Imagine a vampire’s ideal prey: a petite and kind young woman in a lovely flowing white dress. She is the absolute image of purity and innocence. Now imagine the average vampire: dark, brooding and supernaturally handsome, cloaked in deep dark colors that should frighten anyone, yet make lovely contrast with his pale skin. He is the spitting image of a dangerous yet tempting bad boy here to drain and defile their prey. Have vampires always been this handsome? Have they always been this sexual forbidden fruit? Certainly not, vampires started out as almost every monster has, hideously. With that being said, how have vampires become sex symbols in today’s modern culture? From the grotesque characterizations of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Book Dracula and the almost rodential image of Nosferatu, vampires have evolved into sexy sharp-jawed men such as Lestat from Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. There has been a jump in society’s perception of what a vampire should be, this change has led to the sexy vampires of the twentieth and twenty-first century. This analysis will explore and hypothesize the cause of this cultural shift from disgusting to desirable due to vampires being sexual and also forbidden, female sexuality being seen as taboo subject, and women gaining more power and voice in literature and media.
One of the first contributing factors to sexy vampires is that vampires themselves are inherently sexual. In Monster Theory: Reading Culture, it is stated that fear of monsters is really a kind of desire (Cohen, 17). Because of the vampire’s monstrous nature, this applies to vampires as well. Vampires were created during a time of intense sexual repression and restriction. It would make sense that vampires have had extreme sexual undertones since Bram Stoker’s Dracula first came out. seeing as Dracula himself preyed on young women, feasting on their blood by biting and drinking from their necks, one of the most intimate and sensitive places on the human body. Because of the demonization of sexuality, depictions of vampires have fully embraced their sexual nature in order to maintain their identity as monsters, thus simultaneously making vampires a beacon of sexual freedom. As the cultural values change and people generally become more tolerant and accepting and less concerned about a young woman’s purity, vampires evolve to keep up with the cultural shifts. New vampires that are created are LGBT coded, feeding off of young men and women alike, or even proudly exhibiting both masculinity and femininity, as well as the traits that are considered typical for both. Charles Henry states that vampires are often portrayed as seductive, and that it is difficult to separate the sadism in the vampire from the hidden masochism in the victim (p 25). People simultaneously fear and envy vampires because of the sexual freedom they have. Vampires have become a beacon of acceptance for people whose sexual preferences deviate from societal norms. Vampires have been included into modern society’s subcultures because the people in these subcultures feel that their lifestyle is better represented and accepted by vampires.
Another contributing factor to sexy vampires is that women’s sexuality is historically seen as taboo and inherently sinful. Women’s sexuality is seen as a forbidden subject, as well as simply taboo in general. Throughout history, women have been condemned and demonized for expressing any sort of sexuality, regardless of the fact that sexuality is a normal and natural thing to develop. Women were denied contraceptive autonomy from the Catholic church who have historically been at odds with women expressing any sort of sexuality at all (Geiringer, p209). Wearing blush and lipstick was frowned upon in the early twentieth century simply because blush and lipstick imitated a flushed, post sex face, which was seen as shameful. Women’s sexuality is still condemned to this day by laws that ban or limit the amount of sex toys, specifically dildos, that one person can own. Demonization of women’s sexuality is at large when people get particularly squeamish when any subject involving women’s pleasure comes up, and when women express being too ashamed about their bodies to even masturbate or talk about masturbation. Even in these modern times, women’s sexuality is still so condemned that women actually feel regret, shame, and self-loathing after any sort of sexual activity, even as consenting or married adults. The idea of purity being linked to sexual activity is so deeply engrained in society and culture that losing it brings extreme feelings of guilt and shame, even though no one else knows or is hurt by it. It comes to no surprise that women project their sexual urges onto vampires, especially when women’s sexuality seems to be demonized almost as much as actual vampires.
The third contributing factor to sexy vampires is that more women have a chance to write and have their books published. Women have more access to resources as well as opportunities that were previously usually only available to men. Women have access to work beyond clerical jobs, teaching, nursing, and homemaking. It is also generally more acceptable for women to be working now than it was over a hundred years ago. Because of this boom in accessibility, there are more women authors on all levels of writing, especially with novels. Because women get more voice in today’s world, they are more comfortable writing about more taboo subjects and subject matters, including sexuality and vampires. Vampires have played every role from the forbidden fruit antagonist, to the immaculately beautiful supporting character, to even the brooding and handsome love interest of the protagonist. Women have wanted a vampire lover, perhaps since the temptation of Bella Lugosi’s Dracula, a frighteningly handsome monster, coming to sweep young women off their feet and defile their purity by drinking blood from their sensitive necks. Writing is liberation, and women today are free to write about whatever pleases them, including temptingly dangerous and beautiful men who also are immortal, superhuman, cursed with the need to drink blood to survive, and also coincidentally make perfect boyfriends.
By looking at these three possible contributing factors, it becomes clear how vampires have morphed from disgusting, pointy-eared monsters to beautiful monsters with physiques of Greek gods and marble statues. Guilt and shame from expressing sexuality, combined with the temptation of neck biting men and a more developed platform to express all these desires combine to make the beautiful blood-sucking boys that materialize in people’s minds when they imagine vampires. Sexually repressed women wanted the sexual freedoms that vampires possessed and created stories where their damsels are defiled by the vampires, as a way to express these desires without facing as much repercussions and backlash as they would face for openly expressing their desire to experience sexual satisfaction. Vampires in fiction have become a way for women to liberate themselves sexually by partaking in taboo and sexual deviancy. Thinking about and analyzing the causes as to why vampires have become sexy may make some people uncomfortable however, if people think rationally about why sexy vampires have become a thing, one can see that women’s sexual repression has a big part in the equation. It cannot be said for certain that if women had never experienced sexual repression, sexy vampires would have never existed, however taking into consideration that vampires have become a personification of sexual deviancy, it would be challenging for them to exist if the title of sexual deviant was not as easy to obtain as it historically has been, or even today.
Cohen, J. J. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. MN: U of Minnesota Press (1996). Minneapolis, Minnesota.
This is the book on Monster theory that was used to emphasize that though vampires are monsters in nature, they still are a product of society’s desires.
Geiringer, David. “Catholic Understandings of Female Sexuality in 1960S Britain.” Twentieth Century British History, vol. 28, no. 2, June 2017, pp. 209-238. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1093/tcbh/hww051.
This peer-reviewed article is published in an academic journal. It was used to support the claim that women were historically sexually repressed.
Henry, Charles. “Pop Vampires, Freud, and Primary Masochism.” Psychoanalytic Review, vol. 101, no. 1, Feb. 2014, pp. 25-38. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1521/prev.2014.101.1.25.
This is also a peer-reviewed article that is published in an academic journal. This was used to support the claim that vampires are sexual, even without intending to be.