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07 February 2009

Vampires and Virginity

[I originally posted this blog on Tuesday 18 November 2008 on MySpace. I'm reposting it here as part of "Brad's Greatest Hits."]

Let me start by being very forthright in that I have not read this novel nor am I likely to see the movie anytime soon. However, having read a number of plot summaries and reviews on the interwebs, I feel confident enough in my analysis to write this.

Stories about vampires, or something resembling them, have been a part of folklore for the entirety of human history. Beginning in the Victorian Era, vampire novels become a thinly-veiled erotica for a society intent on enforcing a restrictive sexual morality. While at first it may not seem patent, the sexuality becomes palpable after a few metaphors are deciphered: vampires are always beautiful and eternally youthful, they're always biting and sucking on other's necks, and sometimes, male vampires even feed off other men. From the Victorians to us today, the vampire and his urges have represented—and even reveled in—those culturally repressed sexual appetites that otherwise can't be shared. The most recent addition to the vampire mythology is a book and subsequent film, both titled Twilight. Without spoiling either, the plot involves a teenage girl who falls in love with a teenage boy, the latter of whom turns out to be a 100+-year-old vampire. The twist is that this vampire has chosen to "abstain" from feeding on human blood. From there, this vampire fights his own blood-"lust," and the pair must also fight off the advances of another, less-restrained teenage vampire, who would be happy to suck a little of the virgin's blood. The sexual metaphors remain, but unlike its Victorian vampire predecessors, Twilight is not about the purging of repressed sexuality; instead, the message seems to be that one should voluntarily repress his sexual desires, particularly if he is a teenage boy. Arguably, contemporary moralities are more ambiguous about sexuality in general and teenage sexuality in particular. The vampire motif is still a convenient vehicle for contemporaneous sexuality, but now, it seems the moral has been turned on its head.

I would be remiss for not pointing out that Stephenie Meyer, the author of this novel, is a member of the Latter-Day Saints church (i.e. the Mormons) and that the director of the film adaptation is a Presbyterian whose most recent film was the Christian-themed The Nativity Story. Given the above interpretation, it shouldn't be a stretch to connect the content to recent sexual abstinences movements, most of which originated in Evangelical Protestant congregations. Maybe we'll be lucky enough to see a novel and film in which school nurses are permitted to hand out latex neck prophylactics to the teenage vampires so that they can still gnaw on necks without actually tasting of their girlfriends' blood.

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