For nine books now, most of us have probably argued the suitor pros and cons back and forth on forums, made lists, traded insults and experienced dark moments of doubt in the great “Suitor Debate”.
Personality flaws and attributes have been endlessly dissected in an effort to determine the best partner for Sookie. Sexual behaviour is a reflection of personality, and we can tell a great deal about a person – and a relationship – from what goes down in the bedroom.
With that in mind, I thought it could be interesting to compare Bill and Eric’s sexual behaviour and the way they relate to Sookie in bed. One way to do this is to break the sex scenes down into phases – the initiation, the act, and the afterglow.
INITIATION – BILL
As the younger vampire, Bill has more issues with self control [both in and out of bed] than Eric does, but I don’t think this is solely due to his age. His personality is generally dark, secretive and more introverted than Eric’s and I think this is expressed most clearly in the way he relates to Sookie sexually.
From the outset it is clear that Bill has alot of trouble reigning himself in when it comes to sex. His approach to initiating it is often intense and very physical:
Dead Until Dark:
He scooted across the seat towards me, his arms scooping me up before I could say anything else. Then his mouth was on mine and after a second his tongue began licking the blood from my face.
I was really scared. I was also really angry. I grabbed his ears and pulled his head away from mine using every ounce of strength I possessed…
His eyes were like caves with ghosts dwelling in their depths.
“Bill!” I shrieked. I shook him. “Snap out of it!”
Living Dead in Dallas:
“As I unlocked the front door, Bill came out of the darkness. Without a word he grabbed my arm and turned me to him…we stumbled into the house and he turned me to face the couch. I gripped it with my hands and, just as I’d imagined, he pulled down my pants and then he was in me.”
The Mood tends to take Bill quite suddenly, it overwhelms him often, and he really does have trouble controlling his urges. This would seem to be partly because he doesn’t really understand why he should have to. There is usually very little dialogue between him and Sookie – Bill is an Action Man – and sex is not usually preceeded by conversation or intimacy. A notable exception is the very first time when Bill shows up the evening of Gran’s funeral and proceeds to brush her hair like his dolly and talk with her a little about his human life. The time he chose to make his move, and the fact that Sookie gave it up to him that night makes the motivation for his sharing [which incidentally, never happens again] dubious. Although this scene appeared intimate on the surface I think it’s reasonable to question it, given that it doesn’t gel with his sexual behaviour thereafter.
Foreplay for Bill often includes a bit of underwear ripping and “manhandling”. I can think of at least three instances where Sookie’s underwear/clothing is ripped by Bill, and many more where he has physically handled her person. This happens both in and out of the bedroom.
And notice that I haven’t even mentioned the OTHER incident. Interestingly, it’s not even necessary to refer to that in order to flesh out Bill’s self control issues. They clearly still exist, even outside the gray area of the trunk.
INITIATION – ERIC
Eric approaches sex in a very different way to Bill, and his approach is consistent. Vampire he may be, but he demonstrates patience and self control that Bill either cannot muster, or has no desire to.
[Sookie wakes after the staking with Eric already in the bed beside her]
“Thank you Eric” I didn’t care for how shaky I sounded but an obligation was an obligation.
“For what?” His hand stroked my stomach.
“For standing by me in the club. For coming here with me. For not leaving me alone with all these people”.
“How grateful are you?” he whispered, his mouth hovering over mine. His eyes were very alert now, and his gaze was boring into mine….
“That kind of ruins it, when you say something like that,” I said, trying to keep my voice gentle. “You shouldn’t want me to have sex with you just because I owe you,”
“I don’t really care why you have sex with me, as long as you do it,” he said, equally gently.
…His mouth was on mine then…
Dead to the World:
“I’ll do that for you,” Eric said, pulling back the curtain to step into the shower with me…
…While I stood stock-still, paralyzed by conflicting waves of emotion, Eric took the soap out of my hands and lathered up his own…
“Have we ever made love?” he asked.
I shook my head, still unable to speak.
“Then I was a fool,” he said, moving one hand in a circular motion over my stomach. “Turn around, lover.”
Dead and Gone:
Then he got under the blanket with me and propped himself up on an elbow. He was looking down at me…
[Conversation about Quinn and Nevada]
“Then I am high handed.” Eric said with no shame whatsoever. “I’m also very . . .” He dipped his head and kissed me slowly, leisurely.
“Horny,” I said.
“Exactly,” he said, and kissed me again. …”It’s time I claimed what is mine.”
Reading these passages together, a pattern emerges. Eric has always initiated with Sookie in the same way. First, he makes his physical presence equal to hers [lying down in bed with her, lying down on the floor, getting into the shower with her]. This might be to make himself less physically threatening, or perhaps just a reflection of his desire for them to be on an even footing. It’s an interesting contrast to Bill – rather than using his body to put her at ease as Eric does, Bill uses his physical strength to dominate her and maneuver her body for his satisfaction. I always get the sense that Bill’s determination to satisfy Sookie is rooted in the desire to satisfy himself.
Eric’s next move is to emotionally engage through conversation. The talking leads into the sex and even though Eric initiates, Sookie is always in control of how far it goes. When she says stop, he does – without hesitation or sulking [recall CD when they are interrupted by Bubba, and LDID - "Yield to me, Sookie" and she says no.] He always initiates in a slow, non threatening way. He always makes sure that she knows she is in control. He always makes sure that she can see him coming.
He behaves as though he knows about Sookie’s childhood sexual abuse. But he doesn’t know. We also have no evidence that he knows about the rape – they have never discussed it on the page and while he would have seen that she’d been drained after getting her out of the trunk, it would not have been obvious that she had been raped. So we can only assume that Eric’s behaviour speaks of the man, rather than the circumstances.
From the small taste we’ve had of Dead in the Family, Sookie is physically battered and psychologically traumatised. Eric is continuing to show an awareness that Sookie needs to be the one to set the parameters of their sexual relationship. Sookie tells Amelia he had asked her several times if she was sure she wanted to engage in sex.
Compare Eric’s self restraint to this Bill/Sookie exchange in LDID:
He was ready again, and he was rough with it, as if he were trying to prove something.
“Be sweet,” I said, the first time I had spoken.
“I can’t. It’s been too long, next time I’ll be sweet, I swear”.
This is one of a number of examples of Sookie telling Bill no, slow down, stop, or be gentle and he is unable or unwilling to comply. He is VAMPIRE. He relishes his nature because it gives him an excuse to behave like an oaf. He constantly uses it to defend himself when his self control is lacking.
It’s also interesting to compare the verbs and adjectives used in the selection of passages above, which are taken from different scenes and books.
Bill scenes: scooted, scooping, licking, scared, angry, grabbed, pulled, shrieked, shook, snap, stumble, gripped.
Eric scenes: stroked, whispered, hovering, gaze, gently, emotion, made love, lover, kissed, slowly, leisurely, mine.
CH’s choice of words sets the tone of the scenes, and sheds light on the nature of the relationships. Bill’s words convey the physicality and urgency of the sex and are a reflection of the essentially physical nature of he and Sookie’s relationship, and Bill’s lack of self control. Eric’s words are “relationship” words. They are words you find in love scenes, as opposed to sex scenes – and this is the case even as far back as Club Dead, before love was ever part of the equation for either of them.