Slut Shaming—Halloween Costume Edition

As Halloween has come and gone, the unfortunate and inevitable slut-shaming may have occurred to many of us women this past Halloweekend. Enjoying Halloween by showing a bit of skin and feeling confident in a costume, as a woman, seems to be something society is quite upset about and doesn’t approve of by any stretch of the imagination. For anyone new to the concept of slut shaming, below is a little overview.

Slut-Shaming 

Slut-shaming involves condemning women for their transgression of accepted norms of sexual demeanor, scolding them for behavior, attire or desires that are more sexual than society finds acceptable.

Slut-shaming rarely happens to heterosexual men. Examples of slut-shaming include being criticized or punished for violating dress code policies by dressing in perceived sexually provocative ways, requesting access to birth control, having premarital, casual, and/or promiscuous sex, engaging in prostitution, or being victim blamed for being raped or otherwise sexual assault.

The severity of slut-shaming can vary; however, at the end of the day it’s wrong to slut-shame anyone, no matter their identifying gender or lifestyle choices.

My Experience 

I’m sure you will be able to think of a costume or even outfit someone has worn to Ale or Stages, where you’ve heard someone pass judgment; perhaps they even used the dreaded word S-L-U-T word.

This past weekend I participated in going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show (screened every Halloween), which is an interactive, audience-focused movie screening. I’ve gone to Rocky Horror for 3 out of the 4 years I’ve been at Queen’s and it has become an event I look forward to every year. In my mind, I’ve made it a holiday. I get together with my best friends; we dress up, sing and dance at the premier and have a kick-ass time. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar familiar with Rocky Horror, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a parody tribute to the science fiction and horror movies of the 1930’s to the early 1960’s. It’s a cross between a parody horror movie and a musical which is quite the combination, but it’s one of the most unique and comical movies I’ve ever experienced. 

The story follows a young, newly engaged couple whose car breaks down in the rain near a castle where they look for a telephone to call for help. The castle is occupied by strangers in flamboyant costumes celebrating an annual convention. The couple discovers the owner of the castle is Dr. Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist who is actually an alien transvestite who creates a living muscle man in his laboratory. The couple is seduced separately by the mad scientist and is eventually released from the castle after a whirlwind of horrors. It sounds pretty wacky and believe me it is. 

Rocky Horror has also had a profound effect on the LGBTQ+ community, as members of the LGBTQ+ community make up a large part of the Rocky Horror fan cult identifying with sexual liberation and androgyny.

In the past few years I’ve dressed up as different characters in the film but for my last year at Queen’s, and my final Rocky, I thought I would go out with a bang. I decided to dress us as the star of the film Dr. Frank N. Furter who -yes you read that correctly above- is an alien transvestite. In the film Frank is almost always wearing fishnet tights, a corset, or some form of minimal clothing. He is most often seen in this get up throughout the film.

I decided to replicate this look as my costume. I knew I had endless support from my female friends coming to the premier with me, however not everyone had the same reaction. I walked out in my costume, and to my surprise one of my platonic male friends, who I’ve known since first year, wasn’t expecting my costume choice. He seemed quite shocked, saying it was “a lot to take in.” Although he didn’t slut-shame me in any way, shape or form, it wasn’t a reaction that I was expecting. I’m not completely sure what kind of response I was going to get, but the reaction surely would’ve been different if I came out in a more “wholesome” costume. I did understand what he meant by its “a lot to take in,” my costume had a shock factor. The way I presented myself had an extremely high shock factor, I was getting smiles and praise on my costume from my friends, both male and female, however I know the excitement simply came from looking outside the norm in public. 

Even my own mother had a high shock factor reaction, however it was nowhere near as positive compared to my peers. She knew I was going to see Rocky Horror and that I was dressing up like Frank N. Furter, yet she still was uneasy about my costume choice. We live in the age of social media, so I took to social media with my friends to document some of my night. My mom saw my post and urged me to take it down

 (Female friend’s reaction to my post)  

(My mother’s reaction to my post)

From an endlessly loving and concerned motherly perspective and a woman that works in human resources, I can understand her reaction solely because it comes from a protective place. She had her HR hat on and later told me over the phone “employers will not like to see something like that on your social media.” I love her to death, but was I just shamed a little bit? I’ve noticed that individuals of my mother’s vintage are far less liberal as to what should and shouldn’t be posted on social media compared to my generation. In my mother’s youth a picture of someone in lingerie would’ve been a big deal, however we live in a world where there is a “free the nip” movement for crying out loud! The feminist movement has encouraged the women of my generation to embrace a little nudity here and there because it is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Despite this, I already felt a little nervous about being half-naked and in a way I slut-shamed myself. I almost felt like I was doing something wrong, which ISN’T a healthy mentality to have! But having others around me, including my own mother questioning my choices tainted my Rocky experience this year. Funny enough I can wear a bikini to the beach or the pier, which covers far less skin and I won’t be slut-shamed, so why can’t I wear a corset and fishnets for a Halloween costume? Taking a picture and posting it to social media, whether it be in a tiny bikini or a corset shouldn’t deem someone as a slut. The act of posting a picture with this shock factor is often viewed as attention seeking or promiscuous, therefore you will be slut shamed.

The female body, and any body for that matter, is striking and there is nothing slutty or wrong about celebrating its beauty. I encourage you all to think before you speak or act when passing judgment about someone’s appearance or lifestyle choices. We have been brought up in a society where nudity, for women especially, is deemed slutty and it is something to be ashamed of. Our generation needs to take back the word slut and repurpose it to be used in a positive light that promotes freedom and body positivity.