What are you most afraid of? The most prevalent anxieties of any sociopolitical climate are reflected in movies of that period (especially horror movies…for obvious reasons). This is true throughout American history. In the 1950s, monster movies like Godzilla represented the threat of nuclear warfare. In the 1980s, Poltergeist revealed a distrust of new technology.1 2016 saw a rise in horror movies dealing with nationalism and class violence.2
Throughout all this, there’s been one fear society has persistently cowered from: female desire. Psychologists like Michael Price of Brunel University theorize that our discomfort stems from long-held beliefs regarding economic dependence.3 Price and his contemporaries believe that “opposition to promiscuity arises in circumstances where paternity certainty is particularly important,” i.e., when women are more economically dependent on their sexual partner and would need financial support to raise any resulting child.
“These feelings are a remnant of some of the oldest impulses in our evolutionary history: A man’s fear of getting stuck with the tab for raising another man’s child, and a woman’s fear of losing her man’s financial support because he suspects her child isn’t his.” 3
Sex resulting in death in horror movies could be attributed to many more things that are a part of American culture, like abstinence/purity culture (especially in religious communities), lack of standardized sex education in schools and legislation surrounding abortion. Even more simply, sex and taking your clothes off in general can be an extremely vulnerable act, and can symbolize vulnerability to violence on-screen.