Sex and the Walk of Shame

“After I’ve just gotten laid, the first thing I think about is that I can’t wait to tell my crew who I just did. Omigod, they’re not going to believe I just did Kristy. They’ll all be high-fiving me.”

Guys routinely celebrate having sex. The messages they give each other pretty much translate to, “Sex is great! And more is better!”

But what do women hear?

After anticipating “high-fives” for his sexual success, the young man above adds: “And Kristy? She’ll probably ask me not to tell anyone, to protect her reputation.”

Men and women receive very different messages about sex.

In fact, the term “hookup” is deliberately ambiguous. It can mean anything from kissing to intercourse. So if a guy says he hooked up, he’s hoping other guys think he went “all the way.” But if a girl hooks up, she hopes her friends hear, “I kissed him.”

At one northeastern college, men returning to the fraternities after a night at the dorms are said to be strolling the Walk of Fame. But women returning to the dorms from a frat are taking the Walk of Shame.

A few years back a fraternity at Dartmouth published the names of all of the women the brothers had had sex with, making disparaging comments about them.

Is sex something to avoid? Something dirty? Or something to pursue with a vengeance? It all depends on whether you’re male of female.

When it comes to sex, men are celebrated but women risk punishment.

Many think sexual repression is not a problem in our society – that these notions never reach the subconscious. Yet women can come to turn off sexual feeling, whether they realize it or not. Not feeling can be safer.

Sex therapist, Lonnie Barbach, says that highly repressive societies create women who have difficulty climaxing, while women in non-repressive societies have regular and satisfactory orgasms.

In 1972, when women were more penalized than they are today, a Playboy Foundation survey found that more than half of single women under age 25 found their first sexual experience neutral or unpleasant. Only 20% found sex highly pleasurable.

Things may not be as bad today. Indiana University’s recently released sex survey found that 58% of women in their 20s had had an orgasm the last time they had sex. But when that compares with 96% of their male counterparts, we see the tell-tale signs of continuing repression.

But really, should we be surprised?

Men who slut-shame don’t seem too worried that women won’t enjoy sex with them. After watching sex-craved porn stars, and thinking that accurately reflects women’s sexuality, perhaps they assume women can’t help but come back for more. No matter what.

Some will interpret my observation that men are more sex-positive and more promiscuous as prescribing male behavior to everyone. As one reader put it, “But I don’t want to run around like a tart!”

Actually, I want to have a conversation about the positives and negatives of so-called men’s and women’s ways of doing sex. It is certainly not better to treat people like currency – the more you bang the higher your status. But what can women learn from men, and what can men learn from women?

Related posts on BroadBlogs
“Cock” vs “Down There”
Sex: Who Gets Screwed?
Are Women Naturally Monogamous?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 6, 2011, in feminism, gender, men, psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. This blog post is relevant to some experiences I have seen in college. Many of my girlfriends are called “whores, sluts, hoes…” because they are sexually active. It is not right that guys are celebrating their sexual encounters while girls are ashamed and embarrassed. This leads to their “walk of shame.” I found it interesting, yet disturbing when it mentions that this sexual repression for females affects their subconscious negatively. It is incredible how uneducated men are in regards to the sexual experiences of their female partner. They cannot assume that what they see in porn is exactly what women want, just as this blog mentions.

    • Megan, I’ve been through my own flatmates making a joke out of the fact I spent the night at guys’ houses. I was perfectly happy with what I was doing, having a great time, exploring who I was. I wasn’t there to be judged by them because I was enjoying myself, and I found the supposed “Walk of Shame” funny, (mostly) women glaring at you because it’s supposedly uncouth for a woman to have spent a night outwith her own bed, alone and unsatisfied.

      If anybody wants to judge me, they can feel free. I felt like what I was called by my flatmates was them expressing their jealousy (not one of the single girls in my flat so much as kissed a guy in the 9 months I lived with them).

      • Great comment!

        As a guy you might think I’m out of the loop on this one, but I wear dresses most of the time (they’re just more comfortable, pretty and, yes, arousing) and often walk down the [everywhere] and feel like everyone is judging me, which I find funny and enjoyable because they are comparing themselves to me, or me to they’re gay friend, or just hating on me in their mind over and over because I walk by and smile at them. I’m not sure why I enjoy wearing dresses exactly, the reasons are numerous and fluctuating, but I do know I love it and never want to stop.

  2. I can’t say I have ever high-fived one of my friends after recounting a sexual encounter (in fact I cant say I have experienced men sharing any information of sexual encounters) but I can recognise a sometimes underlying sense of shame (thankfully not very often) after two parties have had sexual encounters. I often think this can be related to feelings of inadequacy / confusion / shyness on the male side which results in some really poor communication and I think that men need to really step up to the plate on this and be more brave when they are with someone regardless of how long that is for.

    It is always deeply unpleasant when anyone is labelled negatively with regards to their enjoyment of sex, or enjoyment of not having sex. As for being uneducated about the sexual experiences of female partners I think this is often a communication issue that can get better with time and which also goes both ways.

  3. That women find their first sexual experience neutral doesn’t surprise me at all. What we learn in school and through media is that the sex (which is also always referred to as heterosexual sex) lasts until the man gets an orgasm. Men are not taught to make sure that the woman can come too, and women are taught not to ask about it.

    No one should feel ashamed about enjoying sex. I wonder when a women’s sexual pleasure is going to be seen as a great thing. I mean, if you think about it, a woman’s orgasm should be preferable, because then one doesn’t even need to worry about the risk of getting pregnant. In a society of equality, both women and men should be able to ask for sex, and take the first step without being judged.

    What women can learn from men: talk about sex as a good thing, and encourage female friends to have more sex. What men can learn from women: how to find the clitoris.

  4. There are always going to be double standards especially in the age area that people are in college. Many guys are proud that they have as much sex as they “claim” to have because it’s been showed in our culture that it is something that should be awarded. However, in the case of a woman, if she proclaimed as much sex as she did have thenher reputation would be received that she is a “slut”. Hence the double standard. It’s unfair that we still live in an era that as openly it is about sex, this double standard still exists. Women would probably enjoy sex more if they weren’t so influenced about the outside world as well as the media. They would probably be more likely to have an orgasm if they weren’t so put down by society that men and their pleasures come first. Speaking from my own experiences I feel that I enjoy sex more when I’m comfortable with my partner and he makes me feel amazing with my body, looks, and if I’m pleasured. Thinking of a recent experience I had with a guy, it was probably the worst sex I’ve ever ha because I was obsessed with how hot he was that I was completely thinking if he was pleasured and what I could do to make the sex hot that I completely forgot about my needs. After reading this post and discussing it in class it helped me get some clarity on why I hadn’t enjoyed it and that in my case me and my partner should be equal in pleasuring each other.

  5. It seems not surprise at all to me imagining how would I react in the scenario the post describes while reading, even as a female. Neither do I feel like to be considered as a girl tends to connect with guys sexually, nor am I willing to do so. I would definitely prefer my friends say “wow you kiss him” rather than “oh you two had sex” and the reason for this preference remains unclear. Maybe the former one sounds much more romantic because kissing scene has been portrait in media in such a way. While two people kiss, the kiss puts them at an equal status: no matter he kisses her or she kisses him. Both of them do the same thing and neither “gives more” than the other does. But there is a different story while sexual intercourse happens between a man and a woman. People tend to consider the man “gains” something (maybe the dominance over the woman, the possession of the woman’s body, or virginity, etc.) from the woman but things don’t work on the contrary. The woman is implicitly attached to the man whom she had sex with, noticing that she will be seen as promiscuous woman if she is found to have sex with other different persons. Isn’t that ridiculous? Ironically, persons who think it does make sense at all hardly risk breaking this stereotype by exposing the real number of their partners.

  6. When it comes to sex men and women receive very different messages about sex. For example, like mentioned in the text men are celebrated but women risk punishment when dealing/having sex. In other words, woman should be innocent and pure and shouldn’t be sleeping around while men are praised for sleeping around. This concept creates a double standard, which should be removed because it puts down women and judges them while it does the total opposite for men. It can been seen more with college students, whether or not the woman is pleased/fulfilled men still brag about whom they’ve slept with. When it comes to the walk of shame is seems normal for men to do but for women they are easily judged. This then can connect to men and women having one night stands and how men and women are seen by society. But just like the walk of shame results, the results will be the same for one night stands.

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