If It Feels Too Good To Be True…

(Originally posted December 6, 2010) I remember the first blood I ever had from a donor. It was a minute amount, and I mean a really minute amount. It was about a drop or less, even – because my friend the willing donor was probably the polar opposite of a bleeder. He tried. He used a lancet, making several punctures in both forearms. He squeezed the wounds, jumped up and down, but hardly anything came out. Finally I got that one glistening, gleaming drop.

I had no idea what to expect, and I was really tired out at the time. When all I could get was that tiny drop, I felt even more tired and disappointed. I noted the taste as I licked the precious liquid – there was barely enough for that – and so that was it. Or so I thought. Fifteen minutes or so later, unexpected, I noticed a sudden surge of energy inside me, like a heat wave. And I was suddenly alert and awake too. It didn’t last long, just ten minutes or so, but I definitely knew where it came from. And it has been the same for me every time I feed sang, with varying results I admit. Which leads me to question the validity of studies such as this one I read over the weekend.
Robert Parratore posted an article claiming his “study” essentially proves that “sang vamps” have no real physiological need for blood, but that their professed need is purely psychological. Of course, he softens the blow by suggesting that this makes our need no less real.
In his article, Parratore relates how he conned a couple of “sang vamps” who took part in an “experiment” in a university lab. How did he do this? Well, that’s easy – he invited them round in three groups, and offered them some blood to drink. According to his article, the “sang vamps” were given cups filled with fake stage blood, and they were led to believe that it was the real article.
Of course, being a university lab, it was not unreasonable to assume that they would have a vat of O- on tap just in case some thirsty vamps dropped by to participate in their experiment. Naturally, the “sang vamps” in question may have just assumed they were onto a good thing. Free blood, hey who could resist that offer? And it wasn’t at all suspicious that they poured a whole cup of blood per vamp, after all, plenty more where that came from, right? And besides, what’s suspicious about being offered a cup of free blood? Happens all the time.
It’s not clear from the article what the actual aim of the test was, but apparently the whole thing revolved around Mr Parratore’s “sang vamp” friends and the claims they made about how drinking blood made them feel. I therefore have to assume that the “experiment” was intended to determine whether “sang vamps” would still feel the same effects they reported from drinking actual human blood, from drinking the fake blood (while thinking it was real blood).
The outcome? The test subjects drank the “blood”, unable to tell the difference between a mixture of corn syrup and food colorant, and real blood – and apparently experienced the same effects. Naturally, this brought Mr Parratore to the not unreasonable conclusion that it was all in their heads. (No, he says, it doesn’t mean that sangs are crazy, it just means the need sangs feel for blood is psychological rather than physiological. Yes, that’s what I thought – send for the folks in white lab coats etc, etc.)
This is of course a clear demonstration of the “placebo effect”. I and most sangs I know sometimes use a placebo when we cannot get to a donor for various reasons. It lessens the cravings to a degree, until you can get to a source. We all have our own way of dealing with it.
But, be that as it may, I have some questions to ask around this experiment:
1) Who were the “sang vamps” involved? Bear in mind there are loads of different folks out there calling themselves vampires today. Were they a) people living the lifestyle of vampires? b) people who really need blood to stay healthy? c) fetishists who get a thrill out of drinking blood? or d) did he just walk outside, grab the first group of goths he found, saying “you, you and you – you’re vampires, follow me”?
2) Was pier pressure taken into account in this experiment? By that I mean, did he gather them round the table and play down-down with them, or were the participants allowed to experience the results privately? So often there are people trying to prove to each other that they are “more real” than you, to “catch you out”, or to discredit each other. If in company, one claimed to “feel” something from ingesting the placebo, it is likely the others would have followed suit to avoid stigma or accusations that they are not a “real vampire”.
3) Were the participants really sanguine Vampyres? Parratore takes pains in pointing out the unpleasant taste of the fake blood. If the participants in the study had tasted blood before and were actual “sang vamps”, howcome they couldn’t tell the difference between corn syrup (eeeuw) and the real deal? Aside from the taste, absence of actual “blood rush” afterwards would be a clue.
4) Actual sanguine Vampyres are not as commonplace as Mr Parratore makes us sound. He reports the test was performed on three batches or groups of participants. I don’t know if you realize this kind of detail, but for an outsider to try to find a bundle of sanguine vamps in any one area at one time, would be quite an achievement. Try to find some who are willing to participate in a “study” in a lab – even with “free blood” on offer, and you will really be onto something.

5) No mention is made of whether the participants were aware of any safety precautions around the “blood” they were drinking. I cringe to think they may just have just assumed the “blood” they were being offered was somehow safe, or without worrying about what kind of blood it was,  where it came from, and without asking for some kind of proof that it was safe to consume.

6) There is no mention made of any control group having received actual blood to test against the negative provided by the apparent “study”. But I suppose, judging by the  lack-luster performance of the participants in the study, they wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between blood and  Kool-aid anyway (and technically didn’t). Also, no mention of any varying responses to the “blood” were mentioned. No data is provided aside from the body of the article, nor any contact details for the facility where the ‘research” was conducted, not any offer to provide access to the data collected.

These points and inconsistencies give me reason to question whether the folks who participated in Mr Parratore’s experiment were really “sang vamps” in the first place. Of course, as Mr Parratore points out, he is likely not going to be appreciated for his efforts, least of all by the Vampyre community, which generally doesn’t appreciate being made liars – nor fools of.
We regularly run the gauntlet of researchers and scientists who claim we are “sick”, “mentally ill” or “dangerous”, and there is the understandable fear that should scientists really take us seriously and slip us under a microscope, we will be fitted for a funky jacket and rubber room soon afterward.

I am loathe to consider that despite his claim to be trying to help Vampyres “validate” our nature, his intentions were in fact to discredit us.

Aside from the above, did Mr Parratore consider the health of his guinea-pigs  when he fed them enough corn-syrup to give them a major sugar-high, which would be shortly followed by a steep crash? Did he bother to check if he had any diabetics in his test group? And lastly, why was his story filed in the “creative writing” section?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so harsh on the folks in the medical and scientific community who take the trouble to try and understand us better. I am of course, referring to researchers who follow an acceptable code of ethics. At the end of the day though, all Mr Parratore has done is give a bunch of people who may or may not be “sang vamps” a placebo – something which most sangs do themselves anyway.
Mostly, we would like to understand ourselves better too – and getting scientists and doctors behind us would be better in the long run than making enemies out of them. I do think that in the case of this “study” he should go back to the drawing board. Perhaps next time Mr Parratore would care to involve the community in his planning in order to do more detailed research? There is of course, loads more research that can be done around Vampyres.
And free blood is always a winner.

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