Those of us who watch HBO’s True Blood would have a hard time denying the show’s sex appeal (or at least, sex). After all, Bon Temps, Lousiana (the fictional setting for the show) is one seeexxxy town. Vampires banging humans? Check. Humans banging shape-shifting farm animals? Check. A racy sex website hosted by a main character? Check. A crazed ancient goddess who makes everyone around her bang each other? Check. But female rape fantasies realized by gentlemanly Civil War-era vampires? Um, no, actually.
The current issue of Nylon Magazine features an interview with Anna Paquin (main character Sookie Stackhouse), Stephen Moyer (her boyfriend Vampire Bill), and the show’s creator Alan Ball. Much of the interview revolves around Anna Paquin’s nipples and hair color (thanks, Nylon! I guess blondes really do have more fun!) but this final quote from Stephen Moyer has me sharpening my stakes (and not just because I think Vampire Bill is kind of a douche):
Epilogue: Stephen Moyer, on Vampire Sex:
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.”
WTF, Vampire Bill? Was raping women a “gentlemanly” activity when you were growing up during the Civil War? (Yes, he grew up during the Civil War.) Do you think that forcing yourself on a woman and sucking her blood is the “romantic” realization of every frigid, non-Vampire-dating woman’s fantasy? And am I the only one who read that coming-out-of-the-grave scene as completely consensual (if a bit unhygienic)? Let’s discuss.
For those readers not yet dedicated to this blood-soaked soap opera, here is a video clip of Vampire Bill emerging from the ground (where he was hiding out from potential murderers) and getting it on with Sookie. For background info, they have been seeing each other for a while at this point. Not that that negates the rape possibility or anything, it’s just helpful data to have for analytical purposes. (Apologies for the inclusion of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” in the video; it was the best version I could find.):
So, what do you think? As a True Blood watcher I have to be honest and say that that scene did not come across as a rape to me. Sookie seems genuinely into the sex, and I think the obvious intensity comes from the fact that she thought Bill was dead and then found out he was, well, undead. However, my own reading of the scene doesn’t change the fact that one of the actors construed it as a rape, and he thinks that is what women want. It’s just that modern men are somehow unable to give it to them.
Moyer’s claim that True Blood incorporates a lot of sex fantasies into its plots is a valid one. A running theme in the show is the fetishization of vampires (by both men and women) because of their primal sexual urges (and supernatural abilities). Vampire stories, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula on down to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight have often flirted with the idea of blood-sucking, fang-penetrating, dirty, undead sex. No surprise there; the smut practically writes itself.
Where Bill goes off the rails in this interview, IMHO, is when he implies that the modern woman fantasizes about rough sex but is unable to realize that fantasy (if she wants to) without a vampire in the mix. Do some women fantasize about rough, animalistic sex? Sure. Do some women fantasize about rape? Sure. But that doesn’t mean that rape is “romantic”, or “gentlemanly”, or “charming,” or that women are secretly begging for it. It also doesn’t mean a woman needs a vampire in order to get her kicks. And what’s up with Moyer’s statement that a modern woman can’t ask for her “man” to be rough with her. Why the hell not?
Also, why does Moyer see this “duality” as a problem for men (or blokes, as he puts it)? When he says that navigating rough sex and rape is “difficult stuff for a bloke” it sounds like he is lamenting the fact that modern-day men are not given carte blanche to run around raping women and emerging from graves. Sorry dude, I’m just not that sympathetic. And I don’t think most men are, either.
At any rate, rape is nothing to joke about (though you could have fooled The Huffington Post, with their headline “Anna Paquin & Stephen Moyer Talk Rapey Vampire Sex”) and though I am reluctant to say that True Blood glorifies rape in any way (since I didn’t perceive the scene as rape), Moyer’s comments have still left me cold. (Pun, however bad, intended.)