People may still consider Halloween a day primarily for kiddos- you think of classroom parties with costumes and black and orange cupcakes. Maybe you think of struggling with a kid to get them to wear a coat with their costume and them fighting you tooth and nail because it will, “ruin the impact of their costume,”  (shout out to my mom – I am sorry I threw a fit in sixth grade when you made me wear a long sleeve shirt under my Glee cheerleader costume – you were right, it was too cold out to just be in a tank top). Or maybe you think of swarms of children coming and banging on your door, demanding treats. Either way, when we think of Halloween, we usually think of the kids. What if I told you though, Halloween can be for the adults? And not just fun for the adults, but even increase intimacy and lead to some new, innovative sex. Between the costumes, candy, and spooky stimuli, Halloween has a plethora of opportunities to [pumpkin] spice up your sex.

Costume Play

What would happen if, when you got home from that costume party, you didn’t immediately take the costume off? Costumed role play is actually a very common fantasy – studies have shown that 78% of women and 81% of men rated sexual role-playing as “somewhat appealing,” and 24% of women and 26% of men rated it as “very appealing.” However, studies have shown that only about 22% of the population actually engage in this fantasy. Why does this discrepancy exist? Obviously, the 22% is probably skewed a little low – some people may feel uncomfortable honestly reporting their sexual experiences to a researcher. However, even if we account for lack of reporting, that still means the majority of people who fantasize or want to engage in costumed role play aren’t. This could be due to various reasons. Many partners who fantasize about costumed role play feel it is embarrassing to put on a costume before sex and unsure how to initiate the role play. Furthermore, if it is a fantasy one partner has, they often do not know how to communicate this to their partner. If you are part of the 80% of people who are interested in role play but unsure how to initiate it or even have that discussion, Halloween may be a wonderful opportunity to start the conversation.

Halloween is a wonderful opportunity to experiment with role play, as recent studies have shown that the day might lessen the hesitation to role play that you feel throughout the rest of the year. When you dress up for Halloween, you become 19% more open to costuming during intimate moments.This is because, first, you are already engaging in a form of role playing when you dress up for a party – oftentimes you may act like your character and engage with other people as that person. When you have been doing that for most of the night, it doesn’t feel like a stretch to bring it into the bedroom. If you and your partner have been wanting to try role play but are unsure how to initiate, both of you already being in costume can be an easier introduction. If you want to engage in costumed role playing but are unsure how to start the conversation, being already in costume can also make you more comfortable in sharing your fantasies.

When done consensually, costumed role playing holds various benefits. First, it is a sexual fantasy for many people and, when partners fantasize together and engage in these fantasies together, it enhances their intimacy physically, emotionally, and intellectually. It creates a sense of playfulness together, taking much of the pressure or stress off and allowing you to just be present together. Another benefit of costumed role playing is that it can build trust and vulnerability within the relationship. Sex in itself is an intimate and vulnerable act – physically you are in a state where you cannot defend yourself, and emotionally you are often showing a side of yourself others don’t see. When adding costumes to the mix, you may be feeling extra vulnerable as it can be an activity that pushes you outside your comfort zone. When you can be open, and your partner accepts you warmly and passionately, that builds trust within the relationship, and trust can be a key component to a satisfying sexual relationship. Lastly, costumed role play can help keep intimacy from feeling routine. It is often reported  that intimacy doesn’t feel exciting anymore, or they feel as though they and their partner are just roommates. Integrating fantasies such as costumed role play into your intimate life can help all parties feel more satisfied and invested into sexual encounters.

Sugar, Sugar

Do you remember trick or treating as a child, and ALL the candy and sweets you had left over after the night was done? It’s the same if you have children in your life – they go trick or treating and end up with more candy than they know what to do with, most of which ends up going to waste. Remember, Halloween isn’t just for children anymore, and all of that candy can go to good use somewhere else.

Most people who have experienced  pop culture know that chocolate is an aphrodisiac (however, recent studies have shown that that is more due to how it melts in your mouth and less the chemicals in chocolate).  It makes sense to want to bring food, especially sweets, into the bedroom. Incorporating foods and sweets into the bedroom can benefit a sexual encounter in multiple ways. First, during sex, we always talk about wanting to engage in and be in touch with all of your senses -sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. The more senses we engage during sex, the more powerful and intense the experience can be. However, typically during sex, we are only focusing on the senses of sight and touch. Adding food into the bedroom can encourage you to engage your other senses, especially smell and taste. It is also theorized that adding food to the bedroom can lead to more intense sexual encounters as it combines two common human desires: hunger and reproduction. Seeing both food and a potential partner can trigger a heightened sense of desire.

Although food can be fun and beneficial in the bedroom, there are definite guidelines you should abide by before incorporating that left over trick or treat candy into your sexual experience. The general rule of thumb is if it is topical, or on the surface of the skin, then it is fair game. Of course, some people have sensitive skin and can have a reaction even from topical food play, however for the majority drizzling sweets and food onto the skin can be safe and enjoyable. Food play becomes dangerous when food is inserted into or onto the vulva, penis, or anus. Inserting food into the body (when not done carefully or under instruction of a sex therapist) can lead to the item becoming lodged inside of the body and a trip to the doctor to retrieve it. Furthermore, the vaginal canal is set to a certain PH level which maintains its health. When outside items are inserted into the vaginal canal which have their own PH level (food, douches, etc) it can alter the natural PH and lead to dryness, yeast infections, and other concerns. Even if not inserted into the body, the skin around the vulva, penis, and anus are all very sensitive, and adding food to that area can irritate the skin and lead to discomfort. When it comes to these sensitive areas, it is best to stick to toys!

Bring the spice in all year

Halloween might be a wonderful time to initiate and start a discussion about incorporating different fantasies into your sexual relationship. However, exploring fantasies and improving your sexual relationship shouldn’t be limited to halloween! I understand though – sometimes having that conversation about what you want from sex can be difficult and you don’t know how to start. Furthermore, sometimes you and your partner are just unsure of what both of you want, or how to integrate it into your sex life. That is where we as sex therapists, come in.

Exploring, discovering, and integrating different sexual fantasies can be done individually or in a couples session, however if you were in my office for either, we would do a lot of the same activities. First, especially in a couples session, we would learn different communication skills, assertiveness skills, and how to share thoughts and feelings. A lot of times you know what you want but struggle to share it in a constructive, meaningful way. From, “I feel,” statements, to intentional dialogue, to working through DEARMAN (a DBT technique to help guide your ability to ask for things), we will learn the skills together and then, if your partner is present, we will practice them right there in session! After learning how to communicate your needs, we will start exploring your desires, your turn ons and turn offs. This can take the form of thinking of different encounters and sorting what made them enjoyable or not enjoyable, psychoeducation about different aspects of sexual encounters and fantasies, or exploring the sensation you are seeking and what could align with that. If you are feeling some hesitation towards a fantasy or desire, we might explore your emotions, and your upbringing, and what could be leading to those feelings.