IMG_20151027_123356 IMG_20150527_103314

Dear Virgie, this Halloween I am interested in dressing sexy, which I normally don’t do. I feel like I don’t want to play into the idea of a “hypersexual fat woman” but I also think it might be fun to wear thigh highs and garters on Halloween. What do you think I should do?

Hey, girl!

I remember the first time I dressed sexy for Halloween. I was in high school (ok, maybe 8th grade), and I dressed up as a cheerleader. Cheerleaders are this potent symbol of feminine sexuality, and I wanted to be that so badly. On every other day of the year I would show up at school in muted colors, not an inch of skin to be seen. My goal was to be totally invisible because I was THE fat girl on campus and my existence was treated like an invitation for public humiliation.

I definitely normally didn’t have the confidence to wear a short skirt in public. Except on Halloween night, when I would go trick or treating with my little brother. Halloween became my opportunity to enact something that I was scared of – making a public display of a body I’d been told wasn’t beautiful. Going out as a cheerleader that night felt exhilarating and empowering. I got a lot of attention from men, which I wanted. I think Halloween gave them the excuse to treat me as a sexually viable woman, in a way that they might not have normally.

[RELATED POST: 10 Real Life Examples of Fat Phobia in Action]

At the time I was really into it, but in reality that whole situation was kind of super fucked up, right?! Like I’m acting hella sexual because I feel like I can’t be seen as a full woman/human the rest of the year. And men are like “well it’s Halloween, so I can hit on fat chicks wearing short skirts.” UGH. RAGE. Ok, but anyway… let’s bring it back to your question.

So, first and foremost:

1.Wear whatever you want. 

Listen to me: you have the right to wear what you want, where you want, when you want. Your body is yours, and you have every right to dress it however you like. Don’t just live this rule on Halloween. Live it all the damn time. The notion that you could be perceived as a fucked up stereotype should not be a deciding factor in how you decide to dress on Halloween. Ideally, being seen as a stereotype should never influence your decisions. I know that’s a tall order, but let it simmer.

2. Stereotypes dehumanize people. So fuck ‘em.

The “hypersexual fat woman” is a stereotype that, interestingly (/not interestingly), is the exact opposite of that other stereotype about fat women – that we are completely asexual. This desire to shove all fat women into one of two categories is a mechanism of stigma. Stereotypes seek to dehumanize people, to strip us of agency and complexity. This leads us to altering our behavior (out of fear of being perceived as “that person”) and participating in our own surveillance. This in turn leads to increased anxiety and stress. Stereotypes don’t leave room for us to have authentic feelings and desires. We begin to question the things that we want because we fear they may “fall in line” with a demeaning stereotype. This is very limiting, and encourages us to live inauthentically.  And it’s all super fucked up, girl. So, I advocate that in so far as you can take a step back and let go of the idea that you “have” to be or do anything.

3. Fuck slut shaming!

The “hypersexual fat woman” trope is not only a fat shaming tactic, it’s a slut shaming tactic. Pathologizing women’s sexual desire is about as old as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (and corn flakes are hella old, girl). When women exhibit sexual autonomy or desire we are automatically labeled as nymphos because DUH you can control people when you call them names, humiliate them and make them feel wrong. When you add slut shaming to fat shaming you end up with some really scary results. Fat women already face a lot of culturally sanctioned shame, and this can lead to results like fat women not advocating for condom usage and not having the confidence to negotiate for sexual experiences on their terms.

[RELATED POST: De-Program Yourself From Slut Shaming]

4. Sexy costumes can create mixed feelings, and that’s ok.

All the above-mentioned being said, I totally get the complicated feelings. I really relate to yours. In past years, I have dressed sexy for Halloween and found that really fun and hot. Then all of a sudden last year I didn’t want to wear a sexy costume. I didn’t want to wear any costume, honestly. The inclination to dress up like the Pirate Queen of Whore Island (my costume for about three years straight) had completely gone away, and it was a little bit surprising.

There are probably lots of reasons I don’t feel like wearing a sexy costume on Halloween this year. I think part of it is that I am pushing back on the notion that it’s okay to express my sexuality one day a year. I want to be able to express my sexuality whenever I want.

5. Do YOU on Halloween

Halloween is this super special night, where you get to try out things maybe you wouldn’t otherwise. This experimentation is important, and there’s a lot to learn from it. So I encourage you to make your Halloween all about YOU. Be as sexy or strange or creepy or scary as you want to be. I just did this round-up of 36 amazing Halloween costumes for curvy babes on BuzzFeed. Maybe they’ll inspire you.

Xo,

Virgie

 

IMG_20150527_103314

 

Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, MA, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race, and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com

Comments