Halloween costumes: Stop the slut- shaming

Where is the line between expressing body positivity and pandering to the male gaze? No one should ever be slut- shamed for their choice of Halloween costume, but at what point does it stop being a choice and simply a reality of the costumes on offer? Why are there not more 'sexy' options for men, and more 'standard' options for women. All this and more is explored in the drama surrounding this scariest season. Enjoy pumpkin carving, partying and dressing up however you want. 


Halloween costumes are always a topic of controversy, and sometimes for valid reasons. I want to address the double edged sword of expressing body positivity, versus pandering to the male gaze. Although sexy Halloween costumes are often seen as the latter, many do not know that they first became a craze after the sexual revolution. Especially during the 60s, women chose to reclaim their sexuality with promiscuous outfits they had traditionally been shamed for.

Personally, I’m all for women wearing what they want and not being slut shamed. We should be able to dress as we choose without being labelled as ‘asking for it.’ After all, no one is ever asking for it unless they literally ask you for it. Wearing a leotard on Halloween does not mean ‘I want you.’ Rather, only words or clear actions can convey that message. Whether you want to dress up as a character from Rocky Horror or a sexy mouse,  just go for it –don’t let others police your wardrobe.

Although trivializing the issue is not my intent, dressing up in sexy clothing is fun. I love getting ready with my friends, trying to get eye liner on straight while listening to Beyonce. Dressing up for your own enjoyment can bring confidence, even without desiring sex or relying on other people to find you sexy. I know many others who feel this way, so why judge someone else for it? If you don’t want to dress up in a sexy way, that’s totally fine. However, judging others for doing so is problematic. Often, sexy costumes allow women to reclaim their body and learn to love their sexuality –don’t assume they’re doing it for bad reasons. Show support for your sisters!

On the flip side, women should not feel pressured to dress in a provocative way on Halloween. Why is it necessary to have a ‘sexy’ version of everything for Halloween? You can even get sexy Bagpuss costumes now… Bagpuss!? For those of you who don’t know, Bagpuss is a tubby pink and white striped cat from a very weird children’s TV show. Far from sexy.

For every regular men’s costume, there is a ‘sexy’ version for women. Men can come as pirates, but women can only be ‘sexy pirates.’ This contrast of sexualization also applies to other costumes, such as police officers, devils –even skeleton costumes (which is another problem, particularly regarding the representation of eating disorders!) I have no problem with sexy options on the whole, but there need to be more ‘sexy’ options for men and more ‘straight- up’ options for women.

There are some sexualised costumes in particular that I have a problem with. Personally, I don’t think we should be sexualising professions, particularly those that women have fought hard to gain admittance into. It’s great if you want to dress sexy, but do you really need to go as a ‘sexy nurse’? Nurses work hard, seriously hard(!) and women were barred from medical professions for such a long term, it seems insensitive to turn the idea into one of objectification.

That being said, if you want to be a sexy mouse then you do you! Dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable, but be sure to think your costume through. Through this forethought, unintentional sexism or racism can be avoided.

(Note: I haven’t written about cultural appropriation because as a white person from the UK I didn’t want to go on a tirade about protecting cultures that are not my own. We all know not to do it though, right?)


Take a moment to think if your costume might be offensive this Halloween, and be sure to dress in a way that makes YOU comfortable. Don’t be afraid to dress outrageously. See you tomorrow!