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Bridesmaids and the Changing Role of the Bachelorette Party

The movie Bridesmaids opened this weekend and its raucous hilarity departs from the standard female-led romantic comedy – it rivals the bawdy glory of Old School, Wedding Crashers, and The Hangover. Although not all women’s pre-wedding events resemble the movie (which is probably a good thing), Bridesmaids demonstrates that women too can be profane and outrageous and get laughs for it, and reminds me that roles for women have shifted, not just in romantic comedies but as bridesmaids in real life.

The research suggests that men and women’s pre-wedding activities look more similar today than they did previously. One example is the bachelor/bachelorette party. Letting loose for a “last night of freedom” before a wedding was traditionally exclusive to men.1 Because marriage is often linked to monogamy, the bachelor party was meant to mark the end of men’s sexual freedom. The double standard held that women were not meant to have a sexual past, so there was no need to mark the end of it. Instead, the bridal shower was the main pre-wedding event for women, and gifts of toasters and hand towels were meant to initiate them into their new domestic roles.

Today the bachelorette party is eclipsing the bridal shower as the key pre-wedding ritual for women,2 and is one that is often characterized by heavy drinking and sexualized behavior (as men’s are thought to be).3 In a way, this represents the changing nature of women’s sexuality in North American culture. It acknowledges a sexual element to women’s identity and implies that women too are sacrificing sexual freedom when they get married.1

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1Montemurro, B. (2003). Sex symbols: The bachelorette party as a window to change in women’s sexual expression. Sexuality & Culture, 7, 3-29.

2Tye, D., & Powers, A. M. (1998). Gender, resistance and play: Bachelorette parties in Atlantic Canada. Women’s Studies International Forum, 21, 551-561.

3Montemurro, B., & McClure, B. (2005). Changing gender norms for alcohol consumption: Social drinking and lowered inhibitions at bachelorette parties. Sex Roles, 52, 279-288.

Amy Muise - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Amy’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.

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