But a new study suggests that the chivalrous rule of 'women and children first' rarely happens - and may only have happened on the Titanic because the captain threatened to shoot men who got into the lifeboats.
A new analysis of 18 maritime disasters where 15,000 people died only 17.8 percent of the women survived versus 34.5 percent of the men.When the Titanic sank beneath the waves, men famously stood back from the boats, and women and children fled to safety first.
Jim Maloney played by Peter McDonald in the new TV series of Titanic: But real sea disasters tend to be much less chivalrous
Contemporary painting illustrating the sinking of the White Star Liner, Titanic after it struck an iceberg whilst sailing south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland on April 14 1912
Of the Titanic's passengers, 70% of the women were saved, but just 20% of the men.
The idea of saving 'women and children first' has been described as 'the unwritten law of the sea'.
But a new analysis of maritime disasters suggests that women and children are often left to last - and that even on the Titanic, the 'chivalry' was helped by the fact that the captain threatened to shoot men who got into the lifeboats before women.
Economists Mikael Elinder and Oscar Erixon of Uppsala University analyzed 18 of the world's most famous maritime disasters from 1852 to 2011.
'The Titanic disaster has generated immense public and scholarly interest, and as one of the most extensively covered events in history obtained an almost mythological status,' say the researchers.
'The evacuation of the Titanic serves as the prime example of chivalry at sea. Men stood back, while women and children were given priority to board the lifeboats.
They found that men actually have a distinct survival advantage.
Elinder said Thursday when it comes to sinking ships ‘it appears as if it is every man for himself.’
The White Star Liner RMS Titanic, built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast, 4th February 1912, preparing to leave for Southampton for her maiden voyage to New York on April 10th 1912. The steamship sank on April 15th 1912 off the coast of NewFoundland
The actual iceberg which sank the liner Titanic in April 1912 photograaphed from the German ship Prinz Adalbert
Meanwhile, new research into the behaviour of passengers onboard the Titanic, continues to puzzle scientists.
Whilst women and children were given priority, men stood on the deck smoking cigars and the ship's band infamously 'played on'.
David Savage, an economist at Queensland University in Australia said: 'There was no pushing and shoving. (It was) very, very orderly behavior.'
Savage was contrasting the behaviour of the passengers on the ancient ship with those on the Lusitania, another ship, which also sank around the same time.
He eventually concluded that the the panic on the Lusitania was a direct result of the sheer speed in which the boat sank.
Savage affirmed that given the Lusitania was under water in just 17 minutes, a stark contrast with the two-and-a-half hours it took to floor the Titanic, that passengers instinct won out as they raced for the lifeboats.