About half a century ago, humankind — inspired as much by Cold War geopolitics as the desire to go where no one has gone before — set its sights on that most distant horizon: space, the final frontier.
About 50 years in, that most distant horizon seems as far away as ever. Sure, we put satellites in orbit and sent men to the moon. But as NASA faces budget cuts and private corporations jockey for position in what's now called the "space industry," the Jetsons-ish hope of living extraterrestrially looks like a 1960s daydream.
But today, an enterprising company has jump-started what remains of the space race in a most unusual fashion.
PornHub, which claims to be the world's biggest pornography site, is crowdfunding for a sex tape filmed in zero gravity.
"Pornhub is teaming up with top-ranking adult studio Digital Playground in joining the ranks of Armstrong and Gagarin by 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," the site's $3.4 million appeal reads. "In doing so, we will not only be changing the face of the adult industry, we will also be chronicling how a core component of human life operates while in orbit."
No, it's not a joke.
"This is actually 100-percent real," Corey Price, one of Pornhub's vice presidents, wrote to the Washington Post in an email.
Filmmakers have long been interested in exploring the erotic possibilities of the outer limits. But in proposing to send real people — or, at least, porn stars — into orbit to engage in a biological activity researchers might actually need to know more about, PornHub has fused innovation and titillation.
"I've had sex pretty much everywhere and every way you can imagine," proposed sexplorer Johnny Sins said in PornHub's IndieGogo video. "I've had sex on almost every different continent with all kinds of different women. Don't get me wrong: I love what I do and who I do, but this is a really unique opportunity to break ground in the adult industry."
Sins added: "I'm excited to be part of the PornHub space program for this exact reason: We're going to make porn — in space."
Sins' would-be co-pilot was equally enthused.
"Who else can say that they were the first porn stars to work in space?" Eva Lovia said. "This is an amazing opportunity to make history and to work two dream jobs at once: porn star and astronaut."
While Lovia and, ahem, Sins might make unlikely pioneers, talk of Martian colonies and extraterrestrial emigration must include an understanding of what doing the nasty is like off of planet Earth. If humankind must flee Earth because of a resource crisis or asteroid impact, sex will be required for the species to survive. (Absent in vitro fertilization or other sex-free Interstellar-style scenarios, of course.)
Whether Lovia and Sins would really be the first to copulate in orbit remains open. NASA and Russia's space agency have denied that astronauts rounded the bases — but, for the record, at least one married couple has gone to space together.
"If astronauts have had space sex, it would have been very difficult," Slate concluded in an examination of the topic in 2007.
"Zero gravity can induce nausea — a less-than-promising sign for would-be lovers," Christopher Beam wrote. "Astronauts also perspire a lot in flight, meaning sex without gravity would likely be hot, wet and surrounded by small droplets of sweat. In addition, people normally experience lower blood pressure in space, which means reduced blood flow, which means ... well, you know what that means."
That PornHub would hope to become a player in a field dominated by state governments and billionaires such as Elon Musk speaks volumes about the size of the adult industry. While PornHub is privately held and its valuation is hard to estimate, it's said that 30 percent of all data transmitted by the Internet is porn.
"YouPorn, Tube8, and Pornhub — they're all vast, vast sites that dwarf almost everything except the Googles and Facebooks of the Internet," ExtremeTech wrote in 2012.
PornHub's sexploration crowdfunding campaign, however, had yet to show much muscle at press time, raising just $11,088 of its $3.4 million dollar goal. Interested supporters of the campaign take note: A $150,000 donation gets you "one of the 2 spacesuits worn by our sextronauts complete with underwear, plus a swag bag!"
Here is the email exchange with Pornhub's Price edited for length.
Q: Is this just PR for a space-themed film?
A: This is actually 100-percent real. We've done all of the necessary legwork in terms of logistics, everything from bringing together all components and research for the equipment that we'll need (and retrofitting said equipment), obtaining the necessary training for our crew and actors, which they'll be beginning soon via a six-month accelerated course, and learning what we can about suborbital environments in regards to production. We're very serious, and if this happens the way we plan, then the world WILL be watching when we make history.
Where did this idea come from?
Honestly, we're always looking for new and creative ways to push boundaries and use the theme of adult entertainment to do things no would normally expect us to. This is an extension of that thought process, and it'll let us sort of nudge that envelope into a place that we've never been before. It's exciting stuff!
What private space company will you use to do this — assuming NASA is not involved?
We are actually in talks with a number of consumer space travel companies, but given the nature of our endeavor, there's a good chance for negative fallout should I divulge information regarding our talks with these aforementioned parties.
How did you choose Eva and Johnny?
We chose them because they're known in the industry for being complete professionals in every sense of the word. They know how to take direction and never complain on set from what we've heard in the industry. They'll be undergoing training akin to what most potential astronauts have to go through, just within a more accelerated program. This includes zero-gravity training, velocity, and temperature training ... they'll also be taking classes from professionals about the dangers and precautions of space travel.
There's a lot of research on whether sex in space is even possible. Any comment?
We've done some of our own research here and there, and admittedly there are some obstacles to overcome logistically but we're totally game for the challenge. And I think with the amount of preparation we're planning for this film, we may have an excellent chance to settle any speculation.