Vampires abstain from sex, abortion in Twilight

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May contain scenes of sexual violence, intense passion, and strong messages of… abstinence?

“Why am I covered with feathers?” says Bella, the female protagonist of the popular teen-lit series, Twilight, in the final novel, Breaking Dawn.

Bella has just had sex for the first time with her vampire boyfriend Edward. In the midst of their passion, they have torn apart the pillows, the sheets, and the bed is broken.

The story’s message, that sex is violent, is just one of the series’ recurring themes that demand attention and discussion, according to UVic political science professor Jannai Aragon.

Twilight’s author, Stephanie Meyer, markets herself as a literary-minded Mormon mother. Aragon said that Meyer’s politics are threaded within the pages of the plot, and the abstinence-only and pro-life messages are apparent.

Unlike other vampire fiction, the Twilight novels are not about the undead stealing the virginity of the lusty, young female.

“In here, Meyer put this on its head,” said Aragon. “Edward loves her [Bella’s] humanity.”

Warning: spoiler alert to follow.

Although Bella urges Edward to have sex with her, he doesn’t. Aragon said that this is an obvious message to young girls to abstain from sex.

When Bella finally does convince Edward to mess the sheets, she becomes pregnant. Just as is the case with vampire sex, their pregnancies are violent as well.

“Her ribs get broken,” said Aragon. “The baby is essentially killing her.”

Despite the suggestion from Edward and others that Bella terminate her pregnancy so she can live, she refuses to do so.

“So what does that tell you?” said Aragon. “Not only should you be pro-life, but even if the baby is going to kill you, you should still try to keep the pregnancy.”

Twilight also contains a slew of sexist stereotypes, such as the protective male with uncontrollable urges and the helpless girlfriend who is incomplete without her lover and becomes reckless when he breaks her heart.

“In the first book, in particular, she’s so darn needy,” said Aragon. “And in the second book as well, when she’s so depressed that she’s catatonic.”

Aragon said that for some who are not as self-aware, such as tweens or teens, they may think that this behaviour is normal.

“You get your heart broken, go cliff diving,” Aragon said.

Aragon said she was surprised to discover a racist stereotype in the books, as well. Because the shape-shifting characters (werewolves) are all aboriginal, Aragon said they are frequently referred to as dogs or mongrels and that they smell.

“Typically, referring to someone as a ‘dirty Indian’ is racist,” said Aragon. “Why aren’t we talking about that with this book?”

Despite being a little irked by some of these images, Aragon said she liked the books; but more than that, she liked the teachable moments with her 10-year-old daughter that the story’s themes provided.

When she recognized that it is not just teen girls that shriek at the mention of Edward and Bella, but that many UVic students are also intrigued by the series,

Aragon decided to expand those teachable moments to her classes. Twilight was included in the syllabus for her gender and politics course this semester, and in her introduction to Women’s Studies class last year.

Aragon said discovered that when she involves popular culture in her lectures, her students stop texting and actually pay attention. continues here

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