the vampire’s sexual otherness


In a 1997 essay, Andrew Schopp considered the homoerotic aspects of modern vampire literature, and while his approach is in a context pre-the-current-vampire-craze, his comments are still relevant. He wrote:

Although it has long held a formidable place in the heart of western culture, until the nineteenth century the vampire existed primarily as a creature to be feared, the revenant come back to torment the living. Paul Barber explains that the vampires of early folklore represent the way ‘preindustrial cultures’ interpreted, or misinterpreted, the ‘processes and phenomena associated with death and the dissolution of the body’ (1). In the nineteenth century, however, the vampire transformed from a feared cultural phenomenon to a desired cultural product, from mythic explanation of the unknown to receptacle of cultural desires. This transformation has culminated in the contemporary vampire product, which provides a space for articulating and reconstructing cultural desires, even for contesting dominant cultural narratives. Given this product’s subversive potential, its frequent reliance on the homoerotic would seem an especially compelling subject of analysis.” (p.231)

By its very nature, the vampire is an outsider, an ‘other’” (p.232) “Burton Hatlen explains that the vampire’s position as alienated ‘other’ produces a dual response in the audience: the vampire comes to represent that which we both fear and desire (125).” (p.233)

“Comments by fans delineate a specific set of characteristics that render the vampire attractive, and perhaps the most prominent characteristic is the vampire’s sexual otherness. For the fans, vampire entertainment provides an opportunity for sexual deviation, for the chance to engage in all ‘forbidden sexual practices… oral, necrophilic, incestual [sic], homosexual’ (Dresser 152). The vampire’s sexual otherness both reflects and fosters a desire to break free from sexual constraints, while its immortality reflects and fosters a desire to break free from physical constraints (152). Underlying these two characteristics is the vampire’s power. According to fans, this power enables one to challenge almost any socially imposed barrier.” (p.233)

A couple more quotes form Schopp’s essay that I liked include:

“As one fan commented, “[…] Perhaps part of the appeal of the vampire is it gives us the belief that there are beings who can live outside the problems of society that we, as mortals, must face everyday. (Dresser 160-161)” (Schopp, p. 233)

“To an extent […] certain vampire products use the vampire ‘space’ simply to reinscribe dominant cultural ideologies and mandates, rather than using that space to revise such mandates, or offer alternatives.” (p.237)

“…the contemporary vampire product clearly functions as a site for playing with sexual alternatives, for acting out socially prohibited roles, and for reconfiguring desire. Though it can easily reinscribe heteronormative ideology, the vampire space has the potential to articulate alternatives and to contest dominant modes of structuring sexual desire and identity.” (p.241)

Ref: Andrew Schopp Cruising the Alternatives: Homoeroticism and the contemporary vampire The Journal of Popular Culture Volume 30, Issue 4, pages 231–243, Spring 1997

Note – reference is to: Dresser, Norine (1989) American Vampires: Fans, Fictions and Practitioners.  New York: Norton

The reference that look interesting in this article (to me, at least) is missing from the reference list at the end… ‘Rosemary Jackson’ on ‘paraxic’ worlds? Schopp explains: “Unlike science fiction characters who tend to live in a world removed from our everyday life, the vampire often has dependent connections to our world. The vampire product constitues a prime example of what Rosemary Jackson has termed a ‘paraxic’ world, a space that exists both inside and outside of our world. According to Jackson, paraxis ‘is a telling notion in relation to the place, or the space, of the fantastic, for it implies an inextricable link to the main body of the ‘real’ which it shades and threatens’ (19).” (Schopp, p.233)


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