|Oct/Nov 2011 Spotlight|
Artwork by Jessica Mack
NASA is out. Today, privatization greases space for regular entry. And tomorrow? The launch-pad will peddle its cheap shuttles on every street corner. The open void will be erected as a new Bourbon Street or Coney Island, the universe's next rundown, red-light playground. Imagine the greasy, weightless freedom. Lines for The Outer-Space, however long and curvy, will be no more trying than those for Starbucks bathrooms on hot, wet afternoons.
Yes, as has been promised to us by movies and books so many times in the past, space will be our coffee break in the future, whether we like it or not—and as with anything else, we will try to have sex in it, whether we like it or not. In fact, we'll do more than try—we will have sex in it, whether we like it or not. If the tourist industry doesn't get there first, porn will—or such is the classic myth in business. Squirters magically fountain over in low gravity, and cocks stretch beyond capacity on enormous masses—the potential is unyielding, and so is the profit. The rest will follow.
Heavenly bodies of our solar system will be popular erotic honeymoon spots and debauched pleasure palaces, but—like Hawaii or Ibiza today—each will offer its own obstacles and ecstasies. In ignorance, the uninitiated may at best miss an intimate sensual opportunity, and at worst crush, vaporize or asphyxiate themselves. Sex on other planets is, without a doubt, extremely dangerous.
Until such time as there might be more hands-on research, this text, through the guidance of the most advanced astrological and astronomical information, is to act as a speculative guide to the burgeoning and deadly activity of sex on other planets. Have fun, yes, but remember that this how-to is as cautionary as it is leisurely. In fact, going forward, it may be best to think of the omnipresent threat of death as a kind of bonus double-penetration, a movement both through you and into the next life, because, probably, you're going to die. Liking it is a choice. So, start fucking. In space.
1. The Inner Planets
We start with the Inner Planets not because they are the closest physically, but because they are the closest morally. They may be called the Terrestrial or Telluric (meaning earth) planets, but they are also the Personal Planets, and as such represent the best initiation for beginners. They care. They are aware of our needs and are "concerned with our feelings... they present us with the opportunity to say, 'Yes,' 'No,' and 'Maybe.'"1 Well, thank you, Inner Planets, and while it is still our choice, let's get started.
At 350 degrees, Mercury is going to be hot, but don't be nervous. This is the land of Gemini the wise! And Hermes, messenger of the Gods! So your induction into ecstasy will be in strong, able hands—hands that can be seen from orbit in the shape of an enormous crater whose troughs spread out like the legs of a spider. Get in there and strip naked, but don't touch anyone yet. Take it one step at a time. Ease into it. There's lube if necessary, but it probably won't be—on this planet, you must fuck with your mouth and your voice. Why? Because Mercury commands all forms of verbal, written and printed communication. Time for mercurial phone sex. Start talking, and fast. Mercury's orbit around the sun is a mere 89 earth days, yet its own axial rotation happens but thrice for every two solar orbits. So you must speak quickly; you and your lover will be years older in a week's time. Say everything you've always wanted to say. Say everything you never wanted to say. Lick your lips and say: "We cannot stop the junkmail from coming, but we do not have to read it."1 Let your lover say: "We cannot stop the radio announcer from talking, but we do not have to listen to him."1 If you do this, you will survive the heat, and you will survive the lack of atmosphere and oxygen, and you will survive the intense solar rays, but as you climax, you will come to know that the crater in which you rapidly mouth your desires is named not after Castor and Pollux but after Apollodorus, the ancient builder of the Pantheon, and like him, you will be accused of imaginary crimes, convicted and put to death, both by the press and the authorities. There's no fighting the spin here, and unlike Apollodorus, you will not be remembered, as a crater or anything except a stain or a pulp novel. The junkmail continues. And the empty feeling? That's your pantheon.
Now, onto Venus, where it's all pressure and no caldera. A swarming white testis, the tantric Venus exists in a perpetual state of longing and desire, punctuated by sudden eruptions against itself and others. Lacking plate tectonics, for example, the planet holds positions for eons until geology finally bursts outward in hot, massive resurfacing. At ground level, atmospheric density is the highest in the solar system, 92 times that of Earth's. Conversely, the naked human body typically pushes outward with a force of 14 pounds per square inch—a meager effort here. Venus wants to get inside of you—and be warned that Venus shares etymological roots with venenum, poison. To successfully have sex here, without entering into a kind of toxic shock, you must blend in, you must be a chameleon—though not of color but motion—and you must commit to a dance that mimics the planet's pervasive lust and repression. You and your lover will slowly subduct across the surface, shaping your bodies into angular forms, redolent of geometric figures and the rocks around you. Be a ballet of stone, mineral and strata. That is, while gutting striations through the sulfuric desert with palms and feet and knees, one of you must play the role of subductive slab, reaching your throbbing lithosphere into the other's primed accretionary prism, running back-arc basins in taut lines against the other's spreading axis. In order to avoid notice, all of this must be done as slowly as possible. Dancing, you should be as unseen tangents to each others' slight curves, never touching except in ways that don't matter. To onlookers, you must appear naked and completely still, like strangely wrought statues, your limbs cut at unnatural angles into stone, left here long ago, forgotten by your builder, slowly worn away and shorn of color. If one of these onlookers announces, "I invite you in the name of Mylatta," let them take you, both intimately and as a souvenir. Do not move. Do not speak. Do not anything. Hold it in. You will be venerated and revered, displayed and studied. In enormous buildings, academics will pore over you through glass, ogling your paused body as if at an unhinged, post-historic bukake session. When you can no longer stand it, and at the exact right moment—in tandem with all of your marbled lovers—release, suddenly and with anger. Step down from the pedestal, hips swinging like back-alley switchblades, and be as overwhelming, insatiable and destructive as you like. At this depth of longing, the difference between mortal violence and orgasm should be, at least scholastically, indiscernible. You are the caldera. After all of this time, Aphrodite—une grande mort.
On Mars, in the name of war, you will don the colorful masks and vibrant costumes of Mexican luchadores. As pro-wrestlers, you will tag-team yourselves, flying off the blue ropes into the red, iron-oxide hematite. Prepare for engagement. You will act out the moves of battle, but only as rehearsed. You will tear at each others' bodies and clothes, but only as theater. You will beat and pelt one another, drenched in sweat and passion, but only for dramatic effect. You will not wish "for the actual suffering," but instead "only enjoy the perfection of an iconography."2 That is, there's no action, only acting. And why do we act? To remember, to look back and codify. There is no war on Mars: all true violence is enacted toward the future as a kind of fevered hope, but on Mars everything is expressed toward the past, a hallmark of nostalgia. If there is a struggle, it is against that of the oncoming future. Violence is motion, sadness an inscription, and here it's all stillness: four billion years ago, the planetary dynamo stalled, halting the magnetic field. The pieces and parts are here but none move, just flaccid bedrock. The central fluids are desiccated, and from one horizon to the next, there's only rust, the memory of a metal, and two frozen poles on opposite sides of the bed. What can't Mars forget? Night after night you too must try to remember what heat is like. Again and again, you must search each other's bodies for the words of an old bolero. Look each other in the eye when you dance the Aided Suplex in the garden, or sing the Argentine Rack from the balcony, or strum the Samoan Drop in the veranda; hold hands when you undress your Russian Legsweep, your Battering Ram, your Double Bulldog Choke Slam. There will be nothing else, not even loss or victory, just time's perpetual spectacle. Kisses, punches—do everything as hard as you like. There is no dying on Mars, only Epimethius. From the start, the match itself has been death, a moment always pointed backward, and the longer you think about it (or the more you try to remember), it should be obvious that the afterlife has never been the future —but instead can only be the past. Olé.
Contrary to popular belief, the Sun and the Moon are actually equals embroiled in a longstanding game of brinkmanship. Look to the sky and you will see two bitter enemies of comparable size. Watch them chase each other, hurling endless threats. Watch them eclipse one another, taunting and braying. They put each others' lights out. They mimic the other's movement. In turn, they wave around the sky day and night, claiming all latitudes and longitudes as their own, like competing dogs pissing on every tree and bush in the forest. One's stink erases the other's, as it always has, and for you to have sex on either body, you must engage its enemy. These scales demand balance. Or else what? We need not find out. Serious sextronauts will allow themselves to become deadly weapons in an always escalating arms race between Helios and Selene. Word of your arrival on the Sun will be broadcast through secret channels and intercepted by unseen agents. Your lover's stationing on the Moon will be publicly alluded to but never officially recognized. All parties reserve plausible deniability. In alternating maneuvers, they will equip the two of you, following the pattern of a discrete function. One at a time and in taught rhythm, they will strip you bare, smelt and mold you. Gently, they will construct for you a propellant and a nozzle and then stuff you with powder. They'll gift you a monocoque structure, laced with vernier engines, gyroscopes and gimbals. Back and forth, new accoutrement will be added as the stakes, following a von Neuman hierarchy, rise into absurdity. This is your courtship. A dangerous set theory that pits Hyperion plasma against Lunar modules. Staring at one another across 150 million miles of empty space, you and your lover will finally be launched in an interstellar game of chicken, a la Bertrand Russell, like two drunk teenagers on the edge of a cliff. Try to imagine it as fun, and keep drinking. Arcing through the void, you would do well to smile as you think of the Lagrangian Point, the place where the gravitational force between two bodies is equal, where the two of you can slow to a soothing stop and linger in the dark together forever. How nice. Yes, the time between discharge and inevitable impact should be just long enough for both of you to think of this stupid dream, and to furiously rub one out while admitting to yourselves that you never actually thought of yourselves as equals—finally meeting in the middle at the intersection between A and B, a logical conjunction and pointless explosion. Then the Cold War continues without you.
2. The Middle and Outer Planets
Whereas the Inner Planets applaud personal choice and free will, sex farther out is definitively less casual. The next two subsections of the spheres constitute both order and disorder, rule and its subjugation, and they deftly establish how there is actually little difference in their dichotomies. So, the takeaway point here is that, obviously, the sex is going to be amazing. Of course, it goes without saying that it will also be out of this world. Beside our central star, the Middle Planets Jupiter and Saturn are the largest in the solar system, and, "Because of their enormous size, the regularity of their orbits, and the vast extent of their gravitational fields, they act like two great balance wheels to stabilize the system and keep celestial order in it."1 And our Outer Planets—Uranus, Neptune, and the always contentious Pluto—are persona non grata presiding over rebellion, masochism, violence and delinquency. Allegiance to these bodies has historically been "rewarded with excommunication, imprisonment, death at the stake."1 You may wish to establish a codeword, though ultimately it won't matter. It may be true that no one can hear you scream in space, but you're still going to. Now oil up.
At more than double the size of every other planet combined, Jupiter rests atop a great seat of power. It's well stocked, and there's no wonder that the most impressive Roman temple was built in its name. Jupiter's magnetosphere operates at a strength at least 14 times that of Earth's. The attraction is uncontested, but be careful. Despite boasting a Jovial character, Jupiter is an unofficial police state, surrounded by a retinue of armed, icy moons. The Galilean satellites goosestep in tight, regular formation around its regal outer body, while the rocky core is shrouded beneath a blanket of gas and bureaucracy, mostly helium and earmarked legislation. Some interlopers suggest that the core doesn't even exist, like the king of Kafka's Castle or the unknown guard in the Panopticon prison, but it is this very uncertainty from whence great power is drawn, striking fear in all comers. Central core or no, the enormous red eye watches over everything like an omniscient corner-deli camera. And as in the case of a bodega, it would be impossible to merely get down here and do it like dogs. You'd be ejected in an instant—because of Jupiter's hold on both space and time. No, in order to fuck on Jupiter, or in a deli for that matter, one must emulate Zeus's rise to power, wherein he and his father fought as two bedbugs, the spear-like thunder cock of the one fiercely piercing the Titan carapace of the other, spilling rocks and Olympian children all over the heavens' filthy aisles. This traumatic insemination will, for better or worse, be the only sex on Jupiter. You must become an infestation of vermin spawning in its crannies, eluding incarceration in your sheer number and anarchy. You and your sleeper cells must fuck rampantly, in the breads and cereals, in the oatmeal and crackers, in the walls and the corners, in the frames and the linings, and you must do it with ferocity, without care for the other, in the name of a greater good, with idealism and hope: rape with a human face. It is in this manner that Jupiter truly wins, however, by eradicating the difference between revolution and rule, between Europa and the Bull. Here, all transgression of the law is a default affirmation. Your throng of bastard children will be absorbed into the shelves, and eventually you too will be sold and eaten. In a great reversal, you will have fucked and been fucked to no purpose, and your corruption will be of no solace or consequence to anyone. Attempts to call for justice will bring laughter and ridicule and character assassination, both for you and your family. Get on the floor and put your hands in the air. You're going to live.
On Saturn, it's always Saturday. A day of rest. A day of relaxation. A party that never stops. Saturnalia, the Golden Age, forever. Naked from perihelion to aphelion, with a cornucopia overflowing its horn of plenty, "Loose reins are given to public dissipation; everywhere you may hear the sound of great preparations."3 Yes, sex is going to be easy. You'll leave your car keys on the outer rings and take off that blouse, kick of your boots and chillax, while strangers casually have their way with you. It's nice. Everyone feels good and no one has to work. This is the great harvest! Yet, when the partiers go down on you, as if apathetically reading the Sunday paper, you'll realize that all this leisure is being dragged to an untenable conclusion, and the Sunday paper will never actually arrive. That cool breeze? Blows at 1,100 mph. That bowl of chips and dip? A massive, global storm, 12,000 miles across. Someone here is eating babies for fun. Someone has opened a vintage bottle of Furies, spilling both Eumenides, the kindly ones, and Erinyes, the angry ones, all over the shag carpet, and there is no stain remover on Saturn. The sex doesn't stop. Sadly, permanent fellatio and cunnilingus are quickly becoming the true castration. There's cum everywhere and too much chafing. It smells like shit. For escape, you must invoke Saturn's patron angel, Cassiel. Use the amulet made in his name, intended to ward off enemies (your erstwhile lovers), with words carved in the blood of a bird, tied to the legs of a dove, and set to flight. This should scatter the mob, yet the bird will not fly, and neither will your enemies. On Saturn, it's always Saturday, no matter the doves. What now? You can choose to further embrace Cassiel, to rest in passive judgement of the cosmos, staring with dead eyes over the bobbing heads of the endless parade of hysterical swingers—or you can become Shani, maleficent Navagraha of the Vedic texts, and dole out punishments, lopping the limbs off of kings, developing "systems of legal torture that function with cold, Saturnian efficiency,"1 and embrace the soft melancholy that is so faithfully married to sadism, but either way you're staying at the party. So take a deep breath; it's going to be a long day.
It's logical that Uranus is the celestial haven of water sports and golden showers. Though English speaking school children might protest otherwise, its name is drawn both from the Greek, Fορσανoς, which is reminiscent of Sanskrit's "to rain," and more directly, οuρEω, meaning "to urinate." Some will wish to contradict these roots, boldly asserting that Uranus has cold feet, its temperature as low as -371 F. All of the unleashable liquid, they'll say, is frozen. And detractors will be quick to bring up the satellite Voyager's damning observation that Uranus is not pissing on anyone. Rather, they'll say, it stands just out of view with an axial tilt roughly parallel to that of the solar system itself, as if trying to blend shyly into the background. Skeptics will rightfully ask, if Uranus is one of only three gas giants and ruler of "revolution, crisis [and] reform,"1 then why this prude inhibition? Admittedly, the specifics of its low thermal flux remain a scientific anomaly, and no, we cannot precisely explain its hydrocarbon haze layers, but the general cause of its inaction does not elude us. The reason? Not Uranus's symbolic relationship with castration, nor the fear of its own children, but the paraphilic act of Desperation—aka, holding it in for sexual pleasure. Uranus isn't a prude—it's an unhinged voyeur getting off on this cold limbo. Uranus isn't hiding but lounging in a painful erotic repose. That's why it isn't peeing on anyone. And to have sex on Uranus, you too will have to embrace its philosophy. Don't try anything stupid, either: Uranus "responds to efforts to appease him... with intensified naughtiness, until finally his own personality becomes as diffuse, rootless, and lacking in direction as his causeless rebellion."1 Sound familiar? Whether it does or doesn't, it should. Here, you must assent to the things you suppress. On Uranus, discover what is in your psychic bladder and make it stay there. Secrets ought go unspoken, ambitions unrealized. Try to copulate and reproduce with the idea of being alone, of never really accomplishing anything. More importantly, take pleasure in the sight of others doing the same. Watch them dance. Watch nothing happen until nothing reaches its fever pitch, where it doesn't shatter that wine glass, but threatens to. Anything is possible, and it's staying that way—until everything is an assault, and waiting is battery. Or is it the reverse? Either way, if done correctly, it should hurt. Keep taking it, and feel the weight of the rest of your life push back. One more second. One more second. One more second. One more second. One more second. One more second. One more second.
Neptune's movement in Gustav Holst's The Planets is the only piece featuring human voices, a chorus of women hidden in a separate room from the audience. This illusion and chicanery is correspondent to the mystic planet's strange, almost magical promises. You will wonder: Who are these people, and what else is happening behind closed doors? Poseidon clouds the answers in fathomless ocean depths, yet he graciously invites you to dinner, dangling information before you—not to mention a trident of power, wealth and love. To have sex here, you must accept, and why not? Like anyone else, you too want power, wealth and love, right? Wrong. Neptune is going to teach you what you really want. Neptune is going to show you what's behind those closed doors. After dinner, when you're thoroughly drunk, he will drag you under the water, bring you into the room, only to reveal that it is empty. "There's no one here," you will say, noticing for the first time the cheap rings that Neptune wears. "No," he will tell you, "it's not empty. You're here."4 And then he'll close the door, leaving you to consider the cold, methane walls. But you will not be alone for long. Emerging from the scattered disc population and drunkenly tossing off their Kuiper Belt, resonant trans-Neptunians will refocus their gravity on you, repeatedly, as if trying to draw water from the furniture. Your payment? A constant supply of drugs and a few moments of broken sleep. After a fashion, you too will begin to sing. There are other rooms, you'll realize, with other people—the final chorus in Holst's symphony has always been a cry for help, calling over the harp and oboe to an unmoved citizenry. An unlikely hero will emerge, a new Martin Luther of the orchestral brothel: Neptune himself. He will champion your cause and demand your release, pointing out the names of his "cheap" planetary rings: Courage, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. In his unlikely honor, you and your comrades will smash through the doors and onto the stage, halting the quintuple meter, making chaos of sheet music and stands, woodwinds and brass. You will set the timpani aflame and slaughter the string section. You will put the conductor against the wall, last words be damned. But these musicians are no wimps, either. They will muster their forces, garrison off the organ and blockade the first chairs. In a flurry of coattails and bow ties, they will launch a counterattack, push back your front, and cut off your supplies. Now, the real sex can begin. Held fast to the ground, a hand around your neck, you will turn your head to the audience and scream, pleading. But this has always been your part, your solo. Make them believe in magic, that live rabbits can really come from hats, and, rising from their seats, the guests will applaud you. It's been a fantastic show. Take a bow, if you can. Tomorrow, the performance starts again, almost everywhere, "until there is no difference between sound and silence." In rehearsal, Neptune will arrogantly wave his trident and whisper to you, "Stop pretending—this is what you've always wanted." If you sing loudly enough, maybe the part inside your body that he's right about will finally exit through your wide open mouth, like a live rabbit leaving a shallow hat.
Pluto, finally, floats alone on the edge of everything and oblivion without knowing who or what it is. For billions of years, it was nothing. Then, briefly, a planet. Now, after a symposium, a dwarf. Next? A worm? Who knows—it's orbit is confused and unpredictable. Pluto stands between the solar system and eternity like Janus, god of doors. With two faces looking at once forward and back in time, Pluto as Janus represents both the dead in Hades' underworld and "the emergence of life-forms from the one-celled organism." The umbra, the darkest part of a shadow, is named for it, and "Pluto's weapon is the bomb," where "the unexploded... is a uterine symbol; the explosion is phallic."1 The point? Pluto doesn't know where it ends and something else begins. Unfortunately then, your partner cannot accompany you to Pluto—because Pluto is both itself and its lover, as you must be here as well. You will practice auto-erotic asphyxiation instead. Put the noose around your neck and let yourself go. As you get further from the sun, you will freeze like Pluto's atmosphere and fall toward the ground. Pluto's mass is even less than that of the moon's, so you will fall slowly, the noose uncoiling like cream sliding across a gently sloped table. Imagine the rope as a cord hooked up to a dialysis machine: "[She] tried to sleep during dialysis. Most of the time, she dreamt of herself on dialysis."5a With your hand, stroke as the gambler does its poker machine: "I was gone. My body was there, outside the machine, but at the same time I was inside the machine... It's like playing against yourself—you are the machine; the machine is you."5b Stay like this, hanging naked on the line between life and death, ascension and climax, orbit and universe, now and forever, like laundry in a breeze. Know that the solar wind is gradually blowing the surface of Pluto into space, one granule at a time. Let your memories rush out ahead of you, crossing through the umbra. What part of you do you want cast into the future? Then, at the end of your rope and in an immaculate conception, you will offer to the void the same two STDs granted you by God—one tenuous, the other infinite.
Okay, have fun! Send a postcard!
1. Watters, Barbara. Sex and the Outer Planets. Valhalla Paperbacks, Ltd.: Washington, DC. 1971.
2. Barthes, Roland. Translated by Lavers, Annette. Mythologies. Hill and Wang: New York, NY. 1972.
3. Seneca. Epistle 18, 1-2.
4. Morgan, Dolan in the voice of Neptune, Planet.
5. Turkle, Sherry, Ed. The Inner History of Devices. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. 2008
a. Sanal, Aslihan. "The Dialysis Machine."
b. Schull, Natasha. "Video Poker."