A wise character in Mean Girls once said: “In girl world, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” These words will forever be associated with the modern expectations of a proper Halloween costume. Add the words “sexy” or “adult” to just about anything and, if you’re a girl, your Halloween costume is good to go.
The question is, does this rule ever apply to male costumes? More importantly, should it apply to male costumes? GQ recently explored this subject in an online article titled “Slutty Halloween Costumes … For Dudes.” The costumes, however, were sorely disappointing, in my opinion. Then again, my overactive imagination immediately pictured a photo shoot of GQ models going to door to door in barely any clothing. No such luck.
As one snide commenter pointed out, maybe GQ should stick to fashion and avoid humor altogether, since this article was not even giggle-inducing. It does not take a lot of thought to come up with a half-a–ed Breaking Bad costume. Don’t even get me started on the sexy Vladimir Putin costume — one well-wrapped rainbow towel is not enough to make that idea ironic or appealing. To be honest, I didn’t even recognize two of the costumes included.
Forgive me if I’m wrong, but the word slutty, when used near the end of October, entails a costume that breaks the rules of acceptable clothing in a fun, sexy way. It takes some planning to make yourself into a sexy zombie, or even to reappropriate a childhood staple, such as a Disney princess, into a sultry vixen. Not entirely original, but they still get the job done.
On the other hand, the costumes included in the GQ article are not sexy. The Beetlejuice meets flamboyant referee outfit that Robin Thicke wore during his VMAs performance did not do him any favors, so what makes it a good idea for anyone else to wear? The so-called slutty male costumes from the GQ article were, in short, truly uninspired. There is a subtle genius behind some girls’ ability to take a cuddly woodland creature and turn it into a sex symbol.
Yes, the article is obviously meant to be a satire of today’s Halloween culture; it pokes fun at American male sexuality and our expectation of female attire on Halloween. In this respect, the article is also pretty revealing. Why is the idea of a guy in a skimpy costume something to be made fun of and not an idea that is considered legitimate and even, by a further stretch, acceptable on this holiday?
As children, Halloween costumes are either store-bought or homemade, but, boy or girl, they are meant to be cute. Even the “scary” costumes are endearing in their own devilish charm. With every year, however, the bar is raised. Girls are expected to show off their bodies and by the time they reach high school, female Halloween costumes are an excuse to bare skin and attract the attention of others.
But what of male costumes? There’s always the token goofball who dresses up as a girl or the muscled jock who finds a costume that requires him to be shirtless, but these are the exceptions rather than the norm for guy attire. Are we, as a culture, really that uncomfortable with the concept of male sexuality?
Slutty girl costumes are a trend that reappears every year, without fail. And with every year the costumes get more and more outrageous. Yet, for some reason, it is not also a mainstream trend for guys to show off their bodies as much as possible. Outside of the gay scene, which admittedly thrives in a city such as Los Angeles, most men do not view Halloween as a chance to parade their bodies around for everyone to see.
This modest male behavior seems to be an attribute specific to humans. In the animal kingdom, some members of the male species are more prized than their female counterparts for their extravagant garb. Most, in fact, don’t even restrict themselves to one night of the year. Take the peacock, for example. That multicolored plumage and fancy head crest certainly do not belong to girl peahens. Likewise, a lion’s mane is a display of sexual maturity and overall testosterone levels. Lady lions are left to admire the male’s mane like a model in a Pantene commercial.
Returning to the world of humans, it becomes clear that there is a gaping discrepancy between male and female human presentation, especially on Halloween. The lack of male exploitation in Halloween costumes can’t be due to an absence of public desire; the endless number of Tumblrs dedicated to shirtless leading men proves otherwise.
Male sexuality, as viewed by most global cultures, adheres to a very rigid definition. Though human sexual identity is increasingly viewed with the fluidity it deserves, progress with this concept is slow, even among the more accepting societies of the world. Perhaps it is an objectification issue or a pervading sense of machismo in modern society. The male body is often employed as a tool of humor in Hollywood culture, whereas the female physique is more commonly displayed as an object of desire.
Whatever the reason, it remains a fact that on Halloween, girls are expected to dress scandalously while guys can dress however they want. The slutty costume trend has stuck around for longer than some of USC’s students have been alive, which is impressive staying power compared to other fashion trends. Maybe someday it will feel completely normal to see an Adult Little Red Riding Dude costume sitting on a shelf next to Adult Little Red Riding Hood.
In the meantime, head down to Santa Monica Boulevard on Halloween if you’re really feeling deprived of some man candy. You won’t even have to say trick or treat.
Nick Cimarusti is a senior majoring in English literature. His column “#trending” runs Wednesdays.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCimarusti