Twilight’s Abstinence Advertising

*SPOILER ALERT*: At the risk of stripping all legitimacy from this blog, I am discussing Twilight in this post. Since I allude to the plot, you shouldn’t read this post if you plan on reading Twilight.

Despite the many flaws of the Twilight series, it clearly has some quality which has caused millions of women (myself included) to consume it voraciously. The writing may be mediocre, the adverb smolderingly may be severely overused, but Edward Cullen is just so appealing. And although Stephanie Meyer mentions Edward’s physical perfection an excessive number of times, his primary appeal actually lies in the depth and sincerity of his love for Bella. This love is proven throughout the story by Edward’s restraint: he doesn’t kill Bella, despite his strong physical desire to do so. (Wait, isn’t that sort of like people who abstain from having sex, even when they really want it? Oh yeah…) In this way, Twilight seems like an obvious advertisement for how romantic abstinence can be.

At the same time, there are a number of ways in which Twilight’s message undermines the advantages of abstinence. One of my favorite things about abstinence (and yes, there are many) is the freedom it provides from unnecessary emotional turmoil. By exercising physical restraint, it is easier to maintain more perspective, and thus to better analyze how well you and your partner actually suit one another. The same principle applies to how you speak to your partner. In this arena, Bella and Edward are clearly going all the way. Saying things like You are my life now, and I will destroy myself if you leave me, must have a similar binding effect to great physical intimacy (at least third base) and is equally unwise for 17-year-olds. This is compounded by the fact that Twilight reminds its readers of how wonderful it is to be in love, inadvertently urging them to seek love everywhere they go. (That cute boy who sits next to me in chem class? I might die without him!)

Another issue with the abstinence advertising in Twilight is that the lessons it provides just don’t seem that applicable. Sex has a higher survival rate than having all of your blood sucked out, and it’s unlikely that a given reader is dating a vampire. By promoting temptation and restraint as the key ingredients to a great romance, Stephanie Meyer encourages her readers to cultivate their own desires; when the consequences of succumbing to those desires don’t seem so terrible, real life is likely to lose the constraint which makes Twilight itself such a great story.

One thought on “Twilight’s Abstinence Advertising

  1. *warning: This comment will give away a horrendous amount of the plot of the Twilight series. I also can’t remember which book’s plot I am spoiling. You have been warned!

    I don’t find Twilight to be that pro-abstinence. Edward doesn’t want to have sex with Bella until they are married, but Bella does, and thinks Edward is silly and old-fashioned for wanting to marry her. I think the feeling that people tend to take away from Twilight is not, “Edward Cullen waits until marriage, so I should too!” but instead, “Omg, Edward [or Jacob, or both] is sooooo hot. I want a boyfriend like that.”

    My main issue with Twilight, however, is how terribly selfish Edward is. He doesn’t want to turn Bella into a vampire because he thinks she will be damned to Hell if he does. But when Bella’s life is in danger, Edward decides to (as he sees it) damn Bella rather than live without her. He chooses his pleasure on Earth over her immortal soul.

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