Sex, Superman, and Sociobiology in Science Fiction
Joseph D. Miller
It is most appropriate to begin this essay with a discussion of Kal-El of Krypton, the most famous of all the supermen. Just what is Superman? An Americanized sanitization of the Germanic Übermensch largely cribbed from Wylie's novel The Gladiator?1 At least Superman, of the blue eyes and vaguely Nordic features, does not have blond hair. Still, Kryptonians, by and large, seem to be ethnically identical to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
But is there more to Superman than the power fantasies of preadolescents? Is there, for instance, a sense in which Superman is a kind of gelded sexual archetype for our culture? For further insight, we need to consider the extraordinary events of a few years ago when Superman lost his virginity.2 It seems that a high-tech villain was able to make Superman's super powers contingent on the wearing of his long johns. Without his costume, Kal-El reverted to purely mortal Clark Kent. Of course, the temptation was irresistible. So "Supes" sent his uniform off to the Fortress of Solitude for laundering and spent a week as pure, unadulterated Clark Kent. During this vacation, Clark's relationship with Lois was finally consummated (Fig. 1). The most interesting outcome of all this was the uproar in the press. Banner headlines in The Daily News described the immorality of DC Comics in depicting a sex life for Superman. Most of this conflagration died down by the time of the Superman movies, and in Superman II, Superman does sleep with Lois Lane. Interestingly, however, this consummation once again depends on a temporary renunciation of the powers which make "Supes" super. In fact, the only example I know of in which intercourse between Superman and normal women is considered is the hilarious short story by Larry Niven entitled