Love and sex must happen in space, if we hope to travel long distances, and become an interplanetary species. But space organizations are not thinking about it. National space agencies and private sector companies, such as NASA and SpaceX, aim to colonize Mars and send humans into space for long-term missions, but have yet to address the intimate and sexual needs of astronauts or future inhabitants outside from the earth.
This situation must change if we hope to establish new worlds and continue our expansion into the cosmos. We will have to learn to reproduce safely and to build pleasant intimate lives in space. However, to be successful, we also need these organizations to adopt a new perspective on space exploration: one that views humans as beings with needs and wants.
As researchers exploring the psychology of human sexuality and studying the psychosocial aspects of human factors in space, we believe that it is time for space programs to embrace a new discipline: space sexology, the comprehensive scientific study of intimacy and extraterrestrial sexuality.
The last and intimate frontier
Love and sex are fundamental to human life. Despite this, national and private space organizations are moving forward with long-term missions to the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon and Mars without any concrete research and plan to address human eroticism in space.
It is one thing to land rovers on another planet or launch billionaires into orbit, and it is another to send humans to live in space for long periods of time. In practice, space science can take us into outer space, but it will be human relationships that determine whether we survive and prosper as a space civilization.
In that regard, we believe that limiting privacy in space could jeopardize the mental and sexual health of astronauts, along with crew performance and mission success. On the other hand, allowing space eroticism could help humans adapt to space life and improve the well-being of future space inhabitants.
After all, space is still a harsh environment, and life aboard spaceships, stations, or settlements poses significant challenges to human intimacy. These include radiation exposure, gravitational changes, social isolation, and the stress of living in remote and confined habitats.
In the near future, life in space may also limit access to intimate partners, restrict privacy, and increase tensions between crew members in dangerous conditions where cooperation is essential.
However, to date space programs have almost completely omitted the topic of sex in space. The few studies that are related to this topic focus mainly on the impacts of radiation and micro-gravity or hyper-gravity on animal reproduction (rodents, amphibians, and insects).
Sex pleasure and taboo
But human sexuality goes beyond reproduction. It includes complex psychological, emotional, and relational dynamics. Love and sex are also sought for fun and pleasure. As such, space exploration requires the courage to address the intimate needs of humans honestly and holistically.
Abstinence is not a viable option. Conversely, facilitating masturbation or partner sex could help astronauts relax, sleep, and ease pain. It could also help them build and maintain romantic or sexual relationships and adjust to space life.
Importantly, addressing the sexological issues of human life in space could also help combat sexism, discrimination and sexual violence or harassment, which unfortunately continues to be present in the scientific and military realms, 2 pillars of space programs.
Due to taboos and conservative sexual views, some organizations may choose to ignore the realities of spatial intimacy and sexuality. They may also think that this is not a problem or that there are more pressing matters to attend to.
But this attitude lacks foresight, as producing quality science takes time and resources, and sexual health, including pleasure, is increasingly recognized as a human right. This means that space agencies and private companies can be held accountable for the sexual and reproductive well-being of those who fly into space. Thus, space organizations that submit to their conservative backers will likely pay the price for their inaction in a very public and media-fueled way when disaster strikes.
The burden may particularly fall on organizations that have not even tried to address human eroticism in space, or when the world learns that they knowingly failed to conduct the proper research or take the necessary precautions that scientists have been calling for more than 30 years.
Intimacy beyond Earth
To move forward, space organizations must stop avoiding sexual themes and fully recognize the importance of love, sex, and intimate relationships in human life. Accordingly, we encourage them to develop space sexology as a scientific field and research program -one that not only aims to study sex in space, but also to design systems, habitats, and training programs that allow intimacy to have place beyond our home planet, Earth.
Furthermore, we believe that given its expertise and Canada’s socio-political climate, the Canadian Space Agency is ideally positioned to become a world leader in space sexology. We have what it takes to pave the way for an ethical and enjoyable space journey, as we continue to boldly go where no one has gone before.