Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blood Transfusions, Vampires, and Sex

The discovery of blood transfusions was the one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of medicine. Undoubtedly, the ability to donate blood to injured or diseased individuals has saved countless lives from near death. From a literary and academic standpoint, however, blood transfusions have sexual undertones. We see this in Bram Stoker's Dracula, a gothic novel written around the time when the first blood transfusions were successfully being performed. In the novel the beautiful Lucy, a young woman sought by manner suitors, falls gravely ill after an interaction with Dracula. Van Helsing with his medical knowledge decides that the best course of action is to perform a blood transfusion. Indeed, each one of her suitors volunteers to donate blood by attaching a tube from their arm to Lucy's, as in the photo. One can interpret the actions as sexual by nature through the exchange of fluids, and the concept of "life giving" blood. Unfortunately, Lucy later becomes a vampire and Van Helsing realizes that the transfusions sustained her instead of curing her.

In certain respects Bram Stoker's novel influenced Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the sexual concept of exchanging blood. Vampires in Buffy are formed through the exchange of blood. The exchange is usually consensual, where a vampire bites a mortal and the latter bites him or her back. For instance, when Drusilla transforms William into Spike, he willingly accepts her vampiric advances. The sounds and visuals in the scene, like the sweating, groaning, and hurting emphasize the sexual nature of the bite. This blood transfusion has the same parallels with sex as seen in Dracula. If we take this notion a little farther, whenever a mortal is attacked, bitten, and killed by a vampire, the act for all intents and purposes is an act of rape. It represents a non consensual exchange of fluids (or one way depending on how you look at it). Ultimately, I feel this is what makes vampires sexual transgressors.

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