Tag Archives: writing immortals

Q&A: Immortals, Age Differences, and Consent

Okay, I don’t know who to ask, so I came here. Does pedophilia count if one person is immortal? I.e. Edward Cullen, who should already get a restraining order because stalking. Idk, just wondering.

In the specific case of Twilight, it’s ephebophilia. Edward Cullen engages in pathological attraction to a teenager. Ephebophilia is attraction to individuals in the 15-19 range. So, in short: No, but that’s not better. Cullen is still a sexual predator.

Except, that’s not exactly the question you’re asking. You want to know if the significant age difference between an immortal character, you cited vampires, and a mortal is pedophilia. It’s not, but it is still messed up.

If you have an immortal who’s actively attracted to children, that’s pedophilia. Just like if you have a mortal character who does the same. If they’re 11-14, that’s hebephilia, 15-19 is ephebophilia. They’re still part of the larger range of paraphilic behaviors. It doesn’t particularly bother me when people lump all three of these together under one heading, they can all result in extremely harmful abuse, but Cullen is an excellent example of an ephebophile.

Also, while we’re dragging up specific paraphilias and talking about vampires, hematolagnia is the sexual fetishization of drinking blood.

If you have an immortal that’s attracted to adult mortals, that’s not technically a documented paraphilia, given that, in the real world, we don’t have vampires wandering around targeting college coeds, but the behavior would probably be a paraphilia in a world where this actually happened, with a few critical caveats.

It’s worth remembering that vampires are parasitic. For all their claims of being nocturnal predators, these are creatures that are dependent on feeding on others. So, we’re really talking about sexual relationships with a people-shaped mosquito. The vampire may simply be exploiting their victim’s sex drive to get dinner. That wouldn’t be paraphilic, also wouldn’t be romantic, no matter what the victim believed.

Also, while we’re on the subject, the idea of someone maintaining a romantic relationship with their food is strange. I’m also thinking of the line from What We Do in the Shadows, “If you’re going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it.” But, the reasoning is sound.

Here’s an open question: Is it possible for an immortal to have a healthy relationship with a mortal at all?

Relationships with uneven power dynamics are possible, but extremely difficult and risky. When you’re talking about someone with significantly more life experience, holding them against someone who lacks that runs a serious risk for psychologically abusive behavior. This can happen in the real world when someone becomes involved in someone who’s significantly older. Ex: a college student and their professor. And, we’re just talking about normal humans, crank that out by adding an immortal, and the centuries spent practicing their social skills creates a very imbalanced situation.

Relationships require shared experiences. These don’t have to be things that happened while you were together, but it does require a common frame of reference. This in turn makes communication easier, as you’ll have a broader base of familiar concepts. Somewhat obviously, if someone has radically different life experiences, for example, they grew up in 14th century France and have been preying on humans for the last 600 years, that’s going to make a shared frame of reference a bit harder.

This isn’t insurmountable, but it means that, in order to have a healthy relationship, one participant is going to have to do a lot more to learn about the other. Specifically in the case of a mortal and immortal pairing, that will be a very asymmetric situation. Learning about 20 years you were there for, just doing other things, is vastly different from trying to learn about centuries of experiences in a non-academic context.

Also worth pointing out, this would be a problem for immortals pairing with each other. That said, they’d already have more shared context, and the idea that you’d see immortals bouncing off each other with centuries apart before reuniting isn’t really that strange. After all, they’d still have far more in common with each other than anyone else.

There is another, basically inevitable, outcome. Immortals who viewed mortals as an, “emotional sampler platter.” Because they’ll be around long after the human is dead, they wouldn’t take the time to create a serious emotional investment. Latching onto someone who caught their attention, and then abandoning them when their whims changed. Fueled by centuries of social skills, this could be trivial for them. Think of it as a slightly extended one night stand, but with the mortal unaware that they were just a passing fancy. There wouldn’t even be the potential for long term entanglements.

Granted, when we’re talking about immortals who have the capacity to convert others, (primarily thinking of vampires here, though there are other possible examples) you might have a slightly different set of dynamics. Still kinda messed up, and I wouldn’t expect that relationship to be healthy, long term. Especially since the mortal would, almost certainly, not be making a fully informed decision to become immortal.

The decision sounds deceptively simple, do you want to live forever? But the trade off is that you’ll be forever cutting yourself off from the vast majority of the world. You will live to see everyone you’ve known and cared about grow old and die (or, just die), while you’re trapped in amber, never aging. You’re also permanently anchoring yourself to a faction of immortals, probably with political baggage stretching back throughout human history. There’s no realistic way to stick all of that on the brochure when offered the possibility of immortality. Worse, if the immortal is acting out of infatuation, they’re not likely to go into the in depth history lesson of who pissed off whom in the Roman Republic and how that will affect your immortality. Even if they do, operationalizing that info into something you can understand is a stretch for someone who hasn’t graduated high school.

Stepping past all of that, you’ve heard the question, “where do you see yourself in five years?” Personally, I’ve never had an answer to that, but, “where do you see yourself in 500 years?” Fuck.

I’m looping around this topic, but problem ultimately is consent. If you have an immortal and mortal attempting to start a relationship, it’s very difficult for the mortal to provide informed consent. Even in situations where there’s no malicious intent it’s, at best, troubling. In most cases, it will be downright predatory.

If the frame of reference is Edward Cullen, he is sexually preying on, and psychologically abusing a teenager, using a mix of his experience and powers. It doesn’t help that Bella isn’t exactly the sharpest crayon in the box, but the entire situation is profoundly messed up.

-Starke

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