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Just a tip: Say no to abstinence-porn

September 28, 2009

The rabidly popular HBO series True Blood includes vampires who sup hungrily on human blood, often as part of sexual encounters. Yet, these vampires are able to drink without killing their human blood banks.

Twilight, in stark contrast, depicts the Cullen vampires as virtually unable to stop blood-guzzling once they start. When read as a metaphor for abstinence, the Cullens cannot control their actions once given a taste – or, as abstinence-only-ed would have us believe, any little taste of the nasty will lead us down a dangerous path to debauchery. Just as Edward cannot control his desires when kissing the lusty Bella, neither can he or his Cullen crew take just a sip of human blood.  Thus, the Cullen crew must abstain from human blood altogether – much the same as Mormons and other non-secular peoples are to abstain from sex outside of those oh-so-magical marital unions.

Functioning as a blood alcoholic, Edward is not required to go full on cold turkey by his creator, Ms. Meyer. Rather, his phallic bite is romanticized into marble-lipped kisses and, if Bella will “be good” he is able to control his vampiric tendencies. As for poor Bella though, she can’t quite seem to keep a lid on her desires, wanton-vampire-wanting-hussy that she is. But, as many critiques have pointed out, the onus of virginity is placed squarely on her shoulders. As such, the series doesn’t offer us any new messages about sexuality OR abstinence – rather, it’s the same old “girls you better be good cuz boys only want one thing” credo. As Christine Seifert writes in her article for Bitch, “Such a high-stakes treatment of abstinence reinforces the idea that Bella is powerless, an object, a fact that is highlighted when we get to the sex scenes in Breaking Dawn.” Once we get to the final book in the saga, we are finally allowed some non-virginal reading. But, alas, we must suffer through whole body bruises that result in being impregnated with a rib-breaking vampire/human hybrid to atone for our ‘sins.’

As Seifert argues, “Twilight actually convinces us that self-denial is hot.” I was reminded of this phenomenon by the following image (posted today by the very funny and unabashedly lusty women at  Twitarded):

As this “game” suggests, if you go for “just the tip” for a second “just to see how it feels” you are not REALLY doin’ it. While the post at Twitarded uses this image to jest about whether one is able to abstain from watching clips of New Moon before the film comes out, the “game” itself links in intriguing ways to what Seifert calls the “abstinence porn” of Twilight. Eroticizing abstinence, and suggesting that ‘withholding’ is oh-so-hot, this game seems right on par with the underlying messages about chastity the Twilight series promotes.

In a rather disturbing post on how to play “just the tip,” The Trifecta argues that if you play by just the tip rules, and do so for less than four minutes, you haven’t really done the deed: “Three minutes and fifty nine seconds is the magic number ladies and gentleman” and after this “JTT definitively becomes sex.” Building on all the dangerous myths surrounding sex that are promulgated in abstinence-only-education, “just the tip” seems like just another way to get around purity ring rules.

While Meyer would no doubt never allow Bella and Edward to play this so-called game, the young readers schooled in the abstinence-or-die message of all the many sex-ed programs in our nation are likely privy to such games—in a culture that denies humans are sexual creatures from the get go, ways and means around the just-say-no-to-nookie paradigm abound.

If only Bill Compton or Eric Northman of True Blood could give Edward a tip or two (no, not that kind, although that would be quite interesting in the militantly heterosexual world of Twilight). Meanwhile, Sookie could give Bella a few pointers on sexual agency, sharing that phallic bites are certainly preferable to whole body bruises. This, after the great Buffy v. Edward mash-up (posted again below), is a video clip I eagerly await…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Yasie permalink
    September 21, 2010 8:19 pm

    I am just trying to understand why the idea of abstinence is the problem here? In a world filled with STI’s, children having sex, teen pregnancy, rape, molestation, divorce…couldn’t the problem be that we are OVERSEXED! Somewhere twisted, women interpreted “liberation” as sleeping with as many people as possible. Instead of pointing fingers at this religion or another, why not look at the fundamental beauty in giving to your spouse the one thing you cannot give away twice?

    Sex is thrown at us from every direction as a non-consequential thing, yet we have a generation of young people who lack an emotional connection to committment.

    I think Bella says it best in Breaking Dawn just before making love the first time, “How did people do this-swallow all their fears and trust someone else so implicitly with every imperfection and fear they had-with less than the absolute committment Edward had given me?”

    This criticism of abstinence is just another example of what our society has become: an oversexed sespool devoid of values and decency.

    I will happily sign this as a 30-year-old, non-mormon, proud, VIRGIN, who has never lacked anything in a relationship but ultimate committment from a man.

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