Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


Chapter 12.  Alien Sex


"This is indelicate of you, Louis. One does not discuss sex with an alien race." A head emerged from between Nessus’s legs and focused, disapproving. "You and Teela would not mate in my sight, would you?"
"Oddly enough, the subject did come up once, and Teela said -- "
"I am offended," the puppeteer stated.
          -- from Larry Niven, in Ringworld (1970)753

So -- Martia was a female. Female at least in the sense that she carried eggs -- and, at times, young -- within her.
And there was the so-called worm. So called? What could he call it? It could not be designated under one category. It was many things in one. It was a larva. It was a phallus. It was also her offspring, of her flesh and blood.
But not of her genes. It was not descended from her.
She had given birth to it, yet she was not its mother. She was neither one of its mothers....
"There’s no reason to get upset," he told himself. "After all, the splitting of animals into two sexes is only one of the ways of reproduction tried on Earth. On Martia’s planet Nature -- God -- has fashioned another method for the higher animals. And only He knows how many other designs He has fashioned on other worlds."
Nevertheless, he was upset.
          -- from Philip Jose Farmer, in Strange Relations (1960)2500

"We’re humans," he said. "I'm Jos Parner. This is my wife, Gela."
"What is a wife?" asked the Lut.
"Why -- a wife -- " answered the human in astonishment. "I’m a man, she’s a woman. Male -- female -- "
"You mean," demanded the Lut, "that your race is bisexual?"
"Of course," answered the man. "Isn’t everything? Aren’t you -- " He broke off and stared at them. "You mean it’s not usual?"
          -- from Gordon R. Dickson, in "The Odd Ones"2165

Conway drifted off to sleep finally, his mind seething with the hot, vivid imagery more normal to an adolescent seriously disturbed for the first time by a member of the opposite sex. Only on this occasion the girl of Conway’s dreams was a six-legged, intelligent crab called Senreth....
          -- from James White, in "Countercharm"2175



Reproduction is unique among the many biological functions performed by living things. Take away an animal’s food or drink, or drain away its blood, or remove its skeleton, and death rapidly overtakes its enfeebled body. But deprive it of the ability to reproduce and nothing happens. The species may die out, but the individual organism lives on. Reproduction, while an enormous convenience, is not an absolute essential of life.

This is true despite all protests that duplication is "the point of biological activity."20 The vast majority of social insects never engage in personal reproduction, and such species are extremely successful. One highly evolved contemporary terran lifeform, the mule, is quite sterile.

It is relatively easy to imagine a nonsentient alien species designed such that, when mating occurs in a certain way or in a special environment, sterile but intelligent offspring are the result of the union. Clearly, there is no bar to the rise of intelligence in such a situation: Perhaps the hybrid’s brain mass or neural complexity is twice that of its nonsentient parents.

At any rate, we can conceive of a race of intelligent but sterile alien hybrids residing somewhere in this commodious Galaxy. Their numbers would be supported entirely by a subrace of nonsentient breeders. The hybrids would corral and manipulate the teeming parental population, much as stockmen raise cattle and stablemen breed champion thoroughbreds. An extraterrestrial culture based on this peculiar inversion of the standard parent-offspring relationship would be fascinating to observe.

Still, reproduction is not without its advantages. Whole-body duplication allows rapid expansion and fast evolution in new niches. We might expect that many, perhaps even most, alien races will involve reproducers.

When the first exploratory manned starships from Earth touch down on the continents and seas of distant worlds, will we discover that aliens, too, know sex? Is the uniquely human preoccupation with matters lustful more or less universal? If extraterrestrial lifeforms do enjoy sex as much as we, then exactly how many sexes do they enjoy? Two? Three? Ten? Might sex be alterable at will, or could more than one somehow be incorporated into a single individual? What about alien sex practices? Do ETs have orgasms? Are interspecies sexual relations possible?

The curious Earthling demands to know.


Last updated on 6 December 2008