(Be sure to tune in to the latest episode of the podcast!)
Remember that photo of the female chimp that I posted back on Friday? It’s relevant to what I want to talk about today.
When a female chimp is in estrous, her genitals will swell and turn bright red. That’s absolutely sexy to male chimps, but absolutely repulsive to humans.
Now, chimps are one of humanity’s closest genetic relatives, if not the closest. Yet their sexual cues are incompatible with all of non-freak humanity.
Now, as biologist PZ Myers has pointed out, imagine the sexual cues of an alien – an organism that evolved on another planet, with an incompatible biochemistry and a thoroughly foreign perceptual apparatus and psychology.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the sexy aliens of Star Wars and Star Trek, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t, either. There’s nothing wrong with them, okay? They’re fun, they’re sexy, they conform to genre expectations… what’s not to like?
However, if you want to make things a little more realistic, like we do, then you’re going to have to get rid of sexy aliens. Just like faster-than-light travel and the Force, they’re not possible.
Love between species is going to be complicated, too. I’m not saying it can’t happen. However, the suite of emotions and drives that one species calls love may be nonexistent or completely different in another. A human may feel trust, concern, and even a feeling of comfort with their alien partner – or partners – but they should probably expect to receive either nothing or a different and incomprehensible suite of emotions in return.
Sex is going to be a problem, too. They’ll probably incompatible sexual organs or practices, and they’ll definitely have incompatible sexual biochemistry. We can assume that intercourse is going to involve an exchange of bodily fluids and, between alien species, those fluids will either be completely inert or toxic.
We can also rule out hybrids like Star Trek’s Spock and B’Elanna Torres. That’s because genetic material will also be incompatible between alien species.
I’m not saying that love and sex are impossible between species. Humans get creative when they’re horny, and there’s no reason to assume that aliens wouldn’t be equally creative. Nature will put up a lot of obstacles, but I’m confident that we’d overcome them if we really want. We just might have to suit up like we’re going on a moonshot first, is all.
And if we want kids with our alien lover, or lovers, we could always adopt. The desire to have children is a powerful one, so much so that some mammals that lose their own babies will adopt children from other species. It’s hard to tell the effects that being raised by alien parents will have on a kid but, if the parents are attentive and careful enough, I don’t see why it can’t be done.
This post is getting long enough, so I’m going to end it here. There’s one more thing I want to touch on here, though. Tune in tomorrow for our very first weekend post to find out what it is.