For college students, Halloween is no longer about who can get the most candy trick-or-treating – it’s about who shows the most skin. Despite temperatures beginning to drop as Autumn sets in, young women in Keene could be seen walking around Keene in what seemed like less clothing than ever before.
Seven Keene State College students spoke up on the pressure to be sexy, where it comes from and how it affects them.
KSC senior Katherine Scott said that as she’s gone through college, the pressure to be sexy has decreased.
“When I was a [first-year], I felt more of a pressure to be sexy. I felt this pressure because this was a new place with new people. I occasionally feel this pressure still when dressing up for events, but this is less frequent than a few years ago,” Scott said.
She continued, “I think that KSC is a lot like other colleges, where being sexy is considered a valued trait, and that has an influence on the costumes that women choose to wear for Halloween. I personally feel like society has a distorted view of what sexy is or what it should be. Someone that is caring and smart should be what we consider to be sexy.”
Scott said that she’s noticed women’s costumes for sale are either provocative or frumpy, and there’s not usually much of an in between.
Scott said, “I don’t like these choices; I would much rather make my own costume.”
Scott added that this year for Halloween, she wore a Coca-Cola t-shirt and her boyfriend wore a Captain Morgan t-shirt.
“It was a cheap way for us to do Halloween and still have fun dressing up. It didn’t have anything to do with sex appeal,” Scott said.
Rachel Belcher, a sophomore at KSC, said that sex appeal didn’t influence what she chose to be for Halloween.
“I have three costumes for Halloween. One is a wine bag, a dad and I’m wearing pajamas one night. I chose these costumes because they were creative and cheap, rather than choosing something sexy,” Belcher said.
With that being said, Belcher believes that sex appeal does play a huge role in the average female student’s wardrobe, especially around the October holiday.
“I do think though for other girls, sex appeal has a lot to do with what costume they choose to wear. I’ve seen plenty of girls wearing virtually nothing as costumes. I don’t necessarily agree with this culture, but if someone chooses to wear a sexy costume and feel confident, then good for them,” Belcher said. “I don’t think that everyone should have to feel pressured to dress sexy for Halloween though.”
Belcher said that while the pressure to be sexy doesn’t directly affect her, it affects many others, which bothers her.
Belcher said, “Halloween should not be sexualized. Instead, it should be a night to dress up however you want and not have to worry about how much skin you are or aren’t showing.”
KSC junior Savannah Dube said that it has become the norm for young women to wear revealing costumes for Halloween.
“An employee asked what I was being for Halloween and when I said a pumpkin, she gave me a weird look. So I added that I was going to be a slutty pumpkin and the employee’s reaction changed entirely to being approving of the costume,” Dube said.
The pressure to be sexy is very present around Halloween, Dube said, noting that many “girls are freezing their butts off in stilettos, shorts that look more like underwear than shorts and the smallest shirts you’ve ever seen. Girls purposefully purchase items they would never wear in public to wear on Halloween night. The culture is one that is to be expected of college-aged females, so I’m not really surprised.”
Dube added the disclaimer, “I sort of enjoy it since I don’t have anything against girls dressing up to feel attractive.”
When it comes to costume choices at Halloween stores, Dube admitted that she was a little disappointed.
Dube said, “Guys have all the funny and joke costumes. It’s almost as if females are supposed to dress sexy and males are supposed to wear a gag costume… It would be nice if they had funny, non-sexy costumes for females. It’s almost impossible to find a costume if you were going to a kid-friendly gathering.”
KSC senior Karlie Marrs said that while she doesn’t necessarily feel a pressure to be sexy, she believes that appearance is very important in today’s society.
Marrs said, “We base self-efficacy on whether or not we are appealing to others rather than if we feel appealing to ourselves. I often feel that I must ‘be sexy’ when I am trying to impress a guy, or want to be noticed for an accomplishment that a pantsuit might not draw attention.”
While Marrs believes that these pressures come from everywhere, she thinks that the media is one of the top contributors.
“There are constant commercials of weight loss programs, beauty products [and] lingerie advertisements showcasing what the ideal beautiful woman should look like. Because of this pressure to look a certain way, in my opinion, girls are starting to lack self-respect, exposing themselves to fit this criteria that is displayed everywhere,” Marrs explained.
Marrs added, “Guys play a part in this pressure as well because faithfulness is almost nonexistent. In both genders, we feel insecure within ourselves that we look for other companions to fill a void.”
Emma Coffey, a KSC sophomore, added, “I feel like the pressure to be sexy today comes from the media. We, as females, are under this predisposition that we must look sexy in certain situations because that [is] what we grew up learning. Halloween especially proves this right as costumes targeted towards females rarely can be found covering over 75 percent of our body.”
KSC senior Lydia Randall said that she thinks the whole idea of Halloween has been taken over, and that it has turned into a holiday solely for young women to dress sexy.
“I really like the idea of being creative and showing your own originality, but at the same time it has been blown out of proportion,” Randall said.
“I feel that girls at college do feel this pressure to look a certain way and show sex appeal. For example, different bars or parties even give a prize for the sexiest costume. I think this culture has become worse and worse, but it is hard to create a new culture when the media is a certain way.”
As a young woman in college, Randall said that there is an overwhelming pressure for her cohort to have some sort of sex appeal.
“I feel as a girl in college, there is always a pressure to present yourself in a sexy way. Covering yourself up is not the norm, especially in the bar scenes. The pressure to be sexy I feel comes from the ‘going out’ scene in college, not so much [the] everyday walking to class scene,” Randall explained.
With that being said, Randall said that she personally doesn’t feel pressure to dress any certain way.
“I do dress and present myself in a way that represents [me] and how I want to dress,” Randall explained. “That might mean one night I wear a long sleeve top and jeans or one night I will wear shorts and a crop top.”
Randall said that she is frustrated by the choices that costume stores have for young women, and in general, they are usually sexual and sexist. Randall said, “All of the costumes are sexual and very sexist toward women in general.”
KSC senior Samantha Brown agrees with Randall, but added that sexy costumes don’t surprise her anymore.
“I am just so used to it by now,” Brown said, joking that she probably wouldn’t bat an eye if she saw a “sexy Donald Trump” walking around this Halloween.
Brown added that she is sad that this has become the norm.
“I hope that the individuals wearing these costumes aren’t doing it for the wrong reasons,” Brown said. “When making a sexy costume, the only aspect that makes it this way is by just wearing minimal costume. Showing skin has always been [a girl’s] go-to for a sexy Halloween costume.”
This Halloween, Brown dressed up as a cat, as she has done for the last several years.
“For me, sex appeal does not have anything to do with it, but I do feel that sex appeal is a huge influence in a lot of the women’s costumes. Every costume you see, there is always a sexier version of it,” Brown said.
Brown said that she believes one of the main issues with Halloween is that young women are letting social pressures determine how revealing their costumes are.
“With having so many women today experiencing low self-esteem, I don’t believe that these women are wearing costumes that are making them feel strong and beautiful,” Brown said. “Personally, these pressures make me question my self-esteem and the physical aspect of who I see when I look in the mirror.”
In spite of all the self-esteem issues Brown thinks underlie the pressure to be sexy around Halloween, Brown said that she is sure of one thing: “I am thankful to have wonderful friends who love me for who I am.”
Jill Giambruno can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org