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Why vampires are sexy

3 January 2012

Honestly, I can't see any links between vampires and sex in this picture - perhaps this posts is moot already?

In the good old days, before cinema or television, vampires used to be horrific re-animated corpses walking around at night eating the flesh of the living. These old-school vampires had more in common with modern-day zombies than todays toothy enchanters.

But then things started to change. Arguably it all began with the birth of the first modern vampire: Bram Stokers Dracula. Rather than being a zombie-esque corpse, Dracula was a gentleman. A count, even. This meant that he knew how to conduct himself in order to infiltrate human society so he could strike out from within. He was likeable; he was charming. He was sexy.

And from that point on, vampires became the new sex symbols. In books as well as films and television series, vampires were portrayed as overtly sexual beings who seduced and preyed on the week-minded humans.

Why do we get off on vampires?

So. We’ve established that modern vampires are all about the sex. But why? What is it about those undead ectoparasites that we find so attractive?

There’s been countless pieces written on the sex appeal of vampires, with references to anything from the sex-oppressed Victorian society of Bram Stoker to the penetrative action of the vampire fangs. But I don’t fully subscribe to these explanations. Instead (as always, you might sarcastically say), I’ll focus on the biological/psychological aspects of modern vampires and see if that can shed any light on the matter.

1. Seduction

Lady Miriam - the sexiest of all vampires?

One of the main characteristics of modern vampires is their flair for seducing their human victims. All they need to do is to give you a long powerful look and your resistance will melt away like an ice lolly in a hot tub. This seductive power obviously has sexual undertones, and I would argue that it stems from our desire to feel special and confirmed. Having such a powerful and seductive creature focusing solely on you is obviously flattering, and will easily make you forget the tragic consequences of this attention.

We can also note that most victims of vampires rarely object to becoming seduced. They are usually willing slaves. This in turn would suggest that people who find vampires sexually attractive (which is, to be fair, most of us) have either open or hidden masochistic tendencies.

2. Power

“Now remember: 'You got the power. You got the power.'”

The second trait of modern vampires is that of power. Vampires as magical creatures of immense strength and they have many powerful tricks up their sleeve. Such implied power is a known aphrodisiac, possibly because it shows a person who has done well in live (or afterlife, as it happens), and is in charge of his or her own destiny. And as we humans usually find ourselves victims of circumstances beyond our control, we naturally find this type of power very appealing.

All of this makes us predisposed to want to become vampires ourselves. After all, who wouldn’t want a piece of that kind of (after)life-style?

3. Evil

“Oh yeah? Well, YOU look like a toad! A horny disgusting toad!”

Finally we come to the core of it: vampires are evil creatures. They live by drinking of human blood. They are soul-less and lack any sense of compassion or empathy. They hide in dark alleys and prey on us like wild beasts. They are truly horrid in every way.

Now, this is interesting. Why are we drawn to evil creatures? We see this in regular human society as well in the form of groupies and followers of psychopaths and mass murderers. I think evil is another kind of power. It shows a person who doesn’t care about the rules of society – a rebel if you will. To rebel against all other people shows confidence and determination, both of which could be seen as attractive traits.

The thrill of bad

In combination, all the above characteristics create a powerful sexual image; a hyper-sex symbol, if you like. It also represent the thrill of what’s bad, in that it’s about sex – and sex is still tabu in many societies (perhaps due to the power of our sex drive, but that’s another post). This also allow us to experience the sexual tension without actually having to think directly about sex.

In addition, it’s also possible that the danger element remind us of the exposed feelings of the early stages of romantic love, where we’re not yet sure of the other persons character and everything is still uncertain and scary.

Summing up, modern vampires are sexy because they are a combination of most (if not all) traits we find sexually attractive in a person. In fact, the best way of testing if a person has any sex appeal is to try to imagine them as vampires. Only those who would make a convincing vampire are truly sexy. It’s as simple as that.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 January 2012 05:29

    Personally, I’m tired of the old monsters. I’m bored with vampires, and zombies. I don’t care about Sasquatch or Frankenstein. I’m ready for something new. Why do we keep going over this time after time? Granted, I don’t want a damn Freddy Krueger. I still want to sleep nights. A new monster that is scary, yet still just out of reach, would be refreshing.

    • 3 January 2012 05:43

      I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bore you. How about a rouge AI that lives in the internet and try to convince you that you’re worthless? And then perhaps getting you to join some kind of semi-religious political party trying to take over the world?

  2. 3 January 2012 09:57

    I am learning that being attracted to vampires is starting to become out of fashion but I really can’t help it. I’m even one of those women who find it annoying when the vampire’s good and has chosen not to be evil. There is definitely something in my genes…

    Way to go on merging your two popular posts! This one should go viral any moment.

  3. Debihen permalink
    3 January 2012 13:57

    I see our modern vampires painted as victims; poor people who became prey to our past vison of the “old” vampire who was cold, calculating and evil. The modern vampire has been forever plunged into a life of needing to feed, yet despising this lifestyle. They are like a poor lost tiger cub, and no one can resist that cuteness, even knowing that underneath all that soft, cuddly appeal lies something very dangerous.

    • 3 January 2012 19:01

      Or baby crocodiles. They’re just adorable!

      But you are right: there is a moral conflict here, even though it’s a bit more recent than the concept of Dracula. It’s the Anne Rice syndrome, I guess.

  4. 3 January 2012 16:35

    i liked the vampire in the uk version of ‘being human’ but then, the whole show was quirky. normally you can’t sell me on the idea. i actually don’t even know how i ended up watching ‘being human’. i have to say, the casting for the us version was yawnworthy.

    probably it was the relationship between the vampire and the ghost and the werewolf that i liked. none of them were stand alone great, but the chemistry was good.

    • 3 January 2012 19:04

      I did enjoy Being Human (UK) – at least the first series. It had a humour similar to that of Buffy. Didn’t care as much for later episodes for some reason.

  5. 3 January 2012 17:52

    Where does it fit into your theory that the only vampires I find in the least bit sexy are the conflicted ones? The ones that have all of the above that you’ve mentioned – the power and the evil and the seduction – but they feel REALLY REALLY BAD about it, or at least have some human feelings still in there, nestled alongside their cold vampirism, and therefore, are totally conflicty and torn and angsty. Those are MY sexy vampires. I don’t like the all-powerful, cold-as-ice vamps, like Dracula, for example.

    Examples of conflicted sexy vampires: Damon from “The Vampire Diaries,” Eric, Pam and Jessica from “True Blood,” Spike from “Buffy,” Aidan from the U.S. “Being Human” (haven’t seen the original British series, I know, I KNOW, I’m a total tool), and Abby/Eli in “Let Me In/Let the Right One In.” (She’s not so much “sexy”, because she’s a child, but she’s awesome and I love her and she fits the paradigm.)

    I love my vampires with all of the above, but also with the humanity, and seeing them struggle with both. THAT makes them sexy to me – fighting the inner fight, winning sometimes, losing sometimes.

    I totally hijacked your comments. Sorry. Vampires make me more loquacious than normal, if that’s even possible.

    • 3 January 2012 19:18

      No no, I LIKE comments! They are the best!

      So, it looks like we got two factions here: the ones who like the bad-ass killers and the ones who like the broken tormented victims.

      If I were to play amateur psychologist (and what would be the fun in not doing that?), I’d say that some people are more masochistic than others and like the really bad boys/girls, and some are more into projects, where the object of desire is a fix-me-up, but with a hint of bad.

      Or it could be that people who like the conflicted vampires recognise something of their own struggle and therefore can identify with them. This is less likely, I think, as we generally don’t like to see aspects of ourselves in our partners.

      • Ann permalink
        23 January 2012 16:42

        I think the other two profiles are accurate as well – those types are definitely out there – but as for myself, I very much identify with that aspect of vampires, that struggle with their inner demons, even ones I do find attractive; that’s a huge part of their appeal to me. And actually, I don’t think it’s so rare for people to be attracted to those they can relate to on some level, even if they also have other traits they don’t see in themselves but admire and covet. It’s certainly not rare for me, anyway. :)

        • 23 January 2012 17:43

          Sorry, I formulated my views a little clumsily: we need to have things in common with people we are attracted to (or should have, anyway), but I believe we find things that we don’t like within ourselves as very annoying in others – simply because we don’t want to be reminded of our own shortcomings.

          • Ann permalink
            23 January 2012 18:49

            I get where you’re coming from, and that’s absolutely true to a point. And honestly, there is a fine line between me finding that vulnerability appealing, and being annoyed by perpetual whining and self-pity, even with characters I really like. So I totally agree with where you’re coming from. But though I also agree with Rachel that self-confidence is sexy, and there is something fun about a bad boy vamp, I’m still more drawn to the reformed and/or only-by-permission vamps to some extent, even – and sometimes preferably – if they’re not angsty about it. In a way, there’s still power in fighting one’s base desires and having the strength to make a choice like that, and there’s still that danger even in a consensual situation, because that hunger is so fierce. And even goody vamps tend to kick ass for the ones they love. :)

            And really, that’s a big part of the draw for me, that complexity of character that defines the vampire, however their personality may manifest (because even the completely irredeemable can great for a laugh, if nothing else). :)

  6. 3 January 2012 22:08

    It’s the project thing. You nailed it. Seriously, after I make my “Google That Shit” teeshirt, I’m making a “Heinakroon is the smartest person I know” teeshirt. No, but seriously, it’s the project thing. Absolutely. I’m fairly sure, in a former life, I was probably a social worker, or someone who saved puppies, or someone who fixed up old homes, or something. Because I don’t want a guy who’s not a project. YET, the sheer FACT that they’re a project annoys the CRAP out of me. Hence the fact that I’m single. It just seems safer.

    We don’t like to see aspects of ourselves in our partners? But I like guys who are like me, and guys that aren’t like me are confusing! Wait, do you think THAT’S what’s wrong with me? Ooh, this is interesting. Maybe I need to look for a grammatically-incorrect knuckle-draggy NASCAR fan and then I’d have found my soulmate. MUST START LOOKING.

    • 4 January 2012 00:51

      Ah, oh. No. That’s not what I meant; of course we need to have things in common with our partners. Rather, it’s the things that we find annoying or painful within ourselves that we will really hate in other people. So if you’re struggling with fighting against your bad side, you wouldn’t really appreciate a partner who is also struggling against his or her bad side. Especially if you’re trying to suppress that side of your own personality.

      And thanks for believing I’m the smartest person you know! (I’m really not. Honest.)

      • Ann permalink
        23 January 2012 16:52

        Maybe not in a real life partner – though even then, I think it’s comforting to be with someone who can relate to your struggles at least to some degree – but it can make a character very appealing and enjoyable to watch, even cathartic.

        And the other thing about relating to them is that they’re vulnerable like me, only cooler and stronger, so there’s that admiration and envy there, but at the same time reassurance that, no matter how suave or powerful or together they may seem, everyone deals with their own problems. So in a weird way, I both envy them and gain perspective from them.

        (Not that all this is thought out at the time I’m watching stuff, but thinking about it, that’s certainly part of it for me…)

        • 23 January 2012 18:44

          That’s interesting! Yes, perhaps the conflict between superpowers and vulnerability is an appealing quality? It could be a reference to our own duality as humans, where we are so very clever and strong and still weak and stupid at the same time.

  7. zippy219 permalink
    4 January 2012 12:01

    I thought it was because they get good looking, popular actors to play vampires in movies and on tv.

    • 4 January 2012 12:25

      Oh, you’re such a cynic! I like it!

      However, one could argue that vampires are seen as more sexy than other characters played by the same actors. I could do the obvious comparison of Willow and Vampire Willow here, but I won’t. Suffice to say that good looking and popular actors become more sexy when playing (the right kind of) vampires.

  8. 8 January 2012 14:37

    I saw Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, and David Bowie in ‘The Hunger’ at an impressionable age. The pieces of music were some that I was playing at the time, and I was sold on these vampires. And the story.

    Years later, I looked into the legends and the part of Europe where they came from and because of this knowledge rooted in historical vampires, it’s been difficult for me to get into the more recent presentations of vampires.

    ‘Seduction, evil, power and the thrill of bad’? I can see the argument for each of those, but I think there’s something even deeper in us that is simultaneously compelled and repelled by such dark forces.

    • 8 January 2012 14:44

      Interesting! What would that be, you recon? The abandonment of the self? That would be a relief in some sense, as we could rid ourselves of any responsibility for our own lives. Or what did you have in mind?

  9. 23 January 2012 15:20

    I’m a bit late to the game here, but I agree, finding something so different in a partner, particularly with the power and confidence of a vampire, is very sexy. Perhaps there’s something to be said there about the attraction between the sexes, as well – a partner who thinks and acts so differently, and is really sort of an enigma. Also, I am in the camp that prefers vampires who embrace their, err, afterlife. Self-confidence is very sexy. If you’re going to be an evil, undead, bloodthirsty creature of the night, then embrace it!

    • 23 January 2012 17:46

      Good for you! Just make sure you wear protection at all times – you know: garlic and crosses and stuff.

  10. 20 February 2013 22:17

    Hey Andreas: I LOVE this post. Sorry I am coming to this a bit late. I have some thoughts to add, and may write a post now in response. For now, though I will just add, as an interpretation of the things you have aptly ascribed to the modern vampire, that we are so obsessed with this kind of vampire nowadays because we are so afraid of old age and weakness. The dominant figure in modern vampire stories seems to be a very young-looking person who is in fact centuries old, and is still hobnobbing with teenagers and in some cases is still in high school. Lurking within that (slightly) dangerous package is vast mental and physical power. This ideal is glorified, in narrative terms, because these characters are often the unavoidable hero or antihero in the room — they’re always at the heart of the plot or conflict.
    What would be the opposite of that? Mental and physical weakness, loss of ability to influence others — or, in other words, senility, bodily impairment or decay, and total loss of social power (all too common for seniors in many industrialized societies).
    I don’t know if I’m right about this. But I do know it’s not just teens reading Twilight and watching The Vampire Diaries and Buffy :)

    • 21 February 2013 03:57

      That’s an interesting theory! Yes, the eternal youth thing is obviously an appealing trait.

      But the question is if a combination of an old soul in a young body would automatically make a person sexy? Perhaps.

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