Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pornographic Halloween

by HELEN REDMOND

Porn and raunch culture is so ubiquitous in American society that it has become normalized. From pole dancing and stripper workout classes to thong underwear to wearing t-shirts that sport the Playboy Bunny, what’s not to like? Recently, a man sitting next to me on a packed Manhattan train was looking at pictures of naked women on his iPad. He didn’t attempt to hide the images and expressed no embarrassment.

The acceptance of porn culture has utterly transformed Halloween. Go to any store that sells Halloween gear and you’ll be shocked by how women’s costumes have been sickeningly sexualized and distilled down to display breasts, thighs and buttocks. A few examples: a student costume called “Varsity Vixen” and printed on her underwear are the words “Haz Me,” a fire fighter uniform titled “Light My Fire” is a dress with a plunging light up flame neckline, and a women taxi driver outfit has “Free Rides” printed on the shirt above her breasts.

Nurses are special targets for hypersexualized costumes and are shown in skimpy, low-cut dresses and fishnet stockings held up by garter belts and wearing thigh high, red vinyl boots. They stand next to empty patient beds and are given names like “Nurse Garter,” “Ravishing RN” and “Juana B. Sedated.” Scary, smiling, sexually molesting male gynecologists costumes consist of white lab coats with embossed names like Dr. Seymour Bush and Dr. Feltersnatch.

The costumes are also racist. One get-up depicts a South Asian woman wearing a veil and calls her a “Bolly Ho,” a Native American woman’s costume is called “Native Knockout” and comes with a tomahawk and another is titled, “Saki 2 Me” and shows a woman in an extremely short kimono wielding a knife. You can view the slideshow of these images here.

Women in the military have also been selected to don uniforms that reduce them to body parts. They’re marketed as: “Boot Camp Babe,” “Desert Dolly,” “Officer Tease,” “Sailor’s Delight,” and “Private Pin-up.” You can view the images here.

Given the recent revelations of staggeringly high rates of sexual assaults of female soldiers, these images suggest women “tease” men and “ask for it.” They are beyond offensive and should be condemned by all who are opposed to sexual violence against women.

The documentary Invisible War provides a reality check: In 2011, there were over 22,800 sexual assaults, 20 percent of all active-duty female soldiers are sexually assaulted, and female soldiers aged 18 to 21 accounted for more than half of the victims. Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is the leading cause of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for women veterans.

The companies that sell these costumes have names like Dream Girl, Leg Avenue and Forplay and view woman as sex objects and “whores.” The word “whore” is pejorative of course, and the correct word is prostitute or sex worker. But the power and persuasiveness of porn culture has convinced far to many women and girls that to dress up as a prostitute for Halloween is fun, sexy and hot. It is none of those things. These costumes reinforce the most misogynist ideas about women – that they are commodities to be bought and sold for the sexual pleasure of men.

Not all feminists agree with this position, like Chloe Angyal, an editor at Feministing and a blogger at Thought Catalog. In response to the title of our slideshow “Whorified,” a play on and a putting together of the words “whore” and “horrified,” she told us we aren’t feminists and to “Stop it. You’re not helping.” Angyal writes in her blog, “But bemoaning the fact that Halloween is an excuse for women and girls to dress up “like whores” lays bare the ugly reality about so many well-intentioned people who take up this cause.”

I do bemoan the fact that women and girls dress up as prostitutes for Halloween. The ugly reality is that sex work is degrading and to dress up as a sex worker is to degrade oneself. However, I don’t believe that women who engage in sex work are as Angyal accuses me of as “filthy prostitutes.” As a Marxist, I understand that women and men engage in sex work for economic reasons and not because they believe it is at all sexually liberating or empowering. It’s all about the money.

The Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollantai wrote: “The roots of prostitution are in economics. Woman is on the one hand placed in an economically vulnerable position, and on the other hand has been conditioned by centuries of education to expect material favors from a man in return for sexual favors whether these are given within or outside the marriage tie.”

If we lived in a society that paid all women a living wage, provided free childcare, health care and affordable housing, no woman would be forced to sell sexual services for money.

Prostitution, besides being a dangerous occupation (mainly because it is criminalized and unregulated), commodifies a central aspect of our human nature–our sexuality–and perverts, dehumanizes and sells it back to us as a profoundly alienated sexuality. Both sex-for-sale and “hookup sex” are devoid of connection, intimacy, love, respect or empathy – the things that we crave the most in sexual relations.

I want the entire sex industry that is built on the oppression and inequality of women to disappear. That’s a tall order, but we can start by attacking porn culture wherever we find it.

That means every October we should loudly protest against Halloween costumes that promote and glamorize female prostitution and refuse to buy or wear them.

Helen Redmond is an independent journalist and writes about the war on drugs and health care. She can be reached at redmondmadrid@yahoo.com

Helen Redmond is an independent journalist and writes about the war on drugs and health care. She can be reached at redmondmadrid@yahoo.com

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]