There’s so much wrong with the Billionaire Space Race. It’s gross that it’s populated by old white men; it’s gross that the earthbound working class will never get to share in their space travel adventures. But the greatest crime against humanity perpetuated by these aging billionaires is their attack on the one thing we have left: our sexual fantasies about space.
Until recently, those of us who will never be rich enough to travel to space could at least enjoy our fantasies of space sex. And science fiction had instilled these fantasies in us for decades! All the best SF featured at least the whiff of sex , if not actual sex, with bemuscled, raunchy space bucks in zero g (see pretty much everything by Rudy Rucker and other early cyberpunk to the first scene of “The Expanse,” the series Bezos loved so much he wouldn’t allow it to end). This was also the driving motor of much feminist science fiction with hot lesbian sex scenes—in space. And remember astronauts? No? Well, let me tell you: There are even stories of astronaut sex on the night prior to the launch—with men and women at the top of their physical and psychological game. Space travel has always been the stuff of elaborate, boundary-pushing, euphoric sexual fantasy.
Enter Jeff Bezos’s dick-rocket (wah-wah).
When Delia Marinescu writes, “Imagine not just going to space, but going with Jeff Bezos” she has her finger on the exact problem. I’m imagining it right now, and I just lost my hard-on for space.
What’s that you say? Maybe he’s just not my type? Maybe I’m more of a rich-Viking-Richard-Branson girl? Alas, with their latest dick-measuring contest, both Branson and Bezos now look like washed-up retirees, buying yachts and motorcycles to prove that they’ve still got it. Someone needs to explain to them that they have long since lost it. Every woman who lived through #metoo or knows that Jeffrey Epstein had a private jet nicknamed the “Lolita Express” would agree that the silver fox phenomenon has lost whatever hold it may have once had on the feminine sexual imagination. Women have learned what the reality of rich white men who think they are entitled to, well, everything actually looks like—and it’s safe to say that we’ve lost that lovin’ feeling for aging sugardaddies in flight.
In that case, perhaps I should turn my sexual imagination to Elon Musk, whose very name is straight out of porn and who has proven his virility by impregnating his much younger partner with their enigmatically named spacebaby. But older men having children with younger women doesn’t have the effect of making these men seem younger. On the contrary. Besides, is there anything less sexy—or futuristic—than straight people having actual babies, even if said baby is named after a serial number? Musk’s girlfriend, Grimes, doesn’t actually up his hotness factor, despite what both seem to think. Could it be that she’s just a lone, lost, weird girl, in a room full of geriatric SpaceHefners talking over her head? To add insult to injury, if these SpaceHefners weren’t enough of a snooze-fest, even Grimes wants to move to Mars only after age 50. I just fell asleep in my mouth.
That’s the thing: they are all old, regardless of age. Even my fellow Gen Xer Musk, even young Grimes. Because they not only are rich, they act rich — and it’s boring. No matter how young or old or fit or handsome or fertile, and most importantly, no matter how wealthy and powerful, none of them will ever be Han Solo, or Ripley stripping down to her tighty whities. Corporate moguls imagine themselves to be crazy sexy cool maverick cowboys—but no one else imagines them that way. They are using space travel to make themselves seem more interesting than they actually are. But, as Ian Bogost noticed already a decade ago, all this does is make space travel seem less interesting than it actually is.
Criticizing the SpaceHefners — or, if you prefer, Viagranaires — for being too rich is no longer enough. It’s time to hit them where it hurts: in their delusions about their own sexual magnetism. At stake is not just access to space travel, but something much bigger, something Marina Koren hints at when she writes that these rivalries “are changing the stories we can tell about why people go to space at all.” Because stories are never just stories. They have real and long-lasting effects on the imagination. In other words, these rivalries are also — and more dangerously — changing the desires that have until recently motivated space travel. And they are dampening the general public’s curiosity, down here in our dystopian cauldron, about what happens up there, what people actually do up there.
Branson and Bezos love to drop tweets about turning science fiction into reality and interviews about how much SF influenced their visionary work. Musk even urges people to read more SF. But must our fictions becoming realities come at the price of something as precious—and irreplaceable—as our fantasies? Filthy dreams of space sex were all we had left, and the space billionaires have stolen them. I for one want mine back.