“She has black hair, large black eyes, a very pale face and the body looks quite human.” This is how artist David Huggins describes “Crescent,” the female alien that he claims took his virginity at age 17. Huggins, now in his 70s, is the subject of the 2017 documentary Love and Saucers, which chronicles his regular abductions, his extraterrestrial sexual exploits and his artwork about these many encounters.
Looking at his paintings — especially, perhaps, this one — it’s easy to write off Huggins as a crazy dude whose fetish for the Greys got taken a few steps too far. But he’s hardly the first person to claim such a thing: There are, in fact, several hundred — if not a few thousand — years of precedent for his tales.
Yes, dudes have been fucking hot aliens pretty much since aliens were a thing, or at least, they’ve been trying to. It goes back to at least the 10th century in Japan with the Japanese folklore of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. In the story, an old, childless man is out cutting bamboo when he finds a little baby girl, about the size of his thumb, inside a bamboo stalk. He takes her home, raises her, and she eventually grows to become a strikingly beautiful, normal-sized woman.
Her beauty becomes so legendary that everyone in Japan tries to get with her, the emperor included, but she turns them all down — eventually, it’s revealed that she’s from the moon, and to everyone’s disappointment, she’s got to go back. And so, her moon family comes and picks her up. The emperor is so distraught at her departure that he sends his people to the top of the highest mountain to get a message to her via smoke, and that, says the legend, is why Mount Fuji (a volcano) still produces smoke to this day.
Of course, once you include love affairs with beings who are simply other-worldly, rather than strictly extra-terrestrial, you can go all the way back to pretty much the dawn of storytelling. Such tales abounded in Ancient Greece, thanks to their large and relentlessly horny pantheon of gods: The beautiful goddess of love, Aphrodite, for example, had a bit of a thing for handsome mortal shepherds.
As you might expect, mortal women fared less well in such relationships. There are multiple different accounts of Zeus turning into animals to seduce (or outright rape) women, a move that’s never really been explained considering that just appearing as his six-packed Greek-god self would probably have worked out pretty well for the dude. Either way, while men would go on to consistently fuck good-looking aliens for the next several millennia, women would more often be forced or tricked into shacking up with hideous creatures.
In fairness, things may have got a little more consensual on that front (The Shape of Water, for example), but women screwing monsters still remains a recurring trope, and one that still plays into the idea of the female rape fantasy. And fantasy of one kind or another, of course, is what this is all about: According to sex therapist Catherine O Dowd of Creative Sexpression, the idea of men boning hot aliens could play into a variety of different fantasies, depending upon the dynamics of the situation. “The interesting thing about sci-fi films and their sexualization of the female alien is how it reflects the broader socio-cultural views of women’s sexuality and role in society at the time,” O Dowd explains.
Unsurprisingly, one of the earliest dynamics for such a coupling is with the alien woman as a damsel in distress. This comes up especially in the comics and pulp stories of the early 20th century, like 1911’s John Carter of Mars, 1928’s Buck Rogers and 1934’s Flash Gordon, all three of which feature a brave male protagonist saving a sexy alien princess of some kind.
Sometimes, too, the sexual dynamic of an Earth man coupled with a female alien would simply be a plot device in a larger political message. Such was the case in Tolstoy’s 1923 novel Aelita, in which an astronaut travels to Mars and finds a society riven by extreme class differences, much like Russia prior to its revolution in 1917. The human astronaut falls for — you guessed it — the Martian princess, in a case of literally star-crossed lovers. For a similar example, the 1927 film Metropolis deals with issues of class, and while the character of Maschinenmensch isn’t an alien, she is other-worldly, and her appearance is certainly sexualized.
In 1952, science-fiction fans got something of an anomaly with a story entitled The Lovers by Philip José Farmer. The story chronicles a man whose extraterrestrial wife dies in childbirth, leaving him to care for their children. What makes this story unusual in this context is the fact that his wife is actually some kind of insect creature, and his kids are basically maggots — despite this, he learns to love his squirmy children. Aside from the more nuanced message of love that Farmer presented, the piece is notable here because, according to a series of articles entitled Imagining Alien Sex at The Los Angeles Review of Books, this may be the first explicit case of human/alien sex in fiction, whereas previous stories had only implied it.
The mature storytelling of The Lovers would differ greatly from a new dynamic that came to pass during the 1950s. According to Mike “McBeardo” McPadden, author of Heavy Metal Movies and Teen Movie Hell, the 1950s ushered in a new dynamic in which a male astronaut would venture to a planet inhabited by an abundance of beautiful aliens. McPadden cites movies like Cat Women of the Moon, Fire Maidens from Outer Space and Queen of Outer Space, to name just a few. In each of these films, one or a few male astronauts land on an alien planet swarming with sexy, scantily-clad, lady aliens who want nothing more than to vigorously attempt reentry with said astronauts. It’s now a trope so overdone that it’s been parodied endlessly, including a skit on Saturday Night Live with the character of Astronaut Jones, played by Tracy Morgan.
Alexandra Katehakis, clinical director for the Center for Healthy Sex, points out that the role of the amorous, submissive female alien is a fantasy that obviously appeals to power dynamics. “The male has complete control of the female alien object,” Katehakis says. She also says that this is essentially the opposite of the horrible creature dominating the helpless female in movies like King Kong, because in these films, the male gets to completely dominate the beautiful alien women.
As the Imagining Alien Sex series covers, sometimes science fiction is also a device to make risqué storytelling more palatable. In this case, it could be used to talk about the topic of forbidden love — such was the case in the days of Flash Gordon. Interracial relationships were controversial in the 1930s, and one of Gordon’s main love interests was his enemy’s daughter, Princess Aura, who derives from an alien race modeled after wildly offensive Asian stereotypes.
The original Star Trek also dealt with the issue of forbidden love (“Christ, there’s not an episode that goes by where Kirk isn’t with some hot alien chick,” points out McPadden). While the total number of Kirk’s alien conquests is up for debate, there are at least a few extraterrestrials he gets into bed with. Despite this human-alien boning, though, Trek’s most controversial moment of passion is actually all human: The episode “Plato’s Stepchildren,” featuring a smooch between Kirk and Uhura, gave us — arguably — the first interracial kiss on American television, a move so bold it had to be explained away with the idea that the two smoochers were under alien mind control at the time.
After the subservient space women of the 1950s and the barrier-breaking alien intimacies of the 1960s, the sexual revolution continued to give rise to a whole new dynamic of sexual freedom. McPadden cites the 1974 sci-fi sex comedy Flesh Gordon as the prime example of this, where, among several other thinly-plotted sexual exploits, Gordon visits a planet of lesbians. 1968’s Barbarella, starring Jane Fonda, turned the entire trope on its head, with Fonda as the sexually adventurous female astronaut humping her way through an intergalactic adventure (and proving too horny for even a literal sex machine to keep up with).
From the 1980s and onward, another new, more paranoid dynamic would take over. Guys would still get to make it with a hot alien, but the hot alien would kill him afterwards. While there were precursors to this, like the 1957 film The Astounding She-Monster, McPadden points to 1985’s Lifeforce as the movie that turned the tide. As he explains, “In the film, the main character spends the entire movie nude, walking around London, vampirizing guys. It was a really shocking film.”
Just a few years later the concept would be played for laughs in My Stepmother Is an Alien, but in the 1990s it would become (kinda, not really) scary again with the Species films, where Natasha Henstridge played the beautiful, predatory and oft-naked Sil. More recently, 2013’s Under the Skin made the concept genuinely terrifying, thanks to Scarlett Johansson’s utterly chilling man-eater (if that was, indeed, what she was doing with them).
For Katehakis, this scenario plays into the other end of the power/control dynamic. “It’s similar to the classic cuckolding fantasy, where the male is being told what to do by the dominant female. The power and control dynamics can go either way. They can be dominant or submissive; it just depends upon what you’re into,” she says.
McPadden brings up another component that he feels feeds into the more horrifying version of this fantasy. “Certainly in 1985 with Lifeforce, this was when AIDS was emerging, and it was all very terrifying and unknown. This film, and others to follow, highlighted the fear of exotic and unknown sex,” he says.
But while the scarier dynamic seems to have taken hold since the 1980s, it’s notable that none of the other types have disappeared completely. 1997’s The Fifth Element sees Bruce Willis shack up with, basically, a sexy alien damsel in distress, even if she does later turn out to be the most dangerous creature in the universe. 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy has plenty of echoes of Flash Gordon, with a (somewhat) heroic Earthling getting together with the beautiful alien daughter of the big bad guy (and making a mess of the sheets with some others along the way). The antiquated image of the female alien sex object rears its head way past the 1950s, occuring in 1985’s Cocoon and — memorably — in the form of a triple-breasted alien in 1990’s Total Recall (a scene that even the totally forgettable 2012 remake felt compelled to include).
With all of these different dynamics and the different fetishes they play into, though, is this fantasy anyone’s actual thing? Is there anyone out there who’s really into the idea of boning aliens? Katehakis says, “Of the literally thousands of men I’ve spoken to about their sexual addictions, none have mentioned that they were into aliens. Instead, I’d say it’s more about play than anything else. Similar to hentai, it’s a fantasy that allows men to travel into realms that they could never go into in real life. They can’t actually see themselves doing it, and of course, they can’t actually do it.”
As for Dowd, she says that there’s nothing to say an alien fetish doesn’t exist, but she imagines those movies and TV shows connect more to object fetishism (when the women are more submissive) or to male insecurities (for the female-dominated scenarios). She points to the Freudian image of the vagina dentata — a vagina with teeth — as an example. “Freud might have interpreted men who fantasize about dominant female aliens as having a castration anxiety,” she notes.
That said, Dowd points out that there is an actual name for people who are aroused by aliens or outer space: Exophilia. She adds, though, that there are very few studies into this subject, so not a whole lot is known about it and it isn’t believed to be terribly common. Additionally, as is pointed out in this Psychology Today article, even those like Huggins who claim to have had real-life alien sex don’t appear to be real exophiles, because they often claim to have been taken against their will.
So what will the future of alien sex bring? One thing is sure: When it comes to dudes fantasizing about an alien hottie begging them to “teach me about this Earth thing you call boning,” we are still a long, long way from the final frontier.