No Sex Please, We’re Mulder & Scully

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Mulder & Scully: No Contact Here

If you wanted to define a chaste relationship, you could do far worse than the X-Files‘ lead characters, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. For nine seasons and two feature films they have exemplified emotional control and chastity in a way that makes Edward Cullen looks like a sex-crazed maniac. Will this change in the upcoming series? We’re not sure that’s a great idea.

Almost anyone who watched the show knows that Mulder & Scully clearly fell in love very early on in its history, even if they didn’t realise it. Even by the beginning of season two Mulder is barely able to function without the stabilising effect of his partner, as we see through his almost complete breakdown when she is abducted for several weeks. By the time the show came to an end in 2002, the pair were as deeply entwined in each other’s lives as any long-married couple. However despite whatever affection they may have felt, practically nothing ever transferred itself to outward displays whether in public or in sight of the viewers. This is the show that made its fans wait until season seven for the chastest of midnight kisses on Millennium Eve.

Mulder Being Unsubtle About His "Interests"
Mulder Being Typically Unsubtle About His “Interests”

The pair were hardly innocents of course; let us not make the mistake of confusing caution and control with a total lack of interest in the baser pleasures. Mulder’s pornography fetish was established by the show’s fifth episode and became a running joke for the duration of the show.

Even the tightly-wound Agent Scully let loose occasionally, getting herself a tattoo in season four’s Never Again during a few minutes of screen time that were probably as close as the show ever came to a sex scene, all subdued lighting and lingering close ups of flushed skin; and that’s before we get to the little moans and gasps from Scully herself as the somewhat suggestively shot phallic needle pierces her skin .

However, it is the show’s general lack of overt sexuality that has led to an interesting side-effect; fans took heart in the tiniest of gestures in a way not seen in other series. The constant sexual tension between Mulder & Scully has led to incredible amounts of thought and depth being applied to the tiniest raise of an eyebrow, half smile or touch.

If they so much as held hands, and even this amount of physical contact was vanishingly rare, you could practically hear the X-Files fan community screaming and cheering in a manner reserved in other fandoms for the lead characters declaring their undying love and leaping into bed whilst simultaneously discarding most of their clothing.

Many fans cite the ending of Season Six episode “The Unnatural” as a favourite moment between the characters as Mulder teaches Scully how to hit a baseball, keeping his hands well positioned on her hips. The resultant physical flirting is possibly the most intimate moment between the pair where one of them isn’t facing death and has caused “hips before hands” to become a motto amongst fans.

Whilst thinking about this, I reached out the the vast fan community of X-Philes on-line; I asked them for their thoughts on the lack of obvious sexuality, and on the way this seems to cause so much electricity to flow through the small things that perhaps go unnoticed in other shows. Amidst the responses was this beautifully succinct paragraph from journalist and X-Phile Rachel George:

It’s not just the rarity, in my opinion at least, which imbues these moments with the frisson of excitement which they hold. It’s also the very nature of the juxtaposition between the deep intellectual, professional bond between the two and the almost total lack of physical contact. Mulder confesses his darkest secrets to Scully, and she trusts him implicitly, yet they rarely even hug. This is in addition of the emotionally challenging and professionally isolating nature of their work… Even the tiniest hint of sex when added to that potent mix can’t fail to produce a reaction far in excess of its presence.

Finally, a Proper Kiss
Finally, a Proper Kiss, It Only Took Eight Years…

Rachel makes very good points; the lack of physical contact was completely at odds with the depth of the emotional connection between the pair. Enough that when the inevitable happened, no one was even remotely surprised to realise that Mulder and Scully were now a couple.

The extent to which The X-Files kept sexual content firmly behind closed doors was truly exemplified when Mulder & Scully finally succumbed to a sexual relationship – it was never even mentioned. The first clue fans had was when an episode opened with Scully getting dressed in Mulder’s bathroom one morning whilst he slept, in what was hinted at as being a state of significant undress. Five episodes later, she announced she was pregnant.

Of course being The X-Files, even that wasn’t proof positive than anything less than platonic had occurred between them. Scully’s pregnancy was terrifyingly mysterious considering she had no ova, thus throwing Mulder’s role as father into significant doubt. It wasn’t until the show’s ultimate finale that his role was seemingly confirmed, as Scully referred to her baby William as “our son”.

Cuddling in The Second Movie
Cuddling in The Second Movie

The second film, released in 2008 saw Mulder & Scully living together, and even sharing a bed. No pretence of this being a purely platonic friendship was made, these were clearly two people in a loving and comfortable relationship, however the most we ever saw on screen was a kiss or two.

Will this upcoming series finally give the fans something more explicit than hand holding and hugs?

Part of me wants it to, I’ve been watching this show for fifteen years now and I’d like to see my two favourite fictional characters finally get some on-screen loving – something real, unambiguous, graspable.

But another part of me worries about what such a scene would do to the dynamic. Could it ever possibly live up to the weight of such long-standing expectation from so many? I think that deep down, I’m secretly hoping for more of the usual Chris Carter induced frustration.

The X-Files is the show that showed the world that popular, audience grabbing television didn’t need to thrust sex down our throats. With just the right character development, a gangly nerd and a frighteningly authoritative woman with (an initially) terrible taste in pant-suits could capture our hearts and make us follow them to the end of the world and beyond.

Plus, if we need sexual resolution, there’s always fanfiction!

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18 thoughts on “No Sex Please, We’re Mulder & Scully

  1. I’d like a third movie for a mostly unrelated reason – tying things up for Doggett and, yeah, okay, that other chick agent whose name I don’t recall and who I didn’t like all that much. The last time we saw them, they were saving the ass of the heroes and then we get a follow up movie and… not even mentioned. I know not a lot of people got into Doggett, but I ended up rather attached to him, and I think the character deserves at least an off-handed mention.

  2. Sometimes it’s best to just let something go. The series went on way past its prime and so did the movies. Wouldn’t you rather remember it for the good times instead?

  3. This makes sense to me! I tend not to like romances and I like sex scenes even less. I prefer my romances to have a strong mental-emotional-PERSONAL connection, and when that’s there, the sweetness of just the little hints of intimacy is so much swoonier. I didn’t even see X-Files when it first aired until season 6, so by the time we Netflixed the entire series in order a few years ago, I already knew secondhand about the characters and their relationship, and I went in thinking “Silliness, who cares whether or not they get together.” AND I ended up totally falling for them as a couple anyway. It is that emotional connection between them, the fact that they are so clearly the only people in the world for each other. And I prefered the somewhat chaste flirtation. It was part of how their chemistry WORKED. I don’t need or want any more than that.

  4. Still one of the best romances in TV history, made all the better for its restraint.

    I am desperately hoping for a 3rd movie, if only to make up for the disappointment of the 2nd. And I couldn’t care less if I see them kiss (or more) in it. I just want to see them working together, arguing over details, and maybe saving the world from alien colonization. That’s love.

    1. @ Jennifer: Restraint is good to a point. I too enjoyed it. But a little physicality doesn’t hurt. They’re in love. I too don’t need to see any kind of sex scene, but some making out wouldn’t hurt ;).

      Agreed on the rest though, all of that is love.

      @ rockinlibrarian: I’m not a sex scene fan either. But I don’t mind seeing M & S kiss though, something nice to break the monotony every now and then. Yea… that somewhat chaste flirtation was part of it. I didn’t mind it one bit. But I do realize that things have moved forward there… so there will be things that do happen that aren’t quite so chaste.

      As for it being part of the chemistry, you’re right there — but it shouldn’t really matter whether or not the flirtation is somewhat chaste, they’re two people who love and care for one another.

  5. But I would like Scully to say: “I love you” to Mulder once, because she never did and Mulder did once… And I hope we would see William in this movie…

  6. Beautiful article! I am so hopelessly in love with their love, it’s not even funny. I simultaneously wished and dreaded their eventual getting-together for nine seasons, and I sincerely hope the green light is soon lit. In jest, (and at the urging of my roommate, who I turned Phile and shipper last year) I composed this rap about my hopes for a racier sex scene in the third film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABpFm6Yuvmk
    Some people have gotten up-in-arms over it, which I think is funny, because I did it as a joke! I just wanted to express frustration, which we’ve all felt for these two if we’re being honest.

  7. There definitely should be a third film- because it’s almost 2012 dangit and that was a whole focal point of so much of the mythology of the show. But for a third, I think we should focus on baby William coming back into the picture somehow- somehow showing him as the kid/hero coming to save the day during the alien invasion/non-invasion or whatever might happen. Mulder and Scully could be more secondary characters, and maybe even Doggett and Reyes could make a cameo (as a married couple with kids? and these kids somehow get connected with William, and then we get another spinoff to pull in the young viewers in a Harry Potter/Percy Jackson kind of way?). Or does that sound like way too much fan fiction? (Hey- there is actually some really good XF fanfic out there- Carter should recruit some of the fan writers!).

  8. Why not?
    why not a sex scene ?,
    after a 19-year relationship I think that characters can afford a sex scene.
    Let’s face it, after this film may never see them again.

    1. Yeah, he filled out quite nicely. I’m sure Scully agrees! Just thinking of those two together gets me hot. I don’t understand this at all. It’s been almost 20 years! I don’t need a sex scene. I think I’d spontaneously combust. It’s enough to keep my head spinning just to think of those two LIVING TOGETHER?!?! Maybe Chris Carter could throw us a novel or two. Let us know how this happened and throw in a background X-file just to make it legitimate. But sex onscreen between M&S? I’m kinda glad the characters have that privacy.

  9. I love the fine line that Mulder and Scully walked for so long of “are they or aren’t they?” a couple. The love and attraction between the two of them was what cemented me as a X-Phile. I was one of the girls who wrote fanfiction and I went and saw the first movie 3 times at the theater just to see the almost kiss in the hallway. My absolute favorite sci-fi series of all time! And there will never be a man as good as Mulder 😉

  10. okay, first of all, LOVE this. I’ve only been watching the show for three years but I am ridiculously invested in the reboot and just everything X Files (I still don’t really understand the plot of the second movie but I think it’s great anyway. Everyone has those movies they think are awful but still love, right?)
    But onto the point of my comment, which is in response to your second to last paragraph. Honestly, I really think the reboot should start with them being together and happy (because they did the broken-up thing in the second movie, right? I think? everything was so unclear. damn you Chris Carter). But they were acting like a couple from the start, really, at least one type of couple. Constantly bickering while making love/sex eyes at each other every chance they could. So I really don’t think having them be fully and truly together would make that much of a difference. They would still worry about each other as much, and they would still mess with each other as much, us philes would just get some extra Mulder/Scully lovin on the side, and would that really be even the slightest bit bad? (the answer you’re looking for is something along the lines of HELL NO). So I’m just saying, I don’t think it would make much of a difference. Also, they have to talk about William at some point, don’t they????
    Thanks for posting this, I really enjoyed it, and I apologize if this is long. Have a wonderful day!! – x – a 19 year old Phile.

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