Stop Doing the "Walk of Shame"

Maybe it was you talking the walk; maybe it was a good friend of yours; or maybe it was a neighbor girl you only see as she returns on Sunday mornings. Whether you've experienced or witnessed it, the "Walk of Shame" is nothing new. It's been used for years and years, and will likely go on this way for many more. Each time the phrase is used, in whatever seriousness or intention, people are only further reinforcing and feeding into a dark, harmful, and outdated belief of what it means to be a woman—a woman with sexual desires.

"Walk of Shame" was in my own vocabulary for as long as I'd been in college. To my friends and I, it was humourous and our way of feeling as though we had control over how our sexuality was viewed by ourselves and others. It wasn't until I did a research paper on female objectification and empowerment that I learned the ugly history behind this popularly-spoken phrase:

"...during this time, marriage was viewed as business, and wives were to service their husbands. Much like ancient gender roles showed, women of the Victorian age were expected to restrain from their sexual urges and never act upon them. Medical professionals began to assume a lack of sexual desire in women and saw it as sign against a “true” woman—indicating an evil and unnatural presence and/or disease that needed to be removed. By spreading this belief, doctors were able to convince women of the oddity that was sexuality, and demoralize those who demonstrated one. Females then held off sexual intercourse until marriage and when the time came, engaged in it moderately and strictly for procreative purposes (withholding indication of pleasure toward their husbands). Nevertheless, men weren’t held to the same standards as their female counterparts. Premarital sex was common amongst men and wives were to be sexually accessible when desired."

While background/context is helpful in understanding the danger of the phrase, the obvious evidence lies within the words themselves and what they symbolize. "Walk of Shame"—shame. Immediately, the phrase supports the idea that people who have sex do, and should, feel shame. This is problematic for many reasons. We must ask ourselves who the phrase is referencing. It's most often women who are 'doing the walk of shame', while men are simply having sex (which why men and this phrase aren't used in conjuction with one another). The way it's structured differently for genders in itself speaks volumes about who is supposed to be having sex and who is chastised for it. 

While there has been push toward open and positive conversations about sex—movies, podcasts, books, education, etc., there is still a discourse that tells women they must conceal their sexuality. Women shouldn't, and have no reason, to feel 'embarrassed'. Having sexual desires is natural and healthy. We must be redirect the energy and attention we give to teaching women how to be sexually shamed to teaching women how to have healthy, safe, and positive sexual experiences. 

Think of a girl in your life: a cousin, a niece, a future daughter, whoever. Don't let this discourse be apart of their own vocabulary as they get older. Teach them to do what makes them happy. If you have a boy in your life: a brother, a nephew, a future son. Don't let this discourse be apart of their vocabulary as they get older. Teach them women are, and should, be able to do whatever makes them happy. Teach them to be respectful, caring, and protective of women. 

-A college student sick of gross double standards