In defence of the ‘sexy’ Halloween costume

In defence of the ‘sexy’ Halloween costume

By Emmeline Peaches, 24.10.2018

Sexy potatoes, sexy popes, sexy serial killers, and even sexy emojis.

Turn your gaze to any costume of any kind during the Halloween season and you will find a ‘sexy’ option. Sometimes it’s the only option. Often it’s the prevalent one…at least if you present or identify as a woman/femme.

This year the sexy Halloween costume craze saw two new scandals emerged. One being the ill-advised decision to make a sexy version of one of the costumes from The Handmaid’s Tale (a show in which women are forced into sex slavery). The other being that sexy Halloween costumes for dogs are now a thing, complete with canine cleavage.

…That one does make us weep for humanity a bit.

The Sexy Costume Scandal

These are just two examples of the criticism lauded at the ‘sexy’ Halloween costume and rightly so in many ways, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

For years now people have been criticising the idea of ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes and the sheer variety that are on the market.

Some of these criticism are – as with the above mentioned – also very reasonable. For example, do we really need a ‘sexy Hitler’ costume? The social, political, and (for some people) personal offense felt over such outfits is completely valid, even if there is a degree of dark humour which could be used as a defence.

Then there are the sexy Native American costumes or those that pertain to any other marginalized and often culturally appropriated minority. Those who adopt these sexy costumes will likely say that they are celebrating the culture and promoting awareness and integration rather than appropriating it. A barrage of drunken Halloween club shots from the majority of people wearing these costumes would likely beg to differ.

The final criticism that people often bring to ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes is that they are often specifically targeted at women and tend to be the prevalent costume choice on the market. In terms of internalized sexism this says a lot about the presuppositions of our Western world. With the prevalence of sexy costumes comes the assumption and assertion that women are inherently meant to be sexy (and sexualized) whereas men can be presented with diversity or, more typically, a non-sexual option as default.

In all of these cases there is more than enough of a case against the sexy Halloween costume, and we would never fault anyone who held these up as a reason to criticize the costume industry. However, we do feel like there is another side of sexy Halloween costumes. One that is well worth addressing.

It’s Not All Doom and Doggy Gloom

Like it or not ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes tend to exist for a reason and that reason is likely not directly founded on a sinister and misogynistic motivation.

Put simply, a lot of women, when going out for a party, night on the town, or other social occasion like to dress in a way that makes them feel good, and – for most (not all) women – that means wanting to look sexy.

‘Sexy’ is different to ‘sexualized.’ A person can be sexualized regardless of their overt choices. Sexualization is something that someone else imposes on a person and thus takes autonomy, intent, and desire away from the object of the sexualization.

Sexy, on the other hand, is something we personally want to feel and work to adopt as a look because it makes us feel good and because we want to present ourselves to either be desired or to simply desire ourselves and how we look.

Let’s face it – it’s much easier to feel sexy, and thus good about ourselves, when dressed in a cute and tight fitting emoji dress as opposed to a realistic rendition of the poo emoji.

Sexy is also like warpaint to some women – they work to adopt a certain look and with it comes a certain feel of formidable confidence. Many women wear makeup for similar reasons; it helps them feel like they’ve taken the psychological and physical steps needed to take on the world.

Thus, to a large degree it can be assumed that the influx of sexy Halloween costumes is about supply and demand more than anything else. True, there will be outliers who want to look as goofy and playful as possible on Halloween – that is also awesome – but it seems the majority of individuals have embraced and celebrated the ‘sexy’ Halloween phenomenon because it validates and aligns with how they want to present themselves when marking a special occasion. Anything that allows such a celebration of the body while actually celebrating is alright in our books.

A Spooky Footnote

The defence of sexy Halloween costumes is one we hold true with but only if it is about women embracing their own sexuality and feeling like they have a choice and full autonomy in how they present themselves.

This is why having only all-sexy options, having sexy options that take autonomy away from marginalized groups, and having sexy costumes that will impose extreme distress or offence on others is not something that anyone should promote for Halloween.

Outside of these examples, however, we hold firm that sexy outfits are a tool for empowerment, confidence, and self love for many women on a day where we all get permission to step out of our comfort zone and try on a different persona.

What could be better than that?

Emmeline Peaches

Costumes shown in header image are from

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