sex was scary

March 7, 2019

“Those Victorians always coupled sex with death,” writes Margaret Atwood in a recent short story published in The New Yorker. This particular comment comes at the conclusion of the story, after an elderly woman exacts fatal revenge on her childhood rapist, whom she encounters on a booze cruise for seniors. As Atwood notes, the Victorians were always coupling sex and death, and they had good reason: sex was scary. Without modern medicine, childbirth was risky and infant mortality was high. Further, diseases like syphilis and other venereal diseases posed an additional threat that could be fatal. The Victorian vampire is a spot-on literary manifestation of these fears. Penetration by the vampire could leave the victim dead.

Emily Schuck
Re-masculating the Vampire: Conceptions of Sexuality and the Undead from Rossetti’s Proserpine to Meyer’s Cullen