I don’t like Halloween. I never did. Halloween is the quintessential children’s holiday. It’s entirely about rewards with no consequences. When you’re a child, that means it’s about the candy. When you’re an adult, that means it’s about whatever the rest of your life can’t be about.

For sexually repressed adults (i.e., most adults), that means Halloween is about sex.

It’s an old joke in kink circles: Halloween is the vanilla person’s excuse to be kinky. Of course, a vanilla person’s definition of “being kinky” is something that people like me (who consider their intrinsic sexuality to be composed of what other people often consider taboo) think is very tame indeed.

A case in point is the traditional slutty costumes popular during Halloween. Sluts, gasp, are actually perceived as kinky to most people. That, in itself, could be an entire post. How incredibly right-wing puritanical it is that the display of sexuality itself is a taboo. Sex is a sin; birth is only possible through sex; therefore everyone is inescapably a sinner.

With the ridiculousness of the “Holy Virgin” syllogisms aside, Halloween is the one American holiday where Catholicism and anti-sex propaganda isn’t shoved down the throats of the largely blind and ignorant masses of people who “celebrate” the “holiday.” So, they do during Halloween what they can’t do elsewhere in the year.

Halloween is an opportunity to masquerade oneself as something you are understood not to actually be. It is an exemption from the hum-drum rules of daily living that bind you to the consequences of your actions. And people take advantage of this freedom in all sorts of interesting ways.

But why do people masquerade themselves like this in the first place? Most simply, they do this during Halloween as a means to experiment with attitudes, ideas, and expressions that they are either unfamiliar or uncomfortable with because during Halloween, everyone knows, there are no committments. All of this “acting out” is an effort to discover attitudes, ideas, and expressions that they are comfortable with.

Halloween is one giant societal bullshit session. It’s the religious and societal equivalent of a “Get Out Of Hell Free” card. How else would self-respecting religious boys and girls ever feel comfortable dressing up as such blasphemous things like ghosts and skeletons, or worse, like religious symbols such as members of the clergy, or even a crucified Jesus himself? This “Get Out Of Hell Free” card gives Jane the “Good Girl Next Door” the guilt-free opportunity to be a sexy nurse, or Catwoman (the superhero stereotype of the sexually dominant woman, a dominatrix one might dare say, which is unsurprisingly much rarer than the “sexy nurse” costumes). Likewise, it gives John the “Man’s Man Frat Boy” a chance to dress in drag.

Now of course, it is not necessarily the case that Good Girl Jane or Man’s Man John care all too deeply about actually being the thing they are pretending to be, a “sexy nurse” or simply a “girl” in these examples. But the fact remains that an absolutely overwhelming majority of girls who dress up for halloween turn themselves into the classic example of a sex object. Similarly, the overwhelming majority of boys who dress up for halloween turn themselves into comedic, if not actually accurate, representations of the opposite gender.

I get the question, “What are you going to be for Halloween?” just like everyone else does. I look around at the way other people live their lives and I see the need, the aching, screaming necessity most people have for just this kind of event in their lives.

“Me?” I ask. “I don’t like Halloween.” It’s far too sad a holiday, if you think about it; it’s the inevitable day every year when I see hundreds of thousands of people wanting and not having, and (worse) not even thinking twice about it.

Okay, after getting a bunch of comments on this post, it seems that either A) no one’s observant enough to comprehend my overarching point in this entry or, and this is the more likely explanation, B) this post’s brevity or terseness has caused people to latch on to ideas I didn’t intend as the main point. So, setting the record straight:

  • I do not believe Halloween is a “bad” holiday, that it should not exist, that it does no good, or that it can not entail a great deal of fun.
  • I do not believe that everyone who participates in the celebration is shallow, repressed, or otherwise unhealthy.

If you take the time to read this post without introducing your own stories and take me at face value and nothing more, which you should pretty much always do, you’ll see I never once made such claims, even though quite a few people have implied that I have. Fuck, I like looking at all the T&A just as much as you do, and even though I don’t personally enjoy dressing up to go trick-or-treating, I’ve gone to my share of Halloween costume parties and I’ve had a ball at most of them.

Instead, this post’s main intended thrust was a remark more akin to, “Yay, even repressed people get to have fun.” And yes, like it or not, a sadly gigantic number of people who enjoy this holiday are sexually repressed, confused, or otherwise have a characteristic that I will describe as unhealthy or unhappy. Furthermore, I don’t think anyone’s actually arguing with that point—we all know why you’re not.

Look, the bottom line is this: I don’t presume to tell you what to do in regards to you. In fact, I don’t believe I ever have, because doing so is a violation of the most serious kind—it breaks the rule of no imposition, a principle that simply states that the only thing I have a right to impose on others is how they should treat me. Yet this kind of violation happens every day, all the time, by people, by governments, by employers, and by culture and society, and we have become so used to it that we treat one another’s words as if such imposition was the intention even when it was not. That, my friends, is a tragedy.

Even though for many people it is not, for many others Halloween is just such a cultural example of that tragedy. That’s all I was trying to say in this entry.

See also Eileen’s Live and Let Die.

See also, Bruce Schneier’s The War on Different.