As we delve further into the representation of the monster, this blog post, by Gary Christopher White, looks at the vampire and how the fangtastic image is eroticised, in text, and out. Gary graduated from the University of Sunderland with a BA Honours in English Language and Literature, went on to graduate with a PGCE, and is now currently teaching English as a lecturer for Newcastle College.
When we hear the word vampire we instantly think of two extreme ideals: the blood-sucking beast or the sparkling, illustrious incubus with a flawless complexion. However, it is what connects these two representations that is the most interesting. Their charismatic charm and ability to sexually dominate appeals to a dark fantasy that arguably resides within us all and transforms them from a beast that haunts the blood to a beast that haunts the bedroom.
Throughout time the vampire has been a figure that not only represents contemporary fears but contemporary desires and is no more relevant than today, in a society that favours the ‘bad boy’ persona and considers a thirst for blood and prolonged canines irrelevant. He is an enigmatic, powerful and timeless creature that is propelled by lust. A lust that as an audience we also experience, although the object of it is different; we ultimately lust for the dangerous and the deadly. We are attracted to the Byronic broodiness of the vampire and encouraged to indulge our unconscious desires, leaving good judgement at the door. The ultimate exogamy.
The link between the vampire and sexuality has always existed as has our innate compulsion to lust over something which we know isn’t particularly good for us. This coupled with the physical intimacy that the vampire has with his unsuspecting victim provides an audience with a thrilling element of excitement. Biologically the carotid artery –located in the neck- is the area that blood is commonly extracted from but it is also a main erogenous zone that on a human level we associate with intimacy and pleasure. This is extremely important when considering our own attraction to the vampire and our inherent desire for physical closeness. We have to acknowledge at this point Levis-Strauss’ discovery that primitive cultures used the same word for sexual intercourse as eating (1988, p.139). During the nineteenth century women were somewhat sexually oppressed and observed as falling victim to madness if they exhibited overtly sexual actions, so Stoker’s narrative on a male vampire that exuded class, charisma and sexuality would have excited the Victorian woman and provided a release from domestic dreariness. That’s not to say that every Victorian lady was frantically flicking the pages of Dracula as though it were ‘Fifty Shades of Fangs’, but drawn to an element of the book that resonated with them on a human level and tapped into something that is still relevant today: repressed desire.
Although in today’s society we are more liberal than the Victorians in our views we still find the deadly desirable and we have to ask ourselves why. What formula exists that transgresses time periods and society that ultimately makes this beast attractive to a contemporary audience. As a society we have undergone a metamorphosis in relation to desire and what we find attractive and so has the vampire. The vampiric spirit and capabilities of the beast are a constant but the physical aspects are in a state of flux, moulded predominantly to what contemporary society deems as ‘attractive’. For instance Edward Cullen is the vampire, boy next door hybrid of the modern day who not only conforms to our conventional expectations of what is attractive but also appeals to our thirst for the dangerous and exciting; the modern day equivalent of the aforementioned ‘dark fantasy’. Although he sparkles in the sun when he should be burnt to a crisp he still exudes a charismatic influence that we can’t help but be attracted to. We are instantly enthralled and invested in the secret love affair between Edward and Bella, beauty and the beast. With this in mind, we have to consider another dimension to our attraction to that which should invoke terror: Does the monstrous become more attractive when affected by or exhibiting an emotion that is inherently human, such as love? Is it the human elements of this monster that we ultimately lust over, categorising their primal desire to drain us of blood as simply ‘baggage’?
As humans we ultimately desire intimacy with others, therefore we are, by default, ruled by our own laws of attraction. The penetration of the vampire’s victims reminds us of our own susceptibility to dominant forces, something that some secretly enjoy, and can be seen as a metaphor for sexual intercourse; an intimate act that is inherently primal. Would we really brush Klaus Mikaelson away if we felt his stubble brush against our throats, anticipating intimacy not death? As a society we are wilfully blind to the deadly elements of such a beast, favouring their chiselled features and sensual actions. Russo (2008, p.134) sees the vampire as ‘ the quintessential outsider…outlaw creatures with a sensuality not entirely focussed on the social ‘norm’ of two minutes of genital thrusting’. This suggests that society is attracted to the ministrations of a torturous love affair with the deadly, willingly serving us –pun intended- to the charismatic caper who we are attracted to arguably because he exists outside societal norms. He is something we shouldn’t want, but we do. The vampire as a representation of extended reality significantly contributes to our desire as on some level we can consider a union with the vampire as feasible because he is isn’t visibly abhorrent. He is something other than the regular who transcends the mortality.
Through considering vampires as sexual beings we are forced to question ourselves on a number of levels and question the appropriacy of our transgressions. We reflect upon the boundaries that society imposes in terms of ‘constructions of normality’ but we always choose to indulge our dark desires in pursuit of deadly pleasure. Regardless of the physical manifestation of the vampire we continue to be enthralled and this is primarily a result of the versatile nature of the monster and its sensuous appeal; willingly placing ourselves at the hands of the monster. The supernatural becomes eroticised and death becomes sexualised in such a way that the chill that rubs down our spine upon encountering the vampire isn’t just fear.
Russo.A (2008) Vampire Nation. Llewellyn World Wide
Stevnson. J.A (1989) A Vampire in the Mirror: The Sexuality of Dracula.PMLA