I have already written about the pressures to be sexy and desirable at all times, so let’s look at a different angle. What is it about costumes that invites people’s sexy out? What is it about Halloween that gives people free rein to set aside their respectable straight laced (and I don’t mean a corset) personas?
Halloween allows, no, embraces, the taboo. It is a time to show the shadow, the normally unacceptable and so it frees us to push the edge a bit. It is ok to be over the top on this night without expecting to be judged. It is not “real” so it is all ok.
And that I think is a key to why this side of people comes to the surface on Halloween. It is a safe time to let it show without having to take it seriously. The play aspect of costumes allows a risk-taking that is good for us. We can bring out a fantasy or a previously hidden persona within us without the worry that we will be rejected – because it is only in play! We set down the burden of having to process - is it ok for me to express this, to like this, to want to be seen this way? We are not asking our partner to incorporate this into our sex lives from now on or to change their image of who we are. It’s just for tonight. Oh, and everyone else is doing it too.
I wish we gave ourselves permission to play like this more often. Why reserve one might a year for experimenting with sexual expression? What if you and your partner agreed to not take things too seriously, to show up in ways that are silly or risky or possibly over the top? Like on Halloween, in the privacy of your bedroom no one should misinterpret you as saying you want to behave like this in every setting. And like Halloween costumes, there are thousands upon thousands of ways to express yourself. You can just try them on and see how it feels. What if we didn’t have to be embarrassed about wanting to step outside of our day to day roles and rules and share something different with our sexual playmates?
Invite the freedom of, “hey sweetie, it’s only a costume…”
If I am a slice of pizza, of course, I must be a sexy slice of pizza...
It’s that time of year again. The time for women to be presented with costume choices that range from nearly naked to just strategically exposed. Ugh, the tyranny of “sexy” once again. Today I saw his/hers versions of Freddy Kruger costumes in a catalog. OK, Freddy is scary and a little bit gross, correct? If you want to be Freddy you are going for the serial killer, monstrous vibe. The guys costume was pretty straight from the movie – red and black striped sweater, black pants, boots, hat, and the knife fingers. Great. All items a woman can wear, right? But no, the women’s costume had a ripped sweater (to display cleavage), mini skirt, fishnets, and high heel boots (no doubt, great for chasing children down in dream land). If a woman likes Freddy, why would she have to portray him differently than a man? Why on Halloween do we drop all practical considerations about the way we can dress? Why do our clothing choices actually become more limited rather than more free when we are in costume? Even if we say she needs to portray a female version of a serial killer, is the best we can come up with that she would wear a miniskirt and heels? Really? Pardon my costumer sensibilities but why can‘t a woman dress like she would actually like to kick some ass (maybe even without flashing her panties)? Or at least, survive a horror movie encounter.
Sexy costumes are fun. Be a sexy something or other if that is what you want to embody this year. I can think of a lot of things and roles that are genuinely sexy. But make it your own – don’t give in the simplified belief that sexy is about breasts and thighs. See if you can be more creative than that; what feels sexy to you? And, we have to say that when every costume a woman can buy is a sexy-fied version of anything, something is wrong. Halloween should be a time when all options are available to you – that is the gift of a costume, you can be anything you want to be. You can choose to be macho, ugly, badass, monstrous, powerful, magical, otherworldly, alien, creepy, funny, unreal, haunting, commanding, wicked, angelic, maniacal, possessed, exotic, inappropriate, historic, cartoonish, dainty, or something else. Just don’t buy into the idea that you can only translate that through the vehicle of first being sexy. Don’t limit yourself or your fantasy because what is being sold to you is not very creative.
cue sound of storm outside....
I love this time of year. I like to be scared, in that mostly safe kind of way. I cannot stop smiling as I make my way through haunted houses and plot for months on how to creep the trick-or-treaters out. But that is me. Creepy horror movies are not for everyone. I have friends who do not find glimpsing my life-size rubber zombie baby behind a door funny at all.
But maybe this season’s spookiness is actually doing us a favor. Studies have found that our libidos apparently do enjoy a little scare. A study done in the 1970s by Arthur Aron & Don Dutton found that mild risky situations make men feel more attracted to a female stranger. Online games or scary movies that have mild stress involved give us boosts of both adrenaline and endorphins. The enthusiasm and focus of adrenaline and the pleasure–taking relaxation of endorphins seem like a good mix for sex drive, right? And in fact, this chemical release can boost sex drive and increase arousal and put many of us in the mood. We, humans, have a history of blending the thrills of scary stories and the thrills of sex- from the original tragedies in Greece featuring gouging out eyeballs and other punishments, to the private boxes at the turn of the century horror theater the Grand Guignol, to the monster movies of the drive-ins.
Then we must consider the simple benefits of huddling together on the couch, clutching each other in scary moments, the close contact of hiding your face in someone’s chest. Oh, and in the category of random facts --- apparently 83% of Americans rated rainy nights the best time to have sex (Trojan’s Degrees of Pleasure Study (2010) so enjoy the creepy sound of the storm outside. Why not let the excitement of the season stoke your arousal.
What are you going as this Halloween? This time of year many of us experience a new sense of energy and excitement from planning a costume and then the performance of wearing it. Why can this feel like such a confidence booster? And why do we still look forward to it so much?
Costumes can give us a chance to literally try on a new personality. We walk differently, see the world though different eyes (or masks), we approach people differently – Because of this we feel things more intensely. The novelty of playing a new role opens us up to feeling our body in a new way. Maybe being limited by an awkward coat of armor doesn’t seem sexy on the surface but if it allows us to be more aware of how we move and to think more creatively about interacting with the world, that can feel sexy. Even within a giant pumpkin costume, you might be able to move with more freedom or stop worrying about looking stylish, which might open up a new way of being. Getting dressed or applying makeup causes us to look at ourselves with different criteria than we usually judge by and we may find something unexpected to like about ourselves. And most importantly, we interact with other people in new ways, shaking up old patterns that we have fallen into with each other.
Breaking out of our normal role brings an aliveness that feels good and it can awaken our sexuality. Depending on the character you are trying on, you may be more playful, assertive, silly, confidant, secretive or anything else. So how can you bring that energy to your sex life without waiting for a holiday? First I invite you to remember that anything you can do in costume, you can do in the bedroom –so long as your partner is on board. Maybe you already use role play and/or costumes as a part of your sexual play. But even if that doesn’t interest you, you can bring elements of a costume to your sexual self. Use your costumed persona this year as a way to strengthen a part of yourself – play at being more powerful, practice being silly, move like a goddess, act as though you have the power to cast a spell on someone. As you allow these parts to come out one night, you can allow them to come out other nights as well. This isn’t being fake or playing a part, it is expanding who you can be.
Sexuality can thrive on novelty and risk. Don’t reserve your risk taking for one night of the year. Commit to trying out new sides of yourself and to showing up in new ways with your partner often. You may be surprised at how well the risk pays off.