I reckon you keep an eye out while shopping for your halloween stuff and you’ll come across a wide range of sexy costumes for women, from “superwoman” to “catwoman” to “sexy nurse” to “sexy cowgirl” you name it.

Then there are scary and funny costumes meant for women as well, but it seems like the bulk of what is available is skimpy, and revealing, indicating a huge demand for such revealing costumes.

Over the past 10 years in Ireland, Halloween has morphed from children’s oriented holiday into one where the sale of adult costumes eclipses the sale of children’s ones for hundreds of thousands of euros. Bars and off licences see a huge spike in their sales around Halloween and fancy dress parties are commonplace, not just for students but at night clubs and homes all over the country.

What’s clear is that people love the opportunity to dress up and be somebody else for the night. What’s less clear is why so many women opt for “ultra sexy and skimpy outfits” that they wouldn’t dare go out in public in any other time of the year.

So here’s what I think is going on:

Women here get the societal message from a very young age that they are expected to be sexy, but not actually be sexual except of course in the company of their partner alone. There’s a constant tension between the natural expression of their own sexuality and how that is perceived in the world at large. Dress too sexy in everyday life and it’s bound to attract a lot of attention.

Women wearing short skirts or showing a lot of skin in public are assumed to begging for male attention, it’s also considered to be provocative, by both men and women alike. They may be looked on as traps, sluts the terms used to convey the patriarchal notion that female sexuality is for male consumption rather than being a healthy, natural part of being a woman.

So what happens when all or most of the women at any given event are mostly clad dressed? Suddenly the impact of that is altered and no one is a tramp or a slut on a stick? after all, it’s Halloween! Somehow (magically) women wearing skimpy outfits aren’t necessarily considered to be seeking male attention either and it becomes just a part of the party atmosphere.

I’ve experienced this shift in the perception of female nudity before in both swinger’s clubs in Dublin and nude beaches abroad. Once there are a bunch of the women showing a lot of skin, suddenly it becomes more naturalised and accepted. Women are less likely to be perceived as looking for attention and more likely to be viewed as simply expressing their sexuality and having a bit of harmless fun. In the case of nude beaches, it’s just looked upon as natural and comfortable.

Women who are not into sex clubs scenes or nudist resorts goers, Halloween is the one night a year that they get to experience this kind of freedom. It’s no wonder then that sexy outfits are so popular as Halloween costumes. It gives the women who wear them a chance to inhabit their sexual self in a way that is not typically allowed them to have such luxury in their typical night out. Much liked the masquerade balls of the Renaissance, being in a costume allows the participants to act with a bit more sexual license and still stay within the confines of societal norms. After all, it’s not really you and you’re playing a character. No wonder Halloween in Ireland is now such a favorite time of year.

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