Monsters can be found in books, audio, television and, of course, in the movies and they are almost always repulsive. No one finds themselves attracted to a mummy, ghoul, werewolf, zombie, the Frankenstein monster, etc. The primary exception to this rule is the vampire. While incarnations of it can be positively scary to look at, the trend as of late has been to make them exceedingly beautiful. That in itself is not such a bad thing, but the other attributes granted these supernatural beings lead to storylines with alarmingly poor messages for young people – adolescent girls in particular.
Usually the “top” or “main” vampire will be male and he will more often than not execute control and aggression towards women. Now more than ever these attacks will have a sexual component. The audience for said stories will be inundated with mental or visual images of powerful males taking advantage of female victims in semi-sexual ways. Yes, there can be male victims as well, but they tend to fight violently against the attacker and there is no sexual component as they are conquered. Here is an example:
Bram Stokers Dracula
This article deals with how vampires are portrayed in modern times, and therefore, I am referring to the 1992 movie about Dracula instead of the original book from the late 1800’s.
Dracula finds his wife from centuries earlier (Mina) reincarnated and living in England. He wants her back, so for some reason kills her best friend (Lucy). Before killing her, however he bites her several times as she writhes in apparent sexual pleasure. In one scene Lucy appears to sleepwalk out into the garden to meet Dracula. When Mina come across them, Dracula has taken the form of a naked, hairy beast. He is between Lucy’s bare, spread legs. She is again in ecstasy as he bites and has his way with her. Afterwards she tells Mina “I couldn’t control myself” and “It had some sort of hold on me and lured me and I had no control.”
Lucy’s words suggest that this happened to her against her will, but the body language and sounds emanating from her made it clear she enjoyed it and had no misgivings until afterwards.
Fortunately this film was not widely watched by teen girls, because they would have seen a woman receiving great sexual pleasure from the man who attacked and killed her. This is also a bad message to send young males, and unfortunately they are the prime demographic for such movies.
The male victims in this story are killed in battle with Dracula and without any sexual component. Even the pathetic bug eating character, Renfield, dies while taking a stand.
The final takeaway is: Men fight heroically. Women are turned on by their attackers.
There are other versions of the modern vampire model that seem harmless, but definitely are not.
The Girl I Knew
This is one of the up-and-coming books that caught my eye during my research.
The protagonists are a boy and girl of high school age. The boy (Brandon) learns that the girl (Jackie) is a vampire and during the story there are multiple sexual encounters between the two.
The roles are reversed here. The girl is the sexually aggressive vampire instead of the male. During one scene in the book Jackie roughly throws Brandon onto the bed, sucks his blood against his will as he struggles and pleads for her to stop. Then she ties him up and rapes him. How does she supposedly manage to rape a male who is being forced against his wishes? In spite of his hurt and humiliation and the tear rolling down his face, he responds to her body and is horrified to look down and find that he has an erection.
Is this sexual aggressiveness okay because a girl is the attacker and the boy is the victim? No, it’s not. In fact, it may be even worse because the scenario is more likely to be seen as acceptable. Yet it still features sex without consent and that can never be tolerated. Fans of the book may seek out aggressively sexual encounters and relationships. Young women may feel empowered by the strength and sexual domination of the Jackie character, but once they are involved in relationships that allow forceful sex, trouble is sure to follow. Males are generally larger and often stronger than females. The tables could turn, equaling lifelong emotional scars for the girls that go down this path. The males will find themselves in legal trouble or at the very least will be less sensitive to a woman’s psyche.
This well-known tale also centers on the relationship of a male and female of high school age. Unlike the book described above, the female (Bella) graduates and turns 18 before engaging in sex with the vampire male (Edward).
I’m sure to most people the story appeared entertaining and yet innocuous relating to the treatment of women. But let’s look deeper.
In the first book Bella is ready to throw away everything she is and her friends and family to join Edward as a vampire. He refuses to turn her into one, but this is a recurring theme throughout the series. Edwards leaves her in the second book and Bella responds by putting herself in dangerous – borderline suicidal – situations because it somehow conjures up his voice in her head. The message here is that even though she is told she is special, her life holds no value unless it is attached to Edward’s.
Near the end of the series the couple get married and their honeymoon sex results in her dying and also becoming a vampire. Although furniture was damage during intercourse, Edward was not sexually aggressive or forceful. However, Bella had to persuade and beg before he would actually consummate their marriage. This reinforces that she is not the one with the sexual power in their relationship and she is again willing to put her life at risk to be close to him.
These are not healthy messages for young girls trying to find their place in the world.
Literature and movies help shape culture and it’s important that they are not counterproductive to the safety of a segment of society. Stories should not escape scrutiny simply because they have a supernatural component. Vampire tales have become incredibly popular and influential with today’s youth and demand a closer look.
The Modern Vampires' Message to Adolescent Girls