Vampire lore has been around for hundreds of years. For most of that time, vampires weren't just scary, they were dreadful, monstrous villains intent on sucking the life out of their prey. In more recent history, however, vampires have become the hot and sexy stuff of fantasy. Sure, they suck blood, but they're just as sexually voracious - and skilled. So, how does a villain become a fantasy lover? It's an odd concept for sure. Early vampires were hideous, smelly, inhuman creatures—probably the last people you'd want to get it on with. For Halloween, let's take a look at vampires throughout history - and how vampire bites became the other penetrative sex act.
Vampire Bites: The Other Penetrative Sex Act
Pre-Christian Blood Suckers
Ancient Romans feared Lamia, female demons who drank the blood of children as they slept. Lamia weren't opposed to seducing and draining men as well, men being susceptible to their beauty and charms. The Japanese feared the Kasha, a blood-lusty anti-fairy who stole into the rooms of sleeping travelers. This lore introduces the idea that a bloodsucker can only get you if you're not at home. Spinsters, rejoice! In Ancient Macedonia, a combination of myth from Greece, Germanic regions, and Old Europe were fused to create the legend of vampyrae, which is where we get our modern word for vampire.
Vampires Get Suave, Deceptive and Sexy .... Sort Of
It wasn't until Christianity came on the scene that vampire lore merged with Christian villains to become more suave and deceptively attractive. Vampires - the blood-sucking demons who attack mortals in their sleep - got all wrapped up with Christianity's version of the devil - a godless animal whose sole purpose is to seduce men into sin. It's this seductive aspect that brings sex and blood-sucking together for the first time. But vampires are still murderers, in league with Satan, and so ugly only a witch would get busy with one. This amalgam of the murderous and the profane filled peasants with fear from the middle ages through to the late 1800s. That's when vampire lore took a giant leap forward.
Enter Count Dracula
We all know the novel "Dracula" by Bram Stoker. Well, we know of it, but it's not as widely read now as it was in its day. There were a handful of popular vampire novels before "Dracula," but none were as popular, or as accessible, as Stoker's vision of a handsome, distinguished, and wealthy count (what woman isn't at least a little aroused by that?) who was getting on in years. Stoker's story of a man who drank blood and could not bear the sunlight was an insanely popular book, a well-attended and long-running play, and later, an iconic film starring Bela Lugosi.
Try to make a romantic vampire movie today with a guy who looks like Bela Lugosi. It would never happen.
Anyway, Dracula introduced one of vampire lore's most seductive aspects: eternal life. Well, it's not quite eternal, depending on your access to sunscreen. Fear of death is nearly universal among humans, so avoiding that with a single bite on the neck doesn't sound half bad, especially if the life you're left with involves staying up late and seducing people for blood and sex. Dracula also had three wives, but that didn't stop him from playing the field.
But way before "Dracula" could be made into a Fritz Lang masterpiece, a German director named F. W. Murnau loosely adapted Stoker's novel into a film called "Nosferatu," which was released in 1922. Nosferatu told the story of Count Orlock, a hideous man (think Kurt Barlow from "Salem's Lot") who used his wily vampire powers to hypnotize women so he could slurp up their blood. Horrifyingly, he didn't even buy them dinner first.
So not sexy, am I right?
Vampire Powers Evolve
Film and literary vampires came to have a specific skill set. First, they had hypnotic powers. To use them though, the subject had to look into their eyes. Next, many vampires could turn into animals at will - bats, wolves, cats, spiders, and even bears were common in European and Russian vampire tales. Other common powers included flight, stealth and turning into mist. Regardless of powers, wealth, or perceived attractiveness, vampires were still firmly in the category of villain. The audience was meant to root for the virginal chick in the white nightgown against the undead guy with all the powers.
The first truly erotic vampire movie didn't show up until 1979, with yet another version of "Dracula" starring Frank Langella. By this time, murderous vampire villains had become the stuff of campy Saturday afternoon horror shows. They weren't sexy; they weren't even that scary. After all, how scary can you be if you can't even take out Abbot and Costello?
If you can imagine a time when Frank Langella was considered super sexy, please do so now.
Got it? OK, Langella was a fantastic Dracula who, like the vampires in the films before him, seduced women in sheer white nighties so he could … well, you know. In this film, the vampire moved in for the kill in the same sort of camera shot that used to be reserved for a romantic lead moving in for a kiss. And for the first time, it looked like Lucy (Kate Nelligan) was pretty receptive to the idea of being seduced - and bitten.
That same year, a vampire comedy was released starring George Hamilton as The Count. This time, it was an all-out romance. He was a vampire, and Susan Saint James thought that was just fine. In fact, she was more weirded out the fact that her vampire lover didn't drink wine or smoke pot than by his drinking blood and turning into a bat. At the end of "Love at First Bite," the female love interest willingly turns vamp, and they fly away into the night as bats. When The Count asks his new bride whether or not she'll miss the sun, she jokes, "Nah, I never get my sh*t together until after 5 p.m. anyway."
The Teenage Bloodsuckers
By the 1980s, sexy vampires were well established. In theaters, "The Lost Boys" and "Fright Night" had teen audiences up all night watching. These bloodsuckers were as undeniably hot as their film soundtracks. Who could possibly resist a young Kiefer Sutherland in "The Lost Boys," no matter how much of your blood he wants? And the Corys? Everyone loved Feldman and Haim. These films sealed the vampire's status as hot, counterculture heroes, a refuge for shunned misfit kids who didn't fit in.
May I suck your blood?
In the early '90s, Francis Ford Coppola gave us the gothiest, steam-punkiest Dracula ever, which he called "Bram Stoker's Dracula." This version melded Stoker's lore with Vlad the Impaler's story. Vlad was thought to be the real-life inspiration for Stoker's tale. Plus, Gary Oldman was arguably the sexiest adult vampire to date. Winona Ryder was powerless against him - and who could blame her when her alternative was a scrawny and pasty Keanu Reeves? Coppola's Dracula elevated the genre, and set off a slew of imitators.
Vampire Lit Rises from the Dead
In the 1990s, vampire novels were resurrected in a big way. Ann Rice, author of "Interview with the Vampire" and other supernatural novels, was said to have been selling a book every 24 seconds. Jean Kalogridis won a few major awards for her three-volume retelling of the Dracula/Van Helsing mythos in her "Covenant with the Vampire" books. Kalogridis' books contained the shape shifting and blood drinking you'd expect. It also worked in super healing powers for humans who drank vampire blood, and a whole bunch of incest. Ew. Anne Rice gave us the conflicted vampire, who fought to retain his humanity and hated that he had to kill humans in order to live. Some also argue that Rice's vampires were gay, although this is still hotly debated among fans.
Modern vampire media is largely focused on two writers: Stephanie Meyer and Charlane Harris. Meyer's "Twilight" series pits vampire against werewolf in a battle to win the heart of the boringest girl on earth. It's not for purists since its vampires trot around sparkling in the daylight, play a lot of baseball, and even go to high school despite being over 100 years old. Can you imagine? But the leading vampire in "Twilight" is also a sex symbol (at least for the younger ladies), and the stories include plenty of sexual tension and, eventually, sex.
And, of course, you can't mention vampire lore without bringing up Sookie Stackhouse. The Charlane Harris' "Southern Vampire Mysteries" were already hugely popular when HBO decided to turn the first book in the series into season one of "True Blood." The HBO show was a sexed up version of the books that took more and more liberties with the source material as the seasons progressed. Here we were shown a world where vampires were eagerly sought out by humans, vampire sex was well-known to be awesome and vampire blood could do anything from healing a man who's near death to helping kids trip their butts off. Now those were some sexy vampires - and possibly some of the sexiest TV HBO's produced so far.
The Other Penetrative Sex Act
Vampires may have started out as disgusting, fearful ghouls, but somewhere along the way, they became sexy, seductive purveyors of sexual pleasure. Maybe it's their eternal youth and beauty, or their uncontrollable need to suck things. It could also be the mystery. Or the taboo of having sex with a creature from the undead. And maybe the fact that vampires tend to have such a powerful libido appeals to us too. Whatever it is, these blood-sucking villains have been transform into sexpots with the power to spark love at first ... bite.
Wednesday Lee Friday is an eclectic writer of fact and fiction. She has worked as a reptile wrangler, phone sex operator, radio personality, concierge, editor, fast food manager, horror novelist, and she owns a soap shop. She prefers jobs that let her sleep during the day. Everybody knows all the best art and literature happen at night!