Carved pumpkins line walkways, candy corn is everywhere, and fake cobwebs are hanging from my neighbor’s porch: it’s almost Halloween. We’ve already posted about the difficulty of finding a women’s costume that isn’t restricted to a “Sexy [Noun].” Hopefully you’ve settled on a costume that makes you feel great, whether that means channeling Diana Ross or Darth Vader. Halloween is a holiday when you can try out a different identity, play around with your appearance, and have fun being someone else. However, it’s important to remember that all the rules on consent and sexual harassment don’t change just because it’s October 31.
Slut-shaming and victim-blaming are two tactics often used to excuse people who commit sexual assaults, especially when alcohol is involved. Myths about rape perpetuate the idea that sexual assault survivors are responsible for their own assaults because they were dressed in a “sexy” way, because they drank alcohol, or because they didn’t fight back. This victim-blaming can be exacerbated on a night where women are not only encouraged but expected to be scantily clad. In a society in which one in four college women are raped, a “Sexy Nurse” costume should not be used as an excuse for sexual assault.
Regardless of whether you are wearing a leotard or coveralls this Thursday, you have a right to feel safe, respected, and to have control over your body at all times. Only a clear, enthusiastic, and ongoing “yes” means “yes” when it comes to sexual activity — and that applies to hand-holding, kissing, dancing, suggestive comments, and just about anything else. The only way to ask for sex is to actually ask for sex! There is no excuse for harassment.
Be a leader this Thursday and contribute to making Halloween safe and fun for everyone. Call out people who are harassing or cat-calling others, even (especially) if they are your friends. Be an Active Bystander and talk to a bartender or bouncer if a situation looks sketchy or potentially dangerous. Have a designated driver. Make a plan with your friends about where everyone will end up at the end of the night, and stick to that plan. Whether you are on Franklin Street, watching scary movies with friends, or dancing the night away, you have the right to feel safe as you let loose this Halloween.
Amanda Baldiga is our Start Strong Intern. She contributes to our Community Education program with education and advocacy support.