Vampires, and the Sluts and Virgins Who Love Them By: Latoya Peterson Posted: December 31, 1969 at 7:00 PM SEO Headline: Vampire shows glorify chastity and sexual violence. Deck:
The latest craze for bloodsuckers is bad for women.
Author: Latoya Peterson  Posting Date: 07/10/2009 – 10:00am The New York Times Thursday Styles had a trend story last week on the new vampire glamour , with the sultry bloodsuckers showing up in fashion magazines, dominating the paperback sections at bookstore chains, and starring in a host of new TV shows. As the piece points out, the new crop of fanged fantasy fodder are light years away from the original Dracula, Bela Lugosis. Vamps are a combination of “deathless good looks and decadent sexuality,” writes Ruth LaFerla, but the piece misses the undercurrent in the trend. The latest wave of novels and series are not like the glossy look-but-don’t-touch sexuality you see in Vogue. They reflect our culture’s deep ambivalence about women’s sexuality and our obsession with glorifying chastity and sexual violence. The latest in the genre is HBO’s True Blood . From its opening down-and-dirty guitar peals (chorus: “I want to do bad things to you”), it taps into the old notion of vampires as our own ids, unleashed. Sookie Stackhouse, the major protagonist in True Blood, is tender, chaste, and completely inexperienced in the ways of love. In her case, being a virgin marks her as different in the Southern town of Bon Temps, where sleeping around is one of the few recreational activities available. Particularly in the first season, when women who lay with vampires are marked as loose (and quite a few end up dead at the hand of the town’s deranged serial killer), a theme emerges dividing the “good girls” from the “bad girls” or “fangbangers.” Sookie, who sleeps with her undead suitor Bill, ends up marked as bad, although she ultimately gets the upper hand on the killer. Stephanie Meyer, the author of Twilight , has been criticized for emphasizing chastity in the story arc between Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Quite often, their scenes together felt like an extended tease, or a test of will, exemplified by Edward conquering his lust for blood (read: booty). Some critics attributed it to Meyer being a both a Mormon and a housewife when she started the series. Alan Ball, the creator of True Blood, may have more progressive politics than Meyer—he openly discusses the allegory that the struggle for vampire rights on the show is a pop culture critique of the current climate toward gay rights. But, from a feminist perspective, he is still transmitting the same idea: To be desired, a woman should be beautiful, virginal, and submissive. In both series, sex is spiked with danger. A man’s protection and a woman’s desire are intimately connected to violence. Sookie frequently finds herself the subject of Bill’s wrath while he is trying to protect her. In Twilight, Edward’s penchant for pointing out all the ways in which he could maim Bella by accident borders on S & M foreplay. This would have never gone down with Buffy the Vampire Slayer . The original new vampire heroine, Buffy possessed her own powers and could easily protect herself. For her, fending off a man’s threats was all part of a day’s work. If one of her lovers (either vampire or human, as she dabbled with both) decided to get a little rough, Buffy’s super strength and agility kept the fight fair. In Buffy, there is also a slight whiff of the virginity good/sex bad dynamic. (Creator Joss Whedon caught heat for having Angel turn evil after they consummated their relationship.) But Buffy’s approach to sex is remarkably third wave. After a relatively celibate Season Three, Buffy proceeds to sleep with three more men (two human, one vampire) before the series closes. This is considered normal behavior—while Angel was the one for Buffy in her teen years and perhaps beyond, it just didn’t work out. This attitude toward sex also extends to the rest of the cast. This crudely rendered Buffy Sex chart  illustrates that most of the characters, after the initial awkwardness of adolescence, go on to have healthy and varied sex lives with a variety of other partners. This seems unlikely for Sookie or Bella—Bella in particular, as she has shown an inclination to die rather than to live without Edward. Buffy, on the other hand, in a nice feminist flourish, manages to deal with her feelings long enough to confine her first boyfriend Angel to hell. In the end, as much as I immerse myself in the worlds of True Blood and Twilight, I still find myself longing for Buffy Summers. She’s the one who subverts the generally accepted paradigm of what a woman should be and how she should behave. She manages to be both tough and vulnerable, but is still recognized as an object of desire. She isn’t the final girl , nor is she dedicating her life to the whims of her undead lover. She’s simply the last one left to battle the monster.Perhaps Buffy is a different breed of vampire-fiction heroine: she’s the final feminist.