The psychology of vampirism

When I was a child I developed an obsession (what some would call a dangerous fetish): an unwavering love for vampires. And I did not fall into any category either. If there was any implication that something drank blood and had fangs, I was enamoured. It started out innocently enough, frequently I would sit in front of the television in anticipation of those cartoons and kids’ shows I most favoured and secretly hope for a Halloween special or the hint of something bloody to titillate my fear. But really, it was not the sensation of terror I was after, but rather the squirming rush that bound itself to my fear, the liquid warmth that would make my mind flurry with unthinkable opportunities.

It began in innocence, as all such things do. A crush on a boy. Granted, a boy with fangs… A fictional boy… A boy who drinks blood… But a boy nonetheless. A man that harboured a dark secret; the desire to drink human blood. A hero, really. Someone who fought his nature, tried to remain on the beaten path, tried to tow the line. It started with the Angel’s and Louis’s of the world. It stemmed from the need to love something that does not want to be loved. Lust after something that hints at the vaguest possibility of danger. Something, or someone, that could eventually tear the fragile, human body apart in passionate abandon.

The obsession grew from a simple love for a simple vampire with complex motives and notions. The precursor to Edward Cullen, really. I’m terribly sorry to break this to you, Twilight fans, but your Edward is not an original concept. In all vampire tales there is one. The vampire with a soul, the vampire with human passions, the vegetarian vampire, the man that hates his own monstrous nature and seeks to change it.

When we’re young, this appeals to us, no doubt. We crave the danger of vampirism and we want to dip our toes in that pool ever so gently, trying not to stir the monsters beneath the surface, trying not to get too wet, swirling our feet in misted patterns and thinking ourselves ever-so-daring for stepping outside of our own ignorance to indulge an ‘amoral’ vice. We think ourselves better than the monsters. Good little girls want to change bad boys; they want to be the ones to drag them over to goodness, make them see the bad in their behaviour. Good little girls want a man they can fix. The vampire stereotype of a bad boy, seeking redemption is the perfect outlet. No real danger can be incurred and innocent fantasies remain unspoken.

Gradually, however, that fantasy evolves and transforms into the desire to experience a potentially fatal lust, I suppose. At least, this is the way it was for me and many other girls I have known. And this, Twilight moms, is what will eventually move your daughters. Not Edward any longer, he will become dull and uninteresting, and soppy to them, just as he is to the rest of the world. We start innocently, wanting an emotionally available vampire, a vampire that cares, that is not afraid to talk about his feelings, a Stefan Salvatore. But as we mature so do our needs. Sweet and gentle is no longer acceptable. I want fire, passion, a man that uses the threat of his fangs as a means to dominate me.

Vampires… The ultimate Doms?

Dracula is clearly the Hue Hefner of vampires; everywhere he goes, women are unable to resist his old world, noble charms, despite his age, his reputation as a womaniser, and his strange physical deformities (Hairy palms? Kind of gross when you consider the connotations). His magnetism, his way with people, allows him to control them, makes slaves of them, to the extent that he keeps a number of them to himself and they live only for him.

Let us not forget my personal favourite, Anne Rice’s Lestat de Lioncourt. Beautiful and impetuous, he does what he chooses when he pleases and despite his (often) childish behaviour, no one can deny him, he is adored by most and secretly desired by others. Interview with the Vampire is a study in sadomasochism, really. Louis is alone, miserable, and aching for death when Lestat finds him. He has nothing left (or so he believes) and wants to end his life. But his maker-to-be sweeps in and changes the entire game. Making Louis’s life an erotic combination of love for this strange, nobleman, childish, petulant, and fiercely loyal and protective all at once, but also a misery more intense than living had been, an existence tied to hurting and taking. Lestat spends eighty odd years instructing Louis (albeit badly at times) and binding him, treating him as a treasured lover at times and punishing him for (what is perceived as) bad behaviour at others. Louis spends most of his nights straining against the tethers of his master. And these mannerisms do not change. Even after Lestat’s assumed death, Louis seeks a vampire that can instruct him and teach him and love him as a master. In this he finds Armand, who, of course, has his own masochistic tendencies playing on his past. His relationship with Marius built of him a masochist, but his induction and training with the creatures that kidnapped him from Marius’s home twisted his psyche, moulding him into a sadist.

I could spend reams of pages discussing the bondage relationships inherent in the Vampire Chronicles, but let me continue with another fictional character…

In the Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, one character stands out above the rest, Jean-Claude, the conniving, lustful, and occasionally cruel vampire that finally wins Anita’s love after… How many books did it take? Eight? I lost count. While I do not like the main character, Anita, I do have a world of affection for Jean-Claude who plays an effective game with her. Allowing her to come to him on her own terms and then owning her as both his human servant and lover. Yet again though, I must stop before I digress further. So many vampires to study in this series and a whole universe of taboo sex.

I could remain on this tangent, listing the vampires we love to want. The vampires we wish could keep us as pets, playthings, toys… Zillah, Eric, Damon Salvatore, Asher…. But it all boils down to these inescapable truths: Vampires are not always kind or compassionate, occasionally they are these things, but as a whole we have encountered very few that follow these strictures; Girls desire vampires because it allows them to indulge their own wickedness, the wickedness they attempt to hide from the world at large; When we accept our need to be dominated, we accept vampires as the most succinct outlet.

I know where my masochism started….. – An intriguing piece, it does not support the notion in detail, but a good read nevertheless.

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  • Reply Cerridwen February 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Weird how we come to love the things that scared us the most and left us with vividly painful nightmares. I used to make sure that my duvet was always over my neck to make sure they couldn’t get me when I was small. Now however, I think we’re on the same wavelength here… my thoughts of them border between fetish and obsession. Do you ever have days where you sigh that they’re not truly real?

    • Reply Lafaeyette February 27, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      Oh, you have no idea. I become nearly obsessed with the notion of vampirism for days on end, and then when I’m forced to accept that they really aren’t real, I go into depression :(. Le Sigh…

      • Reply Richard A. Kretzschmar II October 26, 2014 at 7:07 pm

        Oh WE are real all right. No need for depression when the LED light from the DEL is bright upon the Mar, see?

        Cheetah Trek

        • Reply Carmen Dominique October 26, 2014 at 7:26 pm


    • Reply Cerridwen February 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm

      Sorry, typo mistake: *Do you ever have days where you sigh, knowing that they’re not real?

    • Reply Lisa October 27, 2014 at 9:24 am

      They are real.

      • Reply Carmen Dominique October 27, 2014 at 10:35 am


  • Reply Demonica March 25, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    I have always had a desire to be a vampire since i was a little girl and over the years it has just grown more deeply.

    • Reply Katarina October 26, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      I have had the same thing happen to me.

  • Reply Roni October 25, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    I want the lust and passion that is always surrounding vampires. I want to be dominated and taken as an eternal slave. Anything to escape the normalcy of this dismal existence. I believe some of my feelings and interests come from deep scars and wounds, including those of abandonment. I’ve accepted long ago that I do not fit in anywhere and the attraction of vampirism seduces me as each individual creation (as opposed to creature) is alone and on their own even though there are similiarities and needs that draw them to each other. They concurrently exist both together and apart. The question on a prior comment about are there times we wish vampires did exist….How do we know, with absolute certainty, that they don’t?

    • Reply Carmen Dominique October 25, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      I understand. And one can always hope, no?

  • Reply Alison Armstrong October 25, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    This article, though interesting, fails to take into account the desire for women (as well as for men) to become vampires, to have the seductive, magical, predatory powers, superhuman strength, and immortality, as well as the fangs of vampires. In the novel Dracula I saw images of women who were powerful, animalistic, sensual, sexually intimidating to men. Carmilla, a female vampire, is one of my favorite undead beings, and many of the fictional male vampires I like are somewhat androgynous or bisexual or have a romantic desire to make the woman (or man) they love one of their own kind, to forge a soul and blood bond deeper than traditional human sexual connections.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique October 26, 2014 at 10:17 am

      I saw quite the opposite in Dracula. To me, Dracula was a warding off of the quintessential “powerful” woman. Because when she did achieve power, she was immediately an agent of evil. And not of her OWN evil either, she was simply the creation of, and terrifying weapon of, another man. I, actually, found Dracula to be quite offensive to my feminine sensibilities.

      Please, bear in mind, I am not referring here specifically to the traditional concepts of sex amongst humans either. The masochism that I am pointing out has to do with “feeling” dominated, not being dominated in a sexual sense.

      • Reply The Light's Bane October 26, 2014 at 4:11 pm

        I agree with you on Dracula.

  • Reply Katina Lavigne October 25, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    I have been obsessed with vampires since I was a little girl, and my obsession has only grown deeper. If vampires were real, I would be one. I love everything about them. I have studied the history and the myth of vampirism all of my life. And of course, I devour every vampire novel I can get my hands on. I have always found vampires irresistible and absolutely fascinating. My favorite of course is Lestat but I also love Eric, Damon, Aiden, and Jean Claude just to name a few.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique October 26, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Ah, yes, I know exactly what you mean

  • Reply Heather October 25, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Having worked in the alternative culture industry, observing the motivations, fetishes, and tastes of humans considered…taboo for a lifetime, the Vampiric Master/Mistress persona is definitely a favorite…if short lived, once reality supercedes fantasy. I remain captivated by these characters and their stories because of the vulnerability hidden within the darkness. The humanity…

    • Reply Carmen Dominique October 26, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Yes, I have a theory on the humanity of vampires as well. One that I am working on right now. I don’t believe a “monster” (if you will) is compelling without a shining flash of the human in them.

  • Reply NicaLynn October 26, 2014 at 12:28 am

    I have a kind of obsession as well with Vampires. For as long as I can remember I have loved all things vampire. I believe it started with Lestat and Louis but as I was quite young I can’t be sure. Lost Boys also grabbed my attention at an early age. I have to say though that I don’t believe it has anything to do with domination in my case. I enjoy the vampires for their power. They are nearly indestructible and the thought of eternal life is very enticing. Not having to be afraid of breaking my fragile human form or dying of cancer or other debilitating diseases. Of course their is the magical side of some vampires such as Laurel K. Hamilton’s Jean Claude. Any time magic is involved my attention is piqued. In the end I’d rather be the vampire who could do as I please and tear apart those who mean to harm me, than be the one who could be torn apart. I think in my case I’m drawn to the possibilities of greatness and adventure.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique October 26, 2014 at 10:09 am

      I understand. Everyone is drawn to the genre for different reasons. I am drawn to it for the signs I find encapsulated within it.

  • Reply Shelby October 26, 2014 at 2:40 am

    One of my friends directed me to this page. I wrote my undergrad thesis on sadomasochism and gender in vampire lit (Bite Me: Sadomasochistic Gender Relations in Contemporary Vampire Literature), so basically a theoretical expansion of the concepts in this article! You’re welcome to read it!

    • Reply Carmen Dominique October 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Oh, this is great, thank you, I will have a breeze through it!

  • Reply Social Researcher October 26, 2014 at 6:46 am

    I loved Scarlett and Rett’s exciting and unhealthy love story. Like lots of young women I had dreams where rape fantasies turned into passionate relationships that masked my own sensual sexuality.Of course I fell in love with vampires who contained these bad boys plus hid from my
    conscious mind that most taboo of object of sexual desire….one’own father. Then I matured and vampires became only fun!

    • Reply Carmen Dominique October 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Hmm. Yes, vampires hold a hint of the taboo for more than one reason, and far more than the obvious. The notion of incest is definitely there in the folds of the literature, and I try to bring that out in my writing as much as possible.

  • Reply Sarah October 27, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Sadly, I must admit that is never really connected my desire for darkness and to be dominated to my obsessive lust of vampires. Only now, reading this did I realize that when that desire is consistently being fulfilled and my lust otherwise satiated that my obsession settles into more of an intriguing pastime.

  • Reply Maximo Mile October 29, 2014 at 2:02 am

    I just would like to know, some times things have happened to me or I have things happened effortlessly, like once I caught a fly on mid flight and I can see the wings flap in slow motion, a few other times when I I had a female roommate I could be in the room with her then appear in another room she was walking to and there was no other ways around getting to that other room and she would comment about it, she would say, how did you get here when I just left you in the other room and if I took(let’s say a short cut) she would have seen me.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique October 30, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      So what do you suppose the answers to this questions are?

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