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7 Waiting Till Marriage Themes in Twilight

November 18th, 2011 by

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.

5. Destiny

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Image Credits

19 Responses to “7 Waiting Till Marriage Themes in Twilight”

  1. Sally says:

    Nice job Mike! I”ve read all the books as well and see all the movies so far (just got back from Breaking Dawn part 1 haha) and this is as accurate as can be! I really like the connections you make b/t the series and WTM in ‘real life’.

  2. English Major says:

    Mike, I enjoyed this article and thought you made some great points, however I think saying that “Twilight is a huge bane to the notion of waiting till marriage” might confuse some readers given that the noun “bane” is defined as:
    a person or thing that ruins or spoils: Gambling was the bane of his existence.

    a deadly poison (often used in combination, as in the names of poisonous plants): wolfsbane; henbane.

    death; destruction; ruin.

    Obsolete . that which causes death or destroys life: entrapped and drowned beneath the watery bane.
    (definition obtained via

    You might want to say instead that “Twilight is a BOON [which means blessing or benefit] to the notion of waiting till marriage” or even just that “Twilight has the potential to be highly inspiring and encouraging to those who are waiting till marriage.”

    Additionally, you want to say “lose control” rather than “loose control” unless you mean that Edward is afraid of having control that is literally “loose” as an ill-fitting garment is loose; also, “Pressuring” is spelled with two s’s. Again, I loved this article, I thought the points you made were inspiring (that’s saying something considering I don’t even like Twilight), and I just want to ensure that those who read it will take you seriously.

  3. Mike says:

    @English Major – Lol thanks. I’ve made those corrections. Please let me know if you spot anything else. I’m a terrible proofreader. I really need to get better about my mechanics, but short of switching majors to English I’m not exactly sure how best to go about that. I’m hoping Khan Academy will release some grammar games soon! I’m secretly jealous of English Majors for the flawless mechanics you graduate with. If I had time for a triple major, the other one would be English.

    Thanks again for pointing those errors out, and glad you enjoyed the article anyway!

    @Sally – Thanks! I was kind of nervous that some fangirl would come on and blast me for some obscure fact that I missed, since I’ve only read 3 of the 4 books. Glad to hear it passes muster! :-p

  4. Krish says:

    I sooo want to show this to my mates to make them understand, but i know they will laugh it off coz they lustful… This article makes me happy :)And enforces how much worth it is to wait till marriage! ;D

  5. Hipster Artist says:

    Not a Twilight Fan, but interesting read. I found this place by accident, and poked about abit. I am always intrigued by something different.
    Not my thing. I can’t say if it’s right/wrong/good/bad/or best, but seems mostly positive , and we can’t have too much positivity. Good luck to you all!

  6. I'll JustLeaveThisHere says:

    Someone once told be you had test drive the car before you buy. I then asked them if it was ok to trade up for a newer model when we’re tired of the old one in a few years?

  7. Mike says:

    @I’ll JustLeaveThisHere – Ha! That’s pretty awesome. Thank you for leaving that there.

    @Hipster Artist – Thanks a ton! Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for being cool about waiting even though it’s not your thing. You should change your name to Classy Hipster Artist.

    @Krish – Haha no worries. Everybody laughs at Twilight, but I think when you take it seriously for one or two seconds there are some positive points that come to the surface. If it meant something to you, then that’s all that matters. 🙂

  8. ThatGuy says:

    Wow…I’m not even a Twilight fan but I liked this article a lot. Good job, Mike!

  9. Sophie says:

    I have read all Twilight books and I love this list! 🙂

  10. Jessi says:

    You know, I’ve read all the books, and people bash Twilight all the time. It kinda bugs me because most of them I don’t think they have even read any of the books. I liked the books, I thought that Bella’s character was a little dramatic and didn’t think ahead too often, but over-all the books really weren’t that bad. I liked this article though, and I thought it was a cool way of looking at the story.

  11. Mike says:

    @Jessi – Thanks! Glad you like it. I think Twilight gets a bad wrap too.

  12. An Observant Reader says:

    I know this is a year old, but…your title says 5 and you list 7.


  13. Mike says:

    @Observant Reader – Heh. Nice catch. Fixed.

  14. Emulator says:

    @I’ll just leave this here

    “Someone once told be you had test drive the car before you buy. I then asked them if it was ok to trade up for a newer model when we’re tired of the old one in a few years?”

    I see I’m not the only one who came up with this analogy! 🙂

  15. […] Look, I was raised in a really conservative area and was really conservative myself until I was about 21. I respect personal choices when it comes to love and sex – whatever makes you happy – I don’t actually want to know what is going on behind closed doors. But I do know that the same people that were vilifying Buffy and Harry Potter (an actual video I had to watch in high school about witchcraft) were the same people suddenly saying ‘okay’ to the Twilight novels because Bella Swan didn’t have sex until she was married. […]

  16. A Christian says:

    Thanks for these good articles! This one catchedy eye because I have a mother who watches these movies a lot. I wanted to mention without being preachy that a major factor to Stephanie Myer’s books having good messages about love in them is the fact that she is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
    I love this website and in scary times like these wether you’re religious or non-religious, Us with similar values must preserve the beauty of sex and marriage.
    I am so grateful to know that I am not alone.
    I bear my testimony that these values of marriage no matter what belief system you come from. Are the key to happiness in this life and the next. Thank you all for holding your ground!

  17. Emma says:

    Albeit many years later, brilliant article Mike. Very thoughtful and insightful. If only there were more role models like these characters!

  18. Samantha says:

    It’s a lot of Christian based books about the sin of twilight
    Christian book distributors sell them, there a lot of books about the sin of the movies.
    My brother got me these books. Like ten books all about twilight sin.

  19. Mackayla says:

    I like this movie becuse i love edward and jacob when both of the fight for bella

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