One of my projects has been developed around the idea that humans in the future visit an earthlike planet in Andromeda. The planet is populated with humanoid creatures that are “well endowed.” Ex: the ‘gender’ that gestates the baby has large nutritional organs. The other gender has other attributes. There is a third gender, one without any defining ‘characteristics’.

When humans arrive at this planet, some aliens are very welcoming. They see the humans as interesting, like a pet, as in the original Planet of the Apes with Roddy McDowell. Or, as a nuisance, but a possible food source. Both the friendly and the adversarial aliens see the humans as a source of new technology. So, there are different power struggles and motivations. So far so good. The humans are hapless explorers, not directed by an organizing principle as in ST-TOS, more along the lines of Arthur Dent (though their travels are not quite that incidental). Human travel became possible through (advanced) Space X rockets, and some people took it as an opportunity to get off earth They found this planet in the Andromeda system.

Here’s my problem. I am trying to integrate components of social dominance into the story, (inspired to make societal commentary on current events). In numerous Earth countries, notable figures have recently risen to power through bullying and mysogyny; other notable figures are widely lauded for their attractiveness. Let's not get into details. (I mention it only to provide motivation for my world.) Suffice to say, I took on this project to create a ridiculous scenario in which dominance is asserted through ludicrous, physical means.

On earth, flashing is a means of suggesting dominance (although that is lesser to other reasons.) The problem I am having, is I cannot devise a compelling reason why these aliens would flash humans. I don’t think it makes sense that they would do this to ‘impress’ humans. The organs are too different. Maybe they can’t help it; it’s instinctive. (I’ve established that the aliens have a unique courtship, like a peacock spreading its tail.) I am drawing a blank. Any help is welcome.

  • $\begingroup$ You can literally make up anything you want since these are aliens with alien customs. $\endgroup$ Sep 22 '17 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ I think it has to tie in with the sorts of things we're all witnessing right now, to be effective. So, i need to come up with a compelling, real reason that resonates. Maybe dementia? I am not sure this is the best option though. $\endgroup$
    – DPT
    Sep 22 '17 at 23:48

Displays of dominance are wide spread and the alien species should provide ample opportunity for misunderstanding and hilarity.

Perhaps the courtship requires the giving of objects to the potential mate. Vaguely like a bowerbird and humans might be seen as suitable objects to give. A wriggling object might make a particularly prized gift. How long would it take to realise that clothes removal caused humans to wriggle a lot as would poking them with a sharp object (as the humans try to escape and protect themselves and their modesty).

Perhaps a small vaguely human like animal already exists on their world which is already used or abused for sexual purposes - perhaps their hairs are tickly. The arrival of the humans provides a supersized example and a perverted treat.

Perhaps human hormones have a drug like effect on the aliens causing them to behave in a strange drunken way and do their courtship ritual where it was not appropriate.

Human hair might be seen as just the right material for spreading alien scent meaning the humans get sprayed with noxious alien secretions.

I think you should be able to find many animal behaviours that humans find repugnant amongst species on earth. Many parasites have gruesome or bizarre life cycles and offer almost endless scope.

The book Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle set in the recent past and shows some aspects that you might find interesting. In one case the aliens venture down to earth collect samples of a range of human objects and a range of human specimens and see how they interact. At one point the aliens play a video of the explicit film deep throat to a very mixed human audience with results that the aliens find incomprehensible. The aliens also have very deeply ingrained ideas about warfare and surrender. If an opponent places their foot upon your chest then you have been beaten and you are their captive. No ifs or buts and no going back. When humans don’t follow this rule the aliens have a lot of problems in understanding what’s happening. One alien is 'accidentaly' captured when he is knocked unconscious and a human takes a humorous trophy photo with one foot on the aliens chest as he wakes up.

  • $\begingroup$ This scenario DOES add a lot of possibilities along the limes of Monty Python. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '17 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes! It could be hilarious. But I think this is all a bit tongue in cheek as the OP asked for a ridiculous scenario in which dominance is asserted through ludicrous, physical means. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 23 '17 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ A pleasure. I need to keep myself occupied between pondering on the Norwegian fjords anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 23 '17 at 23:45

Displays of dominance are instinctive, both in humans and in animals. In humans the instinct to submit or dominate can be suppressed or intentionally chosen as a bluff, even when not felt.

For example, the "super hero" pose; spread legs with hands on hips (thrust slightly forward), head held high: Has been shown to actually make people feel more powerful, when practiced. The same goes for direct gazes (in humans).

Subordinate poses: bowed head and/or back, averted gaze, arms close and legs close: These are instinctive too. Imagine a bullied child both afraid to fight and afraid they are about to be struck: they become protective of themselves, their organs and genitals (regardless of gender). They certainly are not in the super hero pose, that shows no fear of harm and is designed to display sexual attributes and organs.

Dominance is conveyed in general (in multiple speces, by both genders) by body language that shows confidence in one's physical power, confidence in sexual prowess, and both readiness for combat and no fear of it (i.e. no protection of sensitive genital organs or other vulnerable body parts, like the abdomen or throat). The gladiator unafraid of battle strides confidently to his opponent; the victim willing to be subordinate cowers and shrinks, bending to protect genitals and soft belly, raising arms not to attack but to fend off blows.

To be realistic, you should think along those lines, with modifications for the physiology of your created aliens.

The bigger problem you have is the intelligence of the species. Intelligence changes the game with other symbolism, and suppresses the "bigger dick" kind of dominance you want. In humans (our only example) dominance is now often displayed by indicators of wealth and health: The \$15,000 suit, in slang often literally referred to as a "power suit". The jewelry (watches, earrings), the \$3,000 shoes, the car, the house. Wealth conveys power and that means dominance. Which is why many corporations spend lavishly on their offices: conspicuous consumption applies there, also.

Like humans, the more intelligent aliens are, the more less likely it is their individual success in their society is linked to any kind of physical prowess in battle or copulation, making it much more common for the actually powerful in their society to have achieved their status by something other than actual physical endowment.

In real life on Earth, for example, we don't really know (for most celebrities and political leaders) if they are well endowed or not, physically. They demonstrate power by more symbolic means. It is still about who can beat up who, or who has the biggest dick, or who is the most sexually attractive: But not by objective measurement with calipers and rulers.

This means in highly intelligent species, the less likely they are to rely on actual physical or sexual prowess, the less likely they are to actually display sexual organs as a means of dominance, and the more likely they are to rely on cultural symbols that have come to mean, to them (which may be in gender specific ways):

I am a more desirable mate than you, I am a better fighter than you, I have more power than you [often by wealth displays], I am healthier than you, and I have no fear of you [thus my exposed posture].

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This emphasizes that displays of power are not only for the target (victim) but also the perpetrator. They feed back to the psyche, whether or not they are perceived as 'domination' by the recipient. A certain former African dictator, for instance, who used very exotic honorifics in his name, serving only to impress himself. No one else cared. In fact, they found it quite humorous. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '17 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, that research about "power poses" feeding back into the person's confidence has been discredited. The rest of the answer still makes sense, though. $\endgroup$
    – A. B.
    Feb 1 at 10:32

Dogs exhibit dominance by humping things. I here resist the temptation to link a picture. In case anyone is wondering if I ever do.

A dog humping a leg does not think it is copulating with the leg. Some female dogs hump things - they could not copulate with the thing they are humping using those motions. Dogs hump things to exert dominance or reassure themselves of their position when they feel challenged or anxious.

Your aliens are like dogs. Instead of humping they flash. If there is an interaction which might entail social dominance, or in which the potential flasher is insecure and wants to reassure itself of its secure position, it will flash.

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    $\begingroup$ This would have been my answer, too, except different examples. Lions and their trainers, for instance, doing the same thing. It has been posited that in corporate power struggles, female executives tend to display their body provocatively in order to gain power over men. The 'sexier' the woman portrays herself, the higher up the pecking order she is. Female sales agents, for instance, will use a posture that displays their breasts frontally as a means of power and control, to intimidate, to close the sale. Or ensure the vote. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '17 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ ctd As in human interaction, displays of dominance are not just for the recipient, they are to boost the ego of the perpetrator. The 'I showed HIM off' effect, even if the recipient had no response to the action. Like a driver flipping off another driver, even though he knew the other driver could not see it. The benefit is for the psyche of the perpetrator, not the target. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '17 at 4:24

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