Eye Candy: The Skankification of Halloween
Let’s skip the played out introduction where I wax nostalgic about the falling leaves and the crisp air - the part where I drone on about football, and bonfires, and such. Autumn is here; winter follows - desolation en queue. The lone caveat, the Holidays, are an apology for this annual occurrence, a wilting olive branch, a series of distractions insisting that we forget that it’s freaking cold outside and that the sun hates us. The good news is that this distraction works pretty well, especially the initial ruse: Halloween.
Halloween kicks ass – always has, always will. Thanksgiving has the food, Christmas has the loot, and New Years’ has the delusional optimism and obligatory lip locks. In the moment, these all seem like some pretty great seasonal benefits, but on October 31st, there’s no hypocritical religious sentiment or begrudging familial commitment, and there’s only a romantic component if you want there to be one. The structures are less prevalent, and there's a sense of freedom that's lacking the rest of the year. But more than anything, Halloween reigns supreme precisely because of what it’s lacking: realism - that critical unifying element shared by every other fall/winter holiday. It's a time of make believe, and who doesn't like pretending to be anyone other than who they are?
Like most holidays, the contemporary celebration of Halloween (a contraction of sorts for All Hallows’ Evening) is derived from pagan observances that were dogmatically incorporated into Christianity to appease potential converts. In this case, the converts in question were some of my favorite people, my brethren, the Celts, who had celebrated a harvest festival known as “Samhain” since the 10 century before being religiously colonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
According to Irish mythology, Samhain was a brief period when the doors between our world and the afterlife thinned, allowing for a major spike in trans-dimensional communication. In order to keep these spirits at bay during this supernatural free-for-all, villagers would leave food offerings at their doors next to a carved turnip lantern. As further protection, if they had to leave the house, they would dress in costume to confuse the spirits about their true identity. Like most pagan festivals, Samhain was marked by a celebration of the dead, which usually included copious amounts of booze (or spirits, if you prefer), widespread livestock slaughter, rampant casual sex bordering on village-wide orgies, and varying levels of human sacrifice. (Did those guys know how to party, or what!?!?!)
Of course, not much has actually changed. We’ve chilled a little on the stake burning, but Halloween is still a night dedicated to utter debauchery. It represents the one night a year when we’re actually encouraged to embrace the deranged aspects of human nature - at least to a certain degree - and the best part is that nearly everyone participates. Children innocently roam the streets in search of their next sugar fix, teenagers put aside their awkward brooding to wreak havoc, young adults party their asses off, parents dote on their aforementioned children (while fretting over their aforementioned brooding teenagers), and even crotchety, hemorrhoid-ridden old men at least pass out an Almond Joy or two.
Halloween is a legitimate excuse to have a little fun and participate in the more ritualistic communal aspects of human nature. It's an exercise in make believe that allows us to play an unscripted role - if only for a few hours. From our infancy, we begin donning costumes in the hedonistic pursuit of a secondary nature. The object being to subvert our standard behaviors in a temporary reprieve from the mundanity of our everyday lives. But while this used to be a holiday predicated on tongue-in-cheek participation in the supernatural, there's been a pretty blatant shift from celebrating the spooky to basking in the slutty.
In the last ten years or so, Halloween has been skankified to the extent that adult costumes (or the lack thereof) emphasize sexiness far more than spookiness, which seems ironic given the fact that, whereas costumes were originally intended to repel evil spirits, they're now used to attract random dudes for a little casual dorm room sex. Retail experts guess that somewhere between 90 and 100% of adult female Halloween costumes have sexual overtones, which of course means that only 1 in 10 women observe the holiday based on its thematic representation in the abstract rather than how it could benefit them physically.
Americans are perpetually searching for any excuse to get down, and there really isn’t a better one out there than Halloween. Bars lower the drink prices, and everyone else lowers their standards, as the only thing plunging deeper than the temperatures are the necklines. Lingerie suddenly transforms into a “costume,” and juice heads are at long last actually encouraged to broadcast their abs. (It's what they work so hard for all year!) In short, an entire cross-section of society competes with previous iterations of itself to exceed last year’s exorbitant promiscuity. Nowhere is this more apparent than Midwestern college campuses.
If I were to tally the amount of naked human beings I’ve seen in the flesh on a line graph separated by month, there would be a massive spike during the latter half of October. In fact, it's probably safe to say that more than half of my eye witness accounts of nudity occurred within a three day radius of Halloween Night between the ages of 17-25, with most of these sightings taking place on the campus of Central Michigan University (Fire Up, Chips!). This has far less to do with any sexual proficiency on my own part than it does the excessive clothes-shedding that occurs at millennial Halloween parties. Granted, as a general rule, sluttonry* is a pretty consistent occurrence throughout the year for a lot of young adults, but on Halloween, when people aren't wearing much to begin with, the end result of cascading Jagerbombs usually involves far more flesh than fabric. Campus housing turns into a strip club circuit with cheaper alcohol, less clothing, and no bouncers.
The truth is that I had a lot of fun running around in the aforementioned circles, but that doesn't mean that it didn't hurt my heart a little that the spirit of my favorite holiday was corrupted by boobs and biceps. If these crazy kids are running around trying to get laid, who am I to condemn them? I was them - a lot of us were! (Kids: Wear condoms, and don't do anything I wouldn't.)
My chief concern here is with timing. Why does sex have to hog the entire calendar year? Can't the young sluts of America exercise their extreme ho-ishness during the other 364 days of the year? Boobs and biceps are totally accessible to anyone who really wants them at all times; Halloween is not. The bottom line here is that Americans are consumed with sex every single day of the year. That's not necessarily a wholesale condemnation of that fact, just a proclamation of an observed truth.
"Sex sells" has become a casual idiom in this country, but it resonates more truthfully today than at any other time in our history. If there is any way possible for an otherwise innocuous occasion to be corrupted, the exploitative powers that be will make absolutely sure that this happens. Halloween's a perfect example, and it leads me to believe that we won't stop until every single aspect of our culture has been perverted by collective horniness. How long until we're using Easter, the NBA Playoffs, the Mad Men season premiere, or a chilli cook off as excuses to run around naked and crudely express our desire to place more notches in our bedposts?
Halloween should be about scaring the hell out of people, not sexing the pants off of them, but it has become impossible for anything to be about what it actually is anymore. Everything's been obscured by and appropriated for the sex starved masses... Said the old guy who isn't in college anymore.
*There's no need to reach deep for stale euphemisms here, folks. I use words like skankified and sluttonry because that's exactly what this type of behavior is. In no way is this a judgment. Obviously those words have negative connotations, but that's a result of social attitudes, not inherent meaning. Whether or not you agree with those attitudes, the terminology is nonetheless appropriate; all else is beyond my control. I didn't make the rules here, and while I don't think it's fair to criticize our hyper-sexualized youth too much, there isn't a better descriptor for slutty behavior than sluttonry. Sorry.