From “Walk of Shame” to “Walk of Pride”

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A few nights ago I was in an Uber on my way home from work when my driver started talking about the “walk of shame.” She said cheerfully, “I get a lot of ride requests late at night from women on the walk of shame. But I don’t think it should be called the walk of shame. I think it should be called the walk of pride!”

My driver’s comments got me thinking about how “shame” and “sexuality” go hand in hand when discussing a WOMAN’S sexual activities. Where masturbation is treated as a natural activity for men, female masturbation is censored, hushed, and frowned upon. We are all told by society that women are not inherently sexual beings the way men are, and that our own promiscuity is shameful when the promiscuity of men is encouraged.

The bottom line is that sex is not shameful. It doesn’t matter how many partners you’ve had over a lifetime or how many partners you’ve had in the past week. Regardless of age, gender, body-type, or orientation, our sexual experiences are experiences that we should be proud of, and I believe there are certain criteria we can follow to ensure that each sexual encounter results in a “walk of pride,” rather than a “walk of shame.”

The first criterion is emotional safety. This means looking out for the emotional safety of yourself, your partner(s), and anyone else involved. When I was in college I was in love with someone and when his girlfriend left to study abroad for a semester, he and I began sleeping together. The excitement of being with the person I was in love with for so long was completely overshadowed by the pain and suffering I caused to his girlfriend and ultimately to myself.

Even if you’re not participating in an act of infidelity, it is still extremely easy to fall into a masochistic pattern of sleeping with people who you know are never going to be as emotionally available as you’d like them to be. The important thing is to be honest with yourself and to be on the same page as your sexual partners. If you are both interested in casual sex, then you are both going to feel emotionally satisfied with the experience. As long as both (or all three, four, five, six…) partners are on the same emotional page and no one is getting hurt, there is absolutely nothing shameful about casual sex.

Sexual health and safety is the next criteria. Practicing safe sex may sound like a no-brainer, but the fact of the matter is that people don’t like to use condoms, and with such a heavy burden placed on women to acquire effective birth control in a health-care system dominated by the forces of male privilege, accidental pregnancies are very common. The absolutely unnecessary stigma surrounding STDs also leads to a lack of honesty and transparency, and as a result, an increased rate of transmission of these infections. Regardless of the hurdles and inconveniences, if you can’t figure out a way to practice safe sex, then don’t have sex.

The third criterion is consent. Given the increase in sex positivity and sexual exploration within our culture (something people refer to more negatively as “hook-up culture”), it is absolutely crucial that we understand what it means to give consent and how to know if or when we’ve been violated. Let’s just be blunt here: If you did not give consent, then you were raped. It’s extremely important to add here that if you were raped it is nothing for YOU to be ashamed of. You did nothing wrong and you absolutely did not ask for it. The only person who should be ashamed in this situation is your rapist.

The final criterion is pleasure. One of my main issues with hooking-up is that it often seems very one-sided. I am a heterosexual female so I know that my experience with pleasure is much different from that of gay or lesbian individuals, but my anecdotal experience has taught me that sex is rarely satisfying during a hook-up. I don’t think hooking-up is the problem, though. I think it’s the lack of advocacy from women and the lack of concern from men that is the problem. If you are a woman and you are going to have a one-night stand with a man, you have to know that you deserve pleasure and satisfaction. Rather than feigning pleasure, demand it. If your partner is unwilling to accommodate your sexual needs and would prefer to focus only on incessant, one-dimensional thrusting, then you have every right to get up and walk right out the door.

Ultimately, I believe that any sexual encounter that you have consented to is a sexual encounter that you should take ownership of, rather than feeling ashamed. Even if you did not give consent, the burden is not on you to carry that shame. However, I think that as women, we could have healthier, more positive sex lives if we championed relentlessly for all four of these criteria to be inherent to our sexual experiences.

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4 thoughts on “From “Walk of Shame” to “Walk of Pride”

  1. Yeah, but since most casual sex isn’t physically safe sex, emotionally safe sex, or mutually satisfying that’s why it’s considered a shame. Not every sexual encounter is to be embraced. You should know… You slept with someone who had a girlfriend. If this is your idea of proud promiscuity it’s no wonder slut shaming exists. “Sluts” like you give sexually liberated women a bad name.

    • My brief reference to a mistake I made as an 18-year-old reveals much less about my character than your comment does about yours.

  2. How you could possibly think you’ve revealed less about yourself in a statement saying you willfully abetted an adulterous relationship than the person correctly and factually stating that casual sex in it’s current form is not inherently safe is beyond your average reader.

    On a related point, casual sex is not safe specifically because women are not up front about their expectations and only consider their own perspective in any given encounter. This is why you didn’t care about ruining another person’s (two people’s actually) relationship and why you continue to say, “If your partner is unwilling to accommodate your sexual needs and would prefer to only focus on incessant, one-dimensional thrusting, then you have every right to get up and walk out the door,” with not a moment’s hesitation in placing 100% of the burden of your sexual needs on another person. You still see this as, “He’s getting off why not meeeeee???” Instead of, “Let’s both be involved and try to get each other off!”

    Your sexual pleasure is your responsibility (even in the event of a partner experience). If you want to be satisfied in your sexual encounters, then speak up and make it known. Men are not mind readers and they actually are not uncaring oafs who couldn’t care less. Most men do not have very healthy views of their own sexuality thanks to society telling them they are worthless until they lose their virginity. Promiscuity is not encouraged in men, rather, men are shamed into promiscuity (with a heaping helping of that shame coming from women). What percentage of women actually want to sleep with a man who’s a virgin?

    Oh and by the way, you can thank big pharma, the FDA, and feminist groups for the whole birth control thing. If they didn’t keep blocking any and all opportunities for a male pill to become reality then you wouldn’t have 22 different forms of contraception for women and 1 for men (that is reversible).

    So at the end of it all I think we both actually agree. Women must be more proactive about their orgasms. That means more making the first move, more putting yourself out there to get rejected, more vocalizing about what gets you off and all with honest intentions of the nature of the encounter.

    P.S. – I do care intensely about my SO’s satisfaction to the point where she gets off anywhere from 5-10 times every time we have sex (that’s 5-10 to my 1).

    The difference between us (or maybe rather me and your readers)? I have my own personal sexual disfunction that I have to be vocal about if I want to achieve personal sexual satisfaction and guess what, I vocalize that to every partner I’ve ever had.

    Some are turned off at first, but after the first bedroom romp, all of the anxiety created by the previous situation is long gone.

    TL;DR

    Premise is great, delivery is heavily influenced by 4th wave feminism (aka, no responsibility feminism). If you tightened it up, didn’t pepper in so many feminist fallacies, and spiced up the dirty parts, this would be a great piece.

  3. “Promiscuity is not encouraged in men, rather, men are shamed into promiscuity (with a heaping helping of that shame coming from women). What percentage of women actually want to sleep with a man who’s a virgin?” This, I think, is a key point. Society has a horrid view of male sexuality. Men aren’t allowed to ‘not like it’ or say no – they’re brought up to not have autonomy over their bodies. That makes it easy for them to not be considerate of women’s need for autonomy – we can only appreciate giving to others what we, ourselves, are allowed.

    This idea of walking right out the door if you’re not getting pleasure from a hook-up is a little misguided. Hook-ups, by nature, aren’t a good way to get sexual needs met, for most people. It takes time for people to get to know each other and communicate well during sex – expecting that on a hook up isn’t realistic. Sex positivity shouldn’t be about forgetting the human side of sex just so we can get off.

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