All the physical differences between the sexes of the (major) humanoid species of Star Trek are within a range that's known from humankind as well - except for the Orions. Whereas their females are grace personified, their male counterparts are downright orcish brutes. Is there any in-universe explanation for this huge difference in their appearance?

I'll be happy about explanations given by the TV show(s) as well as ones offered by novels or comic books.

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    Especially relevant given part of Star Trek's backstory has the humanoid races coming from a Preserver seeding, which is why so many of them are sexually compatible (and can, in many cases, interbreed).
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 13:11
  • 1
    You're assuming the individuals shown are typical of their species. If I did the same with humans I'd assume they're all physically fit and attractive. Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 17:02
  • @ BrianOrtiz Of course I do, since this seems to be the most sensible thing to me. Particularly in a fictional setting, as long as I don't have further information, I carefully generalize the ones I have. This doesn't mean that there can't be any sick or weak Orions, but I do assume that all Orions are green-skinned and the VAST majority of women are highly attractive/seductive and radiate sensuality. There might be a freak of nature or a small group of outcasts among them that for whatever don't live up to this expectation, but this wouldn't disprove my assumption -
    – glahn
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 9:21
  • quite the opposite, because their standing out would be a direct effect of not meeting the expectations connected to their species.
    – glahn
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 9:21

2 Answers 2


Usually female Orions are depicted as sensual and voluptuous, while males as strong and muscular; I won't exactly use such terms as as "grace" and "brutishness" to describe them, and the sexes don't seem to have very different features: both of them are depicted with explicit carnal and sensual features and are very physically fit.

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The strong sexual connotations of this race are tied to their physiology and society; quoting from Memory Alpha:

Orion females were very animalistic in nature, known for their extreme carnal appetites and their innate skill of seduction. A Human male could rarely resist the alluring dance of the Orion slave girl.

In Orion society, the males were slaves to the females. As a means of deceiving other species, the Orions maintained the facade that the females were the slaves. This went as far as Orion females on the Orion slave market.

Once sold to a male, the Orion slave girls used their unique physiology to their advantage; their highly potent pheromones accelerated the metabolisms of males of many species, raising adrenaline production to dangerous levels which caused aggression and, ultimately, a form of delusion. Its most significant effect was to make them susceptible to suggestion. Not long after, the "owner" males began taking orders from their "slave" females. The pheromones' effects were cumulative; the longer exposed, the more pronounced the results.

Human females reacted negatively to those same pheromones, experiencing headaches, and Denobulan males found their sleep cycles interrupted by them. Vulcans were immune to effects of the pheromones.

In 2155, Dr. Phlox of Enterprise NX-01 theorized that the pheromone acted as a defense mechanism against competition.

The strong feminine features and pheromones of the females seem to produce an accelerated production of hormones even in their males counterpart, giving as a result a race with pronounced gender-defining features and a strong connotations of sex both in their physiology and their society (as we already knew).

  • The similarity in terms of 'explicit carnal and sensual features' is an interesting point you raise; I haven't seen it from that angle. Before watching Enterprise, I imagined the males to be Errol Flynn-like characters, so I was quite... surprised when I saw my first male Orion, who resembled Grishnakh more than any protagonist of a 50's pirates flick.
    – glahn
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 14:04

No real in-universe explanation, but Discovery and Lower Decks started showing male Orions who weren't brutish-looking.

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    You could illustrate the point better by adding relevant images (and preferably naming the episodes the images are from). Commented Jan 18 at 2:49
  • As you note this doesn't really explain why the difference.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 18 at 3:19

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