You go out on Saturday night, maybe have a little too much to drink, and lo and behold, it is Sunday morning, and you find that you have yet to make it back to Wellesley from your night out at Harvard. You stand up, zip up your jeans, grab your phone, and probably do not say a word to last night’s conquest. You walk out the door, embarking on what may be your first, third, or tenth ‘walk of shame.’ I propose that we put the phrase ‘walk of shame’ to rest and introduce a new term: the stride of pride.
This is something that has been on my mind for a long time. Since coming to college, though, I have garnered experience that I feel makes me more qualified and more impassioned to write on the subject. I was hesitant to write about this due to the fact that most things that correlate with sex are sensitive subjects. I realized, though, that the gender inequality and social stigma that accompanies the idea of the ‘walk of shame’ is something that necessitates acknowledgement.
The walk of shame is generally when a woman leaves the room of her sexual partner after a long night of drinking, partying, and well, sex, and makes her way back to her room to sleep off her hangover and gossip with her friends. This person with whom she graced her body could have been a one night stand or a long time significant other, but it does not matter. People stare at this girl in judgement, labeling her a “slut,” yet most would not say something negative about a male leaving someone’s place in the early hours. It is deemed ‘cool’ for a guy to have sex, and his friends are going to give him props for it. That guy is a conqueror. According to of “Sexual Double Standards: A Review and Methodological Critique of Two Decades of Research” by Mary Crawford and Danielle Pop, “Sexually active women were considered less popular among both sexes than sexually active men.” Additionally, “Women who changed sex partners a number of times during the year were rated as more irresponsible and as having less self respect than men who engaged in the same behaviors.” In their further analysis of a study performed by R.R. Milhausen and E.S. Herold, an overwhelming number of participants (95%) believed that there is “a double standard for sexual behavior (a standard in which it is more acceptable for a man to have had more sexual partners than a woman).”
There is nothing wrong with someone partaking in consensual, safe, quality sex. I acknowledge that sex in college often involves alcohol, which is problematic because this can get in the way of consent. But we must move towards supporting women’s choices about their sex lives and promoting safe sex through positive attitudes rather than confronting the issue with judgmental and alienating words. Who are we to judge someone for their actions behind closed doors? Finding men can be a bit challenging at an all women’s college. Hanging out with guys while attending Wellesley becomes a production; either they come here or we go there, so when the opportunity to hangout with guys presents itself, many may want to make the most of it. For them, that may mean spending the night, whether or not one has sex.
Even at coeducational schools. though, why does anyone care that this person had sex last night? Sex is not a bad thing; sex is a beautiful thing. Choosing to have sex, whether it be casual or not, is a personal decision that should not be judged, just like choosing not to have sex is a personal decision that should not be judged. I can do as I please with my body and the main reason for that is because it is my body; it is not my parent’s body, my friend’s body, my partner’s body, it is my body. I dress it, shave it, exercise it, and take care of it in all forms, so why should someone else have the right to dictate what I do with it sexually? My brothers have never had to answer to anyone about why they want to have sex, so why should I? While I do not blame my parents for this, as they are simply molded by societal expectations, my brothers and I are treated far differently when it comes to our interactions with members of the opposite sex (as we are all heterosexual). While I have never been allowed to have a boy in my room alone, my older brothers have been hanging out with girls behind closed doors without any supervision for years. I am in college and often find myself thinking, “Oh, is that allowed? Am I able to go hangout with guys on my own? Would my mom be okay with it? Would my dad?” I am legally an adult, so why do my parent’s rules and societal norms still affect me?
In Corinna Clendenen’s piece “Walk of Shame for Men? There is None,” written for The Huffington Post: Canada, she asked “Why does the social stigma against the sexually active woman persist?” She added “Female characters in literature with multiple lovers meet sorry ends. Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary commit suicide, Hester Prynne is branded with a scarlet letter, Anna in Sue Miller’s The Good Mother has her young daughter taken away from her.” Women in literature that are often found in the classroom are scorned for their behavior, but no one cares to judge the males whom these women engaged in sexual intercourse with. The escapades of men are celebrated. “Literature and lyrics are full of tales of male virility. From the exploits of Don Juan and Casanova to James Bond and even JFK, the male taste for variety in women is the stuff of legend, often told with no more than a nod and a wink for their bad boy practices,” said Clendenen. “These stories are accepted, even lauded,” thus leaving young girls to question what they can and cannot do with their bodies, with regard to society’s expectations, that is.
The more the better is the case when it comes to men. Yet for women, it seems as though we are supposed to keep that number as low as possible. This idea that women should be virginal and pure is so suffocating, so let’s break down that glass ceiling that shuts us in and have as much sex as we (and our partners) please. That’s not to say that we should have sex just to have sex. Have sex because you want to, have sex because you are physically attracted to someone and the offer is on the table and every part of you is telling you that you should. Do not let societal bindings be so oppressive and define what you can and cannot do with your body. Take that stride of pride all you want. Or, if you’re off campus, take that bus (or Uber) ride of pride, because this is your life and your body, and you get to choose what you do with it.
Photo courtesy of Fitzop