Interestingly, the obvious sexuality of the vampire was first portrayed on screen by a female vampire. In retrospect, the scene in Dracula’s Daughter (1936) in which the female vampire seduced the young model was far more charged with sexuality than any played by Lugosi.
A quarter of a century later, Roger Vadim brought an overtly sensual vampire to the screen in his version of “Carmilla,” Blood and Roses (1960). In 1967 French director Jean Rollin produced the first of a series of semipornographic features, Le Viol du Vampire (released in English as The Vampire’s Rape). The story centered around two women who believed that they were cursed by a vampire to follow his bloodsucking life. The sexuality of “Carmilla” was even more graphically pictured in The Vampire Lovers, Hammer Films’ 1970 production, in which the unclad Carmilla and Laura romped freely around their bedroom.
Beginning in the late seventies and continuing into the eighties and nineties, treatment of gender and sexuality in vampire media changed. When vampires first appeared on movie screens, their messages about gender roles were in keeping with many of the concepts that had been established during the Victorian era. Women were nearly universally the victim, while men were almost always cast as the heroes.
When represented, sexuality was always the vehicle for anti-social behavior. Women acting in an overtly sexual manner were bound to fall from grace and become vampires. However, as both female and homosexual groups were struggling to redefine American culture’s perception of their identity, modern vampire media started to incorporate female and homosexual distinctive gender traits.
for instance, the concept of the feminine as either absolutely good or absolutely powerless faded. A broader, more inclusive definition of female gender identity took the place of the traditional stereotype. One of the biggest changes in female gender identity has been the treatment of female eroticism. While women had previously been punished for displaying any type of overt sexuality, eroticism is now accepted as “a positive — or at least neutral — characteristic” .
Female writers in the 1970s, are also held responsible for the return of the vampire as a romantic figure. It is believed that this change was the feminine response to the patriarchal victimization of women that had been occurring in novels and on screen for decades (Gordon & Hollinger, p. 62).
A second social group that has become a powerful force in modern vampire media is the homosexual community. The modern metaphor of vampire as outsider meshes particularly well with the social identity of this group in the modern era. One of vampire media’s central questions, “what happens to human nature when a single element is changed, putting a person at odds with the rest of humanity,” seems particularly fitting in relation to this association (Gordon & Hollinger, p. 87).
Through vampire fiction and erotica, the homosexual community has been able to address issues of sexuality and gender. The homosexual and lesbian vampires in these stories express the sadness and grief that the artists have felt in relation to the reality of intolerance for their group in modern society.
The first female artist to address this new element of gender identity was Anne Rice. Rice’s vampires, though chiefly male, rarely behaved like their predecessors. Feeding upon victims is only a peripheral element of their lives. Instead, their interpersonal relationships and internal thought processes took precedence in Rice’s narratives. Interview with the Vampire, revolves around the seemingly platonic but latently homosexual obsessions of it’s principal main characters Lestat and Armand for Louis, and of Louis and Letast’s blatant pedophilia toward the tiny five/hundred year old protégé, Claudia.
Vampire media’s exploration of sexuality has gone hand-in-hand with the broadening of perception of gender identity. Gender role expectations of women have altered significantly in the last three decades. In response, female roles in vampire media too have changed. Women have become significantly more powerful and influential in the genre than they had ever been before.