National agencies and private companies—such as NASA and SpaceX—are charting the course for long-term space missions and human space life. From permanent off-world settlements to orbital hotels, this new era of space exploration will make space accessible to a wider range of travellers, and for longer periods of time. The future of our spacefaring civilization hinges upon a constellation of considerations. Long-term space travel, exploration, or settlement is fraught with hazards that pose technical and human challenges, including for our sexuality and intimacy. For instance, isolation, radiation, and hyper- and microgravity can detrimentally impact psychological, physical, and sexual functioning. Additionally, life in space settings can limit privacy, restrict access to intimate partners, impose strict hygiene protocols and abstinence policies. For example, intimacy between astronauts may be discouraged or prohibited, in order to avoid interpersonal conflicts and problematic power dynamics. Yet, there is little to no research on the sexological realities of human life in space. Space organizations must address this fundamental aspect of human nature by embracing space sexology: the scientific study of extraterrestrial intimacy and sexuality.
In this interview, Maria Santaguida will discuss her journey into space sexology and provide an overview of this blind-spot in space research programs. She will propose that sexual technology could address the intimate and sexual needs of space travellers and help overcome several ethical and methodological challenges of sexology on Earth and beyond.
Maria Santaguida is a PhD candidate, researcher, and sessional lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Concordia University (Montreal, QC, Canada). Her research focuses on human sexuality topics including sexual technology, technology-based sexualities, and sex-related substance use. She also explores how space programs can integrate sex research and move toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. Her work has been published in the Journal of Sex Research, Journal of Psychology & Sexuality, and Journal of Future Robot Life, among other publications. In late 2021, Maria co-authored a position piece titled “The Case for Space Sexology”. This article and her related work led to waves of international media coverage and is paving the way for the comprehensive scientific study of human sexuality and intimacy in space settings.