21
$\begingroup$

Libido can affect behaviour, judgement, group dynamics etc, which could pose a risk for the effectiveness of a mission. Is this somehow addressed by NASA, for example in screening during recruitment, in training, in space-lifestyle design or in medication?

$\endgroup$
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ This is not a new problem. Countries have been sending randy seamen to sea for several centuries, sometimes for very long stays at sea. The only new problem is that countries are now sending randy females and males into space. (Excessive randiness is not an exclusively male problem.) I wouldn't be surprised if an excessive libido is one of those essential qualities that makes an astronaut an astronaut. The ability to control that excessive libido is also an essential attribute. However, the sex lives and the psychological testing undergone by astronauts is highly confidential. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen May 9 '16 at 10:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Of possible relevance: Two US astronauts were secretly married before they flew in space on the same mission (STS-47). $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble May 9 '16 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ While this article does not address libido directly, it appears to be relevant to your question: space.com/26799-nasa-astronauts-psychological-evaluation.html $\endgroup$ – Lumberjack May 10 '16 at 20:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are at least two big reasons we don't hear about these issues. (1) There is no privacy in space, so sex probably doesn't happen. We don't hear about it because it doesn't happen. (2) Organizations like NASA don't want to be attacked for enabling outer-space lasciviousness at taxpayer expense, so they try to make sure the issue is never discussed. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Oct 5 '16 at 5:32
3
$\begingroup$

Sexual psychology in space could in fact be an issue, as you have surmised.

In Space Psychology and Psychiatry by Nick Kanas and Dietrich Manzey, there is a section on gender issues which states:

Rosnet and colleagues [2004] found the presence of seduction behavior, rivalry, and sexual harassment in their polar station when the women were about the same age as the men.

It continues:

The possibility of pairing and sexual contact also needs to be considered during long-duration space missions. Will such activities lead to jealousies and problems in crew cohesion? In a recent space simulation project conducted in Moscow that involved several multinational teams of isolated and confined individuals (called SFINCSS, or Simulation of a Flight of International Crew on Space Station), a female participant reported unwanted sexual advances (including kissing) from a male participant. This resulted in a breakdown of cohesion and group rancor that affected not only the isolated teams but also the participating agencies [Inoue et al., 2004; Kass and Kass, 2001; Sandal, 2004]. Stuster [1996] has pointed out that similar unwanted sexual attention has occurred during Antarctic missions, and that disruptions in cohesion have taken place as a result of male-female pairings. He also stated that if a woman chooses to have a relationship during her stay in the Antarctic, it often is with one man, with a preference for senior over junior personnel. Although the other men usually accept the situation, disruptions may occur if the relationship involves the station leader, who is seen as having an unfair advantage. Along these lines, it is interesting that in the days of the polar explorers, the commanding officer of the ship or the expedition leader was permitted the luxury of taking his wife or mistress with him on the long voyage [Stuster, 1996]. Buckey [2006] has reviewed a number of sexual and non-sexual tensions that might occur in a mixed-gender crew going to Mars. He suggests that the crew-members could be observed under isolated and confined conditions during training to see how they come together as a team in reference to possible problems with harassment, flirtatiousness, or jealousy. Should such problems occur, further training or even replacement of offending crewmembers might be necessary for the actual mission.

One might argue that future crews should consist of married couples or stable male-female pairs in order to minimize competition and conflict. However, there is no reason to expect that such a crew composition would prevent secret liaisons and jealousies, since infidelity and extra-marital relations occur on Earth in less stressful interpersonal environments. Enforced platonic relationships and sexual abstinence also is a possibility, but it is difficult to imagine this as a realistic scenario for healthy energetic people who are confined together for long periods of time. Perhaps novel social systems and customs will evolve in space that are similar to those found in communes, where pairing and unpairings will be tolerated with a minimum of conflict and animosity.

From this it would seem that there is currently no existing policy (beyond whatever sexual harassment policy we can assume to be in place), but that this issue is one under heavy consideration, especially as the time of human interplanetary travel approaches.

What we can be sure of is that this issue is under study, and that the astronauts are given counseling on top of their extensive training. The screening and training process probably minimizes the issues that are experienced, but it has been noted that even in these conditions suppressing such issues only postpones an inevitable reaction of some form. Instead, it would seem that healthy outlets need to be provided.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ How can we be sure "that the astronauts are given counseling on top of their extensive training."? This assertion is not supported by any of your references. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 4 '16 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Direct quote: "NASA also offers psychological support to all astronauts and their families [...] during extended missions aboard the space station" nasa.gov/50th/50th_magazine/astronauts.html $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Oct 4 '16 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ None of those references talks about sex. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 4 '16 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't say sex counseling. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Oct 4 '16 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Oct 6 '16 at 15:16

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.