Sex & Relationships

Is “Walk of Shame” a Silly Label for Normal Adult Behaviour?

It’s time to ditch the term and stop shaming women for having sex!

Elizabeth Banks in "Walk of Shame" (Photo: Focus World)

Elizabeth Banks in “Walk of Shame” (Photo: Focus World)

I have made my way home in the early hours of the morning, bra in my purse and hair uncombed after a night spent elsewhere. To borrow a phrase from Andy Sandberg’s comedy group, The Lonely Island, I just had sex. And then I went home, took a shower and went to work—no shame involved. This is fairly standard adult behaviour. And yet culture seems to have a hard time letting women be adults when it comes sex.

Hence the popularity of the phrase “walk of shame,” which is everywhere lately, including in the title of a recent Elizabeth Banks movie in which she stars as a would-be news anchor trying to make her way to a big job interview after a one-night stand. The term is most commonly applied to women (sometimes by women) and reinforces the double standard that females who have sex—whether casual or committed—are doing something they ought to be ashamed of, like eating ice cream or a piece of cake. Recently, however, a few women have attempted to own the phrase. Cosmopolitan frequently offers its readers beauty tips on how to look “hot” for the “walk of shame.” There’s even a Twitter feed that “celebrates” walk of shamers by asking followers to send in pics of women as they make their way home in the wee hours of the morning. Others, like Tina Fey way back in a 2012 episode of 30 Rock, suggest changing the terminology altogether to “stride of pride” or “slut strut.”

But those terms are pretty silly, too—on par with the patronizing cliché “you go, girl!” Though “stride of pride” is blissfully free of any negative judgment, it’s still infantilizing in the sense that it’s telling a woman how to feel about something she’s well equipped to categorize on her own. Rather than swap the walk of shame for the stride of pride, why not put both to bed for good? Once we let go of the extremes of shame and pride we might just settle into the more complex idea that both men and women have sex as a regular part of life. We’re not striding in pride or walking in shame, we’re just trying to get to work.

Can we agree to call it the “rush-hour hustle,” or the “daily commute”? Better yet, how about we make it really simple and call it “adulthood”?