Libido in Dracula

High libido—or any amount of sexual energy save for that which was necessary for reproduction, and then only between a married couple—was severely condemned by Victorian society. According to Heather Marie Ward in Psychosexualism in Victorian Literature, 19th century society placed “immense importance on semen,” so that it was considered “more important in the male body than blood” (53). Semen was thought to be the bodily fluid that helped “men maintain their physical and mental strength” (Ward 53) and loss of that bodily fluid led to health defects in the Victorian male. Thus, sexual relations were heavily discouraged. This sort of atmosphere did not allow for much exploration of oneself or one’s sexual preferences. People were forced to turn to literature and the arts as a sort of escapism from the uptight propriety of Victorian society. Dracula was revolutionary in its perverse nature. The first blatantly sexual scene in the novel was Jonathan’s twisted encounter with the three vampiric women, in which Stoker placed an emphasis on body parts (“voluptuous lips…red lips…human lips…arched neck…went on her knees” (Stoker 45)) and phrases (longing… wicked, burning desire…sweetness…coquettishly…agony of delight…voluptuousness…licked her lips…lower went her head” (Stoker 45)) that are reminiscent of sex. Such overt imagery was not usually present in the literature of the day, and understandably caught the attention of Victorian readers. Second was Dracula’s rape of Mina, in which he demanded her silence, threatening that if she so much as “made a sound,” he would “dash [Jonathan’s] brains out” before her eyes. Dracula forced Mina to exchange blood with him. Strangely, though, he forces her to “swallow some of the blood” from an open “vein in his breast,” a perverse inversion of breastfeeding, and therefore a perverse inversion of gender roles, which seems to demonize the exploration of masculinity and femininity. Sex and sexuality were grossly misunderstood and underdiscussed by Victorians, and even by Stoker. The Athenaeum review of Dracula suggested it was a book solely for the lower class to be reading. However, it addressed an important topic—sex—vital to the human experience, which the upper classes would not deign to discuss.