If Superman is sometimes dismissed as a goody-two-shoes Boy Scout, the superheroes in Amazon’s new series, The Boys, are the exact opposite. In the show, which is based on a Garth Ennis comic series of the same name, superheroes are the villains. They’re all-powerful, massively corrupt, and they regularly do despicable deeds without any fear of repercussion. Some of the worst, most vile things the superheroes on The Boys do involve sex, but even though the show’s deeply unsexy moments might some of the genre’s most graphic, it’s not the first time that superpowers and sex have caused problems. Heck, Superman himself has been suspected of having Kryptonian bed woes.
**Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers for the entire first season of The Boys, be warned.**
Over the course of The Boys‘ first season, three people are injured or killed because they had sex with someone who had superpowers. The first one is Popclaw’s poor building manager. Popclaw, who has powers that are somewhat similar to Wolverine’s, is high on a superhero drug and lures the hapless manager into her apartment. While sitting on his face, she climaxes, and her superpowered thighs crush his skull like a brainy watermelon.
Later, during a scene at a support group for victims of superhero collateral damage, another man tells how supersex changed his life. He had been dating Ice Queen, a super who had ice powers. The last time they had sex, Ice Queen briefly lost control of her powers when she climaxed and turned into ice for a second. That second was enough to instantly freeze the man’s penis, and as a result, it snapped off, as frozen penises are wont to do.
Finally, there’s Homelander’s deadly seed. Before the events of the series, Homelander, The Boys‘ riff on Superman, rapes one of the main character’s wives. It’s later revealed that he impregnated her, and there’s a chilling shot of red laser-eyes glowing from inside her stomach. As the superpowered baby grows abnormally fast, it threatens the woman’s life, and Homelander is initially told that she died due to blood loss when the baby tore its way out of her. The final scene of the finale reveals that both the woman and the baby are alive, but it still seems like a terrifying, dangerous pregnancy.
All three instances of The Boys‘ super-deadly sex likely owe some inspiration to a famous essay originally published way back in 1971 titled “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.” In the essay, writer Larry Niven explains, in detail, how Superman would almost certainly kill Lois Lane if they had sex.
Superman’s Kryptonian super-strength would likely crush Lois if he lost himself to the passions of sex, or if he spasmed while having an orgasm. When Superman ejaculates, Niven argues, the semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine gun bullet, which would obviously kill Lois. Even if the force didn’t, he notes that all the individual sperm that didn’t fertilize an egg would likely be as invulnerable as Superman himself, and they would run ravage in her body — and likely destroy the fertilized egg, for what it’s worth.
Assuming that all the fatal injuries from sex could be avoided (and Niven does devise a way involving a single sperm and exposure to Gold Kryptonite, which permanently depowers Superman), Lois Lane would still be vulnerable if a viable fetus had any sort of superpowers.
“Can the infant use his X-ray vision before birth? After all, with such a power he can probably see through his own closed eyelids. That would leave [Lois Lane] sterile. If the kid starts using heat vision, things get even worse,” Niven writes. “But when he starts to kick, it’s all over. He will kick his way out into open air, killing himself and his mother.”
(That last bit, for what it’s worth, is also the plot of the last Twilight book, but we digress.)
Given that Lois Lane is alive in the current comics canon, and she and Superman did indeed have a son, it’s pretty clear that DC comics hasn’t worried too much about the actual implications of his super-semen. If we’re willing to accept that a man can fly, the least we can do is accept that he won’t murder his wife when he orgasms.
Because superhero comics require this suspension of disbelief — not to mention that death by sex isn’t exactly an appropriate topic for a general-interest, all-ages comic — mainstream superhero comics typically don’t explore the potential for superpowered carnal carnage. It’s occasionally alluded to in titles like The Hulk, and Rogue’s inability to touch people without hurting them puts an obvious damper on her sex life in most X-Men comics. There was also that time that Ant-Man and the Wasp took turns shrinking down and crawling inside each other’s genitals, but that instance, while disgusting, was consensual and apparently not dangerous.
For the most part, though, death by supersex isn’t really a topic in most mainstream superhero comics or continuities and is reserved for adult imprints or alternate continuities instead.
Perhaps the most infamous exploration of the “realities” of superpowered sex came in the 2006-2007 limited series Spider-Man: Reign. Billed as Spidey’s The Dark Knight Rises, the series was a non-canon tale of an older Spider-Man from 30 years in the future. He’s, uh, not doing so well.
Mary-Jane is dead, you see, and Spider-Man is responsible. As Peter Parker explains while crying and cradling her decaying, recently exhumed corpse, she died of cancer because of exposure to his radioactive fluids.
“I am filled with radioactive blood. And not just blood. Touching me … Loving me … Loving me killed you!” he shouts at the corpse. “Like a spider crawling up inside your body and laying a thousand eggs of cancer.”
The Boys prides itself on being graphic and over-the-top, but it has nothing on that Spider-Man comic, good lord.
There are a handful of other examples of superpowered sex death. In American Gods, which isn’t a superhero story but does feature individuals with powers, the goddess Bilquis kills a man by reverse-birthing him during sex. That was her goal from the start, though, so it doesn’t really count.
In Hancock, Will Smith’s superhero character pushes a woman off him right before he climaxes, because otherwise his sperm would have blasted right through her — and it does, in fact, leave holes in his roof. The scene, which didn’t make the theatrical cut of the movie, is clearly inspired by “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.”
All superhero stories, even the ones that pride themselves on being grounded or realistic, choose where they do or do not want to adhere to the rules of reality. The Boys is realistic in some areas — like when Homelander explains that he can’t save a crashing plane because he’d just fly through it — and it’s similarly brutal when it comes to supersex. The Boys is only choosing to be “realistic” about these things for the sake of the twisted, subversive story it’s telling, which is great. It’s also great that Spider-Man: Far From Home didn’t choose to explore the possibility that Tom Holland’s Peter Parker could potentially murder Zendaya’s MJ with his radioactive wang. Different types of superhero stories require different, ah, strokes.