Can Sex with a Vampire Get You Pregnant? (Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Series — Breaking Dawn)
Shortly after midnight on August 2nd, 1.3 million readers, mostly young women, began reading Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final installment of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, a saga of romance and general sweatiness between the mortal Bella and the dreamily eternal Edward. Somewhere in the hours before dawn, a million women paused in shock and confusion. “Bella’s pregnant?” they asked in astonishment. “I thought sex with a vampire was… um… safe.”
Setting aside the obvious physical dangers of getting naked with vampires, sex with the dead seems like it shouldn’t require a condom. After all, if vampires are animated corpses, how can they have live seed? Bella’s pregnancy doesn’t feel logical. That said, is there any precedent for a human women finding herself in a family way after dallying with her dark prince? Believe it or not, there is.
The most infamous pregnancy in vampire literature (or perhaps I should say the most infamous up until now) occurred in Poppy Z. Brite’s 1992 novel Lost Souls. Side character Ann Bransby-Smith, tired of protagonist Steve Finn’s drinking, dumps him in favor of one of her college professors. Steve rapes Ann in drunken retaliation, a scene made all the more disturbing by Ann’s ambivalent reaction. She gets her own revenge through a one-night stand with Zillah, a green-eyed vampire with an axe to grind against Steve. Ann becomes pregnant. In desperation, she poisons her invalid father and flees to New Orleans. The remainder of the novel details the efforts of Steve and his childhood friend Ghost to find and save Ann. An attempt to induce a miscarriage finally kills her.
Critics and readers raked Brite over the coals, accusing her of hatred for her own sex. Few of them seemed to notice that Ann’s pregnancy is actually the second one in the book. The prologue tells the story of Jessy, who carries another of Zillah’s children. She dies giving birth, but her son survives. The child of a human mother and a vampire father is called a dhampir, a word and a concept that go all the way back to Slavic folklore. A dhampir has all the powers of a vampire with none of the disadvantages. Dhampir are the ultimate outcasts, reviled as monsters by humans and shunned as aberrations by vampires. Both traditionally and in literature, dhampir are vampire hunters.
While my favorite dhampir is the enigmatic Jen from Nancy Collins’ Sonja Blue novels, the most well known is surely Vampire Hunter D. Familiar to Americans as the central character in a pair of animated movies (thanks to poor translating, the word dhampir is consistently mispronounced in both films), the story of D began (and continues) in a series of novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi, ten of which are now available in English. D hunts vampires through the nightmare landscape of post-apocalyptic Earth. A heady mix of Lovecraft and Leone, D’s adventures bear more resemblance to early Clint Eastwood westerns than to traditional horror stories. Though convinced that his vampire kin deserve extermination, D often struggles against his own dark longings.
So, what can we take away from all this? One obvious conclusion would be that if you’re going to sleep with a vampire, you really should use birth control. Beyond that, what do the stories of Ann and Bella say about the women who read them? It’s a serious question, and I’m not at all sure I like the answer.
Lost Souls remains Brite’s most popular book, largely due to the ‘appeal’ of Steve Finn and the more compassionate Ghost. Despite their early outrage, fans still pester Brite (who has left horror and moved on to kitchen mysteries) for a sequel. I suspect alienated fans of Stephenie Meyer will do the same. Right now they feel hurt and betrayed, but like Bella herself they’ll stick around, despite the pain.