What Do Women Want: Part 2

A few days ago we posted about the Huffington Post’s article about the desires of women as reflected in pop culture and how Twilight plays into it. If you missed it, I beg you to go and read it!  Part two is now posted and it is equally as engaging.  Erika Christakis is saying what many of us have been saying for years, only she does it with near perfect wording.

About Edward being controlling:

The most humorless and tone-deaf criticism of Twilight is the claim that Bella and Edward’s relationship echoes patterns of real-life human domestic abuse. Edward is too controlling, Bella too submissive, so it goes. He carries her around a lot — it just works faster that way. And sometimes he also scales the walls of her house to watch her sleep. I can attest with utter certainty that I’m not ‘down’ for a man rappelling into a bedroom window to gaze wondrously at my daughter while she sleeps. But the thing is, vampires don’t sleep. So Edward is fascinated not only with Bella but with the notion of human sleep. Get it?

Personally, I think even a 12-year-old can grasp that it’s okay to enjoy an elaborate kidnapping-cum-sleepover as fantasy even if you would be appalled to find the UPS driver or neighborhood perv sitting in your room in the middle of the night. Edward is just trying to protect Bella from bad vampires who want to kill her! And, anyway, he later apologizes for being a control freak — unnecessarily, in my view. He was only being gallant, and there are a lot of dragons to slay out there.

On the idea that Bella gives up more of herself than Edward:

Critics also complain that Bella gives up too much to be with Edward. Her story arc — protracted virginity, rough sex followed by demon pregnancy, and so on — suggests the tired cliché that women, not men, suffer for their sexuality. But on the level of pure fantasy, this doesn’t quite ring true for a number of reasons. For starters, Edward has to give up a lot to be with Bella, too.

He subsists on an unappetizing “vegetarian” diet of animal blood in order to maintain his tenuous perch on the human ladder. Over time, he manages to tamp down the voracious thirst for Bella’s blood that he likens to heroin addiction — but only after he has lost his love and believed her dead for a time. It’s the unbearable pain of being without her that makes him able to manage his animal instincts.

Well, who wouldn’t want to believe that love could be so ennobling? That a person would make a sacrifice — giving up the possibility of, oh, multiple sexual partners, let’s say — in service of a greater love? It’s an appealing fantasy, and I’d like to say it’s a fantasy shared equally by men and women. But nothing in our culture suggests that is true. All things being equal, women still appear to value sexual fidelity more than men.

On the honeymoon sex scene:

This all sounds rather grim, but the love story is entirely believable, and nowhere is this more apparent than during the infamous vampire-human wedding night. Hackles were raised over the broken headboard and bruised flesh, but an even more subversive element may be the expression of joy we see in the young couple as they make love for the first time. Can you recall when you saw genuinely romantic laughter during a movie sex scene?

Bella awakens bruised (but unhurt), not because she’s been beaten, but because the kinks in what she calls the “tricky” business of interspecies sex haven’t quite been worked out. “I think we did amazing,” an obviously sated Bella reassures her sheepish husband after he’s laid waste to the bedroom in lieu of injuring his wife. In the more effective and tenderhearted film version, we see the headboard splinter as he braces himself mid-PG-13-thrust. We catch a glimpse not only of his impressive, CGI-enhanced, musculature but also of his embarrassed and hesitant face. It’s an expression familiar to millions of over-eager young men who are enjoying sex for the first time.

In lesser hands, this scene would have been played for comedy or horror. But the skilled director, Bill Condon, plays it real instead, showing Bella’s calm reaction shot as she reassures her new husband that everything is going to be just fine. The largely female audience smiles knowingly. By playing it straight, with wit but not irony, we can fully embrace the fantasy, rather than viewing it from a snarky distance.

Honestly, I just want to cut and paste the whole thing into this post, it’s just that good!  You can read the whole thing here.  I, for one, totally agree with her and can not wait for what else she has in store for part three.  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.  Do you think she’s got it right?  Does this change any of your opinions?


  1. Elizabeth (EverythingRemindsMeOfTwilight) says

    When I read, “The most humorless and tone-deaf criticism of Twilight is the claim that Bella and Edward’s relationship echoes patterns of real-life human domestic abuse, ” I was relieved and ecstatic! It’s so refreshing to read such a clear, well thought out, accurate description not only of the key points of the saga but also of the fans. Yes, we can figure out the difference between the genuinely scary guy and one that is powerful but doesn’t use it because he loves the girl. And we don’t need to be saved from these types of story lines.

    I’ve been sending these articles of Erika Christakis to every TwiHard and casual fan I know; and without fail, they’ve loved everything she has said. And that we’ve all thought for a long time. Thanks to her for well written clarity and thanks to the Lex for keeping us abreast of these very enjoyable and wonderful articles!!

  2. Dead on, love it!

  3. smitten_by_twilight says

    “Masochistic four poster bed.”. Perfect! This should be first on the reading list for any student writing about Twilight.

  4. Ms. Christakis provides an accurate review/critique/insight on how women view the relationship between Edward and Bella. Her description is like reading an adult novel. I had to read this twice, visionally the entire scene. Wonderful!

  5. Perfect. Need to send this to a few people to get them to understand!

  6. Fantastic!! Thanks for posting!

  7. Faye massenroe says

    Article so far is perfect and dead on. I never read Huffington Post because it’s way too left wing, but I loved this article. Maybe there should be college courses on Twilight themes!

    • check around and there likely are already college courses on Twilight. I’ve read about at least one, but don’t remember how long ago or what school it was.

  8. Great article! “Critics” will always find something to say because w/out it, they don’t own up to their title but “Fans” knows, understand & see’s the story being told in a book & movie and no one will take that away from them. I love this saga and no matter what age i started or am now, it will stay with me for the rest of my being. Those who critized & hate on the love of others are not happy themselves and need to find their happy spot :)…Have a great day everybody!

  9. this is a splendid, well done analysis of Twilight. In the 3rd one, she does a great comparison of Bella, with the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

    I believe that the movie guys think they have another Twilight with “Hunger Games.” I think however, that they are missing the entire point here.

    Back in the day, a woman who gave birth was seen as being as heroic as a man who went to war. Interesting, eh?

  10. Thank you!! Thank you, Erika Christakis, for these articles. She gets it!

  11. I’m really glad that someone in a position of influence is giving us (the fans) a voice. The Twilight haters refuse to listen to explanations like these when it comes from fans’ mouths…and some of the critics get insanely antagonistic. I hope her articles reach not just the fans, but the critics.

  12. Things so much for recommending this article- I would normally never read the Huffington post, but the writer really did a great job. Well written & so very true! thanks!!!!!

  13. You should read the Huffpost comments on the 2nd part. Some idiotic woman actually thinks that these films will cause women to become victims of domestic violence, and make poor relationship decisions. I swear, some people seriously need to get a life and quick trying to equate a paranormal romance series with creating world peace and stopping world hunger. They take it WAY too seriously and read all this stupid psychological junk into it that is just ridiculous. It makes me angry the hate this series has gotten, when there are WAY more films out there (and books) with a lot worse plot lines and stereotypes. But of course…they’re aimed at men, so that’s okay.

    • Ugh, that woman sounds like a moron. I’m going to go look at her comment. I agree with this comment 10000%.


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