In the modern psyche, women have unconsciously adopted vampires as an archetype for the dangerous male. When a woman has sex with a mortal man, she risks pregnancy and social shame. When she has sex with a vampire, she risks actual death. In both cases, women take the chance in trusting men who may not be trustworthy. In the vampire, so many male attributes are exaggerated, from physical strength to sexuality.
Today our vampires still retain those traits, played up even more. But still the vampire can show that evil, ugly side. The vampire, while always a nuisance and a evil to society, has grown even more callous in his vanity, perhaps to show the evil associated with pride and absolute power.
There is little doubt that the popular success of vampires has been enhanced by their dangerous sexuality. These dark lovers were nearly perfect for a society that discouraged open expression of sexuality, especially for women. Vampires embodied both forbidden sexuality and escape from death but their wretched form of existence was punishment for their transgression.
However, in a series of novels beginning with Hotel Transylvania (1978), Chelsea Quinn Yarbro introduce a new ‘ethical’ vampire hero, St. Germain. He is not a monster, but a man of moral worth, extraordinary intellect, and captivating sensuality. He even occasionally fell in love. He was unable to have ordinary sexual relations because he could not have an erection. However, his bite conveyed an intense experience of sexual bliss that women found to be a more than adequate alternative.
Cultural attitudes about gender, sexuality and spirituality have all contributed to the changing face of the vampire in the modern era. To begin to understand those who are different, we first have to acknowledge and confront our fears. The treatment of gender and sexuality in the modern American vampire genre has begun to allow us to do just that.