Discuss the relationship between sexuality and cruelty
Dracula’s brutal sexuality is exposed when Mina is physically forced to drink the Count’s blood. However, in contrast, Lestat psychologically taunts Claudia because she will never experience adult sexuality. Vampires, therefore, cannot be characterised as homogenous creatures, but like humans have considerably differing natures that are driven by individual desires. From this assertion, my argument in this essay will discuss the diverse nature of vampires and humans in the texts Dracula and Interview With The Vampire. Besides suggesting that power, sadism and erotic desire are fundamental to the relationship between sexuality and cruelty.
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Vampires crave power. In Dracula, power is manifested by the Count’s defense of his aristocratic heritage. Michel Foucault’s work on sexuality reminds us that: ‘one of the characteristic privileges of sovereign power was the right to decide life and death’ (Foucault p.135). Considering this, Jonathan Harker’s commentary assists in determining Dracula’s perception of social status, as his journal comments on the exalted manner in which the Count expresses himself: ‘Whenever he spoke of his house he always said “we,” and spoke almost in the plural, like a king speaking’ (Stoker p.40). In which case Jonathan Harker’s diary establishes the Count’s assumptions concerning his position in the social strata.
Dracula then, is clearly an advocate of feudal systems of power, and seeks to defend and possess divine power. Therefore Dracula’s Eastern aristocratic heritage is defended and extended, through the destruction of mortal sexuality. As well as attacking the West, since he first attacks Lucy Westenra, a surname signifying perhaps Westerner? By attacking women, Dracula seeks to possess absolute authority over Western males, by usurping human procreation.
It is clearly significant then, that Dracula attacks women, as he attempts to succeed in this quest by making love not war against his enemies. Dracula is intent on making the women his own, seen in the threat to Van Helsing’s men: ‘Your girls that you all love are mine already; – my creatures, to do my bidding…’ (Stoker p.365). In taking them, Dracula spawns antagonism between himself and Van Helsing’s men, as women are a necessary constituent to the durability of human existence.
Yet, what is more important, Dracula poses a threat to systems of patriarchy. Fred Botting endorses this argument as he suggests that: ‘By way of women Dracula attacks men…’ (Botting p.151). Consequently, Dracula’s brutal sexual nature remorselessly uses women, to deny mortal males their heirs through human procreation. Therefore, Dracula is most certainly a megalomaniac, as personified by his monstrosity and clearly an opponent of the theories of Darwin.
In her human form, Lucy Westenra is a victim of sadistic sexual cruelty as Dracula and Van Helsing’s men, compete to sexually dominate women. Lucy is subjected to a repeated cycle of abuse, seen firstly when Dracula feeds on her blood to secure power. Then also as Van Helsing’s’ men use Lucy’s body to launch a counter-attack on Dracula, when they transfuse their own blood into her body. As a result of the prurient carnal excesses of the dominant males in the text, Lucy becomes a sexual pawn. To achieve this, both Dracula and Van Helsing’s men exploit the obvious sexual allure of Lucy and engage in pseudo-sex.
Fred Botting says that: ‘Blood, indeed, is linked to semen: Arthur, after giving blood to his fiancï¿½e, Lucy, states that he feels as if they are married’ (Botting p.150). Furthermore, since Lucy has received multiple proposals of marriage, then the assumption is the men ardently desire sexual knowledge of her. However, the ‘murderous phallicism’ (Craft p.231) at the hands of Van Helsing’s, men is ‘one of the most brutal and repulsive in the book’ (Cranny-Francis p.68) and is a sadistic ritual of male barbarism. Sexual power is also evident in the text, when Dracula manipulates Mina in an act of complete subordination as Stoker says he: ‘gripped her by the back of the neck…forcing her face down on his bosom…
(Stoker p.336) showing firstly he intends to posses the mortal women of his enemies. Furthermore, as Dracula withdraws blood he de-sexes men, since he embodies both masculine and feminine characteristics. Viewed in sexual terms, Dracula is a form of hermaphrodite, as he traffics in both male and female sexuality. However, a further view of this affair, is that Lucy works as a mechanism by which the male characters indulge in relationships of a simulated homoeroticism, as Doane and Hodges say: ‘This erotic scene of violence depicts male homoerotic desire’ (Doane and Hodges p.161). I would also argue that as Dracula receives the bodily fluids of dominant penetrating males through Lucy’s body, then this characterises Lucy Westenra as a victim of ‘erotic violence’ (Doane and Hodges p.162), as these actions are connected to male sexual aggression.