By Neesha Meminger
Edward Cullen is morally superior. His is the universal, colossal battle of mastering the beast within. What makes us as a species, different from the animals around us is the fact that we have the capacity to rise above our animal natures. And with Bella, Edward’s struggle meets the ultimate test.
Initially, Edward is only attracted to Bella because of her physicality: her smell. This then turns into an inexplicable urge to protect her. So, in this relationship, Bella is safe, protected fiercely, cherished, and her innocence is allowed free roam. She is a child on the cusp of womanhood, exploring her sexuality, her sensuality, her womanchild-ness.
Edward cherishes her fragility and innocence, even as it causes him great pain. At the expense of his own basic, animal hunger, he offers her a safe place to explore her budding sexuality.
And this is key: their relationship can never become sexual. Even a simple kiss requires Herculean effort and self-restraint on Edward’s part. If they were to go “too far,” Edward could lose self control and consume the very innocence he cherishes in Bella. He could kill her.
The final scene, with Edward lifting Bella onto his feet and dancing under the lights of the gazebo at her prom, is the ultimate little-girl-in-daddy’s-arms fantasy—safe, protected, cherished…still innocent. And if we take it a step further based on Valenti’s quote above, still “pure.”
Even Bella's name contributes to this message: Bella Swan, the beautiful white bird. Symbol of chastity and purity for a thousand or two years.
Add to this Edward's stalking behavior, Bella's passiveness, and the whole imprinting thing--big brave male takes care of helpless little female--and you have a misogynist theme.
Jacob's sexual assault
But wait, there's more. In Stephenie Meyer's Use of Quileute Characters, Maerhys wrote:
I grabbed at his face, trying to push it away, failing again. He seemed to notice this time, though, and it aggravated him. His lips forced mine open, and I could feel his hot breath in my mouth.
Below: "Save me, Edward! I can't live without a man!"