People have been boning on Earth since the dawn of time, literally everywhere they can. Folks bone on beaches, in airplanes, and even volcanoes—you name it, someone’s probably gotten off there. The only place humans have (probably) never banged in is space, which, to some, makes it the final frontier of sexual conquest. Microgravity sexing is an idea that has inspired countless movie moments, but with bonafide space tourism approaching as early as next year, it’s not inconceivable that couples will try and enact their fantasies for real.
The problem is, sex in space will probably be the least sexy thing ever.
The first dilemma is the lack of privacy. According to Mark Shelhamer, former chief scientist at NASA’s Human Research Program, close quarters might make things a bit awkward for horny astronauts. “If SpaceX sends two people to the moon [in 2018], it’s likely that there would be a third ‘professional’ astronaut with them,” he told Gizmodo, speaking of SpaceX’s recently-announced plan to slingshot two wealthy tourists around Earth’s satellite. “Apollo spacecraft were very ‘cozy’ and I can’t imagine something that would be ready as early as next year would be very large.”
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule holds seven passengers at most. If the sex-havers were able to look past the crowded quarters and lack of privacy—plus the inevitable motion sickness—they could probably bang, but it would be difficult. Microgravity would have seriously deleterious effects on the sexiness of the situation.
“The first challenge is simply the result of moving about in near-zero gravity: every push or thrust will propel the astronaut in the opposite direction,” John Millis, chair of the department of physical sciences and engineering at Anderson University, told Gizmodo. “Imagine a pair of ice skaters standing on fresh ice: if they were to push their hands against one another, they would each shoot backwards away from each other.”
Basically, the space sexers would have to be anchored to both the spacecraft and each other, making things uncomfortable very quickly. Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have to be strapped in just to work out on a treadmill, so think about how much more awkward this would be with body chafing.
More fundamentally, microgravity could make it difficult for a male astronaut to get an erection, even if he really wanted to have one. “Due to the microgravity environment, the way that blood flows through the body changes,” Millis explained. “Here on Earth our blood pools more in our lower extremities, while the heart must work much harder to get blood to our brains. In space, blood doesn’t pool in a particular part of our body in the same way.”
In space, blood travels to our brain more easily, meaning the heart does not have to work as hard, which can cause it to weaken over time. This also means less blood readily available in the lower extremities, or as Millis put it, “the region that the body pulls from when generating an erection.”
It doesn’t help that long duration spaceflight also seems to cause a drop in male astronauts’ testosterone levels. Lower testosterone levels are linked to lower libidos in men, so this would complicate the already complicated and unsexy situation. For women, there may be other challenges.
Unsurprisingly, the effects of microgravity on a woman’s sex drives is tragically understudied. Millis speculates that the female libido may be impacted by microgravity, seeing as female arousal coincides with an overall increase in blood flow to the nether regions. “I would conjecture that it would perhaps be more difficult for a female to become aroused in microgravity, though perhaps not as difficult as in the case of males.”
Sex in space would likely be very hot, and not in the good way. Picture two swampy bodies pressed against each other, stewing in each other’s bodily horrors.
“Because of the micro-gravity environment sweat and tears don’t run down the astronaut’s bodies like it does here on Earth, instead it pools like small ponds of fluid near where it was secreted,” Millis explained. “If the motion is vigorous enough it could be ejected from the surface of the body. This means that liquid would both be pooling on the body, especially where there is contact with the other person. Also, the more they moved, pools of liquid would be flying off around the couple.” This is definitely not going to work out in Blue Origin’s tourism capsule, where human excrement of any kind has already been banned.
If, however, a couple was able to look past the complicated mechanics of microgravity copulation and the hygiene issues, they could probably bone. “I think it would be both feasible and safe,” Shelhamer said. “The mechanics would be tricky but solvable—two people in a sleeping bag would probably do the trick.” Of course, you’d probably have to anchor that sleeping bag to something sturdy and then strap your bodies together. Yay?
In conclusion, sex in space, while not impossible, will definitely be a goddamn disaster, at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe the bizarre mechanics will inspire innovation, like that sex pod from The Fifth Element. Until then, just have sex on Earth, guys.