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Professor X vs. Magneto: Who’s the better sex ed teacher?

The ultimate test of mutant leadership

Graphic illustration with the letters WWWW vrs. in the center and images of Mutant characters Magneto and Professor X left and right Graphic: Alyssa Nassner/Polygon

X-Men comics are home to plenty of generations-long battles and epic rivalries. There’s Wolverine and Sabretooth, fighting their way across generations; Wolverine and Cyclops at odds over the future of the mutant nation; Wolverine and — look, Wolverine gets in a lot of fights.

But since the X-Men’s first panel, one rivalry has loomed large: Charles Xavier and his boyfrenemy Magnus Erik Lehnsherr Max Eisenhardt Magneto.

Now, finally, we address their epic conflict on the most delicate of battlegrounds, and determine once and for all which would win in the battle to demonstrate safe condom use on a banana.

Who is better qualified to teach sex ed: Xavier or Magneto?

On the surface, this might seem like a laughable question. One of these men is a lifelong educator, dedicated to peaceful collaboration between mutants and humankind. And who better to explain human dynamics than a telepath? The other is a supervillain who literally named his gang the “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants” and did his last serious dating in, like, the 1940s. But crack the surface, and the answer’s less intuitive than you might think.

While it might seem like a good idea to have a telepath in the classroom — after all, how many teenagers are actually going to ask the questions burning through their developing brains — that perspective assumes a telepath with good boundaries. Charles Xavier? Not so much. Yes, he’ll know the students’ questions before they ask them; but he’ll also address them in enough detail that everyone else in class will know exactly whom they’re about, and he’ll do it over their equally vehement mental protests.

“Thank you, Scott,” says Professor X to a group of (recently resurrected) naked mutants covered in goo. “Thank all of you,” in House of X #5 (2019). Image: Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz/Marvel Comics

That disregard for boundaries will be an issue in other directions as well. Xavier is just egotistical enough to look to his own private life for relatable examples. If you’re a 13-year-old mutant, do you really want to think about how your teacher knows which sex positions are considered heretical for nobles of the intergalactic avian Shi’ar empire? No. No, you do not.

Ultimately, you don’t want Charles Xavier teaching sex ed. Really, you don’t want Charles Xavier responsible for adolescents in any capacity; but you especially don’t want him teaching them about enthusiastic consent, because the father of the X-Men is a massive, massive creep. His own romantic history is a minefield of dubious (or entirely absent) consent, unequal power dynamics, and intergalactic coups. His relationships with the teenagers he teaches range from conscripting them into battle against adult supervillains to — if you count the X-Men’s questionably canonical crossover with Micronauts, and for the purposes of this argument, we must! — outright sexual abuse.

But can the Master of Magnetism also make it as the Master of Menstruation? Let’s take a look.

“I may even dress for the occasion,” says Magneto as he uses his magnetism powers to hover the metal pieces of his flamboyant costume onto his body in X-Men #11 (2020). Image: Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Francis Yu/Marvel Comics

For all his supervillainous bluster, Magneto’s actually got a decent educational CV: He took over the Xavier School for a chunk of the 1980s while Xavier himself was gallivanting around space with aliens. In that capacity, he not only worked closely with the X-Men, but assumed responsibility for the teenaged New Mutants. His tenure may not have been spotless, but his dedication to acting in the best interests of students while both looking out for their safety and acknowledging their burgeoning independence was a step more nuanced than Xavier himself has typically managed. And really, what Xavier School director hasn’t had at least one student die on their watch?

On a practical level, Magneto’s fierce ideological dedication to mutant diversity means his sex ed classes will be both comprehensive and inclusive. He’ll talk seriously about how to navigate consent when you can read minds, and what safer sex means when your skin secretes corrosives. He’ll be matter-of-fact about the weird stuff in ways that circumvent squeamishness, and he’ll teach students to challenge human taboos without getting prurient or personal.

In the end, Magneto’s best qualification for the gig might be his detachment. Magneto is the grumpy dad to Xavier’s overenthusiastic creepy uncle. He wants to know about your teenage sexploits even less than you want to tell him about them. Magneto will make sure you have access to condoms without having to go through him, and the threat of his withering disapproval will be enough to make sure you use them.

And if you’re more about following the Krakoan Era command to make more mutants? I’m not saying he’ll help, per se; but he probably won’t get in your way.

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