Just Asking Questions

Why Are We So Horny For Blue Aliens?

It’s not just Avatar — sexy blue humanoids have a long pop cultural lineage.

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I have thought about having sex with aliens for years. Now, the rest of the world is finally catching up.

After a former intelligence officer testified before Congress, alleging that a secret government cabal was harboring a UFO and accompanying “non-human biologics,” the prohibition on wild alien speculation was fully lifted, and many leapfrogged to the next closest taboo: Assuming there really are non-human biologics… should we f*ck them?

I don’t know if we should f*ck the aliens. I just know that we really want to, especially when they’re blue.

I credit Octavia Butler’s Dawn with first sparking my anthropological interest in alien sexuality studies a few years back, but it was last summer, as Earth prepared for the box office impact of Avatar: The Way of Water, when I became fascinated by blue aliens in particular. Somehow, it seemed, the color blue had become inexorably entangled with aliens’ sexual appeal. I drew up a list of f*ckable blue aliens and associated non-human humanoids: The Fifth Element’s Diva Plavalaguna, Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan, X-Men’s Mystique, Star Wars' Aayla Secura, the MCU’s Nebula, and Star Trek’s Andorians. I sat with the fact that the highest-grossing film of all time, Avatar, is about f*ckable blue aliens. (Sure, there are other themes — a ham-fisted commentary on colonialism, an omniscient tree-centric take on environmentalism — but were the aliens facing these challenges not eminently f*ckable, audiences wouldn’t have cared much about their plight, or, for that matter, the central trans-species romance, and the movie and its sequel would not have made nearly as much money.) As erotic Avatar fanfic author LxDeath told me over Wattpad messages: “to me [the] blue color just emphasizes their sexiness.”

Five months ago, I set out in earnest to unravel the mystery of blue aliens’ sexual appeal. I’ve donned a safari hat and ventured into the wilds of Wattpad and AO3; I’ve placed Maggie Nelson’s Bluets under the microscope; I’ve sought insight from a sex toy purveyor who specializes in extraterrestrial dildos. In perhaps the highlight of my field experience, I indirectly corresponded with Margaret Atwood about the genetically engineered species in her book Oryx & Crake, and why their private parts turn blue when they’re in heat. (The answer, delivered via an intermediary: Atwood was inspired by how some animals change color while mating, along with the vivid blue scrotums seen in Mandrills — though in the Mandrills’ case, they’re blue all the time.)

Importantly, the Na’vi don’t wear a ton of clothes.Disney

I’d hoped to find fellow experts in alien sexuality studies, but it’s been a lonely road. The closest thing to existing literature on the subject is the work on blueness itself. There’s an entire literary subgenre devoted to the color (Kai Kupferschmidt’s Blue: In Search of Nature's Rarest Color, Nelson’s aforementioned Bluets, William H Gass’ On Being Blue, and some of Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost) and a long history of artists becoming entranced with it (Yves Klein, Derek Jarman, Picasso). In the botanical world, generations of scientists and gardeners have sought to produce an elusive blue rose, considered to be something of a Holy Grail for those in the flower game. Often, these experts will trace their love of the color back to Egyptians’ lapis eyeshadow, through its Medieval and Renaissance-era association with nobility and divinity. They might as well all share Nelson’s opening line: “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color…”

Of course, many sci-fi enthusiasts have wondered about blue aliens, including author Ruby Dixon, whose bestselling sci-fi romance series Ice Planet Barbarians centers on a race of hot blue aliens and the human women who love them. “To my embarrassment, a few years after the series came out, someone mentioned that my aliens reminded them of the aliens from Avatar, and I was both amused and mortified because those movies didn’t even occur to me,” she tells me over email. Mostly, she chose blue for her aliens because it seemed like “the right vibe for an ice planet,” and far enough from natural skin tones to feel really alien. Dixon also pointed out that the other two primary colors, red and yellow, come with “mental baggage” — by which she means, I think, a history of racist associations.

Jaime Green, the author of the brilliant new book The Possibility of Life, which is all about how humans imagine extraterrestrials, expresses a similar sentiment. She suspects that blue and green feel particularly “alien” because they’re so uncommon in mammals on Earth. “An alien can be sexy because they're exotic in a way that it's just not OK for a white person [to say], ‘A person of another race is sexy’ ... We know that that's f*cked up because it has all sorts of cultural baggage and power dynamics,” Green says. “I don't want to condone exotification, but in some ways I think [aliens feel] like a less taboo way to explore those taboos.”

Still, only some colors have baggage, so that theory doesn’t fully explain why blue has become the sexy alien color of choice — or why the only real rival to blue’s supremacy was green, a neighbor on the color wheel, which peaked as a sexy alien skin shade in the postwar era and has since trended downward. (Think of Star Trek’s Orions, Lost in Space’s Athena, the phrase “little green men.”)

It’s Katy Kelleher, the author of 2023’s The Ugly History of Beautiful Things and a former Paris Review and The Awl column about colors and their meanings, who offers a plausible theory here. In art history, she says, strangely colored figures like ghosts or witches were almost always green. “Green was the most treacherous color, especially in European art history. Green has been associated with vice in a way that blue hasn't,” Kelleher says, adding that blue’s ubiquity, in aliens and otherwise, is an entirely modern phenomenon. Blue is reliably the last color to be named in any given language, and blue pigments weren’t widely available until the industrial age. “The idea that blue is the most universal favorite color is something that only started happening in I think the 1800s or the 1900s,” she says. To want to f*ck blue makes you a modern girl.

Intergalactic opera star Diva Plavalaguna in The Fifth Element.Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Kelleher also points out that many of my aliens share a particular, cornflowery shade of blue. “It’s a color that lacks all charge,” she said. “It's a coolness, so you desire it, but it's the opposite of red blood flush skin.” It offers the allure of an unnatural, slick, almost plasticine skin, and the elision of red, all-too-human blemishes, of flushed skin that presages pooling sweat. As Kelleher says, “The ickiness of sex is stripped away from it.”

But then Kelleher points me to something that she thinks might be related to my sexy blue people vision quest, Sophie Lewis’ n+1 essay “My Octopus Girlfriend,” and the ickiness returns with a gooey, sticky vengeance. The essay is ostensibly about the 2020 Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher, which follows a man who develops an apparent kinship with a wild octopus over the course of a year, but as Kelleher says, it’s really about “the erotic powers of f*cking a lake.” I immediately think of Avatar creator and deep-sea adventurer James Cameron: If anyone wants to f*ck a lake, it’s that guy (I am not the first to note this). On a more high-minded note, I also think of Nelson in Bluets: “The half-circle of blinding turquoise ocean is love’s primal scene.”

Though Lewis’ essay doesn’t address aliens as in extraterrestrials, it does probe the alienness of the octopus, a fundamentally foreign creature that possesses both a body and an intelligence unfathomable to humans. A creature whose strangeness makes it fundamentally erotic, as in Hokusai’s woodblock print “The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife” (1814), which shows a woman getting eaten out by an octopus. “Octopuses,” Lewis writes, “look like our own spilled viscera, billowing large — our very souls, uncaged by any shell. Such an intimate alien’s touch might roil the tissue of received reality.”

Katsushika Hokusai, The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, 1814.Heritage Images/Getty Images

An intimate alien. The lithe tentacle, whether it reaches out from the depths of the blue ocean (as in “The Fisherman’s Wife”) or beyond the blue sky (as in the Futurama episode “The Beast with a Billion Backs”), promises otherworldly pleasure. I may have just made this connection, but it’s been in front of me all along: I remember Kreature Adult Toys founder Ryan, who sells a dildo called Cthulu, Cosmic Horror, which promises “to deliver you the tentacle sex toy experience of your dreams (or nightmares).” I am reminded, too, of the “spur” Dixon gave her Ice Planet Barbarians.

“Blue,” Solnit writes in A Field Guide to Getting Lost, “is the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in, for the blue world.” It doesn’t matter if the blue makes up the oceans or the sky, the point is that it’s unreachable, unknowable, like the creatures that dwell beyond. You’ll never feel that intimate alien’s touch, never know the pleasure of an Ice Planet Barbarian’s spur. You’ll never really, truly f*ck the ocean — but if you’re James Cameron, you might do the next best thing and convince a movie studio to finance your alien-ocean porn (Avatar: The Way of Water).

Except that now, if that one guy who testified to Congress is to be believed, the once-unreachable might be tantalizingly close. Venus has emerged from the green-blue seafoam; Cthulhu has come down from the cosmos. Time to fire up that Kreature toy.

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