Examine the pictures included in this week's post. A young, sexy person, covered in blood, points his piercing, erotic and sensual gaze at you; those eyes could only be sending one message to the masses: do me now and do me rough! The display of soft core porn is only a tidbit of the erotic sensations that vampires instill in millions of people of all genders, ages, races, sexual orientations and nationalities. This tidal wave of sadomasochistic, rage filled, and explicitly graphic sexual energy has ripped open our culture, sucked us dry and then left us wanting more. It can't for a moment be denied that American culture is obsessed with vampires. But why? Why do we read works like Ann Rice's Vampire Chronicles? Why is Dracula the most filmed character in history? Why is it that we get hard whenever fangs come out? Or should I say, why do fangs come out whenever we get hard? Using traditional psychoanalysis (and some not so traditional psychoanalysis) we'll go on a tour of the landscape of the vampire as a sexual object and discover why fangs and blood are the new whips and chains. Without further blabbering from me...
I Love You, Don't Eat Me!
To begin, I'd like to start with Freud's theory of overvaluation of the sexual object. In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Freud writes, “It is only in the rarest instances that the physical valuation that is set on the sexual object, as being the goal of the sexual instinct, stops short of its genitals. The appreciation extends to the whole body of the object and tends to involve every sensation derived from it”(16). With vampires this definitely holds true. For the vampire takes away the genitals as the place of sexual pleasure, and places it somewhere else: neck, wrist, thigh, breast and many more dirty places. It takes sex, an act that some view as strictly for procreation, and makes it about pleasure for the whole being. If you're getting off without your genitals touching then there is no chance of reproduction. Vampires represent sex as fun, not as an obscene act, only to be done once you're married. The attraction to vampires comes from this animal-like need to have sex, and the vampire represents this need personified. However, this overvaluation doesn't stop just at sex. It's also the reason vampires can seduce their victims (or partners depending on who's involved) into continuing to let them feed.
“The subject becomes, as it were, intellectually infatuated (that is, his powers of judgment are weakened) by the mental achievements and perfections of the sexual object and he submits to the latter's judgment with credulity”(16). This phenomenon that Freud points out was his personal interpretation of how love began, but for the purposes of the vampire I see it as the avenue through which mind control becomes plausible. On the hit HBO series True Blood, vampire Bill Compton attempts to “glammer” Sookie Stakehouse. Due to Sookie's fairy blood he is unable to take control of her mind directly, however as the series progresses Bill makes Sookie fall in love with him, and therefore establishes a far stronger level of control than simply invading her mind. Once again we see how Freud's concept of overvaluation is used and abused by the walking dead. We as a society have grown to love the idea of sex as pleasure, and romance with a man or a woman from beyond the grave.
One final point of discussion in regard to the overvaluation of the object is the actual sexual acts themselves. In almost every medium of vampire entertainment, sex with a vampire is held in far higher regard than with another human. In a poll done by ABC 47% percent of singles under 30 were not satisfied with their sex lives(Peek Beneath the Sheets, 9). That being almost half the country, it seems logical that the reason for the vampire's reputation of a ramped up performance is a culture that is dissatisfied with the sex they're having. I know from personal experience that the majority of my sexual encounters have been let downs (save for a few), so it seems perfectly logical to me that people would dream of a perfect lover who could please them every time. That lover is the vampire, for if not, then why has our culture endowed him and her with the power to screw at such astounding power.
I think the trend may have been started by Anne Rice, but since Interview with the Vampire a lot of vampire characters have been either gay or lesbian. On True Blood almost every character has gay or queer tendencies, even the show's male heartthrob Eric. In a rare display of power, a gay character, the Vampire King of Mississippi, Russel Eddington, was given the honor of being the third season's villain. Pam, Eric's child is the show's main Lesbian character, but she is not alone, for the late Queen Sophie-Ann, the former vampire leader of Louisiana had a female human whom she used for sexual pleasure. The question of course becomes, why? Why are their so many vampires who are either gay or bisexual? As I keep bringing up, vampires represent nonhetronormative sex. They represent sex as an act of pleasure and for gay people who can't have children with their partners, sex is a strictly pleasurable act, so it makes sense that vampires would experiment with their sexuality's. Also consider that during sex with a vampire the erogenous zone is not the genitals but the neck. When you take the genitals out of sex, suddenly sexual orientation becomes something you can play with.
The other side of identification of Queer people with vampires is the side that is the pain felt due to the rejection projected by the hetronormative world. Queer people know what it's like to be different, and to feel like they don't quite fit in with the rest of society. “Vampirism is, of course, an ideal metaphor for the gay life. Vampires exist as the eternal "other," living in the shadows outside of respectable society. They are perceived as sexual monsters and are hated and feared”(The sons of Lestat, 22) In Ann Rice's Vampire Chronicles her three main vampires, Louie, Lestat and Armand are all gay. The funny thing about these characters is how they embrace sexuality the same way they embrace their vampirism. Louie rejects his love for Armand, the same way he rejects being a vampire. Armand prefers to keep his sexuality and his vampirism very private, which is why Armand is often alone. Lestat fully embraces his sexuality and also fully embraces being a vampire. He embraces these things so much that he even “comes out” as a vampire. The metaphor painted by Rice couldn't be a more obvious comparison. Of course, vampires have had their fare share of Lesbian characters as well. The most notable Lesbian vampire is Miriam from the film, The Hunger. “Miriam lives with her current lover in a darkly lit, opulent home which is like a vast womb-like mausoleum... She is the vampire/mother who gives birth to her vampire/lover... Only she knows how to appease 'the hunger' for blood”(The Monstrous-Feminine, 70) The lesbian vampire is seen as a menstrual monster, and a dangerous mother that is to be feared. While the gay vampire seems to either brood or rejoice in his vampirism, the lesbian vampire seems to plot, plan and calculate how to advance her vampirism further in the form of children.
Charlene Harris, author of the Sookie Stakehouse novels, takes the metaphor of homosexuality much further. In the world of her novels vampires have “come out of the coffin,” an obvious play on the old gay saying “coming out of the closet.” Also, if you watch the opening credits of True Blood you will see a sign that reads, “God hates Fangs.” These open metaphors attract gay readers and audiences, for everyone wants to feel like they have someone who understands them. Vampires and gays are both the “eternal other.” Vampires are nonhetronrmative beings, who are shunned because they are different, have pleasure based sex and are a people who mostly just want to be left alone. Sound familiar?
One thing is clear, whether you like Twilight or True Blood, vampires as a sexual object aren’t gong anywhere. On the contrary, the world of darkness, a term first used by White Wolf Game Studios, is rapidly growing and consuming popular culture. Almost every young adult fiction novel on the shelves is about vampires. TV has both True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries, not to mention the cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is arguably the greatest vampire TV show of all time. With Breaking Dawn, the last film in the Twilight series, on the horizon vampires won't be leaving theaters soon either. Both money and sexual fantasy have solidified the vampires place in popular culture, and as a rouge sex symbol for the masses. Very few people claim to not be a part of the growing blood-lust for vampires, whether they want to have sex with one, become one, or meet one. Whatever your vice, vampires have sunk their fangs deep into our desires, our bodies and our wallets. If you meet a vampire this Halloween, don't be afraid. If it decides to kill and eat you, as you're dying, just say...
So It Goes...