In many parts of the Western world, Halloween (for adult women, and increasingly for girls too) has morphed into an opportunity or imperative to dress sexy. These costumes for women and girls are par for the course, where men usually go for scary, funny, or creative. Brandi H., however, found a link to “sexy costumes for men” at msn.com that claims “There are sexy options for men, too.”
Let’s take a look. While women’s sexy costumes are typically decidedly sexy (tight with lots of exposed skin), these men’s “sexy” costumes are simply suggestive. In two cases, they “suggest” that men should be sexually serviced or played with (the “breathalyzer” and the “ring toss”):
In a third, the joke is that he is a perfect candidate for casual sex (the “one night stand”):
In a fourth, the costume is simply sexy because it’s related to (stereotypes) about prostitution (the “hustler”):
So, when women go sexy for Halloween, it usually means being seen as a sex object for others. When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced, have access to one night stands, or being in charge of and profiting from women’s bodies. A different type of “sexy” entirely.
The other two costumes are simply non-sensical in context. I suppose policemen (and men in uniform in general) are supposed to be sexy in American culture. And I guess bunnies are related to Playboy bunnies? But the costume certainly misses the mark.
Cross-posted at Ms.; originally posted in 2010.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
NFQ — October 28, 2010
Your Nemo link seems to go to a post from the future...?
Ricky — October 28, 2010
Cracked.com has an excellent article related this subject. The men's costumes are near the end of the article.
The sexy male nurse is actually a typical slutty costume intended for men.
Leslie — October 28, 2010
I was poking around a Halloween costume site and became even more depressed when I discovered that even the women's costumes that weren't tagged "sexy" had descriptions that made it clear that their aim was attractiveness. ("A blazingly beautiful bloodsucker!" for a vampire costume; "a gorgeous gown for a classy Queen of the Nile" for a Cleopatra costume.)
Also, given my anthropologist-conscience about the harm in appropriation of other cultures' forms of dress, etc., I've decided to go the safest route possible. I'm going to be my future self for Halloween, aka a kooky cultural anthropologist. (This costume is also excellently non-sexual. I'm making myself look older and wearing comfortable, flowing clothes. I WIN, society!)
Hot Sauce — October 28, 2010
I hate hate hate HATE the Halloween costume industry. I don't have the time to make a costume, and I can't order a costume online because I have to try it one and see if it fits (I have...unusual proportions). But when I look around the stores, all I see if stuff like "Sexy Ninja Turtle" and "Sexy V (complete with no Guy Fawkes mask!)" Why can't I be a regular Ninja Turtle? The guy's version is too big for me. Or a non-sexy Snow White? Her dress didn't show her butt.
Of course, guys don't have much luck either. My boyfriend complains about the exact thing in this post. He doesn't want to be a giant penis or a priest with a boner.
Anyways, beyond that rant, I think there is actually a big market for a Halloween store that just makes non-sexy costumes. It's fine if someone wants to wear sexy costumes but it's not okay that sexy costumes are the ONLY choice. But I think a female Robin costume without a super low-cut top a tiny skirt or a murderous clown costume instead of a clown costume with a balloon penis would be pretty popular.
snail — October 28, 2010
This phenomenon seems to be an extension of the idea that women's bodies are sexual on their own, while men have to wear a costume that explicitly references a sexual act or innuendo to be sexualized. Valid point.
On the other hand, the way this is phrased bothers me--I am unhappy that this article calls Halloween "an opportunity or imperative to dress slutty." This is possibly an overreaction, but...I hate the word slutty. I know it probably wasn't intended this way, but it always feels like slut-shaming reaches a fever pitch at Halloween. People who call Halloween an "opportunity" to dress a certain way seem to mean that dressing that way on other days is disgusting, unacceptable, morally wrong, or an invitation for hatred or harassment.
So just to be totally clear:
People getting pressured to show more skin than they are comfortable with, or given fewer costume options because of their comfort level --> not cool
Adults wearing costumes, or any clothing, that they are comfortable with, enjoy wearing, and show more skin than you would like --> totally cool
Jihad Punk 77 — October 28, 2010
I used to love Halloween but now I f--king can't stand it anymore. Because of shit like this. Not to mention the racist costumes, too.
anon mouse — October 28, 2010
"And I guess bunnies are related to Playboy bunnies? But the costume certainly misses the mark."
An easter-bunny type suit "miscategorized" as sexy and none of the other commenters yet have mentioned furries? What has the world come to?!
tackdriver1956 — October 28, 2010
I wore an Einstein mask at Halloween for years.
What? Smart is sexy!
Andie — October 28, 2010
I'm a fan of home-made costumes (and I don't sew.. found object stuff, folks) and off-setting hyper-eroticism of the holiday with gore. Lots and lots of gore.
Jeremiah — October 28, 2010
(bit of comic relief)
Alana — October 28, 2010
I think there's two problems here.
1. The point this article is making, that women are often pressured or pushed by marketing to only be sexy.
2. Why is it that women are only allowed to "slut it up" on Halloween? One reason I love Halloween is that most of the time no one is going to judge me because I've decided to dress sexy. I dress sexy all year 'round, but I shouldn't have to have a special holiday to justify wearing what I want to. I own my sexuality. Why is there something wrong with that?
Virgin or Vamp. Same thing over and over.
Alana — October 28, 2010
There are. Not there is.
kunoichi — October 28, 2010
Topless Robot has their 15 Hottest Nerd Costumes for Guys.
Home made costumes are so much more creative.
Katie — October 28, 2010
Actually, none of these are sexy at all, they just involve the suggestion of sex. Especially weird is the ring toss--no woman could ever actually find that "sexy". It's just obvious. Also obvious is that these suggestions are clearly offered by a heteronormative man which is why they're so bizarre...the suggestions would be much different if they came from straight women who could (and would want to) construct the idea of what "sexy" means in men.
Chances are, in that case, their suggestions wouldn't translate into costumes because often women's conception of sexy has nothing to do with an object and much more to do with traits of a man or something specific the man does. Conversely, because men's take on "sexy" often involves some degree of sexual objectification, any outfit could become a costume if just made revealing and called "sexy."
But if women don't like the objectification, then they shouldn't practice it either...which is why Halloween is just stupid.
Syd — October 28, 2010
I've definitely seen 'sexy' costumes for men. However, they almost always have a non-sexy, more literal counterpart readily available.
My issue isn't the abundance of sexy costumes for women in and of itself. I'd totally, and have in the past, wear some of them. It's that women typically have two options: 'sexy fill-in-the-blank' (read: a minidress or booty short version of fill-in-the-blank) or 'less sexy, but still sexy, fill-in-the-blank' (read: probably a long dress with lots of corseting and a plunging neckline, and possibly only available in plus size). With men, if a guy wants to be a police officer, he can either wear a costume like pictured, or a tight sexy jumpsuit that shows off his junk. A woman? Her options are police blue minidress, or police blue booty shorts. And at least that makes sense. Someone linked to the Cracked article. Sexy house? That doesn't even have the remotest bit of logic. Houses can't be sexy, unlike nurses or policewomen. That costume isn't sexy. If someone is using it to attract sexual attention, I can't really imagine someone who found a HOUSE sexy is a reasonably desirable partner. It's like someone said 'GOD, there just aren't enough half-naked women out on Halloween. There must be a lady-niche we're missing. OH, we haven't made a costume for HOUSE FETISHISTS yet, this is clearly what was missing!' I don't even. I'm all for sexy costumes if someone wants to wear them, but we have THAT yet it's hard to find an angel costume that doesn't show your butt.
Just a tip for anyone upset over their inability to find more modest costumes for women: check thrift stores. One nearby here actually specializes in costumes year round, and has costumes for both men and women, with wide varieties of modesty, from to booty-short-corset-and-angel-wings types, to things with hoopskirts and necklines up to the chin, to silly costumes like hamburger or ninja turtle available in women's sizes. Thrift stores may also get in costumes that were hand-made or castoffs from theaters, which would be of better quality and not necessarily only created to look sexy.
Janey — October 29, 2010
(This costume is also excellently non-sexual. I’m making myself look older and wearing comfortable, flowing clothes. I WIN, society!)
In a VERY FEW years this comment should bite you in the ass for its ageist quality among other things!!!
Angela — February 21, 2011
Another article that gave exactly the opposite of what it promised. For the person who wrote this, a bunny rabbit is the last thing I would want to see a guy I'm dating dressed up as. Carrot accessory or no! Haha, jk.
Michael — March 7, 2011
Personally I wish things were more equal among how the sexes dress. Going to a nice club a guy will typically be required to wear a collard button up long sleeve shirt and sometimes a sport coat or even suit. The women can come in basically lingerie.
Now I love seeing women dressed up like this but I wish that men could dress in an equivalent manner (something masculine of course).
My wife and I love Halloween for the opportunity to flaunt it. I make my own costumes and I do like to show some skin. I take good care of myself and work hard to have a nice body, being able to show it off, is a good incentive for me to stay in shape. The reactions are mostly positive and encouraging with many women that make a point tell me they wish other men would have the courage to wear something as revealing as I am wearing.(I always make sure my costume is venue and crowd appropriate leaving some to the imagination) Besides when you are dancing and having a good time it is nice not sweating in a long sleeve shirt and coat. Why can't there be fashionable "cocktail clothing" for men that might be more on keel with a woman's cocktail dress?
My only complaint is that there are not more parties throughout the year that would allow to dress up or down.
I think people should dress how they want for Halloween: Scary, Sexy, Silly, whatever, I say just be respectful of others and have a good time.
Laura Lee — October 13, 2012
I'm not sure you searched right. I just googled "sexy halloween costume for man" and got shirtless firefighers, skin tight police outfits, a shirtless doctor, tarzan and Frank N. Furter from the Rocky Horror picture show. I didn't even have to go searching.
Happy Slut-O-Ween: The Hyper-Sexualisation & -Feminisation of Costumes for Women. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm — October 28, 2012
[...] Wade elaborates on the dearth of “sexy” male costumes in an article on Sociological Images. Not only that, but the “sexy” costumes that areavailable to men focus [...]
pduggie — October 28, 2013
I bet if you look for costumes for gay men, you find things that are the equivalent of all the female cheesecake sex-object costumes.
Lori Ann — October 29, 2013
That's the best they can do? Really? And at that age do they really need to "Dress Up" ...
pepe_br99 — November 3, 2013
"So, when women go sexy for Halloween, it usually means being seen as a sex object for others. When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced"
That's how it should be, what is the problem here?
Halloween Costume Ideas For Men - Live It Beautiful — October 3, 2016
[…] SOURCE […]
mccartytorres — February 20, 2022
I design my own costumes and enjoy exposing my skin. I take good care of myself and work hard to maintain a good body; being able to flaunt it is a good motivator for me to maintain my fitness. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging candy clicker, with many ladies expressing their want for more males to have the courage to wear something as revealing as I am. Plus, it's pleasant not to sweat in a long sleeve shirt and coat when you're dancing and having a good time.