There was a time when we just didn’t talk about the sex lives of role models and superheroes. To talk about what Superman, Wonder Woman, or Captain America did in private with lingerie, bottle of lube, and a willing partner wasn’t just obscene. It was akin to hearing your parents talk about the night we were conceived, right down to the color of the nipple clamps our moms used.
While we still shudder at the thought of our parents describing their sex lives to us, we’re a bit more comfortable with our heroes and role models filling us in on their intimate lives. In some respects, we’ve come a long way. We’ve gone from joking about how Superman can have a baby with a human woman to big (not so) shocking reveal earlier this year that Wonder Woman is bisexual.
The topic of superhero sex lives has always been somewhat taboo, except for perverse fan fiction, some of which I actually write. There’s an even greater taboo about the sex lives of our real-life role models and that can be very damaging, especially if the private sex lives of those role models become scandalous. Just ask Tiger Woods.
As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, who often navigates taboos and favors more sex-positive superheroes like Starfire, I feel like we’re vampires working in a blood bank. We’re putting ourselves in stressful, self-destructive circumstances that will only lead to disappointment and heartache with respect to our role models.
I get it. We want our role models to embody ideals. We hold them to a higher standard. We want Superman to not be concerned with whether his wife can bear his child. We want Tiger Woods to be a faithful, upstanding pillar of virtue. The problem with having such high standards isn’t that it puts undue pressure on the role models. The problem is that it makes it way too easy for us to hate ourselves for being human.
The problem with ideals is in the very definition. According to Dictionary.com, the core meaning of the word is:
A conception of something in its perfection
A standard of perfection or excellence
Something that exists only in the imagination
We expect our role models to embody these ideals, whether they’re real or fictional characters. The fact that we can’t even get our fictional characters to live up to those ideals, as evidenced by Superman’s role in a porno tape with Big Barda, is pretty damn telling. So why should anyone expect Tiger Woods to live up to that ideal?
What we need now isn’t an ideal for a role model. We don’t even need a flawed role model either. We already have plenty of that with Batman, Wolverine, and Mick Jagger, who just had his eight kid at 73. What we need, in my humble opinion, is a true sex positive role model.
By “sex positive,” I don’t mean a role model who isn’t afraid to talk about their sex lives. We already have plenty of celebrities and superheroes who do that. We have Cortney Love, Tony Stark, and pretty much every hair metal band from the 1980s. By sex positive, I mean someone who both embraces sexuality and subverts the stigma.
It’s that last part that’s the challenge here. It’s one thing for a hero or an icon to have sex and be casual about it. It’s quite another to do it in a way that undermines the stigma that still surrounds sex.
Make no mistake. That stigma is still there. We expect rich and successful men to have a lot of sex with a lot of random women, but when a woman does it, we think there’s something wrong with her. There’s still this frustrating taboo surrounding female sexuality and it’s ruining our sex lives, among other things.
It goes beyond the rich and powerful too. Even among youth and adults, there’s still this strange disconnect with our sexuality. It’s legal for two consenting adults to have sex for whatever reason they want, but we still shame and stigmatize it. We still have this arbitrary standard that if you have too much sex, then something’s wrong with you.
How much is too much? Well, that’s the tricky part. Nobody knows. One person’s slut is another person’s free spirit. One person’s stud is another person’s beta male. We just don’t know because we don’t talk about it. We don’t discuss it. We can’t even agree on what constitutes consent in sex anymore.
Enter a sex-positive role model. Enter someone who will approach sexuality the same way most people approach a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter day. They don’t just embrace the crude elements of it. They embrace the beauty as well. They shatter the awkwardness. They spit on the taboos. They don’t need to flaunt their sexuality. To them, it’s just normal.
Sadly, there aren’t a lot of role models like that right now. In fact, I could only come up with two: Starfire and Deadpool. I’ve already made it abundantly clear why Starfire is the perfect sex-positive superhero. The fact she looks like this only helps.
With Deadpool, it’s a little trickier. He’s not much of a hero. He even says as such in his hit movie. However, while he’s crude in pretty much everything he does, he’s not crude when it comes to sex. It’s not this dirty, forbidden act. It’s just this basic thing that people do.
Sometimes it’s for love. Sometimes it’s for fun. Sometimes it’s how you celebrate the holidays with your lover. In that sense, Deadpool perfectly captures that spirit.
As much as I love Starfire and Deadpool, I don’t think they’re nearly enough. I think we need more sex positive role models and heroes. Some, like Amber Rose, are making an effort. I think we’ll need to make an even greater effort because all taboos and stigmas, be they sexual or not, don’t fade easily.
We human beings are anxious and uptight about things that make us uncomfortable. Our culture, going all the way back to the Puritans, the Vatican, and the Mullahs, has done too good a job at making us uncomfortable about sex. We’ve made progress over the centuries in breaking that discomfort. More sex-positive role models and heroes can only help.