Photograph by Paige Cody via Unsplash
As we slowly outgrow trick or treating and 8pm curfews, and lean into costume parties and bar nights, the spookiness of Halloween fades from haunted houses into our safety. Ghost stories become horror stories of what happened to a friend, or classmate. RAIIN estimates that 1 in 5 women on a college campus will experience sexual violence. Sexual assault affects everyone, and is something we need to be talking about. I’m sure we are all used to the Halloween trope, put so eloquently in Mean Girls: “Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.”, but is the hypersexualization of young women on Halloween harmful?
We no longer have mom or dad handing us the turtleneck under our costumes, leaving college students with the freedom to wear what they feel confident in. I am relieved to live through more progressive Halloweens where men and women are allowed to dress as scary or scandalous as they wish, but issues with consent become increasingly concerning around Halloween. It is disheartening to watch my friends get ready for their night out, reminding each other to put spare lipgloss and pepper spray in their bags. Sometimes it can feels like sexual assault is inevitible on a night out. Brushing stray hands off of arms and hips, covering drinks and giving each other heads ups in bars, all too normal.
Using the term ‘slutty’ as a synonymous descriptor for a sexy costume reinforces the idea that a woman’s choice to wear less clothing, or more revealing clothing, makes her easy, or promiscuous. Although ‘slut’ is becoming a reclaimed word for women, slut shaming is still alive and thriving. No item of clothing gives consent for others to touch, or harass them. The rules of consent do not waiver, or change, just because someone is dressed as a fairy or superhero.
Colorado State University put out a statement saying “Our university Victim’s Assistance Team and Women and Gender Advocacy Center report that they learn of more sexual assaults than usual occurring during the week of Halloween. National statistics prove that more than 50 percent of all college sexual assaults occur in the fall… Our campus statistics show that Halloween weekend accounts for 5 – 7 percent of all cases that go through our Student Conduct System.”
Spooky season is meant to be fun and lighthearted. Fall is so many people’s favorite season, with pumpkin patch trips, leaves changing color, and movie nights. We should all be free to express ourselves as openly and creatively as we wish, without the fear of sexual violence.
Consent needs to be clear, verbal, and sober. Even on days like Halloween, filled with costumes and candy and lowered inhibitions, consent remains the same. No matter your outfit, no matter the day: no means no.
Emily Hart is a fourth-year English major. EH943163@wcupa.edu