Halloween Costumes, Pop Tarts and Candy Porn

I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

What should I be for Halloween this year? A sexy vampire, a sexy astronaut, a sexy nurse, a sexy pirate, a sexy carrot – the possibilities are endless. When I was a little girl, like all children I Imagined who I’d like to be and who I might become one day. My heroes at the time were Harriet Tubman, Phyllis Wheatley, and Ginger Grant from Gilligan’s Island.  Growing up to be a  poetess running an underground railroad, all the while dressed in a leopard bikini –would have suited me fine. (When asked at age 5 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’m told I responded, “A candy striper and a Playboy Bunny.” Kindergarten me recognized no whole Madonna/whore dilemma.) Again, like most young people, I sashayed into my teen years desperate for what we all want at that age: acceptance, affection, attention, and whatever straws of pubescent potency I could grasp. Now Harriet Tubman wasn’t gonna cut it. My one and only ticket to popularity and power lay in displaying as much of my flesh as possible. Though this was many years ago, I remember it as vividly, because I remember the intense need, the feelings, the want behind my unfortunate sartorial choices. I’d like to say this phase ended with high school, but we can play Skanks for the Memories right through my 20s and 30s. I cringe when I think about all the tight, the short and the crazy get-ups I got up. Maybe that’s why today I have some sympathy and even pity for the young pop tarts who prance, pole-dance, and writhe around in the name of their “art.” As I said in my post-VMAs Miley Cyrus anti-slut-shaming post, these girls are just following the fame and fortune rule book, and their videos’ visibility and virality prove I’m right. Women are given these mixed messages. We’re told we have to be sexy -- don’t look sexy at your peril. It’s made clear to us in magazines, movies, TV, online and on city streets that our bodies are for public consumption. And yet, when we comply and generate that attention to power our own electricity, we are judged and despised. You can watch the celebutante’s sex tape, but don’t be in it. The object looked at is defiled while the voyeur, literally, gets off scot-free. Nowadays, everything XX is X-rated. Pop music took its first step toward becoming a speculum sport in the early 80s when Madonna upped the ante by rolling around the floor with a phallic mike and visible garters. As time marches on the bar gets raised higher and higher until the line between pop and porn is almost completely obliterated. I know Madonna and her acolytes tell us they are owning their sexuality. But if I have a car and I sell it I really don't’ own it anymore, and it’s not so different when what you’re doing is selling your sexuality. (What you’re not selling it? Um, did you or are you trying to make money with that video, song, movie, photo, TV show? That’s called selling.) Just as rape is more about power than sex, being the passive if calculated object of desire has less to do with women's desire and everything to do with selling records with a pre-packaged version of sex intended to appeal to consumers, those with the power (of the purse). Of course – a resounding Duh! – women have every right to celebrate and cherish their authentic sexuality. But glamorizing, fetishizing and mass marketing imagery and behavior borrowed from countless porn videos is not creative, it’s recreative at best. Listen, when you sell sex to make money it’s called…well, let’s give everyone a break and just call it porn. I sound priggish, but let me clarify. Naturally it’s okay – hell, it’s great -- to have the sex arrow in your identity quiver.  But , if I may mix metaphors a bit, as Katy Perry said, “Sometimes it's nice to play that card, but also it's nice to play other cards.”  When all the hot celebrities are hotties then our culture spirals down a deep Ho hole from which we, and female’s authentic sexuality, may never recover.  Aping TV celebrities where so-bad-they’re-bad girls say things like, “I’m so ghetto my pussy smells like menthol” does not feel like progress.
Not exactly designed to put OUT fires...

Not exactly designed to put OUT fires...

 In Maria Smilios’s eye-opening article on the sorry state of today’s Halloween costumes for girls, she points out “there is a difference between owning your sexuality and being sexualized. These costumes that show young girls in real professions (i.e., police officers or firefighters), but in unreal clothing—skirts and go-go boots—are sexualizing them.” She goes on to warn that “Sending young girls the message that anything, vampire or doctor, must have that sexy edge, is not only insulting, but can also set them up for a life of objectifying themselves, which, according to a report by the American Psychological Association on The Sexualization of Girls, can lead to unhealthy body image, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and depression.” Which brings us back to ho. And me. One reason I felt I needed to up the sexy ante with outfits that might make Cher blush was that I wasn’t conventionally attractive. In other words, I was positive I was ugly and so sexy was my only hook upon which to pin any hopes. I now realize desperation is the least sexy thing ever, but back then I was distracted by said desperation and  honestly felt I was just trying to level the playing field a bit.  It’s been pointed out to me that when Lady Gaga started off she was trying for regular "hot-girl" but realized there's only so much heat she could manufacture with that nose so she decided to go full-on "edgy" instead. I personally think Miley and Rihanna are beautiful, but perhaps their less traditional looks meant they had to push the sex envelope extra hard. In the end, all this postulating really doesn’t matter. All I know is I feel sorry for all the poor wobbling Boob Radleys tottering in their stripper heels on their way to work. And that what I really want this Halloween is to see girls dressed aspirationally as scary monsters or doctors, not sexy monsters and skanky doctors.      

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2 Responses

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