Video Games

Meet Sonic the Hedgehog’s Horniest Fans

The people who want to see the blue speedster kiss don’t care about your criticism.

A blue cartoon hedgehog holds a woman in a white dress with short brown hair.
Sega

This is a story about a highly specific, video game-themed pornographic subculture, and as such, there is no good way to begin. But maybe we’ll start with a quick recap for the blissfully ignorant: Sonic the Hedgehog is an anthropomorphic blue gerbil in a pair of red sneakers. He can run really, really fast. That’s his only superpower. Back in the early ‘90s, as households across America welcomed in a Sega Genesis to compete with the Super Nintendo, we catapulted Sonic through the takeoff ramps, pinball bumpers, and vertical loops in his path, in order to rescue innocent woodland critters from the clutches of Dr. Robotnik.

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Sonic possessed plenty of day-glo, extreme raditude—especially compared to the relative squareness of Mario and Luigi—but Sega resisted giving their mascot any thoughtful interiority. Video games didn’t have much use for narrative in 1993, and Sonic hasn’t evolved much in the decades since. In 2021, presented in glistening 4K, Sonic remains nothing more than a hedgehog blessed with miraculous superspeed. There is no room for subtext, as we roll around at the speed of sound.

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Which is why you might be surprised to learn that Sonic the Hedgehog is responsible for one of the most fervent, diverse, and ubiquitous porn communities within the greater video game fandom. Believe me when I say that no other franchise comes close. Dredge deep through the muck of Reddit, and you might turn up some questionable Zelda-themed smut. Cheeky Pokémon pin-ups are out there, if you know where to look, and the parasocial love affairs encouraged by role-playing games like Persona and Mass Effect have left many gamers aching with lust deep into the night. But Sonic remains completely unthreatened in his erotic superiority. Yes, this is a video game series oriented towards 10-year olds; yes, the principal characters are all chibi-sized animal hybrids bereft of any sex organs or verbalized concupiscent desires; yes, Sega is a total bystander to this libidinous recontextualization—offering no red meat to those who want to watch Sonic bone. But that hasn’t stopped a nation of artists, fanfic authors, and dutiful connoisseurs who’ve brought their curious kink to the world. The r/SonicPorn subreddit hosts 33,000 subscribers; type “Sonic porn” into DeviantArt, and you’ll be blessed with overflowing results. Scroll through, and witness every possible permutation of these hedgehogs, entwined in every position imaginable.

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This has gone on long enough to become an undeniable axiom in gaming culture. Sonic fandom and horniness go hand in hand. One cannot exist without the other.

I say all this now because the underbelly of Sonic fandom broke into mainstream headlines last month, when a notorious internet figure known as “Chris Chan” was arrested in Virginia for some truly appalling domestic crimes (involving the sexual assault of her mother) that I don’t feel like fully repeating here. The story was covered to death—making it all the way to Tucker Carlson’s desk—and if you want to know more about the arrest, I recommend reading Insider’s reporting. But broadly speaking, Chris Chan first gained prominence in 2007 after her crayon-drawn Sonic erotica metastasized across 4Chan, elevating her into a minor urban legend. Since then, Chris Chan has been painted as the archetypal stereotype of the Sonic kinkster’s culture: antisocial, emotionally stunted, and burdened with some significant personality disorders.

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That image was reductive from the beginning. The smutty Sonic metaverse contains multitudes, and the vast majority of the participants aren’t facing sex charges. I’d like to set aside the jokes for a moment. Maybe it’s time to hear them out?

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“I distinctly remember looking up ‘Amy Rose naked,’ and being introduced to a whole new world of stuff,” says one of the moderators behind the r/SonicPorn subreddit, who we are going to keep anonymous for this story. Amy Rose is a character within the Sonic universe. She’s portrayed as a classic girly-girl—equipped with pink hair, a red dress, and a cutesy headband—and she’s often cast as Sonic’s feminine foil. The moderator tells me he started lurking around the Sonic erotica scene when he hit puberty, before taking a leadership role after he hit 18. Amy Rose, as you might expect, is his favorite character. Without her, argues the moderator, he wouldn’t be the man he is today.

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“It’s easy to explore your sexuality with things you already like,” he continues. “Since most of us grew up with Sonic, various characters from that series were right in the front of our minds as we started discovering what we’re into. I always found Amy Rose adorable, she was easily my favorite female Sonic character. … The fact that I can so clearly remember that day should show what an impact it had on my developmental years.”

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The moderator describes a sensation that should be familiar to anyone that grew up both deeply nerdy and deeply horny. Think of the vast reams of erotic Harry Potter slashfic that linger around ancient Tumblr, or the long, colorful history of queer Han Solo/Lando Calrissian fan ships. The Sonic porn contingency is an extension of that same instinct—a desire to add a little adult spice to adolescent fandom, particularly as the members of that fandom continue to age. Of course, outsiders may be turned off by Sonic porn, because the characters here are predominantly, well, hedgehogs, or at least in the hedgehog phylum. Developing an insatiable crush on Draco Malfoy makes biological sense. But Knuckles? The dreadlocked echidna who will soon be inexplicably voiced by the consensus sexiest man alive Idris Elba? Society has some questions.

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The moderator understands all of that, and he makes the important point that the Sonic ensemble is simply better realized than the personage present in other golden age video games. He’s not wrong. Mario has almost no personality, and he lacks English skills beyond a few grunts and his own name. Link is effectively mute, as are Master Chief, Samus, Kirby; take your pick. Sonic, on the other hand, has been burdened with some outstandingly cheesy melodrama in his later years. One of the worst Sonic games of all time came out for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2006, in it, Sonic infamously kisses a human girl. Not another hedgehog! A person. That sequence is emblematic of the wild, misguided swings Sega has taken with the franchise. The Sonic character himself remains canonically virginal, but I am not surprised to hear that these exasperating story beats have given way to a one-of-a-kind emotional tenderness.

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A sleeping blue hedgehog receives a kiss from a brown-haired woman in a white dress.
A kiss no Sonic fan will ever forget. Sega

“Sega, by complete accident, has created such a unique and vast world for Sonic, filled with larger than life personalities, that people have gotten so immersed into. As cheesy as it sounds, the Sonic cast becomes like close friends to you,” says the moderator. “Heck I think the wavering quality of the games actually helps with that. It’s like watching your best friend, that you’ve known since childhood, stumble through a life that constantly kicks him down, but he keeps getting back up, and you always root for him in the end. These characters mean so much to people, they get so passionate about them, so can you really blame people for wanting to see a more sexual side of their closest friends?”

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Meanwhile, the moderator has no love lost for Chris Chan, who he says gives people like him a “bad rep.” Again though, he doesn’t think she represents a problem unique to the Sonic smut scene. Every coterie has its bad apples, the mod argues. “When you think of the Rick and Morty fandom, do you think of all the normal people who simply find the show entertaining, or do you think of that guy on the floor of McDonald’s screaming ‘Pickle Rick?’” he says. I can’t argue with him there. In general, the moderator wishes that the public understood that a tasteful gradient exists in a realm like r/SonicPorn. Not everyone here is indulging in the grimmest fantasies possible.

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“Certainly some of us are into bizarre, specific fetishes, but an equal amount simply enjoy their favorite Sonic character naked and posing sexily,” he says. “Much like most things in life, there’s more depth to it than you think.”

There are even some members of this community that believe Sega has leaned into the smut. VixyWixy, an erotic artist frequently commissioned to draw Sonic porn, notes the design of Rouge the Bat—a tertiary member of the Sonic troupe introduced in 2001’s Sonic Adventure 2— who was given copious cleavage, curves, and a dominatrix-ish demeanor. “That may have invoked something in the youngin’s who played games featuring her,” says VixyWixy. “I don’t think Sega was intending for this result when creating Rouge’s character, but I don’t think it’s fair to say it hasn’t helped the series in some ways.”

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VixyWixy does erotic art for all sorts of porn subcultures. He’s smutted up characters from visual novels, anime serials, and horror games, satiating his customers’ every need. In fact, VixyWixy tells me that he can count the number of Sonic commissions he’s created “on two hands,” compared to the hundreds of other drawings in his portfolio. And yet, those Sonic pieces are still what he’s known best for. The hedgehog porn universe might be small compared to Star Wars or the MCU, but it’s eternally thirsty, desperate to pay top dollar to explore wondrous new frontiers of indecency. “I’ve always felt like it’s difficult to break away from the Sonic porn community, as it’s almost sticky in nature,” he says. “When you join, it’s very difficult to leave.”

That’s the lasting impression I got from my brief sojourn into hedgehog erotica. Step beyond the smut, and you’ll find that the culture here is surprisingly wholesome. “Everyone I’ve met in this community has been super open to the weird shit I’m into, and vice versa,” says the subreddit moderator. “Even if you’re not into what someone else is, I find that most still support you in liking it.” Isn’t that all anyone wants at the end of the day?

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