By Light Unseen

Folklore Vampires and Sex

Critics of popular vampire fiction constantly complain that "vampires were never sexy" and should only be depicted as hideous, scary monsters. But in authentic vampire folklore, vampires were intensely sexual. In fact, far more stories stress the sexual side of vampires than the blood-drinking side, which is often vague or entirely absent. The folklore vampire was all about sex.

A common debunkers' cliche holds that folklore vampires weren't youthful and pretty, they were "your moldering old uncle Ivan." But the case histories make it obvious that folklore vampires were almost never ugly old people who died peacefully in the bosom of their families. Those individuals were ready to go to their just reward in Heaven. No one feared them.

No, the people who returned as vampires--or were thought to have done so by panicked survivors--were almost always young, vigorous, vital individuals who died in the prime of life. They may have been murdered, like the vampire described by de Tournefort, or committed suicide like the vampire in the Arnold Paola incident. They often were young mothers who died in childbirth. In the American Mercy Brown case, the supposed "vampire" was a young woman who died of tuberculosis.

In short, it was precisely those people who seemed to have everything to live for, and whose deaths seemed untimely and unnatural, who were expected to resist death and attempt to cling to this world by any means possible.

When folklore vampires returned, they desperately sought the pleasures of life that death had stolen from them, and that meant food and sex. Folklore vampires visited their widowed spouses, "pestered" virgins and even raped nuns. In some stories, widows claimed a vampire was visiting them only after they became pregnant. To a modern reader, it's fairly obvious that the vampire story was a cover-up, but the key point is that it worked. People believed that vampires not only returned from the grave for sex, they could even father children. When suspected vampires were exhumed, the male corpses were often found to have erections, which further confirmed the vampire's insatiable desire for sex.

While male vampires were sometimes (by no means always) described as horrifying in appearance, female vampires were almost invariably described as preternaturally beautiful and seductive. Male vampires may have been rapists--although there is considerable evidence that not every "victim" found the vampire's visits unwelcome--but the female vampire was always an alluring siren. Those who claim that "vampires should be horrifying monsters" conveniently forget that.

Besides sex, folklore vampires lusted for food--any kind of food or drink. They were the hungry dead, who would eat you out of house and home, even sucking the teats of cows and goats dry of milk. What they didn't eat, they frequently soiled or scattered. A vampire's visitations could have serious consequences when famine was always a threat. The notion that vampires live only on blood and can't consume ordinary food and drink is entirely an invention of fiction-writers.