Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Pullman
As I mentioned in Part 1 of “Sex and Horror,” in this and future installments of this series, my aim will be to provide my own Christian-based explanations of the same stories for which Jason Colavito, author of Knowing Fear: Science, Knowledge, and the Development of the Horror Genre, presents Freudian accounts, supplying the psychoanalytic explanations before offering my Christian alternatives. Whether one regards Christianity itself as true or mythical is inconsequential to my enterprise, just as it is likewise irrelevant whether one accepts Freudian thought as true or mythical. Both Christianity and psychoanalysis exist and have been, and continue to be, used as tools for literary analysis, which is what matters in this situation.
As Colavito points out, “Under the influence of Freudian psychoanalysis, horror is traditionally seen as primarily sexual in nature; and most criticism of the genre proceeds from psychoanalytical frameworks emphasizing castration anxieties, phallic symbols, fanged vaginas, and other Freudian baggage” (2).
A Christian interpretation, in contrast, is primarily religious in nature, its criticism proceeding from theological frameworks emphasizing human relationships, especially those between God and humanity, between humanity and God’s creation, nature, and between human beings themselves and other human beings. In short, if psychoanalysis is primarily about sex, Christianity is primarily about divine and human relationships.
In Christian interpretations of horror fiction, where sex is involved, sex is not an end in itself (or shouldn’t be), but is, rather, a means of relating the self to the other, both when the other is nature, when the other is another human being, or when the Other is God. When sex is used other than as God intends it to be used, it is misused. Misused sex is not only perverted sex, but it is also blasphemous and sinful sex, because it perverts the relationships of human beings to God, to themselves, and to nature.
It may be worth mentioning that Freudian psychoanalysis may itself be regarded, from a Christian perspective, as a sort of perversion of Christian theology. In psychoanalysis, the superego is a stand-in, as it were, for God, who lays down the law (and thus morality) through the Ten Commandments and other moral injunctions; the ego takes the place of human beings as conscious beings with wills of their own; and the id is a substitute for the devil and his temptations. Alternatively, one may think of the superego as heaven, the ego as earth, and the id as hell, the geographical or spatial correlatives to God, humanity, and the devil, or as righteousness, corrupted virtue, and sinfulness, or evil, respectively. Thus, within a Christian framework, it is possible to think of the superego, the ego, and the id as either persons, places, or things. Christian theology is at least as rich a basis for literary interpretation and criticism as psychoanalysis purports to be.
Dracula’s emphasis upon oral sex, symbolized by his biting the necks of his victims, who are both male and female, not exclusively female, transposes sex from its assigned genital locus and its assigned generative purpose to a rebellious misuse of the body. In Dracula and other vampire fiction, sex is not a means of reproduction but of subjugation through sadomasochistic predation and victimization, a preying of the strong upon the weak, of the powerful upon the powerless, of the parasite upon the host.
In short, as demonic creatures, vampires are hell-bound sinners.
Note: In Part 3 of “Sex and Horror,” I will take up the psychoanalytical and Christian implications of another horror icon--ghosts.