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Porn for Women: The Twilight Saga

Author Stephenie Meyer has managed to distill the essence of pornography, bringing it to a new audience without any of the taboo.

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

November 25, 2011 - 12:00 am
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Her face rose a thousand corpses.

The scene is familiar: tents clustered together, their occupants camped out for days. Committed to their purpose, they won’t leave until they get what they want. No, it’s not Occupy Wall Street. It’s the highly anticipated release of the latest film in The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn: Part I. Dubbed Twihards, the devoted army of women obsessed with author Stephenie Meyer’s paranormal teenage romance are giddy as schoolgirls, regardless of their age.

“What’s different is that this is female based,” a woman among those camped out told CBS News. “If these were guys that were really into a sci-fi movie or an action movie, people wouldn’t be so interested.”

That may be true. However, the most fascinating aspect of Twilight fandom isn’t its dominant gender. After all, it would be more bizarre if men were into it. What is fascinating is why women of all ages are so profoundly moved by this story and its characters.

The tale follows the romantic exploits of Bella Swan, a mopey teenage girl out of step with the world and unimpressed by the people in it. She perks up upon meeting Edward Cullen, a century-old vampire locked in seventeen-year-old form. Romance ensues, interrupted by raucous undead politics. It turns out vampires at-large aren’t particularly keen on Cullen’s lifestyle choice. (It makes sense if you think about it. Even among humans, it’s taboo to date the livestock.)

As potentially fatal complications manifest so does a love triangle between Bella, Edward, and a friendly neighborhood werewolf named Jacob Black. The tension between these three forms the backbone of the saga, with Bella persistently in danger and constantly fought over.

As a man, understanding the female obsession with Twilight is difficult. However, there is one form of illicit entertainment which seems an instructive point of comparison. Twilight is to women what porn is to men.

Before playing the chauvinist card, note that women admit as much:

“We call it brain porn,” jokes Jenny West, 32, a New Jersey finance executive who co-runs an adults-only blog

What makes Twilight “brain porn”? It fulfills the female ego in the same way pornography appeals to men.

Pornography exaggerates the most cathartic aspect of romantic encounters while dismissing real-life baggage. It elevates an irrational self-indulgence while ignoring any sense of responsibility, particularly to the other. For men, this translates to reckless sexual satisfaction. For women, it’s more complicated.

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