It probably all turns on what happens when the fangs touch your throat. Not that vampires are real, so far as I know. This means you must imagine the moment of penetration — a phrasing which, in our Freud-besotted culture, is fraught with suggestion. So maybe it’s Freud’s fault that vampires turned sexy. A substitution of modern movies for old novels is also to blame. This is the only explanation for *Atlantic *writer Caitlin Flanagan’s suggestion — in her December review of that teeny-bopper vampire sensation, the Twilight series — that Lucy and Mina in Bram Stoker’s Dracula were enthralled, in a sexual manner, by the smooth-talking count. It’s a common misreading of the novel these days that has yielded an art-imitates-lit-theory phenomenon currently manifested in the Twilight movie. It sold three million DVDs the first day of its release this week , and the book may receive a Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice award this weekend. Most adults have tacitly assented to the notion that vampires are hot, and it’s so little wonder our kids have followed suit.
That Dracula was a monster rather than a masher, however, was apparent to Stoker’s contemporaries. The Bookman called him an inhuman villain, and the Daily Mail called Stoker’s novel a “weird, powerful, and horrorful story.” Letting your weak-kneed aunt read Dracula, intoned the Pall Mall Gazette, “would be manslaughter.” It took decades of creative interpretation to alter this common-sense reading.
It’s a little-disputed assertion today, of course, that Victorians had sex on the brain. Stoker may have intended, as he explained in his notes, to render a demonic monster, but we know what he was really thinking when he turned that long-toothed sex fiend from the old country loose on England’s cream-skinned virgins. It’s an article of faith, now, that any story about vampires must, as Flanagan asserts, really be a story about sex. Literary theorists love this angle, penning breathless articles like “Feminism, Sex Role Exchanges, and Other Subliminal Fantasies in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Their pop-oriented counterparts, meanwhile, churn out novels like Dead until Dark, a bloodsucking mystery/bodice-ripper in which vampires “come out of the coffin.” Vampires, in these modern novels, are like gays and lesbians — people just like you and me who are marginalized only because of their sexual tastes.