What’s Really Wrong About “Slutty” Halloween Costumes

With Halloween upon us, you’ve probably heard or even thought something along the lines of, “Why are women’s costumes so slutty?,” or spotted headlines featuring “non-slutty” or “the sluttiest” costumes. 

I agree that females should have more than skin-tight, ultra short and otherwise provocative costume options—particularly girls, who commonly feel sexually objectified as early as age six, according to studies. But I loathe conversations that depict female sexuality in a negative light.

Halloween allows us to dress up in ways society typically says, “Don’t!” Some psychologists theorize that costumes allow us to reveal parts of ourselves generally considered taboo or worth hiding. Female sexuality is sadly a frequent biggie. Does that make revealing costumes wrong? Not remotely. Feeling permitted to express or embrace our sexuality as we see fit only once a year—as many women do? That’s a problem, and a sign of how far we’ve yet to come as a society regarding these issues.

By judging a woman for dressing in a revealing costume or describing the costumes themselves using terms like “slutty” or “hoe,” we perpetuate negative attitudes about female sexuality and our bodies. If a woman wants to bear it all, great for her! If not, that’s great, too.

I personally felt just as womanly and empowered in my Cat Woman costume as I do in this year’s Rosie the Riveter garb. How about you?

slut-shaming Halloween

How do you choose Halloween costumes? What apparel makes you feel sexy? Any thoughts on slut-shaming around Halloween or any time? I love hearing from you! 

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27 Comments

  1. You’ve convinced me to dress up as Catwoman this year. However, I’ll be staying at home, so does that count?

    Reply
  2. Erin

     /  October 28, 2014

    Hi August. I love everything you write (whether I agree 100% or disagree), because it’s always thoughtfully and respectfully written. This is the first blog I’ve felt compelled to comment on, because I think you missed an important aspect of the “slutty costume” conversation. I completely agree that if someone feels empowered and good about wearing a sexy/revealing costume, then they absolutely should. And you’re right that it’s a one day a year “free pass” on demonstrating female sexuality in ways that would normally be completely frowned upon.

    That being said, I think the flip side of that coin is the fact that many women feel pressured to comply with what has almost become a standard expectation – that regardless of whatever you want to dress up as for Halloween, if you’re a woman, you’d better do the “sexy” version of that. How I Met Your Mother has a running theme about a Slutty Pumpkin, costume websites are filled with “sexy” costumes even for items as ridiculous as carrots and nuns (http://www.bustle.com/articles/41999-13-sexy-halloween-costumes-so-ridiculous-its-confusing-including-sexy-carrots-hamburgers-elephants-and-more). For me, the expectation is strong enough that I discern (whether real or imagined) male disappointment when female costumes are the non-sexy version. And that is troubling to me, because Halloween or otherwise, no one has a right to expect me to display or expose my body in a way I’m not comfortable with. In addition, I think the way this “sexy” costume stuff has played out has definitely contributed to the hyper-sexualization of teens, tweens, and even little girls. If I remember correctly, a major retailer last year even displayed (and then pulled, due to the outrage) at least one children’s costume with the word “sexy” in the title (Sexy Witch, if memory serves).

    So, while I agree with your points in the original post, I do think there can be some “wrong” behind the teeming popularity of sexy or “slutty” costumes and we need to be careful not to embrace them 100%.

    Just one opinion! Happy Halloween!

    Reply
    • Excellent points, Erin. Thanks so much for weighing in!

      I agree that no woman should feel pressured to dress in a sexually seductive way, or feel less than or unattractive if she doesn’t. If female sexuality was embraced and respected as a whole, I really don’t think that would be the case. If only that were an easy fix, right? 🙂 This post derived from hearing so many people discuss the “sluttiness” of Halloween costumes, which is just so negative and potentially harmful. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much slut-shaming in everyday conversation.

      Reply
    • I think this problem would lessen automatically if we simply had the option of buying full-body costumes.

      Reply
  3. The thing is “slutty” is easy to accomplish and gets a reaction, just like a comic on stage who swears a lot. Fuck has a hard K sound and no matter how you say, you will get a rise out of a crowd. But if everyone is a slutty nurse, naughty boarding schoolgirl and bad cop then it becomes overkill and loses it’s luster, like a comic that spends five minutes saying “Fuck” and “this fucking shit”. There is nothing inherently wrong with it but a woman can pull off sexy without having to go all the way to slutty and people will remember that.

    On another topic, it is tragic that in our society that women can’t be sexual without getting a stigma attached to them. If I were single, the idea of me being sexual in a lot of different places wouldn’t even make someone bat an eye. Where if a woman did the same thing, you know what she’d be labeled.

    Reply
    • I’d personally love to do away with the term “slut.” The fact that we have words for what people perceive as overly sexual females but no equivalent for guys says a lot — which goes along with your great point about stigmas.

      Reply
  4. I went shopping in a Halloween store last week looking for a costume (which I hate anyway because I typically always make mine, but this year I was strapped for time and ideas). I left sooo angry because all their women’s costumes were “slutty” ones. And I should apologize to women out there, because I came home and slut shamed ranted. If that’s what someone WANTS to dress like, then go for it, you’re right. But I didn’t feel comfortable or want to dress in a flared out mini skirt and stockings. I was angry that those were my only options. And they were – I walked down every aisle. That’s usually why I always make my own costume. I also can’t rationalize paying $50 for so little fabric when the men’s costumes cost that but include full costumes and usually an accessory. That’s not fair either.

    Rant over. Mind checked.

    Reply
    • I so appreciate your honesty, Jess! And empathize with your frustration. Women should absolutely have more costume choices. As a side note, it seems I was a lot more drawn to the overtly sexual/revealing costumes when I was less empowered or secure. Sexual repression seems to play a role, but so does simply wanting to dress all sexy-like, however we define it.

      Excellent point about overpaying for the cheap, skimpy attire—ugh, unfair indeed. Your homemade costumes are so rockstar!

      Reply
    • Go for the male costumes then! Be Batman XD

      Reply
  5. We allow it! Allow ourselves to be, or not be what others require. Women allow themselves to be manipulated. A sense of self-worth is what should determine not only who and what we are, but what we wear. I don’t think any woman ever wants to wear a burqa (sp?)

    Reply
  6. I love your costumes, August! I agree that women perpetuate negative connotations.
    I’m wearing my sexy Morticia costume! She is so much fun to “channel.”

    Reply
  7. lynnkelleyauthor

     /  October 28, 2014

    I wore/made some kind of sexy costumes when I was younger (like a magician’s assistant, belly dancer), and I never thought of them as slutty, but sexy. Hey, I was young and fit, not big in the bust, so I wore somewhat skimpy costumes. Uh, hot pants and midriffs were in style when I was in high school and I loved my hip hugger pants. So did my hubby the day we met. He wrote a poem about them a couple weeks ago! Haha! Yep, and the wide belt with a big buckle. Good old early 70’s! I wouldn’t have a problem wearing Susie’s Morticia costume nowadays. As long as it hides most of the cellulite and not too low of a top, I’m fine with that. 🙂

    I love your Rosie the Riveter costume! That rocks!

    Reply
  8. That is a very sexy catwoman costume 🙂
    I did my first somewhat sexy costume half a year ago and showed part of my stomach, which was a big leap of faith for me.
    But I had a lot of self confidence that night and it ended up being one of the best parties ever because I felt so powerful.
    On Friday I’m going to a party dressed as Harley Quinn from Batman and obviously there was the choice between sexy New 52 Harley Quinn or sexy whole-suit Harley Quinn.
    I would actually have preferred the whole-suit as I feel like that’s more true to her character, but I’ve ended up with a more, uh … skin-bared look.
    (If only my probs would arrive)
    But It was fun to shop for corsets and I found myself wondering why it was only okay for me to shop for corsets when I was making a costume.

    It can be really empowering to have these costumes on and the whole issue is the negative talk about “slutty costumes” instead of realizing that women always have a choice and whatever choice is all right.

    Ah, I do love your posts! They’re always so spot on. I’m such a novice in this sexually orientated part of the world that I have a hard time expressing my thoughts.

    Reply
    • What a terrific story, Gry. I bet many women can relate, and sharing is so important — so thank you!

      I’m so glad my posts strike you. 🙂 We’re all on a journey, that’s for sure! And can learn from one another.

      Reply
  9. So this is totally unrelated but I thought you might be interested in thsi video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1XGPvbWn0A&app=desktop

    Reply
  10. Raani York

     /  October 30, 2014

    Hmmmm… I have to say, I love “sexy witches”… yes, sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s a lot of fun for me to run around like that on Halloween.
    One year I chose the “sexy Cowgirl” look and of course ended up being called slutty.
    (And of course I would never mention I pulled my gun and threatened to blow the Guy’s balls off… *chuckle*)

    Reply
  11. Joanna Aislinn

     /  November 3, 2014

    Interesting post. I think our advertising society has gotten a little ridiculous with it’s use of ‘sexy’: it now applies to cars, meals–far as I know my fridge might be sexy too.

    Costumes: I’ve felt every bit as good in a full-coverage genie costume as I did in a slinkier cat costume (both of which I made). Last year, I threw on PJs, my fuzzy robe, curlers and lots of make-up and had a blast as Fran Fine (The Nanny).

    Finally, I love how I feel in a pair of knee-high boots over leggings. Since my calves are a tad too big for most boots, finding a pair that fits is always exciting. (That’s why I only have two pairs, lol.)

    A belated Happy Halloween to you! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ha. Fair point, Joanna! I happen to love the word sexy, and the fact that is has a broader definition than it once did. The words slut and slutty, on the other hand, I wish we could do away with completely. They’re just so damaging.

      I love the variety of your costume choices! And the fact that you made them. Handmade creations are so much more fun, IMO. 🙂 Happy belated back atcha!

      Reply
  12. Joanna Aislinn

     /  November 4, 2014

    Slut, slutty, hoe–so many more I’m sure I don’t know–those terms are just vulgar. Agreed about getting rid of them.

    Don’t think I’ve worn a commercially-made costume since 3rd grade, lol. Be well and thank you!

    Reply
  1. 6 Ways You May Be Body-Shaming Without Realizing It | August McLaughlin's Blog

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