17 September, 2009

Why Vampires Are for Women

A publicist at Tor recently suggested to me that women are the target audience for vampire literature. Now, while I personally dislike the genre, I have never associated my dislike with the bloodsucking undead with anything other than my personal predilections. And so, I queried Google on the subject, and it answered. My first insight into the trend came from Lynda Hilburn, author of The Vampire Shrink, in an interview entitled Why Do Women Love Vampires?
Women in therapy often report disappointment with the 'human' males they're in relationship with," Hilburn said. "Would a handsome vampire sit in front of the television, scratching his stomach and drinking beer? Are women lusting after the undead Homer Simpson? Probably not. Imagining a heart-stoppingly-gorgeous man hovering outside your window is much more fun.
Now, while Lynda has definitely scared me away from beer, she also has some pretty solid insights into woman's psyche, being a practicing psychotherapist. She goes on to add that the sales of vampire novels show a dramatic rise after the attacks of September the 11th:
A recent view is that women feel less safe and secure in the world, and the previous symbols of strong, semi-dangerous males -- our law enforcement and military warriors -- were replaced by supernatural beings. Indestructible supernatural beings. Unlike the undead, real flesh-and-blood men can be killed in war or through terrorist acts. Facing a frightening daily "reality" made escaping into magical worlds, filled with all-powerful, appealing immortals, a healthy coping mechanism.
The last comment is fairly revelatory, and similar trends can be found in artistic movements originating from both cultures and countries whose psyches have been, for lack of a better word, damaged. But let us not deviate in our quest to unearth the box office busting appeal of vampires. Speaking specifically of the Twilight series, Emily Hodgson Anderson Ph.D., an assistant professor of English at the University of Southern California, tells us:
The appeal now is precisely because we are not sexually repressed. Sex is everywhere. We're pretty desensitized. So these stories re-introduce anticipation, the almost infinite deferral of any type of sexual consummation.
That was almost over my head, but I think I got it. Women like vampires because, in a culture where sex is commonplace and demystified, it has lost much of it anticipatory appeal. Romance, love, yearning, and courtship have become the relics of another age. I would like to think that this isn't entirely true, but I see Anderson's point. So, lastly, I give you John DeVore, who summarizes the debate humorously and succinctly in an article entitled "Why Women Love Vampires and Men Don't":
Dudes just don’t dig bloodsuckers, since vampires pretty much look like girls. We prefer zombies, because we love chainsaws, flamethrowers, and samurai swords. And because, on some level, we know that besides being vehicles for sperm, our other important, if lesser, genetic imperative is to defend our loved ones from hordes of unthinking, flesh-eating metaphors for current social anxieties.
I think John hits the nail on the head with this comment and manages to explain to me why I just can't get enough of zombie movies. Now, all that said, why do you like vampires or zombies? Do you have a favorite?

17 comments:

ChristinaO said...

Entertaining look at it - not sure I've ever pondered the gender debate in the vampire/zombie conversations I've had. But I'd have to agree with the quotes you included for why men and women are drawn to one over the other.

That said, I'd take a zombie any day. Already have my survival plan figured out.

Sam said...

I think it comes down to action (zombies) for men vs. romance (vampires) for women, which while a stereotype and sometimes misconception is often true. Twilight's marketing is the most recent thing to enforce this idea.

I recommend that all fans of romantic vampire fiction read Brian Lumley's Necroscope series!

Harry Markov: daydream said...

I am so much a zombie dude it's just unbelievable. SO awesome. This post put a spin on zombies and vampires in a way I never anticipated, but makes total freaking sense now that I think about it and so obvious as well.

TJ said...

I don't really buy the gender debate so much.

But then again, I'm a girl and I'm all for zombies, so perhaps I'm biased.

Alec said...

@ Christina0 I have a survival plan too! We should compare notes. I am totally a zombie guy as well.

@ Sam Have any non-romantic vampire suggestions? I am looking for something to read in the genre that is dark, mature, and doesn't involve a half naked person on the cover.

@ Harry It does make sense doesn't it. It just jumped out at me as true as well. Obviously it is a generalization, but I think it really is pretty accurate. Maybe I'll look at werewolves and trolls next week.

@ TJ I am not so sure it is actually a 'debate' TJ. The few stats I read suggest that, well, vampires disproportionately attract women while zombies attract men. Like I said to Harry though, it is a generalization, and should be taken as such.

Sarbear said...

Wow, lol. I DO want to be charmed, actually, now that I think about it. I'm happy and all but it's so much more fun to be charmed : )

Sam said...

@Alec

The Lumley suggestion was very much baited. His Necroscope series is very mature, dark, graphic, unpleasant, fun etc.

There's also Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt novels. The first one is called Already Dead and they're vampire noir. Also very mature, dark, graphic, unpleasant and fun.

Also check out Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin, which is about vampires on steamboats, and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Both are classics.

darkul said...

@Alec
George R.R. Martin: Fevre Dream,
has more romanticism for the Mississippi and steamboats than for romances.

darkul said...

Oops, someone was faster ;)
But that shows just the correctness of this advice.

Alec said...

@ Sam

I guess I will have to pick up Fevre Dream and Already Dead and add them to the pile. Thanks for the suggestions. If those work out I'll let you know.

@ Darkul

Yea you got owned by Sam :P The double rec just pused FD to the top of my TBR pile... and what a large pile it is. I needed to get away from all the fantasy I have been reading anyway.

ediFanoB said...

I'm not a fan of vampires but there is one vampire book which I really like. It has been mentioned in other comments: Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin.

If you want to read a vampire story beyond all this Urban Fantasy stuff I highly recommend Fevre Dream.

Cara Powers said...

I don't like vampires or zombies. I like the men or women (Mila Jovavich rocks in Resident Evil) that fight and kill them. Personally, I'd rather not consort with the undead.

Deb said...

Excellent insights into the female attraction with vampires! Yes, they are sexy, immortal, dangerous (women love dangerous), etc. However, the very nature of a vampire is seduction. If they prey on human blood, then the most effective hunting techniques are not through aggression (not good for long term survival) but through seduction. If they were turned young, they will be forever youthful and attractive. They study human behavior (which makes them attentive) and seduce their prey (makes their victims feel special). It is no wonder women want to line up in droves and give their blood -- their very souls -- away to the hottest vampire. (I prefer Eric Northman myself).

Dot said...

The lines have been drawn between vampires and zombies- may the best undead win!

psst .. word on the street on the next sexy undead to dethrone the vampire? the FALLEN ANGEL. muaahaha.

Kahlan said...

Indeed an interesting look at the distinction beween females preferring vampires over good old zombies. However, having just finished reading the tiwilight series, and being a male, i enjoyed it quite a bit i do have to say this isnt exactly a rule for 100% of the population. Thought i, personally, have always enjoyed reading romantic novels, it may just be what i like rather than being a rule of you like this because of this. As an afterthought, i do enjoya good old zombie movie any day of the week, but i also like blood suckers. And in case any of you are wondering, i'm not homosexual.

Alec said...

Kahlan, like all theories do, so to is this one forced to make generalizations. Do I think it applies to everyone? No, absolutely not. Do I think that it makes sense and applies to a majority of people? Yes, I do.

Glad you liked the article though!

Book Chick City said...

I think it's quite a simplistic way to look at it: zombies vs vampires as there are many types of both . I'm not sure I agree that woman are vampire lovers and man are more for zombies, but then I'm talking from my own perspective. I love zombies and vampires.. and I prefer the really scary, grotesque kind! An interesting debate though.