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Pop Smear

I Spit On Your Grave Misunderstanding

I didn’t think headless torsos counted as “tech,” but Wired surprised me. In the October issue there’s a feature about “Scream-tastic Props and Demonic Decorations” that includes the foam corpse of a decapitated schoolgirl, ready to hang in your front yard on Halloween. The prop doesn’t stint on the details: The pleated miniskirt looks custom-sewn, and the bloody-knuckled hands grip the chain stringing her up with appropriate rigor mortised fervor. Imagine Sailor Moon after the Nanking massacre.

I tore the page out of my issue. Ironically, even though I write some pretty sicko fiction, I can’t handle being surprised by that kind of gore, especially when I’m not expecting to find it in the pages of Wired. (The most horrific thing I usually see in there is news of George Lucas planning another Special Edition.) But I’m supposed to be outraged, right? This is where City Paper’s feminist columnist gets all frothy at the mouth like Cujo and opines how sexualized violence is no joke, how images of mutilated women enforce sexist objectification, etc. I might have done that, but then I saw the Man-Ka-Bob.

The Man-Ka-Bob—it looks exactly like what you’re afraid it looks like—is also among the goods produced by Ghost Ride Productions, the outfit in Bellevue, Wash., that created the strung-up schoolgirl ($799, includes “bloody finish”) but also makes male and female corpse mannequins of all shapes and sizes, whole or bisected (your choice: horizontally, at the waistline, or, for that Francis Bacon side of beef look, vertically) as well as jabbering mechanized skulls, skinned raccoons, severed legs, and decapitated clown heads dangling on a string. It’s all very Joel-Peter Witkin, and it reminded me of Halloween’s unspoken purpose: making light of our own impending doom.

Gary Ridgway on his worst day couldn’t do to women what their bodies do to themselves. Menstruation leaves you vulnerable to anemia. Pregnancy can cause preeclampsia and diabetes, and childbirth can straight-up kill you. Even if you don’t have children, the estrogen brew your breasts and ovaries and uterus simmer in for decades increases your risk of certain cancers. Ted Bundy confessed to killing 30 women for sure (over a period of years), but approximately 109 women still die of breast cancer every day. I wonder if female horror movie fans find catharsis in seeing women in peril, because you don’t need six months of chemo and a double mastectomy to get away from Leatherface. All you need to do is run fast.

But then again, of all the corpses Ghost Ride makes, why did Wired pick the sexy schoolgirl? Why not the Man-Ka-Bob, or the bisected man, or even, as if this is marginally better, the dead adult woman corpse with the gray panties and the cellulite problem? Does it have something to do with the glut of sexy costumes for women—sexy nurse, sexy vampire, sexy SpongeBob SquarePants—and how it speaks to a bigger problem our culture has facing the full, unfettered brunt of unrepressed female sexuality? Zombies, werewolves, unsparkly vampires—if Halloween is when we celebrate things we’re scared of, there’s a lot of people out there who are terrified of sexual women. (I dunno, maybe I’m overthinking this. Maybe the sexy costume phenomenon is as simple as how this is the one night of the year women can enjoy dressing as revealingly as they want. Because, you know, wearing that on other days might attract the wrong attention. A girl could get hurt.)

Dead schoolgirl decorations aren’t the problem. Our collective unease over women’s bodies, and all the pleasure and pain they’re capable of, bubbles up, toil and trouble, around Halloween. That’s what causes the bulk of the horror for women the other 364 days of the year. That’s why I’m going to skip the cadaver front yard décor this Halloween. Instead, I’ll commission life-size foam models of Nina Hartley, Betty Dodson, and Annie Sprinkle, each with their own strategically placed Hitachi Magic Wand, to really scare the bejeezus out of people. Trick or treat!

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