Sex in space: the problem of joining the 62-mile-high club

According to NASA, no human has ever had sex in space, but with the rapid rise of private space tourism, you can bet that humanity will soon join the 62 mile high club.

This impending achievement, coupled with renewed efforts to populate Earth’s orbit, build a colony on the Moon, and travel to Mars, has exposed the urgent need for scientific research into all aspects of sex in space, a team of Canadian researchers from Concordia University and Laval University argue in a paper just appeared in the Sex Research Journal.

The team, led by Simon Dubé, a psychology doctoral student at Concordia University specializing in human sexuality, sextech and erobotics, calls on space programs to seriously explore “spatial sexology,” defined as “the comprehensive scientific study of intimacy and extraterrestrial sexuality ”.

Don’t ask, don’t say

So far, space agencies like NASA have almost ignored the topic of sex entirely, perhaps fearing it will generate controversy that could jeopardize their funding. Asked about sex, NASA officials dismissed the case. Astronauts are apparently prohibited from having sex or developing intimate relationships aboard the International Space Station.

But, once again, as humanity begins to increasingly embrace the prospect of colonize low earth orbit and beyond through missions, ignoring research on a fundamental human drive is less and less tenable. Dubé and his co-authors described a number of potential risks associated with spatial sex that are worth investigating.

Sex in space matters

For starters, ionizing radiation could interfere with sexual reproduction by altering the DNA of sperm, eggs, and even human embryos (although one study suggested that mammalian embryos can develop normally in space). Plus, microgravity could make sex both difficult and messy – a big deal in an environment where cleanliness is paramount. Space habitats are also cramped, remote, and not always private, making sexual needs difficult to meet. Thinking even further into the future, small colonies with limited intimate partners will undoubtedly lead to stress, conflict, and even harassment or sexual assault. The further people are from Earth and the longer they stay in space, the more likely it is for sexual and relationship problems to arise, write Dubé and his colleagues.

They plead for the immediate search for solutions to these risks. “As technology makes alien life and travel more accessible to the public, the people who will go to space in the future – from scientists to tourists – may not have to undergo the same type of training or rigorous selection process that current astronauts, “they argue. . “Producing great science and implementing systemic change takes time, so why not start right away, rather than waiting for problems to arise? “

Dubé and his co-authors have already fleshed out some potential areas of research. The first is to design systems and spaces that allow eroticism to be safe, private and hygienic. This effort can also include advance planning for the space birth and treatment of any gender-related health issues. The second is to create training programs that prepare space travelers for intimacy, sexual activity, and any social issues that may arise. The third is to design sex technologies like toys or robots that enable clean and satisfying sexual experiences.

Ultimately, if properly researched and planned, “intimacy and sexuality – like hobbies – could help endure and normalize life in space by making it more enjoyable and less lonely,” the researchers say. researchers. Sexual activity relieves stress, lowers blood pressure, and helps sleep, among many other benefits.

“Facilitating intimacy and sexuality in space could improve the lives of astronauts and future inhabitants of space,” add Dubé and his colleagues. “Intimate and sexual activities can arguably help people adjust to spatial contexts and normalize life in space.”