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What turns on a Kryptonian?
September 17, 2009 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

But Superman's sex problems are strictly physiological, and quite real.

By Larry Niven

Here's a panel from the Penthouse comic adaptation (NSFW)
posted by KokuRyu (46 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, reading the original essay (second link) is much, much less annoying than the video. I read it years ago, but maybe some people missed it.
posted by Huck500 at 7:56 PM on September 17, 2009


Wow, and I thought Kevin Smith could be verbose and unfunny about comic book characters and sex!
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:20 PM on September 17, 2009


I agree with Huck500. The video was unwatchable, but I loved the essay when it was posted to Usenet.

Now I am off to google Larry Niven to see if he is still alive.

Thank gog, he seems to be!

The Integral Trees was one of my favorite books when it came out, and now I see there's a sequal, so thanks for the post.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:22 PM on September 17, 2009


Believe it or not, there was an episode of Smallville that went into this, where Clark explained to Chloe that he was afraid of getting busy with Lana, fearing what might happen should he lose control and give her the full Superfuck, so to speak.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:27 PM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now I am off to google Larry Niven to see if he is still alive.

Yeah, he's still alive. It's only his talent that died a while back.

rimshot.
posted by Justinian at 8:28 PM on September 17, 2009


Deleted sex scene from Hancock.
posted by hippybear at 8:36 PM on September 17, 2009


The "known space" universe is something I just loved as a young adult. I haven't dared revisit it in case it is smaller and tawdrier than I remember.
posted by maxwelton at 8:38 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hah! I don't know how many times since I first read that essay as, like, an 11-year-old, that I've used the phrase 'gutted from crotch to sternum like a trout'.

But it's a lot.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:43 PM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


You would be shocked at how many fetishes that story launched... there's a reason Zod wears vinyl conquistador boots.

(Also, Larry Niven is about the only "serious" SF author to put in regular appearances at Anthrocon. I think he does this just to fuck with everyone's head.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:46 PM on September 17, 2009


Who but Elastigirl could survive a sexual encounter with Mr. Incredible?
posted by Scoo at 8:59 PM on September 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've been revisiting Niven's work lately. Things start going downhill for me around the mid-1980s or so -- The Integral Trees was the first novel I didn't enjoy and Footfall is the last thing I can get through without grimacing. The most recently-published work I've read was Rainbow Mars (1999) and the (new) title novella was just a dire, horrible slog. It's depressing.

I'd be curious to hear if the recent Fleet-of-Worlds books have been any good (since they're collaborations, there's at least some hope)...?
posted by Lazlo at 9:04 PM on September 17, 2009


On the one hand, it's very hard for me not to favourite a Superman post, and one with Woman of Kleenex at that, on the other the main link is kind of horrible. Nnnnnnn. It's tearing me apart!

(favourited, dammit)
posted by Artw at 9:19 PM on September 17, 2009


Deleted sex scene from Hancock.

Such a weird mess of a movie. There's going to be a sequel? WTF?
posted by Artw at 9:20 PM on September 17, 2009


Deleted sex scene from Hancock.

Such a weird mess of a movie. There's going to be a sequel? WTF?


Well, the first movie did earn about $625million... and why develop a new property when you can just write for established characters?

/modern movie cynic
posted by hippybear at 9:40 PM on September 17, 2009


See also Stephen Gregg's play, The Sex Lives of Superheroes, which came out, I dunno, just forever ago.
posted by hermitosis at 9:41 PM on September 17, 2009


This plate of beans, it has a cape?
posted by Decimask at 9:47 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


christ, the audio on that was so bad. Guy can't even speak.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:02 PM on September 17, 2009


Yeah, I remember getting through Ringworld Throne once, and not being _too_ pissed off about it, but every attempt I've made since then has sort of petered out after 50 pages or so. I remember slogging through Footfall, but I don't remember the end of the plot synopsis on the wiki page _at all_. Helpful tip: Don't read Fallen Angels. Even if it's free.

That said, I still like Beowulf Shaeffer and Gil Hamilton, and Known Space was fun until it got squicky.
posted by Kyol at 10:05 PM on September 17, 2009


Believe it or not, there was an episode of Smallville that went into this...

I think there's an episode of Smallville that goes into everything now.
posted by ODiV at 10:10 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


IME, maxwelton, it's not so much smaller as it is … kind of threadbare. It's more clearly just a collection of Neat Ideas loosely held together with monofilament. And the ideas' flaws are more well-known now, but I think the flaws are part of what makes the setting so enjoyable; it wouldn't be as much fun to speculate about the dynamics of the Ringworld or how you can make a transfer booth break as few basic physical laws as possible if the ideas were actually fully thought out. His physics really isn't much better than his biology or sociology.

OTOH I haven't really enjoyed anything Niven wrote since 1990 or so…
posted by hattifattener at 10:13 PM on September 17, 2009


And Then There Was The Time That Superman Accidentally Killed His Parents With Pirate Filth
posted by Artw at 11:28 PM on September 17, 2009


From the article;

"Lastly, he'd blow off the top of her head.

Ejaculation of semen is entirely involuntary in the human male, and in all other forms of terrestrial life. It would be unreasonable to assume otherwise for a kryptonian. But with kryptonian muscles behind it, Kal-El's semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine gun bullet [...] In view of the foregoing, normal sex is impossible between LL and Superman."


Ah, yes, but for some reason Superman's costume, made from the Kryptonian blanket he was wrapped in as a baby, seems to be just as impervious to destruction as Superman himself is. Apart from the Doomsday fight, I've rarely seen Superman's costume ripped or torn, no matter how big a scrap he gets into.

If we assume that Krytonian clothing and/or material is just as impervious to damage on Earth as Superman himself is, we can assume a Kryptonian condom would be able to shield Lois' fragile human body from Supermans super-powered semen.

Of course, it is likely that all Kryptonian condoms were destroyed when Krypton itself was destroyed. Jor-El was a smart guy though and was clearly concerned with Kal-El's future, so it's possible he may have packed a whole stack of condoms in the rocketship when he sent Kal-El to Earth. But even if Jor-El wasn't thinking about his infant sons future carnal delights at the time of his planets imminent destruction, Superman has not been without opportunity to secure more.

For example, Supergirl is from Argo City, which is itself from Krypton. Argo city is still known to exist, despite the death of a great number of its inhabitants from the meteor storm. A quick trip to an Argo City Sex Store or Supermarket would give Superman, and Lois, all the protection from super powered semen they need.

And if I recall correctly, Kandor is still sitting in the Fortress of Solitude. There's probably a reason Superman chose the Fortress of Solitude as the place to bed Lois in Superman 2.

And several times throughout Superman's life he has had opportunity to travel back in time to Krypton before its destruction. No doubt he picked up a range of Kryptonian Prophylactics while he was there. And don't even get me started on the potential for obtaining Kryptonian condoms on New Krypton...

But anyway, all this assumes that Superman's junk is in fine, working order and he needs a Kryptonian condom. Sure, he may be the Man of Steel, but is he the Man of Wood, too? Or maybe, despite all his superpowers, he is a sufferer of Delayed or even Retrograde Ejaculation Syndrome. Seen as a curse by many humans, such a predicament might possibly be a blessing in disguise for a super-powered Kryptoninan with needs stuck on Earth.

"He can catch the semen, of course, before it evaporates in vacuum. He's faster than a speeding bullet. "

All arguments about Kryptonian condoms aside, if he's fast enough to catch the semen, he's probably fast enough to make the usually useless 'Withdrawl Method' work.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:26 AM on September 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


Effigy2000, the revelation of your deep nerd-dom is made all-the-more mystifying by your oversight of a basic fact regarding Superman's powers: all of his superpowers are a physiological aberration caused by the radiation of Earth's yellow sun. It makes very little sense (because the rest is oh-so-realistic and sensible) for any Kryptonian device to so easily counteract these powers. More likely, all Kryptonian prophylactics would be just as useless to Clark as Earth's are because Kryptonians would never have had reason to forsee these problems.

Also, you can say anything you like about Larry Niven but you'll never be able to tarnish Inconstant Moon.
posted by Appropriate Username at 1:31 AM on September 18, 2009


Appropriate Username: "... the revelation of your deep nerd-dom is made all-the-more mystifying by your oversight of a basic fact regarding Superman's powers: all of his superpowers are a physiological aberration caused by the radiation of Earth's yellow sun. It makes very little sense (because the rest is oh-so-realistic and sensible) for any Kryptonian device to so easily counteract these powers. ."

My argument dear sir, if you'll be so kind as to reread it, is that anything Kryptonian is rendered impervious to harm as a result of Earth's yellow sun. This is based on the observation that, apart from the Doomsday fight, I've never seen Superman's costume (itself made from Krytonian fabric) ripped or torn despite the various situations Superman gets himself into in the course of his adventures.

For example, Superman flies through a tidal wave; both Superman and costume survive. A nuclear bomb Superman is carrying goes off in his hands; both Superman and costume survive. Superman flies to the surface of the frickin sun; both Superman and costume survive. It goes on and on. So it seems fair to say that anything of Krytonian origin, be it animal, vegetable or indeed, condom, would be rendered impervious to damage as a result of the Earths yellow sun.

In this context, it makes sense that a Kryptonian condom on Earth might afford Lois a measure of life-saving protection at the moment of Superman's climax.
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:53 AM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


You may want to note that the article was written around forty years ago.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:31 AM on September 18, 2009


All good points, but let's not forget about the fundamental difference between men and women.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 2:43 AM on September 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


So it seems fair to say that anything of Krytonian origin, be it animal, vegetable or indeed, condom, would be rendered impervious to damage as a result of the Earths yellow sun.

But what if the condom's somewhere where the sun isn't shining?
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 2:45 AM on September 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


"...we assume that Krytonian clothing and/or material is just as impervious to damage on Earth as Superman himself is..." "...that anything Kryptonian is rendered impervious to harm as a result of Earth's yellow sun..."

Effigy2000, the notion of the sun in your assumption regarding the durability of Kryptionian artifacts is implied and I apologize for disregarding it. Had I realized it, I probably would have attacked it more directly. However, as the nature of Superman's powers has been a source of contention over the years, also contentious is the nature of his costume. Since Byrne put forth the idea that Superman's flight is manifested by a telekinetic field (buoyed by the 70's "bio-electric aura" concept), many have interpreted this to mean that this field extends protection also to his costume. Under this theory, Earth condoms might be sufficient given their close fit. There are others who point out, as you did, that his costume is made from his Kryptonian swaddling, but these lines of thinking seem to imply that Kryptonians merely had textiles with superior durability, not that these fabrics were imbued with strength from solar rays. Nevertheless, both of these lend credence to your idea that Kryptonian condoms would be effective. At this point, I appear to have reasoned myself right out of the argument, and for that I must both thank and curse you. Well played, sir.

Kudos, Karlos the Jackal, but how does one market a solar-powered condom?
posted by Appropriate Username at 3:19 AM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow -- you guys really spent a lot of time thinking about the condom issue where I've just spent the morning (after reading the article but prior to reading your comments) thinking about the issue from a completely condomless position. I guess I won't be opening a comics booth at IML this year. (rather obscure local gay issue explained here)

Anyway, my thoughts were really about how Superman could catch the sperm (assuming that we don't use gold kryptonite because we don't want the little fellows to lose superpowers) -- because I didn't think that a glass test tube was an appropriate vessel. So what about one made of kryptonite? But then how would Superman use it. Well, then make it lead lined with kryptonite.

I thought about this too much but since I did, I figured I'd post it even though now that I read my thoughts not particularly interesting.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:23 AM on September 18, 2009


I picked up a bunch of late-70s-edition Larry Niven paperbacks in the last few years. The Gil the ARM mysteries are pretty good, and some of the short story collections and Puppeteer stuff is good, like "Neutron Star," but a lot of newer books disappoint.

Mind you, "Lucifer's Hammer" still spooks me too much to re-read, and I bet the Mote books and "Footfall" will still be good, but not many of the books after, as stated above, "The Integral Trees," are likely to stand up.

(Those books about the Grendel world just left me scratching my head.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:43 AM on September 18, 2009


I've been a massive Larry Niven fan for years - I honestly think the lot of you are crazy saying things went down hill after Integral Trees - you've obviously not read the newer books from the last few years. Niven has been dealing with the puppeteers more and more of late, to my pleasure, and those books are almost as good as the old Kzin and ARM books.
posted by strixus at 6:54 AM on September 18, 2009


No one is gonna comment on the fact that the narrator pronounced pterodactyl "Pet-ro-dactyl"? That made my bran hurt.
posted by piratebowling at 6:56 AM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a bunch of resources for Larry Niven Fans on the internet. The aside from the annoying two-column interface The Incompleat Known Space Concordance will get you caught up on the Known Space stuff. The Universes of Larry Niven. They're like from web 1.4 but still.
posted by wobh at 7:18 AM on September 18, 2009


I gave up on Niven's newer stuff when The Ringworld Throne, which I'd been waiting for, turned out to be one of the most Parkerful* books I'd ever read.

Based on the Current Superman How He Resists Damage story, which is a close-in forcefield, that imbues things within about an 8th of an inch from his skin with the same invulnerability, that would imply that a Trojan would be just fine.

Lois probably prefers to do it in the cowgirl position just in case, though.
posted by mephron at 8:05 AM on September 18, 2009


crap, forgot!

*Parkerful book: one that inspires thoughts of the wonderful Dorothy Parker line: "This book is not to be taken lightly; it should be thrown with great force."
posted by mephron at 8:06 AM on September 18, 2009


Even as a kid, I knew that Superman's powers (if you really want to be nerdly, Silver Age Superman's--1971 was still well within Silver Age parameters) could be completely neutralized with simulated red sun rays. Yes, even the ones that supposedly derived from his greater-than-human density. So, red sun lamp in the Kent boudoir, problem solved.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:38 AM on September 18, 2009


Yeah, Niven is still alive and making racist political statements. (<>The Mote in God's Eye, so I recently reread it. It's still pretty good, but reading it as an adult it's not hard to find obnoxious/unsavory political parallels. The humans (who are almost all explicitly northern Europeans, the only exception being a slippery, hook-nosed Islamic Trader from "Levant") have to wipe out animal-like (fur-covered and no facial expressions) aliens who "all look the same" and can't control their breeding. The monarchical military is the only competent actor who are thinking of the rest of humanity, with scientists being portrayed as either conniving or head-in-the-clouds unrealists.
posted by DU at 9:12 AM on September 18, 2009


Yeah, I found The Mote in God's Eye an interesting but kind of unpleasant read for exactly those reasons. It seems to have pretty much formed the template for a good section of the "Military SF" subgenre as well, possibly even more so than Heinlein or Haldeman.
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on September 18, 2009


While we're here and talking about Science Fiction, what's the deal with Stranger in a Strange Land?

It didn't even seem like Science Fiction to me or even manage to be all that interesting, really.

The total content of Science Fiction in the book seems to be "They went to Mars. In a Space Ship! After that it's a bunch of telekinesis, orgies, and some insight into how free you can be when you're a multi-millionare.

I was thinking about asking this on the green, but it sounds kind of inflammatory written like this. Maybe if I tone it down a bit.
posted by ODiV at 9:27 AM on September 18, 2009


I thought Heinlein wrote Strange In A Strange Land, not Larry Niven.
posted by hippybear at 9:53 AM on September 18, 2009


Yeah, I loved Stranger as a kid, but the last time I went through Heinlein's later books, I realized that they're pretty miserable on an intellectual level. I still like The Number of the Beast, but that's more because he's lifting literary settings from other authors. But otherwise I try to stick with his short stories now. The Future History stuff was neat to discover, but it ended up getting wrapped up in so much goofy rich person's libertarianism and weird "deviant" sexuality that it hasn't held up well.
posted by Kyol at 9:54 AM on September 18, 2009


I think the answer to your question may be "it was the 60s".

But I'd disagree with it not being science fictional - the ship to mars brings back someone raised by martians, with a martian viewpoint on things, and the story is about how that plays out - that's straight up science fiction right there. And telekinesis may not fall within the bounds of Hard SF or whatnot but it's not like there's a hard wall there that anyone respects.

Have you tried The Moon is A Harsh Mistress? It's kind of a tipping point - It's got the libertarian rants and the polygamous sexual set-ups but still manages to be utterly brilliant.
posted by Artw at 10:10 AM on September 18, 2009


Weird. I just read this essay the other day in an old copy of Niven's collection "All The Myriad Ways." I was startled to find that the ending of his classic story "Inconstant Moon" was completely different than I remembered it. The story made such an impression on me as a kid that it was a strange feeling having the ending be such a surprise.
posted by EarBucket at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2009


What would he to to the woman in his arms during what amounts to an epileptic fit?

You're doing it wrong.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:20 AM on September 18, 2009


...formed the template for a good section of the "Military SF" subgenre as well, possibly even more so than Heinlein or Haldeman.

It's worth noting that the military is portrayed mainly as negative by Haldeman. And that Forever War is pretty clearly a rebuttal to Starship Troopers. (Also, Steel Beach by John Varley is even more clearly a rebuttal to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Also also, my previous comment was screwed up by HTML errors, though fortunately no sense was lost.)

I remember I started SiaSL as a kid and dropped it as being mushy, non-SF junk. Then a friend pressed me to try again and I absolutely loved it through my Teen Libertarian Phase. I daren't read them as a (mental) adult...
posted by DU at 10:21 AM on September 18, 2009


Wow, and I thought my husband was weird for sending me a pic of his sample sperm at the infertility clinic.

Ok, that was weird.

But at least he got to the friggen point!
posted by stormpooper at 7:26 PM on September 20, 2009


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