Fetishizing the Alien

Today’s article is brought to you by one of my favorite Kollektivet videos. In it, scientists discuss endless possibilities of what sort of alien creatures they would meet when exploring the universe. Mostly, it involves a lot of boobs, and intercourse.

“If we know that the universe is infinite, we also know, I would reckon, that there exists a planet that is only women.”

Yes, this is parody, but it epitomizes some of the most troubling problems science fiction haswhich to say that science fiction commonly has the inability to truly recognize otherness without sublimating it.

In this case, sexually.

The gratuitous lesbian kiss brought on by alien pheromones.

The strength of science fiction is often times its weakness, and it happens time and time again. “Sex alien” is a favorite trope of every science fiction, from Star Trek (“The Naked Now”) to Torchwood (“Day One”). It’s a favorite, and an oldie, but not necessarily what I would consider a goodie. That’s because what it really does is fetishize the alien.

In Orientalism by Edward Said, he goes into great detail about how the West fetishized the East, turning it into a sex object and thus making it inferior to the West. There is no doubt in my mind that this happens in science fiction constantly.

But aliens don’t exist, right? So there can’t be anything wrong with that! It’s not like we’re actually stereotyping or fetishizing a real culture!

That may be true, but in science fiction, the alien is always a metaphorwhether the author means to be or notof how we perceive “the other”. If we always consider the other as something that can be used for our own pleasure, we will never be able to see it as equal, and that translates to real life situations. Being aware of that, however, is important. It helps you understand when other people are doing, as well as when you are doing it yourself, and you can correct it.

And that’s why I love this video. It blatantly displays one of the biggest pitfalls in our conceptions of the alien and the foreign.

2 thoughts on “Fetishizing the Alien

  1. The interesting thing, though, is that in every instance I can think of where aliens are imagined capable of non-reproductive sex with humans, the alien in question is a man or a woman. Not a male alien or a female alien. This ability to have sex suggests that the aliens are people too. It may not be the best way to show it, but the “sex alien” trope suggests that these foreign species are not so different as they might appear at first glance.

    With other species on Earth, we refer to them as either male/female or with a label (e.g., cock/hen), but only humans are ever called “man” or “woman”. And yet in science fiction, we talk of alien men and women. Things which are only objects to be used don’t have any (or aren’t portrayed with any) humanity. These aliens are people with feelings and free will, and presumably chose to have sex.

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