What does sex have to do with costumes?

Halloween is a holiday where children dress up and get treats at different houses. But once you pass elementary school it becomes an opportunity for girls to dress wildly inappropriately and appear as “sluts”. Somehow most costumes turn overly sexual, especially for women. Is dressing in inappropriate costumes socially acceptable or does the excuse of a party make it justifiable?

Although Halloween is long over, college students can still be seen walking down streets in scantily clad costumes. Fraternities host parties with themes in order to prompt women to wear more inappropriate outfits. On the Vandy Van on most weekend nights, male and female students can be seen in costumes such as a devil or a cowgirl. There is no theme that cannot be interpreted into a revealing outfit. The idea that a woman can dress up and take on a new role makes women more likely to put on a slutier outfit than they usually would. The “everyone” is doing it mantra is present and an easy way to dismiss social repercussions.

Another aspect that makes costumes parties conducive for more revealing clothing is due to the fact that these parties take place at night when alcohol is involved. For the most part when you wear short skirts and revealing tops, society puts labels on you, such as slut or whore. But when it is dark out, people assume that it is just an aspect of your life, not your whole identity. Alcohol also causes people to be less judgmental because it causes people to be more focused on themselves rather than what their peers are doing. Since most factors of costumes parties cause social judgments to decrease, it causes people to have to opportunity to go against the social norm.

Dressing in provocative costumes may seem like a way for women to take control of their sexuality but it actually isn’t. People who support the idea that women should dress however they want, say that dressing up in provocative outfits causes women to gain more sexual subjectivity. Instead they are becoming more of sexual objects than actually gaining control over their own sexuality. While it is socially acceptable to dress “slutty” in certain situations, it is not acceptable to act in the way that the outfit portrays. When girls go through adolescence, Tolman says, “girls continue to be sexually socialized into being sexy rather than being sexual, which results in girls and women learning that they are the object of another’s desires, and that they are to be looked at” (NSS.154). Women are taught to seek to be the object of male desire more than act on their own desires. Dressing up in inappropriate costumes, shows how women are still trying to become sexual objects through their clothing choices. Halloween and costumes parties create a perfect opportunity for girls to be sexual objects while not having to deal with social repercussion. If all women are trying to be sexual objects, why is it that halloween is the only time where it is socially accepted to wear these outfits?


One thought on “What does sex have to do with costumes?

  1. Personally I disagree that Halloween is the only time where it is socially accepted to wear these outfits. For example, on college campuses fraternities have parties with themes that requires woman to wear sexy short clothing. Like Tolman suggested in today’s society women see themselves as sexual desires, so dressing sexy is what woman do to feel accepted.


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