Our Obsession with Vampires and Sex

November 18, 2009 by  

true_blood_couple_mVampires and sex: they seem inextricably linked. Perhaps the title should have been re-phrased to ‘Why have Vampires started us obsessing over sex’? Whether it’s Dracula, True Blood, the Vampire Diaries or Twilight, vampires seem to have become synonymous with sex, sexuality and the forbidden. Given that the orgasm has been referred to as la petit mort (the little death), should we find it surprising that the act of vampirism is associated with sexuality?

Really, we can’t seem to escape these fanged creatures. They’re lurking everywhere and have become our newest obsession, or should I say, addiction? But why is this so? As Yvonne K. Fulbright suggests:

“In two words: vampire sex”

While some might throw up their hands in horror over the steamy hyper-sexuality exhibited by the inhabitants of HBO’s True Blood, vampires in books, films and television are and have always been associated with sex. The act of vampirism is, to put it mildly, an intimate one. It involves the mouth, an erogenous zone in itself, biting and sucking the victim. Need I say more? Hardly surprising then that this is intimately linked with forbidden acts, especially if we cast our minds back to Dracula’s Victorian London where sex and sexuality were as constrained as the corsets women had to wear back then.

As we now know, vampire legends predate Stoker’s Dracula; the traditional image of the vampire as a bloated creature feeding off decomposing corpses gave way to Polidori’s and Stoker’s re-imagination of the vampire. Through them, the vampire became linked with the aristocratic predator, which is also a staple of several fairy tales. For example, the character of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood was a thinly disguised caricature of Louis XIV’s younger brother the Duke of Orleans, who ruthlessly seduced both men and women. The writers of Gothic fiction, such as Sheridan le Fanu, Polidori and Stoker probably devoured Baring-Gould’s account of the ruthless female serial killer Countess Elisabeth Bathory. Convicted in 1610 for murdering 80 young women, she became known as ‘The Bloody Lady of Cachtice’ for her bathing in her victims’ blood in the twisted belief that this would help her maintain her beauty and youth.

Polidori, Lord Byron’s physician, published The Vampyre in 1819, subsequently re-casting the blood drinking vampire as an attractive, charismatic anti-hero. Polidori, as we now know, based the vampire Lord Ruthven on his patient Lord Byron. Lady Caroline Lamb, Byron’s former lover, once described Byron as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’, also calling the villain in her novel Glenarvon Lord Ruthven. It’s widely believed that both Lady Caroline Lamb and Polidori were settling a score with the famous poet.

But it was Bram Stoker who gave us the image and characteristics of the modern vampire, although the book’s influence only grew in the 20th century. Dracula also embedded the allegory connecting blood with sex whereby the sexual implications of the blood exchange between the vampire and his victim provides highly powerful psychosexual and erotic overtones. When Mina Harker drinks Dracula’s blood, giving Mina her first experience of sexual ecstasy, the sexual overtones are unmistakable,

Of course, F.W. Murnau’s German Expressionist Nosferatu undoubtedly returned the vampire to a gruesome monster. In Max Shreck’s performance, we see a vampire as a grotesque loathsome creature, not the charismatic fanged creature. But it was Bela Lugosi performance in 1924 that vampires are again re-made as the irresistible, polished, seductive and good-looking villain. Through Bela Lugosi, the modern vampire is rehabilitated, and now appears forever youthful inhabiting an in-between world where they are neither dead nor alive. As Y.K. Fulbright indicates:

“Bela Lugosi made vampires irresistibly handsome for modernity. But beyond hot bodies and good looks, it’s the male vampire’s depiction as the James Dean of Goth that holds the greatest appeal […] these rebels are far from pure in thought and deed. Women can’t help but be drawn to these mesmerizing, misunderstood, moody bad boys.”

Moreover, unlike the earlier vampires, our modern bad boys are noticeably deviant and hyper-sexual involving

“Subtle storylines of sexual deviants flirting with fetishes […] Since the 1950s, stories have become more overtly “sexplicit”, with more recent movies and TV shows depicting or alluding to frenzied, frantic sex with aggressive appeal.”

I guess we shouldn’t mince our words here because what the appeal modern vampire alludes to, how shall we say it…is that of S&M. As Y.K. Fulbright again notes:

Vampires like it rough. They like to bite. And their victims love the bites, scratches and handcuffs as depicted in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sometimes sadomasochists attract what are known as “fang bangers” […] people who have a thing for manhandle-me vampire sex role playing. The bondage, domination and submission themes mixed with ‘true love’ are perfect reason for stripping off your neck scarf or turtleneck.”

In short, these modern vampires allow us to get in touch with our primal side of sexual desires, which seldom see the light of day.

“The dangerous lust of a vampire torn between staying in control with very lick of his prey revs up your body much like a sexual response. And it’s delicious […] When it comes to longing and lust, we love being preyed upon. Vampires go for one of the most sensitive erogenous zones, the neck, becoming even more magnetic as their victims beg for life, for death, for sex. ”

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Needless to say, the vampires of HBO’s True Blood fulfill all these modern fantasies about vampire sexuality. Fascinating, dangerous, ambivalent and lustful. Yes, Vampire Bill and Viking vampire Eric Northman are all those. Creatures of uncensored sensuality, yes, the vampires who inhabit the Southern Gothic world of True Blood are all those too. Beautiful, immortal and titillatingly libidinous, these vampires aren’t afraid of their lustful natures. Nor do they fight them. They happily give in. They feel no guilt or shame. They are indeed bad and dangerous to know. In fact, these creatures of the night don’t ever need to do the walk of shame. These creatures don’t ever have to deal with the ‘morning after’. No sane human could ever be so free.

But let’s face it, they aren’t human either. Instead, they are something defiantly other, defying pragmatic reality, the creatures of our nightmares or fairy tales, depending on your leaning of course. And we are enthralled and obsessed by these wonderful creatures.

Source: Foxnews.com

Photo credit: HBO Inc.

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