It used to be that the pre-wedding ritual for men was the bachelor party, while the women's equivalent was the bridal shower.
But times have changed and women can now have just as much silly, no-holds-barred fun as the men, according to a Penn State researcher.
Dr. Beth Montemurro, assistant professor of sociology at Penn State's Abington Campus, has interviewed more than 50 women and personally attended many bachelorette parties in an attempt to determine what significance sexually charged bachelorette parties have for them.
In her study titled, "Sex Symbols: The Bachelorette Party as a Window to Change in Women's Sexual Expression," published in a recent issue of the journal, Sexuality and Culture, Montemurro said the rise of bachelorette parties over the years signifies a shift in how women and their sexuality are viewed in society.
"The very existence of the bachelorette party is evidence of women's status transformation. Men had bachelor parties because they were about to be trapped in marriage. Prior to the past approximately 30 years, women did not have similar parties because it was not believed that they were giving anything up in marriage," said Montemurro. "As the sexual double standard lost some of its power and as women's rights and freedoms became more pronounced, it has become more socially acceptable for women to acknowledge that they, too, are entitled to a 'last night of freedom.' "
According to the Penn State researcher, the majority of women tend to view bachelorette parties as an opportunity to satisfy their curiosity, express themselves, and get together with friends, more than as a sexual turn-on. They also see it as a source of humor, as well as an opportunity to poke fun at men.
"In my observation, I watched as women howled with laughter as their bachelorette/friend was straddled by a dancer. These women seemed to find amusement in the shocked or embarrassed expression on the bride-to-be's face. The association with the stripper as a sex object (or subject) was secondary to his use as a source of humor," she said. "It seemed that women were not only mimicking the bachelor party, but that they were mocking it as well.
"Though not necessarily consciously, many of the women seemed to be making fun of the idea that men feel it necessary to have a last night of freedom that involves the viewing of pornography or patronizing of strip clubs."
From her studies, Montemurro has ascertained that the emergence and acceptance of bachelorette parties is related to the sexual revolution, which took place during the 1960s, when equality among the sexes blossomed. The fact that birth control was developed and helped decrease the likelihood of pregnancy as a result of sex also played a role in a freer era of sexuality for women.