I think it was Voltaire who once said "Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it." Or maybe it was a Mean Girls quote. There's no denying that typical Halloween costumes are focused on showing a lot of skin.
People wear costumes that make them feel good, or cool, or confident, and dressing up is a fun opportunity to go all out and wear something you wouldn't normally wear. Often, this translates to something skimpy or daring, just as it can translate to wearing something made entirely from cardboard boxes and felt.
The important thing is that "dressing up like a total slut" doesn't mean anything. At all. Clothes do not define whether a person is promiscuous. Wearing a "sexy policewoman" costume for one night in October does not reflect a person's level of sexual activity.
Another concern that a lot of people bring up at this time of year is the sexualisation of young children through Halloween costumes and - so they say - society's expectation that every female dress up in a sexy costume. As someone who has literally never felt outside pressure or expectation to dress in something sexier perhaps I'm being naïve, but I think this issue is blown out of proportion by the media, which focuses almost exclusively on the USA. Yes, there are some questionable children's costumes available which involve latex or corsetry, but I have personally never seen a British child wearing anything even remotely sexy at Halloween. Again, though, there is no link between the costume and the person wearing it - a child wearing a sexualised costume does not mean that child wants to have sex with anybody.
If any problems arise from wearing a sexy costume, it is not the fault of the wearer. Catcalls and unwanted physical contact are, of course, more likely to occur when women dress up, but as anyone who has been made to feel uncomfortable while wearing something decidedly unsexy can attest - some men just seem to think their behaviour is acceptable. It is not an issue of women who go out wearing negligées, it is an issue of misogyny and men who have no idea how to treat women, and not an issue we can stop by wearing boiler suits and hard hats every time we dress up.
If you want to dress up as a sexy nurse, or a sexy doughnut, or a sexy caterpillar, or just a regular unsexy caterpillar, I don't see a problem. Go forth and enjoy your night.
This was originally posted on Epigram as part of a debate on sexy Halloween costumes