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Twilight: Emotional Porn for Women

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FITZGERALD writes:

The Twilight series is nothing more than female emotional pornography. It’s an intoxicating formula for today’s girls from 10-40 and yet it has none of the social stigma attached to traditional pornography. Here’s a particularly interesting article at Whiskey’s Place. The author understands that men retreat from fields that women enter. Women have now entered the fantasy world and are crowding men out with the complicit actions of the growing estrogen mafia in most every business. Even more prescient is the author’s assertion that this will destroy normal income streams from steady male customers to the vagaries of emotionally-driven fads in popular culture. Sadly, the most important aspect of the article is as follows: 

“The result will be even more young girls with rather skewed and unhealthy ideas about men, male behavior, and greater contempt for “beta males” who don’t measure up to the standards of fantasy. Many but not all the type that would not generate much male attention on their own (clearly some attractive girls like the stories) …

We will see more ordinary men and boys, as a result further alienated and disconnected from ordinary women and girls. Religion in decline, particularly church attendance, and harried single mothers, amplify the effect that popular culture has in teaching girls and boys how “correct” relationships are formed, and what the image of the opposite sex should look like in behavior and dynamics. Twilight is perhaps the most single hideous conception yet perpetrated on the American public.”

Agreed.

 This is frightening:

“If there is a chemical that’s released when you’re falling in love, your brain has it when you’re reading or watching ‘Twilight.’ You get that utopic feeling of first love and you want to experience it over and over again,” one 50-year-old former engineer who has experienced her own “Twilight”-related marital problems, said. The names “Bella,” “Jacob,” and “Cullen” are climbing the popular-baby-name lists every year as more and more parents make their “Twilight” fandom a permanent part of their families.” 

Yes, there are chemicals that result in the “falling-in-love” experience and they border on a drug addiction for women who get trapped in the high typical in new relatiosnhips. Trust me… I have first hand experience with this. As if western women weren’t already nearly completely unfit for marriage and relationships already, this is yet another catalyst for further ruin.

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Janet writes:

What does it say about our culture that grown women, 40 years old no less, are enamored with characters written to appeal to the immature minds of 14-year-old girls? 

Thankfully, my teenaged daughters (and I have three) find the whole phenomenom quite silly. They have not seen the movies, nor shown any interest in them, though they did read the first book in the series. They found it sorely lacking, and have vowed not to waste time reading the series any further.

Laura writes:

The whole thing is foreign to me. I haven’t seen or read any Twilight. I guess I live in a cultural twilight.

Phantom Blogger writes:

See this advice column, featuring a married women who’s obsessed with Twilight: 

I am an enthusiastic fan of the Twilight Saga and have recently purchased an Edward Cullen pillowcase and blanket. Here is the problem – I am married and my husband has taken great offense to having these items on our “marital bed”! I have argued that he is a fictional character and that these are just objects…and if he wanted to put Pam Anderson on a pillowcase he could gladly do so. He thinks I am not in touch with reality (which I find offensive) and am not being a considerate wife. I want to make my husband happy but does that mean that I have to compromise my happiness in order to achieve this? – TWI-(NOT TOO MUCH OR YOU MIGHT IRRITATE YOUR HUSBAND) HARD

Drina writes:

I have read the first book in the Twilight series, and while “emotional porn” does seem like a rather strong term, I have to agree. I was doing some substitute teaching a little more than a year ago and made a “deal” with some of my female freshman students: I would read Twilight if they would read Dracula. (I don’t think they ever kept their end of the bargain.) The book really pulls the female reader in, if only on a very shallow emotional level. All I could think of while reading it were the great number of young girls getting pulled into it, all the while forming their ideas of how love ought to be. I brought up that point during class one day, asking, “Don’t you think it’s a really unrealistic example of romantic love?” One girl answered in a rather depressed tone, “I know there is no Edward and there’s never going to be an Edward! (sigh)” And the parents of these Twilight girls, many of whom are trying to raise them to be moral, level-headed, reasonable girls, find the book just fine because Bella and Edward are “chaste.” They don’t sleep together before marriage, if that’s what chaste means. I suppose it was fine that Edward slept in Bella’s bed with her one night, since nothing happened?

Phantom Blogger linked to the advice column. Is the man giving advice really a man? I can hardly believe he tells the husband, “let your wife enjoy her dreamy fantasy of fangs and foreplay.” Gone are the days when a husband is actually encouraged to be a man! Thank God, manly men do still exist!

Fitzgerald writes:

This women in the piece linked by Phanton Blogger and her marriage have some serious issues bubbling under the surface. Her fantasy fascination shows she’s already in a one of the early phases described by Michelle Langley in her book “Women’s Infidelity,” and has let her atavistic desire for “adventure” and the “other” to spill over into reality. She’s deluding herself if she thinks her husband is being silly and he should indulge her. He has the absolutely 100 percent correct response! I hope he has the cajones to continue holding his ground; most men don’t. 

On a more humorous note.. this commentary to the article nails it: 

“Y’all are missing the thing here.

The perfect male allegory to Twi-Hard’s Twilight bed sheets isn’t Pam Anderson pillow cases, porn star posters, pin up calendars or even shammies of Kate Beckinsale ala Underworld, in her tight leather body suit and twin hand guns.

No, the perfect allegory for a male here is a bed shaped like a race car.” 

Touché.

Jesse Powell writes:

I’d like to interject a contrary note to all the bashing of “Twilight” going on here. I have not read the book or seen the movie; I am only going by what is written in the Wikipedia write up of the story and the commentary given on the Whiskey’s Place blog. (The two links offered for background information). 

I am thinking maybe the craze among teenagers and grown women for “Twilight” represents a longing for traditional male heroic, assertive, and dominant behavior; not the feminist woman who is in charge and wants it all. 

In the description of the plot of the book (given on Wikipedia) when Edward and Bella first meet Edward seems strongly repulsed by Bella, because he is more attracted to her than he feels comfortable with, it turns out. Edward disappears and then returns, starting up a relationship with Bella. As Wikipedia states “. . . their newfound relationship reaches a climax when Bella is nearly run over by a fellow classmate’s van in the school parking lot. Edward saves her life when he instantaneously appears next to her and stops the van with his bare hands.” 

So Edward performs his first manly heroic deed, saving Bella’s life. Later on, after Edward and Bella have fallen in love, “. . . Bella receives a phone call from James, who claims to be holding her mother captive. When Bella surrenders herself, James attacks her. Before she is killed, Edward, along with the other Cullens, rescues her and defeats James. Once they realize that James has bitten Bella’s hand, Edward successfully sucks the poison from her bloodstream and prevents her from becoming a vampire, after which she is brought to a hospital. Upon returning to Forks, Bella and Edward attend their school prom and Bella expresses her desire to become a vampire, but Edward refuses.” 

So, yet more manly heroics from Edward. Edwards saves Bella’s life yet again, and defeats the evil James in battle. Then Edward performs a further act of protective love, sucking the poison out of Bella’s bloodstream to prevent her from becoming a vampire. Bella then pleads that she wants to become a vampire, just like her beloved Edward, but Edward refuses, implicitly suggesting that Edward knows this is not right for Bella, though it would make Bella more like Edward, though she desires it. 

These all seem like healthy messages to me. Edward is heroic, protects Bella from danger, defeats evil in battle, and refuses Bella’s romantic desire to become more like him, against her expressed wishes, because he knows it is not right for her. 

The blogger at “Whiskey’s Place” writes: 

Edward Cullen wins the girl in Twilight by being the most dominant and controlling male in Bella’s life. Superman wins Lois Lane by being … mostly Clark Kent, the mild mannered reporter. Lois herself is independent, and while lacking powers has opinions and a mind to match her beauty. This is the male heroic model that worked, that built Western Civilization, and males resent it’s overthrow by the female-tween fantasies of Twilight and other vampire-fantasy fads. Lois is desirable because she’s winnable, and winnable by more than just superpowers and wealth and power, otherwise Lex Luthor would have married her. Her very independence and intelligence make her winnable, by Clark Kent not Superman, and it means she stays won. Clark does not have to constantly mate-guard her like Cullen does Bella. 

And further adds: 

For girls, Twilight teaches them to be passive, eschew education and a career . . . 

I find these complaints about the novel very interesting. The blogger complains that Edward wins the girl by being “the most dominant and controlling male in Bella’s life”. I thought men being dominant and acting as the leader in a relationship was a good thing. He then goes on to say in the Superman / Clark Kent and Louis Lane romance that Clark Kent won the girl mostly because he was mild mannered, not because he was Superman, and he praises Lois Lane for being independent and having “a mind to match her beauty”. This model, the mild mannered man who wins over the independent and intelligent woman, is, according to the blogger, “the male heroic model that worked”. He then complains about the need for Edward to engage in mate guarding behavior to make sure that Bella is not stolen away from him by another man. Finally the complaint that Twilight teaches women “to be passive, eschew education and a career” I think pretty much speaks for itself. 

To me the blogger at “Whiskey’s Place” seems feminist with a little bit of men’s rights mentality thrown in, not a social conservative in favor of traditional sex roles. I’m thinking the novel “Twilight” may embody more positive cultural messages than we are giving it credit for, and the many female fans of Twilight may represent woman’s longing for traditional heroic powerful men more than anything else.

John E. writes:

Jesse Powell wrote: 

I’m thinking the novel “Twilight” may embody more positive cultural messages than we are giving it credit for, and the many female fans of Twilight may represent woman’s longing for traditional heroic powerful men more than anything else.

By the same token however, I’m thinking many male fans of pornography may represent man’s longing for deep and meaningful sex. Why not acknowledge the positive cultural messages in male pornography also?

If women really want to read about heroic and powerful men, they would do so much better to grasp writers from the past’s exploration of the topic, like Austen, Dickens, or even Stoker’s Dracula, where the vampires were unambiguously evil, and the men were actual human beings and still heroic, not quasi-men who are unimaginably unattainable in real life.

That said, I agree with the point you made about the blogger at Whiskey’s Place.

Vanessa writes:

Jesse writes: I’m thinking the novel “Twilight” may embody more positive cultural messages than we are giving it credit for, and the many female fans of Twilight may represent woman’s longing for traditional heroic powerful men more than anything else.

I agree. Feminists actually really hate those books. It’s such effective emotional porn because it speaks to women’s innate wish to be desired, protected, and dominated by a strong and morally-upright man.

See this article in the Vancouver Sun:

After reading the first two books and watching the first movie, Aragon believes the main female character isn’t a good role model for young girls.The characters played by Stewart and Pattinson fall back on old stereotypes, she says — the girl is clumsy and silly while the love interest is more mature and all-knowing.>

 ”He loves her humanity, but the way — especially in the books — he is portrayed is somewhat problematic,” said Aragon.

 ”At times he can be condescending. He watches her while she is sleeping. He is uninvited — and in the real world, that’s called stalking. That’s not the same as being in love with someone so much you’re obsessed.”…

Twilight fan Jasmine Marshall, 12, thought at first the stories were “cool and I wished life could be like this.

“But then I was reading that she only does what he does and she’s kind of needy. She’s a follower and he’s like, ‘I’m the best and I can tell you what to do and watch you and stalk you.’”

James P. writes:

Vanessa writes:

“I agree. Feminists actually really hate those books. It’s such effective emotional porn because it speaks to women’s innate wish to be desired, protected, and dominated by a strong and morally-upright man.”

I know nothing about the series other than it is about vampires, but what exactly is “morally upright” about a vampire? Isn’t a vampire a symbol of debased, uncontrollable, sadistic sexual desire?

Fitzgerald writes:

I also take serious umbrage at the use of demonic literary characters painted as not only symphathetic but as desirable. The use of cultural demonic metaphors as misunderstood is very troubling. The recent animated film “How to Train a Dragon” and the older 70′s “Petes” dragon are examples of cultural forces undermining the Christian cultural base of our civilization. Dragons, vampire and werewolves are literary creations representing the reality of the demonic. Debasing the force of them by portraying them as just misunderstood but ultimately sympathitic or even actively good is demonic in nature for it communicates evil doesn’t really exist, it’s only ignorance and bias, Christian bias of course, that portrays them as such. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Vanessa writes:

John E. wrote:

By the same token however, I’m thinking many male fans of pornography may represent man’s longing for deep and meaningful sex. Why not acknowledge the positive cultural messages in male pornography also?

I think we can all agree that there is pornography, and then there is pornography. I think young women reading Twilight is comparable to young men watching an action film in which “the hero gets the girl”, like Spiderman. Those sexual fantasies are a matched pair, aren’t they? Shy girl gets hot guy (or, even better, gets two hot guys to fight over her). Shy guy gets hot girl (or, even better, manages to take her away from hot guy).

If women really want to read about heroic and powerful men, they would do so much better to grasp writers from the past’s exploration of the topic, like Austen, Dickens, or even Stoker’s Dracula, where the vampires were unambiguously evil, and the men were actual human beings and still heroic, not quasi-men who are unimaginably unattainable in real life.

Has Mr. E. not noticed the fact that Austen (and her contemporaries) are popular as never before? Grown women mooning over Mr. Darcy and fantasizing about Mr. Knightley. That’s a whole subplot to the Bridget Jone’s Diary books. Furthermore, Stephanie Myers (the Twilight author) even admitted that she bases her books upon such classic chic-lit as Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, and Wuthering Heights. The underlying plots are recycled from those novels.

The reason why the main male characters are “supernatural”, rather than mere humans, is because most modern young women would not be able to fathom human men acting so heroicly. How many young women have ever experienced a situation where a single man saved them, or even protected them, from physical violation (what the blood-sucking emulates) or murder? It’s like something from another world. So if you want to depict it in our country, you have to make the characters from another world.

Modern American men are actually incredibly tame and passive (as they have been trained to be, and as the law forces them to be), which is why women are increasingly throwing themselves at thugs. Literature is just reflecting reality, here. The vigilante violence depicted in these novels is akin to the gangsta turf-wars of modern-day inner cities. Jacob and Edward are like gang leaders. In Victorian novels, the men don’t have to be “thugs” to be attractive because they held true legal authority over women. One false move and a woman could be “ruined”. One missed chance and woman could end up a spinster. They were powerful just by being men, so they didn’t have to be dressed up with superhuman powers to be a bit thrilling. Regular men will again become thrilling if they again become powerful.

It also provides a cover for Bella’s keen submission. She has to resort to cowering behind Edward and Jacob because the enemies also have superpowers, and she is a mere human. Otherwise the reader would be incredulous, and wonder why she just doesn’t fight them off herself, or call “the authorities”. This “suspension of disbelief” is the same reason that European women read historical novels at such high rates. It is only by traveling back in time, that female submission and male protectiveness become palatable. Those are now considered unacceptable feelings, so they have to be transported to an environment where they can become acceptable.

William writes:

The best breakdown of Twilight I’ve seen is here. Not sure how accurate it is, having never read/seen any of the stuff, but it’s a good read anyway.

Jesse writes:

I found a good article critiquing the Twilight book series from a feminist point of view. The article is organized around the seven good reasons why “every feminist should not just hate Twilight, but run from it like the Ann Coulter of literature” as the author, Nikkigassley, puts it. 

I recommend this article with its comments section to learn more about the impact of the Twilight series on the culture.

Maggie Fox writes:

I am a feminist and I am planning to attend a showing of the new Twilight movie this weekend. In my case, I am going because my husband wants to go! He also rented the previous two movies, which I watched with him. He became interested in Twilight at the behest of a female friend who adores the series. Yes, I know my husband will likely be subject to some derision from your commenters if you publish this, but to me, my husband’s ability to get along well with women and to respect the interests of his women friends is a major point in his favor.

The main flaw I see in the series is the lack of in-depth characterization. Bella, in particular, is a cipher, a blank slate onto which I suppose women can project themselves. As a feminist, I am bothered by Edward’s overbearing behavior, but I also understand why women would be attracted to the idea of an otherwise aloof man who is utterly overcome by love for a woman. I have a feeling many women like that aspect of Edward, despite his intrusive protectiveness. It is a flattering concept, and reminds me of my own teenage literary crush on Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (although Mr. Darcy, in contrast to Edward, was respectful and seemed capable of abiding by Elizabeth Bennet’s wishes, as when she rejected his first proposal).

I also dislike the unflattering stereotypes about men promoted in the series. The vampires’ insatiable lust for human blood is a stand-in for supposedly uncontrollable male sexuality. The werewolves’ violence is an allegory for male violence. The movie romanticizes the decision by the human girlfriend of a werewolf to stay with him after he roughs her up; she understands that he just can’t help himself.

I think it is misguided for Fitzgerald to assume that the vast majority of Twilight fans are incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality. I don’t agree that those woman who like Edward’s dominant side generally want to be dominated by men in any meaningful way. I think it is just a fun escapist fantasy — and I don’t believe that our fantasies necessarily say too much about how people want to be treated in real life. It reminds me of men (sometimes powerful male CEOs and politicians) who go to a dominatrix for a spanking. They don’t actually want to have women take over their lives, but it’s fun to cede control in their time off.

Vanessa writes:

James P. writes, Isn’t a vampire a symbol of debased, uncontrollable, sadistic sexual desire?

Yes, of course. And that’s how the “bad vampires” are depicted. The “good vampires” are depicted as quasi-vegetarians, in that they have mastered their need to drink human blood, and live off of animal blood only. But they still harbor the desire, which is why Edward is torn between being with Bella (and being constantly tormented by this desire) and running away in order to save her from himself. That’s where the whole moral/chaste thing comes in. This is then mirrored in the fact that the couple is frequently depicted alone together (even in bed, to add to the torment), but he insists on waiting for marriage to have sex and drink her blood.

No matter how often she throws herself at him (and she does that at least once per chapter), he refuses. And the ladies swoon. It’s a bit like seating a starving man before a groaning buffet table and watching him struggle to maintain his composure, and wait to eat until the host has finished saying Grace. A gratuitous display of self-control. Most men would crumble and just go for it, which is what makes Edward the hero.

Fitzgerald writes, Debasing the force of them by portraying them as just misunderstood but ultimately sympathitic or even actively good is demonic in nature for it communicates evil doesn’t really exist, it’s only ignorance and bias, Christian bias of course, that portrays them as such.

It’s supernatural multiculturalism.

Maggie writes, The main flaw I see in the series is the lack of in-depth characterization.

The Vampire Diaries were first, and I read them back in high school. They’re much better-written, if you like that kind of thing.

The movie romanticizes the decision by the human girlfriend of a werewolf to stay with him after he roughs her up; she understands that he just can’t help himself.

Although it’s very realistic, as many women in abusive relationships choose to stay in them. In fact, abusive men often find women fighting over them. They find the element of danger exciting. Rihanna has become the poster girl for this phenomenom, but she’s hardly an unusual case.

The honeymoon was also very controversial, as we are led to believe that the sex was so wild and violent that Bella wakes up the next morning sore, covered in bruises, and gazing upon a room torn to pieces. Feathers everywhere. And she’s described as being very, very pleased with all of that, and eager for a repeat performance. Edward, of course, is horrified at his own lack of self-control. And so on.

 

 

 

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