7 Waiting Till Marriage Themes in TwilightNovember 18th, 2011 by Mike
Twilight is an ultra-popular series of books that has now been made into a series of high-budget, blockbuster films. It blatantly promotes the idea of waiting till marriage to have sex by including main characters (Bella and Edward) who wait until they are married (in the final book) to go beyond making out.
But Twilight promotes waiting till marriage in other, more subtle ways as well. It’s not just the main characters in Twilight that promote the idea of waiting till marriage; the whole Twilight universe primes readers for the idea of waiting. Here are 5 ways that the Twilight series encourages waiting and the ideals surrounding it.
1. The main characters wait until marriage to have sex
The Twilight series centers around the growing love of two central characters: Bella Swan (human) and Edward Cullen (vampire). Although the opportunity for sex arises several times throughout the series, they never go through with it. Bella usually wants to, but Edward always stops her, reminding her that if his hormones go any further he will lose control and bite/break her.
People often dismiss Twilight’s blatant waiting-till-marriage factor with one of two arguments…
Criticism #1: Well, Bella still wants to have sex. So it’s not like she’s waiting.
When you introduce puppy love to an inexperienced teenager, of course she’s going to want to have sex. Us true-blood waiting-till-marriage types are the exception rather than the rule.
Author Stephanie Meyer doesn’t portray Bella Swan as some shining exception. She lets Bella have her desires. She lets her have all the urges and willingness that most teenage girls would have, and then she offers and alternative way (waiting) and makes it cool.
Criticism #2: Oh, they just wait because Edward doesn’t want to lose control and hurt her.
There is no rule in the vampire fiction handbook that says that sexual urges and bloodlust/super-strength have to be linked. It would have been trivially easy for Stephanie Meyer to let Bella and Edward have all kinds of sex while leading up to the even bigger moment of changing Bella into a vampire.
So why did the author bother to make them wait on sex? Why add that as a plot device? Forget about moralizing for a moment. In terms of plot development, the waiting on sex makes the whole notion of changing Bella into a vampire that much more powerful.
Everything in Bella’s world rides on getting changed into a vampire: Immortallity, marriage, safety, belonging, youth, and even getting to have sex with the person she loves. She must be changed before she can have any of that.
Having Bella and Edward wait on sex makes the change moment so much more dramatic and meaningful (in terms of the story). It gives it more weight…similar to the way waiting on sex can give more weight and meaning to marriage in real life.
2. Edward waits until marriage to change Bella into a vampire
Bella nags Edward constantly about turning her into a vampire. At first, Edward flatly refuses to ever change her. But eventually it becomes necessary — for her own safety — to change Bella into a vampire, so Edward concedes. But even after it has become a certainty that Bella will be changed, Edward makes a final request: Marry me first.
This makes Edward Cullen the first vampire in the history of vampire fiction who is effectively waiting till marriage to bite.
Bella, still in typical teen fashion, objects to the idea of marriage. She doesn’t want to be “that girl” who gets married at 18. Her mom always warned her not to get married young. Why should it matter if she’s going to be with him forever anyway? Because it would mean something to him, he offers. He wants to make it official before the biting and sexing starts.
If you compare this to relationships in real life, a similar scenario often occurs:
“Come on baby, I love you. Let’s do it.” says the horny pressuring boy.
“Let’s get married first.” says the smart, respectful waiter girl.
“What will it matter? You know I’m not going anywhere. Let’s do it now. We’re missing out.” says the horny boy.
“I know, but I’d just like to make it official. It would mean something to me if we got married first.” says the respectful girl.
“Don’t you trust me?” accuses the boy.
“Of course, but it would be nice to have a guarantee.” says the girl.
That exchange is almost verbatim for the conversation Bella and Edward have about turning Bella into a vampire, except that Bella is the pressuring one, and Edward is the respectful waiter.
3. The Virgin Vampire
Edward Cullen is over one hundred years old, and yet he’s been waiting his whole life (and afterlife) on Bella Swan. She is Edward’s first and only love — and first sexual partner.
Author Stephanie Meyer had ample opportunity to give Edward some previous girlfriends. There are several scenes in the book that discuss Edward’s past, where it is revealed that there were female vampires in the past who had affections for Edward, but he did not return the affection, and as a consequence did not date/have sex with them.
Edward’s past shows him to be a virgin by choice. He had the opportunity. The whole “I don’t want to lose control and hurt you” excuse that he uses with Bella didn’t apply with those other girls, because his past suitors were also vampires. He could have easily had himself some vamp-on-vamp sex with the beautiful Tonya (another vampire in the series), but he just chose not to. Even though he never explicitly identifies himself as somebody who is waiting till marriage to have sex, his actions make him exactly that.
The idea of a virgin vampire is an astonishing departure from the typical image of vampires as lustful seducers enslaved to their impulses. There is no precdent for it.
Edward Cullen is nothing short of the strongest-willed waiter in all of fiction. Most fictional characters who are waiting end up getting married in their 20s at the latest. Edward waited well over a century and still kept waiting all the way till marriage even after he’d found love.
4. Supernatural Soul Mates
Typical teen dramas involve flaky, transient love affairs that ebb and flow in twenty different directions over the course of the series. Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has a new love interest every season, John Mitchell (Being Human) will sleep with any girl in his vicinity, and Angel (BtVS & Angel) will hook up with various female villains whenever they are on the same plane of existence as him.
In Twilight, all supernatural characters have permanent, lifelong mates. They do not “date around.” They find a soul mate and stay with them forever. And in many cases, this holds true for the villains too.
Think about the effect this has on the reader: The super-human heroes, the characters in the story that the reader admires most, are all monogamous couples. The only thing more inspiring than a single hero is a union of heroes. In this way, Twilight makes monogamy cool.
You might wonder why a gorgeous, brilliant, immortal vampire would fall in love with a human girl who is (personality wise) just like every other girl. What makes her worthy of such a mate? Well, author Stephanie Meyer explains this in two ways.
- Edward Cullen can read everyone in the worlds’ thoughts, except for Bella Swan’s. She is the only being (human or super) in all the world that Edward can’t seem to read.
- Bella Swan’s blood has a unique smell that makes her more alluring to Edward than all the other girls in the world. Basically, she smells like soulmate.
There are two “soulmate” concepts illustrated in the Twilight universe: The vampires have “singers,” whose blood is alluring to them alone in a profound way. And the werewolves have “imprinting,” a kind of love at first sight that trumps all other feelings.
None of the lasting romantic relationships develop through normal means in Twilight. The lifelong couples are generally “destined” to be together and fall in love at first sight.
This aspect of the Twilight series heavily promotes the idea that there is one person out there who will fit you better than all the rest, and your attraction to them will be noticably different and way beyond anything you’ve felt before.
6. Sex as Secondary to Love
Many other teen/vampire stories glorify sex for its own sake. But in the Twilight series, sex is never really glorified (nor is it degraded). It’s simply not the most important thing in the character’s relationships. Instead, the love and deep affection between the couples is what is most highlighted; sex is always secondary….only ever shown as a function of love.
In terms of storytelling, it’s easy to make a couple seem “really passionate” by showing them having sex all the time. But instead of resorting to that method, Stephanie Meyer chooses to have the characters make small, meaningful, affectionate gestures to illustrate their bond.
7. Resisting Urges
In most teen dramas, sex is the big powerful force that’s at issue. In the Twilight universe, bloodlust and violent transformation (changing into a werewolf) are much more powerful forces than sex.
This is not unusual for supernatural thrillers and vampire stories. The difference is, in the Twilight universe these forces constantly shown in context of being resisted. Resisting transformation, resisting bloodlust, resisting sexual urges. All the heroes resist their powerful urges willfully, while all the villains give into them casually. Intentional or not, Twilight makes resisting urges cool.
The Cullen family: Resistance as a way of life.
In most non-horror vampire fiction, there is often one “good vampire” that doesn’t feed on humans (e.g., Louis in Interview with the Vampire, Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, John Mitchel in Being Human).
In most of these stories, the “good vampire” is pretty inept at fighting his urges. They are always slipping. In Interview with the Vampire, Louis slips and murders an 8-year-old girl (Claudia). In Buffy, Angel turns evil every so often and kills off main characters, and in Being Human John Mitchel throws a temper tantrum and butchers and entire subway car full of innocent people.
Furthermore, the “good guy vampires” in other stories are usually alone in their quest not to feed on humans.
The Cullen family in the Twilight series is unique in two ways: They completely abstain from human blood with no slips, and they act as a group towards that goal. Resistance to bloodlust is not the fluke of one good vampire, it’s a way of life for a special, ideal-driven family of vampires.
Several scenes in Twilight show other vampires being interested in the Cullen’s “alternative lifestyle.” Often, the other vampires regard the Cullen’s lifestyle choice with a kind of mixed curiosity and earned respect…similar to the way most people regard those who are waiting till marriage.
Finally, the Cullens — those who follow the alternate lifestyle of resisting their urges — are shown as more civilized, more loving, more family-like, and generally more happy and contented than the other vampires, who are mostly shown as rage-driven loose cannons.
The Queluetes: A lifetime of learning how to resist their urges
Bella Swan’s best friend and Edward Cullen’s romantic rival is Jacob Black, a member of the local Quelute Indian tribe. In the second novel in the Twilight series, New Moon, the young men of the Quelute tribe discover that they have the ability to transform into giant wolves. This transformation is typically triggered by anger.
Jacob Black and his tribal brothers must strive with great difficulty to contain their anger and not loose their temper, otherwise they might let loose the wolf and hurt somebody they care about. It is their greatest goal to learn how to control their wolf side and use it only when needed. While they are active as men who sometimes change into wolves, they do not age. But it is rumored that if they learn to fully suppress their own rage, they will be free of the wolf and can begin to age and grow old normally again (which is viewed as desirable).
Bella Swan: Putting her urges on hold
Compared to the vampires and werewolves, Bella Swan doesn’t have to do much serious resisting. However, she does have to learn to support and live with her friends’ resistance efforts.
She has to stay calm around Jacob, so he stays calm and doesn’t wolf-out. And she has to hold on to her sexual urges, as well as her urges to become a vampire, until after Edward is ready. She does this easily, out of love. Never does she contemplate leaving Edward because he won’t change her/have sex with her until after marriage. She loves him and wants to be with him; all of those other desires are merely an extension of that love anyway.
A world of resistance
In most vampire/werewolf fiction, the main character’s immediate world is a violent and chaotic place, filled with evil monsters running amok (and maybe one “heart of gold” monster sprinkled in with the good guys). In Twilight, Bella’s world is filled with good-guy monsters who value compassion and control over their urges above all else.
Overall, Twilight is a huge boon to the notion of waiting till marriage
I started this article thinking that the waiting-till-marriage aspect of the Twilight series was only a secondary plot device, and wasn’t necessarily some giant moral plan on the part of author Setphanie Meyer.
But the more I think it through…if it was her goal to convince the average teenager to wait until marriage…I can’t think of how she could have done it better than exactly what she wrote.
I suppose Stephenie Meyer could have made the waiting-till-marriage aspect really blatant and central, but I think that would have put people off. The way she did it is more subtle, and I think it works better that way.
- James and Victoria: