Karen Smith of “Mean Girls” (the musical, of course), a character of few intelligent moments, did have one philosophy I try to live by. Halloween is the best time to dress as slutty as possible.
I love dressing up for Halloween. It allows me to shamelessly indulge in either of my two most primal desires: looking scary, and looking sexy. I have no defense. I love to be the center of both shock and awe.
This doesn’t necessarily mean I like being objectified. In any situation where I don’t control that perception, knowing I’m being looked at with hungry intent is demoralizing and creepy. But if I’m putting myself in the spotlight, nothing feels better than having that recognition. Halloween is the perfect outlet for seeking attention.
You can dress sexy, terrifying, stupid, funny — however you want — and still receive praise in a valid way. Our heteronormative society tends to encourage that women be the center of that attention, and that they should seek it out from straight cis men.
But…what if we objectified men instead?
I can certainly appreciate a dude in a crop top. Who doesn’t like a little navel? I want to see a 6-foot plus hulk of a man (the last person on earth you could imaging donning such a costume) wearing a too-small shirt and a crappy pair of ears for the sake of being a sexy cat. It sounds ridiculous, but I bet you could name at least three female friends who are planning on going as sexy generic for every Halloweekend party. Men should be held to the same standard. Impress me with your showy, probably too skimpy to keep you warm outfit for one blissful night.
Sadly, we’re far from such a utopia. Some men’s avoidance of revealing clothes is likely related to a conflation of male sexiness with being effeminate or gay. Queer spaces have often encouraged men to dress creatively and enjoyably, and tofeel comfortable in their bodies. These men, however, are usually LGBTQ+ and not your typical frat bro, for whom such spaces are virtually non-existent.
So how do we promote straight, cisgender male sexiness in straight, cisgender male spaces? Praise men for being physically vulnerable. If they like it, hopefully they’ll continue to show off their best assets. If not, it’ll teach men to check themselves when interacting with women to avoid making others feel like a sex object. It’s not about objectifying people beyond their comfort levels. It’s about allowing people of all bodies and genders to feel comfortable and sexy on their own terms — something straight cis men, as the conventions currently stand, cannot do.
We should be less concerned with who’s wearing what and why. Satisfaction in the self can only come from experimentation and being allowed to express your style the way you want to. Feeling accepted is a basic psychological need. By forcing women into the box of sexy and men into the box of boring, we limit people’s ability to explore these sides of themselves. So, use Halloween as an opportunity to explore a new version of yourself, break norms, and wear that crop top!