“twilight” shows how abstinence is sexy

In a world where people are constantly being bombarded by images of perfect bodies and voracious, sexual tendencies, Twilight offers a remedy to this by reinventing the modern romantic relationship through the fetishization of sexual abstinence. 

The combination of hatred, the sensuality of physical attraction and the violence of drinking blood create a titillating, almost pornographic story about two lovers who abstain from anything sexual despite their unique and passionate bond.

The film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown), takes place in a little Washington town. While the time setting is current, the small-town vibe adds to the quasi-Biblical sense of morality, citizenship and propriety. 

Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a sharply attractive but anti-social vampire falls in love with Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the shy new girl. While vampires can read other people’s thoughts, Edward is inexorably drawn to Bella because he cannot read hers. She’s the female vixen who draws him in, challenges him, and makes him question his ability to restrain his appetites.

Abstinence is sexy
Abstinence is sexy

Diffused with moral paradigms that dictate the reasons why they can’t act on their attraction, the relationship is highly sexualized at the same time. Its like the lion who fell in love with a lamb.

We find two lovers with unparalleled sexual magnetism, but the fear of spoiling the purity of their relationship sets them apart. Edward is a vampire, and Bella is a mortal. Their challenge is that of staying together despite that fundamental difference, but getting too close will be the destruction of their ideals. If Edward drinks Bella’s blood, they can be together forever. While Bella desires this equally, the drinking of her blood represents the collapse of the natural order. Edward’s ethical prerogative battles with his carnal thirst to kill Bella – and that is the irresistible magic of this story.

“It’s you, your scent, it’s like a drug to me. You’re my own personal brand of heroin.” Edward has never wanted to kill a human being so badly before. Although he abstains from the evils of drinking human blood by feeding on animals, his thirst for Bella makes him question his sense of personal restraint.

“I still don’t know if I can control myself.”

Edward and Bella’s ‘naughtiness’ essentially climaxes with an extremely cautious kiss. Edward initiates it, but pulls himself away when even this innocent act gets too heated. 

Bella tempts him with her constant presence and insistence to be around him. Like Edward, she finds herself irrevocably drawn to him, and although she understands the dangers she faces, cannot tear herself away from him. 

The sexual tension between them is mainly exhibited by longing stares, piercing silence, and Edward’s hatred of her. When they meet for the first time, Edward covers his mouth and nose as if she emanates a putrid odour, causing Bella to feel disliked and self-conscious. He glares at her with an expression of loathing and aversion.

The animosity he feels towards Bella is reminiscent of Freud’s sexual psychoanalytical theories, the expression of sexual frustration towards the subject of their interests – such as his gnawing desire to consume her. It’s the classic tale of wanting something so badly that you cannot have. If he did indulge his appetite, he would have to live with an eternity of his own guilt. 

Indeed, the undertone of Christian guilt crosses the mind of the viewer, and that may be the work ofTwilight author Stephenie Meyer who is Mormon. Meyer tells Time Magazine that she herself was a late bloomer, revealing that holding hands at 16 years of age was a milestone in her sexual awakening.

For the first time, there is a genuinely sexy movie that doesn’t even have sex in it. Twilight is about the excitement of sexual attraction, not the actualization of it.

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