Ahhh…Halloween. The holiday where even poop can — and has — been sexified. Yes, poop.
The “sexy” green turd is actually part of a couple’s costume. Your other half gets to be the Halloween whopper that has been rumoured to turn people’s poo green.
While “sexy” has become synonymous with Halloween (at least for women), believe it or not, it wasn’t always like that.
Halloween history expert Lesley Bannatyne has written four books on the holiday in the past 25 years. It’s only in the last 10 to 15 years, she says, that costumes started to become sexified.
“We went from blood and gore to being sexy Ebola virus, sexy Trump, sexy Tootsie roll.”
Pretty much sexy anything. Even sexy pizza rat.
Bannatyne explains that ever since Halloween started to be celebrated, the costumes have offered a glimpse into what people were interested in at any given time.
“Victorians were crazy about Egypt,” she said, “so you’d see a lot of…Egyptian symbols on early Halloween costumes.”
The tradition of dressing up started in Europe. Immigrants brought it over to North America.
In the 1950s and 60s, the influence of television inspired costumes from I Love Lucy, Zorro and The Adams Family, she said. A slew of intense horror films in the 80s sparked gory and bloody costumes. Then an increasingly consumerist culture in the 90s saw products, movie characters and celebrities take centre stage on Halloween.
“Right now, celebrity and sexuality are what we’re kind of impressed by.”
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Whether it’s in television and movies or fashion and advertising, “everything has been more and more cleavage, higher hemlines and more and more skin.
“And clearly there [has been] a demand for it, otherwise it wouldn’t have remained as popular as it is now.”
But what’s deemed sexy is completely gender-dependent.
For women, the rule seems to be more skin for the win.
“Men’s ‘sexy’ costumes focus not on men’s ability to attract women, but men’s actual sexual desires. These are the costumes that are like ‘the ring toss,’ or ‘breast exam expert,'” said Lisa Wade, a sociology professor at Occidental College in California.
The reason for that, according to Wade, is that our society has stereotyped men as “sexual” and women as “sexy.”
“So that means that costumes that are customized for women are going to be costumes that emphasize her object status, her as a [passive] sexual object.”
While your choice to wear a sexy Halloween costume may appear seemingly harmless, Wade believes it can propagate a potentially harmful mindset that “his desire is more important.”
That can not only lead to problems in the bedroom, but on the more extreme end, she says it may also fuel rape culture.
So why do women keep subjecting themselves to costumes like a “sexy” Donald Trump? Wade thinks the validation they get from men is part of it. So is peer pressure. And corporate capitalism.
Most women are buying their costumes, and the selection isn’t always the greatest.
“If you ask women, ‘What were your options?'” she said. “A lot of women feel like…their only option was dressing like a man or dressing hypersexualized…So a lot of women when choosing between those two options will choose the latter.”
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It’s not just women, though. In recent years, girls’ costumes have also become sexualized.
When Mary Valle recently tried to find her 12-year-old daughter a Cheshire Cat costume, she realized the only version to be found was a sexy one.
“How very curious, I thought. Men and boys get to be people, while girls and women must be things. The girls, tweens and women’s costumes formed a perfect spectrum of ‘training sexy,’ ‘unofficially sexy’ and ‘aww yeah sexy,'” she wrote in The Guardian.
“I shouldn’t have been surprised, I suppose. The sexification of Halloween has been in full swing for a while; why on earth should small, aspiring Cheshire Cats be left out?”
Psychologists say the disturbing trend can be damaging to girls.
“Girls too often are basing their self-esteem as how attractive they are to men,” said Richard Weissbourd, a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Weissbourd encourages parents to fight this norm — both by talking to their kids about what’s appropriate and why, as well as even writing the companies who are producing these costumes.
That’s what Lin Kramer did earlier this year. Her open letter to Party City started off like this: “Having just finished perusing your website for Halloween costumes for my three-year-old daughter, I am writing in the hopes that you will reconsider some of the content on your website and the antiquated views such content communicates.”
The company thanked her for reaching out and told her, “We appreciate the insight and will consider your feedback for the future.” It then deleted her comment and banned her from its Facebook page.
Other companies, however, have responded to similar complaints. Last year, Value Village pulled certain merchandise from its shelves after a B.C. woman expressed concerns about it.
Some women are also taking a stand, proudly sharing their “unsexy” Halloween costumes on social media.
As for whether the “sexy” fad will ever pass?
“It was bloody before. Now it’s sexy. It will change again,” Bannatyne promised.
She’s planning to go as Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty this year.
“And it’s not a sexy Maleficent.”Follow @TrishKozicka
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