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Paradigm Shift

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By Sarah Dorrance

It is a cool, misty night. Above you, clouds creep sensuously, brushing the round face of the moon as they pass. You can feel the pulse of the city. It maddens you. You lick your lips. It's been a while since you last found prey, but you think tonight's the night. You smile as you saunter to your favourite hangout, thinking about the one you might seduce, feeling invisible fangs brush your lower lip. You have time on your side. You have power and strength, the sort of power that comes from having an old soul, and you have beauty. Life is beautiful. You want more of it.

Pop quiz: what's wrong with this picture?

Come now, don't be shy. In thirty seconds, how many fallacies can you spot?

I've decided, in view of the fact that Donor's Month (April) is only half over, to vent against the stereotype of the vampire as Seductive Lone Hunter In The Shadows. It's a stereotype born partly from myth, partly from pop culture, but mostly from wishful thinking.

First of all: let's look at folklore. Indeed, vampires are predators in myth and fairy tale. In Eastern Europe, they are undead, created because someone was a sorcerer or a heretic or the seventh son of a seventh son in life, or because they happened to die from plague or violence or suicide, or because they were unfortunate enough to have a cat jump over their grave or to be improperly buried after death. At any rate, they are unnatural, and they are certainly predatory, killing cows in the middle of the night, curdling milk, causing miscarriages, raping their old wives...oh, and they're also monsters. Sometimes they look normal, but usually they're obviously zombies, far more inspiring of fear than passion. Dracula, as described originally by Bram Stoker, was created largely from these folktales, and if your image of Dracula is that of a suave, handsome nobleman bedecked in cape and penguin suit, then you're obviously more in touch with Hollywood than with Bram Stoker. Go back to the library.

The image of the vampire as suave and seductive predator is due to Hammer Studios and Hollywood -- and maybe a little bit to the Victorians and the oh-so-rebellious Romantics, who came up with figures like Geraldine and Lamia and Ruthven and Carmilla (then again, they also came up with Varney). It's an artificial image. Writers and film makers and the like create images that will appeal to the public imagination, not to mention their own imaginations. They aren't reporters. They're story tellers.

Ah, you say, this might be true, but we see beautiful and seductive and very dangerous figures elsewhere in legend and folklore. There's the witch Circe, there's the dark fairies, the sirens, the wili, the Lilitu, the incubi and succubi...we identify with them, not with the yucky revenants of Romania and Greece. They're vampiric like us. They're our role models.

Frankly, I don't see why this has to be used as our paradigm at all.

I think the resemblance is tangential. Some of these creatures fed on life force somehow, or fed on blood. That doesn't mean we have to identify ourselves with them, or borrow their morality.

Let's strip vampirism of all its trappings, and look at the very basics. What does vampirism involve? The taking of life force from another. This can be literal -- the act of drinking blood -- or it can be more symbolic and metaphorical and spiritual, the act of taking "energy." (Call it ki, ch'i, kundalini, prana, orgone, whatever.) Why does this act have to be associated with hunting, stalking, seducing, raping, draining, killing, at all? This is quite a leap of association, if you think about it. We certainly don't need to take blood in quantities large enough to kill anyone; nor do we need to take it from the unwilling. Blood drinking actually requires an incredible level of trust on the part of the vampire, since we aren't immune to disease and we expose ourselves every time we indulge. I don't know about you, but in order to trust my donors, I need to have a relationship with them. I need something based on mutual respect at the very least, if not love and comfort.

Energy feeding doesn't have to be about draining to the point of death or illness, either. If blood letting does not have to make the donor sicken, why should energy siphoning? The people that attract us are usually the ones who have plenty of energy to spare. Furthermore, if there is deep rapport, the exchange tends to be mutual. Some kind of energy is taken -- but the donor gets something in return. For those of you who have taken part in consensual power exchange (a.k.a. D/s, or Dominance/submission) -- was the master or mistress more energized by the whole experience than the slave? Or vice versa? Or were both people sort of high and giddy and delighted after the whole scene was played out from beginning to end? Let's look at vanilla sex. In a healthy relationship, does one person wind up energized and happy after making love, the other person feeble and wan and depleted? Ideally, the people involved should each be exhausted but buzzed and happy. The important thing to remember is that there is an exchange. Everybody shares, everybody is happy and fulfilled in the end.

It's not about stalking. It's not about power-tripping. It's not about taking. The insecure ego might need these trappings, but ultimately these trappings are not necessary for the vampire to get what s/he needs: blood or energy that translates into life-force.

I suggest a new paradigm, one that hasn't been hackneyed to death: intimacy.

For the sake of the donors, who are often our lovers or our best friends, who are also sometimes other vampires that we pair bond with, let's look at the benefits of reciprocity and trust, and let's give intimacy a serious consideration. Ultimately, hunting is selfish (at best). If you want that sort of selfishness, fine, but remember: if the world is a jungle, there's always a bigger predator. And what will you value when you encounter the one who is bigger than you?

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