Alien Sex: The Stranger, The Better

How do aliens have sex?

It all depends on their biology — and your imagination.

Since we science-fiction writers are the makers and breakers of specualtive biology, we ought to get really creative with the way our non-human characters do the rumpy-pumpy.

If we invest so much brain juice in coming up with fantastic worlds and alien technologies, why not put that same sweet juice to use in coming up with creative, weird, and even downright creepy ways for our aliens to have sex? Why assume aliens have two genders just like us, with gender roles and mating rituals just like ours, and even—the muses forbid!—the ability to mate with us? That’s just lazy worldbuilding.

Alien coutring (courtesy of Species 3, or rather H.R.Giger)
Alien courting (Species 3)

If our aliens are to be truly alien and convincingly different, the way they have sex and procreate has to be really imaginative.

Where do we get the best inspiration for that?

Why, the animal kingdom, of course. Not that humans don’t regularly come up with mindboggling things to do between the sheets (or in public…), but when it comes to outlandish and almost unearthly, animals & critters are way ahead of us.

 

Take a look at how these creatures do it:

Honey bee male drones that were lucky enough to be chosen by the queen for a tumble, have their genitals explode inside her after mating, to prevent other males from fertilizing her.

Garter snake mating ball
Garter snake mating ball

Red-sided garter snakes—who mate by the female releasing such a potent pheromone that hundreds of male come to deck her at the same time, instigating a huge orgy called “mating ball”—have she-males who release the same pheromone to… get attention and protection by hundreds of horny, two-membered (snakes have two penises, called ‘hemipenes’) males rubbing up against them.

What’s also interesting is that in most species of snakes, the females can store sperm for up to 5 years, from several males, and choose which sperm to fertilize themselves with.

Male giraffes induce the females to urinate (by poking them in the rump!) and then drink the urine to find out if the females are in estrus.

Male dolphins have prehensile, retractible penises they can extend, flex, and even use to explore objects (and other sea creatures, when they don’t have a female dolphin nearby to release their ravenous sexual appetite). Dolphins are so sexually active, they will masturbate with anything they can get (including beheaded fish—link to video), or penetrate each other’s blowholes.

Male bedbugs impale the females anywhere they can (since the females don’t have genitals) and inject their sperm into their bodies.

Red velvet mites create “love gardens” for their females, smearing their sperm all around their grassland arhitecture, then luring the female in to sit down and chillax… and get fertilized.

Whiptail lizard
Whiptail lizard

Whiptail lizards have no males! That’s right—all whiptail lizards on this Earth are females. How do they mate? They clone themselves. Two sexy, horny females meet, perform pseudocopulation and thus stimulate ovulation in both, and when the eggs hatch, all babies are clones of their mothers.

Banana slugs have penises that are as large as they are (6-8 inches). They are hermaphrodites, so when they mate, they inseminate each other. But they have to choose their partners carefully, because if one slug is too small, the other slug’s penis will get stuck inside him (or her), and the smaller slug will chew the larger slug’s penis off when it’s done, thus killing him (or her).

 

And if that wasn’t bizzare enough, keep reading.

 

Anglerfish pair
Anglerfish pair

The anglerfish males are tiny compared to the females, and look vastly different. They also have a very different fate. They are born without a digestive tract, so they have to find a female very quickly or die a senseless death. If they do find a female, they attach themselves to her (wherever they can) and fuse to her, effectively melting into her body and becoming a part of her.

The female will release an enzyme that helps her digest the male, leaving nothing more than what looks like a “growth” with a sperm sack inside, that keeps producing sperm as it now shares the same blood supply with the female. When she’s ready to mate, she will extract the sperm and get going.

Argentine Lake Duck
Argentine Lake drake showing off

Argentine Lake drakes (apart from having cork-screw shaped penises like all duck species), also have extremely long penises they can lasso a female with. In fact, their penis is as long as they are, and thus the longest of all birds. They also use the tip of their penis to scrape out sperm left by other males.

 

Antechinus mouse
Antechinus mouse

The male antechinus mouse, a tiny rodent who lives in Australia, has a two-to-three week long mating season during which he has so much sex, with so many females, for so long (up to 14 hours per mating!) that he literally disintegrates. “He exhausts himself so thoroughly that his body starts to fall apart. His blood courses with testosterone and stress hormones. His fur falls off. He bleeds internally. His immune system fails to fight off incoming infections, and he becomes riddled with gangrene.”

Octopuses (or octopi, for the more pedantic) are cannibalistic, antisocial and profoundly antagonistic toward each other. They see each other as competition or prey, even when it comes to mating. When a male wants to mate with a female, he must deposite the sperm inside her with his mating arm (called hectocotylus), but the chance that the female will strangle him and eat him is so big, he often has to resort to clever tricks (or sacrifices) to mate at all.

While cannibalism during (or after) mating is not so strange in insects, strangulation among mollusks is, as are the male’s strategies of approaching the female disguised as another female, sneakily penetrating her ‘at an arm’s length’ without even getting within her strangling reach, or ripping his own mating arm off after inserting enough spermatophores (or even before, and sending it on its way to her!), and making a quick escape.

Octopus mating (credit: Pierangelo Pirak)
Octopuses mating (credit: Pierangelo Pirak via BBC Earth)
Quolls mating
Quolls mating

Quolls have probably the most violent mating ritual of all mammals. The females will all go into heat at the same time during winter, bringing about a massive mating frenzy. The males will try to mate with as many females as possible, for as often as possible (since they only ejaculate very few sperms each time), which makes them quite greedy and aggressive. So aggressive, in fact, that they often grab females with their teeth and claws and drag them into their dens to mate with them. It’s not uncommon for females to get killed in the process, and then get eaten by their sex-rabid partner. But that bad karma has most males so exhausted and depleted, they die a couple of weeks after mating season.

The Dana Octopus Squid uses its beak and claws to cut the female in several places. Then he injects sperm into the wounds, which burrows its way through the female’s body using an enzyme.

Water Striders mating
Water Striders mating

Water strider males will rub their legs on the surface of the water during mating, to attract predatory fish. Why? To get the female to hurry and accept their sperm quickly and generously, before they get eaten.

Porcupine males will drench the females in urine, at high velocities and from a distance. If the females like the golden shower, they roll over, exposing their soft bellies, and allow the males to mount them.

White-fronted parrots tongue-kiss each other, and the more they get into it, the more aroused the males become until they eventually vomit in their lovers’ mouths. The females welcome the treat, considering it an act of utmost intimacy which gets them in the mood.

Dunnoks (more commonly known as hedge sparrows) are mostly monogamous, but females will often keep a secondary male around who they call upon when the main male is out on business. The secondary male, who’s waiting in the bushes hoping for just this moment, will drop in and quickly mate with the female, then make himself scarce again. When the main male returns, the female exposes her genitals to him, and he pokes around them until all the sperm of the secondary male flows out. Then he mates with her.

You will rightfully wonder why the hell they do this. The answer is quite simple: this way, the female has two men caring for and feeding her chicks when they hatch, but makes sure the stronger one’s genes are used for the actual procreation.

And the list could go on…

But frankly, there’s enough material here to come up with truly alien sex rituals and mating mechanics to wow the readership for a long time to come. I will most definitely use one (or more) of these in future novels.

How about you?

Have you developed or encountered some strange alien sex in stories? Tell me about it!

14 Replies to “Alien Sex: The Stranger, The Better”

  1. Well, if I read science fiction, it is the story. As long as there are alien creatures, they can have sex, but I wouldn’t care.

    Why is that ?

    Because I am human. I find how sex is done between animals interesting, but that is it. So whatever aliens do, would be at the same level – or less. So what if they blow sperm through each others air holes, or copulate with their alien parts – it is alien – and .. boring to watch…

    Unless – it is human – alien ? Why, because we know how we react, but how do we react if a an alien bathe us in pheromones, have tentacles that stimulate all parts of us, can picture images in our mind, etc – that would be … very interesting/stimulating.

    But then again I read sci fic for the story, not particular for the sex parts.

    Why sex ? Well, I don’t know. It seem to be interesting for many people.

    In ring world a trade deal? was celebrated with sex. Ok… nice. But I don’t remember any details, so I guess it was left to that. I guess I try to sex, to describe sex, particular unknown alien sex, can not be more much than interesting to me. Like describing a view to a blind person? Or music to a deaf?

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    1. Well, sure, it’s not that important how some alien monsters copulate, but if the alien is a main character in your story and the sex act is a critical plot element, then how it is performed and what it means to that character is important.

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      1. On point, I would say the how is very important, considering…

        Using humanity (and the animal kingdom, by extension) as a model, sex rigidly defines both society as well as survival. Even throwing out examinations of gender (as well as is mutability), a species and its physiological “apparatus” would be greatly influenced by its sexual function.

        Case in point? Imagine the bees/exploding genitals transposed on a humanoid creature which uses verbal communication and has an advanced society (not knocking bees as they are). Now, even with a human main character, if said character were to visit/interact/conduct trade or whatever else with the culture, imagine the way the society structures itself. If death was assured in a successful mating, and if to be qualified as a mater is a point of competition, the society would very likely build entire religious and cultural observances around mating that are FAR different than our own.

        Witness the human witnessing two (or three, or four) males entering the “Proving Grounds,” where trial by whatever is the greatest rite they could ever participate in. The human would view the losers as the lucky ones, since they theoretically maintain their genitals in a non-exploded fashion. The lucky winner thereby goes to presumably inseminate a female at the cost of his life (or potentially be medically saved, albeit without further reproductive capacity).

        Anyways, this fascinating thread just had me dying to throw my two cents in. Hell, I like my walking bees. Maybe I’ll just have to write this one…

        (PS Veronica: congrats on the book!)

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      2. Oh, I like your walking bees, Mark!

        Being “blessed” with such procreation mechanics as an intelligent species makes for awesome story material.

        Just imagine… in our society, ‘studs’ are quite hailed in very manly-man-ish circles. But you can’t become a stud if you die after sex. What would a prominent trait of masculinity in that culture be? If they can’t pride themselves with many conquests, and the wide spreading of their genetic material is impossible.

        Or is it? What if they use artificial insemination to achieve this genetic dispersion anyway? Or what if they organize raffles or auctions where hundreds of females bid for the coveted seed of a particularly influential male, since he can only give it once?

        I also think such a culture would have little to no sexual promiscuity, OR they would find very imaginative ways to have sex without procreating. How about brain-to-brain sex? Neuronal stimulation? Leaving out all the carnal stuff that ends with death…

        So many possibilities! 🙂 I think you have to write that story now.

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    2. Incidentally, I have what could be called a human-alien sex act (even though NO procreation or fertilization is involved) in my debut novel, THE DEEP LINK. It comes with tendrils being inserted into the human brain, causing a plethora of “special effects.” 🙂

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  2. I’m trying to remember a China Mieville novel (may have been Perdito Station) which involved human and insect sex. It’s worth checking out (assuming I’ve remembered the right book 🙂 )

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  3. Sex isn’t often an element in my stories. I tend to focus on how mentally or physically the aliens are different. Said aliens might look mostly human, but be completely different in how their brains work, society function, etc. Or, they might look and behave utterly alien, but have something we can connect with.

    Still, its something to keep in mind.

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    1. Oh, those that look and behave alien but have some psychological element that we can connect with (much as we do with animals, though on a deeper level if the aliens are highly intelligent & culturally evolved) are the most interesting! That’s my aim in writing aliens. I hope I can do my imagination justice with my words!
      Thanks for commenting, Fatma! 🙂

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  4. I didn’t get a chance to read this until just now, and oh how I laughed at your descriptions of the animal kingdom’s kink. My favorite was the mites getting invited to sit down and chillax -and get inseminated. Love your turn of phrase. This reminds me how I’m sure I’m on some government list for the things I research for novel writing. Wonder what list(s) this just landed YOU on?!? Ha. P.S. Your new pic below is fabulous. Take care, Vero!

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  5. Just came across your site while researching human animal mating practices and possibilities for a series of stories I am writing .Instead of aliens it is set in the past that is so unknown that recent discoveries have thrown the whole theorized history of the evolution of man in the trash. Also the timeline was also proved to be very wrong.
    I have researched scholarly articles in archeology, anthropology, geneticists now extracting and decoding the DNA of ancient hominids that they thought were separate branches before and during modeler homo sapiens. In spain in a famous archeological site called ‘the cave of bones’ d.n.a was decoded from a thigh bone that had neanderthal, modern homo sapien and denisovan mixed. The age of the bone was over 460,000 years! Imagine a world that spans from 2 million years ago up through the last ice age showing different human branches intermixing, breeding, etc. The same would be happening in the other species as they were in a constantly changing environment of Ice Ages, and warming periods. Even the Ice Ages had brief warming periods.
    Sorry for the length but wanted to get your feedback on the basic idea.
    Thanks, Jan

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