Sex in Small Places

by rthieme on May 29, 1998

NASA doesn’t say much in public about what goes on in those small capsules in which men and women float about for months at a time. Look at NASA web sites, you’d think the Space Age is a Disneyland kingdom, all the naughty bits airbrushed out. SOMEthing must be going on.

The astronauts’ references to sexuality are always oblique. One wrote about life in an Antarctic base camp – the plug-and-play relationships, tensions generated by the perception that the “alpha male” always had first choice – as a way of talking about problems on a lengthy voyage to Mars.

Cyberspace too is a small town, a geodesic dome in which infinite strands of crosstalk shrink the world to the size of a space station. And cyberspace is brimful of sexuality, some of it infantile and some of it mature. Pictures, yes, and streaming video, but also the search for genuine intimacy and connection that characterizes true communion.

No surprises there. The first books, the first photographs, the first use of VCRs all involved sex. The first web sites to make good money were sex sites. That’s (duh!) what people enjoy. The human interest in Apollo XIII was due to an accident, but you can’t do that every time. Where are the true-life space stories that include the human dimension?

As we embark on colonizing Mars, tinkering with machinery will seem easy compared to resolving sexual tensions. There ought to be some terrific stories. Our greatest myths and legends – Odysseus and Penelope, Helen of Troy, Arthur and Guinevere, Othello  – are stories of love, trust and betrayal.  When the stories include that mythic dimension, that’s when the space age will become flesh, and that’s where we men and women of real flesh and blood, our noses to the capsule glass, will always be found.

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