Monday, August 18, 2008

Scary is sexy

In some ways, when we experience fear it is very akin to sexual arousal. We experience a sudden surge of emotions, adrenalin pumps through our bodies and our heartbeat elevates as our eyes widen and our pupils dilate. Both are extreme emotions prompted by some signal or other, but whether the physical response had anything to do with it I am not one hundred percent certain - but for me scary is sexy!

One of the first books I read that frightened me and yet titillated me at the same time was Dracula by Bram Stoker. To me, the novel definitely had erotic undertones that equated vampirism with sex. The hero Jonathan Harker travels to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania and while he is there falls under the spell of three wanton female vampires, to be rescued just in time by Count Dracula himself. Harker eventually returns to England and his fiancée Mina but Dracula follows him and begins to prey on Mina’s friend, Lucy. Night after night Dracula visits Lucy in her bed and drinks her blood. There is something very mesmerising about this mythical (I hope!) undead creature roaming the night desperate to drink blood from the neck of a warm red-blooded mortal.

I don’t find all scary movies sexy - gore-fests like Friday 13th and the Jason movies don’t press my buttons but a very good friend of mine tells me that she finds Hannibal Lecter sexy in a bizarre kind of way.

The sexy but scary images I like best hail from TV. When I was small I found Doctor Who scary, but of course I was too young to equate that with sexy. Nevertheless there is definitely a hint of sexy now that David Tennant has made the role his own. Now add into the mix the omnisexual Captain Jack and I get some seriously sexy thoughts when I see them together.

To me, Buffy really started the trend of sexy and scary. We were given an innocent, pretty teenager who somehow morphed into this awesome vampire slayer, who also killed demons and other creatures that invade our nightmares. Buffy, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, probably prompted any number of ‘wet dreams’ for a lot of adolescent boys. The programme really came into its own when Angel appeared on the scene. At first we saw a good-looking rather secretive guy, rather inappropriately called Angel, who seemed to want to help Buffy, and then we learned that he was a vampire who had had his soul restored to him by gypsies as punishment for the murder of one of their own. Angel was doomed to wander the earth trying to make retributions for the crimes he committed when he was Angelus, one of the most evil vampires to roam the earth.

The sexual attraction between Angel and Buffy changed the show and then one day they slept together. In this one moment of true happiness Angel was doomed to lose his soul again and he turned into his evil alter ego Angelus – how sexy is that? For me the evil Angelus baiting and taunting Buffy was a little scary and yet also incredibly sexy. Then Spike came on the scene and the pheromone count rose.

The show proved popular in the ratings and Angel (David Boreanaz) was given his own show, a grittier version set in LA. This Angel was darker and most definitely more of a turn on for his female fans. Thank you, Josh Weedon, for all the pleasure you gave me over the years.

Other vampire series have come and gone but one of my particular favourites was Moonlight. It wasn’t that frightening because in this show vampires weren’t all soulless creature: many of them were successful people living among humankind, scared that their secret might be discovered. Some had acolytes and allowed them to drink blood from their veins, as if the experience was almost orgasmic in its intensity. Mick St John was a vampire with a heart, not as angst-ridden as Angel but sexy all the same. His purpose in life was to recover his mortality and become human again. Mick fell in love with Beth Turner and eventually the show turned into a love story with a dark edge to it.

However, the show I now love best of all is Supernatural. It follows brothers Sam and Dean Winchester played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles respectively. They travel across the US in a black 1967 Chevy Impala investigating and combating paranormal events and other unexplained occurrences, many of them based on American urban legends and folklore, as well as classic supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves and ghosts. One of favourite episodes is about shapshifters, but they don’t just change their shape: when they morph from one person to another they shed their skin like a snake, but in a far more gory fashion. One becomes a copy of Dean and, when it is discovered, it slowly peels off its skin, one of the scariest images I’ve seen on TV, as the sexy Dean turns into this foul creature.

Angel, Buffy and Moonlight may have left our screens, apart from the ubiquitous repeats, but Supernatural is still in full flow. Try and catch if you want to watch something both scary and sexy at the same time.



Olivia Knight said...

I agree entirely about scary and sexy, and suspect that it might be something to do with releasing adrenaline. (Just to be really romantic about it...) I'm an utter wimp, though, and scare in just about anything!

One of my uncles, as a teenager, said that he always took girls to scary movies so that they'd hold his hand tightly. His much younger sister overheard this and realised that obviously this was what boys wanted. On her first date, she imprisoned the lad's hand in a vice-like grip of iron for an hour and a half, and well-nigh crushed his fingers.

I'm not allowed to hold hands in scary movies. It's bad enough sitting next to me while I vault backwards over my seat, hide beneath my arms, scream every time something mildly startling happens, jump, jitter, hyperventilate, etc, but to lose the use of one's hands as well... On one occasion, my hand was resting fondly on my boyfriend's lap when the film suddenly took a turn for the scarier. My nails started to dig in - his turn to vault backwards over his seat and scream.

Portia Da Costa said...

Mmm... Spike... not scared of him, because I know he's just a fictional character, but he was my major crush for several years and inspired several characters in my books. :)

Janine Ashbless said...

Psychologists did some work on the scary/sexy link in the 60s I think - can't remember the reference though. Basically they stood a female interviewer on a narrow high bridge and got her to stop and interview men on a irrelevant subject; afterwards they got the men to rate her attractiveness. Then they repeated the test with the same interviewer just in a street. The men in a stressful vertiginous situation found the woman significantly sexier. Sensory arousal translates to sexual arousal.

So it's not all just disguised feminine rape-fantasy.

Speaking for myself I find it all depends on the flavour of Scary you're talking about. I really hate Torture Porn. I adore Lovecraft but I don't think his brand of horror works that well with sex: it is when effective too coldly inhuman and works on too grand a scale.

Janine Ashbless said...

But I find these guys scary and hot.

Deanna said...

I'm a coward when it comes to scary, Olivia. I went to see Event Horizon thinking it was a sci-fi movie and ended up cowering in my seat for the entire movie.

Scary rides at theme parks terrify me even more and when I went on one with my daughter I was so terrified I mistakenly sank my teeth into her shoulder. Oddly enough she has never quite forgiven me and my family tease me about it on many occasions.

Olivia Knight said...

So we should arrange dates not in nice safe ground-floor restaurants but on the edges of cliffs, tops of buildings, etc? Excellent plan! (Or just carry a stepladder about to enhance your attractiveness at any given point)

Madeline Moore said...

I'm a total wimp when it comes to scary stuff, on TV or in the movies.
'Jaws' is about the extent of my 'popcorn tossing' experience. I sometimes read Stephen King, and I do remember reading 'Silence of the Lambs' one night, the whole book, with flushed cheeks...hmmm...maybe I should get scared more often, it was a memorable night. Thanks, Deanna!

Janine Ashbless said...

Well, I've just spent the day proof-reading my new collection of short stories. And do you know how many out of the eleven do not revolve around scariness or threat of some sort?

ONE. And that was the one whose plot was given to me by a friend and wasn't my own. So Deanna, you have me bang to rights!

magdalune said...

Preaching to the choir. I just sold a story with a murderous, predatory Bloody Mary that both terrifies and seduces. Two our of my three novels I've written involve sexually aggressive monsters - one a literal Beast, the other a vampire who is most certainly not good.

Ever since I read a revised version of Dracula back when I was seven or eight, sex and horror has always done it for me. And I'm am a ridiculous Buffy/Angel fan. :)

magdalune said...

*our = out

Oh, and I think a majority of my DVDs are horror movies. :)

Angell said...

I totally agree with you on scary is sexy. And I also agree that gory is not.

While I'm agreeing with you, I will admit to having several rated R fantasies about pretty much the entire Buffy cast. I never followed Angel, although I will gladly catch it in re-runs.

Dracula totally turned me on, but I first saw the movie starring Gary Oldman. While HE didn't do it for me, the one scene of him with Mina in the bedroom, while the slayers were hunting him, never fails to set my heart (and thighs) a flutter.

Kate Pearce said...

I like scary sexy and I can write it-a bit, but I hate it in real life. I'm a complete wimp with an over active imagination. I firmly beleive they should provide cushions at the movies :)
Great post though!

Madelynne Ellis said...

Never was much for the whole Buffy/Angel thing, but yay to Dracula.

I love the whole sexy scary thing. Give me monsters! I like the psychological horror the best, the stuff that haunts you for days afterwards.

JenB said...

I love the combo of scary and sexy! I've been looking for "horror romance" books for a while now, and there just aren't enough of them.

Edie Bingham said...

Sorryu to be late to the party, only just back from edinburgh and I'm worn out...

I had to leap all over this though with a resounding YES - Scary is possibly the biggest sexy there is.

For me, it's all linked to the unknown, the unpredictable and the tantalising exciting times to be had. Those sharp electrical adrenaline rushes we get when something takes us out of our comfort zone.

It's probably why so many women go for those bad guys - We just don't know what will happen next, we're never sure that we are safe and that's exactly why it's so arousing.

I love the power hungry, egotistical, dangerous and scary character to challenge both my intellect and my sexuality to its limits. Maybe it's not worth my time unless it's truly scary to me, whether that's monster scary or just powerful bastard scary.

Edie B