Ok, I downloaded the third book.
I realized that, aside from wanting some trashy reading on my vacation, I needed to know what this whole thing was about. Yeah, I’ve been bitching from the sidelines and yammering on and on about how stupid this all is, but the truth is that I was echoing sentiments of others. And it seemed unfair for me to complain about something I hadn’t read a single line of.
I’m now halfway through the third book and I’ve gotta tell you . . . this stuff is disturbing.
Not because of the whole vampire-werewolf supernatural blah blah blah. And not because it’s fluff. But because of how it portrays female sexuality.
These books are about abstinence, first of all. Edward won’t sleep with Bella until they’re married. Which, hey, I’m not against abstinence. Girls, don’t sleep with people until you’re old enough to know what you’re doing and can give legal consent. I’m all for that. So you want to veil an abstinence lesson in these terms? Go ahead.
What bothers me most is that it’s providing a view of female sexuality as dangerous and abnormal. As something to be avoided at all costs.
Stick with me here.
Bella kisses Edward, and he constantly pulls away. Why? Because he might snap and kill her. And when she has a normal, hormonal reaction, such as, I don’t know, wanting to kiss him a little more or wanting to maybe get a little frisky, he chastises her. I’m completely serious. In this world, completely normal sexual urges put a girl in a position to die. While Edward might be battling her temptation, Bella is working hard not to be a temptation in the first place by denying what she wants.
On the other hand, when she’s around Jacob (the werewolf) who she could ostensibly be sexual around, she has to avoid making him too angry or he could hurt her. Again, I’m completely serious. She’s even shown a consequence of this when she meets a woman, Emily, with scars across her face from the time she was too close to her own werewolf boyfriend and he changed, lashed out, and mauled her.
The lessons aren’t too hard to interpret: Don’t be tempting. Don’t have sexual urges. Don’t make these men angry. Dire results will follow.
And if physical death isn’t what befalls you, then emotional death will occur. Edward leaves Bella for her own good, and she shuts down for months. Meyers even sets up the chapters this way: Each chapter has the name of a month, followed by a blank page. Bella becomes a mindless zombie who can’t even sleep or breathe correctly without the object of her obsession present. This is what happens when you orient your entire life around one thing and that thing leaves. You are left as a shell of yourself and your life becomes as empty as those pages.
Lastly, we have the control issue. Edward doesn’t want Bella to see Jacob (there’s a whole vampire vs werewolf thing). And so when he leaves town for a weekend and realizes that Bella may get a little rebellious and sneak out to see Jacob, he bribes his sister to kidnap her and keep her hostage at a “slumber party” for two days. Again, I’m not even joking. And Bella is mad at this, yes she is! But not for long, because she loves Edward and realizes that he’s only trying to protect her the best he knows how. Mkay.
This is what all these young girls are reading, learning, and obsessing over. Yes, the writing is not great and that’s certainly a separate issue. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of the books and the overwrought emotions and romance. I understand the appeal, especially to pre- and early-teen girls, because it’s all about angst and longing with little to no payoff.
But I find these books dangerous. They are presenting women in a light that I find offensive and insulting, but wrapping it up in terms of true love, soul mates, and the supernatural. You have to take a step back and look at what keeps happening in the stories. The lessons presented here smack of pre-feminist bullshit, couching everything in terms of how it might affect men.
Stephanie Meyers, I may have purchased your books, but I ain’t buying it.
**I’m perfectly aware that this very view has probably been written about and discussed somewhere like Jezebel. I’m going to go and read some of it now.