As some avid campaigners say, “life begins at conception”. And except for a few farm yard animals, this means sex. The book “Sex in Space”, by Laura Woodmansee, moves this sensitive topic into a place without appreciable gravity and provides some weighty thoughts. For, of course, it was sex that brought us into this world and it may be a significant reason for our departure.
Many young adults take frivolous “tests” that assign numerical ranks for variations in sexual encounters. Books have been written that describe, in great detail, hundreds of coupling positions. The fact that well over six billion people now cover our Earth’s globe gives testament to the success of our method of procreation. Yet, for all we know, all of humanity’s sexual encounters have occurred on Earth. This isn’t necessarily a perpetual restriction.Woodmansee acknowledges early in her book that talking about sex raises most people’s emotions. In anticipation, she prepares the reader by being as straightforward and factual as possible in the early going. Effectively this means telling about opportunity and desirability that has or might have already occurred. With hundreds of people having been in space, many for long durations, this makes for interesting reading and speculation.
But this book isn’t all tabloid, though there is some resemblance in the early going. The next section in the book considers the physicist’s approach to sex. This is the ol’ action-reaction issue. This section is likely the cause of the note on the book’s cover which reads “Warning: Contains explicit content that may be unsuitable for young readers”. Suffice it to say that pictures of Barbarella and Buck dolls, together with some interesting rubber constraints, add some novel images. With this, the book concludes the more sensational side of its contents.
After these sections, the book pursues more “hard science” issues with respect to sex. It touches on radiation effects for the mature adult and new conceptions. Also inside is the psychological issues about single-sexed or mixed crews on multi-year missions, such as to Mars. Most of these topics aren’t new, however, Woodmansee tackles them mainly from the viewpoint of sex, which is original. Her writing style with this information is similar to a dry technical paper where particular topics are enlarged upon.
The book’s final sections associate sex with the potential space tourism industry. There’s design thoughts for space bedrooms and space hotels. These point at an underlying perception that sex in space is somehow different. Yet, perhaps unknowingly, Woodmansee shows that sex is as natural as humans and the location doesn’t change the action, much. Further, people have a strong sexual drive that shouldn’t and really can’t be ignored. Rather, sex, such as with space tourism, may actually be a benefit to the space industry.
With the book considering both the “giggle factor” and some hard science, these two usually disparate considerations get joined. It acknowledges the sensuous nature of humans, together with the harshness and unnatural attributes of the space environment. By bringing these together into one book, Woodmansee may be able to bridge gaps amongst people of various backgrounds, whether softening some of the hard science types or bestowing information to the more sensual. Other than this, little is new in this book. The technical stances are well known and the coupling descriptions would likely to come to anyone with a bit of imagination. Yet, putting a copy of this book on the edge of the office desk could spark some lively and worthwhile conversation to help continue our species into space.
Where would we be without sex? Evolution would decidedly have come to an end for us. Yet we are amazing creatures, as Laura Woodmansee shows in her book “Sex in Space“. Whether travelling on a multi-year mission to Mars or a quick jaunt into low-earth orbit, she shows sex is a consideration for the future.
Review by Mark Mortimer