Why do people want to fuck the dead? I mean, we really ought to know better, but they’re so attractive! Take HBO’s True Blood series. Dead things get to be pretty damn sexy.
Of course, the vampires in True Blood are pretty much always 1) Immortal; 2) Way powerful; and 3) Perpetually attractive and horny. Vampires are classically sexy, both titillating and forbidden. When I think of Bela Lugosi in Dracula, I think of a mysterious and powerful man in a tux.
You don’t see a lot of zombies in tuxes, though. Unlike their vampire brethren, zombies are not immortal—often they die within a few moments of starting their undead life. They’re not powerful; they’re dumb. But there’s no reason why they couldn’t be attractive and horny.
I want to point out something central about attraction. For a romantic relationship to begin, two elements must be satisfied. There needs to be an acknowledgement of a spark. And then there needs to be a sufficient amount of encounters to fan this possible spark. Sparks fly constantly—i.e. with the barista, the sister’s friend, and the cute girl on the BART train—but most sparks die quietly because chasing someone around and charming them is a lot of work!
This is where zombies win. They come after their intended with a level of need and desire so much greater than anything mere humans can do. Whether they’re brain-eating or flesh-munching zombies, they want to take the very essence of you INSIDE THEMSELVES, which is a nice little reversal of the penetrative act of penis-driven seduction.
But it can’t just be about them wanting you. For zombies to be truly sexy, you have to want them, too. This is why the post-Romero shambling corpse doesn’t get invited home: nobody wants grave dirt in their sheets.
The sexual subtext has been around in the zombie genre for at least a little while—ever seen Zombie Strippers?—but it’s been done with a distancing sense of irony. The audience is invited to laugh at the strippers who get turned into zombies because zombies make better money, and to laugh at the kind of clientele who would desire zombie strippers more than real flesh-and-blood girls. But even a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the potential seductive power of the zombie is a step towards unpacking the erotic core of seduction by a supernatural being. If vampires can be sexy, then mere death can’t be enough to stop us from sexualizing zombies.
Amelia Beamer’s debut novel The Loving Dead, with zombies and a Zeppelin, has been praised by the likes of Christopher Moore, Peter Straub, and John Skipp. Read the first four chapters at her site.