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Pairing: Clark Kent/Lex Luthor
Alternative name(s): Clex, CLex, Lex/Clark
Gender category: Hoyay!, slash, m/m
Fandom: Smallville
Canonical?: No
Prevalence: Very popular
Archives: Smallville Slash Archive, Archive of Our Own
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Clark/Lex (also known as Clex) is the slash pairing of Lex Luthor and Clark Kent in the Smallville fandom. It is the main slash pairing, and is the fandom juggernaut.

In canon, Clark and Lex have a complex relationship that began as a close friendship and moved steadily toward mutual enmity. They first started bonding over being the odd ones in a town like Smallville, seeking each other out for advice. The great chemistry between them didn't go unnoticed by fans either. Most fans also tend to be more sympathetic towards Lex than they are typically over other characters on the show, the fact that Lex has a controlling narcissistic father also plays a great part in said phenomenon.

The dynamics of the Clex ship have some recurring patterns even as their canon friendship deteriorated to animosity.


Clark/Lex shipping began with the pilot episode of Smallville. In the episode, Clark and Lex meet when Lex is sent to the town to work at the fringes of his father's industrial empire. Clark is moping on a bridge over his crush on Lana Lang and how he feels different from other kids when he is hit by Lex's Porsche. Their eyes meet through the windshield as a love song plays in the background.[note 1]

Clark is unhurt by the accident and rescues an unconscious Lex by ripping the car's roof off. He places Lex on shore and performs mouth-to-mouth. This may be what lead to fans in fanworks comparing their first kiss to a car crash. Coughing up water, Lex gazes on Clark's face, and then both turn their attention to the broken railing of the bridge, expressing their shock at being alive.

Afterward, Lex attempts to repay Clark with a truck. Clark's father, Jonathan, insists that Clark must return the gift, and in a fit of pique Clark sticks his arm in a wood chipper. It is after this that Jonathan informs Clark that he is actually an alien. Thus Clark's innocence can be paralleled as being broken in two ways that day: learning the truth of his origins and meeting Lex. When Clark goes to Lex to give him back the truck, Lex tells Clark that he doesn't want anything to stand in the way of their friendship.

Thus is set the pattern for their relationship. Clark seeks out Lex for advice and support. Lex gives Clark frequent gifts and becomes fascinated by Clark's secrets. And Clark continues to lie to Lex about his alien nature, his powers, and what truly happened when they first met on that bridge.

"It's more than destiny. Their relationship just *is* and has been from the moment they met."[1]

Critical Response

One interesting point of note about Smallville is that the perception of homoerotic subtext between the characters was not limited to those in the slash community, but was fairly widely perceived by general audiences and critics alike. Given that the series began with the male leads giving/receiving mouth-to-mouth, followed by the pair being shot with romantic camera angles, this is not surprising.

Trends in the Fandom

FutureFic & The Rift

Given the nature of the Superman source material that Smallville drew from, viewers knew that, ultimately, Clark and Lex's relationship on the show would deteriorate and end in tragedy and enmity (called The Rift). This led slash writers to create future fic stories that end in other ways including hot sex, eternal love, acceptance by the Kents, Mpreg, and other HEA (Happily-Ever-After) scenarios (called Riftless, Rift? What Rift? (to play off Plot? What Plot?), or RWR).

Because of this, Clex is a pairing that can be either written as classic buddyslash or classic enemyslash. This also leads to a tension in the fandom between the typical shipper "meant to be" mentality of epic destined love and the clear knowledge that getting Clex together was a step that changed everything far more than the mere non-canonical nature of most slash. As an SF/fantasy canon, inspired by the superhero comic genre, there was also the ability to play with AUs and time-travel so that even the characters themselves would be aware of the destined-yet-improbable, improbable-yet-destined nature of their pairing, and could themselves create their coupledom as a fix-it for the enmity.


Differences in age and experience also play a role. At the beginning of the series Lex is 21 and Clark is 15 (this was the general fanon at first; in S4 Clark turned 18 and so some people after that point write him as 14 in S1). Thus early on their relationship had the specter of statutory hanging over it. Fans responded to this in different ways. Some wrote fic where a sexual relationship between the characters waited until later; some reveled in the underage aspect. Some handwaved the whole thing by mentioning that Clark is an alien with a fake birth certificate who ages at a different rate from humans, and that no one knows exactly how long he spent in transit between Krypton and Earth, how long he will live, when/how Kryptonian puberty happens, or what Kryptonian sexual customs were. As far as experience goes, Lex typically has lots of it and Clark typically has none for fic set early in the show. Fic set later on or in AUs varies, but a lot of early stuff was quite into the trope of the experienced and skilled lover deflowering the innocent yet lusting virgin.

As far as the top/bottom question goes, fans are fairly evenly split.

Both Clark and Lex are generally portrayed as quite well-endowed. Clark is frequently described as uncircumcised, since nothing can cut him. In many stories Lex is also hairless all over due to his exposure to the meteor shower.

In early days it was reasonably common to see Clex fics where Lex had been sexually abused in some way by his father Lionel (this pairing also had some fic in its own right). This information generally would be revealed at some point in the story without being mentioned in the header as an additional pairing or as a warning. This trope became less common as time passed, possibly due to the changing portrayal of "evil" Lex and "good" Lionel in canon and the shift in power between the two, and possibly due to the ongoing warnings debates in fandom. However, since Lionel's treatment of Lex is canonically emotionally abusive and in some ways physically so, and has extended so far as sleeping with Lex's ex-girlfriend and sending him pictures, it is not a surprise that some fanon would sexualize the abuse to a greater extent (especially given the physical mannerisms of the actors when in scenes together).

Alien Biology

There is a famous essay about Superman and Lois Lane titled "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex". These concerns are relevant for any pairing involving Clark Kent or alien sex. There are questions that arise in fic, such as: Will Clark's ejaculate put holes in his partner? Can his ass turn coal into diamonds when he comes? Does he secretly have a tentacle penis? Can he get pregnant?

In fanfiction, Lex Luthor appreciates the virtues of asking questions and experimenting to find the answers. In canon, Lex has also been mutated by the meteor shower and is showing to have superhealing. Many fan creators used his superhealing to explain away the kleenex factor and portray Clark and Lex as compatible sexual partners. There is also a lot of barebacking in fanfiction, since neither Clark nor Lex can get sick.

There are definitely fics where Clark's biology is dangerous to his human partner. There are also fics where his biology is inwardly less human than it outwardly appears. Fans of mpreg, mating cycles/heats, tentacles, Pon Farr, BDSM AUs, etc., can all find or create what they're looking for here.

Tropes & Fanon

  • Future fics are often Rift-fics, portraying Clark and Lex as enemies following a rift in their relationship. There was also "Rift, What Rift?" fanfic.
  • Kon-El (their canonical son together) appeared in Clex fics before his character appeared on the show. His parentage was already revealed in the comics, and Clex works featuring Kon-El (Connor Kent) are often domestic fics.
  • Red-K was treated as a canon Sex Pollen within SV fandom, with Clark losing all inhibitions and behaving selfishly under its influence
  • Identity porn is very popular within DC fandoms and Clex fanfics are not the exception.
  • Lex Finds Out is the Secret Identity Reveal trope of choice within Clex fics
  • Lionel Luthor, Lex's father, something appears in Clex fics as an antagonist. This can include a background of sexual abuse.
  • The CoCK (Chamber of Clark Kent), is the secret room where Lex stores all his obsessive alien-hunting evidence.
  • Incest AUs are often Raised Together stories, with Clark and Lex are raised together in the same family.
  • Evil Kryptonian conquerors
  • Fake supervillain Luthor
  • Immortality
  • Taking over the world together
  • Woobie!Lex

Much of this is discussed further in the Smallville entry.



Most of the fanart were manips or some kind of photo art but there was quite a bit of traditional art as well. Some examples are in the following gallery:

More Examples:


Authors often associated with Clark/Lex slash include Henry Jones Jr. (aka. Saber Shadowkitten), RivkaT, danceswithgary, toomuchplor (aka. rose_emily), and Te.



Links & Resources




Communities/Mailing Lists

Notes & References


  1. ^ The producers of SV, Al Gough and Miles Millar, have called the moment when the Clark and Lex eyes lock through the glass for the first time a "meet violent." This term is a riff off the romantic comedy tradition of the "meet cute".
  2. ^ The video "A Clexian Love Story" is no longer available, having been removed from Youtube as well as from LiveJournal. Reference links were also not archived, they being LJ's and, both accessed February 18, 2009.


  1. ^ Friendship of Legend essay by serafina20 at Ship manifesto, 7 Sep 2004. (Accessed 25 Nov 2011).
  2. ^ A Handful of Dust, by Jenn at Illuminated Text.
  3. ^ No longer online, see Smallville section at Luminosity's site (Accessed 3 Dec 2011)
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