‘Twilight’ and the agony of abstinence

Josh Larsen

Is anyone else confused by the fact that “Twilight” has been adopted by champions of abstinence?

Moral-minded critics and skittish parents have latched onto the literal fact that the teen lovebirds in the movie never actually have sex. Yet considering all the anguished panting and heaving going on, I’d say “Twilight” has things on its mind other than waiting until marriage.

For those who don’t know – meaning those who don’t have a teen or tween girl in their lives - “Twilight” is an adaptation of the first book in Stephenie Meyers’ romance series about a high-school girl who falls in love with her vampire classmate. He’s equally enamored with her, though in a confused way that mixes up emotional attraction, physical desire and basic animal hunger.

At least on the screen, “Twilight” is about nothing other than the fervent desire to engage in sexual intercourse - and the horrors that would result from indulging in such behavior.

From the first moment he sees new student Bella (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) begins writhing in his seat as if some sort of uncontrollable urge has come over him. (To be frank, he looks as if he has to use the washroom.)

Not long after, Edward is swooping up behind Bella, sniffing her neck and whispering, “If you were smart, you'd stay away from me.”

This of course leads to the pair dating, which mostly involves her batting her eyes at him while he mumbles something along the lines of “I can’t ever lose control with you.” They almost do lose it, once, but to the relief of those critics and squeamish parents, they manage to stick to cuddling in their underwear.

With all of this going on, “Twilight” is simultaneously titillating and puritanical – sort of like listening to Barry White while taking a cold shower.

Unfortunately, religion can often be blamed for this sort of conflicted view of human sexuality, in which sexual desire is strictly defined as dangerous and evil. Indeed, Meyers – the creator of the “Twilight” phenomenon – is a Mormon, and while I can’t speak to how directly her religious background influenced her writing, I can say that her equating of sex and death isn’t that far removed from the sort of mindset that exists in some Christian circles.

Is there another way to look at things? In the movies, must sex always be the apple in the Garden of Eden?

I can think of one example in which it’s something different, from 2006’s “Away From Her.” Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent play a long-married husband and wife dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and the movie gives them a touching, affectionate moment of physical connection. Of course, a love scene involving two married retirees is not the sort of steamy sex Hollywood usually favors.

Can anyone else think of similar examples from other movies, in which sinless sexuality is something to be celebrated?

Topics: Movies, Culture At Large, Home & Family, Sex