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Sexy Super-Heroes, Or Not

One day in eighth-grade English class, these two girls decided to hit on me for fun.

I, like many nerds in junior high, didn’t get hit on very much, so this was OK.

But it all went downhill once one of them said these words: “You can be Batman, and I’ll be Catwoman.”


In the days before puberty, my nerdiness was read through my glasses and good grades more than anything else. In those days, everyone liked cartoons and video games and stuff.

After puberty, I was pegged as The Guy Who Likes Superheroes.

Which was cute, except for one thing, which these two girls, and many other people since, have ignored: I don’t want to have sex with superheroes.

Yes, superhero stuff can be damn sexy.

Real-life people are sexy enough, so imagine us on a superhuman scale. Yes, the common mainstays of comic book superheroes can have a sexual component. You see it in some fetish gear: heavy boots, skin-tight latex. Masks can be hot. But put ’em all together, give them a wacky name and say they’re fighting crime?

Not hot to me.

And that’s before we even discuss how supers showcase the idealized body. Yes, look at them. Enjoy the perfection. The men with mammoth muscles that began with the bulk of circus strongmen and lean solidity of Olympic athletes, to the post-steroid looks of modern sports stars and bodybuilders.

And the women reflect the fantasies of the age.

In the Golden and Silver Age, their physiques started with Ava Gardner and Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe and Lainie Kazan. The past 20 years have seen countless pages, pencil and ink devoted to Victoria Secret-style, super-slim, super-muscled and ridiculously buxom, cheesecake-contorted, O-faced porn queens.

(An aside: Thanks to guys such as Michael Turner, Jim Balent, J. Scott Campbell for making it extra embarrassing to read comics in public. At least guys like Adam Hughes, Dave Stevens, Frank Cho, Terry Dodson and Sam Basri combine the best of both looks.)

But try explaining all this to people who don’t read comics. Try explaining to the people who make their little girls spew out force-fed, faux-liberal platitudes on why Starfire shouldn’t look/be so slutty. (Never mind that they’re reviving the old slut-shaming dressed up in the language of equality.)

Try explaining why Tarot and Lady Death wear bikins rather than uniforms, and Power Girl has a keyhole top. When non-superpowered Huntress – who gets shot at on a regular basis – wears a costume with her midriff out and biker shorts.

Try explaining that to people who notice that the women have mammoth breasts and think the equivalent is drawing the men with enormous crotch bulges. They bypass all the rippling beefcake wrapped in Superman’s shield.

“I have a super soldier.  In my pants”

On the comic book page, the disparity is glaring. But in the multiplex, the disparity swings the other way.

These days, the superhero movie has shifted the sexualized gaze toward the men instead. We laughed when Joel Schumacher had a butt shot in Batman Forever and put nipples on the suit in Batman and Robin. But he was a decade ahead of the curve.

Look at how the camera lingers in Captain America on Chris Evans’ torso, pumped up more than a pack of Ball Park Franks, as he steps out of the super soldier incubator. Ryan Reynolds spends a few scenes of Green Lantern in his underwear. Hugh Jackman shows his ass in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Will Cap and Thor have a pose-down in The Avengers?

Yet January Jones in X-Men: First Class received a cavalcade of unimpressed sighs when she strutted around in Emma Frost’s battle lingerie.

In this world, no wonder people think I want to have sex with superheroes. Half my female superhero action figures have cleavage.

I really knew I didn’t have any sexual attraction to superheroes when the porn parodies started coming out. I own three of them, based on the swinging-’60s Batman TV show, the ’70s Superman movie, and the Superfriends-style Justice League. I’ve watched all three several times, but after the first viewing I skip the sex parts. The parody parts are far more fun when they’re being parodies, after all.

And I just didn’t really want to see my favorite superheroes making sex. Nope. Just not interested. Makes more sense for the supervillains, though; Randy Spears as The Joker having his way with a pair of henchgirls makes sense to me.

Of course that’s what supervillains do in their spare time.

Sex in superhero stuff like Ed Brubaker’s Incognito and Garth Ennis’ The Boys makes more sense to me, despite all the in taboo-obliterating perversity that would be more at home in Victorian-age pornography. When you’re more human than human, sex has to register on a superhuman scale, right? If we normal humans think missionary is boring, what would Nightcrawler think? But chances are you’d have just as many supers who’d rather be normal in that one moment.

Figuring out the psychology of superhero characters and how that would translate to their sexualities is interesting stuff. If we use superheroes as grand-scale representations of ourselves, then superhero sexuality is important and should be covered, too. Writers such as Alan Moore figured that out and continue to take us there with multilayered portrayals dressed in superhero glory.

But, when it comes down to it, aren’t superheroes supposed to be fun?

So why can’t their hypersexualized ideal be fun, too?

Power Girl as depicted by the king of comic book cheesecake, Adam Hughes
If you’re Power Girl, a 6-foot-tall, nigh-indestructible Kryptonian with 180 pounds of muscle and and perfect G-cups, why would you cover up?  If The Flash didn’t want attention, he wouldn’t wear a skin-tight red outfit with yellow boots, would he? Tony Stark wouldn’t make Iron Man look like a Lamborghini. Vampirella deserves to live out her fantastical existence in that classic Trina Robbins swimsuit. Outsized superhumans and ghouls want to come out and play, too.

Just know that not all us comic book nerds have superhero sex fantasies. No girl ever ever morphed into Wonder Woman when she saw my comics collection and thought it was cool. There’s no slash fiction in my browser history.

If you wanna get with me, put the Catwoman mask down. You’re perfect just being you.

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