Monday, June 15, 2015

Weightless Porn


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.
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

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.