• Valerie McDonnell

Trick or Treat—Wanna Play Doctor?

6 Costume ideas for roleplay & sexploration


Don't be afraid of a little dress-up therapy


Oh baby! It’s that time of year again.


That most unholy night when it’s totally acceptable to go out in public dressed as something you’re not (or are, but only in secret).


It’s the end of the harvest. Nights getting longer. Leaves crunching or sodden underfoot. Spice and decay in the air. That shivery time of year when winter is clearly coming and every fiber is saying, Let’s get cozy.



Origins of Halloween


Halloween grew out of a coupling between an ancient Celtic post-harvest festival of the dead, and the Catholic Church’s attempt to co-opt the pagan celebration with the addition of All Saints Day to the calendar—also called All Hallows Day.


But they couldn’t quite quell the revelry still celebrated the night before the Church holiday...the eve of All Hallows...All Hallows Eve...and even the most piously converted Celtic people still donned their masks and told ghost stories on...Hallow’een


Through the centuries that followed, the tradition evolved to focus on community and children, tricks and treats. Nowadays we dress up not so much to confuse haunting spirits—but rather to engage our imagination and become something else. At least for the evening.


For kids maybe that means a dragon or a sports hero. For adults it can mean going out in public dressed more sexily than we ever could in real life. Of course it doesn’t have to mean that. But it can.



Why is Halloween so sexy?


For the past few decades we as a society have decided to embrace the sexy side of Halloween. Whether you see that as a moral degradation or a jubilant celebration of hard-fought sexual freedom is a personal choice.


For those of us trying to spread the good word of sex positive mental health, it’s a nuanced topic. We love and embrace all expressions of consent-based sexuality. We also recognize the effect of sexualized expectation and the triggering potential of all that imagery.


The darker side of sexy Halloween is when people—especially young women—feel socially pressured to dress scantily and “put out” in honor of the holiday, even if they don’t want to. And darker still is the troubling state of American consent culture & policy, which gleefully wraps itself around the false flag of But what were you wearing?


Yet in a way, sexy Halloween costumes are an act of defiance against that cultural cruelty. An attempt to ward off the evil spirits that still haunt us. And when you think about it as rebellious—well that only electrifies the appeal.


It’s exhilarating being seen feeling sexy. The admiring gazes and attention that may interfere with daily professional life can take on an exciting voyeuristic element when we want to be viewed in this sexy alternate persona. Wearing a mask and costume can free us to express some tingly hidden corner of our psyche.


That’s the funny thing about costumes and masks: sometimes wearing one actually reveals the wearer.



Power of the mask


Anonymity is powerful. It lets us say and do things we might be feeling but wouldn’t express with the public-facing avatar we put on every day for work and family. But putting on a different persona can be liberating. Creative. Self-reflective. It can shake up our perspective, open the door to self-discovery.


And sometimes it simply lets us relax our inhibitions.


For that reason, many cultures have some type of mask-wearing festival where people can celebrate anonymity and go a little wilder than they usually would. Think Carnivale in Brazil or Venice, or Guy Fawkes Day in the UK, or Purim of Jewish tradition. When no one can see your face, your body & spirit can take over the dance.


Orgy participants sometimes wear masks for the same reason.


But of course the power of masquerade isn’t limited to the literal mask you put over your face. It’s about the character you put on for the occasion—a character that acts a certain way as fits the scene.


We all wear a slightly different mask when at work versus with a partner, with a stranger, with a friend. Code-switching is just part of being in a society. Recognizing it as part of communication lets you use it as a tool for many purposes. And code-switching can be amplified by putting on a costume.


Think about uniforms. Police. Scrubs. Labcoats. Certain professions put on a costume to become the persona of their job. An outward identity. It’s an expression of their role.



Roleplay in the boudoir


Speaking of roles, sexual partner is also one that comes with a uniform—but it’s a uniform of absence. People reveal themselves fully naked to their sexual partner(s) in a way they don’t with anyone else.


And the cool thing about that is, you can add on any other costume and play two roles at once.


Roleplay in the bedroom evokes the spirit of Halloween whenever you want, letting you become someone else for a unique experience. Plus you get to enjoy the thrill of “anonymity” within the safety of a known partner.


Dressing up to play a role engages your imagination and creativity, which weaves quite nicely into sexuality and desire. When you step into another persona, you can leave behind your usual worries and insecurities—and behave accordingly.


When it comes to sex therapy and relationship coaching, roleplay dialogue is a powerful technique for practicing empathy in communication. But the other type of roleplay—the private type—is another recommended tool that offers partners a way to discover new things about each other, explore fantasies, and connect in a deliciously conspiratorial way.


Bedroom roleplay ideas

  • Play doctor

  • Office scenario

  • Witch/wizard

  • Mysterious stranger

  • Firefighter

  • Royalty

  • Mechanic


Whatever you think up, make sure you talk about it first and keep a playful mindset. And if it’s not working, bail out and try again another time. Otherwise the pressure to perform can turn your sexploration into a chore.


Here’s another suggestion: coordinate your Halloween costumes for the evening knowing that you’ll keep them on for a little while in the bedroom. That will put you on the same page for inhabiting the role together. Plus there’s nothing sexier than anticipating sex all day long.



Have a witchy night


According to Google, the top searched Halloween costume for 2020 is Witch. Here’s a fun game: Go down that list and add the word sexy before each one and let your imagination soar.


What kind of witch would you be? Hogwarts style? Warty crone of scary folklore? Or the person condemned as a witch for dancing naked on the solstice?


One guess which version we prefer...


What are you dressing as this year? Let us know in the comments!



Sex Therapy at Home

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Exercises for mastering anxiety & facing fear

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Richmond, VA 23294

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© 2020 by Valerie McDonnell

Wordwork by Quillpower