An Effigy of Intimacy – Sexuality in Interview with the Vampire
by Lauren Jackson
Anne Rice’s novel Interview with the Vampire is filled with an underlying tension; palpable but hidden. The vampires portrayed in this novel do not have sex with each other or with human beings, yet one can feel sexuality seeping through the ink of the pages. What is it about the relationships that vampires have that causes this innate sexuality? Why the lack of sex yet prevalence of its nature? I believe the source of this is that the sexuality and sexual prowess of the vampire is what is attractive to audiences. This latent virility.
Looking at the vampire’s relationships with the most vitality first, it seems the most developed relationship is between Louis and Lestat. They are both vampires and therefore both have that lustful drive and sometimes vengeful drive for blood. But lying under the surface of this drive there seems to be a sexual aspect too. The relationship between Louis and Lestat is one bound quite literally in blood. Lestat gave life back to Louis and this seems to have bonded them in an unearthly way. The ferocity with which Louis sucks the blood out of Lestat’s wrist seems to suggest aggression from the very beginning. In this idea we find pent up anger, and possibly the psychological flaws of Louis clawing their way to the surface. But the feeling of sex being an issue also seems to rear its ugly head again and again. You can almost feel the male vampire’s aggravated sexual desires. Because in a way Lestat feels he “owns” Louis, it is easy to detect a very dominant type of sexual relationship. An aggression, a sadistic ownership of one partner over the other. Lestat claims Louis is his slave, a slave to serve his every whim and desire. Louis reveals to us this very fact: “’I’m not your slave,’ I said to him. But even as he spoke I realized I’d been his slave all along.” Lestat loves Louis. How far do these feelings go, or rather, how far would they go if the vampires were able to function sexually like humans?
In Anne Rice’s novel the sexuality between Claudia and Louis is prevalent and obvious. In the film, however, the idea of sex between the two vanishes entirely, and the shocking subject matter is left to seem more like a “father-daughter” relationship. In the novel it is easy to see Claudia aging mentally and being forced to remain physically immature. This frustrates her and causes in her an overwhelming passion and fiery nature. Her truest companion is Louis and she confides in him again and again. She wants to sleep in his coffin with him, cuddle up to him, be taught by him, and always she tells him how she loves him. She calls him in one scene: “’Louis. Lover.’” And she teaches us what is important to her: “’You loved me with your vampire nature.’” For Claudia, Louis loving her as a vampire meant the all-giving life force that Lestat could never contrive to endow. Louis shows his nature as a vampire, the innocence that still clung to him by responding to her with love and affection – the kind that could live forever, yet was mortal and could die: “’I love you now with my human nature, if ever I had it.’” One of the biggest clues that leads to the conclusion of a sexual tension between the two is her arousal at killing vampires, and wanting Louis to share in that with her. Claudia is disgusted by Lestat, but still feels the sexual satisfaction when performing her blood-letting, and who should she want to share this with her but the one she most desires? The physical act of sex is in itself absent, yet the raging virility of its presence nevertheless lingers.
This feeling of underlying sexuality is again brought to the surface, albeit vaguely, with the character of Madeline. Louis comes home to find Claudia offering Madeline up to him; she wants Madeline to be made into a vampire and only Louis has the strength to perform this act. “And she watched with cold eyes as Madeline only smiled when she said this and, drawing closer to me, put both of her hands to the lace fringe around her throat, moving it back so I could see the two small marks there. Then the smile died on her lips, and they became at once sullen and sensual as her eyes narrowed and she breathed the word, ‘Drink’.” This quote portrays so much through such very subtle styling. Madeline is portrayed as a cold and calculating woman, she is dressed in fine green taffeta, she rustles as she moves, she is the very definition of a fine lady. Yet what is very much unacceptable at the time is the forwardness, the boldness, the sexuality of the woman on display. Yet she fingers her throat, she deliberately reveals Claudia’s bite marks in her flesh which she knows is a sexual enticement to the vampires, and then the wording becomes at once revealing – she is sensual. The act of being bitten by Louis is one of sensuality. She is moving languidly and desirously, like a cat, stretching herself out before him, offering herself up consensually. It is a sign of unique domination, such as one that we only have truly seen between Louis and Lestat.
The darkest level of sexuality is played in vibrant undertones between Armand and Louis. Armand’s love for Louis and Louis’ love for Armand is acted out as a passion for each other’s knowledge and the essence of what they each are. However, there is a lingering sense of something more, that hidden intensity that burbles to the surface every once in awhile. Armand declares to Louis: “After a long interval he said, ‘I want you. I want you more than anything in the world.’” The attachment between the two is obvious. Armand rescues Louis from himself, from the theatre, from everything he can. He does not want Louis to look inward, to contemplate, to draw within himself; he wants him to be vibrant, passionate, and eager. To share with him, learn with him, explore with him. This seems to be the deepest and if the term can be used, most pure relationship that we see in the novel. Though there is something eagerly sexual running with swift currents beneath the text, we can still promote this relationship because it is based off of (although somewhat subservient) a friendship. And ignoring for a moment the sexual aspect, we find a deep revelation from Armand – that he loves the vampire that made him: “’I don’t think I’ve been fortunate in feeling love for many people or many things. But yes, I love him. Perhaps I do not love him as you mean. It seems you confuse me, rather effortlessly. You are a mystery. I do not need him, this vampire, anymore.’” I think this quote in itself reveals a deeper layer to Armand that we may have at first witnessed in his selfish taking of a human life – on display for all to see. This cruel and possibly bestial Armand is hidden beneath a sheen, a glimmer quality of knowledge and wisdom that permeates his very words with a demeanor of calmness and cool regard. He is disdainful of the frivolous and clingy. He eschews that which obfuscates and builds up a life for himself based on his own idea of a code. And he loves Louis for his refreshing quality; his outlook on life. He needs him for this, he loves him for this, he wants him for this.
There is a sexual element fixed between humans and vampires. The notion or idea of vampires sucking the very life out of a human seems to incite sexual desire within the vampire and in some cases, in the human as well. As above mentioned, we see that Madeline seems sexually excited when the prospect of Louis drinking her blood is mentioned. And on a deeper, darker, more sensuous level, we see the Slave Boy – Denis – of Armand reacting to Louis: “He was offering it to me. He was pressing the length of his body against me now, and I felt the hard strength of his sex beneath his clothes pressing against my leg.” Louis mentions the fact that the mortal was consciously yielding himself up to a vampire and through that sensation it enticed both Louis and the boy into sexual ecstasy, or the expectation of it. He continues with very pointed language: “… and I sank my teeth into his skin, my body rigid, that hard sex driving against me, and I lifted him in passion off the floor. Wave after wave of his beating heart passed into me as, weightless, I rocked with him, devouring him, his ecstasy, his conscious pleasure.” The very wording belies more than meets the eye. The rocking motion being such a sexual one in nature, the devouring of the boy – that heightened sexual bliss, which ends in ecstasy – the pleasure divided equally amongst them. It is a strange concept – this driving force of sexuality being behind the biting of the neck and the drinking of blood. It seems so foreign as a concept, yet it reveals a deeper vulnerability and an openness to one’s partner in revealing that arch of skin to the dominating individual. It bespeaks a deeper sensibility that lies just out of reach of our conscious minds; this offering up of ourselves to the greatest pleasure, despite the pain it may cause us in the process. There is a hint of this type of relationship between Lestat and the musician boy that he longs to make into a vampire, and quite possibly does. The relationship is not much mentioned but there seems to be a bitterness in Lestat towards Claudia that drives him to this young boy.
Following this same thread, Lestat seems to feel sexual satisfaction from the animosity he drives at his victims. One such example that comes readily to mind is the scene in which Lestat slowly takes two female victims, making the one suffer with fear and terror before finally allowing her to succumb to his satisfaction. He even appears to derive pleasure from Louis’ discomfiture: “She looked back at him as he advanced; and never once looking away from her, he gently tipped the body of her friend, so that it fell backwards from the chair and lay with staring eyes upon the floor. The woman gasped.” Lestat is performing for Louis as much as for himself. The end result of this encounter is Louis proclaiming to Lestat that he is leaving him. Lestat takes great pleasure in others’ pain as we see from the previous quote. He watches the woman the entire time he performs his malicious, sadistic deed. Deriving satisfaction at her horror and gasping.
The most horrific sexual relationship portrayed within the novel, is the slow death the Theatre des Vampires give to the humans they feast upon. Armand heightens the tension that the theatre had been experiencing when playing with their helpless female victim on-stage. She is stripped of all clothing and left entranced by Armand’s presence: “…he was lifting her, her back arching as her naked breasts touched his buttons, her pale arms enfolded his neck. She stiffened, cried out as he sank his teeth, and her face was still as the dark theater reverberated with shared passion.” This passion, this all-consuming desire between humans and vampires seems morbid and out of place, yet it “reverberates” through the theater. The horrifying aspect of this killing is the fact that she is not Armand’s kill alone: “They were all about her now, as she was passed from one to another and to another, before the enthralled crowd…” She is shared and used as though a feast set for a party. It is a despicable act that we are forced to witness; that Louis and Claudia are forced to witness, yet they feel themselves drawn in just as eagerly: “I was sitting back in the chair, my mouth full of the taste of her, my veins in torment.” Despite Louis’ revulsion at human killings, especially a public spectacle of one, he is drawn in; that irresistible sexual drive, especially as the nakedness of the female victim is emphasized again and again throughout the scene.
Overall, there are many tones and currents of sexuality that we see blooming and bursting forth into vibrant color, and sometimes in eerie shades of gray. There is a depth to some of the relationships, some of the partnerships, but others are sorely lacking and find themselves festering with bitterness and pure, raw sexuality. This gap between humans and vampires seems to be most easily breached by the sexual drives within us all. Though there is no actual act of sexuality, it seems to be the reason why we as humans are so drawn to vampires in this time period, and throughout all of history. This lingering fascination with the past, this utter renditioning of a tale long told, is again and again rerouted to the idea of vampires loving humans, the sexual prowess they possess, and the desire they ignite within us. This immortal, this wise, this violent, this perfect being that would passionately make love to humans seems the very thing that sets our hearts on fire. The use of the vampire not being able to consummate a relationship as in Anne Rice’s novel, we find all the more maddening and intriguing and sparking to our lustful natures. In this I think the idea of vampire sexuality is very important – we transpose our own ideas, and our own fantasies onto these immortal creatures. They become the penultimate fantasy that we long to live out and construct and reconstruct based on the time period.
Rice, Anne. Interview with the Vampire.
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