Why Are Women’s Halloween Costumes More Sexy Than Men’s?

I’m so overwhelmed with work obligations right now that I even forgot that today was Halloween. When I started scrolling down my neglected blogroll, however, I was reminded of the date by the proliferation of posts that try to answer the question of why there so many sexy women’s costumes for Halloween and so few sexy costumes for men.

The usual answer of “because women are sexualized by society” makes no sense to me. This is a very Puritanical, prissy society we live in where people tend to have very unhealthy attitudes towards any exhibition of healthy human sexuality. Remember folks having heart attacks when Sandra Fluke mentioned the word “contraception” in public?

This Puritanical uptightness is precisely the reason why female Halloween costumes tend to be on the sexy side and men’s don’t. Halloween is a carnival, and a carnival always has the following meaning:

Bakhtin’s theory of carnival, manifest in his discussions of Rabelais and “forbidden laughter” in medieval folk culture, argued that folk celebrations which allowed for rowdy humor and the parody of authority offered the oppressed lower classes relief from the rigidity of the feudal system and the church and an opportunity for expressing nonconformist, even rebellious views.

Halloween offers women a rare opportunity to exhibit their sexuality freely. At a carnival, the popular imagination identifies an issue – in this case, an inequality in terms of sexual freedom between men and women – and brings it into the open at least one day a year. This is definitely a very positive phenomenon because it offers evidence that the problem is identified and recognized.

Women who wear all of these sexy costumes at Halloween are agents of important social change. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with donning different kinds of costumes, of course. At a carnival, one should play out the issue that bothers one the most. If sexual freedom is not an issue for you personally, then you won’t be tempted to enact it, and good for you. But judging people for addressing this inequality in a playful way is neither productive nor fair.

12 thoughts on “Why Are Women’s Halloween Costumes More Sexy Than Men’s?”

  1. “At a carnival, one should play out the issue that bothers one the most.” This is a wonderful interpretation. I now suddenly understand my own choice of Halloween costumes. 🙂

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  2. Did you by any chance notice that there are more sexy clothes for women than men, period? Halloween or any other day? Ever visited a sex shop? 🙂 🙂

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    1. “Did you by any chance notice that there are more sexy clothes for women than men, period?”

      – Not, not really. Where? At Macy’s?

      “Ever visited a sex shop? ”

      – Once. But there were no clothes there.

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      1. —Where? At Macy’s?

        I mean on average. There are just many more varieties of female clothes, therefore there are more varieties of sexy clothes. And if you have been to only one sex shop, you’ll have to trust the person who has been to several ones. 🙂

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      2. Regular sex shops tend to be geared towards straight men’s preferences (most sex shops that don’t specifically market themselves as woman-friendly tend to have visitors who are either single men or couples shopping together – very few single women), so they’ll mostly have sexy clothes for women. Gay sex shops tend to be mostly geared towards gay men’s preferences, so you’ll see plenty sexy clothes for men there (also, far better quality fetish gear than you’ll see in regular shops). I haven’t visited a geared-towards-women sex shop yet so I can’t tell you what sort of clothes they have. Considering how they seem to advertise as helping women discovering their own capabilities for pleasure, I’d imagine they have few clothes of any sort.

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  3. I think what has happened is that people have tried to take this those last two paragraphs of yours and condense them into usual answer of “because women are sexualized by society”.

    Now when it comes to the whole expressing sexuality freely thing I do wonder. Some say flat out that men are free to express themselves sexually and women aren’t. With a bit of nuance (and a lot of personal experience) I’m not sure that that blanket statement holds for men. But that may be another topic for another day.

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  4. What confuses me about this question, Clarissa, is that I don’t know what it would be for men’s clothes to be sexy.
    Now, I don’t know how far this response reflects the fact that I’m a celibate heterosexual autistic man. Maybe I’ve just had other priorities and not seen all the signals defining what it is for a man to be sexy, and to dress sexy. But I have seen tons of signals defining what it is for a woman to be sexy and to dress sexy.
    I get the impression that this kind of signal is out there and widely available for women, but not for men. I get the impression that, whatever men might generally hear about how to be sexy, we are far less likely than women to hear a message about how to dress sexy.
    Or maybe we will hear this message, in encoded form – about how to dress Dominant. How to show our Power and Authority.
    I have picked up a lot more of men dressing for authority, and of women dressing for sexy.
    Perhaps this is just me. On the other hand – I boldly speculate – perhaps this is something about Anglophone culture. (I say this because I’m from South Africa, not the US, and yet the question resonates with me.)
    So if I’m right, it seems to follow that the “puritanism” explanation, while it may be necessary, is not sufficient. Anglo culture worldwide is the home of puritanism. And maybe that explains why anglo men don’t know what it is to look sexy. But I don’t see how it could explain why images of women-being-sexy are so widespread in our culture – combined, as you correctly point out, with repression of women’s sexuality, and indeed of everyone’s.
    If I’m right – if I’m not missing something fundamentally important – I think there is a cultural gender distinction here. I suspect this distinction may be a spurious consideration behind the superficial view that “women are sexualised”.
    If it was just about puritanism – and the carnival contrast – surely the same clothing preferences, for both carnival and non-carnival occasions, would prevailfor both sexes.

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    1. “What confuses me about this question, Clarissa, is that I don’t know what it would be for men’s clothes to be sexy.”

      – It’s OK, I do. 🙂

      “Now, I don’t know how far this response reflects the fact that I’m a celibate heterosexual autistic man.”

      – I’m sure you know the answer. 🙂

      “I get the impression that this kind of signal is out there and widely available for women, but not for men. I get the impression that, whatever men might generally hear about how to be sexy, we are far less likely than women to hear a message about how to dress sexy.”

      – Start reading men’s magazines or look at clothing stores’ websites, and all will be revealed to you.

      “But I don’t see how it could explain why images of women-being-sexy are so widespread in our culture”

      – You will need to define what you mean by “culture” here. I turn on the TV or watch a movie in the US and see women who behave as if sex didn’t exist or only existed to catch husbands. In the streets or at work nobody looks what even the most sex-starved person would see as ‘sexy.” In a carnival, people do what they don;t dare to do in everyday life. This is why women who wear baggy jeans and ugly T-shirts want to try out something different for Halloween.

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  5. what i think womens are the symbol or beauty and more beauty needs to look good, that and Thats why there dresses are made more sexier then the men

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