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Are there emotionally abusive themes in the Twilight series?

I am a therapist that works with adolescents and it seems that all of my female clients are reading the Twilight series. The more I hear about these books, the more concerned I am with the material that my young clients are processesing. As I am thousands of pages in the hole, I was wondering if anyone could point me toward an unbiased synopsis of the series so that I can get my bearings. I also have a few specific questions: is there any actual description of sexual intercourse in the books? Are there situations of rape or forced sexual relations? Can someone point me toward some specific passages that seem like emotional abuse? I would be very grateful to anyone who could help me.

17 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I think those books have such a horrible message for younger women, especially about relationships.

    Edward is an abusive boyfriend.

    The first thing any girl hears in a dating violence discussion is that jealousy is not love. Yet Edward is critically jealous of Jacob Black, one of Bella’s family friends. Edward pushes Jacob aside from the end of Twilight where, when Jacob asks Bella if she’d like another dance, Edward answers “I’ll take it from here.” Perhaps Bella would prefer to dance with Edward – but it’s her decision to tell Jacob that, not Edward’s. The situation only escalates as Jacob becomes closer to Bella. In a confrontation at the end of New Moon, Bella is genuinely afraid for Jacob’s life. Fans of the series might say “Oh, but Jacob is a werewolf – they’re historical enemies.” Would this excuse an English beau from threatening an Irish friend?

    Moreover, in Eclipse, Edward is intent on keeping Bella from associating with Jacob at all. When she says in the first chapter that she’s planning on visiting Jacob without Edward if necessary, he says simply “I’ll stop you.” That is to say, he is willing to use physical force rather than let his girlfriend see one of her closest friends. And it does come to force – to removing a vital part from Bella’s truck and bribing Alice to keep Bella under house arrest when he isn’t around.

    A general dislike of Jacob would be understood. But taking steps to prevent your partner from spending time with someone that you dislike is abuse, plain and simple. And his surprising calm after Bella kisses Jacob seems more indicative to me of a cycle of abuse and reconciliation than any real resolution.

    Jealousy is a control tactic. As such, it is often paired with isolation – a technique most familiar in cult dynamics. As soon as Edward and Bella begin dating, Edward criticizes her friends as ‘shallow.’ Bella soon stops going anywhere with other friends. Not having formed strong bonds before Edward appears on the scene, Bella never bothers to form them at all. The isolation is so complete that when Edward leaves in the beginning of New Moon, Bella spends three months in a depressed state before rediscovering her other friends. Yes, it’s understandable to want to spend time with your boyfriend. But when you have quite literally no life outside of them – when their absence leaves you so utterly lost – that is unhealthy. And it is wrong of Edward to encourage it. As already demonstrated with Jacob Black, Bella is capable of forming strong friendships when Edward isn't monopolizing her time.

    Moreover, a part of this isolation is fully and unarguably intentional. When Edward leaves Bella, he flat-out forbids Alice, Bella’s best friend at the time, from seeing her. His motivation? To ensure a “clean break.” But it is Bella’s right to decide when and how she wants to forget about their relationship. Presuming to dictate her healing process for her is the height of control – it is assuming that you have the right to a person’s thoughts.

    Abandonment is yet another control tactic. It is emotionally jarring, disruptive, and, if timed properly, can convince the target that their life is less worthwhile without the abuser. I have been the subject of this treatment myself – and, if it were not for my close friends, it would have worked. Thanks to isolation, Bella has no such friends. When Edward resurfaces, she immediately clings to him more desperately than before. He has become her only lifeline.

    Of course, Edward resurfaces in that he attempts suicide. I don’t care what Romeo and Juliet says: suicide is not romantic. Apart from being mentally unstable, this is characteristic of abusive boyfriends. Many abused women remain with their boyfriends because they believe that they still love each other. They often feel responsible for their boyfriend, who tells them “I can’t live without you.” For obvious reasons, Bella doesn’t want to be responsible for Edward’s death. But because of this fear for his life, she stays in a self-destructive relationship.

    Perhaps Edward didn’t realize that Bella was alive when he tried to kill himself. But that just proves that he was unstable enough to go through with it – he had made the threat long before he made the attempt. Bella did not laugh off the threat – it shocked and horrified her. If Edward hurt himself, she felt it would be “because of her.” And that puts a burden of responsibility on her that no person can or should be made to bear.

    This sense of responsibility for his welfare also extends to lying to her father. Encouraged deception is a red flag for an abusive relationship. Yes, you can argue that Bella shouldn’t tell her father about Edward’s vampirism for the same reason that she wouldn’t tell anyone if he had AIDS: respect for privacy. But it is expected that she would tell her father when she is with her boyfriend. Lying is unnecessary. You can argue that Edward does not encourage her to lie, instead asking her to tell someone where she is. But this statement is consistently followed with ’So I know that if I kill you, I’ll get in trouble for it.’ (“To give me some small incentive to bring you back,” p 214) Predictably, it has the opposite effect: Bella, out of her sense of responsibility for her boyfriend, keeps their dates secret. Thus serving Edward’s ends. Many teenagers will lie to their parents about their dates without a second thought. But this doesn’t make it right. In fact, it only shows that Edward can’t plead ignorance regarding how Bella would react to his statement. Any mind reader will know what she’d do.

    Time and time again in Twilight, Edward frightens Bella. Fear is emotional abuse. It can also be used to assert control. Fans might say that Edward is constantly telling Bella how much he wants to kill her and giving unnecessary displays of strength in order to convince her not to stay with him. Why, then, doesn’t he take the lead and stay away from Bella? Why didn’t he stay in Alaska? Why didn’t he simply switch Biology classes? Because he’s “selfish.” If he is unable to stay away from her, he has no right to scare her. Calmly explaining the danger – once, as accurately as possible, without hyperbole – will suffice. And then a boy who really cared would help her take necessary precautions for her safety. For example, telling Charlie when they would be together. Or, having Carlisle chaperon. Or by having a double date with Alice and Jasper, or by sticking in public places, or any of dozens of other measures, since Edward clearly doesn’t believe that feeding often is precaution enough. But that would prevent Bella from swooning over his “devotion.”

    For that matter, why is he under the impression that seeing the dents his shoulders left in a car is insufficient to remind her that he is, in fact, stronger than your average human?

    Finally, Edward refuses to allow Bella to make her own decisions. She insists she does not want to go to the prom – he brings her there without telling her. She insists she doesn’t want a birthday party – he gives her a surprise party. She does not want to leave Charlie while James is loose – he throws her in the back seat and tells his brother to hold her down. When she resists, he either works around her back or manipulates her decision, kissing her until she forgets her argument. Real boyfriends respect their girlfriend’s right to a decision. Abusive boyfriends must make all the decisions – using force if necessary. It doesn’t matter whether he thinks he’s acting in her best interests or not. Free will is non-exchangeable. And it should be.

    The circumstances of their engagement is a perfect example of his inability to let her make her own decisions. He agrees, at the end of New Moon, that he will change her into a vampire if and only if she marries him first. Marriage is not a bargaining tool. Vampirism and marriage are both commitments – but they are separate commitments, and should be discussed separately. The fact that he never intended for her to make that bargain, that he used it as a delay, is not an excuse. Rather, it is further evidence of a need to manipulate the relationship according to his wants and needs.

    Likewise, when Bella decides that she does not want to apply to Dartmouth, he ignores her and forges her signature on the paperwork. Going to a college outside of the Ivy League will not place Bella’s life or even her general contentment in danger. Yet he resolves that it is his decision to make, not hers.

    A parallel incident can be found when he forges a note to Charlie in her handwriting on the day he leaves her in the middle of the woods. Yes, it turned out to be a good thing that Charlie knew that she was out there when she went missing, but no, that doesn't excuse forging a note when it would have been just as easy to write the note as himself: "Hey, Chief Swan, it's Edward. Bella and I are going for a walk in the woods. Be back soon."

    For those fans who insist on some definite physical, non-negotiable sign of abuse, recall how Edward enters her house after leaving her in New Moon and hides every one of her personal possessions associated with himself. Destroying someone’s stuff is never OK and always an abusive act. Even – especially! – when he’s trying to control her healing process. Add the fact that Edward is prone to watching Bella while she sleeps – repeatedly, without her knowledge – and you have one very unhealthy relationship.

    As for an unbiased synopsis I wouldn't know where to find them.

    Most reviews are "OMG I love them" and a few talk about their hatred of the series.

  • 5 years ago

    Twilight Abusive Relationship

  • ?
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    The theme is Bella vs. Herself. This theme is the classic example of internal turmoil. Bella was at conflict with herself, with her ideals, thoughts, and memories of her past actions. Throughout the whole series she was torn between what she felt in her heart and what would be better for her. The book is a classic. I am an avid reader and the love story between Edward and Bella was so exciting. Just because it is also a teen phenom does not mean it is less than Shakepeare. Stephanie Meyer did an excellent job of combining the love, mythology, fantasy, and adventure, and action genres all into one book. I dont remember Shakepeare ever going above and beyond a typical genre. Meyer took a risk and succeeded.

  • 1 decade ago

    As an adult in therapy, I made a point of telling my own therapist about these books (she also works heavily with adolescents). I read the first book, and was horrified by the messages it sends to young girls. While there is no mention of sex--at least in the first book--the main character AND her relationship are, to the say the least, emotionally unhealthy. From the research I've done, these things (depression, emotional abuse, risky & controlling behaviour, co-dependency, assault...) only intensify in each subsequent book.

    I second the recommendation for Cleolinda's "recaps" (linked above); there is another good commentary here:

    I don't know if I'd call either of these "unbiased," exactly, but they do an excellent job of highlighting the things that you are and should be concerned about. You can also find a more neutral synopsis of each book at Wikipedia:

    I want to thank you for being concerned, and for being aware of the issues in these books. You are a credit to your profession.

    Source(s): Adult survivor of sexual abuse
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Personally, I consider Edward a creepy stalker and would totally get a restraining order if anyone ever treated me like he treats Bella. He watches her while she sleeps without her knowledge, controls what she knows about what's going on and what she does... Jacob starts out better, and gets progressively worse, then ends up imprinting on a newborn. Ugh.

    A lot of parents like the books because they don't have sex until after marriage (the fourth book). Rosalie became a vampire after a situation involving gang rape, and there's the skeeviness of the newborn imprinting (and another werewolf named Quil imprinting on a toddler named Claire, which may or may not be related to Lolita - Meyer doesn't strike me as the type who would have read it), but otherwise I find the actual sexual aspects a little ridiculous but overall considerably LESS skeevy than many other aspects of the books. Like the fact that Bella gets pregnant with a half-vampire death baby that nearly starves her, breaks her ribs, pelvis, and spine, and is eventually born by C-section... performed by Edward with his teeth. Needless to say, childbirth kills her, so Edward turns her, which is exactly what she's been begging him to do for four books, because Edward is the only person in the world Bella cares about besides herself.

    The best, most clear-sighted synopses I know are Cleolinda's:

    I have read a number that are angrier, but didn't bookmark them, unfortunately.

    Source(s): not a fan
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The book is very cleanly written. Though the childbirth (if you can call it that) part in breaking dawn was very graphic. The bloodiness of it was an easy visual. The only time sexual intercourse was remotely described was a thought in the mind of character Jacob Black. He is in love with the main character Bella Swan and he and she get into an argument about her honeymoon and in his thought is "i hate to think of him inside of her." No forced sexual relations. A kiss was forced in eclipse but it wasn't even close to rape. Emotional abuse? Well unrequited love is the only form of emotional abuse. Bella's Vampire boyfriend left her in the second book because he felt he was putting her in danger. He returned in the end after he attempted to kill himself because he thought she was dead and she went to save him. Its possible to feel her pain as she suffers from two different broken hearts but the love in this book is stronger. Sex comes after marriage and is she young? Yes, but she has found the one person who will truely love her forever.

  • kiera
    Lv 4
    4 years ago


    Source(s): Recover Lost Marriage
  • 1 decade ago

    there is a part in Eclipse when Rosalie is telling Bella how she became a vampire that includes her getting raped, but it is only hinted at, not described. the same goes for the sex scenes in Breaking Dawn, which are technically nonexistant since Stephanie Meyer only hints at it enough for you to know that it happened, but gives no details at all... just read the books and you'll understand

  • 1 decade ago

    Well the message isnt really straight forward, but when you read it, the main character Bella, she like a bratty annoying girl who lives to please Edward. Everything she does is for him, or has sumthing to do with him. Is she representing what all young ladies are supposed to be like?Because thats not a great example. And Edward, he's abusive and controlling but Bella still loves him cuz he's gorgeous. He leaves Bella then comes back to her over and over. is this message supposed to encourage girls or wat? In the last book of the series, there is alot of sex, and Bella is like 18 and pregnant, yea thats a good message for the teenage girls who read it. "Girls, when your 19, and you find a gorgeous boy like Edward, its ok to get pregnant." I personnaly think thats the message the books give, and the book itself it horrible and thats my opinion.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    If they are over 10 its not a big deal. There arent any details. Anyway, its just a sappy romance =) we preteens and teens cant be shielded forever. we need to dream and imagine and its better to read it than to do it.

    To the person above me, I agree that their relationship seems more based on lust, but edward is not abusive or controlling. He tried to convince her that they shouldnt have sex. And yes, I do think its a strange message that they can have kids and get married at that age, but they are vampires, and will stay that age forever and ever. If the person reading it has any type of brain, they should understand that there is some difference between a vampire book and reality. (although I know we can be influenced easily)

    But I don't think you should fret over it. It's just a teenager book.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    YES. Twilight showcases abuse in relationships.

    It mentions a beautiful girl named Rosalie being raped in the middle of the street by her drunk fiance and his friends. She lies on the side of the road, about to die, but is saved and turned into a vampire. From there, she takes revenge upon her fiance and his friends by killing them. But none of this is in full detail. It's still a little odd though.

    And, when Bella was in Port Angeles, she ran into a bunch of men on the side of the street who wanted to rape her.

    Secondly. The main character, Bella Swan, has a boyfriend named Edward. Edward happens to a vampire, and he controls the relationship. Here are some of his, um, "romantic" actions towards her: taking apart her truck's engine so she can't visit her friend, crippling her truck so he can buy her a Mercedes, giving her a credit card so he controls the financial decisions, sneaking into her house at night for a few weeks to watch her sleep (this was before they went out), making her lie for him, making all the decisions in their physical relationship, taking her away from all her friends, forcing her to go to prom even though she clearly states she can't dance well and does not want to go, paying her way into Ivy League colleges even though she says no, making her feel guilty so she will go to Florida with him, not telling her when her life is in danger. When he left her for a few months, he went into her room and stole all of her pictures of him and hid them under her floorboards, a controlling behavior since Bella should decide on how she heals. He also told his sister, Alice, who happened to be Bella's best friend, to stay away from her. All of this in the name of "love."

    In the book, pedophilia is mentioned. 16 and 17-year-old males "imprint" or fall in love with infant girls. Its a little freaky

    Bella herself. She is whiny. She constantly complains when people are kind to her and calls them, "golden retrievers" for being at her beck and call, not in a nice way though. In an insulting way. She does not make good decisions at all --- when Edward left her, she realized that if she got herself into a scary situation she would hear his voice in her head. So, she started riding motorcycles, jumping from cliffs, going up to strange men in the middle of the street.....She is not a very good role model because she is extremely weak and needs a boyfriend to feel complete. After Edward left her, she walked around like the living dead for FOUR MONTHS, speaking only when spoken to, going straight home after school, refusing to watch TV or listen to music..... When said boyfriend came back, Bella immediately accepted him right back into her life without making him pay for his actions.

    Lastly. Jacob Black. Bella's best friend who happens to be in love with her. He really liked her, so on several occasions he kissed her on the lips without her permission. When she punched him, she ended up with a broken wrist.

    OH yeah, in the last book, Meyer mentions Edward and Bella having sex about five or six times, (Bella is still eighteen) but she doesn't go into full detail or anything.

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