NO COMMENT: Even Tweens Can Be Sexualized for Halloween

Halloween costumes have somehow managed to breach a new level of offensive.

Spirit Halloween, a company that has hundreds of stores nationwide, has been getting a little bit too creative with descriptions of their online costumes–particularly ones aimed at tween girls. Not only do they seem to think that teens should look sexy, but that they should act sexy as well.

Yes, it is no longer enough to dress girls in revealing and skintight getups for Halloween. Now they need to know how to behave in the costumes as well.

Here’s the initial description for “Rag Doll”:

The mini pinafore dress is whimsical and girly but you are all grown up now so why not find out if BIG BOYS like to play with dolls!

Whoa! It is one thing to advertise arguably inappropriate dresses for underage girls, but it is another thing entirely to tell them to experiment sexually with older boys or men.

The “Major Trouble Tween Costume,” which features a ghastly brown-and-blue camouflage minidress and matching cap, was originally accompanied by this descriptor:

No need to pull rank because boys will surrender and follow whatever orders you issue. Be gentle–they’re  only boys and you shouldn’t pull rank!

Aside from the double entendres here, girls are also being told that they shouldn’t get too comfortable in a leadership role. And there’s more, such as the “Drama Queen Major Flirt Girls Costume“:

Make any soldier with an attitude drop and give you 20 when you suit up as Major Flirt, the highest-ranking Drama Queen in the army! This classic girls costume comes with military green dress, vinyl studded belt, Major Genderal’s hat and matching glovettes–all you’ll need to get them to stand at A-tten-tion!

Again with the double entendres, and again a girl is encouraged to use her power only to flirt or create drama.

Outraged by the implications of these costume descriptions, the National Organization for Women(NOW) started a petition to stop the marketing of sexy children’s costumes. In response, Miss Representation has also started a Twitter campaign to get people to boycott the Spirit Halloween with the hashtag #NotBuyingIt.

The good news is that Spirit Halloween has actually changed some of their online descriptions for the costumes. The bad news is that the sexualized costumes themselves have remained unchanged and are still for sale.

Screenshot of Rag Doll Costume via Spirit Halloween.


  1. I’m actually NOT opposed to sexualized costumes for tweens. As a feminist, I absolutely recognize the danger of OVER-sexualizing girls and teaching them that sexuality is all that they have to offer. As a feminist, I also think that stripping girls of their sexuality is every bit as dangerous and as oppressive as forcing sexuality onto girls.

    What we tend to forget is that EVERYONE is sexual. Yes, including tweens. Infants know how to masturbate and have the capacity to orgasm. The fact is that the tween years are very sexual years. How old are tweens again? 10, 11, 12? They are the years when people begin to develop sexual awareness. They are the years of puberty and body exploration. They’re years of dramatic hormonal changes and fluctuations. When I was eight, I noticed that I was starting to grow breasts. By the time I was ten, I had C-cups and my period. Tweens are at the beginning stages of coming into their sexuality. And while sexuality should NEVER be forced onto them, it also shouldn’t be taken away.

    I remember being a tween and all I wanted were big boobs that spilled out of my shirt and teeny tiny skirts that showed off my ass. When people see tweens dressed like this their tendency is to say, “Oh no.. they look like their twenty years old,” when honestly, they don’t. They look like they’re 10, 11, and 12. Twenty-year-old actually DON’T dress that way, unless your only experience with 20-somethings happens to be music videos or on Halloween.

    The fact is that tweens often want to wear sexy little outfits because their bodies are changing. Because they’re just discovering that actually they HAVE sexual power and because they want to explore that power. Halloween costumes are such an age appropriate way of doing that. So let the tweens wear their sexy Halloween costumes. Obviously tweens should have other non-sexual options (not all tweens feel sexual, just some). Obviously they should have access to power and role-models that aren’t sexual. And obviously that something we struggle to provide as a society. But the solution isn’t to take away the sexual aspects of our young men and women’s youth. The solution is to give them MORE options and choices, not less.

    • I find them far from sexually liberating. When I first started teaching at my current school, I couldn’t believe what the girls were wearing at Halloween and to dances. Then I went shopping with some of them and discovered something. They don’t have a lot of options. I ended up taking them forty minutes away to another city to buy dresses for prom that were well made and appropriate. (Not too young, not too princessy, sophisticated but not too old, flattering cuts etc)

      My students (I teach High School in Compton, California) have few options at Halloween other than these costumes. Girls frequently wear them with tank tops and leggings under them because they aren’t comfortable walking around in them. That is telling. It isn’t what they want. They want to participate in the celebration, not declare themselves sexually available. I offer to help them make costumes or tone down the ones they have and some of them take me up on it every year. These companies should definitely offer some alternatives. And the descriptions are absurd.

      • I absolutely agree that there should be other options out there for young girls. I also agree that not all girls are interested in presenting sexually. I agree one hundred percent.

        What I’m trying to say, is that SOME girls at that age ARE interested in dressing and presenting sexually. Speaking as someone who WAS a tween girl not very long ago and who absolutely wanted to be wearing skin-tight sexual costumes, I found that I was only uncomfortable dressing sexually because people told me that it was somehow wrong for me to be a girl and be sexual at my age. If I hadn’t felt so much pressure to desexualize my clothing, I would have dressed even more sexually. I’m not trying to say that this is the experience of all young girls. I’m saying that my experience was that of having my sexual presentation stripped away from me in the form of being told I shouldn’t wear sexual clothing.

        People often say things like “I couldn’t believe what the girls were wearing at Halloween and to dances” because they don’t think that girls ages 10, 11, 12 are too young to “declare themselves sexually available” when that’s just not true. Girls CAN BE sexual at that age. It’s not the experience of ALL girls, but the experiences of girls who do feel sexual at that age should be legitimized and respected and they should feel like they have to choice to wear sexy Halloween costumes.

        The whole damn point is to not be coercive in either direction.

        • Laurie Roberts says:

          so as one of the state chapters of NOW that issued a state press release regarding this issue in my release I specifically stated that the issue was not about access of adult women to have sexual costumes and frankly I would have less of an issue with them selling the teen/tween costumes if it were not almost ALL they sell for girls and then they couple it with sexually explicit language. I am sorry I don’t feel it is appropriate. I do sex ed I completely understand that some young girls are sexual but to make to make it seem as if all girls are and this is the only way to be sexual is not acceptable to me as a feminist. When did expressing sexuality only mean short tight and showing skin. Girls can be sexual without all of this. It is telling girls this is what they should be, not just sexual, but play things for boys.

    • The problem is less that they are sexual, and more that their message is that sexuality is all about pleasing men – not about exploring and enjoying one’s sexuality as an autonomous being. The lack of other costumes coupled with the messages sent along with the available ones is that women and girls exist to serve men sexually. That is not liberating at all. Not at all. There is a difference between having the option to express oneself sexually, and being led to believe that the only viable option for being female in this world is to be a gentle sex kitten whose live revolves around the pleasure of men.

  2. Let children be children and enjoy their innocence while it lasts. Restraint is what adults have after innocence is gone.

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