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Once bitten, now chaste: why our vampire-loving teens are just saying no to sex

Parents can breathe a sigh of relief -- teenage sex is out, chastity is in and it's all thanks to a good looking vampire. According to Robert Pattinson, star of the hit Twilight films, the sexiest thing that today's teens can do is not have sex.

Pattinson, who plays 'good' vampire Edward Cullen in the screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling Twilight books, says: "Twilight is a big metaphor for sexual abstinence.

"It's erotic underneath," he adds. "Fans can lust after Edward and yet, certainly in the first book there's no actual sexual contact between him and the series heroine. There are so many elements in the story which are sexy."

Meyer, who is a Mormon and does not believe in sex before marriage, has penned a hit formula with her tale of school-girl Bella Swan who falls in love with vampire Edward Cullen.

With no premarital sex and little more than a chaste kiss shared in the first three books, Bella and Edward's relationship revolves around attraction, respect and protection -- a romantic ideal that has sent teenage girls, and boys, wild.

New research carried out in the States revealed that young fans, aka Twi-hards, agreed with Pattinson's appraisal that chastity can be cool.

Melissa Click who worked on the new book Bitten By Twilight: Youth Culture, Media And The Vampire Franchise, says: "What really surprised us was the obvious abstinence message in the books and that teens were responding favourably to this message."

The survey saw 47pc of male respondents and 54pc of females say they'd like to echo Bella and Edward's relationship. Melissa says: "The survey results, as well as our focus group data, suggest that the Bella/ Edward relationship resonates with boys and men as well as girls and women.

"No one said categorically that they would pursue sexual abstinence but some teens said they felt Twilight made abstinence a bit more cool."

She adds: "What is important to remember is that these teens receive more of their messages about abstinence from parents and educators, so to see a media text -- and a very popular media text -- portray waiting until marriage to have sex as desirable, definitely had an impact on them."

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Irish Twilight fan Helena (16) agrees. She says: "I'm not committed to chastity but the Twilight books did make an impact on me. It made the idea of waiting for the one you love more appealing and showed me that as a teen I shouldn't have to rush into things."

She adds: "I don't think I'll wait until I'm married to have sex, but after reading the Twilight saga I definitely want to wait until I find someone I love enough to be with in that way. Also because Edward is such an old-fashioned character in the books I think it's made a lot of teenage girls think that more guys should be as nice as him and that they would be willing to wait."

But could the film's promotion of a more chaste lifestyle be a natural backlash to a world where everything has become increasingly sexualised? Britney's half naked cavorting in music videos and the promiscuity of the Sex And The City generation is not only starting to look a little jaded but has also failed to deliver the sense of completion that Twilight's message appears to offer.

Increasing numbers of celebrities are signing up to the notion that chastity is worth looking into. Multi million selling pop-rockers The Jonas Brothers wear purity rings that symbolise their resolution to abstain from pre-marital sex, Disney star Miley Cyrus (17) has pledged to hold on to her virginity until she's wed as has R&B singer Jordin Sparks who is 19. The American Idol winner, who also wears a purity ring, lambasted comedian Russell Brand at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards for a jibe he made over The Jonas Brothers' rings, saying: "It's not bad to wear a promise ring because not everybody -- guy or girl -- wants to be a slut."

And it's not just clean-cut American teens flying the flag for abstinence. Voluptuous Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima (28) also vowed not to have sex until it was with her husband. The sexy South American who married Serbian basketball player Marko Jaric earlier this year, declared: "Sex is for after marriage. Men have to respect that this is my choice. If there's no respect that means they don't want me."

Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill Of The Chaste, believes chastity could be the new sexual revolution. She says: "Teenagers are more open to waiting because they want to show their individuality, to rebel, and the most counter-cultural thing they can do these days is to save sex for marriage."

She adds: "They want to be happy, and they see their friends who are sexually active aren't necessarily happier."

Donal O'Sullivan Latchford from the Irish Family And Media Association agrees. He says: "Young people are used to receiving every message from the media except the message that it's OK not to have sex.

"They've been told 'if it feels good, do it' and many of them have been left feeling empty by living that way."

He adds: "From a Christian perspective there are problems with the way the message is delivered in Twilight in that the good guy is a vampire which blurs the lines on people's attitude to the occult. But it's probably the fact that it's packaged in this edgy way that has made teens sit up and listen."

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