Flying saucer attack.

The Third Sex

When the aliens came, at first everyone was relieved, because they weren’t very different from us. At all. They were almost indistinguishable from humans. They looked like us. They had comparable intelligence; they had comparable intraspecies variation. They learned our languages quickly. They laughed, they cried, they had the same hopes and dreams, foibles, strengths, and weaknesses. Only they were a little bigger (the absolute shortest ones were about six feet), a little stronger, a little more assertive. They were slightly more advanced technically. The way they achieved interplanetary travel, when they explained it, was met by Earth’s scientists and engineers with a collective forehead slap. Of course! they said. Why didn’t we think of that?

The biggest difference was in sex. They had genitalia, but it was different. It was nothing that you could call male or female by Earth standards, but it was compatible with both—they could go both ways. They could be very attractive to humans, in a decidedly androgynous way—any one of them could make a convincing male or female, depending on how you looked at them—but they themselves were generally attracted to men.

One of the biggest causes of relief among humans was that the aliens didn’t seem to have come to conquer the Earth. They laughed helplessly when they saw our alien-invasion sci-fi films. They really seemed just curious, and they liked the Earth. They had new, helpful ideas regarding some of Earth’s most intractable problems. They wanted to live here, if it was okay with us. They were different. And they were so helpful, so handy to have around, and seemed so sure of themselves—like it was a done deal that they would live here and that it would be great—that the humans found it hard to say no to them.

But, of course, eventually, they did start to take over. Their little advantages in terms of height, assertiveness, etc., helped them move into positions of power, and because they were attracted to men, they often married into power. It didn’t take more than two or three generations for the aliens to take the best jobs, many of the most powerful positions, and the lion’s share of the wealth. It was generally assumed that they were smarter, more rational, more capable (after all, they had come here in spaceships of their own construction) and they were more valued in the labor market.

Because of their imposing confidence, their wealth and connections, and their fresh, intergalactic perspective, they also came to dominate cultural fields. They were the most celebrated writers, filmmakers, musicians, chefs, etc., and naturally, the culture began to center around them and their experiences. And of course, nearly all sports became focused on competition between aliens (since they had inherent physical advantages, it was natural that they should compete separately, among themselves).

Their attraction to human males became more pronounced and entrenched in the culture, and men found themselves objects of desire in a way they had never experienced outside of gay culture. Male beauty—particularly of the more petite or delicate variety—was enshrined in fine art and called out in the street. It saturated the media, where men who were plain or ugly or old or just too big were either absent or ridiculed.

And because the path to a better life was flanked by aliens, men found themselves going out of their way to be pleasing to the aliens, many of whom they genuinely liked. Or loved. Or lusted for. But they also found themselves resenting them, and hating them, and feeling uneasy about their sometimes-unwanted, occasionally violent attention.

And the Earth men looked at the Earth women and said, Okay, I get it, I totally get it.

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