How Halloween Can Boost Your Libido

Illustration by Emma Olswing

by Dame

Valentine’s Day gets all the credit for serving up amorous vibes, but allow us to make a bold claim: Halloween is hands-down the horniest holiday. The last day of October is an aesthetic, psychological, sartorial, and chemical wonderland for sex and pleasure. Here are some ways All Hallow’s Eve has us feeling monstrously lusty.

Halloween encourages our shadow selves.

There’s a key concept in Jungian psychology called the “shadow”: the unknown, unconscious side of our personality. "Everyone carries a shadow," Carl Jung wrote, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." Immortalized in the characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (and embodied in supernatural beings that come alive at night, like vampires and werewolves), our “shadows” are ripe to be released on Halloween, a night that embraces the world’s darker side. This concept is even baked into the holiday’s Celtic and pagan origins, which marked this liminal space as the end of the harvest season and the advent of winter.

Our “shadow” can also be an expression of our true nature, without inhibitions—and pleasure is at its peak when our inhibitions are down. What better way to get into the Halloween spirit than indulge the alter-ego that you repress in everyday life? This spooky night gives us permission to let our darkness run wild. (Safely and consensually, of course!) 

Costumes stoke our fantasies. (Roleplay, anyone?)

We hate to state the obvious, but a costume or disguise can be a great way to act out a sexual fantasy. Some of the most classic sexual roleplay characters—teacher, nurse, vampire, cop—also happen to be bullseye Halloween costumes. But really, any costume can help unearth your deep-seated desires to explore power dynamics or try on a new persona. It’s a night where all bets are off when it comes to cultural expectations; it might be the perfect moment to, say, dress in drag or explore one’s exhibitionist side. Halloween’s wigs, clothes, and props all set the stage for a seamless fantasy scenario. That’s a good thing, because let’s face it: Roleplaying can be awkward! 

Fear turns us on. Science says so.

Numerous studies have long connected fear with sexual attraction. Fear heightens the senses, and many of the physical responses during “fight or flight”—like increased heart rate and blood pressure, or dilated pupils—are also associated with arousal. Estrogen encourages our sex drive, but also generates feelings of fear and anxiety. Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” can also be triggered by fear. 

This spooky night gives us permission to let our darkness run wild.

So whether you’re on the couch watching a scary movie or holding your lover’s hand during a haunted house, the year’s scariest holiday is the perfect recipe for romance. And if Halloween’s spookiness becomes too much for us, a cheek-flushing romp can bring some life-affirming energy to a very death-focused holiday.

Autumn makes us want sex.

Studies have shown that testosterone—the hormone behind our sex drives—actually rises during fall, even for cis women. Scientists don’t quite know why this is the case, although many other species have a fall “rutting season,” and more babies are born in August (exactly nine months after Halloween). Sperm production is also at its lowest during the summer and early fall, and when those numbers rebound, they come back with a vengeance. Meanwhile, temperatures are dropping, which invites more cuddling.

Chocolate and pumpkins are aphrodisiacs.

A much-publicized 2006 study from The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that, among Italian women, a single cube of chocolate made women’s libidos more active and helped them achieve better sexual function. The scientists found that it was thanks to two chemicals: a compound called phenylethylamine, which is released in the brain when people fall in love, and tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, which is a component of sexual arousal. Granted, there are very small amounts of these chemicals in chocolate, so your trick-or-treat candy isn’t exactly a silver bullet for sparking sexual desire. But it can’t hurt!

There’s also evidence that the smell of pumpkin makes men horny. One study out of Chicago's Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Center found that a combination of lavender and pumpkin pie produced a 40% increase in penile blood flow. (Then again, only 31 men participated in the study, so take those results with a grain of salt.)

The light is right.

What does a romantic dinner and a spooky Halloween seance have in common? Candles! Soft lighting can help us relax and make us feel more confident about our bodies, both of which can nudge along some sexy time. Plus, candles can present an excellent opportunity for titillating wax play. (Just make sure those candles don’t have scents or additives!)