From Carmilla’s lesbian seductions back in 1872 to velvet-clad Vampire: The Masquerade LARPers, we’ve pretty well established as a society that modern vampires are sexy. We love a well-dressed being in a cape who eschews sunlight and never drinks…wine. There was a reason half my high school friends were obsessed with James Marsters as Spike, and it wasn’t just because he was James Marsters. (That didn’t hurt, though.)
This brings the question, though: why? Why are vampires the monsterfucker gateway drug? Why do we write, RP, draw, act, and otherwise present vampires as such seductive beings? What is it about this specific monster, the stuff of Hammer Horror films and paranormal romance, that makes us want to bare our genitals and our necks in equal measure?
I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but I have a few simple theories on why I, at least, am sometimes driven to distraction by the idea of vampires, in all their black-clad, bat-morphing, blood-drinking glory. Maybe you’ll agree.
Everybody Crazy For a Sharp-Dressed Vamp
From Christopher Lee’s black suits to Blade’s spectacular trench coat, vampires in fiction are well-dressed. Some of this is certainly a reflection of their association with aristocrats (Mircalla, Countess Karnstein; Sir Francis Varney; Count Dracula) and so there’s probably a level of classism to it, but the point still stands. Vampires in fiction are almost always carefully dressed, well-groomed, and ready to take you out for a night on the town, followed by a bracing bout of severe anemia. Fun!
One could make the argument that several of Buffy’s vampires weren’t well-dressed, but let’s be real: the favorites all were. Drusilla’s white Opheliac dresses, Spike’s Billy Idol hair and 70s punk coat, Angel’s corporate goth looks: the vampires who knew how to dress themselves and do their damn hair were the ones with all the fanfiction.
What does this mean, practically? The first lesson is that if you want to seduce someone, you have to make an effort. Is that shallow? Maybe. But first impressions are important, and damn, do vampires make a good first impression. Their clothes are neat and clean, and despite having no reflections, they do their best. (Do you think Angel had a washer and dryer? Or do you think he went to the laundromat? Please enjoy the mental image for a while.)
The other lesson is that goth never goes out of style. I think that’s what we need to take away from this, anyway.
Bloodsucking as a Metaphor for Sex
Let’s start with Dracula. Yes, Carmilla is probably the first “modern” sexy vampire, with her eeeevil lesbian subtext, but Dracula is better known. One of the big themes of Bram Stoker’s book is that he’s repulsive, and yet so very seductive, and he’s everywhere, which works extremely well with the Victorian views of sex. It’s unavoidable, but you shouldn’t want it, but you do. (The other big theme of Dracula is xenophobia and those oh-so-scary Eastern Europeans moving in, but we’re ignoring that in this particular discussion.) These seductive themes are reflected, again and again, in our media, whether it’s Angel feeding on an orgasmic Buffy, or Edward Cullen refusing to turn or bone Bella unless they’re married first like good Mormon vampires. Even in Sunshine, where the vampires are expressly repulsive and unsettling, Sunshine makes a really solid effort to bang Constantine. I would, too.
It’s a pretty solid metaphor. There’s penetration (teeth into a vein), and fluid exchange (bloooood), and a lot of physical closeness (get your goddamn face out of my neck, Vlad). I would argue that our interpretation of vampires has even changed with our society’s sexual mores, from the horror of Dracula’s seduction to the 90s antiheroic vampires to straight-up heroic Mormon vamps—reflecting the fact that, even in most conservative environments, sex is a good thing if it’s done in the right context. (I attended an Evangelical Christian university, and my roommates loved Twilight’s abstinence themes and the fact that once they were married, Edward and Bella had lots of good, fulfilling sex, which was something we were promised in our gross purity culture. But that’s another post.)
The fact that it’s metaphorical is also personally appealing, as someone who doesn’t necessarily seek traditional sexual outlets. I’m not asexual, but between my queerness and my peculiar wiring, my sexuality often expresses itself in non-traditional ways. I appreciate that vampires, as a popular concept, are sensual, they’ll kiss your hand, even bite your wrist, but not necessarily sexual. In some cases, penetrative sex isn’t even an option due to lack of bloodflow, like Anne Rice’s vampires, who somehow nonetheless manage to be the horniest queer icons in all of vampire fiction. As I’ve written before, I find as much intrigue and satisfaction in suggestion and innuendo as I do in explicit sexuality. Vampires represent a sexual possibility, not a sexual reality, and that is very exciting to me.
Fun fact about vampires: they can fuck you up.
Vampire rules and qualities change from story to story (and sometimes within the same story, I am looking at you, Bram Stoker), but a few things tend to be the same. They’re stronger than humans. They see humans as prey. They might seduce you, but in the end, it’s probably for their benefit and not for yours. Sometimes they have hypnotic powers or some other way of luring you to them, even against your will. And, of course, there’s the risk of physical pain, as even a vampire who doesn’t want to kill you can’t stop their bite from hurting.
To someone like me, a submissive who really enjoys the idea of someone who could destroy me if they wanted to (but doesn’t), yeah, I’m into it. Power dynamics feature heavily in my real-life sexuality and in my fantasy life, and vampires fit neatly in without much effort.
But I think it goes beyond the Tumblr-classic “she could stab me and I’d say thank you” appeal. Vampires are powerful, but in many cases, they also have their own restrictions. Whether it’s that they can only come out at night, or they must be invited in, or they have to stop to count grains of rice strewn in their path, their power has limits—even if, in some stories, those limits are mostly self-imposed, as with many heroic vampires. In a society where consent is still heavily discussed, and in kink, where consent is key and where the submissive wields their own power, vampire limits represent the ability to stop the powerful being in its tracks. They have power over you, but you get to decide whether they use it, and how. And, of course, since vampires exist (as far as I know) only in the realm of fantasy, that’s doubly true. They’re safe to explore.
I love the whole concept of vampires as a cultural phenomenon, the concept of what vampires can do, and I love exploring vampire worlds. I’ve mentioned some of my favorite vampire stories in here. What are yours? What do you love in a vampire story? Would you have sex with a vampire? Just asking for a friend who is most certainly not undead and is absolutely full of their own blood.
Check out my sex toy vampire hunting kit if you’re less interested in vampire fucking and more interested in fucking vampires up, and check out my monsterfucker, fantasy, and sci fi tags for similar content.
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