Ah, it's Halloween time again. The time of year when people dress up as... me. Every year I smile at the large numbers of women (and men) I see costumed as dominatrixes. I myself wouldn't be caught dead in any of the "dungeon mistress" outfits I've seen in costume shops--but what the heck, kids, enjoy yourselves.
Of course, it's not just about costumes. Non-kinky people use Halloween as an excuse to play at BDSM, even in small-town America. I suppose that's why creators of a "haunted house" in a Wentzville, Missouri, shopping mall included some scenes with fetishy overtones. Among the haunted house's 16 vignettes is one of a dominatrix whipping a man wearing a leash. Another scene has two women kissing each other and then simulating cutting off a man's penis. A spokesperson for "The Mall of the Dead" insists the performances are PG-13. Local authorities are not amused, however. Because of these scenes, they have refused to allow the producers to open the Mall of the Dead unless they obtain an adult entertainment permit.
Okay, let me get this straight. It would be fine if a haunted house featured, for example, people screaming and spurting arterial blood as they are attacked and dismembered by chain saw-wielding maniacs. That's good wholesome family entertainment. But a haunted house that shows a woman pretending to whip a guy on a leash needs an adult entertainment permit? Someone's going to have to explain that one to me.
We've got a weird set of values about images of sexuality versus images of violence in this country. Yes, the dominatrix vignettes sound sexually suggestive. But I don't think they're any more "adult" than scenes of pretend violence, and I don't think they should require an adult entertainment permit. I think if you choose to take your kid to see a show that's all about scaring people with grotesque simulated mayhem, you've willingly left Nickelodeon territory. Thus, you've forfeited any right to expect that Junior won't be exposed to anything over his head.
Of course, I personally think the Wentzville bunch went the wrong way with this. Dominatrixes don't belong in haunted houses. If they really wanted to scare people, they should have dressed up as the people who genuinely make us shudder--like IRS agents, telemarketers, and Pat "Nuke the State Department" Robertson. Now that's spooky.