Out In The Open

The hidden harm behind the 'walk of shame'

Inherent in the concept of the 'walk of shame' is public shaming, mainly directed at sexually active women.
The concept of the 'walk of shame' is public shaming, mainly directed at sexually active women.

"There's nothing to be ashamed of, of...very obviously having just had sex. But, there's still always this judging aspect. You're like, 'I don't care what they think, but I know what they're thinking," says Winnipeg's Jodie Layne about the 'walk of shame.'

The idea of a 'walk of shame' after a late night hook-up seems very comical and it kind of is. There are websites and Twitter accounts — even of women mocking themselves — dedicated to poking fun at that disheveled morning strut home.

But inherent in the 'walk of shame' concept is public shaming, mainly directed at sexually active women.

"And just knowing that you're being judged...or [that people are] assigning value to you or creating this narrative about you in their head is just not a good feeling, especially not when you want to start your day, and especially not if you're a little hungover," says Jodie.

One of Jodie's supposed 'walks of shame' really hit home how damaging the concept can be.

Years ago, when she worked on a ski hill, Jodie and her co-workers were playing poker one night in a ski instructor's room.

After everyone left, Jodie decided to stick around. She thought the instructor was cute and he "had always been very flirty with me." 

"We did start to make out and hook up. Then, in the middle of us fooling around things quickly got to be non-consensual in a situation that I could not remove myself from."

The next morning, because everyone had to take the same charter bus up the mountain to work, Jodie had to face all of her coworkers while walking down the aisle of the bus to sit with her roommate. 

"Everybody on the bus... [is] making kissy noises and going like 'ooooh' and clapping and laughing because to them this was the ultimate walk of shame.

"In any other circumstance, it probably would have been hilarious and I would have taken a bow or something. But, in that moment, all I wanted to do was just melt into the floor and become invisible because nobody did know what had happened," says Jodie.

Jodie describes already feeling an extreme amount of shame about not being able to stop what happened and feeling like it was her fault.

"There wasn't really much room to say, 'Actually guys, listen. What happened was' because people had already decided what had happened," says Jodie, "Clearly, no one had meant this to be a malicious thing...But, the idea that I should somehow be accountable for what I had done, no one had done that to him when he came on the bus. 

"But the fact that it was me. As a...young woman, it was really disheartening. Shaming someone without the full context of understanding what happened is really dangerous."

Jodie says she's all for people celebrating consensual sex and high-fiving a woman's decision to have it, but perhaps a stance of neutrality is the better move.

"How about we let people just go on with their day and don't feel a need to comment, or say anything, or shoot anybody a look, or laugh to our friends? How about we just let people do what they're doing and go on with their day?"