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Sex, Gender, and Body Image

How should I talk to my kid about sexy Halloween costumes?

Add the word "sexy" to pretty much anything and you have the inspiration for any number of women's Halloween costumes. Sexy nurse, sexy cop, even sexy Olaf! It's bad enough that party stores separate kids' costumes into dated, strict gender roles (policemen for boys, princesses for girls). But when you get a costume catalog, go to the store, or do a Google search, you're bombarded with the sexed-up versions of getups designed only for women.

At some point, your kids will start to notice that most of the options for women are ridiculously revealing. More than simply explaining that these disguises are for grown-ups, you can take the opportunity to help kids understand the sexy-costume phenomenon, how it sells women short, and how they can reject it and replace it with positive role models who communicate strength, intelligence -- or anything else they want to be for Halloween (or in life).

Talk back. You're not the only parent who's fed up. Write the company selling this merchandise (like this mom did), and give them a piece of your mind. If your kids are old enough, encourage them to write letters.

Find positive role models. From Mayim Bialik to Mother Theresa, there are plenty of female role models for kids to dress up as. In fact, Halloween is a great time to really get into character. Look for inspiration from pop culture, history, books, and video games -- the sky's the limit.

Explain that some industries are behind the times. Just as many Hollywood movies reinforce dated stereotypes, mainstream Halloween costumes stubbornly refuse to see women for anything other than their potential for sexiness. Tell your kids that these ideas are limiting and insulting -- and that your family doesn't agree with them.

Separate "sex" from "sexism." Sex between consenting adults is OK. And it's natural for teens and even tweens to want to experiment with sexuality on a night when anything goes. Make sure older kids understand that you're complaining about costumes that reduce women to the sum of their parts, not judging people for wanting to wear those costumes. And if your teen wants to be a little daring on Halloween, that's a different conversation.

Explain how sex moves products faster. The Halloween selling season is short, about three months. In that time, costume companies need to make as much money as possible. The outrageousness of sexy Halloween costumes helps move merchandise quickly, since many folks choose to go all out on this night of all disguises.

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Teen, 16 years old written by TessieTheFurry

Once the kid is grown, let them wear what they please...? When they're little etc.. Also let them dress up as what they want, I doubt they would go in something sexual. Another note, half this article really was not needed, the main subject is in the title.
Parent of a 1-year-old written by Faiyazahmed Ahmed

Hello to all, I would like to comment on the line "Sex between consenting adults is OK" that is written above. Are you sure? What are you trying to promote? This is not the kind of idea that I would like to teach my children. Also, if "it's natural for teens and even tweens to want to experiment with sexuality" wouldn't this kind of experimentation promote a lack of responsibility? What about respecting the dignity of opposite genders? What about the devotion of married couples? There are many more questions I can ask. While I appreciate Common Sense Media's reviews of movies, videogames, and other items to help me decide what's best for my family, this moral ambiguity is something that does not belong on this website. I encourage the authors of this article to edit or delete these lines from the article above. Thank you.
Adult written by Ellen F.

After you have the talk, a good place to go for costumes and inspiration is They have good costumes for all ages.
Teen, 14 years old written by nadiathoughts

oh my god get over it. As long as she isn't 13 or 14 (if you are thattt kind of parent) she should wear what she wants. Many teen girls and women feel empowered by their sexuality and if guys want to view them as sexual objects, that is by fault of social conditioning of the patriarchy. LET HER WEAR WHAT SHE WANTS
Teen, 15 years old written by Yer Boi

All you need to say is that - you personally don't like the idea of "sexy" Halloween costumes (I personally don't like them either, and the past few Halloweens I have made my own costumes so I don't have to get sexy costumes). Let them know about their options, and introduce them to other, more creative ideas - hell, this year, I was the Notebook from Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, and the year before, I went as a Suffragette. Do separate sex from sexism, but do reinforce that the idea of sexy Halloween costumes is frankly - idiotic.
Teen, 13 years old written by evrska9

Women these days are constantly being dehumanized. TV shows, magazines, and other media are infinitely making women seem like objects or toys that can be tossed around. It is 0% fair and 100% humiliating.
Kid, 12 years old

Costumes for girls are always stupid. Always so revealing or just... pink. This article is really good for parents.