it didn’t happen to them. I once told someone in the states, his response was “dye your hair brown!” Why should I have to change how I look?!?!?!
    I dressed very conservatively and acted like my female Turkish friends. I was only being singled out because of my looks.
    So, I can sympathize. How many women can honestly say they are mistaken for prostitutes on a daily basis, hundreds of times over? It’s very dehumanizing. I remember feeling like I was reduced to a piece of meat- no one could see me as a person anymore.
    It was a shame because it prevented me from truly enjoying my travels in Turkey…

    • Erin,
      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your story with us. How long where you in Turkey? Do you feel as though the climate ever changed for you? Have you ever returned to Turkey (or that region)?

  4. I am a black-identified woman in her 40s who looks younger and who travels mostly in the U.S. for business and my experiences are similar. I’m very conservative in my dress, but I also wear my hair in small sister locks. White-identifed men approach me in hotel bars and restaurants or chat me up in conference hallways in ways that make it clear they are interested in sex, not in my ideas, though they pretend to be at first (I’m a professor with a doctorate). No, they do not offer to pay, but they make it clear they find me “exotic” and “attractive” and want me to “let my hair down.” My theory is that any attractive woman alone (esepcially non-White women who are almost universally represented as sexually deviant) is going to be perceived as “available” and sexually willing. Attractive women alone are overwhelmingly viewed as being on the prowl, regardless of their actual reasons for being out and about.

    • Thanks so much for sharing! Would you like to write a piece for us about your travel experiences?

      • Hi! Thanks so much for asking. I would love to write an article. This November, I am going to my discipline’s annual convention, where I will be presenting the paper, “The Sexual Politics of Talk.” My experiences with men in professional contexts over the years have been so disturbing that I’ve decided to write seriously on the subject and challenge the conventional wisdom that “sexual harassment” is about power rather than attraction.

      • I would love to read your paper. I think this is something that so often is never discussed with Black Women (regarding sexual harassment). And now so many people think it is an issue that women do not need to worry about. Bravo to you and this paper!

  5. I think the reason many women don’t discuss being harassed or what I call “sexualized” is because there is a tendency for people to blame women for their harassment and objectification. For example, I often hear men AND women say things like, “Well, if you don’t want men coming onto you, don’t go out alone” or “Don’t be so friendly” or “Don’t talk and smile so much.” Even in 2011, the woman’s appearance and actions, rather than the man’s behavior, tend to be the primary focus in discussions about harassment and unwanted sexual attention. Also, a woman complaining about unwanted sexual attention is often perceived by other women as “full of herself,” or “conceited.” In think many women learn it is best to remain silent rather than risk a possible reprimand and alienation from other women. Men, on the other hand, honestly believe they are entitled to act on their feelings of attraction and just don’t see the harm. To compound matters, men, in general, often interpret friendliness (even in professional contexts) as sexual interest. I am generalizing, of course, and am not speaking about all men and women. I am speaking broadly.

  6. Erin’s story was heart breaking to read. I don’t think that I would be able to handle such assault and remain there.
    I traveled to Paris solo. I believe I was mistaken for a prostitute by a cadre of drunken men. I was wearing sneakers, jeans, a coat, and no make-up looking for a place to eat dinner. Maybe, they were just drunk but things got very awkward at the end. However, Barcelona was another story. It was obvious that people thought my friend and I were prostitutes, based solely on our race. We were never dressed provocatively but sexual harassment lurked around every corner. It is enraging that I can be subjected to such great disrespect because of my race and gender. I’m troubled by the thought that if something happened to either of us, the police would not have taken us seriously.

    I appreciate this forum to discuss what we encounter in our travels.

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