Undead Week: Social Drinking

Consider the vampire. More importantly, consider the vampire’s diet. Vamps just gotta drink blood.

I’ve seen a lot of substitutions and workarounds been used—medical blood, animal blood, stuff-that-isn’t-necessarily-blood-but-carries-life-energy. That’s one way to go about it.

But if it must be fresh, and must be human, at some point it’s probably going to get to the point where there are a number of social rules involving blood drinking. (For some reason, a lot of the time it just gets equated to sex, to some degree or other. Some writers are more enthusiastic about this than others.) But there’s more detail that can go into that; one thing that interests me is what society says about what where the drinkee is bitten means.

For purposes of this riff, I’m going to be looking at five possible sites: the throat, inside of elbow, wrist, thigh, and back of knee. They’ve got good veins, and it’s possible to get a decent amount of meaning out of each.

The thigh’s probably not going to show up much in social drinking, at least not among members of polite society outside of closed doors. It shouldn’t take that much imagination to see why: for one thing, it’s an awkward point to get at, and for another, any lower garment longer than a pair of Daisy Dukes is going to get in the way. As a result, the thigh is likely to acquire rather intimate connotations.

The neck, meanwhile, is the most common point of puncture in most stories. Logical; for one thing, it’s the easiest spot to reach when you’re grabbing someone from behind—or from in front—and restraining them. It also poses the most difficulty for a drinkee who wishes to declare that enough is enough. The conclusion? It takes trust to offer up someone your neck. Trust, or a lack of choice. This might give throat-biting an association with trust or intimacy, or it might make it into a sign of domination or possession. Or all of the above. Rarely are social codes simple.

Consider, on the other hand, offering the wrist. It gives you distance, and the ability to yank your hand away if the drinker’s getting greedy. In addition, there’s more variety in positional significance; depending on whether the drinker is standing or sitting, and what the drinkee is doing, it can accommodate almost any combination of ranks or comparative statuses imaginable. Perhaps chivalry is undead? (If you’re seeing parallels to older kissing codes, don’t be surprised—so am I, and I’ll give it pretty good odds that this reasoning explains those as well.) Add to this the fact that it’s easier to keep blood off of both clothing and furniture this way, and and the wrist bite could rapidly become the most common form of social drinking.

What about the inner joints? That varies. The inside of the elbow strikes me as something that would be between the throat and the wrist in terms of familiarity. The underside of the knee, on the other hand, has its own complications. It’s awkward to get to. It practically requires that the drinker position himself somewhere below the drinkee. I would see it as a way for the person whose blood is being drunk to assert dominance over the one doing the drinking: “Sure, you can have some. But you’re going to have to work for it.”

I’ll be sinking my teeth further into this topic tomorrow, so do come back. Fangs for visiting!

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  1. Undead Week: More Blood Conventions | Exchange of Realities
  2. Impractical Applications (Undead Social Convention) | Exchange of Realities

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