"You Must Come With Me, Loving Me, To Death"--Sexual and Gender Tropes in Carmilla
The blacksmith shuddered as he held the stake in an attitude to pierce the body, and even up to that moment it seemed to be a doubtful case, whether he would be able to accomplish his purpose or not; at length, when they all thought he was upon the point of abandoning his design, and casting the stake away, he thrust it with tremendous force through the body and the back of the coffin.
A mobile vulgus of frightened men gathered to penetrate a helpless woman with their phallic stake, conjures the same fear of rape underlying many Gothic stories. Almost the same scene repeats in Chapter 15 of Carmilla:
I saw a solemn, but very pretty face looking at me from the side of the bed. It was that of a young lady who was kneeling, with her hands under the coverlet. I looked at her with a kind of pleased wonder, and ceased whimpering. She caressed me with her hands, and lay down beside me on the bed, and drew me towards her, smiling; I felt immediately delightfully soothed, and fell asleep again. I was wakened by a sensation as if two needles ran into my breast very deep at the same moment, and I cried loudly. (Chapter 1)
Later, in Chapter 4, when Carmilla shares her version of the story, she describes Laura as “a beautiful young lady, with golden hair and large blue eyes, and lips—your lips—you as you are here.” “Your looks won me,” she says matter-of-factly. Her seductive language knows no bounds. “In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die—die, sweetly die—into mine.” Her infatuation with Laura is decidedly honest. “I cannot help it,” she says. “as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love.” For Carmilla, Death is only a passage, la grande mort, and her description of being UnDead is a promise of fulfillment: “Girls are caterpillars while they live in the world, to be finally butterflies when the summer comes.”
For a fan-fiction BDSM version of Carmilla, one that would never have passed the Victorian censors, seek out Catherine Rose’s, Carmilla’s Lament, essentially an erotic rewrite of Carmilla where our narrator describes “fingers stroking along swollen tender tissues that thrummed with each beat of [her] heart.” These are her thoughts in a moment of lambent contemplation:
What harm indeed?