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Women Vampires and Sexuality

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In the past, vampire tales were all centered around male characters. A different approach was taken by Le Fanu in his 1872 story, “Carmilla,” where he depicts a female vampire, who attempts to seduce a young beautiful girl, Laura. The females within the story strayed completely from the social norms of this time period.

During the 1900’s, women were held to high standards. Women must, “…have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages,” [1] which would hopefully lead to a successful marriage with many children. Young women feared of being known as a “blue stocking,” which was “the name given to women who had devoted themselves too enthusiastically to intellectual pursuits.”[1]. Being too intellectual minimized their chances of finding a husband. Although ladies were taught all the virtues to find a man, they were “ not expected to focus too obviously on finding a husband” [1] otherwise they are looked upon as too forward and too sexual. The social standard during this century did not allow women to have any sexual ambition, only males. Expanding upon this, the Victorian idea of any sexual nature with the same sex defied Christian beliefs. Christianity does not allow homosexuality. Beginning in the 1880’s sexologists investigated sexual preferences, which “began a new opposition of homo and heterosexuality, categories which did not simply denote sexual behaviour but were perceived as central to each individual’s identity.” [2] The sexologists, including Richard von Kraft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis, approached homosexuality differently trying to restructure sexual standard.

Within the story, not only did they defy the social standards for women by being sexual beings, but they also defied the church by having homosexual tendencies. Upon Carmilla’s arrival to Laura’s home, there is an immediate connection between the two girls. The two grow to become very great friends, but Carmilla’s mood occasionally turns to one of a more sexual nature and makes romantics encroachments towards Laura. The narrator comments on how Carmilla would “…press me [Laura] more closely in her trembling embrace” [3]. Carmilla does not hide her affection towards Laura as she attempts multiple seduction techniques. She speaks of “…foolish embraces, which were not of very frequent occurrences” and how she wishes to “...extricate myself [Laura]; but my energies seemed to fail me” [3]. This explains how Laura was trying to pull herself away from such “unclean” tendencies, but she could not entirely resist Carmilla’s sexuality. Fanu’s portrayal of the vampire Carmilla brings forth the uncertainty of female homosexuality and the sexual predatory behavior of females during this time period.

[1]https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/gender-roles-in-the-19th-century

[2]https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/victorian-sexualities

[3]https://d2l.arizona.edu/d2l/le/content/563364/viewContent/4935345/View


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