The Pleasures Of Being In Disguise … #Halloween


(The following excerpt from The Pleasures Of Being In Disguise by Bruce Poulsen, Ph.D., recently appeared on To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

Whether masquerading at a costume party or spooking the neighbors, there is something strangely compelling about being in costume. Halloween is a rare occasion of pure playfulness for adults as well as children. Pick your mode of terror: witches, vampires, zombies, clowns, serial killers, serial killer clowns. Yet the playfulness may be a cover story for something deeper within us.
We know that Halloween rituals, such as wearing costumes, have their roots in the guising customs of Scotland and Ireland during the late 1900s and have strong connections to Celtic and Pagan harvest celebrations from centuries earlier. Halloween itself appears linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which is said to mean, “summer’s end.” There was a sense among the festival faithful in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland that the souls of the dead were more prevalent during this time and fears about succumbing to evil influences were commonplace. The wearing of costumes appeared to have begun as a way of protecting oneself from the potential harm of evil spirits and fairies.

Of course there were Christian influences as well. All Saint’s Day (or All Hallows Day, as it has been called) seems to have originated in the 7th century, though by the 9th century, Pope Gregory III had moved the day to November 1st, and had sanctioned the day as a celebration of holy martyrs. This is followed by All Souls’ Day, which has chiefly been celebrated by the Catholic church as a remembrance of the faithful who have recently departed. In any case, across both Christian and Pagan traditions, there has been a sense that the dead need to be prayed for and, perhaps, that the dead need to be feared. Was this the beginnings of the modern Halloween costume?

The idea of masquerading as someone or something else seems about as old as humanity itself and reaches across religious traditions and cultural practices. There were the masquerade balls of 15th century Europe–often celebrated in conjunction with Carnival. Masks have also been used ritually in African, Melanesian, Inuit, and American Indigenous cultures. Shakespeare was preoccupied with the idea that people are not always what they seem and often have contradictory impulses. In plays such as the Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, characters often used disguises to enact themes of human deception and ambivalence.
Shakespeare anticipated some of what Freud would fully develop: We are divided, contradictory creatures with an uncanny capacity, not only to disguise ourselves from other people, but to masquerade our own wishes and desires from ourselves. Our defenses are methods of disguise–ways of transforming what we find unbearable or transgressive into prosocial and meaningful ambition and fulfillment. This masquerading of desire ensures that there is always the potential of another version of ourselves.

Besides the obvious pleasures associated with Halloween, our donning of disguises may be a way of enjoying the possibility of being someone that we didn’t know we were or could be. Winnicott would probably say that wearing costumes is a transitional phenomenon, and the fact that children are so riveted by Halloween tells us something important about its essential playful nature. In this way, the eager-to-be-helpful gentleman at the hardware store gets to experiment with being a soul-stealing, Dark Prince of Pain. Or, we have the corporate CPA by day; blood-sucking, gothic vampire by night. Disguises help us wonder about what it would be like to be more humorous, less empathetic, more surprising, or simply more interesting than we normally feel we are.

© 2012 Bruce C. Poulsen, All Rights Reserved


Can A Sex Doll Replace A Real Woman … #SexDoll


(The following excerpt from Can A Sex Doll Replace A Real Woman by Rod Judkins, MA, RCA, recently appeared on To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

The artist Oscar Kokoschka suffered a bayonet wound on the Russian front in the First World War. He returned to discover that his lover, Alma Mahler, had married another man. In the depths of despair, he created a replica of her.
Alma met the young Oskar Kokoschka, the enfant terrible of the Viennese art scene, in 1912. He was famous for intense, expressionist portraits. Within twenty-four hours of meeting they engaged in a passionate affair. She became Kokoschka´s consuming obsession and dominated his life and work. His most famous painting, The Bride of the Wind, is one of many paintings she inspired.

Kokoschka missed Alma so desperately that he created a life-size facsimile. He provided detailed drawings, sketches and her exact measurements (provided by Alma’s dress-maker) to artist Hermine Moos who was skilled at making mannequins. Kokoschka wanted the skin to feel real. Moos decided to use swan skin because it felt as soft and sensuous as a woman’s. The most important aspect for Moos was the feel. Kokoschka was disappointed with the finished doll because it looked fluffy. For him, it was all-important that it looked like Alma. For most women the tactile sensation is important, while for men it is the look. In his book Studies in the Psychology of Sex, the English psychologist Henry Havelock Ellis explained that men are visually orientated, while women rely more on their sense of touch.

Kokoschka used the doll as a model for paintings, hired a full time maid for her and took her to the opera and parties. There was speculation about how far their intimacy went. He hired servants and friends to spread rumours about the doll and the newspapers gleefully relayed the stories. The last and most infamous occurred when Kokoschka beheaded the doll at a wild party and poured red wine over her. The following morning a police patrol saw what they thought was a corpse in his garden and burst into his house to arrest him.

Would Kokoschka be more satisfied wih the realistic dolls now available? In the 90’s artist Matt McMullen created a realistic silicone female mannequin and documented the process on his website. He was inundated with emails asking if it was ‘anatomically correct’. Although it wasn’t, McMullen realised there was a lucrative market and began making the RealDoll to order. Many companies can now make an exact replica of someone if you provide photographs and measurements. They have glass eyes, real hair, synthetic flesh, artificial intelligence based personalities, respond to voice commands and over 100 sensors spread around their body. With the latest 3D modelling techniques able to laser scan and replicate a detailed human figure, the ultimate duplicate is close at hand.

The perfect doll for Kokoschka? I doubt it. In her essay, Oscar Kokoschka’s Sex Toy, Bonnie Roos reveals that Kokoschka regarded his mannequin as an artwork. He designed, created and

very publicly used it as a piece of performance art. Soon after the doll incidents, Kokoschka was appointed as professor at Dresden Art Academy, a role that involved a great deal of responsibility, man management and paperwork. The governors would not have appointed someone crazy. They understood that the doll was part of his artistic agenda. They also knew of the long association between artists and mannequins, from the Renaissance through to Manet, Renoir and Degas. Puppets and mannequins also featured strongly in the contemporary Dada and Surrealist movements. It is also revealing that Alma touchingly suggested Kokoschka make a replica of her as a solution to his anguish at losing her.

Kokoschka intended the doll to increase his reputation and fame. It worked. Here we are, one hundred years later, still discussing it. Not crazy but shrewd.

The connection between artist and mannequin is explored in the exhibition, Silent Partners: Artist and Mannequin from Function to Fetish currently at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. It’s creepy, but essential viewing.

Self-Respect Requires Respecting Others … #Respect


(The following post On Respect by Arthur Dobrin recently appeared on To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)


There can be no respect without self-respect.

There can be no self-respect without respecting others.


Respect honors the uniqueness of each person.

Allow each other the right to make his or her own decisions.


Nourish, encourage, cooperate:

These are the ways to respect.


Honesty, kindness, respect:

These are the paths to the sacred.


When you value the important things, you respect yourself.

By respecting others you find value in yourself.


Resentment hinders self-respect.

Therefore, self-respect requires quieting the fires of resentment.


Here is the source of self-respect:

Hold yourself to your highest self.


Self-respect begins with accepting responsibility for yourself.

Responsibility includes acting responsibly in the larger world.


Self-respect and respect for others go hand-in-hand.

Respect others and they will respect your.


Respect is the foundation of a good society.

From respect flows consideration.


From considerations flows justice.

Justice is the basis of a good society.