I learned something disturbing about myself while writing this. While some of my favorite couples in sci-fi and fantasy are based on affection and shared interests, the sexiest romances in my canon share two main traits: lust and violence. As we were all taught by romance novels and Wuthering Heights, the hottest couples are so conflicted that they’re always about two inches away from murder-fucking each other in the middle of a dinner party.
So. There will be no soulful resonance in this list. No emotional safety. Certainly no romantic stares. Just two people who are designed to bone each other. Let’s see who they are.
*[Editor’s note: My top three picks change places depending on my mood, age, and how many times I’ve re-watched Buffy today. Keep it in mind.]
6. Jon Snow and Ygritte, A Song of Ice and Fire
If your only experience with this medieval, sword-happy, incest-is-the-bestuous murderfest fantasy is the TV show Game of Thrones, then you probably don’t know what I’m talking about yet. You think that a sexy couple is Renly and Loras, or Dany and Khal Drogo or Littlefinger and the sound of his own voice.
You’re wrong, though. All of those relationships (especially the latter), are caught up, to some degree, in politics. In getting something out of the other person (gross.) Jon and Ygritte, though, have a fantastic chemistry outside the bounds of societal strictures that makes their coupling totally sexy. For Jon, it’s the forbidden. He can’t take a wife or sire children according to the vows he’s taken. For Ygritte, there’s the total freedom to do whatever the hell she likes. This amazing combustion of “Holy crap, no rules” and “Oh my god, this is so taboo” is what makes this couple so freaking sexy. There’s no thinking, reasoning, or scheming, just hormonal teenagers keeping warm the only way you can in the medieval equivalent of glacial wastelands.
Best Moment: When she tries out her old “You know nothing, Jon Snow” catchphrase and then–bam–he introduces her to oral sex.
(I know it hasn’t happened in the show yet. Pick up a book every now and then, will ya?)
5. Malcolm Reynolds and Saffron, Firefly
Malcolm Reynolds was a strong contender with several candidates for this slot. Everyone wants him to hook up with Inara (except for me, because I think they would make a terrible couple. More to come on that.) And he did have incredible sexy-time with the terrifying cat woman who looks like Angelina Jolie’s mom.
In the end, though, the best coupling involving Malcolm Reynolds is with Saffyobridge, the mysterious, psychotic con artist who goes from sweet and innocent to terrifying in less than a second. What’s great about this couple is that their sexual dynamic shifts as the show goes along, but no matter what, you always feel a resistance to them hooking up. It keeps the tension alive and kicking. First it’s because she’s so child-like, but then it’s because you’d rather have them fight than bang.
Best Moment: The look on his face when she recites her wifely duties from the world’s greatest Bible.
4. The Doctor and Madame de Pompadour, Doctor Who
The problem with making Doctor Who as a serial television show is that, by his nature, the Doctor must always be alone. Sure, he has companions, but no one that sticks around longer than two or three seasons. He’s immortal and ever-changing and always in the process of leaving. They did a great job with the Rose storyline, but he had to really think about it and have a lot of conflicting feels, and there was nothing spontaneous or sexy about it because he never lets himself lose control.
That’s why the episode “The Girl in the Fireplace” is so brilliant. Reinette is straightforward, collected, decisive and uncompromising. She sees the Doctor for the first time in years and does what anyone seeing David Tennant would do. She makes out with him. She gets behind his defenses and keeps him off-balance and smitten for the rest of the episode. He never gets the chance to act untouchable and god-like, or to set up barriers.
What does he have time to do? Slip her the tongue.
The brilliant chemistry between this couple packs a three-punch wallop: Steven Moffat’s brilliant writing, the French people’s inability to hear the word ‘no’ when it comes to dancing or sex, and the fact that David Tennant was totally plowing Sophia Myles at the time.
Best Moment: Scroll up half an inch. There it is.
3. Starbuck and Apollo, Battlestar Galactica
The sexiest couples can never actually be happy. They must always be in a state of unstable perturbations. Kara Thrace and Lee Adama ride the line of best friends/lovers/mutual punching bags for the better part of four years. And for the most part they do it well. We get infinitesimal payouts (although often the best moments happen in flashback, just so you’ll be sure to know that it’s not going anywhere truly satisfying.)
What’s lovely about Starbuck and Apollo’s handicapped romance is that it’s not one of those stupid will-they-or-won’t-they that’s impeded by external circumstances and ridiculous situations. Nothing is keeping them apart except for their own fear, insecurity, shame and aggression. Despite all that, though, they have strong bonds and they love each other (as much as Starbuck can love anyone through all her self-loathing and violent tendencies)
The best thing about this couple is that it’s meant for people like me. Some of us girls don’t want a big tall/dark/brooding man to dominate us or order us around. We don’t want a protector to take care of us. We want to kick ass at stuff and maybe have a best friend for boxing/drinking/make outs/nervous breakdowns.
Best Moment: She punches him in the face and he, in a display of fantastic gender equality, punches her right back in her own stupid face. It’s kind of hot.
2. Han and Leia, Star Wars
Han and Leia are one of those couples that don’t seem terribly realistic as far as long-term compatibility. Well, I say fuck that. Han and Leia completely embody the wonderful world of aggressive sexual tension (if you ignore his total emasculation in Return of the Jedi.) Unlike Starbuck and Apollo, there’s no real violence to it, just witty, sarcastic barbs that are traded with less and less conviction the more alone they get and the darker the Falcon‘s cockpit becomes.
When they finally do get together, it’s a wonderful amalgam of vulnerability and passion winning over feeble attempts to save face. Sure, it’s the stereotypical “he’s smooth and charming and her haughty bravado melts under his smoldering whatever,” but if you look at him, you’ll realize it’s impossible to be anything but turned on.
Best Moment: The slow kiss. Most slow kisses get cut off before they happen, but this lead-up with the world’s bravest attempt at a conversation is completely endearing and gives you enough to time to see just how much they’re driving each other nuts.
1. Buffy and Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This may be one of the most brilliant sexual relationships to ever span six seasons. Mostly because it never falls into a rut, becomes inorganic, or feels tired. There are real (and very good) reasons for keeping these two apart, and so the arc is a slow and amazing one. It starts out violent with a touch of creepy pedophilia. Then there’s a truce, then there’s more violence, some erectile dysfunction metaphors, a body swap, a single dream that launches an obsession, a lopsided infatuation, amazingly destructive sex and eventually some warped version of real love. HOLY SHIT.
Spike is a true bad boy, but deep down he’s also a needy, sentimental little thing with mommy issues. And he’s got a killer body. Buffy fights on the side of good, but she’s just as soulless and completely whiny. So they kind of fit together. Also, Spike’s obsession with either killing or boning the Slayer? Kind of hot.
Both Spike and Buffy rely on death and violence on a daily basis. And, as we have all learned throughout this essay, nothing is hotter in a sexual relationship than pure, unadulterated violence.