Vhat vomen vant

Why are women so drawn to vampires in fiction? If you said, "tired stereotypes about female desire," you got it.

Published November 21, 2008 4:22PM (EST)

I admit I'm probably the wrong person to ask about why vampires are so appealing to women, mostly because my first answer would be, "They are?" I haven't read the "Twilight" series and am in no rush to see the movie version that opens today. I've never read an Anne Rice novel. I did watch Buffy religiously, but I was never that interested in broody vamp Angel; true to my real-life preference for human nerds, I was hot for Giles and Xander. So there's a strong possibility that, as with so many other things, I just don't get it.

Still, I can't help noticing that all of the reasons this New York Daily News article gives for women's fascination with vampires (a foregone conclusion here) match up with a lot of old, tired theories about What Women Want. We're drawn to bad boys and rebels. We want to nurture vulnerable men, which vampires are because they live "on the fringe of society," according to film professor Joanne Detore-Nakamura. (Apparently, immortality and a thirst for blood don't disqualify one from the "vulnerable" category, so long as one is sufficiently outcast and emo about it.) Harry Medved, head of publicity for Fandango and noted expert on the female psyche, except only half of that is true, says of "Twilight's" star vamp Edward Cullen, "Here is a vampire who looks like a Greek god, he's insanely good looking, forever young and all he wants to do is read your thoughts and spend time with you. When is the last time most men told their wife he wishes he could read her thoughts?" Um, raise your hand if you're completely creeped out by the thought of your spouse reading your thoughts.  And that's not the best part. Says Medved, "They have an intensity and a desperate need to be close to other humans that is appealing. It's exciting because you just never know when a vampire is going to lose control and have to bite you." Oh, man. Tell me this is not going where I think it's going.

But it is. Kristen Romney, an archaeologist and science advisor for a men's lifestyle site, spells it out: "Vampires have become a replacement for sex. A vampire is such a powerful figure who sneaks into bed with a woman at night and, though he doesn't ravage her, promises her eternal life." Ah, it's ye olde rape fantasie, but without the pesky rape! Just, you know, a guy who doesn't actually live in your house sneaking into bed with you in the middle of the night because he would really, really like to suck your blood. That's totally hot and not at all fucked up.

I'm still not convinced that women are drawn to fictional vampires in numbers that warrant making sweeping generalizations about female desire. Vampire lore has been popular among all human beings for centuries, and if there's something especially attractive to women about the most recent iterations, it could just be that many of them are written by women and/or put the focus on complex female characters. Sure, some women may be attracted to bad boys or basket cases or, um, strangers who climb into their beds at night, but I'm guessing there are a lot more of us who just want to see good stories about women with actual personalities who actually do stuff. I am not, however, holding my breath for Hollywood to catch on.


By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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