There’s something sexy about space. Not the space your boyfriend claims he needs when he dumps you, I’m referring to “the final frontier:” a more vivid, heretic kind of emptiness. The eroticism of the outer unknown, of pure, glamorous potential. Scott Kelly, the astronaut spending an entire year at the International Space Station in orbit, recently tweeted, “If you can dream it, you can do it! #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace.” Space is what wet dreamz are made of, precisely because most of us will only dream about it.
Those who don’t dream it do it. As in Scott Kelly wanted to fuck around in space, so he signed up to be an astronaut and jetted off in a white bondage suit. But if you do it, is it still sexy? Or is outer space only sexy because it’s as ultimately incomprehensible as Lindsay Lohan’s Instagram?
Fashion, fortunately, is the opposite of doing it. Since outer space is an external reality that most of us will only experience as internal fantasy, creative fashion makes it wearable, at least in the literal sense, and more tangible. If you can dream it, you can wear it. For her F/W menswear collection, Donatella Versace said that her themes were “space and sports;” with its planet pendants and futuristic color palette, the looks were spacebot chic and hot af. You know that lame dinner party question, “if you were stranded on a desert island, what three objects would you bring?” I’d bring a bottle of Glenlivet scotch, Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, and a boy in a medically white Versace spacesuit to fuck– if he’s down, of course.
Other designers, like Charlotte Olympia and Atelier Wonder, know that their best consumers obsess about outer space. An homage to life on mars and the planet’s most famous denizen, David Bowie, Charlotte Olympia’s F/W 16 line featured an astronomic number of sequins and an alien-faced clutch. Under the psychotic seduction of space, Bowie made alienation cool again, and fashion is still following madly in his footsteps. Atelier Wonder’s looks often feature embroidered rocket ships and PVC bra tops, and the “space coat” is decorated with the word “ESCAPE”. For Versace and Atelier Wonder, the universe is an escapist, erotic playground, just waiting to be played with.
Even when space isn’t sexy per se, it presents sexual possibility. Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace was decidedly unsexy, at least in comparison to the other Star Wars films. Return of the Jedi’s Leia in iron underwear is a whole lot hotter. But when Rihanna slithers into a Phantom Menace print Vetements skirt, voilà, space becomes sexy again. The Phantom Menace was just a bad film before it slid across the Bad Gal’s hips.
The Cold War was one of the unsexiest eras in American history (personally I find Joseph McCarthy utterly unfuckable, and I’m far from alone), in many ways the repression of sexual difference projected eroticism, along with several unfortunate monkeys like Albert, Gordo, and Miss Baker, into the black, star-spangled oblivion. While films like 2001: A Space Odyssey ventured into the erotic with an orgasmic sensory overload, others, like Flash Gordon and Moonraker, verged on the pornographic. In 1968, the inter-galactic goddess Barbarella stripped off her Paco Rabanne spacesuit in zero gravity, and for years afterward a generation of spindly teenage boys jerked off on their parents’ velour sofas, as referenced in “That 70s Show”.
Continuing the legacy of Jane Fonda four decades later, Pornhub tried to raise money on Indiegogo for a porno that would be filmed in space. Pornhub dreamed of “pioneering a one of a kind mission to defy gravity, make history, and push the boundaries of intergalactic ‘Sexploration’ by filming the first ever sextape in space,” according to Pornhub’s Indiegogo page last June. In the end, the venture failed colossally, coming millions of dollars short. Sadly the first sextape in space will be left for posterity to film.
Maybe it’s better, though, that humans don’t get to sexplore the universe just yet, because real sex in space would be kind of a bummer. According to a Buzzfeed article that examined the mechanics of space sex, gravity actually helps our blood flow toward our genital regions, which in turn stimulates arousal for both men and women. When blood doesn’t get there, boners and swollen clits don’t get there, either.
Although no one asked her specifically about space, Audre Lorde writes that the erotic activates our desire to defeat mediocrity and to rise to our potential and our true capacity for joy. The erotic is inherently rebellious since you seek out your own pleasure rather than someone else’s. Because of the revolutionary aspects of eroitca, cis male social structures attempt to confine this capacity for pleasure to the bedroom (and the porno); for Lorde, though, it’s actually possible to access this potentiality in everything we do. As jaded millennials that pride ourselves on our jadedness, the idea of tapping into joy can be so cringe, but we could swallow it better if it didn’t feel like the conversation had already been appropriated by capitalism, think thousand dollar juice cleanses or Madonna’s v rewarding Kabbalah practice.
Lorde suggests that “recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama.” Pornhub’s space porno doesn’t shift characters, it shifts sets, but that still feels like a cop-out. Outer space hasn’t been explored yet, so it’s oozing with erotica, which in turn activates our own desire to be better, and more free. Space is hot because we haven’t fucked it up yet. The sexiness of space and space-based fashion derives at least partly from our imagination of aesthetic (and broader) freedom, for how to fuck when the patriarchy doesn’t explain how to do it properly. What would sex be like if it weren’t just an “ESCAPE” from an office cubicle you could two fucks about? What would life be like if you could stream good porn for zero cash on the Internet? And of course, space is a playground, but it’s also a playground played in by people. Space is only as free as the humans who fuck there.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson once tweeted, “one’s quest in life should not be solely the search for answers. Why not find pleasure in posing the questions themselves.” In terms of erotica, ironically, ignorance can be sexually satisfying. Our imaginations of space sexuality find themselves on an erotic cluster graph, somewhere between Donna Haraway’s cyborg feminism, Pornhub, and Rihanna. Which is, I guess, the same inconclusive sex model that we find on Earth.
With barely a liberal arts degree to my name, I don’t think NASA will be accepting my astronaut application anytime soon (although I’m 100% sending one in). For now, I’ll just pay for my porn, buy PVC bras off the internet, and tweet random shit with NASA hashtags. “Getting off to Gravity #YearInSpace.” Call me when the Space Age comes; I’ll be waiting.