Close Encounters

We Need to Talk About Gay Sex in Space

We need to talk.

11. 18. 21 by Tony Tran
Getty / Futurism
Image by Getty / Futurism

There’s no sex in space.

At least according to NASA.

When the first married couple, both NASA astronauts, flew into orbit together in 1992, the media became obsessed with whether they’d be the first couple to have sex in space. The event launched a minor scandal for the space agency, along with plenty of fodder for newspapers and magazines. Throughout the years, the agency has denied multiple times that any sex has ever occurred in space. 

What practically everyone involved failed to appreciate, though, was the fact that even before the couple launched on their mission, 277 astronauts had already flown into space — and they could have been having sex with each other up there that entire time.

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After all, why not? If a man and a woman could have sex in space, why not two men or two women, or any other combination of horny astronauts?

There’s been no shortage of articles, podcasts, TV shows, and movies depicting space sex — think James Bond in “Moonraker,” or 2016’s “Passengers” — and that makes sense. It’s a fascinating and steamy topic, and a key expression of the universal experience of pleasure. Plus, with the rise of the 21st century space race and conversations about colonizing Mars and the Moon being taken more seriously, the topic of extraterrestrial reproduction, in particular, is more geopolitically relevant than ever. 

Despite all that, gay space sex remains a huge blindspot.

If we treat the idea of straight space sex as an inevitability, we need to treat queer space sex the same way. In fact, it’s ridiculous that we haven’t done so already. Men have been going up into space together since 1964 when the Soviet Union launched the first multi-crewed spacecraft. There’s no reason those dudes couldn’t have been boning in orbit. 

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The mechanics would likely be trivial. In fact, Dr. Alex Layendecker, a US Air Force pilot and researcher into human sexuality and reproduction in off-Earth environments, suggests that gay space sex might be easier to accomplish than hetereosexual intercourse. 

“It would actually probably be easier for a homosexual couple because they’d likely have similar mass sizes,” Layendecker explained to Futurism. “If you have two males, for example, that are roughly the same size and weight, they’re going to have roughly the same centers of gravity — so it might actually be more stable and easier for them to interact.” 

Layendecker adds that technique would play a role here too. Whereas missionary position would be a more difficult position to achieve while having sex in space because it’s harder to get a grip on your partner, spooning or doggy-style would be much easier, because it’s easier for one to hold onto the other.

Space sex might also be perfect for those inclined to BDSM, which is equally accessible to same-gender lovers. Since there’s no leverage in a microgravity environment, one or both partners would likely need to be strapped in or secured in some way; otherwise they’d run the risk of awkwardly floating away mid-thrust. Luckily, NASA already has a solution to that.

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“If [astronauts] need to secure somebody on the floor and stabilize them against the spacecraft, they use duct tape,” Layendecker explained. “You can also use holsters or whatever too to somehow anchor at least one partner, and then the other one can… you know.”

So are you into BDSM? You might be a perfect candidate to have some incredible gay space sex. 

Unfortunately, there’s still precious little being done to research and develop systems for sex in space regardless of whether it’s gay or straight. Much of this has to do with the fact that space agencies like NASA are “very politically bound,” according to Layendecker. Since much of NASA’s funding comes from tax dollars, he says, many lawmakers who approve the agency’s budget are hesitant about putting resources towards space sex research, which he characterized asconservative elements tied to their funding.”

There’s also the agency’s fraught relationship with the LGBT community at large. Throughout NASA’s history, it’s had a stifling and sometimes hostile approach to queer employees. 

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In 1963, just a few years after NASA was founded, the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine released the “Aeromedical Evaluation for Space Pilots,” which provided the physical and psychiatric benchmarks a recruit would need to meet to become an astronaut. Among its many requirements was an actual heterosexuality scale which used deeply questionable techniques including Rorschach inkblot tests — yes, really — to putatively measure prospective astronauts’ sexual orientation.

Even though the agency attempted to weed out gay astronauts, there were some that got through — the most famous being Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Despite her prominence and reputation in the space community, though, she didn’t choose to come out as a lesbian until her death in 2012 via her obituary

“Sally didn’t feel comfortable ever coming out as who she was because she knew the conservative nature of that institution that she was a part of,” Michelle Evans, a space historian and author of “The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings into Space,” told Futurism. “Both NASA and the federal government as a whole was very, very conservative.”

Along with being a space historian, Evans is also a transgender and an LGBT advocate in the aerospace community. Her read is that NASA’s culture has remained just as stifling as ever. In fact, just two other astronauts — Wendy Lawrence and Anne McClain — have come out of the closet since Ride.

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It’s also notable that they were all lesbians. No male astronaut has ever come out of the closet. And there has yet to be a publicly nonbinary or trans astronaut.

Yet the reality is that more astronauts have almost certainly hidden their queer identities, and will continue to do so. That’s not speculation, either, but a statistical near-certainty.

There’s the often cited — though disputed — statistic that 10 percent of Americans are gay. That means of the 574 people who have gone into space, about 57 were probably gay. Even if you use the more recent Gallup poll conducted in 2020 found that 5.6 percent of Americans identify as LGBT, that means about 32 of them wouldn’t have been straight.  

Are we to believe, then, that just three astronauts in the history of international space travel have been queer? It’s almost statistically impossible. 

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Unfortunately, there’s still precious little being done to research and develop systems for sex in space regardless of orientation — but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the burgeoning billionaire space race, experts like Layendecker and Evans are hopeful that private entities like SpaceX or Blue Origin will prove to be less prudish than its public counterparts at NASA, and more willing to invest in space sex research.

When that happens, we’ll hopefully see space sex innovations that are inclusive and accessible to all astronauts. After all, it’s more than a tricky logistical problem we’ll have to contend with if we want to colonize the galaxy. Pleasure is a fundamental part of what it means to be human. That means anyone who wants to should be able to get off, even after they get off the planet.

“This is humanity, it’s not just about populating beyond the Earth,” Evans said. “You need to have outlets for aspects of your humanity — and one of those things is sex.”

More on sex: Scientists Discover Creature That Never Has Sex

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