Why Are Vampires So HOT? (It’s Not What You Think)

bloodthirsty vampire black and white with kiss marks

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There’s no doubt about it – vampires are the stuff of nightmares.

And yet they’re…well, sort of sexy. (You know it’s true.)

Here’s their haunting history, plus the most shocking reasons some of us daydream about opening our…uh, arms, and embracing the darkness.

Vampires Have Been Around for Centuries

woman digging up grave in 1944
For three centuries Europeans dug up corpses for signs that they might reanimate. Credit: National Library of Australia

Vampire-esque lore goes back to the first century, if not earlier.

But the images we associate with vampires today are a somewhat newer development.

In fact, the first mention of the word “vampire” (Croatian: vampir) doesn’t appear in literature until the early 1700s.

Monsters that came in the night to do unspeakable things to the innocent were already a solid part of local lore, especially across Europe.

But while at first these monsters were believed to be supernatural animals, in the 18th century a new element was added: now the story went that some night-stalking creatures were once living people.

And when that happened, these terrifying legends went to a new, much more sinister level.

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…and They WEREN’T Sexy…at First

real corpse feed of Chinese princess
Death really isn’t very sexy. Credit: Flickr Public Domain, Gary Dodd

Old European stories of vampires describe them as even more horrifying than today’s version.

Vampires were initially depicted as bloated, purplish, and often had a bad case of hair fall. This chilling visage came complete with sharp fingernails and long teeth.

Nosferatu 1922 vampire movie
Early horror movies still depicted Dracula in very similar ways to Medieval European stories. Nosferatu, 1922, Prana Film

Digging up corpses and checking for undead-like characteristics became a fad in the early 1700s.

These Industrial Age vampire hunters couldn’t have missed the changes from a living body to the mask of death.

A newly-dead corpse was often bloated (from trapped bodily gasses), might be discolored and could have the appearance of longer hair, fingernails and teeth due to the skin receding. (Eew.)

Then Came Dracula

Today’s most famous undead prowler is Count Dracula. The creepy count came from the imagination of Irish Author Bram Stoker.

Bram Stokers Dracula with Mina
At the turn of the 20th century, the vampire was given a backstory, a girlfriend, and a humanlike heart. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992, Columbia Pictures

Stoker’s 1897 depiction was, for the very first time, one that included human feelings, even if they were pearl-clutch-worthy for the time.

At certain points, the book’s gruesome depictions were downright erotic in ways that scholars claim were “coded,” but which even the most innocent Victorian reader couldn’t have missed.

Through the twentieth century, the famous vampire gained an even meatier backstory. According to subsequent books and movies, Dracula had been in love, experienced grief and loss, and was on an eternal search for the better half he’d been missing all along.

The progression happened quickly. While early films such as 1922’s Nosferatu depicted vampires as pretty tough on the eyes, a fascinating element had been added: in a way, vampires were sexy.

But how is it possible that we could take something so terrifying – literally being bled to death and consumed – and turn it into, well, a turn-on?

It’s all about psychology.

Vampires Allow Us to Release Inhibitions

a vampire bites his beautiful victim
That’s not just shock in her eyes. 

There are actually some very good, albeit sometimes weird, reasons we find vampires so compelling.

Particularly to Victorians, but also today, the idea of being at the mercy of something powerful and sexy can be very attractive.

But in order for any of this to be socially acceptable, we may believe we literally have to be under a spell. It seems that repressed desires and off-the-grid ideas of sex are all allowable if you’re hypnotized.

After that, we believe we can’t be faulted for ANY reaction we may have – no matter how shocking.

They Mention S-E-X…Without Actually Mentioning It

Classic artwork of incubus and nude woman
If you’re missing the symbolism here then darn it, you’re just not trying. “The Nightmare,” Abildgaard, on Amazon. 

The idea of the vampire – or sometimes the more blatantly sexual incubus or succubus – had a sort of “can’t look away” element for people one hundred years ago.

Even today we find such an idea oddly compelling.

According to legend, the vampire, as well as an incubus – male – or succubus, the female – descends upon and attacks a victim…literally piercing him or her.

For late 19th century readers, the climax of the teeth – and the victim’s sudden relaxation after a frenzied tussle – was incredibly attractive. The sexual inference can’t be missed.

Today vampires continue to be a symbol of giving in to love…or at least sex.

They Come (Sorry) at Night

Artwork of a vampire biting a willing woman
When you’re relaxed (in bed) that’s when they get ya. Credit: Pixabay Public Domain, junniferbaya340

That’s not a misspelling. They literally do come at night. And the dark offers a double-whammy that’s irresistible to the human mind: lust and fear.

We can’t see much in the dark. But vampires can.

So while we biologically fear darkness, we also associate it with naughty doings that can’t be seen well by others. It’s that releasing-of-inhibitions thing again.

They Touch a Forbidden Body Part

Vampire Lestat bites a prostitute's wrist
Careful – that’s a sensitive spot. Property of Paramount Pictures

No, not that body part – although that’s not necessarily off-limits.

The neck is one of the most sensitive areas of the body, and with good reason. It’s a place where attacks can be lethal.

This heightened sensitivity ironically means that the neck is an erogenous zone. Baring the neck is a symbol of yielding to whatever the aggressor wants.

A vampire might also bite the sensitive and vulnerable inner wrist or even the inner thigh.

Both Boys and Girls Can Play

Males aren’t the only aggressors in vampire lore.

A female succubus dressed in black clothing
The succubus is dominant…REALLY dominant. 

The succubus, or female demon, forces sex upon a helpless male. And the female vampire puts her victim in a position of submission – something that can be a real turn-on for some.

It’s also not uncommon for vampires to be homosexual or bisexual, opening up even more worlds of possibility.

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They Just Won’t Stop Looking Hot

Cast of The Vampire Diaries in the woods
Oh stop. Yeah, we’re just kidding…don’t stop. The Vampire Diaries, Warner Bros.

One enduring belief about vampires is that they’re immortal. Interestingly, mid-20th through current century vampires also seem to get better-looking after they transform.

Skin becomes ultra-smooth (move over Lime Crime), lips pink up, and oh, those piercing eyes.

They’re All About Longing and Desire

The basis of the modern-day vampire myth is that he or she can never be fully satisfied.

While the literal story is that the vampire longs for blood, it’s obvious he’s starving for something else, too.

Today’s vampires often have tragic backstories, making us relate to them. And the desire that hangs all around them is alluring.

And those are feelings that, for human beings, really are eternal.


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