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Sex & Love Walk of shame or walk of glory?

Jan. 26, 2021
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I’ve always found the term “walk of shame” tasteless and passé—the word “shame” has painfully obvious negative connotations of guilt and embarrassment, after all.

To illustrate the famous walk of shame, let me share my most recent one. After a long, delicious night of steamy sex, I opened my eyes to sun slowly spilling into my lover’s room. I laid there for a while, lazy and warm from well-deserved sleep. Next to me was the coolest, most beautiful man. It was nothing serious, although we had a great connection; the kindness and respect we showed each other gave it a layer of meaning that I lacked in many committed relationships. Perhaps out of appreciation for that, I’d always wake him up with a blowjob. 

One espresso and a few orgasms later, I left. With Lana Del Rey blasting in my ears, I put on my favorite sunglasses and broke into a big smile. I’d made this trip countless times, almost always with the same stupid smile on my face. My hair and makeup were definitely messy and the circles under my eyes were dark. But somehow I was relaxed; I knew I was glowing. It always feels a little silly being so happy—after all, it’s just sex. That’s not so special, is it? 

But it actually kind of is. These post-sex walks are familiar reminders of lustful nights. They’re special because good sex doesn’t happen that often. Sometimes, finding the right person to get down and dirty with is actually quite a challenge. Sometimes, it’s not easy to consistently get laid. 

So why in the world would we call this a walk of shame? I know that sometimes we make the mistake of sleeping with someone we shouldn’t—but sometimes we just have a good fucking time and are lucky enough to have a beautiful night to reminisce on. Coming home from these sexcapades is fun. I get that the term exists to describe mornings after more regretful nights, but I still find this hasty and rigid association of sex with shame problematic. These fucked-up standards make us question our sexuality, desires, and decisions; they make us wonder if we’re having a “normal” amount of sex or if we’re promiscuous. 

There’s no term for a walk of glory, after all. In fact, there aren’t many positive terms at all surrounding sex. We pretend it’s okay for women to be sexually liberated because it’s 2021 and it’s trendy to be progressive, but there are still limits: not too much sex, not with too many people, and not too fast. You don’t want to give it up so easily, do you? 

I discussed the topic with some girls at my college, and they agreed that when the night is filled with alcohol and partying or we’re spending time with someone toxic, things can get pretty rough—and embarrassment may be well justified. One of the girls told me that all of the walks of shame she’s had revolved around one single guy: “Going to his house was generally always a bad idea and happened after a night of heavy drinking and partying. I remember one time my dad picked me up in the morning and I couldn’t manage to open the gate. You can easily paint the picture: I’m there ready to puke my soul out, wearing my party clothes from the night before, and my makeup is all smudged while I’m desperately forcing this fucking gate to open. Meanwhile my father’s right there looking at me when suddenly this other guy who slept over there comes out in his boxers and sets me free. My dad looked so disappointed and worried. I don’t think I’ve ever been more embarrassed in my life.” 

So yeah, sometimes it is a walk of shame—because you know you fucked up and the growing memory of all the shit you did the night before hurts your brain. But I don’t think it should have anything to do with sex. We feel ashamed of and anxious about irresponsible decisions because we know they’re part of reckless behavior. This type of shame is a way of telling ourselves to not repeat the same mistakes. But fueling this with slut-shaming is not going to help anyone.

Still, things are not always so simple. Many times we still refer to walks back home as walks of shame even when the night before was perfectly splendid—even when we feel not shameful but satisfied. The Gate Girl has also had very pleasant post-coital walks; she told me, “I used to date this guy who lived in another city so coming back home from his was always quite a long trip. Each time, I left his place with a huge smile on my face and went to my favorite café around the corner before heading home. An espresso tonic in one hand and a sexy magazine in the other, I felt like a queen, tickled by all the leftover endorphins. When I would accidently catch a glimpse of my messy reflection on my way to the train station, I’d just smile to myself and reminisce on the night before.”

Shame and sex can go together—but they don’t have to. We all need to make an effort to reflect on what type of terms we use and the way we use them, so we don’t accidentally reinforce ideas we don’t condone. By repeating the term “walk of shame,” we contribute to the automatic assumption that girls walking back home must have done something dirty and shameful. 

We spend too much time judging other people, and in turn we spend too much time judging ourselves. We walk around sticking “good” and “bad” labels on everything, but reality is painted in an almost infinite variety of gray—and that includes our sexual experiences, which we shouldn’t judge through the filter of our integrity. Collective change starts with individuals. If we don’t change the language we use when talking about sex, we’ll forever be stuck with outdated, harmful ideas of female sexuality. I’m over shaming girls for having a good time.