Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Arms Race I Can Support...

Slutty Halloween costumes. Halloween became way more awesome when it moved from being 'Dress Up Like Something Scary', and instead became 'Dress Up Like a Prostitute'.

The nature of an arms race is that the two parties spend more on the resources than is socially optimal, because each is trying to get ahead of the other party. Suppose that country A is richer than country B. Initially, A has 10 tanks, and B has zero. But B can afford to build some tanks, so B builds 10 tanks too. A responds by building an additional 10 tanks, and B can't afford to build any more. So now B still loses the war, and A still has a net advantage of 10 tanks. Both of them have now spent additional money on tanks, and kept the same advantage as initially. They would be better off in the 10 and 0 situation and spending the extra money elsewhere, but because it's hard to co-ordinate, they end up spending more than the social optimum to maintain the same relative advantage.

I was at a rave the other week, and the theme was Halloween. The outfits being worn were outrageous - to actually draw attention, girls needed to be wearing bra, panties + [some bling - tutu, funny fish nets etc.]. This was probably 1-2% of the girls there, but the crowd was several thousand, so there was plenty to see. On top of this, there were loads of girls in barely more modest outfits. It was the bomb, yo.

Every year it seems to get more extreme. So what's going on here? I think that in normal times, women face a tradeoff - they want to get male attention, which (holding constant their attractiveness) can be obtained by wearing more skanky clothes. However, they also want the respect of other women, and this limits the amount of flesh that can be shown before you're branded as a slut. In normal times, I think the second effect dominates - women dress more for other women than for men.

However, the second constraint doesn't bind equally in all cases. At Halloween, somewhere along the line, the norm became that it was acceptable to dress like a ho. If male attention goes to the most naked chick there, and there's no additional constraint of social pressure, then women end up in an arms race to see who can wear the skankiest outfit. There's still some constraints - going literally topless would still draw frowns from other women, and likely draw the type of attention from men that women wouldn't want. But here's my prediction - as each year passes, expect outfits to get more outrageous. At the margin, some of the chicks at this year's rave who wore (say) hot pants, will get the message that panties only is cool on Halloween.

Did I mention I plan on going to the rave again next year? This is an arms race where everybody wins, my friends.

In the interests of science, some borderline NSFW examples follow below the jump. Purely for science, you understand. Do you HATE science? Do you want to sign up with medieval Catholic Church, and burn the modern Giordano Brunos at the altar of political correctness? I thought not. We are men of science, you and I!

The above is not a bad representation of what the rave was like.

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