Happy Heteroween

In Defense of Sexy Pirates, Sexy Nuns, and Sexy Cadavers


Great Article!
Things are not a little unfair, they're very unfair, often scarily and/or criminally unfair. Oversexualization of women affects me and my rights to choose not to be sexual.

You're right, most likely things aren't going to change anytime soon, but they certainly aren't going to change as long as women keep buying into the argument that, "This is MY body, and I'm going to be sexy if I want to be because I have control over that." Because the sad fact is, no you don't. And if you don't realize that, maybe you've just been lucky.

For gay men, being overtly sexual is empowering because of all the cultural taboos surrounding this. But you are both men, and the power structure between you is completely equal. If you think the same holds true for women, you're crazy.

I've walked home from a club in a plain dress and been molested by a strange man on the street. I've been stalked home from bars wearing more than that. How many men can say the same, and how many were honestly afraid for their life because the dude was twice his size?

Unfortunately, the issues are far more complicated than this article acknowledges, and unfortunately your position seems to be the prevalent one among progressives and neo-feminists. I don't read "Feministing," but "I Blame the Patriarchy" is a great blog that represents the other side of your argument.
Shellym, it sucks that you've been accosted, but I don’t think your rational has anything to do with wanting to dress up and show a little skin on Halloween or any other night. Get a BF to walk you home next time or move to a less sketchy neighborhood-
This was on Capitol Hill's Pine St at the time - not exactly sketchy.

Look, the point is that dressing up as a stereotype of men's sexual fantasies is not empowering when in our daily lives women are sexually NOT equal to men because we don't have the same control that men do over when to not be sexualized. So Dan's analogy to Halloween being as liberating for heterosexuality as gay pride parades are for gay sexuality does not hold up.

Page Rockwell wrote an article for Salon called Taking Back Slut-O-Ween, and here's her take:

"Dressing up as a sexy version of a fairy-tale character can be a way of riffing on society's implied lessons about femininity -- Pat Gill... tells the Times that dressing as a sexy version of a fairy-tale character or other archetype "can be a way to embrace the fictional characters women loved as children while simultaneously taking a swipe at them." Deborah Tolman...adds that "it is possible some women are using Halloween as a 'safe space,' a time to play with sexuality. By taking it over the top," she told the Times, they "make fun of this bill of goods that's being sold to them. Hey, if we can claim Halloween as a safe space to question these images being sold to us, I think that's a great idea," she said.

The problem, experts say, is that it's hard to separate ironic reclaiming from unthinking collusion in a sexist tradition. "I love to imagine that there's some real social message, that it's sort of the female equivalent of doing drag," sociology professor Adie Nelson told the Times, "but I don't think it's necessarily so well thought out." And the tradition of women dressing almost exclusively as sexual fantasies, while men around them dress as diverse icons from vampires to Dick Cheney to the Beastie Boys, highlights our culture's message that women are sexual beings first and members of society second."
This article is fantastic, Dan. I have often responded to the hypocritical straight argument that Pride parades are disgusting displays of sexuality and sexism with: "I never hear you complain about Mardi Gras." It shuts most of them up.

Conservative Christians, of course, do complain about Mardi Gras, but their answer to the "problem" of Mardi Gras isn't to strip straights of their rights, funnily enough.

Since I'm a day late on this, and thus, feel safe that no one will see my post, I'll add that it's not just the straights who repress their sexuality when it comes to dress. I wish lesbians felt more comfortable flaunting their bodies and beauty. Because they are fucking gorgeous.
Yay for sexy everything! More sexiness, everywhere, for everyone!

Except Christians.
Yay for sexy everything! More sexiness, everywhere, for everyone!

Except Christians.
@4 Pine street is and was and probably always will be a little sketchy.
I guess it's weird because Halloween is often thought of doing things you "shouldn't", or being scary, or being subversive. Being a sexy woman is scary or subversive?

I like Pride days because they're about an identity that's there *all the time* and Pride is about cranking it up to 11. A lot of the Pride events are super positive, diverse, and inclusive.

Halloween feels more like, "Hey, let's be sluts for a day, because it's not what we really are -- just like we're not really nurses or vampires or zombies -- and then be 'normal' again the rest of the year." Blah.

Plus, the costumes often suck. Either just your sluttiest clubwear with some fishnets, or a bought, pre-assembled outfit. Come on! My favourite part of Halloween is the imagination and ingenuity people put into their costumes.

@4: What I find really strange about "subverting" a fairy tale by making it sexy is that the original characters pretty much existed for sex in the first place. How is it ironic to be Sexy Cinderella when Cinderella basically lived her life to get carried off and fucked by a prince?
@shellym, so? I agree with what you posted, but I liked Dan's article, too. It is possible to have fun, dress sexy and question social and cultural messages all at the same time.
...except I do not agree with this:

"dressing up as a stereotype of men's sexual fantasies is not empowering when in our daily lives women are sexually NOT equal to men because we don't have the same control that men do over when to not be sexualized"

it just doesn't follow that we must never want to dress sexy or play with stereotypes because we lack the same control over when we are sexualized/objectified. Being subjected to sexism doesn't render me asexual and actually, it creates that much more of a need to examine and interact with my culture. It _IS_ usually hard to separate ironic reclaiming from unthinking collusion, but I think it's often a bit of both, and I like to give the gals a little more credit. kthxbye!
I agree with Shellym, but I sure do love looking at the sexy police girls.
Sorry, unfortunatly I can't deny the fact that I'm a hetrosexual male that can't help but look. That being said, I wouldn't let my wife dress up in a boring "sexy" costume. Not that she would, she would anyway. She has way too much self respect and creativity. We save the sexy costumes for the B-room!
gin gin bon bon, my question is how are you questioning social & cultural messages by dressing sexily & how are you playing with these stereotypes? I really don't understand that argument.

In my opinion, women can't just do what they want despite sexism, because sexism is so prevalent in defining our roles that regardless of whether we feel in control or empowered by choosing to dress like a male fantasy, whether we feel as though we are playing with stereotypes, that's not the message that is coming across.

Would you feel so liberated or empowered if you didn't already have a receptive audience? Men aren't going to be like, "Hey, lady, cover yourself!" So how is going out dressed like a sexy girl challenging their views or making them think about anything other than, "Wow, that chick's hot?" I mean, what do you do, mace them in the face once they come over and start hitting on you? That would be awesome, but I doubt that's the kind of challenge you're referring to.

I'm sure there are some costumes that successfully turn these stereotypes on their head. I've been Nixon taking a bubble bath for the last few years. The key is it's not actually sexy (shiny nylons, huge bubble suit, Nixon mask). And people are rightly confused or disturbed by it. But I'd like to hear an argument for a store-bought or generic sexy kitty or devil outfit being some kind of stereotype-challenging outfit.
Shellym, I'm having trouble understanding how you're drawing a line from "some dickbag harassed me on Pine late one night" to "women should dress conservatively because they don't realize they're being mind-controlled into dressing sexy."

Is being intimidated into dressing so as to "provoke" less of a reaction somehow more empowered than dressing however you want? That doesn't really make sense.

Some people - a lot of people - just think sex and sexuality are fun and want to play the mating game. (That double-standard cuts both ways, too, incidentally; it's a lot easier for a woman to dress scanty, show off, and get guys hot and bothered than it is for a guy to dress in a way that's sexy and revealing and yet doesn't seem stereotypically gay.)

I'm not arguing that there's still plenty of time and space even in the first world where women are at a physical or social strength disadvantage and might justifiably feel threatened by that, but that's a sociological and a criminal issue that infringes just as much on a woman's right to safely dress sexy if she wants to, as it does on her right not to even if the men around her want her to.

Forgive me for saying so, because I really don't mean this as a personal attack, but what you're writing makes you seem intimidated and victimized, not empowered. You seem like you want women to be constantly fighting an ugly war against "male fantasy" instead of just living their lives, but I don't think that most people - men or women - want to be at war all the time.

You want to change all this? Two things: First, teach kids to respect other people. That one's pretty self-explanatory. Second, recognize and accept that we all, all the time, stereotype, objectify, and judge people we don't know and probably won't get to know, and that's okay, because we're only human and we just don't have the processing power to understand everyone, all the time. Spend your energy caring what the people you know think about you, not about whether or not some guy on the street is fetishizing your legs. If he has enough basic respect for others not to harass you, it doesn't really matter what he thinks, does it? Any more than it matters to him whether you dismiss him as a worthless pig?

Listen, I'm jotting this down on the fly and I'm sure I've left a few threads hanging, but please take my point: whether you mean to or not, you're demonizing the inclusion of open, unashamed sexuality in human interaction, and I don't think you need to do that. I think you're blaming the wrong thing for the problems you see and experience. Sex and sexism are too easily conflated.
While personally I could never wear a revealing costume, I think it's up to women to choose for themselves. Feminism is all about choice. However I wish there were more non-sexy costumes being made for women.
Dan raises a question left unanswered. How does a straight guy dress in a way that is sexually provocative and attractive to straight girls? There are probably a large number of men who would dress differently than they do if they knew that doing so would instigate similar attentions in women as a latex-nurse betty outfit does in them.
The problem with halloween is that it happens when the weather is usually kind of shitty. Other than that it is perfect.
@14: You seem to be missing an awful lot of obvious stuff here. You say it's a "stereotype" for women to be sexualized, thought of as whoring their bodies, and so forth.

But most women are raised to fear being perceived as doing these things intentionally. To varying degrees, of course, across cultures and classes, but the basic point remains: being "easy" is both frowned upon by other women and earns disrespect among men. The woman who will sleep with any decently attractive man is scorned by society as a whole far more than the man who will sleep with any decently attractive women (which is considered fairly normal). You can say that this is because women are more frequently the target of involuntarily sexualization -- and I will agree with that -- but this just reinforces the fact that the "good" girl according to conservative standards is she who covers up and saves herself for True Love.

I agree that tramping it up does not, in itself, reflect liberation or a subversive attitude. But asserting the right to tramp it up if one wants to definitely does. Accusing those who assert this right of ruining things for women just supports the old double standards.
"... we don't have the same control that men do over when to not be sexualized"

What on earth makes you think men have any control over when they will be sexualized or not? I think millions of young men and boys molested by their religious leaders might think differently. As would any reasonably attractive guy that ever worked with my friend Bob (a chronic sexual harasser). Gay men (at least the ones I know) objectify men of whatever orientation when it comes to eye candy just as the straight boys do to the girls.

I love going places with large breasted women friends - while all the guys eyes are glued to her I can scope them at leisure.
#19, I'm not missing obvious points so much as didn't think I needed to state what I felt was obvious. I don't think women being "easy" has been frowned upon since the 60s. At least not on the coasts. There's a difference between sleeping with who you want/ "tramping it up," and dressing as though you live inside the mind of a 13-year old boy's fantasy of what a sexy woman should look like. I'm not advocating turning off your sexuality and becoming an a-sexual prude.

#20 those are boys & children, not grown men. And yes, gay men may be and often are objectifiers. It's still men objectifying other men. Gender roles do not come into play.

Honestly, I've had this same argument a million times, and I find it easier to just cut/paste this woman's views which mirror my own. From I Blame the Patriarchy :

"Let me just say this one last thing about sexy feminism. It’s a too-too-tool of the patriarkay. It’s an expedient justification, a way to rebrand what everybody does when they’re in their twenties, which is to drink too much and screw a lot, as a cool 21st-century-activist political activity.

This would just be kind of funny, you know, youthful hi-jinx and whatnot, except that, since it is entirely devoid of philosophic value, sexy feminism has sort of caught on. It’s had the untoward effect of diluting the message of actual feminism. And the even more untoward effect of vilifying radical feminism. And the even more untoward effect of strengthening patriarchal oppression.

What do I mean by “sexy feminism”? Suicide Girls. Bust magazine. BDSM. The “position” that women should be free to “choose” femininity if that’s what bangs their box. The idea that embracing sexploitation is “empowering.” The notion that women “can do what we want despite patriarchy.”

What I don’t mean is: the effort to liberate women’s sexuality from the clutches of its traditional, misogynist, male-defined constraints, i.e. the effort to define women’s sexuality in terms of women, as opposed to men defining women in terms of sex. These are issues of ongoing concern to serious feminists..., but, as it turns out, have nothing to do with the preservation of feminine submission as a lifestyle choice.

Let’s face it, girls. We’re living in a war zone and orgasms are a dime a dozen. The performance of pornulated, dude-appeasing sex moves just isn’t important enough to form the basis of an entire political ideology. Particularly when that ideology presumes to co opt and dilute a movement which was formerly of some use to women. Seeing as how feminism was originally founded on sound philosophical principles thought up by thinkers, and had the potential to liberate millions of women from an endless cycle of violence, persecution, and poverty.

Sexy feminism creates two groups of women, but, oddly enough, neither group is for women. I allude to the “sex-positive” group and the “anti-sex” group. The first benefits the status quo. It reassures women who fear the burden of true liberation that femininity is a legitimate identity. The second is the fictitious enemy of the first — a stand-in for the real oppressor — and functions as the dark, hairy background against which the glowing orgasmic accomplishments of the sexy feminists may glitter in the light of life’s dudely disco ball. Of course there is no real group of anti-sexites; this is a fabrication that allows sexy feminists to indulge in patriarchy-appeasing misogyny on feminist blogs."

Agree with it, don't agree with it, but it's pretty right on in my view and has nothing to do with dictating how much sex a woman should have with how many partners or as someone else wrongly suggested that I implied, advocating that women should walk around dressed conservatively so as to avoid being victims.

@21: The war that twisty is fighting is much like the war against terror and the war against drugs: it targets a behavior that is associated with the enemy because it fails to identify the actual enemy. That's why I stopped reading her blog several years ago.

Now, what's wrong with "dressing as though you live inside the mind of a 13-year old boy's fantasy of what a sexy woman should look like"? It strikes me that the fundamental assumption of this sentence is that a thirteen year old boy's fantasies are fundamentally invalid. Moreover, it suggests that anyone over the age of 13 who shares this fantasy is guilty of some kind of sexual retardation and should be ashamed of their feelings.

Dan has consistently resisted exactly that idea. I've followed his column for years, and he has been very consistent about this: sexual fantasies are weird, ridiculous and often gross and mystifying. But that's the nature of sexuality, and judging people based solely on your level of squeamishness with regards to their sexual desires is dickish. (judging people on acting on immoral sexual desires is a separate matter, of course).

So, what's wrong with thinking a "nurse" in a tight mini-skirt is hot? What's wrong with dressing up in a tight mini-skirt to *be* hot to people who think that?

Again: twisty's enemy is a behavior she associates with those who disrespect, harass and attack women. But, it's an association, and nothing more. At best, it's a symptom. Those who fight wars against vague concepts have usually conceded in the end.
I hate halloween because I never get invited to parties.
shellym, I'm sorry, but that big ol' quote you posted was a bunch of yammering crapshit. I read it and reread it and all I got from it was, "Any woman who doesn't want to act just like me is not a real feminist." It's just a No True Scotsman fallacy dressed up in way, way too many words. She contrasts dilettante feminism with radical feminism, but only uses these designations as a way to lump together what she doesn't like versus what she likes. On top of that, she never says what she's actually FOR - it's just bitching and moaning and condemnation about what's actually going on. If everything modern women are doing is wrong, what's right? And how do you know it's right?

What do you want? What would you like to see? You complain but you offer nothing. You say I falsely implied that you'd want women to dress modestly, but as far as I can see, the only way for women to behave that you haven't condemned is to eliminate as much interaction with men as possible. Maybe you don't feel that way but it's how you're coming across... and that fits right in with my prior experience with radical second-wave feminism, which has taught me that as a movement and a philosophy it's completely intellectually bankrupt.

Besides, I think the most important line in your repost is glossed right over: "[W]hat everybody does when they’re in their twenties, which is to drink too much and screw a lot."

It's true. That's what people do. That's what people want to do. That's not going to change. It's not about feminine submission or male fantasy or anything like that. It's basic human nature that people act out in whatever milieu makes them happy... including, sometimes, sex-positive feminism.

I'm not denying that there's still plenty of sexism. I'm not saying that society doesn't rather unsubtly push ALL of us into roles we don't really get to choose. I am, however, asking you to put up or shut up. Let's stick to the issue at hand, even: how should women act for Halloween? Or even more specifically, how should a woman who wants to have fun and maybe get laid - as opposed to a culture warrior who chooses to spend the night making a political point - act for Halloween? And for that matter, how should we men act in turn?

I'm curious to know, by the way, how you (and your blogger) feel about submissive women in a BDSM context. I have a hunch, but I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt.
I echo balderdash and Lee's sentiments shellym - and I don't get your point, but it kinda sounds like you want us all to be in burkas to fend off unwanted male attention.

You've conflated sex and sexism (as pointed out previously) sure, they can be related, but women expressing sexuality is still NOT acceptable, as you seem to claim it is. I can't even name all the trash talk I've heard about certain female friends being "loose", because they've chosen to sleep with who they want.

As for being a fantasy - who doesn't want that every once in a while? Women have them, men have them - indulge! As long as you're not hurting anyone, other people's reactions are not your responsibility, nor should you care.
Great post but one thing that always bothers me - ASSLESS CHAPS ARE ASSLESS BY DESIGN! STOP BEING REDUNDANT! Thank you and Happy Halloween! :)
#21, yes, I can see why you and twisty have been fighting for years, and since you haven't found any of her arguments valid, there's no point in us continuing to discuss this. I absolutely don't agree with any of what you've written, but I'm also not interested in banging my head against the wall trying to change your obviously solidified views. And yes, if you search Dan Savage's name on that site, the consensus among women there is that he's a misogynist. Agree to disagree.

#24. I can't address what you've written because you're making all kinds of wacky-assed assumptions based on nothing I actually said. I'm not answering your pretend ignorant questions from the second to last paragraph. Maybe you should take a women's studies class.

@26 Damn you. You beat me to the comment.

And Dan, consider me a convert from the "WTF is with the gay pride parade?" party. I truly never understood it nor did I think there was a hetereo version of that act of sexuality. This article changed my mind and the way I think of the parades. So whether you meant to or not, you helped enlighten someone today.

Finally, is there a more annoying group out there than the feminists? I think not. They are the perpetual pee-ers in the punchbowl.
"Oversexualization of women affects me and my rights to choose not to be sexual."

Much like civil rights for gays affects Christians and their rights to not approve of homosexuality, no doubt. Everyone else, change your lifestyle to make me comfortable! I'm cold, so you go put on a sweater now.
Shellym -

Your post 27 actually makes all this quite obvious on your own, which I greatly enjoyed, but I wanted to point a few things out.

First of all, to call out @24 for making assumptions about what you posted is a defensive move that makes you look, well, dumb, quite frankly. When someone is trying to understand your point of view, by asking you questions so that you can clarify, that is known as the opposite of making assumptions about what you said. I echo 24's concerns that based on everything you've written, it seems the only place you want to put women on Halloween is locked in cellars wearing turtlenecks and chastity belts for consciousness raising meetings. @24 was giving you the chance to explain better your position, which you cowardly refused to do, either b/c you don't actually have a point or because you're embarrassed to admit that you really don't want women expressing any hint of their own sexuality.

Also, your entire argument is that women should conform their behavior to fight the patriarchy's demands of female sexuality. We should neglect what we feel, what we want and who we want so as to not fuel the flames of sexism. So, essentially, we should allow patriarchy to continue its hold on women's lives and allow the suppression of desires and needs in an effort to attack patriarchy? It doesn't work that way. 2nd wavers learned that lesson already, lets not repeat history.

I'm sorry about your shitty experiences with those two men, but unfortunately, you have allowed them to dictate the rest of your life for you. They scared you into submission. Yes - submission. You have repressed your wants and needs and feelings to avoid being fucked over again by males who take advantage of the status society thrusts on them. But, as you pointed out, these things can happen whether you like like a business woman, or a sexy pirate, or little girl or a goodyear blimp. It doesn't matter b/c (as I assume you learned in women's studies 101) rape is not about sex. It is about power. So, withholding sexuality does absolutely nothing to shift the scales toward women. Women have been raped for many many centuries, long before Heteroween.

The new method of getting what we want, and supporting other women's right to get what they want, regardless of whether it conforms to patriarchal norms or not, is the only option feminism has if it wishes to (a) survive and (b) have an impact.
@18 - no SHIT! THAT'S the problem with sexy Halloween costumes - not that they are sexy - but that they are ridiculous in OCTOBER. It's cold in October. Ladies (and mens) shouldn't have to risk hypothermia just to get that office/class/bus crush to finally pay attention to their boobs/abs/huge cocks. Can't we have a sexy holiday in August? (maybe that's just called Summertime.)
2 years ago, my straight boyfriend dressed up in a VERY revealing woman's PVC dominatrix outfit that we found at a sex shop. people are still talking about it. but you really do have to have a certain chutzpah to pull off that kind of thing.
I'm not against sexy costume dressing, I'm more against columnists calling women WHORES for how they dress on Halloween.

#30, My point in originally posting about this article was to argue against this statement of Dan's: "Right now things are a little unfair—a little—on the gender front. Straight girls are expected to show flesh on Halloween; straight boys aren't."

My argument is that no, things are not a little unfair, they are very unfair. I used my specific example as a basic example of that, which I obviously should not have done as now anyone who doesn't agree with me is under the assumption that I've let it scar me for life and have changed the way I dress/act to keep this from happening. That isn't at all what I meant & it's not what I said. It was simply an easy example that I could pull up of shit that happens to women that men do not have to think about. A woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes in this country, and those are just the reported incidents. I do believe that people's attitudes toward women contribute to the abuse of women, and I do feel that culture shapes that.

That said, I'm not advocating dressing conservatively or unattractively or uncool. I wear minis and make up. Most of the girls I know dress for other women because we enjoy fashion and get inspired by each other. But there's a difference between dressing for yourself & each other in a way that expresses who you are and dressing to appease a man's misogynistic sense of who he wants you to be. And how is dressing up as a man's fantasy version of women expressing your OWN sexuality? To me, it's just crossing into Cosmo article territory. There are healthier options and I'd suggest those. For example, if you think a guy is hot, go talk to him, invite him home and have as much unihibited sex as you want. There, you've asserted your sexuality. Pretty fucking easy.

Look, I just don't agree with Dan that all sexual fantasies (except the immoral ones) should be brought out into the open. I may have slave fantasies about black men in which, I, the white woman want him to wear rags and let me bark orders at him. Fine, it's what turns me on, but I can also understand how taking that fantasy out into a club where half of the audience is black may offend them. And so any reasonable person would, if this problematic fantasy is what truly gets them off, find another consenting adult and act it out in private.

Unfortunately, when misogyny is so commonplace as to be unrecognizable or unquestionable by a group of feminists that they don't understand the offensive implications of a woman dressing as a pornified image of a caretaker, I have problems with that.

I do get Shelly M and appreciate her comments.
Obviously some women will wear the revealing outfits because they really want too. Many others may feel obligated to do so.

And I’m a fairly liberal straight man who hopes that his college student daughter doesn’t feel pressured to dress up this way. On the other hand, if she really wants to… well, as painful as it may be for me, I will not stand in her way.
As for Cinderella…

It is quite possible that the prince had a shoe and/or foot fetish….
I feel compelled to try and clarify some of what I think Shellym is trying to articulate and argue. Unfortunately, it's an abstract argument and tends to shoot off in different directions (that are easily attackable).

1) The problem is not that women dress sexy, act easy, or in other words play the desire game with men. The problem is that it is very difficult to keep the desire game in check when it's inappropriate (like the office or in quotidian interactions where one party isn't playing the game).

2) The reason sexy feminism is a crock and does support patriarchy is because it binds power to sexuality, which isn't necessarily untrue or bad in and of itself, but when it comes to women, that ENCOURAGES playing the desire game in inappropriate settings where there is an unfair advantage (like the office). Doesn't mean women should feel sexy nor that they shouldn't pursue power, but seeking one through the other and deriving one from the other is shortchanging.

3) The offense I think Shellym feels and I echo and I'm sure others do as well is that Halloween is a festival of dressing up as stereotypes, that's the modus operandi and for people who are chafed by the status quo, the stereotyping hits a little too close to home. We don't really associate the witch costume with a particular group of people it stereotyped when it first became a symbol of halloween, but we DO associate the sexy, masked anonymous woman with a type of person. But that's the point of Halloween. And it CAN be fun to stereotyped, especially in a positive way.

4) Related: The feminist issue is the inequality in costumes. The straight man is a voyeur in Halloween not a participant. This is the icky patriarchal dynamic that's sickening. So I TOTALLY agree with @17 about the unanswered and most difficult and potential resolving aspect of the discussion: How does a straight man dress sexually enticing to straight women without jeopardizing his heterosexuality? Feminism rears its head again because ! there isn't a salient image of the sexualized straight man by straight women that isn't intimately related to power ! . So, it's understandable why this holiday gets so much attention from feminists. It's intricately tied up in feminist issues but the premise of the holiday itself, I think, is still aok as long as a) the straight man becomes a participant not a voyeur and b) in so doing matches everyone else in their sluttiness.

just a humble feminist gay man's opinion on how to make everyone happy ;)

gender equality
slutty sexy straight men that don't appear gay
too much sexy... I like it when halloween was just about candy.
The entire problem with this discussion, on both sides, is the implicit assumption that how a woman dresses should have ANYTHING to do with how she is perceived.

There are some douchebags who associate dressing a certain way with "being" a certain "type of woman" (some who have posted here, in fact, bizarrely asserting, for instance, that their wives have too much "self respect" to wear a revealing outfit -- as though woman who wear revealing outfits DON'T have self-respect??).

Dan, a woman dressing a certain way is not "empowering." A woman being allowed to dress however she damn well pleases and not being written off as a "slut" afterwards would be empowering. Unfortunately, we as women don't have any goddamn control over that, at ALL.

People should dress how they want on Halloween. Why? Because it's fun. It's Halloween. End of story. Yes, there are always political aspects to everything, but focusing on what WOMEN do is counter-productive. It turns too quickly into a discussion about what women "should" do, and before you know it, we've completely lost sight of the fact that the OTHER half of the population is equally responsible for their own damn actions. We're never going to be on equal footing until we stop nitpicking what other women wear and start focusing on men's REACTION to it. If I wear a sexy nurse costume for Halloween, fine. That doesn't really say much of anything, because it's HALLOWEEN. If I wear a sexy nurse costume and a friend sees me and loses respect for me, THAT'S where we need to be focusing our inquiry. Why would some asshole lose respect for me for wearing a HALLOWEEN COSTUME??? (An equally good question might be, why would I call such an asshole a "friend" after that? Well, I wouldn't, but what might someone else?)

What we need to worry about is judgmentalism and the double standard imposed on women. If I enjoy showing off skin, I should be free to do that. If I'd prefer to go in a gorilla suit, I should be free to do that, too (and I shouldn't be subjected to any of those stupid whiny "why didn't you wear something sexy?" comments. BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO, ASSHOLE. WHY AREN'T YOU SHOWING EVERYONE YOUR COCK?)

Also, I have to call out G2000 for the comment I found most telling -- simultaneously hilarious and sad. It isn't a "solution" to simply respond that women should have male escorts to keep ourselves safe. That's what they do in the Middle East (in fact, it's mandatory in some countries), and I don't think most Western women consider that a reasonable alternative, or remotely freeing or empowering.
I'm amazed at how worked up people get by what others choose to wear on Halloween. IMO, it's not a day that typifies the state of gender relations here in the U.S. simply because it is just too complicated to judge why someone chose to wear a particular costume (as evidenced by all the above comments). Personally, I'm more worried about how I'm treated professionally than what Halloween costumes are marketed for me. I can choose to wear/not wear them, but I can't choose not to hit the glass ceiling at work or not to have to deal with Neanderthal-attitudes. Also, I just want to point out how disrespectful it is for some to claim that women who choose to wear those sexy costumes are merely automatons doing what society tells them. Maybe some think about it and others don't. That sort of attitude, however, removes individual agency, and, therefore, people's ability to choose and effect change on a personal or societal level.
Woot! I admit to sneering at all the damn sexy nurses out there...but not because of the sexy, because of the mundane. Go sexy! Go wild!

Dan is right (as always!), although I'll always find a creative and sexy costume superior, sexy nurses are at least giving it their best T&A if not arts and crafts.
"and I shouldn't be subjected to any of those stupid whiny "why didn't you wear something sexy?" comments."

Where on earth do you go to for Halloween that people come up to you and ask why you're not wearing something sexy? Seriously. I've never heard of such a thing in my life. Are you sure that some of this "I'm being pressured to be sexual by you sexy-costume-wearers!" attitude isn't just a bit more perception than reality?
I dunno Dan. It's a good article n' all. . . I like your
POV. . .

but. . .

I just don't think sexuality between men and women, gay and straight are inverses of each other.

As you know you and your SO don't operate with het marriage dynamics. One isn't the "wife" and one isn't the "husband". . . two gay men married is a different dynamic than a het couple (equal, and sometimes better than some het marriages, but different.)

Same is true (IMO) with public displays of sexuality and gender during Halloween or Carnival. . . or whatever.

Men and women, gay and straight wearing sexy costumes is not opposite sides of the same coin.

I lived as a guy for a long time. . . now that i am a woman the dynamic is different - not opposite.

Maybe in gay attraction dynamics a: "this is my body and I am not ashamed to flaunt my sexuality" works. I don't think it does in the straight world. I don't think it works well from a female POV.

Het guys will outright tell you what they want. . . . look pretty and smile for them.

Point blank - I never as a guy had another guy say: "hey sweet heart," "hey doll," Hey honey" by random guys just walking down the street in the middle of the day. As a woman it happens and it's creepy. They're bigger. They see me as an object. They get to decide to engage, not me. They feel who the fuck am I not to smile back at them?

Maybe as a gay man this isn't threatening to you, but for me it can be scary.

So. . . when a gay man is revealing his sexuality with costumes for other gay men. . .or the enjoyment of all, who knows! :) it's one thing. I assume culturally, physically, etc. there is more of a level playing field. Not so for women.

For a woman to do the same. . . with

Is there any room for someone who does like dressing up sexy when she feels like it but resents the "obligatory sexy costume" thing? Part of it is about a certain lack of creativity, part of it is the fact that guys get so many more options (I would love to see more sexy costumes for guys, but alas a guy pretty much has to be hot in the first place to pull it off), and another part is that almost all the costumes assume that you have skinny legs and no stomach flab :p.

I dunno... I can see the points of both "sexy costumes are degrading" AND "they're empowering" sides. Does it make me some sort of puritan that I find it bothersome that 99% of womens costumes are little more than fetishy lingerie? I consider myself a pro-sex feminist/third waver/what have you, but I can't shake that niggling feeling that there's something disturbing about the Obligatory Sexy Costume.

I want to say I agree with Dan 100% but I do think he doesn't really understand why some women (and some men) might have a problem with it... it can't be all out of anti-sex puritanism.

Dan, straight people do have "pride" parades. They're called "weddings." The man dresses up as a sophisticated, cultured bon vivant ready to settle down with one woman. The woman dresses up a a virgin ready to be deflowered. Then they invite all their friends and family to come and watch them march down an aisle of some sort to get official legal and, sometimes religious, permission to fuck each other.
At my work this year we had no sexy women and like 20% sexy men, like WOAH sexy too. And nobody would think these guys are gay, just hot, I would say that guys are starting to figure the whole "Sexy but not gay" thing.
as a woman I know that often I am forced into being a sexual object merely because I possess a set of tits and a vagina whether or not I'm dressing sexy. But frankly,its something we can't control really because we're all slabs of meat for the inevitable sexual market. Being molested on the street is absolutely terrible but to read into your own attire is a way of blaming yourself and internalizing social taboos. You probably would have been molested by the dick bag whether you were wearing burka or a mini skirt - I've lived many places with many different dressing mores for women and women get assaulted everywhere. Period. The problem is the criminals who do it, not our outfits. I enjoy being a bit more sexy on Halloween because I'm controlling the way I feel about myself - controlling how everyone else feels about my attire is just a crap shoot.
Tip for straight guys wanting to look sexy on Halloween: Wear a costume that incorporates a sharp looking suit.

It works.

Fantastic! But I'm from Montana, and we know that ALL chaps are assless...
I don't think its really possible to enjoy sex without the presence of some kind of prohibition (internal or external) which creates a kind of fantasy around the act itself -- that's what makes sex interesting.

The sex-positive subcultures say that we shouldn't feel ashamed of our bodies, sex is just a normal, natural part of life that all mammals do, like eating or drinking or breathing or urinating. Right? Except those are the most boring parts of life! You want to make sex like taking a dump? A necessary biological need that requires clean up afterwards? Why? That would ruin it!

I think its true that many people who complain about the over-sexualization of the culture are prudes, a much better reason to oppose it is because putting it on display on every street corner makes it much less sexy. No-one gets off on pictures of tribes people in the Amazon, walking around naked and unashamed of it, as anyone who's been to Burning Man will tell you. Maybe civilization didn't ruin sexuality, maybe it made it hot.

Not that I think there's anything wrong with one day a year where you let it all hang out. That's fine, but it wouldn't be any fun without the day before Halloween when you couldn't do that.

BTW, I fully support the effort to remove the stigma around homosexuality, but I think it would totally ruin gay sex life.
Sorry, just thought of something else:

If you think about gay pride parades or Folsom Street Fair, the almost too-obvious cultural reference point is the idea of the classic whitebread, small town, family-friendly, all-American parade, complete with the mayor and the local highschool marching band and sponsored by the Rotary club. A gay pride parade only achieves its celebration of sexuality by transgressing this norm. If you managed to get rid of small-town repression of sexuality, you would also destroy the gay pride parade, because the two extremes need each other to exist.

In other words, you need to have rules about sex in order to transgress them, which is what makes it hot. In a world with no rules, no prohibitions, no shame, there would be nothing to transgress, so no erotic pleasure. We'd just be animals fucking in the woods.
I think what people struggle with, myself included, is the individual reasons behind such costumes. I think women who slut it up for the sake of someone else's approval or because they feel like they have to...then yes, lame and totally ruins the whole idea of Halloween. But if a girl wants to wear them and feels sexy doing so and gets to let loose a little on her own behalf, I don't want to vilify them for it, don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

But then I'm probably biased as I have an unnatural love for hot pants and fishnets...I say we head out with a clip board and interrogation light to find out who's who tomorrow night.
@47, well said!

Honestly, though, is there really "social pressure" to wear a sexy costume? If that's all that's available in retail, then make your own damn costume! Funny is the new sexy.
Bravo, Dan Savage. Bravo.
Sexy costumes for straight men with nice bodies:

Glam rock star
Adam Ant (which, um, I guess is a combo of those two)
Sophisticated alien
Prince Charming, if you make him a little bit dominant
Vampire, of course!!

If you're out of shape/fat, I guess maybe a Blues Brothers-type outfit might be your best bet. Or vampire, depending on how well you can carry it off.
Sexy costumes for straight men with nice bodies:

Glam rock star
Adam Ant (which, um, I guess is a combo of those two)
Sophisticated alien
Prince Charming, if you make him a little bit dominant
Vampire, of course!!

If you're out of shape/fat, I guess maybe a Blues Brothers-type outfit might be your best bet. Or vampire, depending on how well you can carry it off.
@27: My views are not at all solidified, and I'm very receptive to whatever actual arguments you have to offer here. Yes, you and I disagree about the intellectual worthiness of the blogger who goes by "twisty" -- but you think better of her than I do, and I'm listening.
Dan, you say that you're often confronted by people on college campuses who claim, "Straight people don't flaunt our sexuality like that. We don't have straight 'pride' parades."

Have none of them ever heard of Spring Break?
Halloween is the saddest night of the year these days because I'm shy. Also because I'm in this weird limbo semi-relationship and I don't know if exclusivity is expected of me, but mainly because I'm shy.
And there are sexy boys, and it just tortures me. And the girls are better at sexy than I am -- I simply cannot pull off femme-squeal.
I couldn't even get the nerve to ask the name of the guy I know only as Deadlift Boy. And gods below I'd like him in my bed.
I was so painfully horny I had to leave the party and play the piano for a while. I'm going to spend a lot of my free time on the piano and at the gym now ... they're the only things that get it out of my system.

Christ. A man with a good body and no hangups. It would be so nice.
"Great post but one thing that always bothers me - ASSLESS CHAPS ARE ASSLESS BY DESIGN! STOP BEING REDUNDANT! Thank you and Happy Halloween! :)"

I had to laugh here...I tend to be a semantics geek myself. I think, though, that "assless chaps" is one of those adopted phrases that evokes a very specific image.

Say "chaps" and I'll think of a cowboy, with jeans covering what the chaps do not. Say "assless chaps" and I'll think of a pride parade worthy getup, every time.

Great article!
As usual, Mr Savage has made me laugh and think. Speaking of thinking, I think that the poster called Shelly has accidentally fallen into a fucked-up kind of thinking. Thinking that dressing like a "slut" is a bad idea because of the danger of sexual assault is perilously close to the kind of thinking that has allowed rapists to get acquitted when what the victim was wearing was taken into account. It implies a lack of free will on the part of the perpetrator, as if seeing a little cleavage or a little leg made the person lose control. On the other hand, Shelly did point out that she'd been mauled while wearing a "plain" dress, which proves my point. There are bad people out there and an "opportunity" rapist isn't going to be picky about appearances. What to do? Go to friendlier places, don't get so hammered that you're vulnerable and learn some self-defense. Oh, and the poster who said that Shelly should just move or quit going out in sketchy areas has his or her head way up his or her poop chute. Pretty fucking flippant. Do rapists all live in the same zip code? Really? I didn't know that. I guess all wife beaters wear "wife beater" shirts and talk like Archie Bunker too.
Halloween is like Vegas, some people need to let their inhibitions go via an alter ego. Others will be uptight that they cannot or will not give in to that liberation.

You can tell who is who pretty easily. Happy Halloween.
it ain't about being "repressed" Dan, it's about intimacy and romance, not "look at me" attention whoring.
You people take this stuff way too seriously. Humans are sexual animals. Some choose to display it, some don't. Individual choice.

Ever see that picture of a guy holding a sign outside of Hooters Restaurant that says that women should not be sexual objects? Right behind him are Hooters employees in uniform (who have chosen to be there, btw) coming out to give him a drink. He has the right to believe what he believes, and so do those women.
#62, Have you ever read any travel books written for women who travel alone to other countries? They are full of tips as to how to dress, areas to avoid, when to have a male escort etc...No one's ever had to write a book like that for male travelers.

Are these books telling women how to act like victims or to blame themselves for being assaulted if they dress improperly? No, they're saying, look, unfortunately, this is how it is over there, and here are some things you can do to help yourself out.

Regardless of how things should be for women in this country, they aren't there yet. And until they are, I personally don't feel as comfortable as I should be able to when I go out dressed in an overtly sexy costume. Dan's comment was that Halloween is empowering straight men and women to celebrate their sexuality. As a woman, I can't acknowledge that I have full control over my body as much as I would like to (I can't go topless on the beach, I can't breast feed my baby in public without many people having issues with it), because my body is often only being defined in terms of sex. That's not empowering to me, and it's not something I feel like celebrating.

And again, I'm talking ONLY about fucking overt porny/sexy Halloween costumes! I'm talking about costumes that are designed to make men think "sex." NOT hip, cute street clothes. People keep stating that I think women should dress conservatively. I am only talking about sexy Halloween Costumes, which was the subject of this article.
I'm curious. If you go to a pansexual BDSM Halloween party (the sort of environment where most of my "dressing sexy" occurs), where gay and straight men are in skimpy, revealing costumes, as are both gay and straight women, is everyone a tool of the patriarchy or just the women? What about the transgendered people? Is a T-girl who is dressed in a sexy Halloween costume is the worst of the worst because she's an original member of the dominant ideology taking on and internalizing its patriarchal oppression of women rather than fighting it from within?

I do actually get it that things are not equal in this culture (or any, for that matter). And that it can be personally dangerous to simply act as though they were and expect to be treated as I wish to be treated (going topless on the beach, for instance). However, I do still think that it's both empowering and important to act as though things were free, fair, and ideal when it is safe and fulfilling to do so. And to push those boundaries wherever possible. If I want to run around the dungeon butt-naked because it's fun and silly to do so, I am not going to be constrained by political ideology into worried that I'm not properly subverting the dominant paradigm. I'm going to take my pants off and run around like some kind of giggly feminist lunatic. Will I do that in the supermarket? Sadly, no. But I'd like to live in a world where I could, and I like to think that living our sexual freedoms in safe environments helps to integrate those freedoms into larger life through normalizing them. After the revolution, you will not only see me in Kroger pants-free, but dressed as a sexy ladybug whenever I bloody well feel like it. And that's a revolution I can dance to.
If third wave "sexy" feminists claim to be for women's expression of their own sexuality, why do they choose to objectify themselves? Shouldn't they be objectifying the other person?

I feel that women are actually being treated like objects now more than they were pre-movement. I was in college in the early 90s and guys back then used to at least pretend to be respectful toward women. Now men seem to feel like they can say every nasty thought that pops into their heads and ask me all kinds of inappropriate questions. Since the rise of this movement, I've been cat-called/groped/harassed more than ever by guys who suddenly assume that I'm OK with that because things have changed, since they aren't sexist it's not a problem, and women are happy to openly flaunt their sexuality, so what's the big deal?

God, you can't even read music reviews of girl bands in this paper without the male reviewers writing about how hot the musician is or commenters pointing out how fat she is. This used to be taboo, and it was a taboo I was very happy living with. Now it seems that when it comes to talking about women and sex anything goes.


YOUR comfort level is YOUR problem.
assless chaps = gay pride or David Lee Roth. Halloween = CANDY. Even candy corn
I'd have less issues if there were more options beyond Sexy XYZ. But, hey, it's more fun to make costumes, anyway, so I'll shut up about that.

That said, I think part of the reason so many male costumes are more realistic doctor, police, gangster costumes are because that's what straight women like. Men in uniform/suits are REALLY hot.

Still, I really don't like the one-sided power dynamics, but that's where Making the Costume comes in again.
Why the hell don't you write about the appeal of DOMA? You should right about that everyday, until it happens. I am so glad THIS is what is happening in the LGB arena.
i thought you were only allowed a heterosexual pride parade when your city won the superbowl? or stanley cup? or... the basketball... thing...?
Great stereotyping there shellym.
Ok shellym, pardon me if this has been said already, but don't even start trying to assume that the power structure between every man on this planet is "completely equal." I call major bullshit.... and I could go on, but alas, no point.
"their answer to the "problem" of Mardi Gras isn't to strip straights of their rights, funnily enough."

Once they fully strip the gays of their rights, that's still on the agenda. Lower priority, but still there.
"If third wave "sexy" feminists claim to be for women's expression of their own sexuality, why do they choose to objectify themselves ... I was in college in the early 90s and guys back then used to at least pretend to be respectful toward women. Now men seem to feel like they can say every nasty thought that pops into their heads and ask me all kinds of inappropriate questions."

Ah, I see - so you've basically taken a right-wing woman's rant about how "filthy homewrecking whores" are ruining it for good girls like her, and painted it over with a thin veneer of feminism.

Go figure.
So I'm too lazy to read all of Shellym's tl;dr. Is she just an overly sophisticated troll or a normal internet denizen with way too much time on her hands who wants everyone else to know her way of thinking is absolutely right.
Gender studies support group. Anyway, gay pride's fuckin' gay compared to halloween. Halloween's the best holiday we have--and if that means reclaiming it for the gays, so be it.
I find it interesting that women worry about dressing provocatively for Halloween. If they could see some of the outfits that women wear to the office and especially see some of the outfits women wear to go shopping or to go out to the clubs, dressing like sluts for Halloween would not be a biggie at all, merely an extension of their normal dressing.

Not all women dress provocatively for the office but a whole lot of them do and don't even try to set dress standards or the women really complain. At my last job a lot of them wore skirts so short that they had to be careful of how they sat and yet the men would not dare even mention it. I got in trouble once for telling an older women who was dressed to celebrate her anniversary after work that she looke great. My (female) boss thought that was over the line. Needless to say I got out of that place in a hurry.

Now extend that same mode of dress to what is worn to the clubs and then further extend it to dressing up for Halloween. What is the big difference?
shellym, you're confusing men with rapists. There is a difference. Rapists may well be men, but not all men are rapists. We are sexually equal, and rape is assault. Back to gender studies 101 dear. Straight girls can like to fuck without being scared of rapists and there's nothing wrong with that. If fact your argument smacks of asking for it...
shellym=most dedicated internet troll ever! get a life
I just love insecure men like ha! who not only can't dare to be even marginally un-anonymous in posting, but fling around words they clearly know not the meaning of, or more likely wish to pretend not to know because they themselves are the thing they wish to accuse others of being.

And Wendy, WTF? Are you threatening Shelly because she feels threatened? That totally makes sense, really. Your argument was silly enough, since you seem to be arguing that if men aren't rapists they're perfectly okay regardless of whatever else they might do, but that last line was just whoa.
Speaking as a heterosexual man, I just wish there was a way for me to present myself in a sexual way, as women can. A woman can make a costume sexual just by showing some breast & leg. What can make a man's costume sexual? We just don't have goods to show off.
What Dan describes as having been the case for the gay community once, is still the case for genderqueer folks. Halloween is the one day a year that a non-passing transperson can dress the way they want to dress without taking all kinds of hell for it.
Every day is straight pride day.
phaedrus, show off your dick! get a nice cod piece! as a straight woman, this would totally be hot for me!

gladiator? wrestler? circus performer?
great article!
Last night I wore a silver wig, silver eyelashes, skintight high-waisted sparkly blue leggings and a purple tube top.

I felt awesome and completely bad-ass.

Does any of this matter? Nope. I'm a consenting adult, and what I choose to wear at ANY time is completely my business.
Sexy Halloween costumes are not empowering to women at all. They would be if we got to choose, but we don't - all the outfits offered are sexualized. Even the ads on Stranger for Halloween show women sexualized and objectified and NOTHING ELSE. There are NO other options.

I wanted to be a conductor so I was looking for a woman's cropped tux top - only available on sexy tuxedo lady and playboy bunny! I then though star trek zombie - normal shirts only available to men, all others are sexy Uhura outfit!

So really how is this a choice to exert our own sexuality and not the same old place of existing to titallize men?
Geez, Dan... some people go all the way to the Northgate area to get their costumes from Display & Costume. They happily serve the LGBT community as well as all the slutty straight folk.
It's sad how we feel the need to sexualize young girls. And a SEXY NUN! They are holy women who devoted their lives to serving Christ. You shouldn't sexualize them. It's just plain wrong. You could dress up as a NUN but not a SEXY NUN.
Sorry, lamesters. Sexy outfits on Haloween, or any day, are fun, fun, fun!

Creativity wins out over storebought fantasy/club wear on Oct 31, but hey, who doesn't like a little T&A?

If you don't, you're a bore and you should stay home. Or you have some sort of other problem that prevents you from putting on something skanky and having a little fun.
Attention whoring is unattractive no matter how you try to dress it up as a feminist display of empowerment.

Of course, you're always free to do all sorts of unattractive, boorish things -- just like we're free to call you out for it.
Not all straight people hate you, so stop GENERALIZING straight people as GAY HATIN.
I'm straight, and I love Pride. I think it's wonderful.
Lots of straight people do!! I go every year to show my support (and see the sexy trojan soldiers. mm).
Standing ovation!
I've walked thru some creepy areas in not much...I've never been 'afraid' like one woman wrote. You could be mistaken and if you were stalked, it was probably your wallet they were after. The way you write you're actually playing into the old 'she was asking for it' song and dance. Egad.
Yes, men, show us your abs and pecs - even if you think they're not much.
I agree with comment #96, attention whoring is always unattractive. I used to work in an office with two skanks who thought that braying at the top of their lungs while cavorting around with their muffin tops hanging out was really cool.

Don't miss the job, certainly don't miss the skanks.
Halloween is over and I don't know how many will care, but a guy can have a sexy costume by dressing up as pretty much any character Johnny Depp has ever played.