March 24, 2012

Twilight avoids explicit sex but fails at promoting abstinence

It will be a remiss to have a blog about Young Adult literature and not mention good old Twilight. So here is my spiel on it.

Waterfall scene in Breaking Dawn pt 1
I read the Twilight series when it was exploding in 2008. I loved it, just like I loved The Princess Diaries and Gossip Girl when I was 15 or 16. It was mostly the fantasy that pulled me in - the fantasy of having a chiseled boyfriend who's strong enough to protect me from anything, sharing a secret world with him and being comforted by his incredibly sweet scent and marble chest. However, after getting over honeymoon phrase with Twilight, I grew up and realized how annoying some of the series' messages are.

In preparing for the post, I researched articles regarding the topic of sex in Twilight. Many of them (e.g. PsychCentral) criticize the book for painting an unrealistic picture for teenagers, i.e. no teenage boy has as much self-control as Edward Cullen. Despite his natural urge to bite in Bella's neck and suck her aromatic blood, he is able to restrain himself and act as a harmless creature around her. After all, he's had 108 years of celibacy under his belt. Bella, on the other hand,  is unashamed of her sexual desires and usually the one who pushes for sex.

After all the sexual tension, the two finally get married (Bella is 18) and are able to consummate their relationship in book 4, Breaking Dawn. Stephanie Meyer is careful to not include explicit details of the sex, which is disappointing for more mature readers like me. It ends with Edward and Bella skinny dipping in the ocean and cuts right to where Bella wakes up ecstatic the next morning (Isle Esme, Book 1). In fact, the producers of Breaking Dawn the movie re-imagined this literally headboard-breaking sex scene but had to cut it because it is too steamy for a PG-13 rating.

Breaking Dawn sex scene
I find nothing wrong with sex before/outside marriage. However, it would be hypocritical to say Twilight promotes abstinence. Obviously Bella cannot keep it in her pants long enough. It's almost as if she gives into getting married at 18 just to get in the sack with Edward. After the first time they have sex, Edward feels guilty and is  reluctant to do it again because he is afraid he hurts her too much. Bella uses every excuse to persuade him otherwise, including going to college and waiting until she's 19 to become a vampire (She was really impatient to be changed asap because she doesn't want to be much older than the forever 17-year-old Edward).
“Sex was the key all along?” He rolled his eyes. “Why didn’t I think of that?” he muttered sarcastically.
To desire sex is human nature, and there's no argument about that. What I find annoying is getting married early just so you can have sex "within" marriage. My problem with the Twilight series in general is also that Bella's love for Edward is glorified as eternal. For all I know, she could just be another teenage girl foolishly falling in love, getting married and getting knocked up at 18.

Many writers discussing the issue of sex in Twilight can't help but mentioning Judy Blume's novels. The general agreement seems to be that, even though Judy Blume came decades before Stephanie Meyer, had a more progressive attitude toward teenage sex. Blume discusses realistic sexual encounters (i.e. Forever) while Meyer is more idealistic in her view of teenage sexuality (sex within marriage, eternal love).

No comments:

Post a Comment