ABC's Good Morning America is reporting that the new trend involves teens who are mimicking the smoldering romance between on-screen vampire Edward and his "human" girlfriend Bella, and are biting each other as a sign of their affection. In another variation, teens are cutting themselves and allowing their partner to "drink their blood."
Unfortunately, drawing and drinking blood can cause numerous health problems. Experts at the Mayo Clinic say human bites are just as dangerous, and in some cases, more dangerous than animal bites because of the types of bacteria and viruses typically found in the human mouth. Up to 15 percent of human bites become infected and these can be hard to treat varieties that may require intravenous antibiotics or even surgery.
Human bites, especially among this age group which is experiencing an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, can also spread blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis, syphilis and HIV.
For this reason, experts say that anyone who has been bitten hard enough to break the skin should see a doctor immediately and may need to receive a tetanus shot.
But many teens are either unaware of, or unconcerned with, these warnings.
"Biting is challenging because one of the things we know about sexuality and biting and vampires is that it's passion, it's all-encompassing, it's wanting to consume someone else," New York City "sexologist" Logan Levkoff told Good Morning America. "And biting is sort of an extension of the hickey. It's that same thing about marking someone else and showing passion."
Levkoff says biting "gets to that whole obsessive, compulsive, overwhelming teen sexuality, which is, 'We have all these new feelings, we don't know how to control them, we don't know how to make sense of them.' And for some reason, because it's on the screen, because it seems powerful and sexual, we want to mimic it."
But, she added, "It doesn't make it right."
Movies such as Eclipse, the latest in the four-volume vampire thriller, Twilight, and programs such as CW Network's The Vampire Diaries make blood-letting seem appealing and sexy.
As one teen explained to Good Morning America, the practice of cutting oneself and allowing a partner to drink the blood is believed to bring couples closer.
"That means you're stuck with them," said 15 year-old Paola Hernandez. "They have your blood inside of them and you have their blood and so you're closer to each other.".
Some teens are now posting their biting adventures on the Internet in videos on YouTube and even a few Facebook pages are devoted to the subject.
Missy Wall, program director for the Dallas-based Teen Contact, an organization that provides a hotline for teens who are in trouble, said biting is becoming a modern-day love tap.
"There are even teenagers that have tattoos of bite marks, so I think it's not just they're trying to mimic the hickey," she said. "I think they're trying to mimic what they're seeing in the media and on TV and they're wanting to experience it."