John Edgar Browning discusses real vampires with GPB and The Guardian

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On August 5, John Edgar Browning discussed a particular community that he has studied for over a decade and that, likely, many people are unaware of: real vampires. He talked with both Celeste Headlee, host of the Georgia Public Broadcasting program "On Second Thought" and Kim Wall of The Guardian. In both the article and the interview, his goal is to to inform readers and listeners of the real vampire community and the safe feeding practices members use, the amiable relationship between real vampire and donor, and the discrimination experienced by real vampires by medical and helping professionals and the general public. He explains that there are two different vampire affinity groups: lifestyle vampires and real vampires. The identities are very different. Lifestyle vampires display the visual trappings of what exists in the cultural imagination as a vampire: they may wear dark clothes, artificial fangs, capes, etc. Whereas, real vampires do not necessarily stand out in terms of appearance. What makes them vampiric is their inability to maintain adequate levels of energy that they mitigate by consuming the blood or psychic energy of willing donors. The consumption of blood is central to their physical and/or mental well-being. However, real vampires do not believe that they are supernatural in terms of the transmission of vampirism or eternal life. Browning reassures listeners that consent is central to this lifestyle practice -- that one need not fear being attacked by a real vampire. In fact, the relationship between real vampires and donors is one based on reciprocity. The article “Interview with a real-life vampire: why drinking blood isn’t like in Hollywood” published on August 15 by The Guardian quotes Browning: “The members of this community suffer from the constant conflation of their identity by the outside world with the mythological and filmic vampire,” and  “As a result, outsiders generally think of them as being out of their minds.” Under medical examination, doctors find no physiological explanation for their diminished levels of energy, yet, Browning explains, real vampires consider this condition part of their essential nature, something that is beyond their control and something that develops just after puberty. Briefly in the interview with GPB, Browning opens the topic of essential identity versus constructed identity. This topic threads through a number of current discussions, in particular recent ones regarding transgenderism, sexual orientation, and racial identity. In his explanation of real vampire identification, Browning situates the group in the context of other alternative identities, groups like: furries, otherkin, the bdsm community, and goths. He uses these other identity categories as an example to make two points: 1. real vampirism is a lifestyle that, like many alternative lifestyles, is often kept secret for fear of reprisal, and 2. that unlike these other groups, real vampires believe that they are essentially vampiric--that it is an innate condition. In the process of making the second point, Browning says that “a furry is someone who dresses up in a big furry costume” and "that's something they can essentially switch off. It's not something that controls them, and even if they really, really like it, it's probably not going to cause them to lose sleep or lose energy." This section of the interview is brief but deserves more nuanced unpacking. For people exploring the process of identity formation, which for many occurs during the years spent in college, this conversation about essentialism and constructionism can be personally impactful and warrants careful framing.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Jessica Anderson
  • Created: 08/30/2015
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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