I have a question, one that I’ve been pondering since I started writing Suzie and the Monsters:
Why is the idea of being attacked and possibly killed by a vampire, of the vampire drinking our blood with intense hunger and possibly excitement, acceptable and sometimes even thrilling?
Is it because we truly don’t believe in vampires and can tell ourselves that it’s just a fantasy, that it will never happen?
I think if it happened in real life without warning we’d be traumatised. Our whole world view would be shaken, our belief in our personal invulnerability destroyed.
If vampires were an accepted part of our reality, how would you react to being dragged suddenly into a dark alley for a vampire to sink fangs into your neck then depart leaving you weak and wounded? Would it just be like a simple mugging – terrifying, but ultimately no harm done? Or would it be more like rape – an intensely personal invasion?
How would we feel about giving blood if we knew there was a chance that vampires were stealing it to drink? We give blood to save human lives, not to sustain a parasitical other species. Vampires who are ‘nice’ and only drink hospital blood are still feeding off vital human resources.
If humans offered to sell their blood to vampires, would that be any different to prostitution?
It’s hard to say for such a hypothetical scenario. I think that we are raised to believe that sex is, in some way, a sacred act, which is why rape is vastly worse than other physical violence.
I suppose that if you have to drink human blood, it’s nicer to steal it from the hospital than to attack some unwilling human, and I suppose that if you have to attack some unwilling human then it’s nicer to wipe their memories of the attack, but…
Can you say ‘mind rape’?
Another common theme in vampire stories is hypnotism, or ‘trancing’ or whatever, where the vampires twist people’s minds to make them forget or to control them. It’s so easy, isn’t it – a victimless crime…
I think anyone would be horrified to discover their mind was being controlled. Even if we do let the advertisers and the propagandists do it all the time.
Thinking of humans as sources of blood, as creatures you can manipulate at will, without consequence, takes you away from humanity. Perhaps you belong to an ‘other’ society with its own definitions of right and wrong, or perhaps you just have your own ethical code, but either way you are monstrous in the eyes of humanity.
‘But a vampire’s kiss brings ecstasy! So why am I complaining? Come penetrate me with your glistening white fangs, Alpha Vamp! I love you! I love that we share this secret, intimate pleasure!’
‘Hold on. What do you mean there are others? I thought we had something special, that I was the one, the only. Am I not enough for you?’
‘No! Get away from me! Go see one of your blood-whores if you’re hungry.’
Non-consensual sex is a difficult topic – because it can and does happen in real life. It can happen in a dark alley, or in the comfort of your home. There is even a whole illegal industry dedicated to it.
Of the nearly 21 million people the [International Labor Organization] estimates are forced laborers, 4.5 million are estimated to be what the ILO calls “victims of forced sexual exploitation”.
The truth about trafficking: it’s not just about sexual exploitation – Melissa Gira Grant, The Guardian
So… about 1 person in 1500 is a victim of forced sexual exploitation.
Non-consensual sex, and non-consent generally, is a theme in Suzie and the Monsters. Despite the often erotic nature of the story, I do not, personally, find non-consensual sex to be erotic. It’s something, in fact, that I can find quite distressing. However, there is a lot of erotica that explores themes of non-consent, dubious consent and reluctance. Remittance Girl has a nice discussion of the subject in The Ethics and Eroticism of Non-Consensual Sex in Fiction.
Suzie and the Monsters
The novel opens with a scene that looks initially like it is leading to non-consensual sex, but it develops into consensual sex, although borderline-dubious. This borderline between consent and non-consent runs through Suzie’s soul. She would never ask permission to take someone’s blood, while sex is sacred and consent essential. However, it’s not an easy division. I’ll let Suzie explain:
I can’t escape a shiver of self-detestation at the accursed cruelty of my own rapacious impulses, driven as much by frustration with human naïveté as by my essential vampiric nature. There are lines that I will not cross, but I twist them to the breaking point time and time again. I’ve seen and suffered too much inhumanity to have any patience for human niceties.
Very thoughtful post, Frank. I found battling with these issues of consent and rape very difficult in
‘That Scoundrel’.. As vampires are monsters it is less horrible to me for them to take blood without consent than the erotic depiction of actual rape in fiction which I hate, but I know vampirism has often been used as a metaphor for rape in fiction..You did a clever job in ‘Suzie and the Monsters’.
In ‘That Scoundrel’ it’s always clear that non-consensual acts are a negative, which I respect.
To a large extent I was reacting against vampire stories like Underworld and Moonlight where vampires live on blood bags from the hospital, and stories where vampires can do whatever they like with humans’ minds, and always without consequence.