Monday, June 15, 2015

Weightless Porn

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Anyone buying this? The 200-Mile High Club. Space agencies everywhere want you to believe it doesn't exist. And of course, as soon as I start blathering smugly that I don't court controversy or scandal, the concept of space porn hits the news.

 So let's talk about it. Seems the Pornhub team of Los Angeles has created an Indiegogo campaign for "Sexploration," whereby they hope to fund the first sex tape in space, and give away swag for those who contribute. You don't want details. I didn't even want details. Careful how you go about Googling it if you're curious.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pornhub-space-program-sexploration#/story
Because space scientists are so enthused about Apollo
being associated with pornography

Despite the epic eye-roll my extraocular muscles conducted involuntarily, sex in space is a hugely overlooked area of research. So much so that if we truly want to discuss the concept of "colonization" on any other celestial body, one can actually call it a "research GAP" now.

While I don't think sensationalized pornography will be instrumental in addressing said gap, I'll reluctantly resign myself to acceptance if this gets some conversations started. Perhaps the problem is that the subject makes news so infrequently, and tax-payers are so squeaky about admitting sexuality in varying levels of gravity is a reality. Sex is a basic biological drive, and we're absolutely going to take it with us wherever we go.

My quibble comes with the immaturity with which any such efforts are accompanied (and this was edited just to show the cleanest stuff):

Look at all the potential Nobel Prize winners!

A few years back, the London Telegraph, NY Daily News, and even TIME journalists made unfunny quips about Shuttle Discovery Commander Alan Poindexter's statement that "We [astronauts] are a group of professionals. Personal relationships are not an issue."

I groaned when I saw this, knowing it would be crammed down every available throat if any two astronauts were so much as photographed hugging. Seems like this subject comes up every few years, the worst episode being the Document 12-571-3570 hoax, I repeat, HOAX... where the 1996 STS-75 mission allegedly completed assignments for testing various carnal positions in weightlessness.

Really? Pretty nifty accomplishment for the all-male crew of STS-75, being that there were no women and certainly no married couples aboard the orbiter (that only happened once, and they were married after the flight assignment had been set) -- but hey, don't let any pesky facts interfere with our all-too-human tendency to be humorously immature about intimate relations.

For the reality-challenged: This didn't actually happen in space.

I have two overall thoughts on this matter rearing it's head again:

1. People need to grow up. Stephen Hawking famously commented that successful off-world exploration and perhaps even the long-term survival of humankind will depend on learning to live and reproduce in space. Many science fiction novels have also examined the possible physics or developmental challenges in practical terms. This area of science is not an American Pie sequel and will be addressed in time.

2. Sexual intercourse has indeed occurred in micro-gravity, just not among humans or large mammals. Reproductive studies upon other taxa, such as fish, birds, insects, fish, and amphibians are evident in the literature for anyone who actually cares to examine scientific documentation, as opposed to the puerile ramblings of tabloids and pornographers who trivialize:

Ijiri, K: Fish Mating Experiment on STS-65
Freshwater Oryzias latipes mated, laid eggs in space, and these eggs developed normally to hatching in microgravity.

Ronca, April: Effects of Prenatal Spaceflight in Neonatal Rats
Ten pregnant rats flown for 11 days on board the NASA space shuttle from gestational day 9 (launch) until gestational day 20 (landing) of the rats' 22-day pregnancy.systems.

Fritzsch, Bruce: Foetal Rats / Birds Raised in Micro Gravity on STS-66
Deficits in behavioral orientation have been observed in chicks and rats reared in microgravity, suggesting that microgravity may induce the growth of anomalous neuronal connections between the vestibular and motor systems.

Wakayama S: Effects of Microgravity on Mouse Development on STS-80
Sustaining life beyond Earth will require clear understanding of how the space environment affects key phases of mammalian fertilization and reproduction.

The question isn't whether or not we can figure out a way to "do it" in weightlessness. We are animals. We will always find a way. The crucial question is can females safely become pregnant, and give birth to normal, healthy progeny on other worlds?

For more information, and differing opinions, see Motherboard's interesting 3 part series on Sex and Gender Issues In Space.

17 comments:

Jake Christensen said...

Good post. Nice to see a grown-up, research-focused take on the topic. I guess one has to wonder what catalyst will force this subject out into the realm of open, serious scientific discussion and research. Perhaps it will be commercial space tourism if governments balk. Though I find it hard to believe this particular crowdfunding stunt will be the catalyst, let alone make it to launch.

With The Martian heading to theaters, perhaps some useful cultural discussion will take place on the larger issue of sexuality in space. I would also recommend another piece of science fiction as thought provoking. Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis gives a candid, and I feel grownup, depiction of a near future where sexual encounters in LEO are normal, even traditional. It's certainly not the only or even the main reason to read the book. But there's a bookworm's two cents.

PillowNaut said...

Thanks, Jake! We are on the same page. These are important conversations to have, and important research -- but I also don't believe Pornhub will succeed in their stunt, or be the driver. Maybe there's "no bad publicity" but I still cringe at their press release with porn star heads placed on astronaut suits.

Haven't read Landis' "Mars Crossing" -- I'll add that to my Amazon wishlist :)

Holly Jahangiri said...

I'll confess - if my husband and I were younger and hadn't already become empty nesters, the idea of possibly being the "first couple to conceive in space" has a certain appeal. (The idea of being studied, filmed, and possibly critiqued while doing it holds none at all!) When I married him, I told him if he ever got a chance to venture into space, I wouldn't stop him. I had little desire to go - but love the science and the fact that we DO go there. This might've changed my mind... but only if NASA provided blackout curtains and a LITTLE privacy! :)

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bill lisleman said...

Interesting subject. I stopped by your blog(which I know has been a long time since the last visit) because I just watched Interstellar again. I really liked the movie. My question for you is the deep sleep idea shown in the movie. Is it actively being researched? I gather they have found some animals that can survive very cold temps and control their heart rate but I suspect humans would have big issues with it. At least the way they show it in the movie. thanks

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