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He's faster than a speeding bullet. He's more powerful than a locomotive. He's able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Why can't he get a girl?
Larry Niven, opening of the Trope Namer essay (1971).

Pa Kent giving the 'Birds and Planes' talk with a young Clark (Superman: Earth One Vol. 2)

Whenever a character with the Powers Of A God (tm) hooks up with a mere mortal, there is nearly always a bit of lurking Fridge Logic which may or may not get addressed in the show itself, especially not if the show is aimed at kids. (Expect fanfic to address it, quite a bit, regardless of who the show is aimed at.) Namely, there is a very wide gap between one partner's physical strength and the resilience of the other's flesh, which can be an important factor during particularly, hm, intimate encounters between the two.

Regardless of the trope title, any gender combo can be involved, though the Steel/Kleenex problem generally comes up in pairings where the 'steel' member is male. For some reason, 'Man of Kleenex, Woman of Steel' usually isn't considered as much of an issue.

Less likely to be an issue when an actual god is involved, because, well, he's a god, he can do what he wants!

Contrast Power Perversion Potential. Compare Hot Skitty-On-Wailord Action.

Examples of Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex include:

Anime and Manga

  • Dragonball Z: On this very wiki, people have wondered how two ultra-powerful Saiyans (Goku and Vegeta) manage to have kids with two human women (Chi-Chi and Bulma).
  • The long-dead fansite Anime Marriage Prospects discussed this in regards to A-Ko Magami, saying this (paraphrased): "Six words: Vaginal muscles that can crush steel. Have fun."
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund has a mental illness example. The only way for a lycanthrope father to guarantee his son will also be a lycanthrope is to have sex with his wife while transformed. Sannin's mother was driven insane by the experience coupled with the sight of the newborn "hairy, inhuman thing".
    • Akira's mother didn't get off much better. Though she wasn't driven insane, she did end up wheelchair-bound after delivering a second werewolf son.
  • Surprisingly, this comes up in Shakugan no Shana. Luckily, there's an unrestricted spell that temporarily grant it's target strength equal to a flame haze.

Comic Books

  • Superman and Lois Lane, as discussed in the Trope Namer essay.
    • Lois and Clark have been shown to have sex, even on panel (though non-explicit, of course). It's generally just assumed that Superman has enough muscular control that he can basically turn his powers off, save invulnerability, even during orgasm.
    • John Byrne's Superman/Batman Generations offers a logical solution: a pendant that mimics red sun radiation, which allows Clark and Lois to be intimate as well as preventing the super-powered fetus from kicking a hole in Lois' belly while she's pregnant. After their daughter Kara starts developing powers, she's given the pendant to keep them in check until she's old enough for Dad to teach her how to use them.
    • Inverted with Kara and her boyfriend/fiancé Bruce Wayne Jr. (Batman III), but while it's shown that they do have an active love-life there's no mention of it causing any problems or of any necessary countermeasures like the red sun pendant.
  • Thor and Jane Foster probably.
  • In Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, all the super strong lycanthropes have to be careful of their strength while having sex. One of the things that Richard likes best about Anita is that due to being a human servant of a vampire she's much less fragile than a regular human and he doesn't have to hold back so much.
  • Many fans shudder at the logistics involved in Alicia Masters and Ben Grimm consummating their love. Many fans claim that their love, while romantic, is non-sexual.
  • The Inferior Five has a rare sex-reversed example, with the super-strong heroine Dumb Bunny in love with ordinary human Merry Man, but afraid of crushing him.
  • The Boys: while the woman survived the experience (raped by an evil Superman Captain Ersatz), she didn't survive the pregnancy: the superpowered baby cut its way out of her womb with heat vision.
  • Gender-reversed and referenced in an issue of Stormwatch with a 'woman of steel, man of kleenex' who get around the problem by being very careful about it.
  • In the superhero parody comic The Pro, the titular "working girl" heroine is giving The Saint (A Superman parody) a "job" when he tells her to move quickly. The resulting shot takes down a plane.
  • Most comics that feature a superhumanly strong / normal-human romance tend to get around this by the expedient of saying that the superstrength is a conscious usage, and can't be used accidentally.
  • In X-force Wolfsbane has a relationship with an Asgardian wolf god, which itself should bring up these issues. But then a variation occurs when she gets pregnant by him. The result is Rayne at risk of being killed by her superhumanly strong baby simply kicking. (more a case of baby of steel, mommy of kleenex) Fortunately Elixir remedied this problem by altering her physiology and give her the strength and durability of an Angardian so she could survive the pregnancy.

Fan Fiction

  • "The Price of Justice" plays with this in the course of Black Canary investigating a series of strange deaths that resemble close-range shotgun blasts to the head.
  • In With Strings Attached, Paul gains Super Strength and realizes to his horror that he can never have sex again. This hits home when he's given the option of schtupping a whole village full of Nubile Savages.

  Paul was quite intrigued by the prospect of fucking his way through a bunch of women straight out of a teenage fanboy's imagination... until he thought about what he would do to a woman beneath him.



  • Superman II. The title character gave up his powers in order to romance Lois Lane, which caused problems when the three Kryptonian super villains showed up.
  • The movies about The Incredible Hulk have addressed this (as his heart rate goes up, he has to stop them or risk changing). In the comics this isn't as much of a problem, as it is explicitly his anger, not his heart rate, that causes the change.
  • Hancock plays with the trope for laughs in a Deleted Scene. The titular antihero has a handicap in womanizing because of the projectile lethality of his "projectile liquids".
  • My Super Ex-Girlfriend has an inversion of this.
  • Intentionally averted in The Incredibles, where super-strong Mr. Incredible is married to superheroine Elastigirl. As such, it makes perfect sense that they were able to have kids (though it's never explicitly mentioned in the movie).


Live Action TV

  • They started to address this in Lois and Clark, with Clark not being sure if they could consummate their marriage let alone have offspring. Then in the last episode they were left with a Door Step Baby; it wasn't planned to be the last ep of the series, just the season, so the arc was aborted.
    • Note that the couple did consummate their marriage, in the episode immediately after the wedding (There was an issue with Lois dying as a consequence, but that was because of a curse and not because of Clark's powers).
    • The issue of being able to have children only first comes up in a scene where Lois and Clark's dialogue suggests that they have been taking actions to prevent the creation of a pregnancy, but in this last interchange did not. It is possible though that Dr. Klein is worried about this issue, and since he is so totally clueless as to not clue into a married women who obviously loves her husband being disturbed by the news that Superman ages much slower than human beings, it seems hard to believe that he is being subtle in his later admonitions to Superman about taking precautions.
    • Also, in the episode where Clark loses fine muscle control due to Red Kryptonite exposure, there is a scene where he sees a bruise he accidentally gave Lois, and decides separate bedrooms would be safer for now.
  • Smallville's version of Clark had the typical problem with his first love interest Lana Lang. The problem was eventually resolved when Clark was de-powered for an episode.
    • By the end of the show's run, he has gained enough control over his abilities that the problem no longer exists.
      • He outright stated that his training at the Fortress of Solitude included learning exactly that sort of control. Apparently Jor-El never expected his son to remain a virgin for life.

Video Games

  • A minor example from Mass Effect 2: Female Shepard can romance and have sex with Garrus, a Turian squad member. Turians are an alien species adapted to a much harsher world than Terrans, leading to such lovely features as razor-sharp teeth and pointy bones protruding out of their skin. When the crew doctor, Prof. Mordin, catches wind of this, he immediately offers helpful advice on "positions comfortable for both species", as well as "oils and ointments to reduce discomfort".
    • Also, Male Shepard's romance with Tali, a Quarian (species with atrophied immune system), who has to pump herself with immuno-stimulants to even be able to touch Shepard. Interestingly, in both cases, it's the woman who is endangered by contact.
    • And there is also advice about dealing with accidental telekinesis if one with such talent is involved in the romance.

Web Comics


 Hotel employee: Man of steel, woman of Kleenex?

Angry hotel manager: No! Man of steel, woman of steel, bed of Kleenex.

  • Oglaf has a story about the Snow Queen, spirit of winter, whose bodily needs have to be fulfilled or spring is not going to happen. Let's just say that even the most hot-blooded of men cannot take her freezing qualities and return home in one piece. It Gets Better though, when a clever adventurer happens by. With her trusty strap-on.

Web Original

  • Mentioned in Interviewing Leather as one of the reasons why Leather only has other Supers as boyfriends.
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