My favorite Dracula - Frank Langela

My favorite Dracula – Frank Langela

I’ve had vampires on my mind lately, partly because of the blood play posts I made recently, and partly because I just signed a contract with Etopia Press for two vampire novels. (I’ll post more on that when I have solid info to share.)

Vampire superstition and folklore is as old as written history, perhaps older. They were popularized in the early 19th century by novels such as The Vampyre, Varney the Vampire, and later, Dracula, and have been a part of literature and entertainment ever since.

I’ve read theories that vampires gained popularity in Victorian times because they provided the perfect sublimation for repressed sexual energy. Sex was a forbidden topic, something dangerous and sinful, and indulging in it could have severe social repercussions. Enter the vampire: a mysterious, dangerous creature that penetrates its victims and consumes blood, the fluid of life. Vampires are as powerful as the sex drive itself, impossible to resist. Giving in to one literally results in death, symbolic of the death of social status and spiritual purity Victorians associated with sexual behavior. The theory makes sense to me.

"Kiss the Dead"One of the Anita Blake novels by Laurell K. Hamilton

“Kiss the Dead”
One of the Anita Blake novels by Laurell K. Hamilton

But these aren’t Victorian times. Sex is accepted as part of who we are as human beings, and enjoying it is pretty much expected. So why are vampires still so popular? Perhaps now they’re a sublimation of something else. Vampires provide a safe fantasy in which people can explore a part of themselves that’s forbidden and frightening. In Victorian times it was sex. Today, I think it’s BDSM.

Some of us take pleasure from pain, and most people don’t understand that. Yet many of those same people are drawn to vampires, creatures that offer a mixture of both, and are as seductive as hell. It works from both sides: the fantasy of being a victim leaves you free to imagine the pain/pleasure experience. The fantasy of being the vampire is an outlet for sadists, in which they can explore the desire to inflict pain and cruelty without actually doing it.

Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore in "The Vampire Diaries"

Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore in “The Vampire Diaries”

Then there’s the Dom/sub aspect. What is more dominant than a predator convincing its prey to voluntarily allow it to feed? And, best of all, to enjoy it? The control exerted by the vampire and the surrender of the victim is a heady fantasy, especially in a society where submissiveness is viewed as weakness and Dominance is viewed as abusive. In the vampire fantasy, the submissive can’t resist giving in. You don’t have to be ashamed of it. And the vampire itself is forced, by its own hungers, to dominate. Fantasizing about being that predator removes the guilt involved in giving in to that side of our nature.

The vampire fantasy can be just as alluring to those of us who practice BDSM as it is to those who suppress their desires. The safe, sane, and consensual nature of today’s BDSM removes us a step from the basic urges. We get our brains involved in the process. We get practical. That’s very important, but it means we can’t get as swept up as we’d like in the passion and danger. In the vampire fantasy we don’t have to negotiate. We don’t have to think about the technical aspects of a scene or worry about safety or sanity. There is a part of us that yearns to let go of the intellectual, analytic side of our brain and give in to primal needs and emotions. Vampire fantasies provide a safe way to do that, and take away the guilt.

Kate Beckinsale as Selene in the "Underworld" movie series

Kate Beckinsale as Selene in the “Underworld” movie series

I think vampires will always be popular, because they represent a dark side of ourselves that we want to let out but can’t. It used to be sex. Now it’s BDSM. Who knows what it will be next? There will always be something we suppress, because it’s necessary to rein in certain urges in order to coexist with other people. Vampires are the perfect coat rack on which to hang that which is forbidden.

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