The Man of Steel opens today, to big box office returns I hope (you're reading from a guy who had six different Superman t-shirts in high school and thoroughly enjoyed Superman Returns even though nobody else did). Throughout most of the character's history, one thing has remained constant, which is a love for Lois Lane. This is complicated by the fact that she adores him as Superman/Kal-El, but brushes aside Clark Kent, his secret identity.
However, there was a period when Lois was married to Clark for 15 years in the DC comic universe. That's got to be one of the most interesting marriages I can think of. Superman for the longest time had no equal, but now he shares a life with someone and has to treat them as an equal (if he wants a good marriage, which he does). Thankfully, the writers of the comics never depicted graphic sexual scenes between the two. Some things are better left to the imagination than bluntly printed on the pages of a book.
Although some people have certainly tried to bring their imagination to life and speculate what sex would have been like between the two. In an essay by Larry Niven called Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex, the author mentiones that Superman's sperm would be too powerful to ensure his partner's safety. In the show Smallville, Clark tells another character that he was working on controlling his powers so that things like intimacy could happen without hurting anyone.
Which leaves us to the question of Superman's sperm and it's strength. The rest of this blog post assumes his sperm is compatibale with a humans and has the lifespan of human sperm. If not, there's always adoption as a way to have children (and if not, well that takes the fun out of this blog entry, so roll with me). But SPOILER: In the graphic novel Kingom Come, it is revealed that he and Wonder Woman are expecting a child. And in Superman Returns, while not canon with the comics, Kal-El does have a child with Lois.
I take this to mean that Superman's reproductive system is compatible with a human's system: Why would Kryptonian sperm work with one different race (Wonder Woman's Amazonian race) and not any others? And why would his parents specifically choose Earth as his destination if they knew he couldn't procreate and keep their race alive?
His skin is nearly unbreakable (which rules out circumcision, if it wasn't done on Krypton already). His hair can't be cut. So why would his sperm be any different? It's probably extremely powerful. So much so that artificial birth control methods probably can't be used. So powerful that Lois Lane, to prevent pregnancy, is best-suited to use Natural Family Planning (check out iusenfp.com and tcoyf.com for more info on natural family planning method).
Artificial methods would not prevent pregnancy in the case of Lois and Clark's sex life. A condom? The sperm would rip right through that. But even if it didn't, if Kal-El could hold back enough to keep it from bursting, condoms have a typical use failure rate of 18 percent. With Kal's sperm being more powerful than a normal man's, if Lois was ovulating during condom-protected sex, I'd put the odds on those sperm cells getting through the latex and fertizling the egg.
Birth control pills? There is a nine percent failure rate for the common user who may forget to take the pill once in a while. Even if you go with a 99.9 percent effective rate, this isn't a normal man's sperm: This is Kal'El's sperm: If a normal man can get a woman pregnant 0.1 percent of the time, I'm betting the world's strongest man could probably pull it off..
Lois getting her tubes tied? Superman's sperm would break through that seal in an instant. An IUD? You think an IUD would prevent an embryo with Kryptonian blood from reaching the uterus? That baby is going to make a comfortable home inside of Lois. One of my friends suggested that Kryptonite be used as part of the IUD, but we both immediately dismissed this idea because it could still be dangerous to Superman during sexual intercourse, and the long-term effects of placing Kryptonite in your reproductive system are not known. Plus, if traces of Kryptonite stayed in Lois' system, it could hurt future children she'd want to conceive with Kal-El.
I believe the only way that Lois Lane could actively prevent pregnancy is by charting her fertile days instead of relying on artificial substances. The comic books never show Lois contemplating what birth control method to use, but we do know a few things for certain: Superman can't impregnate her when she isn't ovulating, or she'd be pregnant every nine months (this also makes me think that the sperm die off like normal sperm do, otherwise Kryptonian women would run around pregnant every nine months).
They enjoyed a normal marriage, so you have to imagine that Kal-El and Lois had a healthy sex life. And I have to believe that Lois was ovulating during that time, or the fact that she was unable to bear children would have almost certainly been a storyline. So how did Lois keep from having Superman's child? She must have charted her menstrual cycle.
This really seems like the only option when faced with super-powered sperm that renders artificial methods useless. Even though the sperm is powerful, if Lois knew what her fertile days were, she and Clark could avoid sexual contact during that period of time, like so many couples do with success. It takes a little bit of discipline, but anyone who reads the comics knows that Lois Lane has a very solid work ethic at The Daily Planet newspaper, so why would she be any less disciplined in other areas of her life?
I know some people get scared away from using Natural Family Planning because they think it's a lot of work. Being a man, I don't have to go through the effort that my wife does when it comes to charting things. But I do know that it doesn't take up nearly as much of her time as some would think it does. And it's a rewarding thing to use, keeping all sorts of nasty artificial things out of your body.
In closing, while I'm glad we don't know what Lois and Clark's sex life is like (it'd make comic book reading creepier than it needs to be), I think that during the 15 years or so of marriage that Lois and Clark shared, she kept track of her fertility with a chart. When it comes to taking care of your body, it's certainly the heroic thing to do.