What Women Want: Twilight

twilight-eclipseA lot of men take my women’s psych course because they want to know what women want.

Maybe they should watch Twilight instead.

A woman I know of named Tracie Lamb was surprised that her daughters were more engrossed in Twilight than in their Hawaiian vacation. She knew the book series had soldover 100 million copies and that the films have made about a billion dollars. Curious, she started reading and became absorbed, herself. Wondering about the book’s allure, she made a record of what made her “tingle” and amassed a cornucopia of “invaluable information for the opposite sex.”

Here are her musings from a piece called, Wanna Know What Women Want?”

Women want to captivate the men they love as Edward is captivated by Bella. He gazes at her. He watches her sleep. A sexy waitress flirts with him, but he only has eyes for his love:

She smiled at him again. “You have a nice evening.” He didn’t look away from me as he thanked her.

Later he tells her, “You’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. You fascinate me.”

Edward also listens to Bella, and he wants to know everything about her.

He seemed engrossed in our conversation… He says, “I want to know what you’re thinking – everything.”

Edward is completely devoted, telling Bella that, “You are my life now… I will always want you forever… You’re like my own personal brand of heroin.” (Well, love has been described as being like a drug.)

And instead of being on a quest to satisfy his sexual hunger he seeks to control it because he wants to protect Bella. (He fears he will drain her blood with his vampire instinct unless he controls himself.) That may make him sexy-safe for girls who are just discovering their sexuality, but his desire to protect, generally, is itself a strong draw. He’s not just strong, but his strength is directed at aiding his love. He’s always there for her. And she is more important than his own self and his own wants.

Now mind you, women may want to take care of themselves and their men, but they also like a man who takes care of them and who makes them feel safe and secure. So it goes both ways.

Edward’s brand of love may not appeal to every woman, but it sure appeals to a lot of them.

Tracie concludes with these words:

When a man looks at a woman, he sees the woman. When a woman looks at a man, she sees herself reflected in his eyes. What’s important is not how you look to her, but how you look at her and how you look out for her. It’s how you make her feel: fascinating, cherished, protected.

Next week: Twilight vs. Porn

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 14, 2012, in psychology, relationships, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. I remember when the Twilight series first came out and everyone that I saw reading these books was absolutely hooked. I actually never read the series but I’ve seen all of the movies and I was hooked after the first one. For hopeless romantics, I can see why this book would be so enticing. I think we were all so drawn to how incredibly protective and loving he was towards her. He only had eyes for her which is another draw for women, especially in today’s society.
    I agree that this sense of wanting to be taken care of goes both ways for women. Bella comes off as very independent and willing to stand on her own. Her personality was a bit cold in the beginning, but then we see how Edward brings out the lover in her. The soft side that we all can resonate with. I think that’s what so many women want.

  2. This is an interesting read, and I agree that there is some social commentary in terms of why women are so fascinated and involved with the Twilight series, but it says a lot about the emotional maturity of the reader. I too was totally engrossed with this series when it first came out, and a lot of it had to do with the romance between Edward and Bella, their chemistry, and the fact that he seemed completely and undyingly devoted to her. Then I grew up a little, and stepped back and examined their romance. When you truly examine their relationship, it actually reads a lot more like complete emotional abuse where Edward is an obsessed and controlling partner. Almost all of the things he does that at first seem super romantic are actually borderline stalker behavior. He creeps into her house to watch her sleep, he monitors her every move, he is insanely jealous and overprotective, and he wants to control every aspect of her life including who she sees and where she goes. This is all done under the guise of the loving and devoted boyfriend. The story also has a lot of parallels to “Fifty Shades of Gray” in terms of having a male protagonist with extremely unhealthy emotionally obsessed behavior. I wouldn’t qualify the series as completely bad, but I think it demonstrates a lot of problems that are still inherent in our society in terms of how women think about themselves and how they want to be loved. We all want to be worshipped, but we need to learn that there is a difference between devotion and domination.

  3. Great article Ms. Platts! Before reading this article, I came in with the perception that “a vast majority of women like reading Twilight, definitely!” However, the content within the acclaimed novel goes beyond the plot line. As suspected, I figured most girls enjoy reading these types of novels because it is pretty much a compilation of everything they look for in a man. The attention, the looks, etc. all of these components appeal to girls and I would most certainly agree with you, Ms. Platts, that men should take a shot a watching Twilight if they are so desperate for answers! As one becomes more familiar with the Twilight series however, it should be of no surprise as to why girls find the overall content and story line of the series to be some compelling— or addicting.

  4. This is taken from the book “The evolution of desire” by David M. Buss

    A different explanation has been offered for the preferences of women for men with resources, based on the so-called structural powerlessness of women. According to this view, because women are typically excluded from power and access to resources, which are largely controlled by men, women seek mates who have power, status, and earning capacity. Women try to marry upward in socioeconomic status to gain access to resources. Men do not value economic resources in a mate as much as women do because they already have control over these resources and because women have no resources anyway.
    The society of Bakweri, from Cameroon in West Africa, casts doubt on this theory by llustrating what happens when women have real power. Bakweri women hold greater personal and economic power because they have more resources and are in scarcer supply than men. Women secure resources through their own labors on plantations, but also from casual sex, which is a lucrative source of income. There are roughly 236 men for every 100 women, an imbalance that results from the continual influx of men from other areas of the country to work on the plantations. Because of the extreme imbalance in numbers of the sexes, women have considerable latitude to exercise their choice in a mate. Women thus have more money than men and more potential mates to choose from. Yet Bakweri women persist in preferring to have a mate with resources. Wives often complain about receiving insufficient support from their husbands. Indeed, lack of sufficient economic provisioning
    is the most frequently cited divorce complaint of women. Bakweri women change husbands if they find a man who can offer them more money and pay a larger bride price. When women are in a position to fulfill their evolved preference for a man with resources, they do so. Having the dominant control of economic resources does not circumvent this key mate preference.]

    • Men and women both prefer mates with resources, Unless patriarchy gets in the way.

      In India women come with dowery. The boys family tries to get a woman with as much diary as possible. If a a boy marries a girl and she doesn’t bring enough dowry, her parents maybe threatened — that they will hurt the girls unless they get more money. When they don’t get enough money they sometimes have a “Kitchen accident.” The daughter-in-law Cook for the family over a wood burning stove and her in-laws throw flammable fluid on her. She goes up in flames. Now they can have their son marry another girl who can bring in dowery.

      Probably the only exception to this is in patriarchies where a man can feel put down if his wife is more successful than him. His status — higher status than hers partly because he brings in more resources — is more important than having a lot of money from her.

      Used to be men didn’t care about the resources women brought in — back when women didn’t have much capacity to make a lot of money. But as women now earn more money, Men are more likely to want a woman who has a good earnings capacity.

      Maybe most importantly, Charles Darwin critiqued this theory, pointing out that in the upper classes of Great Britain during the time he lived, man cared very much about the resources that a woman could bring in. Which is the basis of many a Jane Austen novel. Pride and Prejudice, For instance revolves around the conflict that the hero feels about marrying a poor girl who doesn’t have resources equal to his.

  5. I have to disagree here. I really don’t think this is a healthy book for girls when it comes to learning about the opposite gender. Edward Cullen is a creepy stalker, and for some reason it’s okay that he follows Bella around like a… stalker. It teaches that codependence is desirable. That is dangerous in situations where a woman is in an abusive relationship with someone who will tell her things like Edward does.
    Still a better love story than 50 Shades of Grey, though.

    • The book and movie have been wildly popular among young women and their moms. I don’t think that the creepy stalker is the reason — and that’s not what I was talking about in this post. It’s more the subtlety that is intriguing.

  6. Natthinee Sutjaitham

    “Now mind you, women may want to take care of themselves and their men, but they also like a man who takes care of them and who makes them feel safe and secure.” That is very true at least for me. I think the important message from Twilight is that Why worry about whether you’re a nice person, or interesting to be with, or friendly, or just the kind of person that anyone might want to spend time with? Edward doesn’t care, he’ll love you just the way you are, no effort required. Real relationships require effort and compromise. Because Bella is an ordinary girl just like them, who this perfect, rich, unique physical specimen falls for despite having absolutely nothing in common with her. He is so protective of her and never wants her to get harmed. Every girl wants a man like that or someone who loves them, not looking at her as an object.

  7. i believe that there are all kinds of women out there. some begin to want this type of affection in there early stages of dating and some at there later maybe college years. i dont think its wrong that a women would want this kiind of attention but i do believe that there are some women who even form very early on dont care for much of any kind of romance.

  8. Different women want different things, so you can’t really define what women want categorically.

    Personally, I can’t do the whole devotion thing. I would have to pretend, which just isn’t me. Which is why I prefer FWB arrangements.

  9. I thought it was creepy in the beginning of the series how Edward would watch Bella without her even knowing. It makes Edward come off as a “stalker,” in my opinion. Bella thinks anything Edward does is incredible and romantic. However the whole “always being there for her” can also come off as a trust issue to some people who are reading the series. Everyone gets his or her own message from the movie. Some women will even compare their relationship with Bella and Edwards. Some men may even put on a false act and pretend to be someone like Edward and a few months after he is in a relationship he’ll act like the person he really is.

  10. Twilight is the type of book that someone of any age can get hooked on. Especially the female crowd. Twilight gives women, and girls the idea that there are guys out there who want to connect with you on a deeper level. Edward Cullen is the type of character who women fall in love with, and this is because his relationship with Bella isn’t based on sex. He cares about her, and wants to protect her. But as I get to thinking more about it, why Bella? The first thing that comes to my mind is maybe because shes the type of girl who is “hard to get”. Bella is the only person whose mind cannot be read by Edward. There may be signs on both sexes. The female crowd loves the book because it is the type of romantic relationship we look for, but also makes it seem like guys only want the hard to get type of girls.

  11. I remember reading the first Twlight book years ago and I was pretty immersed, however I did not go on to read the sequels. I think that is because I was aware that the book is merely a writing of fiction just like the movie depicts a fantasy tale. I tend to prefer having a more realistic perspective in life, instead of obsessing over some ideal. These stories raise false expectations in people on both sides. For women particularly, they should not expect that this perfect man will enter their life or that every guy is an Edward. Personally, I notice that guys try to make the best impression initially when they want to “sweep a girl off her feet” so to speak. This may lead one to fall in love and focus only on the good qualities of someone. This can create disillusionment because we are reluctant to view and accept flaws or maybe a harsh reality. If the guy loses interest or he’s trying to play her, a girl still justifies being with him or at least wanting him because of how he acted in the beginning. Or even if she recognizes that he’s not right, she believes she can change him somehow. False illusions too often tempt and cloud people’s judgment. If the guy wants to be with the girl, he will sustain a clear effort, but girls should be realistic and follow gut instinct. In guy’s defense, even if he wants a relationship with a girl, he is not entitled to be with her every minute, sacrifice and throw everything away for her – that isn’t healthy for anyone, or compare himself to a surreally beautiful and perfect character. I would argue that true love emerges in a relationship where two people can cherish each others’ flaws and commit to overlooking everything that falls short of our generally too high expectations.

  12. “It’s how you make her feel: fascinating, cherished, protected.”

    Yep. That is what we want.

  13. I think those who have read the twilight series, including myself, can relate to this idea of what women want. The author does a good job using senses and leaves the reader wanting those feelings to happen to them. In general, I don’t believe twilight is the ideal relationship. it may seem like it is because of the fact that is very well known by people and that is what they are being exposed to. I feel like for someone who hasn’t read twilight, they would have a different perspective on what the ideal relationship is like. Women also want some privacy from their partner, watching them sleep and wanting to know everything (even thoughts) about their partner just seems creepy.

  14. When the books for Twilight first became popular me and my friends took turns reading them over and over again! We could not get enough of them..and the movies just made it better. So far we have gone to every midnight premier just to see them. I think what makes every girl fall in love and wish that they had a man like Edward in their life is because he is just so caring and protective over Bella. Every girl that I know loves the fact that he is just so hooked onto her and wold literally do anything for her. It is the fact that he is the kind of guy that wants to hear what she has to say, wants to be with her every minute, and that she could not do anything wrong in his mind to change that. It is the sense that she is perfect to him. I think what also gets to the girls that read and watch these movies is that Edward has been around for thousands of years and has never found a girl like Bella to love, and she is just a normal ordinary everyday girl.

  15. I would go crazy with that much attention. Absolutely insane. It is a whole lot more fun to be there for each other. Feeling separate from each other is something I treasure.

  16. invisibleimagings

    Samual2112 may have a point. Stereotyping anyone (female or male) dehumanizes them and makes it difficult for her/him to be a real authentic human being with flaws, issues and baggage. Nobody likes it but so many do it. I personally have never fit into the boxes that men and women have tried to wedge me into.

    I personally steer clear of the “dark and silent” types. I would be perfectly happy to date flawed guys who have issues/baggage and express their emotions in healthy ways. To me a healthy man is one who is always striving to learn from their mistakes and improve themselves.

    The most important thing I get from looking at the of appeal of Twilight (and most romance novels) is that the woman is central and very important to the man in her life. In real life this RARE. Most men do not define themselves by the woman in their life. He derives his self identity, his self worth by his work, his accomplishments, the obstacles he has overcome, etc. He has a life separate from her. While this is not a bad thing necessarily, many men fail see the need to show a woman that she is important to him. They go too far and focus on their own wants, goals and gratification almost exclusively. That leaves women feeling marginalized, unimportant and unappreciated. I have felt that way in almost all my relationships. Many times it was all too clear that to men I was dating , my goals, my thoughts/feelings/opinions, my existence was considered less important this his and developing a relationship with me was a very low priority. Many times it’s why I walked away.

    Meanwhile many women make the mistake of defining themselves and seeking validation through the man in her life. He IS the more important to her than anything else. Many women have sacrificed personal goals, careers, friends, and their self esteem to stay with a man she loves. Many woman stay in abusive relationships partly because they believe they will lose a part of their own identity as a woman if she leaves. This is very unhealthy.

    Men and woman need to meet in the middle. More women need to create self identities and base self worth by her career, goals and accomplishments and have healthy, full lives separate from men. And men need to see just how important is for woman to know that she IS important to him and that her life does NOT take a backseat to his own.

    • Thanks for your perspective.

    • Very good points. You know what fascinating and this is why I love the sociology of sex and gender. I see points women make regarding the pitfalls of being female. However, I see it through the prism of a male viewpoint.

      In regards to what you say about many men not giving enough attention to their wives or girlfriend, I can make the same case for men.
      See, while I recognize the sacrifice many women make in terms of caretaking and home economics and raising the kids. Many women sacrifice themselves in a relationship to help their partner.

      You have to see just as much many men sacrifice themselves by working stressful jobs just to take care of their families. My dad worked over 30 years commuting an hour and a half by car early in the morning just so he can sacrifice himself for his family., He was a good provider. He died ay a young age as many men do. The heart attack was caused by a stressful life.

      Many men also feel alienated by no getting attention from their wives. Studies show while men cheat, women do as well. Some marriages or relationships have a situation where the woman feels deprived of attention, others show where the male feels deprived. It depends on the person-not sex or gender.

      Similarly, many men seek validation through a women or being in a relationship. Men get bombarded by advertising and popular culture as well as women that to be normal you must be in a relationship. There is a whole induistry of men now hiring dating coaches and how to pick up women,
      However. some men today are learning to be content with being single either permanent or temporarily. many men are learning to nurture themselves, cook, clean and be content being alone. Many men are marrying later or not at all.
      Only if you are content being alone will you be that much healthier in a relationship,

  17. Thanks for the link, I read the book. I am not sure what you would call it. If you do not want to use “objectification”, perhaps another word but in may female centric romance novels and films, the man is usually the strong, unfeeling, solid protector.

    Of course many men contribute to this unrealistic depiction of males because many men write these books and create these films. Also many fathers still raise their son to never show emotion. I just wanted to show that women reinforce this unrealistic depiction of men in our culture just as much as men.

    • I’ll have to think about a term or phrase.

      Seems women (many anyway)want men who show passionate emotions but not so-called “weak” emotions. They want one-sided strong men.

  18. Good stuff. The only problem I have with it is stories like this, especially in romance novels or womens mvies depict the male as protector, unfeeling, never cry,”never let them see you sweat”. Now i realize in the story the male vampire shows emotion by his gaze at the woman he cares for. But generally speaking many romance novels even movies depict the “Prince Charming” fantasy as male as strong protector, stable in every crisis. hardly cries. This mindset caused many men to repress and supress their fellings/emotions which has led and can lead to illness like heart attacks and anxiety.

    In a way this depiction of this guy in Twilight objectifies men. Men as some sort of “Price Charming” who is aways ready to protect -but he does not have the freedom-to express his emotions or weaknesses. Some people have said women who generally are better at expressing their emotions than men should teach their boyfriend or husband to express his emotions more instead of bottling it up “like a man”. The reality is women do not want men to express emotions or weakness despite what they may say. Women want men to be the “Rock” “Prince Charming ” so if a crisis happens they will be stable and a rock. I believe men are objectified in these romance novels as some perfect protecting pronce charming or in the case of Twilight a vampire.

    Fortunately, with the aid of yhe emerging mens movement and books like “The Myth of Male Power” by Warren Farrell many men are learning to get in touch with their feelings.

  19. Hmmm. I like what Tracie has to say here, except that part about the woman seeing herself reflected in a man’s eyes when he looks at her. i sincerely hope that when I look at a man; be he friend, lover, or otherwise, that I am seeing HIM as beautiful, and not what he sees in me.

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