Your Source for Feminist Discourse

Sluts on Halloween: The Virgin-Whore Dichotomy

Virgin-whore dichotomy:  It’s an old, run-of-the-mill, jargon-y term used quite frequently among feminists with intense lexicons.  It’s defined pretty well in Stephanie Stroud’s post on cultural stereotypes on Miss Representation:  “The virgin-whore dichotomy…details that women fit neatly into the role of either an innocentpassive, selfless good girl or a hedonistic, morally-void, sensual bad girl. Unsurprisingly, these roles do not reflect reality, nor do they provide a sustainable framework from which we can appreciate the immensely nuanced lives of women.”

Whelp, this run-of-the-mill buzzword is about to get a healthy dose of cultural context.  You see, Halloween is upon us, and if you’re like me, you understand that the pressure to find the perfect costume is a pursuit done with near-religious fervor.  You also probably understand that Sluts on Halloween has become something of a cultural expectation for grown-up trick or treaters.  To what extent this bit of trivia affects your costume choice will vary from woman to woman, but I’ve always been of the opinion that a “sexy sailor” never hurt anyone.images (1)

What does hurt, though, is perusing a Halloween site, only to find a disturbing set of messages. While on the hunt for a Princess Leia hairdo tutorial, I stumbled upon just the sort of thing that makes a feminist’s blood boil.  Three side-by-side (-by-side?) titles for Halloween articles read as follows:

1.  Say No to Slutty: 10 Creative Women’s Costume Ideas That Won’t Sacrifice Your Self-Respect

2.  10 Awesome Non-Sexy Halloween Costume Ideas for Women

3.  (For Men):  10 Costumes That Will Get You Laid at Your Next Halloween Party

….WHAT?!  So, here’s what I’m gathering:

a. To dress “slutty” (read:  sexy) is to inherently forfeit your self-respect

b. Dressing not-sexy is better…because it’s every girl’s dream to dress as a human Pinterest board for Halloween!

c. While the goal for women is to maintain their “dignity”, which is apparently equated with dressing like the Flying Nun, men should strive to dress like Hugh Heffner or Robin Thicke, in order to get “sluts”.  Wait, but isn’t being a “slut” wrong?  So then why are men encouraged to go after them?  And then why these girls slut-shamed?  WHY AM I SO CONFUSED I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

hey there, hot stuff...

hey there, hot stuff…

Well, it’s simple ladies!  Don’t dress like a “slut”, because it means you have no dignity.  So cover yourself from head to toe, because that’s the only way to be respectable.  But men, it’s totally fine for you to seek out “sluts”, and to strategize how to maximize your “getting laid” potential.  Ladies, on the other hand… better tighten your chastity belts!

Look, here’s the moral of the story:  Halloween is right around the corner, and it comes once a year.  Wear whatever the HELL you want—within reason (Check out El Feministo’s awesome post on fostering a more culturally-aware Halloween if you need further reference).  To equate one’s costume choice with her level of self-respect is to strip a woman of her agency.  And to call her a slut just because she wants to wear a short dress?  Shame on you.  Plus, what kind of hypocrite juxtaposes an article telling women to maintain their dignity, with one telling men how to maximize their fuckability?

In its simplest form, this Halloween site embodied a microcosm of our society:  the reality of the virgin-whore dichotomy.  If you have any self-respect, you’ll cover yourself from head to toe, and avoid being a shameless slut (middle-grounds need not apply).  Our society will gladly encumber our women with this sexual double-bind, all the while empowering our men’s sexuality—even encouraging them to seek out their sexual expression, with no strings (read:  insults) attached.

As a disclaimer, of course, it’s important to mention the fact the the Halloween costume industry produces a skewed percentage of “sexy” costumes versus, well, just “costumes.”  While I recognize that this constrains the choices available for the average costume shopper, I submit that this shouldn’t provide context for slut-shaming the women who DO buy these costumes.  Furthermore, there seems to be a prevailing notion that there is no “in-between”, and dressing sexy comes at the cost of a woman’s self-respect.  These facts are deeply concerning.  To me, it signals that  the way we communicate these ideas about what a woman wears and what this means about her character, her sexuality, and her personhood, needs to be rebranded.

What are your thoughts on this matter?  Have you ever been judged or “called out” because of your costume choice?  Do you come into contact with the virgin-whore dichotomy in other instances?

3 Responses to “Sluts on Halloween: The Virgin-Whore Dichotomy”

  1. hearmeroar12

    It took me awhile to comment on this post, but I wanted to say, “Hell yes to this!” I feel like women should be able to wear whatever the hell they want. Dressing provocatively doesn’t mean that you don’t still have self-respect…it just means that you can use clothes to say whatever you want about yourself. If you’re feeling sexy on Halloween night, then dress sexy. If you are feeling less sexy, then wear a damn sheet and go as a ghost if you want. Who cares?! And I like the “Sluts on Halloween” link. Jenna Marbles really hits the nail on the head with that. Sluts can be sluts…what’s wrong with it? No one should be able to say anything about a woman’s sexuality, except for herself.

    Reply
  2. bauerjc

    I agree that the slut-shaming has gone over the top. However, I reserve my right to eye roll at the selection of costumes available to women in costume shops. Still, at the end of the day, I think the best costumes are those that are creative and find a way to depict something without just defaulting to a regular idea/persona-sexed up. The piece of this post that I struggle with is the reinforced dichotomy between slut and prude — I think there’s a lot in between sexy sailor and flying nun that does encourage agency, voice, self-respect, and self-expression. Happy Halloween!

    Reply
    • ladychaotica21

      I appreciate this insight. I agree with you that there is a lot in between the two extremes that encourage agency. I struggle with a concrete stance here, though, because I feel that if a woman makes the conscious decision to reaffirm the norm and wear something “slutty”, it borders on slut shaming for me to judge her for it. On the other hand, though, is this good for feminism? I think this is where constrained choice comes in and makes things a little muddled. It’s a tough issue, to be sure, and I think that the expectation of women wearing a revealing costume needs to change. Perhaps if we can advocate for a more diverse range of costume choices, we can really begin to have an effective conversation on agency (: Hope you had a great Halloween!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: