Halloween is an artifact that has existed far longer than this country, under various names and in many guises over time. It’s a weird, twisted survivor that survives by absorbing the qualities of the culture in prominence where the day is celebrated. These days, people shake their heads when they think about Halloween — how could a kid’s dress-up holiday have become so grossly sexualized?
The truth is that Halloween is not a holiday for kids. That shift is a very recent thing in its epic history, and I think the emergence of more and more sexualized costumes is both a reflection of our culture’s attitudes toward sex and an attempt to take the holiday back.
Adults don’t play enough. We need play. We need fun as much as children do. We live in a time when most of us spend too much time ambient aware instead of together. We work with people all over the world, exchanging hundreds of e-mails and IMs, but we rarely spend physical time with anyone. We’re isolated as our networks grow. We work, we toil, we sleep. As a result, we grab hold of any reason to leave the house and be with people, anything at all. Most networking events in Los Angeles are little more than parties to which you pay to gain entrance. At conferences, panels take a back seat to wild adventures and drunken shenanigans. Has Burning Man ever been so big as it was this year? We need to play. We don’t play enough.
We don’t have healthy attitudes toward sex. In a post-Sex and the City world, we’re constantly bombarded by messages about how great sex is, but we’re shamed or censured if we ever individually express our sexuality. Sex has sold most every product we can think of, but we will never see a breast or a penis in a TV commercial. It’s a weird time full of conflicting messages. Is it such a wonder that to be sexy we feel we must also somehow disguise ourselves? What better fit, then, than a day that calls for costumes?
Until we feel that we can safely express our sexuality, until we create space in our daily life for fun, I fear our needs will continue to hijack every opportunity that presents itself to us. Think about it.
Image from Agent Provocateur’s new video Les Fleurs du Mal.