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Something For My Memoir: I Had Sex In The White House

Hazelfruit Gianduja always makes me horny

When I die, Roland’s going to inherit most of my estate. He’s not extravagant and I think I’ve been mostly successful in teaching him the relationship between capital and income. But I don’t doubt that if he can, he’ll spend a million dollars on a space tourism flight. When I read Kim Tingley’s NY Times essay Sunday, The Bodily Indignities Of The Space Life, I was turned off every way imaginable to the idea of going into orbit. I flew on the Concorde several times during the ‘90s. Ten miles high, in the stratosphere, was close enough to space for me— and for any sane person who reads Tingley’s piece.

What I’m going to quote from it today, doesn’t have any of the horrific reasons I’ll be avoiding space travel. Although I will say that Roland has dragged me along on some mighty unlikely adventures. Not that I was some kind of pussy traveller before I met him. He wasn’t even born yet when I was roaming around remote places in Afghanistan on horseback and renting a thatched shack in Goa— it seemed like a villa to me at the time— where the sewage system was a drove of pigs. But I would never have hiked around the Bandiagara Escarpment looking for Dogans in Mali or hired a small boat in Mopti to take us up the hippo- and crocodile-infested Niger so we could visit the most primitive place I had ever been, a Bozo fishing village, without Roland's encouragement. Here’s a photo of me and a photo of Roland there at the Bozo village.

Anyway, we’ve been all over and when I want to go to Paris or Rome or even Istanbul, he wants to go to Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Ethiopia or to the parts of Burma we missed the first time we went. This year’s compromise: Delhi and Jaipur. Like I said, if you want to read the scary part of space travel that Tingley wrote about, here’s the link again. I wanted to point out a part of the story that kicked in an old memory that was buried deeply and that I’ll need for my memoir. Tingley noted that “It’s a truism of our species that the moment we encounter a new and challenging environment— a mountaintop, say, or an airplane bathroom— we feel compelled to find out what will happen if we engage in coitus there. Naturally, then, as soon as the first billionaires check into the first space hotels, they will be thinking about becoming the inaugural members of the 250-Mile-High Club. This raises the issue: There really aren’t rules for medical experimentation in space that cover tourists’ behavior. ‘If someone wants to have sex in space or have a baby in space, there’s no framework to provide guidelines,’ Dorit Donoviel says. ‘We need to make sure commercial spaceflight provides opportunity for good science. The last thing we want to do is have it turn into the Wild West and do stupid things that could get people hurt or create bad press and turn people against space travel. That damages the whole industry.’ So should space travelers choose abstinence until a formal entity declares space sex safe? Is it possible that this threshold has already been breached? Fewer than 700 people have flown to space so far, and it is often easy to identify who they are in research publications, which can make them reticent about details that might satisfy behaviorists. In short, says Simon Dubé, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, ‘we know very little about the intimacy and sexuality of astronauts.’ But we do know some basics. ‘There are good indications that erection and lubrication are not inhibited in space,’ Dubé says. And it appears that microgravity doesn’t subject contraceptives to additional side effects.”

I can stop here, but I’ll give you a little more in case you’re interested and don’t have a NY Times subscription.

There are concerns about reproduction, however, that will have to be addressed if our species is ever to take up permanent residence somewhere else besides Earth. For the most part, scientists have studied aspects of procreation in space only in animals, including fruit flies, frogs, newts, geckos, aquatic crustaceans, quails, rats, mice and, intriguingly, rams. While producing and developing healthy embryos in space can be done, it clearly comes with considerable risks. Radiation exposure damages DNA and can cause infertility and sterility in adults, for example. Exposed embryos and fetuses appear more likely to have growth and cognitive delays, birth defects and higher rates of newborn mortality.
Dubé is worried most of all about the psychological effects of intercourse (or a lack thereof) in space. “What I want to draw people’s attention to is that we are going to try to enact sexuality in all its complexity in a very small, remote, isolate nd, very small space, with limited partners who are people you work with and depend on.” Historically, in analogous situations, like military basic training, this has proved disastrous, mostly for women. “I’m much more worried about the next morning, after people have sex, how it’s going to affect the crew dynamic,” Dubé told me, “rather than, Are people going to be able to have sex or masturbate in the space station?”
The potential adverse health effects of loneliness and isolation in space have also been under-studied but will most likely become more significant the longer a mission lasts. Being in space is like the pandemic lockdowns many people experienced in 2020, except you can’t open a window or take a walk outdoors. And the farther you get from Earth, the more lag time there is between when you send a message and when your loved one back home receives it. (On Mars, the wait might be 20 minutes.)
In 2014, NASA issued a report, “Examining Psychosocial Well-Being and Performance in Isolated, Confined and Extreme Environments,” that considered data from submarines, underground bunkers and polar expeditions. It also detailed how career competition and differences in personality, values, culture and language derailed a 105-day I.S.S. simulation in 1999, in which a crew occupied connected hyperbaric chambers: “A physical fight broke out among two of the crew members, a sexual-harassment incident was reported and one protesting crew member withdrew from the study,” the report’s authors wrote. “In the context of spaceflight, where individual escape or mission termination is rarely an option,” they predicted, “events such as this will certainly place individual psychosocial health and performance, as well as mission success, in extreme jeopardy.”

I can’t stand airplane bathrooms but I had to join the Mike High Club, so I did it once— and got clap as a reminder. I don’t have a photo. And I’ve done it on plenty of mountaintops and in caves, although never on a submarine. But… I did have sex in the White House. It was on September 16, 1998, a State Banquet for Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic. That’s me (with the bald spot) shaking hands with Hillary. My guest, Brian, was shaking hands with Havel. This CSPAN footage left out me and Bill Clinton where I was telling him any president should be allowed to get a blowjob from time to time. Hillary didn’t hear me whisper that but from the explosive laughter of her husband in the middle of impeachment hearings, she knew I had shared something with him she wouldn’t like.

Anyway, after the dinner there was dancing and at one point Brian and I excused ourselves and went to a spacious and beautifully-appointed restroom— nothing like an airplane. Neither of us was horny but, you know… just to be able to say, “I had sex in the White House.” I don’t think I ever saw Brian again after that.

1 Comment

Nov 14, 2023

spent a lot of time in Denver and the mountains all around. once in an airplane on a polar to europe. I'm a frequent mile-higher.

never the white house though.

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