Undressing the History of Sexy Halloween

By Amanda E.K.

Sexy fortune cookie. Kinky corn on the cob. Sexy mail-in ballot. These are all available Halloween costumes…that you’re probably about to google. 

Has anyone else noticed that Halloween has gotten, well, sexier over the years? My friend, Playlove Co-Founder and sex-positive events organizer, Sante Suffoletta, can attest that, in the 30 years that he’s been hosting events, there’s been an increase in sexual expressiveness as a Halloween staple.

When and why did this trend begin?

Halloween costumes haven’t been around all that long—just over 100 years—starting out as elegant, Victorian-style attire, or spooky costumes like ghosts and bats, to accompany an evening for adults to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do. In the 1920s, people dressed up in paper costumes, then after World War II, Halloween became a holiday for children and trick-or-treating. (Mickey and Minnie Mouse were popular costumes at the time.) 

It wasn’t until a parade in Greenwich Village in 1973 that Halloween costumes started sliding off the shoulders and slinking up the thighs of adults the world over. 

For this, we can thank the queer and kink community who emerged after the sexual revolution, especially drag queens, who not only dressed sexy, but in outlandish, over-the-top costumery that’d never been seen openly displayed on the streets. These queerdos of the recent past began to gather annually in big cities like New York, LA, and San Francisco to celebrate Halloween with elaborate parades of color and flash. The daring styles caught on to the straight community, and Halloween became a holiday not just for trick-or-treating children, but for trickster adults alike.

In the late 70s and into the 80s, the advent of slasher films, like the classic Halloween, shifted the holiday from having an aura of spookiness, to something much more visually dangerous. A key moment in the history of the sexualization of Halloween was goth queen Elvira’s appearance on a Coors Light commercial in 1986 in which she combined sexiness, spookiness, and booze to endorse a holiday that from that point forward would be synonymous with getting tipsy along with your trickery.

Newer still is the mass market sexy-costume-in-a-bag that you can find at any Spirit Halloween store—so common that it’s become a trend for girls as young as five years old, like my kindergarten student a few years ago who came to school on Halloween dressed as Nicki Minaj. (I’ll leave the gender stereotyping of store-bought costumes and sexualization of children for another conversation.) 

And when the 2004 movie Mean Girls by comedic icon Tina Fey hit theaters, it was then that Halloween was unofficially dubbed “Slutoween.” 

In the movie, Cady Heron (played by Lindsay Lohan) quickly discovers at her first high school Halloween bash that “Halloween is the one night of the year when you can dress like a slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” 

“One night” being the key phrase. Halloween is finite. It is permission to try on a new self—a secret self. It is permission to fake an extra dose of self-confidence that you didn’t feel the day before, when dressing as a cleavage-baring cookie didn’t seem as appropriate or socially acceptable. And who knows? Maybe that boost of confidence you get on October 31st will carry into November and inspire you to try newer, bolder activities, like buying a new sex toy to try that thing you’ve been wanting to try, or attending your first sex party. As we as a culture become more sexually expressive, it helps to have communities like Playlove to feel safe being yourself in. 

Playlove is a place for not only finding a date for Halloween, but for finding that date who will match your kinky corn cob costume with a kinky stick of butter.

Just don’t forget to wear your mask. (So many kinky options with that accessory alone!)

For me, as I get more comfortable with my gender-fluid identity, I’m feeling less inclined this Halloween to dress sexy, but no less queer. This year you’ll find me dressed as Bill Murray’s character from What About Bob?—with a goldfish in a mason jar around my neck, and even though it’s not an expressly sexy costume, I’ll be following in the footsteps of those gender-bending queens who, in the 1970s, launched sexy Halloween into the mainstream.

I’m curious—how else can we eroticize this hallowed holiday besides with our costumes? Maybe with some Kama Sutra-positioned skeletons in the yard? Or a few sex positive messages carved into our front porch pumpkins? Let us know your ideas in the comments, along with pics of your clever/sexy costumes. (And please, please let that include a sexy Carole Baskin.) 

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