Don’t get me wrong, there are also joys of womb ownership – though, really, apart from the making of the (wanted) babies and the being a conduit for supernatural powers (re: Buffy), the having of a womb is a mostly fraught experience. It can be especially fraught for the younger owners, and even more so for those aged around 11 to 15 – the age when their wombs are ‘activated’ (ie the onset of puberty, and its partner in crime, menstruation). What this activation means is that the (very) young woman is now in possession of a human-making body. As my mother said to me, on the day I first began to menstruate, “You can become a mother, now”. Obviously, I ran screaming from the room, but I knew what she meant. She wasn’t telling me to go out and get pregnant (I must have grandchildren!). She was making sure I understood that my body had transformed into something very powerful, and, as the wisdom of Spiderman teaches, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Which is a whole lotta scary for a nearly 13 year old. (There is similar scary for boy-teenagers – “You can become a father, now” – but, since human-making doesn’t occur inside men’s bodies, I think the level of jeopardy is greater for women than for men).Of course, some parents are loathe to scare the crap out of their children, and some want to protect their children from the realities of the adult world. But their children are on an inexorable trajectory into a precarious and hormonal adulthood. A candid (and caring) conversation/s between parent and child goes a long way towards arming a teenager against the negative external (and internal) forces which they will encounter.
So, what does any of this have to do with the Twilight phenomenon? Well, I’m glad you asked. While there are many criticisms levelled at Twilight – its insipid female lead, its insipid prose, its insipid (conservative) gender politics, the ludicrousness of vampires that sparkle in the sunlight – the books and movies are very popular. And the main demographic for this popularity is young women, especially women teenagers. Why, why, why? Of course, the main character, Bella, is also a teenager (17 years old), but there are other stories with young female protagonists. Why are so many drawn to Twilight? What is the nature of this attractive energy, which seethes between the pages/celluloid of Twilight, and lures the unsuspecting girl/woman into its lair? (Hint: the perils of womb ownership).
Here are my (probably overreaching) theories:
Theory 1: Fear of sexual desire.
[Not that sexual desire is a bad thing, or inherently frightening.]
What I mean is that sexual desire can be a powerful and consuming experience. And, for newly hormonal teenagers, sexual desire is a new (and possibly scary) experience. It can take time to acclimatize to the new sensations, and to acquire some authority over them – to feel in control. For women – who, in many cultures and societies, are indoctrinated to believe that sexual desire in women is evil or that it isn’t real – the onset of lust can be incredibly confusing, if not terrifying. In the Twilight series, vampire Edward won’t have sex with human Bella, lest his passion gets out of control and he accidentally kills her. I wonder if Edward’s fear of uncontrollable, and possibly violent, passion mirrors a fear that women (especially younger women, who are newer to lust) may have about the power of their own sexual desire – what terror may ensue if the beast is unleashed (mwahahaha). Which leads to my next theory…
Theory 2: Vampire Edward as ‘safe’ boyfriend.
Whilst it’s all very thrilling being stalked, with fierce broodiness, by a tall-pale-undead-100-year-old man, such seemingly innocent blood pumping excitement can lead a person (eg Bella) to barely restrained lust. And if the person isn’t completely sure about getting wild with their lust, but still enjoys experiencing lust, having a partner who doesn’t ‘push’ for sexual contact can be a practical and unthreatening solution. Which leads to…masturbation! Masturbation – which is often considered normal for men but an aberration for women (bite me!) – is another way in which a person can experience blood pumping lust (and bonus orgasm) without having to negotiate with a partner. So, really, vampire Edward is a metaphor for (female) masturbation…
Theory 3: SEX can lead to PREGNANCY which can lead to DEATH.
[Twilight Spoiler: In the 4th instalment of the series, titled Breaking Dawn – although it should have been titled Breaking Bella – Bella and Edward do have sex, which leads to Bella’s pregnancy, which leads to Bella’s ‘death’ (she nearly dies giving birth to a human/vampire but Edward saves her by turning her into a vampire). Lordy!]
This theory follows on from the first paragraph of this blog post – the fear of unwanted pregnancy. Sure, people can use contraception, but it’s not always 100% effective, and contraceptive choices can be limited – eg some women will develop (potentially life-threatening) blood clots if they take the contraceptive pill. Contraception isn’t always made readily available (unhelpful!). Or, sometimes, contraception is ignored in the heat of passion. So, a young woman may find herself with an unwanted pregnancy, and suddenly faced with having to make a massive and inescapable decision. None of the choices are easy: termination, adoption, young (possibly single) motherhood, or, in some circumstances, suicide. There is also the possibility of things going wrong (even fatally – for the mother or baby) during pregnancy or childbirth. It can be pretty fucking dire! Once a girl hits puberty, the possibility of pregnancy is ever present (at least until menopause), and in the early years of womanhood this can be a little overwhelming. So, I wonder if the heightened intensity of Bella and Edward’s relationship – enhanced by his vampiric thrall and the looming fear that he may get crazy and cause Bella’s death – provides an oddly comforting emotional catharsis to over-burdened (and a little freaked-out) young shoulders.
In conclusion (to this somewhat unwieldy blog post), if societies and cultures over this blue and green planet could just stop being so anally retentive and judgemental about women’s sexuality, and instead be open and nurturing, then the story of Bella and Edward wouldn’t need to be so damn popular. Or something like that.
POSTED BY NICOLE_EFFULGENT13 AT 10:43 AM
LABELS: BLOOD, LUST, MOVING PICTURES, READING