I found this column from Gail Collins today, commenting on the Twilight series.  I have not read these books, but I have heard from numerous women about them, and I find it really puzzling how women who decry pornography for conditioning men to have unrealistic views of the opposite sex seem to have no problem with the Twilight series’ portrayal of males. 

At last, I find a female who sees the same irony.  Gail writes:

The attraction is clearly the vampire hero, who is a perfect gentleman, eternally faithful and — as the author points out repeatedly — quite a hunk. (“He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare … A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.”)…

Edward, who has never been attracted to a woman, mortal or immortal, in more than a century of postdeath existence, falls for Bella at first sniff. (It’s all about the smell.) And he is going to be faithful to her forever, even when she gets old and dies. But as much as he adores her, he won’t have sex with her because he worries he might kill her with his superstrength in the heat of the moment.

So, they are forced to spend all their time kissing and cuddling and talking about their feelings.

“Only a vampire, ladies,” said Jessica Valenti, the author of “Full Frontal Feminism.” She worries that in the real world, young men are spending so much time watching pornography on the Internet that they will never be satisfied with normal women and normal relationships.

This sure sounds like trouble to me: A generation of guys who will settle for nothing less than a porn star meets a generation of women who expect their boyfriend to crawl through their bedroom window at night and just nuzzle gently until they fall asleep.

Again, I have not read the books, but it sounds like Stephenie Myers does a very good job of tugging all the right strings for women, creating a hero with essentially unlimited power and wealth, a perfect gentleman whose eye never wanders, and of all the women he could choose to be with, he chooses Bella.  Look how he adores her! <dramatic, fawning sigh>

I have a feeling that if guys all over America started reading a series of novels about a man married to a woman who has a perfect figure, always goes to the gym, never presents herself without being perfectly made up, loves football, is financially independent, and perfectly accomodates all his sexual desires, women would probably call that series twisted and unhealthy, and rightfully so.  But I suppose objectification is fine as long as it’s someone else’s ox being gored.

Gail continues:

Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon mom who was a stay-at-home housewife in Phoenix when she wrote her first book. (People who have tried to write fiction may be deeply depressed to hear that she did it in a flash after she had a dream about the characters, who then inhabited her mind and dictated the novels to her.) Maybe the secret to her success is that in her books, it’s the guy who’s in charge of setting the sexual boundaries.

Edward is a version of that legendary, seldom-seen male who won’t take advantage of his date even if she rips off her clothes and begs him to take her to bed. By the second novel, Bella was hounding him to turn her into a vampire so they could be together forever, but he was resisting on the grounds that it would be bad for her soul.

Meanwhile, a second suitor for Bella surfaced, who also believed she was destined to be his one true love, even after he turned into a werewolf about halfway through the story. “It gives a whole new meaning to: ‘Just can’t meet a normal boy,’ ” said Valenti.

I understand that “normal” people’s lives don’t make for interesting reading.  I have read a fair amount of fantasy and science fiction books over the years, but in the case of the books I have read, there is very little possibility that they could ever cause me to view my relationships differently.

Look at this thread from the Twilightmoms forum, titled “Is Twilight good or bad for your husband?“  Some interesting comments:

“I have read many posts on here that women are saying their husband’s benefit from our obsession. I was wondering if that is true for everyone. Sometimes Edward so consumes my thoughts I feel like I am cheating on mine. Totally unrealistic, but can’t help it”

“I live with am married to and very much love a woman that sounds alot like you, she has an uhhmmmm curiously illogical maniacle obsession with Edward that shifted to Robert. I take it in stride, I’m not particularly gleeful about it but i’m also the one who gets to snuggle with her every night. I am under no delusions that after an 18 hour day of posting, searching yearning stealing and hijacking photo after photo that when I walk in the door her mind magically disolves the days events of razor sharp focus on the pretty boy. I guess you could say we share her focus. She assures me this isnt so but alas i am not stupid, we men pull this off well but that is another story.

I would say if it is to the point where it feels wrong to you then maybe it is. Personally I would much appreciate it if my wife thought it had gone to far for her and she realized it was affecting our relationship negativly to step back and reevalute, but at the same time if a little bit of day drooling warms her up and doesnt raise the bar to high (I simply can not compete with Edward) then I see nothing wrong with it, it has done wonders for us.”

“My hubby is also not very romantic, but he is very sweet and I know I could not live without him, I have guilt sometimes because I can get so consumed with the twilight world and any man compared to Edward could never compare so I just keep reminding myself that he is not real, otherwise I would probably jeopardize my marriage by looking for him! how sad is that?”

“In the real world, my husband is a catch in his own right. He’s handsome, a good father, attentive, blah, blah, blah……in my most obsessed moments my heart ached to be with Edward (again, I get it…he doesn’t exist) and I can’t help but think that wanting to be with anyone else, even a fictional character, isn’t building my relationship with my husband. I envy the wives that say their marriages benefited from the books, I’m a little different, though. I’m hoping that I’m not entering a mid-life crises!!”

…and on and on.  The Twilight phenomenon has been called many things, but reading these comments, I’m not sure I would call it healthy.