It’s true! In a lovely quote from Nylon (which I learned about via Kelsey Wallace at Bitch Blogs, and HEY STAY TUNED FOR AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT on that front, by the way; see also Renee’s excellent post) Stephen Moyer, who plays a vampire on some show I do not watch called True Blood, uncovers the key to every woman’s deepest erotic desires – forced sex from imaginary monsters:
“The thing about vampirism is that it taps into a female point of view – you have an old-fashioned gentleman with manners who is a fucking killer… it’s an interesting duality, because in our present society it would be an odd thing for a woman to say, ‘I want my man to be physical with me.’ How, as a modern man, can you fucking work that? It’s one thing to be polite and gentle… But when do you know it’s OK to crawl out of the mud and rape her [as Bill does in one scene]?… It’s difficult stuff for a bloke, but a vampire gets away with it…. I think that’s the attraction of the show – it’s looking back at a romantic time when men were men, but they were still charming.”
For the record, Stephen, it is probably not ever “OK” to crawl out of the mud and “rape” your special lady friend. Surprisingly, the act of rape, BY DEFINITION, is never “OK” with the raped person! Oh, and also the scene to which our pal Steve refers looks pretty darn consensual, what with Anna Paquin grabbing his face and sucking the hell out of it once she realizes he is, in fact, her vampire boyfriend. So, let’s not focus on how gross Steve is! For once! I mean, he seems pretty gross, but maybe that is not news. What is news, apparently, is that women are capable of something I will refer to as “fantasy.”
Basically, we hear all the time about how the imaginary characters on which women get off actually reveal their true need to be socially dominated and in all other ways treated badly by the dudefolk. Girls like Edward from Twilight, which means they want to be stalked by pasty whiners. Girls like Bill from True Blood, which means they want to be grabbed by the ankle and ravished by a guy who just recently crawled (naked!) out of his own grave. Girls like Don Draper from Mad Men, which means they want to be cheated on, cheated with, lied to, denied careers and/or sexually assaulted in the midst of a routine business dinner. What we don’t hear so much about is that people are getting off on those things within the context of their own imaginations. Within their imaginations, where they are by definition in control.
I mean: there are a lot of unrealistic elements in the fantasy of Don, or Edward, or Bill, or whatever. Edward sparkles, and can fly. Bill, we are meant to believe, has been alive since the Civil War. (We are also apparently meant to believe that he has a “Southern” “accent,” LOLZ. Sookehhh!) Don Draper looks like Jon Hamm, which is just flat-out implausible. People don’t look like that! It’s all CGI, I tell you! Smoke and mirrors! Two out of these three dudes are vampires – and yes, there is a long history of the sexy vampire boyfriend motif in pop culture, from Dracula to Buffy, and no, I don’t entirely get that or find it attractive, but I will note that two consistent characteristics of the “vampire boyfriend” are that he is (a) very powerful and dangerous and scary and (b) totally not real. Seriously. No matter how many Goth clubs you go to, no matter how many pale weird-looking dudes you poke on Facebook, no matter how many times you wander around a graveyard in a flimsy shift caressing your neck provocatively, you will never get an actual vampire to date you. Which, I would argue, is a large part of the appeal. These things are divorced from reality, and that is the point.
People, including women, often like to fantasize about stuff that they don’t or won’t or couldn’t do in real life. That can include undead serial killer boyfriends, or, for some women, rough or forced or “dangerous” sex with other human beings. It makes sense that some women like to play with these ideas, in a context wherein they are in power, and can turn off the TV or close the book or in all other ways utilize their power of veto and walk away from a scene at the very moment that it starts to make them uncomfortable. It’s fine, and it’s normal, and it’s how human sexual desire works. Humans like to transgress. Sometimes we like to give up our power, or pretend to. What we don’t like is to have that power taken from us in a permanent, non-consensual, real, harmful way.
So, no: no matter what their fantasies, women do not all actually want to be raped or abused, women are not all “innately” attracted to dangerous or abusive men, and we definitely do NOT all long for a time when traditional masculinity reigned and men would open doors for you and pay for all your dates and also sexually assault you whenever they felt like it. Rape is, by definition, not wanted; I can’t think of a single woman who would go out with a man if she consciously believed he would hurt or kill her; and the whole “when men were men and sexism was rampant and women were totally cool with that and enjoyed it” scenario is just about as patently unreal as any given book in the Twilight series.
The difference is that the idea of women secretly craving abuse and sexual mistreatment is mostly a male fantasy. And a popular one, at that. And this fantasy, unlike the vampire boyfriend fantasy, is actually not fine – because all too often, men actually buy into it, and refuse to acknowledge the stated boundaries of others or pretend that those boundaries don’t actually exist. They think they know what we “really” want; they think that we’re just not saying it, for whatever reason, because women are liars or confused or “corrupted” or “betrayed” by feminism. The problem with Stephen Moyer’s statement is that he seems to be getting his fantasy and “women’s” fantasies confused. And his fantasy is a lot scarier than vampires.