The Tangled Nature of Sexy & Violent Halloween Costumes

Photo credit: Charles Rodstorm

Photo credit: Charles Rodstorm

Once again, the sexy Halloween costume debate is in full swing this season. On the one hand, women ought to be allowed to explore their sexuality without fear of repercussions: slut-shaming, objectification, harassment. On the other hand, sexy costumes are increasingly becoming the only purchasing option on the market for women and girls. This debate has sparked grassroots activism, from stores of being pressured to remove sexy toddler costumes from store shelves, to radical DIY Liberate Halloween Action Kits.

But this year’s debate takes on a whole new dimension. Dr. Karen Rayne argues that more and more customs are sexualizing violence in absurd ways; some of which glorify domestic violence and victimhood. Drawing from examples in our popular culture, Rayne argues that this trend is a new kind of assault on educating young people about consent, sexuality and gender expectations.

Do you think the sexy costume has taken an absurd and offensive twist? Is non-consent culture permeating Halloween? Read below and conclude for yourself.

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sexy and violent Halloween Costumes

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Sexy Halloween costumes are evident everywhere we go, all October long. I have been inundated with commentary on these kinds of costumes, and given it myself, for years. I’m emotionally exhausted by it, so I don’t write about it anymore.

But this year, my deepest outrage, sorrow, and grief over the way we are expressing ourselves as a culture has been touched just as deeply as it was the first time I saw a “Sexy Halloween Costume” that was toddler-sized.

But this year, it’s not about the sexy costumes. Or, rather, it’s not just about the sexy costumes. It’s the violent, individual, personalized, victim costumes. It’s the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman costumes; it’s this Facebook post by a former student of a teacher friend of mine.

This personalization of the Halloween gore is an entirely different animal than the sexiness that has been creeping younger and younger. As offensive as that is, this takes it to a new level.

The integration of sex and violence – the making sexy of violence against women – has been around for along time and it’s getting worse. From Rhianna and Chris Brown to Pink (see below), abuse is being increasingly sexualized.

And now it’s Halloween’s turn to get in on it all.

Gore is one thing. Sexy zombies may be stupid and raise questions of consent (read down a bit, the relevant part is there, I promise), but the personalized and violent Halloween costumes that are starting to show up and weave into the standing sexy Halloween costumes is a new kind of assault on and education of young people.

Assault, battery, murder: these are not hilarious and funny things to trot out on a holiday. My teacher friend whose student posted the Facebook picture responded (in part) with: “Are you speaking out against domestic abuse, or saying that it makes a good costume. How many women can’t wipe off this ‘make-up’?” My friend was the first to comment on the post, so he was able to set the tone, but there were already eight or nine Likes. We need to teach our children how to recognize inappropriate humor and how to stand up to it. Because this just isn’t funny, cute, or appropriate.

rayne2sm DR. KAREN RAYNE With a doctoral degree is in Educational Psychology, Karen provides advice and support to parents on how to educate their children and teenagers about sex and sexuality. Karen’s knowledge about adolescent development and education provides her with a solid background for guiding parents through these tricky conversations. And, as a college professor, helping young adults grapple with sexuality, she is known to change student’s lives. On twitter @KarenRayne