%% Image selected per Image Pickin' thread: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=1301871254070144600
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[[quoteright:255:[[Webcomic/PennyArcade http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/pennymermaid3_2375.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:255:A ''really'' good reason [[Disney/TheLittleMermaid she needed legs to be with Eric]].]]

->''"Why couldn't she have been the other kind of mermaid, with the fish part on top, and the lady part on the bottom?"''
-->-- '''Fry''', ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'', "[[Recap/FuturamaS2E12TheDeepSouth The Deep South]]"

In any work of fiction with mermaids, there's a good chance that a male character will begin a [[InterspeciesRomance romantic, or even a sexual, relationship with one.]]

There's just one problem for the intrepid explorer looking for a port in those waters. There's no... [[UnusualEuphemism obvious point of entry.]]

That isn't to say, of course, that mermaids are completely lacking in sexual organs. Real fish, of course, have actual genitals. They just aren't compatible with those of a human, let alone easy to find or obvious to point out. A few biologists have a hard time even calling Piscine reproductive organs "genitals" because they are so very different from what we humans would recognize. Many (though not all) fish reproduce externally, meaning that conception happens outside of the body. Females deposit their eggs into the water to be fertilized by the males' similarly free-floating sperm.

Of course, most writers simply [[ArtMajorBiology disregard the biological impossibilities]]. Many writers simply HandWave any difficulties by saying that mermaids [[OurMermaidsAreDifferent have the ability to assume fully human form under special circumstances.]] Alternatively, a sufficiently bawdy work -- which one is likely to be if it brings up the Mermaid Problem in the first place -- may simply point out that lower half aside, well... she's still got a mouth, hasn't she? Yet alternatively, mermaids with two tails (called ''[[GeniusBonus melusina]]'') do exist. (But only in sufficiently bawdy works. And Starbucks.)

This trope mainly deals with the variety where they don't gain human legs. It is equally applicable to mermen, since they'd lack a penis for all the same reasons (a compatible one, anyway - some fish do have penises). Sometimes this problem may be [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]], but others no explanation is given. Compare NonMammalMammaries. A good number of series and fiction writers just have the fish/human separation dip a little in the front (in a U-shape) to allow for the genitalia, or use other methods to get the same result. Of course, merfolk with ''dolphin'' lower halves would have the appropriate plumbing and explain the mammaries too, but this idea doesn't appear in fiction as often as one would think.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Anime/MagicalPokaan'' has Yuuma falling in love with a pretty boy... who turns out to be a merman.
* ''Manga/MermaidMelodyPichiPichiPitch'' does turn its mermaids human on land... but in the manga, once [[spoiler:Kaito gets his memories back]], guess what's the first thing [[spoiler:he and Lucia]] do. Underwater. Since it's a {{shoujo}} series, it's all offscreen, of course, and the problem is never mentioned.
* The genders are reversed in ''{{LightNovel/Slayers}}''. When instructed to kiss Lina, Nunsa comments that he's considered one of the best catches in his school, then sits down and patiently waits for... something. It turns out that, as a fish, Nunsa is only aware of the concept of "kissing" as being vaguely related to mating, so he's waiting for her to lay the eggs.
* In an omake of the first volume of the manga ''Mermaid Boys'', the newly-human main character [[SpellMyNameWithAnS Naru/Nal]] wonders what that other new thing that came with his legs is. He asks the other male character that he's living with, and gets an explanation, and then the [[OrdinaryHighSchoolStudent schoolgirl main character]] comes in, and, [[AccidentalPervert well...]]
* ''Manga/OnePiece'':
** When a mermaid turns 30, their tail splits into a pair of legs and they can walk on land (This doesn't seem to be the case with mermen, as shown with the old King Neptune). The character [[spoiler:Kokoro]] is actually a mermaid past 30, who married and had children with a human. Later, Brook imagines what mermaid panties look like, until he is told that mermaids don't wear panties.
** Luffy meanwhile asks repeatedly about the rarely acknowledged [[NobodyPoops other mermaid problem]]. In an SBS Oda answers the question by starting to say something about scales opening... [[BreakingTheFourthWall and then Sanji beats him up in disgust.]]
* While the problem is never actually mentioned, ''Manga/MyBrideIsAMermaid'' avoids it in that mermaids can take human form. Younger mermaids do revert if they get wet, but it's implied that they grow out of that.
* This became a big issue for Master Roshi in an early chapter of ''Franchise/DragonBall'' when Goku brought him a mermaid girl. He ''did'' attempt to make the most of the situation by leering at her chest, but he got punched in the face for his trouble.
* The ''LightNovel/KyoKaraMaoh'' manga has a brief episode of this - Yuuri, [[SpellMyNameWithAnS Conrart]], and Wolfram have a conversation about a past love of [[spoiler: Conrart]]'s. After a minute, Yuuri thinks they're talking about a mermaid. Turns out it's a maidmer, a reverse mermaid. [[LampshadeHanging Yuuri remarks]] that [[spoiler: Conrart]]'s strike range is wider than he thought...
* Beside the obvious problem, [[spoiler:Sheila]] of ''Manga/HekikaiNoAiON'' has to deal with the fact that, though she can get legs on land, she can't stay longer enough to have a normal relationship with Tatsuya [[spoiler:since her body is a corpse, and without water, it will rot]], also, [[AllLoveIsUnrequited even if Tatsuya does ever love her back]], her sisters remind her [[ImAHumanitarian he's just another human from which they'll get psyque]].
** This problem was discused in-universe by two of Sheila's sisters; it was PlayedForDrama but in a ''very'' [[http://www.mangareader.net/hekikai-no-aion/31/9 hilarious]] [[http://www.mangareader.net/hekikai-no-aion/31/10 way]].
* Merpeople in ''Manga/ACentaursLife'' evolved from aquatic primates and their tails begin below the knees, being fully human from the knees up. InterspeciesRomance is possible, as they do have human genitals.
* Creator/OsamuTezuka's manga ''Triton of the Sea'' concerns a race of ocean-dwellers whose males are humanoid and whose females are mermaids. How they reproduce is not explained, but perhaps the mermaids have genitals similar to those of dolphins.
* Mero from ''Manga/DailyLifeWithMonsterGirl'' has human genitals where a human's would be, but she also has pelvic fins for steering and wears clothes that cover that particular part of her body anyway.
** It should be noted that is problem doesn't seem to with the other monster girls, Mia the Lamia has human parts where the tail meets the body, Centorea the Centaur has her reproductive organs in the spot as horses, though not directly stated it is strongly implied that Racine the Arachne has compatible parts were her spider half meets human half and that spider mouth parts are used to hold mates in place.

* Of course, there is [[http://scythemantis.deviantart.com/art/Mermaid-Queen-110083937 one very disturbing way]] that this can be [[ChestBurster explained]].
* Classical mermaids were often depicted with ''two'' fish tails with presumably more or less human genitals in between, to get over this trope.
** In fact, the Mermaid was used as an UnusualEuphemism for a 'Whore' - Mary, Queen of Scots was referred to one by some of her subjects.
*** This puts the name of Creator/WilliamShakespeare's and Ben Jonson's habitual tavern, "The Mermaid", in a different light.
** The Starbucks Coffee logo features a mermaid of this [[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e9/Sbux_logo_pre_1987.gif type]] (a mermaid was chosen to represent UsefulNotes/{{Seattle}}'s origin as a port town). She's essentially giving whoever's looking a free show. Apparently this was too risque, so they [[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/35/Starbucks_Coffee_Logo.svg zoomed in]]. Now it looks like a woman's face with two random fin things next to her head. This can lead to confusion to those who don't know the origin. \\
The original logo itself was merely a less-risque version of [[http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2163/2415951013_1e8e668524.jpg an old woodcut]] in which the mermaid is obviously quite human above the tails. Starbucks, in addition to a few other retouches, covered her with scales from the waist down in order to allay any suspicion that she might actually have a vulva.
* Quite a few paintings simply portray a mermaid having her fish tail below the pelvis, allowing her to have a human vulva and butt.
* Belgian painter Creator/ReneMagritte has a [[http://imgur.com/esQEwXe painting of a reverse mermaid]].
* Polish painter Jaroslaw Kukowski has a [[http://c1593072.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/_c8fea7e1-resize:250x.jpg painting]] of a mermaid looking fixedly at a photograph of a vulva ({{NSFW}}) which might well be hers, as it is surrounded by scales. The Image is a little funny when you think about it.
* Some artworks tend to solve this problem by showing them reproducing like fish, which is to say, like the ''Futurama'' example, they lay eggs, the picture of their unborn offspring: [[http://gaudibuendia.deviantart.com/art/Mermaid-s-eggs-436822939 here]] and [[http://www.deviantart.com/art/Mermaids-purse-12048568 here]].
** The same would also apply to lamia or nagas [[http://img06.deviantart.net/817d/i/2014/072/b/9/a_naga_s_lullaby_by_akaichounokoe-d7a2par.jpg]] [[note]]Unlike fish, snakes do have private part openings called cloacas (which are towards the end of their tails) and some species of snakes do bear live young, however, a naga (or, a similar creature, lamia) most likely wouldn't reproduce the way a human might[[/note]].

* Creator/BetteMidler, while on-stage and costumed as a mermaid, once quipped "The question before us is where's her clitoris?"
* Creator/DemetriMartin had a mermaid in an animated sketch in his comedy special, ''Demetri Martin. Person.'', that had an even bigger problem: it was a vertical mermaid, which meant that the left side of it was a fish and the right side was a person.
* Nipsey Russell once commented in rhyme on an episode of ''Series/TheHollywoodSquares'', "I like mermaids/I don't know why./Not enough woman to make love to,/not enough fish to fry!"
** The screwed-up scansion of that third line implies it's a {{Bowdlerise}}d version...
* [[http://www.cracked.com/blog/choose-your-own-adventure-on-drugs-sloshed-in-the-sea/ This]] Website/{{Cracked}} piece delves into the subject.
* Mocked on [[http://nevermedia.blogspot.com/2012/08/defending-indefensible-little-mermaid.html NeverMedia]]. "You writers have no imagination, do you?"
* A type C mermaid exists for the sake of erotic humor (insert random Magazine/{{Playboy}} cartoon here if necessary), which has two legs (and naturally the stuff in-between), just with the usual fishtails-instead-of-feet. Cue C saying to A: "You don't know what you're missing!"

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Somewhere in ''ComicBook/{{Aquaman}}'' volume 3, officials in a city of mermaids complain about outsiders "swimming over their eggs".
* In Milo Manara's ''City Hunter'' (not to be confused with ''Manga/CityHunter''), there's a scene where Odysseus and his friends go off to catch some mermaids. He ends up with the traditional one, and his friend gets her ugly friend, with the parts mixed.
* Mermaids in borderline porn comic ''ComicBook/TarotWitchOfTheBlackRose'' get around the issue by having human-style crotches. Not genitals; ''crotches.'' As in, human-like hips and legs that merge together into a fish tail somewhere around the knee. The result can be ... [[http://www.the-isb.com/images/TarotMergina.jpg disturbing]]. Especially when they wear panties that they have no earthly way to put on or take off.
* A similar issue arises with a lamia (a snake-tailed woman) rather than a mermaid in ''ComicBook/{{Ironwood}}''. She reveals that there is a specific split scale that gives access to (presumably) human compatible genitals.
* A horror story in the ''ComicBook/{{Vampirella}}'' mag has a sailor falling head over heels for a very pretty mermaid. He's a pain in the gills until he finally can marry her. Looks he wanted it all just for the sex, too bad her species reproduces like fish, i.e. laying eggs...
* ''ComicBook/RedEars'': One strip addressed this when a sex-starved sailor stranded on a FarSideIsland catches a mermaid while fishing. After several comically failed attempts to have sex with her, he just decides to eat her instead.
* ''ComicBook/ElfQuest'': Some of the Wavedancers are merfolk, with fish-like lower bodies. It's left unexplained if they can reproduce or have sex with those of human-like lower halves, and if so how.

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* Played with in a Franchise/HarryPotter fanfic called ''[[http://documents.mx/documents/jewel-of-the-nile.html Jewel of the Nile]]'' (also [[http://web.archive.org/web/20150106125751/http://www.witchfics.org/anna/jewel/index.html web archive link]]) in which a couple of characters don polymorphing mer-costumes before splashing about and indulging in heavy makeout sessions underwater. The tails prevent them from doing anything below the waist, but as a temporary restriction that can be quite entertaining...
* ''Roleplay/AbsitOmen'', a Franchise/HarryPotter roleplay site, uses the explanation of 'merman spawn and witch magic' as the parentage of a mermaid [[http://www.absitomen.com/wiki/index.php?title=Merpeople#Part_Merpeople half-breed]] girl who looks like a permanent Gillyweed user.
* A somewhat more psychological version of the problem: in the (definitely NotSafeForWork) ''Disney/TheLittleMermaid'' FanFic ''[[http://textfiles.com/sex/EROTICA/A/ariel.txt Ariel's Wedding Night]]'' Ariel is traumatized when she discovers rather abruptly how humans reproduce.
** Which suggests she's never spent much time with dolphins, else she'd have seen plenty of demonstrations of mammalian sexual practices.
** Eric is also [[MyGodWhatHaveIDone rather horrified]] when he realizes she hadn't known what to expect and he'd mistaken her alarm for enthusiasm.
** Here's a longer version with a better ending: ''[[http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5731102/1/Ariel_and_Erics_Wedding_Night_Full Ariel and Eric's Wedding Night.]]'' It also explains the dolphin thing: Ariel thought her sister was lying to her about it.
* The [[TrollFic infamous]] ComicsNix fanfic known as ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5864270/1/Revenge-that-Destroys-the-Heart Revenge That Destroys The Heart]]'' posits the following:
-->Actually, she don't have [[CountryMatters one]], cause she is half fish. But some nerve endings arrigate her should be crotch area. Pleasue is possible. But only dry ones. Too bad for [[OneGenderRace male]] [[ArtisticLicenseBiology species]], woman mermaids screwed were it hurts more...in the dick.
** However, later King Triton and Ursula have normal human genitalia (albeit [[NauseaFuel completly disgusting ones]]) and, in King Triton's case at least, a normal human butt, making this completely pointless.
* A gender flipped example between Hiccup and Astrid comes up in ''Fanfic/WhatTheWaterGaveMe'' a few times.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In the X-rated comic ''[[Disney/{{Aladdin}} Jasmine vs Little Mermaid Ariel]]'', [[Disney/TheLittleMermaid Ariel]] gets out of the water and her tail turns into legs. She and Princess Jasmine then go on to [[GirlOnGirlIsHot have lesbian sex]].

[[folder:Film - Animated]]
* ''BarbieInAMermaidTale'' has Barbie's character Merliah be the half-mermaid offspring of mer-queen Calissa. It takes us two movies to figure out how exactly this is possible: a magic necklace that turns her into a mermaid whenever she wishes it (which is also shown to work on fully-human Kylie).

[[folder:Film - Live-Action]]
* ''Film/AmericanPie'' has two of the girls-obsessed teenage characters mention the issue. "Did you see ''Disney/TheLittleMermaid'' on TV yesterday? Ariel, she's so hot." "She's a mermaid, dude." "Yeah, but not when she's on land, Oz."
* ''{{Film/Splash}}'' used the aforementioned HandWave: Madison only had a tail while exposed to water.
* ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boy_Who_Loved_Trolls The Boy Who Loved Trolls]]'' had a mermaid who had a zipper on her fin, allowing her to easily turn them into legs (see [[YouTube video of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwJoKVDtA0Q]] - as of June 9, 2017).
* ''Film/{{Dagon}}'' averted this via tentacles and large amounts of {{Squick}}
* ''Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanOnStrangerTides'' solves this by making the mermaids' tails turn to legs when removed from water, much like in ''Splash''.

* Creator/JackLChalker:
** The mermaids in the ''Literature/RiverOfDancingGods'' series are 100% mammal (more half-dolphin than half-fish), and when a male character gets involved with one it's explicitly mentioned that their bits are human-compatible.
** Conversely, the mermaid-like Umiau from the ''Literature/WellWorld'' series are [[{{Hermaphrodite}} hermaphroditic]], not shy about that fact, and not at all interested in sex outside their species.
* In Creator/FredSaberhagen's ''[[Literature/BookOfSwords Lost Swords]]'' series, mermaids don't have genitals, and therefore ''can't'' mate. The only reason they exist at all is because of a curse on a ''human'' family that causes some of their daughters to be born as mermaids. When a wizard looks for a way to cure the condition he only manages to undo it temporarily, just long enough to get one of the mermaids pregnant. When the wizard dies she's left to worry about what will happen when it's time to give birth...
* Creator/PiersAnthony
** His novel ''Mer-Cycle'' has this as a minor plot point (of course). The "mermaid" the main characters encounter is the product of genetic engineering. The protagonist quickly discovers that her 'scaly' fish-tail is actually a series of overlapping plates that can be lifted like a skirt (!?) to reveal her fused legs and human genitalia underneath. How did he find out? He goosed her, causing her to jackknife and give him the mermaid equivalent of a PantyShot. (Oh that Piers Anthony)
** Likewise, his book ''Mute'' includes a "mermaid" who is actually a mutant woman with legs that are fused from the knees down, allowing her to squat. And yes, he is explicit about why she'd want to do that.
** In ''Literature/{{Xanth}}'', mermaids and mermen can assume human form, but when they mate with each other, they prefer to do it underwater, in their half-fish shape. When a (human) character asks how it's done, she is told to mind her own business.
** Meanwhile, in ''Literature/IncarnationsOfImmortality'', a mermaid states that "My scales are only external; I am mammalian inside." The mermaid in question is a {{Half Human Hybrid}}s born from [[AWizardDidIt a wizard's curse]] that made her father see human women as fish and fish as human women.
* The protagonist of Creator/FredricBrown's classic horror short "Fish Story" falls in love with a mermaid. It isn't until ''after'' he successfully petitions Triton to turn him into a merman that she informs him merfolk spawn like fish, causing him to regret that he can no longer drown.
* Alida Van Gores' 1989 novel ''Mermaid's Song'' takes the dolphin-based mermaid route straight into soft-core porn territory.
* Wittily averted in Creator/JohnRingo's ''[[Literature/CouncilWars Emerald Sea]]'': [[TheSpartanWay "Blood Lord" ]] Herzer Herrick ''tries'' to use the MermaidProblem as an excuse for his lack of romantic adventures among the merfolk (Herzer eventually gets over his shyness) Later [[OurElvesAreBetter Elf-babe Bast]] comments on their obvious genital slits. Interestingly, it's the ''post-partum'' aspects of mermaid reproduction that form the major MacGuffin of the story. [[note]]The mer are warm blooded and their babies don't have nearly enough body mass to avoid succumbing to hypothermia if they spend too much time in the water. Since the adults are about as helpless as seals on land (an explicit comparison is made to baby fur seals) mer babies have to be raised in protected nurseries if they're going to have any hope of survival. So anyone who seizes the nursery caves can hold the entire species hostage.[[/note]]
* The classic L. Sprague [=deCamp=] short story [[http://www.baenebooks.com/chapters/9781625791504/9781625791504___2.htm Nothing in the Rules]] features a dolphin-based mermaid who was sufficiently compatible (and sufficiently drunk) to share a "romantic interlude' with the protagonist in the back of a limousine.
* In a [[UnreliableNarrator possibly-not-true-inside-the-overall-story]] story in [=deCamp's=] ''Reluctant King'' Trilogy a mermaid and a human attempt to have sex. Since the mermaid is dolphin-based, finding the opening isn't a problem. However, almost drowning is.
* Creator/VondaNMcIntyre averts this:
** The sea people in ''The Moon and the Sun'' are aquatic humanoid mammals (and, apart from their aquatic adaptations, have a lot of anatomical similarity to humans), not hybrid creatures. They have two "tails" (actually hind limbs adapted for swimming) and human-like genitalia. (In fact, [[MeaningfulName Sherzad]] shocks a 17th-century human crowd by flashing them at one point.)
** Similarly, [=McIntyre=]'s genetically-engineered "divers" (which appear in a number of her novels) are more like humans with a few seal or otter traits (fur, claws, webbed hands) than traditional merfolk.
* In Francesca Lia Block's short story "Mer" from the story collection ''Nymph'', the title character, Mer (who might or might not be a mermaid and regardless stays in a wheelchair) and the protagonist, Tom, solve this problem elegantly by exploring the obvious alternative.
** His alternative is the obvious one; hers is reach orgasm via stimulation of her nipples, which is actually how some paraplegics of both sexes actually can learn to do, and some non-paraplegics (mostly female) do naturally.
* In Kit Whitfield's novel ''In Great Waters'', the problem is {{averted}} by having merfolk be entirely mammal, closer to sea lions than fish.
* Creator/TanithLee's short story "Mermaid" portrays a young man who discovers a mermaid and decides that he must have sex with her. The physical part isn't difficult; she has a "flowerlike opening" on the upper part of her tail. The problem is that [[spoiler: she's all fish: lipless mouth, lidless eyes, fine tentacles for hair, and cold to the touch.]]
* A comparable problem not involving any merfolk confronts a young man in love with a Remade woman in Creator/ChinaMieville's ''Literature/TheScar'', as her legs are permanently embedded inside a steam engine. Lucky for them, her actual genitalia are still human, and both of them are pretty flexible.
* A less prurient version is implied in the Series/DoctorWho Literature/EighthDoctorAdventures novel ''The Blue Angel''. The mother of an alternate version of the Doctor is a mermaid, and it's implied that he wasn't hatched from an egg. Also, he mentions an ex-boyfriend of hers, and that he's [[MagicalSeventhSon the seventh son of a seventh son]].
* Creator/JohnVarley:
** In ''Literature/TheGoldenGlobe'' a theatrical director in the far future complains about the difficulty of finding actresses willing to give up sex in order to play mermaids; it seems far future labor laws have replaced CGI with MagicPlasticSurgery.
** One character in ''Literature/TheOphiuchiHotline'' is a spacer who has used MagicPlasticSurgery to [[{{Transhuman}} modify her body until she's little more than a cylinder with an arm on each end.]] Varley's protagonist gives her credit for coming up with a very creative solution for the question of where a crotchless woman would keep her genitals but Varley (perhaps wisely) doesn't specify what that solution was.
* The section on mermaids in ''Literature/TheEncyclopediaOfFantasy: People of the Light'' has a solution for the mermaid's point of view, should she seek pleasure: it's all in the hair. Probably this counts as FantasticArousal, although for that you would expect the secret to be in the tail.
--> Ismael Merindol reveals that mermaids spend so much time combing their hair because it that is their erogenous zone, and a source of incomparable pleasure. He writes: "In my youth I had a mermaid for a lover, but I was unable to give her pleasure in the usual way. However, if I scratched her scalp in a certain way she would very quickly swoon away. For what other women have between their legs, mermaids have in their hair."
** This means that all those mermaids you see innocently combing their long tresses are in fact masturbating. [[{{Squick}} Who needs privacy, anyway?]]
* [[DiscussedTrope Discussed]] and averted in Creator/MercedesLackey's ''[[Literature/TalesOfTheFiveHundredKingdoms Fortune's Fool]]'', where the mer-princess heroine falls for a human and has to endure some ribald joking from her father about how it's fortunate her ancestors were sirens and not mermaids.
* Averted in ''Literature/OneHundredYearsOfSolitude'', which mentions that "The great swamp in the west mingled with a boundless extension of water where there were soft-skinned cetaceans that had the head and torso of a woman, causing the ruination of sailors with the [[IHaveBoobsYouMustObey charm of their extraordinary breasts]]." Seemingly these beings didn't have intercourse with their victims.
* In the second book of Literature/ThePrincessSeries, Lirea and Gustan prove that it's possible for the two species to have sex, although Lirea, being a royal, has two tails instead of the usual single one. At one point, Snow starts to wonder out loud about how merpeople have sex, but is cut off by Talia.
* ''A Little Sacrifice'' short story from Franchise/TheWitcher series (published in ''Literature/SwordOfDestiny'') deconstructs ''Literature/TheLittleMermaid''. The merfolk reproduce like fishes and their ways of life are completely alien to land dwellers. In addition the prince and the mermaid don't speak each other's languages and need Geralt as a translator. The solution is simple, but drastic: [[spoiler:the mermaid becomes human, [[TitleDrop sacrificing]] her familiar way of life.]]
** "I love him too, and I want to raise fry with him, but how can I do that if he refuses to become a fish like me? Where, then, am I supposed to leave my spawn, huh? In his hat?"
* Fritz Leiber, in his short story [[Literature/FafhrdAndTheGrayMouser "Under the Thumbs of the Gods"]],describes mermaids thus:
-->"They came close enough to see the slowly pulsing gills scoring their necks where they merged into their sloping, faintly scaled shoulders, and farther down their bodies those discrete organs which contradict the contention, subject of many a crude jest, that a man is unable to fully enjoy an unbifurcated woman (though any pair of amorous snakes tells us otherwise.)"
* In Wilson and Shea's ''Literature/TheIlluminatusTrilogy'' a character with a mermaid statuette admits to himself that it's metaphor for fellatio.
* In David Brin's ''Literature/TheUpliftWar'' an human and an alien who can at will (and with time) modify herself somewhat are stated as not being able to get beyond petting only a few pages after it's stated that she's bothered to grow lips for him....
* DoubleSubversion in the eighth ''Literature/{{Spellsinger}}'' novel. A mermaid offers to have sex with protagonist Jon-Tom and she's got equipment that's apparently compatible with human males... but she's sufficiently similar to a fish that she sets off his seafood allergy, giving him a sneezing fit.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In an ImagineSpot from ''Series/{{Scrubs}}'', JD imagines falling through a portal into a fantasyland where a mermaid is waiting to have sex with him. But he can't figure out how...
** And then Satyr!Turk points to a gill and starts to get freaky.
* Parodied in ''Series/RedDwarf''. When the crew were in a VR machine, Cat waved to his new girlfriend, who was a mermaid. She had a fish head and human legs. When asked, "Shouldn't it be the other way around?", Cat responded, "No! That's the stupid way around."
* Craig Charles' little-known sitcom ''Series/CaptainButler'' also parodied this. He asks the mermaid girl-of-his-dreams to have sex with him -- so she lays a pile of eggs and leaves him to inseminate them. Not exactly what he had in mind...
* On ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'', Marshall asks Barney if he'd make out with a classic mermaid or an inverted mermaid. Barney answers, "That depends. Is she fat?" Marshall responds that since she's part fish, it's the good kind of fat.
* Ricky Gervais parodies the hell out of this trope in ''animals''.
* The ''Series/NightGallery'' episode "Lindemann's Catch" explores this with tragic results.
* The Disney Channel series ''Series/PairOfKings'' apparently uses this trope, as there's a preview airing where one of the main characters encounters a mermaid and says something along the lines of "I prefer my women to have legs!" [[GettingCrapPastTheRadar Seems a bit blatant for a Disney Channel tween sitcom to actually make a "mermaids don't have vaginas" joke, don't ya think]]?
* Creator/VH1's ''[[ILoveTheExties I Love The 80's]]'' discusses this problem in reference to the movie ''Film/{{Splash}}''. It gets pretty dirty:
--> '''Rich Eisen:''' I don't really mind the fish smell...Oh shit, I just said that out loud, didn't I?
* During her first HBO concert special, Creator/BetteMidler made a joke involving four sailors who catch a mermaid, culminating with the punch line, "The question before us is where's her clitoris."
* On ''Series/TheBigBangTheory'', Sheldon mentions that he is working on several subjects at once, including figuring out how mermaids reproduce. When Raj asks if she just lays her eggs on a rock, Sheldon finds himself with one thing less to think about.
* A 2001 ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' sketch featured Creator/ReeseWitherspoon as a mermaid singing about [[http://snltranscripts.jt.org/01/01amermaid.phtml her mucus-lubricated fish genitalia]].

* The infamous Music/PoxyBoggards sing about this in the rather explicit song, "Nelly the Mermaid"
--> ...Her hips were a swayin', she was a work of art, the sad irony, her legs wouldn't part! \\
(and later...)\\
...They asked us to follow, so we turned and headed south, they had no lower half... but they still had a mouth!
* Creator/ShelSilverstein's song "The Mermaid" is about a sailor falling in love with a type A mermaid, her breaking up with him, and then him falling in love with a type B.
-->"But I don't give a damn 'bout the upper part / 'cause that's how I gets me [[IncrediblyLamePun tail]]..."
** The song [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihEew4v1xyc was recently covered by]] Music/GreatBigSea. The album containing the song, "The Hard and the Easy", even features a fish with women's legs on the cover in reference to this trope.
* In an interview, John Linnell of Music/TheyMightBeGiants referenced this.
--> '''John Linnell:''' "I mean the whole idea of mermaids as erotic is really weird I think because�because they don�t apparently have� "
--> '''Kurt Anderson (interviewer):''' "Well, to second base."
--> '''John Linnell:''' "Yeah, there's second base."
--> '''John Flansburgh:''' "We're talking about second base on PRI."
* Ignored completely in Music/TheLonelyIsland's [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7yfISlGLNU "I'm on a Boat"]] when T-Pain claims to have done it with a mermaid somehow. The mechanics are never questioned.
* Brenda Sinclair Sutton's "End of the Tail" is narrated by the fiancee of a sailor who falls in love with a type A mermaid. She tells him ''of course'' he can break their engagement and marry the mermaid.
* Apparently ''not'' a problem in the classic sea chantey "Eddystone Light"
-->My father was the keeper of the Eddystone light \\
And he slept with a mermaid one fine night \\
Out of this union there came three\\
A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me!
** The mermaid was most likely a porpoise (and thus mammal "compatable") in her lower half, as the first of her triplets indicates.
* The video for "You and I" by Music/LadyGaga averts this by... ignoring the problem completely, apparently.
** In an [[http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1669342/lady-gaga-you-and-i-music-video.jhtml interview]] on the topic, Music/LadyGaga talks about that scene as referencing this trope specifically as metaphor for a relationship where you can't make it work.
* The Bonecage song [[http://thefump.com/fump.php?id=1768 "No Mas Mermaids"]] is about this.
* In {{Music/Madonna}}'s "[[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8q2WS6ahCnY Cherish]]" music video, the merfolk have cetacean rather than fish tails, which means they probably also have compatible genitals. Moreover, the merboy with whom Madonna does some snuggling during the song apparently transforms into a human at the end, which makes these matters even simpler.

[[folder:Myth and Legend]]
* Sirens, despite not really being mermaids ([[SirensAreMermaids no matter how much the media tells you they are]]), still had the problem, at least in theory; from the waist up, they were women. From the waist down? They were ''birds''.
** Maybe not as much of a problem, as they were almost always hostile to humans.

* One of the "R-rated" submitted covers for ''[[http://worldoflongmire.com/features/romance_novels/ Longmire Does Romance Novels]]'' references this ever so discreetly with its title: ''[[http://worldoflongmire.com/features/romance_novels/submissions/r-rated/mermaid.jpg Darling, Where's The Hole?]]''
* Averted by, of all places, the Mirage casino and resort in UsefulNotes/LasVegas. The main entrance is flanked by two bronze mermaid statues, with the lower fish half beginning right below their buttocks.
* Automatic in-name trope reference in the German language: "Meerjungfrau" (mer virgin).

* Averted by the mermaid on the "Neptune" table of ''VideoGame/PinballDreams 2'', who has clearly-delineated buttocks despite having a tail.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''TabletopGame/ChangelingTheDreaming'', mermaids grow legs on land, averting the Problem. They also have a reproductive cycle that involves kissing, making them understandably shy about it while willing to have sex at the drop of a hat. (They still need to have sex to have babies. It's just that kissing "stimulates" the women in ways that sex alone doesn't, making pregnancy possible.)
* ''TabletopGame/CastlesAndCrusades'' resolves the problem by giving mermaids mostly human legs and butts, except, with scales and fishy-fins starting on the upper thighs.
* The Problem must've somehow been averted in the ''TabletopGame/{{Mystara}}'' ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' setting, in which the queen of Aquas is a HalfHumanHybrid of human and merfolk. Shapechanging magic by one or the other parent is implied to have been involved.

* In ''[[VideoGame/HarvestMoon Harvest Moon DS]]'', there's a cutesy mermaid named Leia whom you can marry. She never gains human legs, and [[GRatedSex manages to get pregnant]] despite ''living in your duck pond and being unable to leave the water for extended periods of time.'' Also, the pregnancy resembles that of a human, even though she's part fish. The [[HalfHumanHybrid child]] is normal enough, but still, [[MST3KMantra It's best not to think about any of this for too long]].
** The DistaffCounterpart of [=DS=], ''Cute'', averts this if you [[GayOption 'best friend']] Leia. Since two girls can't biologically have children, the Harvest King makes one of you pregnant (or was it the baby just being born?). You can choose to be the pregnant one, thus averting this.
* ''VideoGame/RuneFactory3'' averts this with Pia. Like other half-monsters in this series, she can shapeshift between fully human and monster form. You usually only see her as a mermaid when it's raining.
* Partially averted in ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'': several Pokemon in the Water 2 Egg Group, made up of fish-like creatures, are also in other Egg Groups like Dragon (dragons and other reptiles), Field (mostly mammals), and Water 1 (mostly amphibians and creatures living ''near'' the water), and thus can do it with other Pokemon in those groups.
* In ''VideoGame/KingdomHearts'', Sora turns into half dolphin, which actually averts this, since cetaceans have mammal genitalia. So any porn fanfics involving Sora as a merdolphin and a human are actually correct.
* Sidesteped in ''VideoGame/YggdraUnion''. The mermaid-esque Undine race are a OneGenderRace that reproduce via some kind of reincarnation fueled via a MacGuffin. Needless to say when this gets stolen, all hell breaks loose.
* In the third game of ''VideoGame/TheSpellcastingSeries'' by Creator/SteveMeretzky, the player character is required at one point to turn himself into a merman, and the opportunity for sex with a mermaid arises. The game states that the PC is interested to learn how mer-people do 'it' with no apparent genitals, but will reveal only two facts about the act to the player; Firstly, that it would be impossible without the buoyancy effects of water, and secondly, that it ranks above human sex on the pleasure scale to the same extent that human sex ranks above brushing your teeth.
* In ''VideoGame/TalesOfMonkeyIsland'', Guybrush learns that Winslow and an ambiguously gendered merperson are in a relationship, and wonders aloud "how that works... logistically."
* In ''Website/{{Neopets}}'', the Water and Fountain Faeries have their tail extending higher to cover their breasts, making it look more like a dress than a tail.
* Not directly mentioned, but figures in the symbolism in ''VideoGame/RuleOfRose'' chapter "Mermaid Princess". The titular 'mermaid' is Clara who is all but confirmed to be a victim of sexual abuse, and takes a mermaid appearance by having her legs tied together with coils of rope, invoking either her sexual subservience, or attempt to protect herself, [[RuleOfSymbolism depending on whom you ask]].
* Defied by the title character in ''VideoGame/AbobosBigAdventure''. He can still mate with a mermaid, so the offspring can protect him.
* ''VideoGame/ChronoCross'' never really explains just how [[spoiler:the human Fargo and the mermaid [[OurDemonsAreDifferent demi-human]] Zelbess]] not only had a relationship, but managed to have two kids!
* Subverted in the Visual Novel ''NocturnalIllusion'', the main character finds a representation of Creator/HansChristianAndersen's version of the ''Literature/TheLittleMermaid'' in a well. When the H-scene occurs, the entry is right where it should be on a human woman, although considering the mermaid's body, it requires a rather odd position for penetration to happen.
* ''VideoGame/DragonsCrown'', being ''[[{{Fanservice}} that]]'' kind of game, averts this. The mermaid you come across has her fish tail start right ''under'' a very human butt and hips. This was handily [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]] when the [[WebVideo/TwoBestFriendsPlay Best Friends Zaibatsu]] played the game.
-->'''Matt:''' This game is innovative, because it ''stops'' the debate!
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime'', at one point Link gets [[AccidentalProposal accidentally engaged]] to Ruto, Princess of the Zoras, a mermaid-like aquatic race. Despite being seemingly naked, neither Ruto nor any of the other Zoras have any visible genitals (though she does have NonMammalMammaries). Even weirder, ''[[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaMajorasMask Majora's Mask]]'' shows that female Zora (or at least the ones in Termina) lay eggs, raising the question as to whether they would be biologically compatible with a Hylian even if they can have sex.

* Lampshaded [[http://xninjared.deviantart.com/art/The-Mermaid-Problem-155487940 here]] at the where it simply goes "WHERE ARE THEIR REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS?!!!". The art is even CALLED "The Mermaid Problem".
* And [[http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/09/29/mysteries-of-the-deep this strip]] from ''Webcomic/PennyArcade''.
* [[http://www.realmofatland.com/?p=91 Here's one]] in ''WebComic/{{Atland}}''.
* Solved in ''Webcomic/BoobsAhoy'', where it turns out that [[OurMermaidsAreDifferent their navels]] [[ArtMajorBiology function as genitalia]].
* Invoked in, of course, ''Webcomic/AccidentalCentaurs''. The heroes are turned into merfolk in order to cross the sea and when Alex says he's looking forward to weeks of kinky mermaid sex Sam asks him if he remembers exactly how fish mate. Cue the disappointed Alex.
* Yuan-tis in ''Webcomic/{{Goblins}}'' mate similarly to snakes, but Dellyn somehow found a way to rape one. It's still uncertain how this works, but it's since become clear that they can also engage in consensual sex with humans (although the only couple portrayed thus far was from an alternate universe.)
** It's definitely worth noting that unlike the vast majority of fish, ''all'' snakes engage in internal fertilization. Male snakes have a twin organ, and though the internal biology is somewhat different, they still engage in "insert tab A in slot B" sex.
* The short-lived comic ''WCIHigh'' had one female student who was an inverted Mermaid; she had a fish head, tentacles for arms, and was human below the waist. As a member of the "Student Organization of Superhumans" ([[FunWithAcronyms S.O.S.]]), her code name was "Maidmer".
* We probably aren't the only ones [[http://psychowardjester.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d2qpcjd confused here]].
* [[ChestBurster Solved]] in one ''Website/{{Bogleech}}'' strip, where a mermaid and her lover have a child by having a fish baby [[ChestBurster burst its way out of its father's chest]].
* The Comic ''[[http://ilikefish.comicgenesis.com/ Pearls of Mer]]'' solves this with the ''Film/{{Splash}}'' method.
* Alluded to in ''Webcomic/AnsemRetort'' when Sora asks Ariel where mermaids come from. Her reply suggests that merfolk do not reproduce themselves, but are the [[HalfHumanHybrid product]] of [[BestialityIsDepraved a man loving a dolphin more than society says he should]].
* When Anais of ''Webcomic/{{Curvy}}'' wants to get busy with merman Johnathan, they get around the problem, courtesy of Johnathan strapping a peg-leg to himself a stand in...man part.
* Non-mermaid variation in ''{{Webcomic/Homestuck}}'': sprites have a similar appearance, with a human (or animal, or whatever it was prototyped with) top half and a ghostly bottom half. [[http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6&p=007194 John lampshades the problem here, while making some suggestive hand-gestures:]]
-->'''JOHN:''' and also...
-->'''JOHN:''' how do things even work if you marry a sprite?
-->'''JADE:''' what do you mean
-->'''JOHN:''' i mean...
-->'''JOHN:''' ok, he has a ghost butt, for one thing.
** Meanwhile, the fandom has come up with its own [[RuleThirtyFour array of solutions]] to the problem, such as Davesprite gaining avian genitalia from the rambunctious crow he [[FusionDance merged with]].
* Avoided by ''Webcomic/ManlyGuysDoingManlyThings'': [[http://thepunchlineismachismo.com/archives/comic/you-are-aware-of-how-marine-mammals-work-right turns out there's a reason manatees and mermaids are mixed up so often]]. Jared's disturbed that anybody would want to tap ''that''.
* Averted and discussed, along with NonMammalianMammaries, in ''Webcomic/{{Oglaf}}'''s Isle of Tits storyline (not linked due to NSFW).
--->Fish-folk breed by spawning. Why would they need tits?
* In ''WebComic/SirensLament'', the Sirens' tails turn to legs on dry land.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Spoofed by ''WebVideo/HardlyWorking'' when Dan introduces everyone to his fiance, except the problem is [[InvertedTrope inverted]] because she's a ''[[OurMermaidsAreDifferent maidmer]]'' with a fish head and a human lower body. The others point out that the InterspeciesRomance implications of this variation only makes it worse.
* In Cracked ''WebVideo/AfterHours'' this is brought up by Michael for a reason that, long-term, a relationship between Eric and Ariel will fall apart. He mentions the Futurama take on the problem; when they need to make royal heirs, Ariel is just expecting to lay a clutch of eggs in a bathtub and let Eric fertilize them, and will inevitably be disgusted at the idea of human intercourse.

[[folder:Web Serial Novel]]
* In ''Literature/TalesOfMU'', Feejee and Iona, the two mermaid characters, can shapeshift between a fish-tailed form and human legs. This is played straight by Feejee having a human boyfriend, and subverted by [[{{Squick}} the mermaids revealing that]] [[ImAHumanitarian humans are a delicacy]] and [[LesYay Feejee repeatedly mock-eating the main character while emphatically denying that she is gay]].

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The above quote comes from the ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'' episode "The Deep South". Fry falls in love with a mermaid and is ready to spend the rest of his life with her...until they try to have sex, and she explains that merfolk do it "fish-style":
-->''"I'm not your first time am I? I lay my eggs, and then I leave, and you release your fertilizer!" (at which point Fry makes a break for it)''
* ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'':
** Invoked when Lois is rescued by a reverse merman. She declines his invitation to have sex with him as his upper half is [[WhatMeasureIsANonCute too repulsive]]. When she explains she'd rather he be a regular merman, he replies that then he wouldn't have a penis. When she can't answer how she would have sex with him in that case, he tries to force himself on her. She pushes him over and walks away while he flops around like a normal fish.
** In a cutaway gag in "Partial Terms of Endearment", Peter was trying to have sex with a mermaid with mixed success.
-->'''Peter:''' There's nothing but a fish tail down here!\\
'''Mermaid:''' Keep looking!\\
'''Peter:''' There we go!\\
'''Mermaid:''' That's not it!\\
'''Peter:''' ''(threateningly)'' It's gonna be.
* In an episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheAdventuresOfSuperMarioBros3'', Mario was rescued by a mermaid named Holly Mackerel, who fell in love with him. Complicating matters was the fact that she was a reverse mermaid, and that she saw him in his frog suit which made her think he was a frog.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' episode "The Laughing Fish", the Joker seems to be flirting with Harley Quinn by asking her to "be [his] little mermaid." He then puts a giant fake fish head over her head, to which Harley responds, "You're really sick, you know that, boss?" [[GettingCrapPastTheRadar Funny this got past the censors.]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'', Goliath of the titular gargoyles has the same problem as the Sirens of Greek mythology mentioned above if he ever pursues his [[InterspeciesRomance romance with Elisa]] further; gargoyles are mammalian, but they reproduce by laying eggs, meaning they're monotremes. Monotreme reproductive parts are mostly like avian parts, which would make Elisa and Goliath's prospective wedding night rather problematic.
* In the French cartoon ''WesternAnimation/ZigAndSharko'', Marina's parents are revealed to be a mermaid and a human sailor. Subverted in that this trope isn't called attention to, partly because every episode is a NoDialogueEpisode.
* Briefly discussed in ''WesternAnimation/BobsBurgers'', in a total non-sequitur from CloudCuckoolander Tina on being told they're going to take sailing lessons;
-->'''Tina:''' If we meet a mermaid, I'm gonna ask her where her mergina is!
* Discussed in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/CodeMonkeys'', where Dave puts an Easter egg into his latest game where you can do the deed with a mermaid. Jerry asks the obvious question, and Dave's response is "Uh, you do her on her flipper."
* Played with for laughs in ''WesternAnimation/TheDatingGuy''. After V.J. successfully haves sex with a mermaid, he wonders afterwards how exactly he accomplished that.
* A NoodleIncident in ''WesternAnimation/RickAndMorty'' implies that mermaids ''do'' have "puss", and they plan on doing it again.