Sunday, July 17, 2011

On Sex in Space: I'm Wearing Rose-Colored Glasses

Aeryn & John from FARSCAPE
In Sex in Space: Part One: How Do We Manage To Do It, author Deborah J. Ross blogged very intelligently about many of the obstacles regarding having sex in space. Here are a few:

Why is space a terrible place for sex? Sex desire is likely to be curbed by the physiological effects of space flight, such as space adaptation syndrome (onset within 2 hours, and persisting up to a week, experienced by 2/3 trained crew and 85% of those less well trained; includes headache, nasal congestion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting without warning); anxiety about the dangers of space, busy work schedule, lack of privacy. Male  rats experience a decrease in testosterone levels (to less than 20% normal) and this is likely true also for human; anemia, fluid loss, reduced autonomic nervous system function, especially sympathetic tone (needed for climax in both men and women); reduction bone and muscle mass; sex in space may require significantly more energy and higher risk of fractures.

Ack, what a downer!

As an intellectual exercise, I enjoyed learning about the factors that negatively impact sexual relations in space. I would have thought that a “busy work schedule” alone would rule out sex altogether, but liked increasing my awareness about the other factors. However, her post made me realize that while reading science fiction romance, reality has no place for me during love scenes on a space ship. I don’t care about the reality since I’m reading for the fantasy and to be entertained.

Frankly, in an SFR, it has never, ever occurred to me to question the circumstances of love scenes in space (because fractures are like, ow! In short, TMI). I usually assume that technology has eliminated most if not all obstacles to space nookie. That’s one of the expectations I bring to SFR.

It’s very convenient for both readers and authors that the obstacles for sex in space have been removed/glossed over/compensated for. Because if not, there goes at least half of the stories in the subgenre since many a consummation occurs on a space ship.

The point of SFR isn’t about sex in space and whether it’s practical to do so. Rather, the sex is one of many expressions of the romantic love between a couple (or ménage, as the case may be). (To qualify: I certainly don’t feel as though Ms. Ross was arguing against any kind of sex in space in SFR. Her post was merely a jumping point for my thoughts on this subject now that I’m better informed. I’m also curious about what her Part II will entail).

But then I got to thinking: Might there be a science fiction romance in there?! Namely, a story about the first two people to overcome the aforementioned obstacles and Do It in space. I might have a different take on the impediments if they were served up in the context of a sci-fi romance. I mean, whoa, think of how things like nasal congestion, nausea, fluid loss et al. would impact the negotiations for sex in a burgeoning romance.

Heroine: “Hey, hot stuff! Let’s get it on.”

Hero: “Not tonight, dear. I’m experiencing a reduction in my autonomic nervous system function.”

Okay, so nothing that silly, but you know what I mean. There’s definitely room in SFR for tales with more realism in terms of sexual relations. Goodness knows we have enough stories that flaunt reality like there’s no tomorrow! The cool part about both of those approaches, though, is that each would wind up in the same place by story’s end. I must say, there’s no obstacle to diversity in science fiction romance!

What are your thoughts? Could SFR use a little more realism in love scenes that occur in space or are they fine as is? Would you be interested in reading stories that tackled those issues head on?

Joyfully yours,