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Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart star as Edward and Bella in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1". (Reuters)
Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart star as Edward and Bella in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1". (Reuters)

Lynn Crosbie: Pop rocks

Twilight's sly brand of smut slays at the box office Add to ...

“If your life was all you had to give to your beloved, how could you not give it?”

So asks Bella Swan, in the final Twilight novel, a question that turns out to have a double, even triple meaning.

If we had access to her beloved Edward Cullen’s mind, he has clearly been wondering the following: When is the right time for a 110-year-old man to consummate his relationship with a 17-year-old girl?

Although old enough to have consulted with everyone from Alfred Kinsey to Bettie Page to Hugh Hefner and the entire Oneida Community, Edward is still reluctant.

How long must he wait?

Four years, according to creator Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, the fourth film instalment of which opened Friday to an immense and fervid audience.

You will need to court this girl for four years and, because you like it, put a ring on it.

There has been massive excitement around the release of Breaking Dawn: Part 1 – which made $139.5-million (U.S.) this weekend, the fifth-largest opening weekend in history. This, coming after what seemed like a significant loss of interest in the undead of Forks, Wash., has everything to do with the changing erotic relationship between vampire Edward (trapped, broodingly, in the body of a17-year-old) and human Bella.

The two sequels to 2008’s Twilight, the film that spawned an army of sex-crazed fans, were only of interest to these fans: the very young, and surprisingly old women in sad, threadbare Team Edward T-shirts, moving their lips as they read that distinctive Meyer prose that is to literature what dreaming is to thinking.

Fittingly, Breaking Dawn is modelled after Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, according to the author. (Each of her novels uses a work of literary art as its framework, and very well.)

As with the bewitched lovers in Shakespeare’s rom-com, Edward and Bella’s decision to marry goes terribly, passionately, awry.

Leaving aside, however, the now-received reading of the novel (and film) as, essentially, an anti-abortion public-service announcement directed by Leni Riefenstahl (“Have your baby, even if it eats its way through your body. Give your beloved your life!), it is, ultimately, the honeymoon sex, not its disgusting side effect, that is filling seats.

It has been six years since Twilight was published, after all.

Is Stephenie Meyer the unacknowledged queen of smutty writing?

Because delaying female gratification is at the heart of many dirty stories; vividly so in the once wildly popular novels of Judith Krantz, Shirley Conran and Jackie Collins.

Here is a fiery scene from Krantz’s 1982 masterpiece, Mistral’s Daughter: The great eponymous painter has a rigid, controlling woman, Kate, in his bed. She thinks, “She wanted him – oh yes, but she wanted to get it over as quickly as possible, without losing herself.”

The virile Mistral will have none of that!

“Patience, patience,” he croons, seducing her slowly until the long-awaited fireworks, then, her “fluttering kisses of gratitude.”

The story is always the same in soft-core writing: Women either refuse to surrender themselves, or have quick, rough sex, followed by long, lingering, big-finish-guaranteed lovemaking (it is called).

This twofer-approach exists because women are believed to take longer than men to be satisfied: In the Twilight world, it takes Bella years of vacillating between her ice-cold, rock-hard vamp-boyfriend and an actual wolf man to decide to surrender to the former.

The surrender is, of course, cataclysmic.

The always-prosaic Bella, before taking a naked swim with her new husband, thinks it would be “a really good idea” to shave her legs “again.”

She joins her husband in bed, and wakes up bruised and mangled; the bed splintered, the pillows bitten open and their feathers flying.

Edward is typically angry and concerned, but Bella is blissful.

The Twilight series may be a long, priggish diatribe against pre-marital sex, or a stern, sensible diatribe against the psychic and somatic ramifications of sex (loathing, pregnancy.)

Yet Twilight and its sequels are, in toto, also a mildly pornographic way of suggesting that young girls take their time to make proper choices; and take their time, more racily, to choose a good, patient, bed-breaking lover.

Romantically (the Twilight books are indebted to the writing of the Brontes and Lucy Maud Montgomery, writers who also inculcated the dual virtues of rapturous attraction and sensible deferral strategies), Meyer unites love and death in the book: To give in to someone fully, she suggests, is, quite literally, to give up one’s life.

One feels that she is, very slyly, using archaic metaphors throughout her work: Young girls, she seems to be saying, beneath all of the blood and fangs and fur ...

It just feels better to wait.

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