Bisexual Bloodsuckers: The queercoding of Vampirism is a Dangerous Trope for the Bisexual Community
Vampires have always been a popular mythological creature in American media. From classics like Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire” to more recent fan favorites like “Twilight” and “Vampire Diaries”, the bloodsucking, undead creature has a special place in American counter-culture. What often becomes overlooked in the characterization of the vampire is their bisexuality.
Why are vampires so frequently coded as bisexual, and what does that imply about perceptions of bisexuals? To understand the queer coding of vampires, it’s vital to look at the overlapping between bisexual stereotypes and vampirical characteristics.
Men may have dominated the vampire genre, but that doesn’t mean that famous female vampires are a recent addition. Appearing first in English literary magazine The Dark Blue in 1871, Carmilla was a vampire story that debuted around 26 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In fact, in addition to the story of Nosferatu, Bram Stoker also pulled much of his characterization for Dracula from the story of Carmilla, which had already slowly gained notoriety.
Carmilla was noted to express a queer interest in a young, aristocratic girl, Laura. The queer interest shown towards Laura makes Carmilla’s act of feeding off of her heighten her predatory status, while simultaneously equating female attraction to the behavior of a corrupt and blood sucking soul. Carmilla, like her male counterpart, would become the framework for female and lesbian vampires.
The connection to blood and sex has existed since the popularization of the Dracula myth. When Dracula would bite, or feed, off a victim, he was essentially transferring his curse to that individual or killing them. Both acts were usually done to young, pure, girls who were also often depicted as virgins. The taking of their blood was a parallel to the stripping of their virginity and their purity. This stripping of purity was reinforced through Victorian paintings of vampire attacks, where the woman being bitten was frequently depicted as being asleep in bed or sprawled out, unconscious and naked, with one or more of the undead beasts crouching over her. Once bitten and turned, these women became sexual objects. Artists of the time depicted them with exposed breasts, often being stabbed by more morally sound, and fully clothed, men.
While reading, it is important to keep in mind the stereotypes of bisexuality that are most prevalent in current, and past, portrayals. Bisexual behavior has been tied, especially in recent media representation, to manipulation, untrustworthy, self-destructive, and especially lacking in a culturally relevant moral fiber.
While these character traits are connected largely to bisexual men, bisexual women are still faced with connections to a lack of moral compass as well as overtly sexual natures. Bisexual women are often shown to have loose sexual morals, becoming sexual with any gender, and often at once in orgies and threesomes. This loose sexuality is demonized in the same breath in which it is fetishized.
To show the pattern in the similarities between bisexuality and vampirism, I will focus on Gabrielle from Xena: Warrior Princess, female vampires from Bram Stoker’s novel, and the middle ground of “undead”.
The Immorality of Bisexuality and Vampirism
Bisexuality has often been associated with character traits like immorality and evil. The character Gabrielle, from the T.V show “Xena: Warrior Princess”, is a perfect example of the overlap between the aforementioned bisexual stereotypes, and typical vampiristic characteristics. In the episode “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Gabrielle finds herself transformed into one of the infamous undead (referred to as “Bacchae” in the episode, and group of undead, vampire-like beings that are predominately women).
In a scene that would cause a lot of young, bisexual, Xena fans to get hopeful for the character’s romantic future, Gabrielle begins to try and seduce Xena. This seduction, which proved to be somewhat successful as Gabrielle manages to bite Xena on the neck and transform her into a fellow undead, follows somewhat immediately the transformation of Gabrielle. Gabrielle had shown little of her sexuality previously in the series, but upon being bit she becomes a sexual, and sexually fluid, creature. Essentially, Gabrielle lost a portion of her morality upon being bit.
It is not just in the pursuit of new vampires that we see sexual fluidity. As mentioned previously, the very act of feeding was sexually charged.
In “American Horror Story; Hotel”, we seen a blatant connection to feeding, as Lady Gaga’s vampiric character is shown having a gruesome and bloody multi-gendered orgy. With her character’s loose morality due to her vampirism, the hedonistic scene plays into a common vampiric characterstic; sex in large, passionate, groups.
Bisexual Women as Monstrous Sexual Beings
When looking at the depictions of bisexual women, or sexually fluid women, an analytical viewer or reader will see a monstrous view of female sexuality. The female predator is not one that simply stalks her victim, waiting for the perfect time to strike. She is a monstrous woman; a creature that is threatening to men by her alluring sexuality and strength.
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stoker depicted his female vampires as sexually active, with a large sexual appetite. The men around these women felt intense attraction to them because of this. These male characters, after being around the sexually aggressive and alluring female vampire, would begin to feel threatened by her, quickly jumping atop to morally sound high horse and killing the vampress in the name of God.
An analytical view of this by Ashly Bennet from Haverford College claims that Stoker was using his female vampires as a warning against the growing “new woman”. Stoker was, simply, warning readers against the sexual woman. This warning, and the way in which the realization of men that the vampress was a danger to them, plays out much similarly in life. Bisexual women are seen as hypersexual, as mentioned in the last paragraph.
However, hypersexuality isn’t always a simple sign of lose morals, it is a predatory trait that places the woman on the same level as the men around her. She is no longer a sensual symbol of womanhood, but has become a repulsive, morally lose, challenge to masculine authority. Even in 2017, bisexual woman are killed by their male partners at a proportionally higher rate than lesbian or straight counterparts, with around 53% of bisexual woman facing intimate partner violence, either in a major or minor form.
The ”Other” of Bisexuality and Vampirism
What the stereotypes of bisexuality essentially stem from is a monosexual idea of bisexuality as an “other”. Opinions on bisexuality from those outside of and within the LGBTQIAP+ community will of course vary, but throughout the years it has been seen as something especially unnatural, difficult to understand, and unbelievable, While the point being addressed in this paragraph is one that many bisexuals will find humor in, nonetheless it stands true as another similarity between vampirism and bisexuality.
Vampirism is a type of purgatory. A vampire is not necessarily dead, but is not necessarily alive either. Bisexuals, not much unlike this living dead, are in their own purgatory. Due in part to Alfred Kinsey and the Kinsey Scale (a measurement of sexual attraction ranging from 0, exclusively heterosexual, to 6, exclusively homosexual) bisexuality has been seen as a middle ground identity; not exactly gay, not exactly straight, but somewhere in between.
Unlike the vampire, this notion of being a middle label challenges the authenticity and validity of bisexuality.
The Dangers of the Trope
When you have a sexuality that is already demonized by society, directly associating it with one of the most well known mythological killers just continues the problem. Bisexuals are not evil, we do not lack social morality, and we most certainly are not an “other”. Bisexuality has to be depicted positively to fight the stigma of the identity. We need more positive bisexuals, and less bisexual monsters.
Bennet, Ashly. “The Blood is the Life: Female Vampires, Sexuality, and Disgust in Dracula”. Haverford College, 2014.
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Xena; Warrior Princess, written by Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster, directed by T.J. Scott and Warner Brothers Studio. October 21, 1996.
“GLAAD Media Reference Guide”. 10th ed, GLAAD, 2010.
Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan. “Carmilla”. Revised ed. edition, Valancourt Books, 2009.
Mayberry, Johnathan and David F. Kramer. “They Bite! Endless Cravings and Supernatural Predators”. Kensington Publishing Corp., 2009, New York.
McNally, Raymond T and Radu Florescu. “In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires”. Mariner Books, 1994, New York.
Tissot, Jean-Daniel, and Niels Lion. “Myths: History, Blood, Sex and Money.” Blood Transfusion 11.1 (2013): 1–3. PMC. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
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