I Want To Suck Your …
I Want To Suck Your …
Fluids and Fluidity in Dracula Porn
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter explores the status, meaning, use, and conflation of gendered orifices and bodily fluids in pornographic adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In speaking the supposed silences of Dracula, porn adaptations of the novel must carefully navigate gender and sexuality. These adaptations reveal how hardcore film as a whole operates on anxious ground similar to that of Stoker’s novel, simultaneously invoking and resisting sexual anxieties concerning gendered penetration, gendered fluids, and consumption. Dracula, as a culture text, mobilizes queered, gendered, and raced reformulations of consumer and consumed, queering ostensibly straight pornographies, destabilizing supposedly rigid gender dynamics, and resituating the colonial Other. Dracula adaptations invoke and redeploy the racialized implications of nineteenth-century vampirism, channeling racial and sexual subjectivity through vampirism. Dracula penetrates a supposedly sanctified pornotopia, enabling diverse and perverse sexual representations that are instructive in understanding pornography as erotically engaged with sexual fluidity, genre instability, and oscillating power dynamics.
- The fair girl went on her knees, and bent over me, fairly gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth. Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed to fasten on my …
—Bram Stoker, Dracula
The next word is “throat,” naturally, as this is a passage from Dracula, the late-Victorian novel by Bram Stoker, and not a sordid pornographic novel purchased on Holywell Street. You would, however, be forgiven for imagining that this passage is speaking of more than mere blood lust. It is easy to see why vampire tales, particularly Dracula, have so enamored pornographers. Indeed, more than sixty hardcore and softcore appropriations of the novel or character have appeared in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, making Dracula the most utilized mainstream text in pornography. Then there are the more generic Dracula- or Carmilla-indebted hardcore films, sites, and scenes of which there seem to be an unending supply. The vampire is the pornographic monster par excellence. More to the point, this passage ably demonstrates two important but often ignored truths about porn: that the appeal of pornography lies in its being both “thrilling and repulsive,” and that the men and women of pornography are both active and passive at different moments and sometimes at the same time. These truths emerge most clearly in vampiric porn.
Pornographic adaptations of Dracula and other Victorian vampire scripts claim to reveal the dirty bits sublimated by repressed Victorian writers. Understandably, (p.67) pornographers typically home in on the copious bodily fluids in vampiric narratives, taking particular pleasure in articulating the fluids that Victorian novelists displaced in favor of blood. Adult-film historian and reviewer Robert Rimmer notes that the 1979 film Dracula Sucks reveals “what all Dracula movies insinuate—that blood and semen are part of the count’s repertoire” (207). Rimmer’s observation verifies two important notions about pornography and Dracula: the perception of porn as exposing the truth that mainstream fare “insinuates” but doesn’t show, and the general cultural knowledge that Dracula is a novel about sex and sexuality, whether one has read Bram Stoker’s original text or not. Indeed, during my own conversations on the subject of Dracula porn, one professor rolled his eyes and remarked, “It just seems so redundant!” while a fellow graduate student scoffed, “Dracula is porn!” Sadly, for those with such disillusioned feelings toward porn’s originality, no character or text has been adapted by pornography more than the Count.1 Evidently, pornographers and (presumably) consumers do not find the Dracula narrative to be any more redundant than the hundreds of mainstream film producers, comic book artists, and video game designers who have utilized Stoker’s character so regularly over the years.
Dracula the culture text holds the promise of deviant, dark, and tantalizingly inverted sexual dynamics. Through an indulgence in this deviancy, pornographic vampires reveal the delicate footwork of the hardcore genre, negotiating the sexual and gender fluidity in, and overtly homoerotic connotations of, the Dracula story. These pornings also displace white normative femininities and masculinities in favor of the thrilling, deviant, and monstrous sexualities historically implanted in/written on bodies of color—the substance of the colonial “porno-tropics” (McClintock 22)—sexualities that in pornography are monstrous and thus enticing. Indeed, Dracula adaptations stand out as the most ethnically diverse of the “pornings” in this project, suggesting that vampire narratives are the neo-Victorian pornographic space where race and race history are most comfortably explored. The perilous fluidity and oscillating fears/desires of the Dracula narrative have generated a body of hardcore Dracula texts that trade in the erotics of sexual fluidity and transgressive racialized monsters.
Written in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was by no means the first vampire tale. Vampires are, however, primarily a nineteenth-century imagining, and while Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), Prest’s Varney the Vampire (1847), and Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) came before it, Dracula is by far the most influential and best-known manifestation of the myth. For this reason, I focus on (p.68) pornographic adaptations of the Dracula narrative and character as a way of exploring more broadly the ways in which the nineteenth-century vampire has been porned. Dracula serves as a convenient entry point in this regard.
Due to Count Dracula’s peculiar sexual symbolism and (thanks to Hollywood) immediate visual distinguishability, the mere appearance of a man or woman in a black and red cape has sexual signifying power. In his analysis of the Count in Hollywood productions, film scholar Robin Wood addresses the enduring popularity of Count Dracula in film and culture, suggesting a series of sexual qualities that “give the figure of the vampire Count such comprehensive potency” (370). These qualities are instructive in understanding the amalgamation of erotic applications the Count brings to hardcore: “irresistible power, physical strength; supernatural magnetic force,” “nonprocreative sexuality,” “promiscuity or sexual freedom,” “‘abnormal’ sexuality,” “bisexuality,” “incest,” and “child sexuality” (370–71). In some ways, these qualities conjure up a hardcore pornotopia; still in other ways, a hardcore nightmare.
Pornings of Dracula reveal the much-contested meaning and function of different gendered and sexed bodily fluids and orifices in pornographic film—who discharges and who consumes; who penetrates and who is penetrated—in turn exposing the figurative fluidity of gender, sexuality, bodily fluids, and orifices in Stoker’s Dracula. While Dracula appears to pose problems for pornography in that the text is so queer it threatens to destabilize the ostensibly strict and generic gendered arrangements of porn, there are also rich pornographic pleasures in these oscillating positions. In other words, the sense of literalizing the metaphors of the original novel, together with the threat of fluid gender and deviant sexualities, generate risky and paradoxical pleasures that are emphasized in vampire porn yet are also common to pornography as a whole.
The vampire is the quintessential pornographic monster: immortal, beautiful, forever young, and insatiable. The vampire is also predatory, sensual, and seductive. But what makes the vampire ideal for pornography is the tension between active and passive. The vampire is certainly aggressive and feeds on its victims/lovers, but at the same time the vampire needs its victim/lover. She is, as Linda Williams describes, the favored woman of both pornography and the Gothic in that she is “moved and moving” (“Film Bodies” 271). Sarah Sceats describes the vampire as in “mutual bondage” with his or her victim: “the vampire is entirely dependent: s/he can only exist in relation to the victim/host; the overwhelming desire is for oneness, figured in the fleeting act of incorporation of the other” (108). In the context of pornography, this rapacious vampiric hunger crystallizes a broader pornographic desire (p.69) for the aggressively passive, the receptively active, the masculine/feminine/queer/deviant erotic subject.
Vampirism also offers rich potential for dynamic gendered power play, a favored discourse in hardcore pornography. Vampiric narratives allow for a literal, sexual translation of what is displaced in Dracula. At the same time, these narratives literalize the more subversive anxieties that Christopher Craft highlights when he notes that Dracula evades and avoids homoerotic contact between man and Dracula: “The vampire mouth fuses and confuses what Dracula’s civilized nemesis, Van Helsing and his Crew of Light, works so hard to separate—the gender-based categories of the penetrating and the receptive” (109). Porn, too, works hard to render male and female bodies distinct in terms of who penetrates and who is penetrated. This does not mean men are never penetrated, but in heteroporn it is rare when not specially marked and categorized.2 In this way, hardcore offers a panoply of different arrangements that are simultaneously segregated, marked out, and carefully gendered. The vampiric porn film subtly mobilizes other arrangements: women penetrate men with their fangs. They are also staked, creating a more complex picture in which female sexual aggression, gender fluidity, and queerness are invoked, indulged, marked as Other, and feared, just as in Victorian vampire narratives. Blood and semen are conflated—and at the same time rigorously segregated. Ultimately, the hardcore realization of Dracula creates an unstable product. The instability and fin de siècle anxiety of the original novel translates into the already anxious and unstable genre of hardcore. Hardcore seeks to expose the “truths” of the original Victorian novel and in turn exposes some “truths” of its own.
The Homoerotics of Dracula Porn
Pornographic spectatorship is traditionally homosocial. During the stag era of the early twentieth century, this homosociality is most obvious, as men gathered together in brothels or frat houses to watch pornography; later, during the theatrical golden age (ca. 1972–1984), men once again gathered to watch porn, though this time in a darker room and with the luxury of spaced out seating. Audiences during the theatrical era remained overwhelmingly male, yet even in the hetero theaters patrons sexually interacted with one another. Still, special couples’ rates and testimony from the time suggests women were also more frequently in attendance than before, puncturing the homosocial sanctuary (Schaefer, “Gauging a Revolution”; Delaney 25–31). With the inception of home video, spectators are generally characterized as solitary masturbators, yet Emily Shelton argues that in reality these men (p.70) tacitly understand themselves to be part of a larger homosocial community. While this is persuasive, it is also important to note that while these men may be aware of their brothers in arms, they also must be aware of the rapidly expanding audience which, since the 1980s, has exponentially grown in numbers of women, LGBT consumers, and people of color. Thus, the invisible and anonymous mass of porn spectators are no longer safely housed in the man cave and cannot be relied on to share viewing proclivities or offer virtual high fives. With that said, the sense one gets when hanging out in online forums and comment threads, visiting the video store (if you’re lucky enough to have one), or attending porn conventions is that men are the majority and the presence of a few women or queer folks does not cause the safety and sanctity of their brotherhood to crumble.
Hardcore Dracula narratives invest their stories with homosocial, homoerotic communication through female bodies inasmuch as pornography does in general; the Dracula culture text merely mobilizes more explicit articulations of this generic trope. Shaun Costello’s 35mm feature, Dracula Exotica (1980), contains a subtle example of this homosociality in the form of vampiric cross-gender mind control that in some way mirrors the late-twentieth- and twenty-first-century homosocial porn audience: one that enjoys a psychological connection to a homosocial mass through a female sexual body yet without the difficulties of having the male bodies in the same room. Of course, in 1980, Dracula Exotica would have been screened in theaters where male bodies were in the room—an inconvenience to some, but a sexually titillating opportunity to others.
In either context—the mass of faceless viewing companions of internet porn or the visible, physically proximate viewing companions of the porn theater—the mesmerism scene in Dracula Exotica speaks to universal viewing patterns in porn. Vita Valdez (Vanessa Del Rio), recently deceased at the teeth of Leopold (Jamie Gillis), lies naked on the morgue slab. The morgue attendant, Rudy (Herschel Savage), takes advantage of what he believes to be a dead body. As Rudy begins groping Valdez’s breasts, the scene cuts periodically to images of Leopold’s face as he emerges from his coffin, eyes intently staring. The viewer is to understand that he is mentally connecting with his soon-to-be vampiric minion. Significantly, Valdez’s body on the morgue slab and Leopold’s body in his coffin depict similar poses. Leopold, like Valdez, also has his eyes closed, while Rudy penetrates Valdez’s mouth with his penis. The editing, which juxtaposes Valdez’s face with Leopold’s, creates the queer understanding that Leopold is mentally experiencing Valdez’s violation; that through a mental connection with Valdez, Leopold is also receiving Rudy’s penis in his own mouth. (p.71)
The ensuing sequence continues to evoke this idea. If we are to understand that Leopold is in Valdez’s mind, then Leopold himself embodies the stationary woman. Thus, Leopold’s control of the passive female body ironically implicates his own body in the woman’s physical violation. Rudy performs cunnilingus on Valdez; Leopold rises from the coffin, and as he stares intently, the film cuts to Rudy vaginally penetrating Valdez. The scene steadily builds in this manner, Leopold’s physical comportment altering slightly as the panoply of positions varies in the necrophilia scene, and finally as Rudy approaches orgasm the cutting back and forth between Leopold, Rudy, and Valdez speeds up until Valdez’s eyes suddenly open. Her moment of consciousness—of Leopold’s successful mesmeric intervention—occurs just as Rudy ejaculates onto her stomach, seen from her/Leopold’s point of view. Appropriately, Valdez/Leopold meet Rudy’s uninvited penetration and ejaculation with the penetration and evacuation of Rudy’s artery. The homoerotics and gender fluidity of this scene are entirely played out through Valdez’s body, mitigating the more discomfiting insinuations of who is penetrated and ejaculated on, but also indulging in these very same transgressions. The scene also speaks to the nature of porn spectatorship: who or what heterospectators look at, desire, or find exciting. Spectatorial identification with the queer couple, Valdez and Leopold, is encouraged, even while the completion of the necrophilic rape constitutes wish fulfillment on the part of the porn consumer for both the passive and active woman.
Dracula Sucks (a.k.a. Lust at First Bite [dir. Philip Marshak, 1979]) is a curious entry, in that it exists in multiple forms that carefully segregate sex and violence in response to fears of censorship or persecution. In the process, this editing sifts the explicitly homoerotic content from the explicitly hardcore. Critics hated the original director’s cut due to the lack of explicit (p.72) sex, which screened briefly in 1978 or 1979 (Rubin). As a result, this cut was not screened at all after 1979 or 1980; instead, it was recut in two different versions. The R-rated Dracula Sucks released around 1980 includes the violence but removes all traces of the hardcore sex, while the hardcore Lust at First Bite released about six months later includes all the hardcore sex but removes the violence, as well as key aspects of the plot, rendering it at times incomprehensible (Rubin). Why the plot details and, significantly, the overtly queer interaction between Harker and Dracula were removed from the hard edit is open to speculation and worth ruminating about.
(p.73) Missing from the hardcore version is a climactic scene between Jonathan Harker (Paul Thomas), Mina (Annette Haven), and Dracula (once again, Jamie Gillis). Harker is coded as queer from the outset. In the commentary, recorded in 2014, co-writer, co-star, and assistant director Bill Margold remarks on an early scene in which Harker glances at Dracula engrossingly: “This is where you start to worry about Paul [Thomas]’s sexuality. This is how you know I didn’t write this [part]. I never would have intimated that Thomas was homosexual” (Margold). Indeed, Margold is generally conflicted about the homoerotics of the film. His awareness of the queer nature of Stoker’s novel vis-à-vis the film’s content does not sit well with him as an ostensibly straight pornographer. In the climactic scene of the film, Mina and Harker appear to be embarking on a sexual interaction outside the castle, but the action quickly shifts toward something between Harker and Dracula. Mina is revealed to be a vampire, working with Dracula to secure Harker. Rather than simply offer an implicitly homoerotic vamping of Harker, however, Dracula instead pulls Harker under his cape and pushes his face into his crotch where, we are left to assume, Harker is forced to perform oral sex on the Count. Dracula then offers Harker’s neck up to Mina, and she sucks him dry.
As this scene approaches with the commentary track, Margold asserts, “I knew this movie may be where Stoker wanted to go […] this unlocks all the zippers of real Dracula fans” (Margold). Here, Margold understands the inherent but sublimated and repressed queerness of Stoker’s novel. Moreover, he recognizes the queer understanding of the novel and culture text that “real Dracula fans” hold among them, their zippers unlocked by a pornographic queerness so true to Stoker’s ultimate vision. However, when the scene actually unfolds, Margold backtracks and grows less confident about Stoker’s intentions: “Yeah, this is very strange. I was standing off to the side thinking, ‘What the fuck?’ […] that’s certainly not—maybe that’s not what Bram Stoker had in mind” (Margold). No one really knows what Stoker had in mind, but Margold’s oscillating, contradictory analysis of the film together with his discomfort ironically indicate the mileage pornography has eked out of Stoker’s novel. In some ways, Stoker’s Dracula offers what pornography claims to offer: something for everyone. The difference is that while Dracula offered these pleasures in sublimated and metaphorical fashion, hardcore offers these pleasures explicitly. Or so it claims. Hardcore adaptations of Dracula in fact demonstrate the complexities of representing perversion and sexual deviance in a genre so shaped by categories and spectatorial expectation.
One of the most obvious promises of vampire lore is the abundance of orifices and bodily fluids, an abundance that pornographic filmmakers have exploited with gusto. And at the same time, vampires, and particularly Dracula, pose what Craft calls a series of “disturbing questions”: “Are we male or female? Do we have penetrators or orifices? And if both, what does that mean? And what about our bodily fluids, the red and the white? What are the relations between blood and semen, milk and blood?” (“Kiss Me” 109). Hardcore adaptations of Dracula iconography reveal the efforts pornography makes to provide irrefutable answers to these questions, even as it ultimately further complicates them. In this sense, hardcore films that appropriate Victorian culture and literary tropes of that era are “a cultural form of problem solving” (Williams, “Film Bodies” 276) at the same time as they invest and indulge in keeping the problem unsolved. Hardcore revels in a perpetual state of destabilization. It attempts to center the sex that Dracula displaces, exposing the “gaps.” In the process, it adheres to certain hardcore conventions and contemporary demands, setting up further displacements in a persistent and compelling erotic spiral.
Semen, Craft has pointed out, is a displaced but prominent bodily fluid in Stoker’s Dracula. This is most clear in the scene where Mina is forced to drink blood from Dracula’s chest. The horror of the scene is closely bound up with its palpable sexuality juxtaposed to a desexualized mother-child relation, as the blood Mina drinks is closely linked through Stoker’s language to both milk and semen. Van Helsing recalls, “[Dracula’s] right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare breast that was shown by his torn-open dress. The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten’s nose into a saucer of milk” (247). Somewhat excessively—we might say pornographically—Van Helsing adds that blood “smeared her lips and cheeks and chin; from her throat trickled a thin stream of blood” (247). The virtuous Mina feels the pornographic nature of this imagery profoundly. Recalling what has occurred, she regards herself as “‘Unclean, unclean!’” and understands her soiled femininity is now a threat to her fiancé, Jonathan.
Mina cannot utter what fluids she has consumed following her forced suckling from Dracula’s breast: “I must either suffocate or swallow some of the—Oh my God! what have I done?” (252). Craft notes that the scene leaves “the fluid unnamed” and results in “encouraging us to voice the substitution (p.75) that the text implies—this blood is semen too” (125). Furthermore, as Craft adds, “the confluence of blood, milk, and semen forcefully erase the demarcation separating the masculine and the feminine” (125). Such an erasing or blurring of gender within sexed bodies arguably occurs in much horror fiction, as Carol J. Clover argues in her classic book, Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, yet heteropornography also obsessively reinscribes gender onto these bodies. The frequent vaginal and anal penetration of women, fellatio, and ejaculation on women’s bodies perform this reinscribing, and yet at the same time the Dracula text, with its penetrating women and conflated bodily fluids, unsettles some of the supposedly clear categories of gender and sexuality.
Just as the flow of bodily fluids composes the narrative core of Dracula, so hardcore explicitly trades in representations of abject fluids, specifically the “money shot.” Indeed, even the name “Dracula” has sexual connotations related to bodily fluids and orality as evidenced in blowjob compilations such as Count Suckula (Wicked Pictures, 2008). It is well established in porn scholarship that the “money shot”—ejaculation onto the man’s or woman’s body—is one of the most compulsively prerequisite and generically consistent features of hardcore involving penises. Furthermore, the money shot typically signals the conclusion of the sex act for both male and female participants. In 1989, following the pornographic “golden age,” Williams observed that “there is something almost too phallic about this money shot” (108), noting the extent to which the ejaculating penis has taken the place of the female body as the site of signifying pleasure. The money shot, Williams contends, is hardcore’s striving for “maximum visibility” (94) and “visual evidence of the mechanical ‘truth’ of bodily pleasure” (101).
At the same time, few scholars have acknowledged that this trope was alive and well prior to film pornographies, and that female ejaculation is also of pornographic interest in literature of the nineteenth century and in the squirt subgenres of today. Fluids in connection to gender are obsessively invoked, depicted, and worried over in hardcore. Keeping in mind a robust lineage of ejaculatory depictions spanning centuries of pornographic media, it is no surprise that Williams’s prediction that there would be a decline in the money shot (Hard Core 117) did not come to pass. Instead, the regularity of the money shot became even more stringently observed, fetishized, and genrefied, incorporating female ejaculation and squirt genres that enable women to shower their female and male partners with liquids. Male ejaculation quickly became so common in hardcore film as to be considered not a fetish but a mere convention prompting the development of more specialized (p.76) types of ejaculatory finale such as “massive facials” where, usually following a blowbang, the male participants “glaze” the female performer’s face until it is almost unrecognizable (sometimes accompanied by laughter and amazement from all involved), and bukkake and gokkun that focus on coating the entire body or extreme ingestion, respectively (Moore 81).
If, as Isabel Cristina Pinedo puts it, horror is the genre of the wet death (of blood) and pornography the genre of the wet dream (of semen) (51) then the horror-porn, particularly the vampiric porn film, promises to bring these moist strangers together. However, in vampiric porn they do not come together. Indeed, the films promise a union of blood and semen but displace and separate these discomfiting, abject fluids, quite literally in many places. Hardcore routinely equates blood and semen in the rhetoric of the films, yet while Rimmer observes that blood and semen are both part of the Count’s repertoire, he never actually ingests both in heteroporn. The performers “dripping with blood, sweat, and cum,” as the box cover for Voracious (2012) promises, are all female. The rhetoric of season 2 (2014), subtitled Blood and Cum, also appears to promise the mixing of these fluids, but the imagery separates them into two streams, once again emanating from a female mouth. (p.77) In this way, Dracula and vampire mythology promise much—the confluence of blood and semen, the queer pleasures of vampirism—that hetero-hardcore struggles to deliver.
The money shot as a signifier in hardcore Dracula films has changed over time. Earlier films produced during a time when there was no coherent “industry” involved more mischievous approaches to convention, utilizing the money shot in ways that disrupt hardcore heterosexual conventions, while later films tend to anxiously hide any conflation of blood and semen in vampire mythology. In addition, older films tend to position women in more traditional gender roles while at the same time more freely playing with the homoerotic implications of the blood-semen connection. Meanwhile, more recent hardcore film emphasizes and praises ritualized active female sexuality and autonomy, but simultaneously reasserts anxieties over gender fluidity and homoeroticism through its invoking of the blood-semen connection even while it treads carefully around it. Paradoxically, these more recent films implicate their own homoerotic subtext through such anxious tap dancing.
The Bride’s Initiation (dir. Duncan Stewart, ca. 1973), shot as The Vampire and first released as Demon’s Brew, is an example of the more explicitly homoerotic “straight” content produced in the 1970s, an era that had no coherent “porn industry.” During this time, adult filmmakers were guerrilla filmmakers, shooting illegally for an undetermined audience of theatergoers. Without a commercial template, a lot of genuinely bizarre content made its way into porn of the 1970s. In this film (unconventional even by 1970s standards), Count Dracula (Marc Brock) kidnaps a newlywed couple with the intention of using them as part of a ritual to prolong his undead life. It is a ritual he has performed many times before with the aid of his chauffeur, James, and a witch. It involves mixing a “brew” composed of semen, which Dracula drinks and then feeds to a woman he subsequently has sex with. The plot is often incoherent, but it is undeniably homoerotic: captured, bound men are manually masturbated (by women) until they ejaculate into a goblet; Dracula then consumes the ejaculate. Furthermore, when Dracula discovers an appropriately heterosexual love object in Miss Richmond (Carol Connors), the woman he believes “will end my daily tortures and bring me eternal life,” things do not go according to plan. James kidnaps the detective who has been searching for the newlyweds, in order to harvest his semen for the ritual, and Dracula drinks the brew in preparation for penetrating Miss Richmond. However, immediately after drinking the “brew” Dracula falls to his knees before the detective, exclaiming, “I love you, I love you, you wonderful one! I must make love to you now!” The detective retorts, “Are you (p.78) kidding? My husband would kill me!” and the film ends. Multiple different “brews” of semen constitute the Count’s lifeblood in The Bride’s Initiation. It is unclear what is so captivating about the detective’s semen that Dracula would instantly fall in love.
The Bride’s Initiation is the only straight film that acknowledges the Count’s consumption of semen as his life force, yet the Count does not physically engage with any man. Women perform the sexual duties, producing the semen through their sexual machinations in much the same way as one might milk a cow. In this way, the film boldly portrays male consumption of semen without actually depicting the act that leads to such consumption. At the same time, the film haphazardly suggests that semen is so powerful that it could prompt a shift in sexual orientation much in the same way as drinking (p.79) blood might transform one into a vampire. The moment is so brief, such a seemingly throwaway joke, that a casual viewer might miss the implications. Is the detective’s semen the first gay semen Dracula has consumed? Is this why the detective’s semen turns Dracula gay? It would seem so. In that case, this is an intriguing analogy. Vampirism and homosexuality are compared as mutually compelling and desirable traits. Moreover, Dracula has been drinking semen for years, perhaps centuries, so it doesn’t seem that big of a leap for him to do away with the women and collect that semen from the source. Indeed, to do so would not necessarily alter his identity in any profound way. The sex acts remain the same while the mediating feminine salve is simply no longer required. In this way, The Bride’s Initiation explores vampirism, fluids, and sexuality in a manner more sophisticated and complex than the stilted dialogue and low production values might suggest.
Dark Angels 2: Bloodline (dir. Nic Andrews, 2005) is an example of the more anxious navigation of the homoerotic implications of bodily fluids in Dracula that have become more evident in the twenty-first century as adult film has moved increasingly toward a corporate commodity. Dark Angels 2 retains the queer blurring of fluids and orifices but sublimates homoeroticism with violence. A sequel to Dark Angels (dir. Nic Andrews, 2000) (which in a distinctly Carmilla-esque narrative focuses on a female vampire and her female human prey), Dark Angels 2 riffs on Dracula. This sequel is much more ambitious and gory, and it centers on multiple male protagonists and their relationships to other men. The head vampire in this film is Draken (Barrett Blade) who, with the help of his Igorish assistant, Quinn (Evan Stone), is creating a race of zombie vampires called slags in order to procure a woman of pure blood. These slags are created via traditional biting of the neck. Draken possesses “the elixir of life”—a large glass tube of blood that, once empty, will result in his race’s extinction. When the blood runs out, his bloodline ends. The slags have impure blood; it is “diseased, like a virus,” and they do not have enough of the elixir to fully transform humans into Draken’s race. Draken’s goal is to capture “the one,” whom he finds embodied in a waitress named Jesse (Sunny Lane), drain her pure blood into the tube, and perpetuate his bloodline. With the help of a Van Helsing–type named Jack Cross (Dillon Day), Jesse defeats Draken.
In Stoker’s novel, the Count expresses his desire for Jonathan Harker when he chastises the greedy vampire sisters: “How dare you touch him, any of you? […] This man belongs to me!” (43). Still, Stoker stops short of depicting man-on-man vamping. Dark Angels 2, meanwhile, has it in spades. Both Draken and Quinn vamp dozens of homeless men and a policeman in order (p.80) to create more slags, yet these scenes are carefully choreographed violent action sequences so as to mediate the potential homoerotics of vamping. The opening sex scene articulates the sexuality of vampirism and the homoerotic hurdles that must be navigated in both diegetic and nondiegetic ways. The scene involves Draken and an anonymous woman, who have sex concluding with a money shot: Draken ejaculates and the semen, probably unintentionally but certainly serendipitously, lands on her neck. This scene calls for a post-cum vamping finale, which occurs in spite of the singular direction of the money shot. However, when Draken bites the woman’s neck immediately following ejaculation, the semen has miraculously disappeared. Male consumption of semen, even of one’s own semen, is too queer to allow in this particular feature.3 It is rare in heterosexual pornography in general. When it does happen, it has either been labeled appropriately, is an expectation of the genre (cuckolding or strap scenes, for example), or is a surprise (pleasurable or not). It is seen as too queer, too feminine, or both. Even The Bride’s Initiation does not depict the Count drinking straight from the faucet. Within the context of an adaptation of Dracula that dares to depict man-on-man vamping, perhaps an opening scene involving the vamping of a semen-coated female neck is simply so queer that the filmmakers (or perhaps the performer) would rather break the fourth wall than have it occur. Even in a vampire porn movie, or perhaps especially in a vampire porn movie, bodily fluids are kept distinctly separate, and the gendered consumers of specific bodily fluids are kept rigidly defined. Blood may be consumed man-on-man, yet one may not consume one’s own semen. So while Dark Angels 2 is surprisingly frank in its juxtaposition of sex and violence, it is paradoxically more conservative than Stoker’s novel in its refusal to conflate bodily fluids between men.
The complications of the blood/semen dynamic are probably the most narratively realized in Shaun Costello’s 1980 film, Dracula Exotica. In this 35mm feature, Costello offers an unusual and complex treatment of bodily fluids. Indeed, the film epitomizes many of the contradictory and compelling consequences of the mixing of horror, the Victorian, and pornography. Set predominantly during then-present-day 1980, Dracula Exotica does what a lot of Hollywood adaptations have done:4 it recasts Count Dracula as a tragic figure and recasts the narrative as one of gothic romance rather than horror. Yet Costello retains the sexual sadism and deviancy suggested by the source text, porning it in a diversity of ways and producing a bewildering array of perverse and sometimes disturbing sex acts as well as queer gender formulations. In particular, Costello uses the Dracula narrative and culture (p.81) text to challenge pornographic expectations of the money shot and mobilize deviant sexual desires.
Dracula Exotica concerns Leopold Michal George Count Dracula (Jamie Gillis) who, at the film’s eighteenth-century opening,5 is in love with Surka (Samantha Fox), daughter of the gamekeeper. However, Leopold’s father denies their union due to their differing class status. Heartbroken and frustrated, Leopold gets drunk and rapes Surka; she in turn commits suicide. Stricken with guilt, Leopold curses himself with an eternity of undead bloodlust combined with the inability to ejaculate, and kills himself. The remaining film takes place in the modern day: Leopold’s Transylvanian home is now a tourist attraction. Leopold sees an American woman named Sally (also played by Fox), who bears an uncanny resemblance to Surka, and follows her back to the United States. After a rekindling of the couple’s romance, the film climaxes with Leopold’s climax and his vamping of Sally. This breaks the curse: the two of them transform into doves and fly away.
From the outset Dracula Exotica subverts the typical pornographic economies of bodily fluids, particularly the money shot. The first sex scene troubles the strict direction of hardcore hetero semen consumption. Leopold, drunk and depressed, sits at the margins as his bawdy friends partake in some sex workers, all of whom are enthusiastic except one, whom they rape. After having intercourse with an enthusiastic sex worker, one of the men (Ron Jeremy) ejaculates over the reclining woman in a would-be classic money shot. However, the woman delightedly catches the semen on the apple she holds in her hand, takes a bite, and then thrusts it into Leopold’s mouth, laughing. Flinching angrily, Leopold pushes the apple away. Leopold’s resistance maintains the line between male and female consumption of semen (and thus of hetero- and homoerotic fluid exchange). Still, the delight this woman takes in moving the semen-coated apple to Leopold’s mouth is evidence of the pleasures of such queer boundary crossings as well as a hint at the homoerotics of blood consumption metaphorically present in the novel.
Following this curious opening, the film establishes semen, ejaculation, and blood as central components of the plot. The curse uttered by Leopold that shapes the narrative conflates sexual climax with the satisfaction of blood lust. Through this conflation, the film rhetorically claims to speak the silences of the novel, to literalize the metaphorical sexual content of Stoker’s text. However, Costello separates blood and semen even as he seems to conflate them: Leopold can consume blood and indeed does bite the necks of women. He cannot, however, ejaculate. Later in the night of the orgy, Leopold rapes Surka in a fit of drunken fury, and she commits suicide. Taking full responsibility for Surka’s (p.82) suicide, Leopold prepares to take his own life, explaining in a voiceover, “With the bloody blade that stilled that pure and loving heart, I swore an oath, taunting God to deny me no sanctuary in heaven …or in hell. To forever taint my guilty soul with a need for blood. To fan the burning fire of lust within me, but never be satisfied.” Having pierced his heart with the same bloody dagger that Surka used on herself, Leopold plunges himself into an eternity of frustrated limbo centered around desire for two bodily fluids: the consumption of blood and the ejaculation of semen. The former is attainable through the seduction of others; the latter is forever unattainable and rendered more desirable by the former. In porn, this is the ultimate punishment: no sexual fulfillment. For the spectator, this is also the ultimate punishment: no cum shot. Instead, Leopold can only consume the “other” fluid—the red one, rather than delivering the white.
Leopold’s curse creates a hardcore narrative focused on the denial of what many have observed to be the primary prerequisite of the hardcore pornographic film. This demonstrates the curiously destabilizing effect of the Victorian Gothic. On the one hand, Dracula Exotica exploits the rich sexual metaphors and silences of the coy Victorian novel. On the other hand, pornographic genre is shaken up and diverted by the perversions and Gothic technologies of Stoker’s tale. Leopold/Dracula is unable to climax, resulting in three unconventional hardcore scenes that creatively displace the money shot. First, Dracula’s vampire brides perform cunnilingus on each other and fellatio on him for what might be expected to be for his pleasure, but in reality is to his perpetual boredom. Indeed, he has his servant Renfroo douse them with holy water before setting off to the United States. Renfroo’s act of violence is the scene’s conclusion. Second, he hypnotizes cocaine smuggler Vita Valdez (Vanessa Del Rio) during his boat journey to America. He performs cunnilingus on her, biting her in the process, and turning her into his vampire secretary. Third, Leopold appears as an apparition in Sally’s mirror while she masturbates to his image, and they appear to connect psychologically, both painfully longing for the other. Significantly, the first two scenes culminate in death or violence (Valdez is vamped), which would seem to corroborate Pinedo’s contention that the “wet dream” of the porn film is comparable, even parallel, to the “wet death” of the slasher film (6). In addition, Leopold’s inability to produce the ejaculate necessary for a traditional hardcore climax leads to two different climaxes: one, a displaced “money shot” (a scalding dose of holy water to the face); the other, the draining of fluids from the woman’s body, an equally violent climax that is nonetheless subversive in its inversion of traditional pornographic fluid consumption. These explicitly (p.83) violent manifestations of the money shot should not merely be understood as simplistic demonstrations of the violence of pornographic sex. The scenes are indeed violent, though not as violent as hardcore’s mainstream cousins. These films function as both demonstrations of and commentaries on what Victorian authors hint at but never fulfill—that is, violent, fearful, and desirous reactions to active female sexuality.
As its finale, Dracula Exotica attempts to restore a generic imperative thus far denied: the money shot. After Leopold tells Sally of “the horror of my obscene craving for blood, the agony of my raging passion, which for these 400 years had remained unfulfilled,” Sally hopes to fulfill this lack. In this way, the film renders explicit the metaphor of vampirism and the desire to become the vampire’s victim. Leopold knows this would result in her death: “I would not pay such coin for my salvation.” Sally insists, and a slow and sensual sex scene ensues. Sally offers up not only her neck for Leopold’s consumption but also her other body parts for Leopold’s sexual gratification and ejaculation. He will draw her fluids at the same moment as she draws his.
The moment of vaginal penetration—sexual consummation, in traditional androcentric terms—is aurally and visually conflated with the penetration of Sally’s neck by Leopold. She urges, “Do it now, Leo,” and he bites her neck while also entering her vaginally. The money shot that follows is intended as the culmination of 400 years without climax: masturbating over Sally’s face, Leopold cries, “Surka!” repeatedly as crashing waves are spliced into the scene. When Leopold finally ejaculates, the magnitude of such a long-awaited money shot is displaced onto stopped clocks starting up again, Vita reduced to a skeleton, and Leopold and Sally’s disappearing. This money shot has the power to start and stop life. While the scene presents as traditionally heterosexual, androcentric, and romantic, this is also a moment of mutual fluid exchange and consumption that complicates the traditional gendering of such an exchange. When the couple departs as two doves, it is as partners who have shared not only in blood but also in semen.
Dracula as Racial Other
In his late-Victorian manifestation, the Count is understood by many scholars to represent the greedy, rapacious Jew. Fittingly, he is played in multiple hardcore films by Jewish performers. The character is often rendered romantic and rescued from his monstrous colonial Otherness. While Jack Halberstam warns against stabilizing monstrosity and perversity, he also observes that when Count Dracula appears in the flesh, he “embodies a particular ethnicity (p.84) and a peculiar sexuality” (91). Dracula’s “racial markings are difficult to distinguish from his sexual markings” (100), yet his physical features are undeniably similar to stereotypical anti-Semitic portraits of the Jew: “His face was strong—a very strong—aquiline, with a high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere” (Stoker 23). In London, Dracula is again described as “a tall, thin man, with a beaky nose and black moustache and pointed beard” (155). On discovering Dracula forcing Mina to drink blood from the wound in his chest, Dr. Seward describes “the great nostrils of the white aquiline nose” (247). Two of the three vampire sisters are “dark, and had high aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark, piercing eyes” (42). These descriptions, coupled with their Transylvanian residence that, it is emphasized, “is not England” (26), the Eastern European associations of the racial Other become quite clear.
Race, Vampirism, and Sex Work
Popular culture boasts a legacy of black vampires, ranging from Blacula to Blade. Sarah Broderick argues that the black vampire embodies “racial stereotypes and dominant fears about black men and black women,” and that black vampire narratives provide “a somewhat covert outlet for the racism and sexism of ages past.” At the same time, self-determined representation and a seizing of the vampire myth can be a form of resistance to such stereotyping even while playing up to these fears. The merging of black masculinity and vampirism resembles Mireille Miller-Young’s characterization of black performances of the pimp in porn movies hosted by rappers. These performances constitute a “self-articulation that makes use of black men’s outsider status and reframes it as an oppositional and autonomous masculinity that is defined by a consciously chosen and managed hypersexuality” (157). Count Dracula embodies a pimp-like character, overseeing his female progeny, managing and directing them. Mickey Royal, in his 1998 guide to pimping, The Pimp Game: An Instructional Guide, observes, “The Lord gave us pimps, and ho’s [sic] for pimps to feed off of, the same as the Lord provides the world with predators and prey” (7). He instructs the reader, “When you think of a pimp, think of a vampire, Count Dracula” (21). Likewise, in his 2013 memoir, PIMP: Reflections on My Life, Noble Dee recalls a pimp who “reminded me of that cat called Dracula, the vampire. Just like Dracula, this pimp could and would suck the life out of a hoe with his pimpin’” (14, italics in the original).
(p.85) Royal’s and Dee’s observations are helpful in terms of understanding the ways in which race, sex work, masculinity, and vampirism intersect, yet they underestimate the agency and complexities involved not only in sex work but also in vampirism. Dracula may well be a predator, but let us not forget that so are his “hos.” Moreover, submission to the bite is often coded as deeply pleasurable and something the “victim” is complicit in. Also, Dracula is perpetually hunted. The bravado that accompanies the pimp persona covers over a great deal of vulnerability and codependency when it comes to victims. With all this in mind, an understanding of the vampire/progeny relationship can illuminate overlooked dynamics of the pimp/sex-worker relationship and vice versa. Certainly, several manifestations of the Count in porn portray him as an actual pimp and reveal some of these complexities in ways that pimp anthropologists such as Royal and Dee are apparently hesitant to confess. A major distinction in this regard is that unlike the pimp or the rapper host, the black vampires of porn expose their bodies in ways that engender vulnerability through becoming not just the pimp but also the sex worker and object of the gaze (Miller-Young 160).
The 2008 Wicked Pictures release The Accidental Hooker reflects the ways in which pornography provides a space where the pimp/sex-worker relationship is complicated via vampirism, offering what amounts to an analysis of the dynamics of sex work. The black pimp vampire is also a sex worker, in that the performer is a sex worker playing a pimp. In The Accidental Hooker, performer Deep Threat plays Vladdy, a vampire who, based on his name and his red satin shirt, is intended to be Dracula. He arrives in his limo to pick up protagonist Silvia; he offers her cash, and she proceeds to provide the sexual services she has been hired for. The explicit transaction complicates Vladdy’s characterization as pimp, and yet the film casts him in this light through his “boss vampire” ethos, his accessories (cane, throne), and his physical disposition in an orgy scene where he is overlord of the cavorting vampire clan, watching and enjoying from afar. In this way, Dracula reads as pimp and pimp reads as Dracula.
Likewise, the film explicitly conflates sex worker and vampire, further complicating race and sex work through the technology of vampirism. Wicked contract girl Kaylani Lei plays the role of Sylvia, the titular “accidental hooker,” a sex worker who, in the style of Interview with the Vampire, is telling her story to a documentary film crew interviewing her for a piece on escorts. The narrative is made up of her various interactions with clients, and it concludes with a twist ending: Silvia is a vampire, and each of those (p.86) scenes we just enjoyed actually ended not simply with a money shot but with Silvia’s enjoyment of the client’s other fluid—blood.
The limo scene between Vladdy and Silvia is her turning—she is both “turned out” as a sex worker and turned into a vampire. At the moment of Vladdy’s ejaculation onto Silvia’s tongue she states in voice over, “And that was it. My life was over as I knew it. Things would never be the same again. I was now officially …[pause] …a hooker.” We discover later that here, “hooker” also means “vampire.” The ensuing extended analogy crystallizes the parallels of vampiric transformation and sex worker stigma: “I had crossed a line—a line that could never be uncrossed.” “But if you could uncross it, would you have?” asks the documentary interviewer. Silvia takes a long drag on her skinny cigarette: “I just knew I couldn’t. What was done was done. But the one thing I did know was that my life would never be the same again. I had changed and this was only the beginning” (emphasis added). Silvia’s vampiric change at the hands, or rather teeth (or penis? semen? cash? what is it that prompted Silvia’s “change”?), of Vladdy is as permanent as the change brought about by exchanging cash for sexual services. Her life will never be the same, and the line cannot be uncrossed. In this way, the film makes explicit the impossibility of return from the societal category of “whore,” framing this societal containment as a vampiric nighttime existence, as an actual change in blood, in body, and in species. Silvia inhabits three identities—vampire, sex worker, Asian American—that irrevocably Other her. The film integrates the three almost invisibly as a way of highlighting parallels of Otherness.
Born in the Philippines and of Chinese/Filipino descent, Lei is one of the most successful Asian American porn stars of all time. During her fourteen-year career, she performed in about 250 adult films. Her star power as a longtime Wicked Girl (2003–2005, 2007–2015) and her many lead roles in their feature films brings much to bear on the understanding of her performance as a vampire sex worker. Lei was a top star for many years and as Wicked Girl she connotes a particular level of glamour. Wicked Girls embody an ethos of strength, maturity, and sexual power. Current contract performers include jessica drake and Asa Akira; previous contract performers include Jenna Jameson, Sydnee Steele, and Stephanie Swift, women known for their strength of character, entrepreneurship, and dynamic sexual performances. Wicked Girls are also presented as intelligent and creative, often working as writers and educators in addition to being performers.6 As an Asian American Wicked Girl, Lei, like Asia Carrera of Vivid, “reinscribe[s] the tradition of hypersexuality as essential to race” (Shimizu 165) even while she also resists them through self-authorship. She and other Asian porn superstars “present (p.87) existing fantasies of Asian women as crucial to their self-perception and social legibility” (Shimizu 165). In performing the Asian high-class escort, Lei embodies one of these existing fantasies (the Asian “hooker”) and builds upon it through the combination of sexually confident, self-possessed vampire and high-priced, self-employed escort.
As the title of the film suggests, Silvia finds her profession of sex work by accident. Her existence as vampire is similarly accidental, occurring as a result of a client who, it is revealed at the end, is Dracula. The revelation that Silvia is a vampire recasts the preceding sex scenes in a new light, but even without the revelation Silvia is portrayed as a commanding sexual presence. She, the sex worker, functions first as a student and then as a sexual overseer. She is the (unreliable) narrator and has control over the way her story is told. In addition, she is repeatedly presented as financially autonomous (demanding her standard sex-work fee from the flustered documentary crew whom she sees as simply another client) as well as someone who operates alone. Scenes of Silvia—alone, confidently walking the streets of Los Angeles at night, sipping on a soda and glancing around at her surroundings—are visual accompaniment to her lengthy voice-over narration. When she visits a sex worker to see how professionals do sex work, she sits masturbating and watches the woman fuck a client, enjoying the scene in both an erotic and educational sense. Throughout, she is a participant primarily through her gaze. Occasionally, she steps in for a kiss, quickly returning to her post to continue her education.
(p.88) At the film’s close, we discover that Silvia’s clients have also been her victims. In turn, her subject position (and theirs) radically shifts. Through this twist, the film complicates the roles of sex worker and pimp, two forms of sex work that are traditionally highly gendered and arranged according to a simplistic, symbiotic power binary of owner and owned, pimp and “ho.” Vampirism helpfully reveals this relationship as one of mutual dependency and oscillating power relations. Vampiric sex work reveals the complex navigations of sexual representation, gender, and power in connection to race. Vampirism, sex work, and race speak to each other throughout the film. Silvia and Vladdy’s vampiric qualities of mastery, seduction, sexual desirability, and sexual exchange rearrange assumptions about race, gender, sex work, and power.
The Pleasures of Racialized Sexual Deviance
Stoker’s novel is notorious for the way it presents female sexual aggression as monstrous and unclean. Lucy in particular is singled out as monstrous because she is female and sexually aggressive. Craft goes as far as describing Lucy’s death-by-stake as “the novel’s real—and the woman’s only—climax” (“Kiss Me” 122), suggesting the slippage between sex and violence. Lucy’s death is equivalent to her orgasm: her petit mort. Mina and Lucy are the two central women in the novel, representing what Phyllis Roth describes as “the dichotomy of sensual and sexless woman” (412). Mina represents all that is virtuous, yet strong-minded, while Lucy is flirtatious and, after being bitten, aggressive in a “voluptuous” and sensual manner. As Roth also observes, the novel is riddled with comments that reflect a late-Victorian anxiety over the strident, sexual, and independent New Woman, fear of the loss of “good women” who fulfill traditional subservient gender roles, and a reaction to “fallen women” (411). In other words, Dracula plays out the familiar dichotomy of Madonna and Whore. Yet hardcore typically celebrates fallen and dark women resulting in Dracula adaptations that flatten the dichotomy. After all, pornography is a medium that generally requires the always-sexual woman, and is one of the only sites of unquestioned and encouraged active female sexuality.
While some of the hardcore Dracula films offer a Mina-esque “good woman” for Dracula to fall in lust with, the films are typically more enamored of Lucy-esque bad girls. Even the pornographic Mina characters, such as the sweet and naïve Amira of Voracious (2012), are also sexually aggressive and vampiric. The character of Surka/Sally in Dracula Exotica, too, (p.89) is depicted as pure in her former incarnation. As Sally, however, she does sex work in order to get information on her cases. Her “fallen” status has no impact on her desirability and indeed she is pursued by Leopold and is willingly vamped so they can be together for eternity. Centering the sexually rapacious, monstrous woman as simultaneously good and worthy of love is suggestive of hardcore’s recuperation of the “whore” by blurring the lines of good and bad girls. Monsters are, after all, typically celebrated in porn. Even the monstrous women who are Dracula’s nemeses, such as Del Rio’s Vita Valdez, are shown to be desirous, desirable, and powerful. Indeed, Del Rio appears on much of the publicity for the film. Porn renders the monstrously sexual sexually good.
Key to these pleasures in vampire porn is the racialized woman and the perverse celebration of their deviant sexualities. If Mina and Lucy are the dichotomous female protagonists of Dracula, then Surka/Sally and Vita Valdez are their corresponding characters in Dracula Exotica. Vita Valdez embodies a societal fear of the conflated racial/gendered Other expressed in several Victorian vampire narratives, including both Dracula and Carmilla. Marilyn Brock observes that both nineteenth-century stories represent fin de siècle anxieties over racial Others, female sexuality, and the decline in patriarchal power signaled by the New Woman: “In both narratives, the concept of the racial other is inextricably linked with female sexuality by nature of the vampire’s acts” (13). The various stakings in both stories are a way to contain these threats (130–31). Meanwhile, hardcore tends not to contain or demonize female sexual aggression. It is significant, then, that Vita Valdez, played by Latina porn icon Vanessa Del Rio, is the sexual threat that must be contained. Valdez is representative of the many pornographic vampires of color in that her vampirism serves as a technology with which to mobilize racialized and gendered pleasures, pleasures characterized by the erotics of power, submission, dependence, and autonomy that are the hallmark tensions of the vampire, and which are explored in pornography through race.
While Valdez is certainly a composite of Latin stereotypes (smuggling cocaine, sexually voracious, hyperbolic accent) her character is complicated by Del Rio’s own star power and the racialized and sexualized hyperbole that is Del Rio’s performative calling card. Her performances are defiant even as they appear to conform to stereotypes. As Juana María Rodríguez states, “Despite the roles she was offered, del Rio always brought her own brand of Latina glamour to the racial caricatures she was paid to play” (316). Through her star power, del Rio “conjur[ed] an alternate universe in which a young (p.90) Afro-Latina from Harlem could become an international porn sensation” (Rodríguez 316).
A cultural icon to both men and women from black and Latin communities alike, Del Rio has crafted an ethos of sexual aggression, authentic lust, and an embrace of all things slut. As detailed in her extravagantly mounted autobiography, Fifty Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior, she co-authored her images and performances from the start of her career (Hanson 194). Once she became a star, she would tell directors pre-scene, “Don’t even tell me what to do” (Hanson 228). Described as having “the world’s most carnal mouth; even in baby pictures her lips seem slightly obscene” (Hanson 12), it seems Del Rio was born to play a pornographic vampire. Indeed, Del Rio recalls her fantastical strategies of survival growing up in a dangerous neighborhood she was afraid of: “I’d conjure up demons, monsters, just to fight them off, to prove to myself that I was invincible” (Hanson 31). However, she asserts, “I don’t have Victorian fantasies. I never see myself walking through a field of flowers before I’m ravaged. I see myself giving a blowjob before I’m ravaged [laughs]” (Hanson 271). And yet, in Dracula Exotica, she participates in a quintessentially Victorian fantasy, just not the flowery kind we sometimes associate with the Victorian period. This is the Victorian fantasy of sexually aggressive women, the pleasures of submission, deviant Others, queer fluid arrangements, and gender inversion. Del Rio is the embodiment of these particular Victorian qualities par excellence.
On a superficial narrative level, Vita is victim to containment, rape, and eventual extermination. At the same time, Del Rio’s performance and star power together with the sexual numbers she performs complicate simplistic dichotomies of femininity through her oscillation between aggressive and passive woman. While Vita is punished, she is also dominant, exacts revenge, is artful in her schemes, and is a central erotic and identificatory touchstone in the film. Indeed, in line with porn’s preferences it is Del Rio the trouble-making bad girl on the box cover, not fellow superstar good girl, Samantha Fox.
Del Rio’s first sex scene in Dracula Exotica demonstrates her character’s sexual and vocational dominance. Vita is introduced on the boat wherein Leopold is hiding himself. She is the leader of a gang of male cocaine smugglers and is immediately shown to be in control of her sexuality, in control of her gang of men, and sexually demanding of others. After sampling the cargo, one of the gang, Eric (Ron Hudd), starts groping Vita, and she knees him in the crotch, snapping, “No one fuck with Vita Valdez unless Vita want them to.” Vita is sexually domineering in a way that Sally is not. Sally poses as a sex worker and goes along with the exploitative advances of Big Bird (Eric (p.91) Edwards), but Vita is in charge and refuses the men unless these advances are on her terms. As if to prove this fact, she demands that the three other men get undressed so they can have an impromptu orgy. Only Eric is left out, sitting at the sidelines while the others enjoy some preliminary sexual activity. Ultimately, however, Vita feels sorry for Eric and invites him to join in. Throughout this scene, Vita directs the sexual activity, telling the men to “hurry up” at the beginning, giving permission to Eric to participate, enjoying all three men as they orally pleasure her. She finally commands, “Fuck me Eric. Now.” Vita sets the parameters, and the men obey.
Vita also inhabits submissive sexuality, first when under Dracula’s hypnosis (she is unable to resist his sexual powers and allows herself to be bitten), and second when she is dead and in the process of becoming a vampire. In this latter scene, Rudy the morgue attendant rapes her on the morgue slab in a memorably unsettling sequence. Del Rio remains completely immobile and slack throughout, never breaking character to embody an active porn star persona. The vamping of Rudy that concludes the scene goes some way toward avenging her violation and further demonstrates the way vampire narratives mobilize the highly desirable passive and active sexual female subject. Valdez occupies oscillating positions, moving from dominant to submissive and back again throughout the film and sometimes within the same scene.
Men, too, occupy these oscillating positions. Leopold employs Vita, now a vampire, as his secretary, a typically feminine menial job in which she is supposed to be subservient to Leopold. In reality, she is using her stereotypical role to scheme against Leopold, and her role-playing is depicted as amusing, with Leopold the butt of the joke. Later, the newly vamped Vita takes her sexual revenge on the racist detective Blick (Roger Caine) who hates “spics.” The subsequent BDSM scene, in which Vita treats Blick as the “piggy” he is, making him “oink” and serve her sexual wishes, indicates the oscillating power dynamics of the Dracula narrative and the pleasures of being a switch. These power dynamics are heightened by racial difference, a difference addressed through the metaphor of the vampire. Nothing in hardcore is truly as static or stationary as it appears, and the wildly pivoting and pleasurable nature of Del Rio’s racialized sexual performance is starkly indicative of this. Vita Valdez’s character exploits the vampiric exotic, while also creating a space for subversive performative racialization.
Del Rio utilizes her notorious Latina persona as a way of intimidating Blick, enacting what Jennifer C. Nash calls “race pleasure.” Nash argues that women of color can generate pleasure through hyperbolic performances of race, while viewers of color can experience pleasure through these performances (p.92) (93). Hyperbole and hyper-racialized performance can highlight the constructed, artificial nature of racialized representation and stereotype (Capino). Vita/Del Rio deploys this hyper-racialized performance to mock and intimidate her racist persecutor. Blick is initially confused by the apparent resurrection of a dead woman, but Vita deflects Blick’s confusion by invoking his racism and using it against him: “You know what they say, that us Spics all look alike too.” Blick is also confused by his mingled feelings of disgust and desire, foregrounding the hypocrisy of racist sexual fetishism, a conflicted attitude toward the sexually aggressive, exotic woman—an attitude that comes straight from the pages of Stoker’s novel. As Vita grows increasingly predatory, Blick attempts to leave, exclaiming, “I don’t like your filthy hands touching me …!” Mocking his racism, Vita exclaims, “Ooo-ee! I do believe you don’t like us spics,” and persists in her advances. Blick closes his eyes, grappling with his conflicting emotions, and the screen dissolves to a shot of him naked, with bloody bite marks on his neck.
As with so many other hardcore vampire narratives, the moment of vampiric penetration is absent. Hardcore’s claim to speak the hypocritical silences of the Gothic Victorian text is again contradicted by heteroporn’s coyness when it comes to penetration of the male, but also by society’s condemnation (p.93) of pornography’s alleged violence and porn’s subsequent self-censorship. Instead, Vita is shown in a black dominatrix outfit complete with bat wings, while Blick is entirely nude and on all fours. The role reversal is immediate and startling. The scene itself involves Vita’s continued humiliation of Blick, forcing him to “Come to me like a pig,” prompting him to “oink” repeatedly, kiss her feet, and perform cunnilingus on her. The absence of any penetration of Blick is compensated for by Vita’s dynamic, dominant sexual exploitation of him. The dominatrix sex scene speaks the Victorian Gothic vampire bite that, ironically, porn cannot represent.
The power dynamics of the money shot are also subtly destabilized. Vita is on her knees in a traditionally submissive position, while Blick stands above her in a traditionally dominant position. Yet Vita aggressively demands the semen, complicating simplistic notions of feminine passive receptiveness, as she orders, “Cum in my face! Cum in my face!” She responds to the facial with fangs bared, growling and writhing. Vita oscillates between active and passive in a similar way to her treatment on the morgue slab. Even during the money shot, she is sexually aggressive, challenging simplistic cultural meanings of submission. While the enthusiastic and aggressive reception of a money shot is common in porn, it is the vampire mythos together with (p.94) del Rio’s hyper-racialized performance that explicitly mobilize a challenge to simplistic ideas of passive femininity or exotic sexual deviance.
Pornographic representations of women echo the dueling sensations of pollution and eroticism evoked by Lucy and the vampire sisters in Stoker’s Dracula. The rhetorical position of women in porn is emphasized dramatically in hardcore Dracula films that seek to expose the suppressed content of Stoker’s novel. In the novel, Jonathan regards the vampire sisters as “both thrilling and repulsive” (42), while Lucy’s changed state makes the Crew “shudder with horror” (187). Mina, during her precarious state of transition, repeatedly cries out that she is “‘Unclean! Unclean!’” and has “‘polluted flesh!’” (259). Blick’s disgust with Vita echoes the disgust leveled at the transformed women in Stoker’s Dracula, and more specifically the conflicting feelings of pleasure and horror Jonathan experiences. But there is nothing disgusting about Vita. Indeed, Blick is portrayed as a fool and the butt of Vita’s racial jokes. In addition, Vita’s sexual aggression is unchanged—she was sexually dominant before her transformation, and remains so in her altered state, only now with supernatural powers of control. The repulsion and confusion Blick experiences are not due to her sexuality alone, but also to her race. In this way, the gendered fear of reverse colonization is present in both novel and film. In the former, the reader is meant to fear the Other even as they may experience simultaneous desire. In the latter, the Other is desirable as a result of their sexual deviance, their monstrosity, their nastiness.
Blick’s disgust and arousal is a highly gendered fear of reverse colonization, only here the audience presumably wants this “colonization” to occur. Just as men have occupied women’s bodies, Vita is intent on occupying Blick’s. The film mocks racism and celebrates active female sexuality even if the monster must be vanquished, in turn suggesting that erotic appeal and sexuality are closely tied up in racist attitudes and ideologies. Desire for and disgust toward the racial-female Other, the film suggests, work together seamlessly, just as in the nineteenth century. Vita also conjures late-nineteenth-century fears of racial impurity, suggesting that American fears of the (re)pollution of United States soil by immigrant “spics” is the 1980s version of this nineteenth-century angst. Dracula Exotica exemplifies how hardcore offers space to challenge social constructions of race and gender even while it also exploits the most hyperbolized manifestations of societal racism and misogyny. Ironically, performers and directors are able to provide surprisingly direct transgressive moments of “speaking back” due to the blatant intent to outrage that is part of hardcore’s rhetoric.
(p.95) The pervasiveness of pornographic Draculas is testament to the sexual power and ambiguous gender dynamics of Stoker’s novel. Of all the texts discussed in this book, Dracula is surely the most overtly sexual, bordering on the pornographic, as so many scholars have observed. Yet, as with all neo-Victorian pornography, the use of an era unable to fully speak the sexual in order to stage pornographic transgression creates further silences and delicate navigations of the sexual content pornography claims to speak unabashedly. Merely by resexualizing Victorian novels in an unsimulated, explicit fashion, pornography claims to boldly go where Victorians could not. However, these hardcore films go boldly into terrain that is also carefully sanctioned by the generic demands of hardcore and its intricate and sometimes convoluted categories. Porn constantly navigates abject fluids, gendered bodies, and sexual identity; it monitors, separates, and conflates. Together with the invocation of vampirism as a technology of female sexual agency and racial subjectivity, these conflicting interests produce a queering effect. Hardcore Dracula films mine the rich silences in Stoker’s novel and demonstrate the deviant and oscillating pleasures at the constantly mobile erotic intersection of race, gender, and power.
(1.) For the most comprehensive listing of all representations of Dracula in popular media to date, and with a section devoted entirely to the myriad X-rated Dracula films, see John Edgar Browning and Caroline Joan (Kay) Picart, eds. Dracula in Visual Media.
(2.) Over the past three or four years, rimming has emerged as an unexpectedly popular sex act when performed by a woman on a man. Not only does this sex act acknowledge the male anus as an erogenous zone, it also requires a physical position on the part of the man that might be seen as prone, vulnerable, or otherwise feminine. Moreover, rimming often involves penetration with the tongue. This new trend is rarely labeled to alert consumers, meaning it is fast becoming a normal part of mainstream porn repertoire.
(3.) It is also possible that the actor, Barrett Blade, simply did not want to eat his own semen, an understandable line in the sand.
(4.) Costello asserts that the writer, Schwartz, “lift[ed] the story from the screenplay of Love at First Bite, which had done very good box office six months earlier. Schwartz vehemently denied any connection, but the similarity was too extreme to be coincidental.” E-mail interview, April 12, 2012.
(5.) The film does not specify its period setting, but based on Leopold’s narration, which asserts that as of 1980 he has lived in his castle for four hundred years, it is reasonable to assume that his romance with Surka happened roughly four hundred years prior.
(6.) The accomplishments and specific talents of Wicked contract stars are numerous and too extensive to list completely. Of the currently signed stars, Stormy Daniels was the first woman contracted to write, direct, and star in an adult film (critically acclaimed Camp Cuddly Pines’ Powertool Massacre ). jessica drake directs the Wicked sex ed line, jessica drake’s Wicked Guide to Sex. drake also participates in academic circles, while Daniels considered running for a U.S. Senate seat in her home state of Louisiana, against David Vitter. She is now even better known on an international scale for publicly taking on President Donald Trump. Asa Akira, one of Wicked’s most recently signed stars, wrote a well-received memoir, Insatiable, and prior to signing with Wicked had directed Gangbanged 6 for Elegant Angel. She also co-hosted and served as a mentor on the reality show Sex Factor. drake and Akira openly identify as feminists, while Daniels is conflicted over the label but nevertheless believes in the importance of female-crafted pornographies (Milne).