Nerd is my Gender

Sexy Superheroine Poses in Real Life

What does it look like when real humans strike a sexy superheroine pose in real life?  We try it and find out!

I recently read an insightful critique about how many “sexually liberated” comic book superheroines actually aren’t.  Go read the whole thing if you have the time.  One part in particular stood out to me:

This is not about these women wanting things; it’s about men wanting to see them do things, and that takes something that really should be empowering — the idea that women can own their sexuality — and transforms it into yet another male fantasy. It takes away the actual power of the women and turns their “sexual liberation” into just another way for dudes to get off. And that is at least ten times as gross as regular cheesecake, minimum.

Here is what it looks like just before Starfire tries to initiate sex.

Why is she contorting her body in that weird way? Who is she posing for, because it doesn’t even seem to be Roy Harper? The answer, dear reader, is that she is posing for you. News flash: Starfire isn’t being promiscuous because this comic wants to support progressive notions of gender roles. Starfire is being promiscuous so that you can look at pictures like this

The boyfriend and I laughed at this image when we saw it.  But a friend of ours seems differ.  I quote, “she is not posing in a weird way.”  So I challenged him to try it.  And then I thought “oh, what the hell”, so Bencakes and I tried it too.  Here are our results:

Andy (the author) attempting to imitate a sexy pose

Ben (the boyfriend) also attempting sexy pose, in obvious pain

We’re physically incapable of recreating that sort of curvature of the spine.  In fact, my back still hurts, 1/2 hour later.  ”Ugh,” I thought, “it’s like they’re fetishizing scoliosis.”  Which reminds me of an excellent blog post by Feminists with Disabilities:


when women pose provocatively, they often throw one hip to the side and put one shoulder forward.Why is that pose sexy? Maybe it makes us look femininely defenseless and vulnerable, as opposed to a masculine, stick straight pose. That’s going along with a typical sexist definition of “femininity”. There’s another less sexist possibility… the pose is also highlighting the flexibility of the spine. So in that sense, the woman is showing off her body’s capacity by bending in a certain way.

There’s a comic book artist, Rob Liefeld, who was (in)famous starting in the 1980s for drawing unrealistic women. The conventions of drawing women are in comics are easy to criticize, but Liefeld’s stuff is… well…I guess you’d have to see the spinal curvature to believe it.

Iconic Rob Leifeld drawing of a super heroine.  She's posing facing right, turning her head over her shoulder.  She has an impossibly-narrow abdomen, and spine curvature similar to severe lordosis, an inner curve of the spine.  She is not wearing very much clothing.  Description by Don.

That’s supposed to be sexy. For the audience of predominantly young men who made Liefeld very popular, it must have been sexy. This is a funny analysis of the above drawing by a group of women comic book artists:

Take note of Avengelyne’s waist and how it is thinner than her head. Minus the hair. Note how it hangs beneath her ribcage like a suspension bridge, rather than actually supporting the top of her body. (Her torso must be kept afloat by those helium breasts.) Note the scoliosis gone grossly untreated. Note the little leather bags which wouldn’t fit around a normal person’s wrist. Especially note that the artist put her in the most obvious POSE to exaggerate the spine: a profile shot with negative space between her back and arm. That’s correct – our intrepid heroine’s spine would appearyanked. Avengelyne is a SWAYback™.

The humor is partly at my expense. But I can’t help laughing. It’s a highly sexualized image, but not one that I identify with in any way.


Superheros are supposed to be just that: super.  Of course they’re going to perform superhuman feats of strength, be supersmart and superdaring, and apparently be superstuds and superhotties as well.  But don’t try to pass it off as a celebration of the “sexually liberated woman”.

My challenge to those who are able is to find a camera and a willing photographer, and try to imitate Starfire’s pose.  Reblog this post with your own photos added on.  Let’s see if we can get a wide range of human spinal flexibility represented.  It shouldn’t be taken for granted that, as my friend said, “she’s not posing in a weird way”.