The conundrum of alien sex

So I have my male protagonist.  Stubborn, honourable in his own way, very alpha-male and undeniably alien.

Then I have the leader of the human presence on the planet; she’s intelligent, ambitious, and driven to succeed.  He’s agreed to follow her, for reasons that I won’t elaborate here.

And now sex rears its ugly head.

I’ll preface this next part by saying that this is not a romance novel, or an urban fantasy, or, in any way, targeted to an audience who enjoys reading sexy stories.  The female in question does not stalk about the place in a slinky bodysuit with a strap-on phallic symbol (I meant the gun!  Get your mind out of the gutter), and the male is not a tortured beta male in need of a strong woman to guide him.

So the question is, should they or shouldn’t they?

In the first version of the novel, they did, and the sex was hot, heavy and entirely too human.  In the second version, they didn’t, but a critter has just pointed out that he is obviously attracted to her.  Damn it.

Star Trek ruined it for most of us by allowing any race to get it on and, to my horror, breed successfully.  They didn’t even think of the implications of this, and I don’t mean interspecies offspring.   And Kirk wandered through the galaxy poking his apparatus at any alien that would stand still long enough.  Need I mention the green-skinned Orion slave girl?  Or Spock’s parentage?  Worf’s half-human mate K’Ehleyr? My god, am I the most pathetic Star Trek geek ever?

I thought Galaxy Quest did it better.  When Fred Kwan tangles with the alien Laliari in a most tentacular embrace, Guy Fleegman responds appropriately.

“Ohhh, that’s not right!”

Moving on to the biological side, the mechanics of this could be tricky.  Earth species use two methods of genetic material transfer; internal and external.  External transfer is simply sending your genetic material out into the world, to find the matching gamete and produce a zygote.  It can be indirect; like coral, which simply release male and female gametes into the ocean, and let luck guide the result.  Or it can be a little more precise, like spiders, where the male will package up his sperm in a little bundle and hand it to the female.  Do-it-yourself fertilisation.

Now there’s a sex scene to write.

“I want you, I need you.”

“Right.”  *slosh slosh*  “Here you go.”

“What.  The hell.  Is that?”

“My sperm.  Go make babies.”

Puts a bit of a damper on inter-species romance, doesn’t it?

Internal transfer is the norm in more advanced species.  And if I have to explain what that means, then you are too young to be reading this blog.

But internal transfer doesn’t always utilise a vagina or equivalent.  (Boy, can’t wait to see the spam I get on THIS post.)  Snails, those horny hermaphrodites, slide up alongside one another, and shoot calcium harpoons into the skin.  They then reel the other partner in, and pump them full of gametey goodness.  Just anywhere.  The sperm then oozes around the body looking for the ovaries.

But since I’m not writing horror, or some sort of creepy fetish lit, alien males with stabby calcium penii won’t work.

And that doesn’t even touch on the more technical aspects of anatomy.  What if the shortest route to the alien version of a uterus is through the ear?  Could be a little confusing for all parties.

I’m sure you can see my dilemma.  I don’t believe that aliens and humans are sexually compatible.  Which makes it hard to write a believable relationship.

So where do you stand?  Are you pro- or anti- alien/human sex?  Have you ever written a sex scene between two different species, and if so, how did you handle the fundamental differences in biology?


16 thoughts on “The conundrum of alien sex

  1. Ah, Merrilee, Merrilee…. who ever said that sex in novels – or indeed, in life – has anything to do with breeding?


    I only just found this post, and enjoyed it so much I just HAD to comment even though I’m nearly a year behind.

    First of all, humans are not the only Earth animal to have sexual encounters purely for pleasure, so it stands to reason that alien species could also enjoy this clever design feature.

    If your characters are attracted to each other sexually, then I would posit that shows their respective species are similar in the way they link emotion to sexual attraction. If your alien species only uses sex to breed, they’re unlikely to be attracted to a human, right? Unless you’re exploring some kind of weird eugenics, but I’m assuming not in this case!

    For human readers, great sex scenes are about the emotional impact, otherwise they’re just porn (not that there’s anything wrong with porn – but it’s not great sex, not for my money). The emotional sexual attraction then becomes the perfect basis for your sex scene; and in fact if you DON’T write it, you’re shortchanging the characters and possibly the readers.

    Once you wrap your brain around that, then all you’re left with are the mechanics. And I think that’s where the fun can really begin!

    Tentacles are only the beginning….

    Thanks for the inspiring conversation!

    • Hey, a year is never too late to continue a discussion ;)

      In the original version, the aliens had sex for pleasure. In the second version, the desire to mate was controlled by the females, which neatly solved my problem ;)

      You make an excellent point about the sex scene being a culmination of the attraction between two characters, and in most cases, a necessary one.

      Which makes me curious to explore the matter further, and see what would happen between two characters of different species, where one has sex for pleasure, and the other only for reproduction.

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  4. I’m with Nick, sex to some capacity should be in all novels. :) At least some attraction. Alien/Human sex could be really interesting, tricky.. but there’s plenty of room to put your own creative spin on it.

    Like Chris mentioned, maybe have a little of both the norm and grotesque. Sorta in the middle of things, to keep your reader intrigued and totally grossed out.

    I, personally, am really interested to see how you pull this off. Definitely internal. External.. is just.. wrong.

    LOL, am I the only one who thinks it’s both bizarre and intriguing that you know so much about spider/snail sex? haha, great post. :P

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  6. Now that I have had some more time to think about it, your spider alien sex example could really work in an erotic science fiction story. And now my brain really doesn’t want to go there any more.

  7. Well…I guess I stand on the pro side of the predicament, but I believe the most important element is to make it work with the story. Sure, biological compatibility may be an issue, but you can always compromise a little bit–maybe mix a dash of the disgusting with hint of the more natural, human-esque lovin’. That kind of combination could have the potential to keep the scene guiltily sensual with just enough humanity for people to relate and the right amount of strangeness to keep them intrigued by the alien (pun intended) nature of the encounter.

    I keep imagining something along the lines of the first sex scene between Roark and Dominique in The Fountainhead–while it was wrong on so many levels, those I know who have read through that scene have noted how intense, significant, and, in many ways, natural it was.

    Just some food for thought :)

  8. Is it sad that I like my alien sex a la Alien Nation? In that it is possible, breeding isn’t, but the mechanics are just different enough to cause issues. Cathy almost killed Matt Sikes before he grew up and went to the sex education classes. It was played for some laughs, which may not be what your work needs. I’m also assuming you have worked out how your alien species breeds by now.

    And it’s probably even more sad that most of my examples come from my fanfic plotting versus original fiction plotting. Original fiction doesn’t have many aliens yet. Zy’s novel setting does and there are inter-species relationships, basically based on the principle that breeding isn’t the only purpose of a relationship. Sex makes you feel good. But my heroine hasn’t reached that stage yet and probably won’t in the first story. She’s still in the denial stage of the possibility.

    Just to round things up: Mutant Turtles can’t breed with humans, but Martian mice can. The genetic material just isn’t a match for the Turtles. But since we use mice for testing a bunch of human stuff, I said sure and if different planets bother you that much, you probably shouldn’t be reading my fanfiction. :p

    And I’m not even going to touch on elves and changelings, but this could equally apply to the fantasy side as well.

  9. All right, let’s get morphological.

    It is reasonable to think that an alien world could produce species that are vertebrate, mammalian, and placental, so intercourse is possible. Breeding would be highly unlikely.

    So if your alien is a super-intelligent cat, dog, horse, or elephant, then yes, sex is possible, though it may not be terribly enjoyable. Heck, you might even be successful with a marsupial (although on Earth, marsupials have two sets of gear down there!).

    On the other hand, if your alien is a super-intelligent squid or dolphin or spider, then no, sex is pretty much off the table.

    And everyone loves a girl in green!

  10. As far as your situation goes, the more tentacles, the better! hehe.
    If you think about it, males and females are like different species anyway; even ‘aliens’ to each other (Mars/Venus). So maybe we can chalk this up as a good analogy :)
    IMHO sex should be in every story to some capacity. I actually had trouble working allusions to sex into my current storyline. But it’s as real as it gets. And it’s as common as life itself.

  11. I’m pro-sex, but not just because it’s expected. In the first draft of my second chapter, I had my two – then – leads meeting after quite some time and getting close straight away… then I thought, no.

    I ended up going in an entirely different direction, and I think that will help down the line. Sex can be a trick pony, and I didn’t want to necessary burn that emotional time straight away.

  12. LOLOL!!!!!

    I’m pro-sex, but you’re right, the conundrum is severe. I’ve not ever written one, but now I think I have to go find some. In your looking, did you find any interesting ones that did it well?

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