Female college students, beware the slut-shaming

The walk of fame. The stroll of success. It seems that the stride of confidence across campus in the same clothes as the night before, ducking behind buses and bushes after spending the night with a member of the opposite sex is now considered a rite of passage and even an imminent fate for many university students during freshers week. Famed as the wildest seven days of a freshers’ university career, newly enrolled university students are actively encouraged to engage in activities otherwise unavailable to them before arriving at university, from binge drinking, drug use to casual sexual encounters. And with a recent survey by student magazine Cosmo on Campus revealing that 42 percent of freshers view casual sex as characteristic of the freshers week experience, it would appear that female undergraduates enjoy an equal opportunity to seek sexual satisfaction as their male counterparts. But what is arguably celebrated as the strut of success for men is arguably not as such the case for women.

‘There is no such thing as the walk of shame for a guy, only the ‘walk of lad,’” a popular Facebook page dedicated to the awkward post-coital voyage across town exclaims. It’s not the ‘walk of shame, it’s the strut of success #LAD,’ UNILAD, the misogynist Twitter page with a million-strong male university student fanbase delightedly exclaims. Yet ‘The Slut Strut,” the thousand strong Twitter page is dedicated to exclusively slut-shaming women by publishing photos of women’s walks of shame from many parts of the world.

The idea that it’s shameful to be female and sexually independent is not only condemned throughout social networking but is prevalent in advertising where companies have created adverts around the walk of shame. Just last Christmas, the high-end department store Harvey Nichols’ advert to promote womenswear berated a woman’s decision to engage in casual sex. The commercial featured women half-intoxicated with morning-after hair, smudged make-up and wolfing down kebabs in last night’s short, figure-hugging dress and platform heels trying to avoid being seen in the sober light of London morning and concluded the advertisement by instructing women to avoid what the retailer regards as “the walk of shame this season.” 

Such widespread shaming of women in the mainstream media reinforces negative stereotypes of females who choose to engage in casual sex and arguably perpetuates these stereotypes at university. Despite women achieving sexual liberation, where the contraceptive pill was invented in the 1960s and sexual intercourse was no more entwined with reproduction and sexual pleasure as a justification for intercourse developed, it is arguable that women are not enjoying the freedom of their sexual liberation.

A sexual double standard of male and female promiscuity is arguably an inescapable, endemic feature of university life. Female promiscuity at university risks severe condemnation where the derogatory terms such as ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ will be used on said female and ostracism from the university community; whereas sexually active males are not only more widely tolerated but respected and glorified as ‘heroes’ and ‘legends.’

And with a student magazine, The National Student, revealing in a recent study that almost half of students would lose respect for female undergraduates who frequently engage in casual sexual activity, it seems unlikely at this point in time that the culture of misogyny on university campuses will be declining anytime soon. Sexual liberation? I think not.

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