Johanna Blakley

Media | Entertainment | Fashion

Halloween: A great time to let the slut out?

That's Mistress Hook to you, matey.

A few years ago, a girlfriend of mine dressed up like a pimp and her husband posed as her ho. Everyone loved it — except my friend. Hundreds of pictures and lots of laughs later, she said she’d never ever wear something that wasn’t slutty for Halloween again. “But everyone loved it!” I said. “Yeah, but Larry got all the attention!”

Women have a more than ample supply of trampy costumes to choose from these days, and I can’t help but think that demand is driving it. When I go to Halloween parties these days, I’m often amazed at the self-professed feminists, succesful businesswomen and hard-core intellectuals who turn up as French maids, horny school girls or (a perenial favorite) naughty little devils.

Don’t get me wrong. I, too, am guilty of giving in to the tramp in me. I think one reason I adore Halloween is because it gives women like me, who believe we should be taken seriously in this crazy world, a chance to do all the things that mama told us not to. Why dress up like a monster when you can be an expensive call girl instead? (When I dressed up like Anna Wintour last year, that’s what some guy thought I was.)

In a way, the most dangerous, and most monstrous thing, that a strong self-possessed woman could do in this world is to dress like a prostitute. And, of course, that’s why we like doing it.

Mikhail Bakhtin, the Russian literary critic and philosopher, talked about the political importance of the carnivalesque in literary and cultural representations (hey — wasn’t I just talking about the carnivalesque the other day?). Carnavalesque describes a subversive cultural mode that overturns our assumptions about good taste and proper behavior. Modern day carnivals do this to some extent, as well as Mardi Gras and, I would argue, Halloween. In fact, I  can hardly think of any other holiday in the U.S. that so whole-heartedly commits itself to turning the world upside down, giving us a chance to become the things we fear or despise. Whether we dress up like ghouls or sluts, the act of impersonating another character is, in Bakhtin’s eyes, pretty damn subversive. It gives us an opportunity to experience our lives, briefly, from the perspective of another. Most women with strong self-esteem probably have no rational desire to be a sexual object for hire, but I think very few could argue with a straight face that they’ve never fantasized about it. Halloween gives us an excellent opportunity to confront our fears, to show surprising sides of ourselves, and to subvert our own status quo.

So what should I be this year? I’m thinking the girl with the dragon tattoo . . .

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