Sexualizing Scary: How Our Childhood Nightmares Become a Male Fantasy

Sexualizing Scary: How Our Childhood Nightmares Become a Male Fantasy

Well, it’s almost Halloween again, so you’d better get to choosing your costume! If you’re male, you can be whatever you want, if you’re female, you can be almost whatever you want – as long as it’s sexy – and if you’re non-binary, well, good luck with that!

The gender disparity in commercially produced Halloween costumes is severe. Men have many options, and women have most of these options, too. However, those costumes marketed to women are often only a sexualized version of their male counterpart. Be it a sexy sailor, sexy cop, or a sexy shark, there’s a multitude of options. There’s even sexy Indian, if you want an added dash of racism in your costume!

But let’s be clear with this – the problem is not women who want to dress up in a sexy costume for Halloween. The problem is that virtually every costume marketed towards women is designed to sexualize them. And this sexualizing starts at an alarmingly young age.
Let’s say a tween girl wants to dress as a cop for Halloween, for whatever reason. If she doesn’t want to wear a near skin-tight shirt and a miniskirt, she’ll have to make or at least assemble her own costume.

Now, this is October in Canada. Halloween night isn’t exactly goi ng to be warm. Yet short skirts and fishnet stockings are abundant in the women’s section of Halloween stores. Who cares if she gets frostbite, as long as you can see her legs.

However, sexualization is not the only issue when it comes to gender in the costume industry. From the time they are babies, the industry enforces a strict gender binary on children. In the average Halloween flyer, male toddlers are shown modeling as dinosaurs, pirates, and tigers, while girls dress as poodles and fuzzy pink monsters. Virtually every costume that does not have a skirt and is not pink is specifically aimed at boys, leaving girls and non-binary people who prefer androgynous dress… where?

This binary is still harshly visible in costumes for older children. Girls are princesses; boys are superheroes; all of those usual things we get from mainstream media. Furthermore, feminine costumes are marketed as cute and sweet, while the scary and creepy costumes are clearly intended for boys.

That’s not to say that someone couldn’t wear a costume marketed towards a different gender. On the contrary, this is what many feminine presenting men, masculine presenting women, and all non-binary people are forced to do every year. At least, if they want to buy their costume they are

One such individual is Gillian Smith, who has been making her own costumes for several years now to avoid the gendered Halloween industry.
“The problem is that there wasn’t so much variety,” she says. “The problem is that everything was pink and sparkly, and I don’t like pink and sparkly, so I just made my own.”

Of course, not everyone has the ability or funds to make their own costume, so picking up a cheap one at a Halloween store may be their only option. Value Village promotes mixing new and used costume parts to make your own creative costume, but some might not want to support Value Village, which has its own share of sexualized, racist, and ablest costumes for sale. Fear not, though, there are alternatives.

If you’re searching for a cheap, non-sexualized costume that you can feel good about buying, try looking for costume pieces at a local or charity-run thrift store. Some of these include the Share Thrift Store at 581 Gaston Avenue, the Salvation Army at 200 Rutland Road South, and the Helping Hands Store at 259 Leon Avenue. It may be a bit harder to find a complete costume, but you’ll be supporting charities and taking business from sexist mainstream Halloween stores, and what’s better than that?

In conclusion, there may be more options for an original Halloween costume than one might think. But if you do want to dress as a sexy vampire this Halloween, hey, who has the right to stop you? As long as you’re comfortable with the costume you choose, and it’s not offensive to marginalized groups, the sky’s the limit.

Now get out there, and have a great Halloween!