“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it,” said Cady Heron in “Mean Girls,” which is becoming a generational cult classic. As comedic as this statement might sound, it could not be truer in the college mentality. With Halloween 2013 in our rear-view mirrors, we are left with blurry iPhone pictures of our friends dressed in outfits that would be considered “slutty” on any other day of the year simply because they can get away with it on “Hallo-weekend.” But just because this holiday has become the one day a year in which it is culturally acceptable to dress in a less-than-traditional manner does not make it OK for women to be “slut shamed” or for men to harass women simply because of what they are wearing. The Michigan laws on sexual harassment still apply even when a woman is wearing a sexy schoolgirl costume on Halloween.

According to a self-proclaimed feminist blog, “Finally a Feminism 101 Blog,” “slut shaming” occurs when a woman is attacked or shamed for being sexual or acting on sexual feelings. It is also, “… the implication that if a woman has sex that traditional society disapproves of, she should feel guilty and inferior.” Slut shaming can lead to women having low self-esteem and to men thinking that women are mere sexual objects and are able to be thrown around with little consequence. Just because a woman is dressed a certain way on Halloween — or any other day of the year — does not mean that she is “easy” to get into bed, that she can be treated without respect or that she can be touched simply because you want to touch her.

Unfortunately, many college men overstep their boundaries — “Hallo-weekend” or not. Maybe they are slut shaming and think that they can touch a woman inappropriately because of the way she is dressed, or maybe they were never taught manners. It is important to realize, however, that unless you know a woman personally and you know that she consents to physical contact, you shouldn’t touch her. Regardless of whether or not you think it is funny or harmless to grab her too closely while taking a group picture or to slip your arm around her waist during a pregame, these actions may make her uncomfortable.

More than making her uncomfortable, these actions are actually prohibited by law. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, sexual assault is any, “unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.” So while mere touching at a bar may seem harmless, even this could pursue into a form of sexual assault punishable by law. In Michigan, there are four degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct. These degrees differ in both definitions and guidelines for punishment, depending on the type of inappropriate contact sustained.

Furthermore, resistance by the victim is not necessary to establish CSC has occurred; therefore, if a woman is too scared or ashamed to speak out, remove herself from an uncomfortable situation or tell her assailant to stop, the perpetrator can still be criminally prosecuted. It would be wrong to assume that just because a woman did not complain of discomfort, she was not affected. Fear of shame or ridicule may prohibit her from resisting at that time.

Society has become desensitized to women being called “sluts,” to women being touched inappropriately or feeling uncomfortable. Pop culture makes it seem OK for a man to touch a woman when he finds her sexy; it supports the idea that men can take what they want when they want it. But neither a woman wearing a playboy bunny costume nor a woman wearing a turtleneck sweater is justifiably “asking for it.” Men should always ask before making advances on a woman — regardless of what she is wearing. If not, they could find their slut shaming selves in a courtroom, whether or not it was a harmless joke or a mistaken gesture taken “too far.”

Maura Levine can be reached at mtoval@umich.edu

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