No, NASA did not issue a warning against masturbating in space

In space news, it has recently been uncovered that various news pieces earlier in July stating that male astronauts shouldn’t masturbate in space have proved to be hoaxes. 

According to Snopes, several news websites reported in July 2022 that a NASA expert had just advised astronauts against masturbating in orbit because it purportedly has the potential to impregnate several women.

For instance, The New York Post ran an item with the headline “Astronauts should not masturbate in zero gravity, NASA scientist says.”  Another, “Astronauts warned not to masturbate in space as one session can ‘impregnate 3 females,” was reported by The Daily Star. 

The headlines, it turns out, are in fact fallacious. Such a warning was not given to NASA’s astronauts, reports Snopes. These articles were inspired by a joke that a comedian shared on Conan O’Brien’s podcast “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” in a recent episode.

A podcast episode titled “Space Porn” was made available on a number of podcasting sites on July 21. Smythe Mulikan, a mechanical engineer who works with a NASA contractor in Houston, Texas, was a guest on the show, along with co-hosts Sona Movsesian and Matt Gourley and presenter Conan.

Conan questioned Mulikan about what kinds of objects could be sent up to the International Space Station (ISS) during the program. Co-host Movsesian questioned him about if he had ever sent porn into orbit as the hosts discussed the wackiest stuff that could be sent into space.

Mulikan responded, “No. Nothing of that.” 

This explanation, however, did not satisfy the inquisitive hosts, who kept making jokes about space masturbation and porn. Gourley, a comedian rather than a NASA scientist, then joked that if one astronaut masturbated in space, three female astronauts could become pregnant simultaneously.

The brief exchange was as follows: –

CONAN: “Were someone to be watching space porn on the space station, how does that work?”
GOURLEY: “Three female astronauts can be impregnated by the same man from the same session.”
CONAN: “Because the semen flies around?”
GOURLEY: “Uh-huh. And finds its way.”
MOVESIAN: “And the women are all naked?”
GOURLEY: “Well it’s space porn.”

Muliken, who is not an official employee of NASA, did not actively participate in this discussion. 

Following this, the NY Post misquoted this passage when it reported on this exchange, claiming that the scientist had provided a “warning” regarding numerous women being pregnant. The article appeared as follows on News.com.au.

The last sentence’s “scientist” was really comedian Gourley.

A NASA scientist did not publish a strong statement against space masturbation, nor has NASA issued any strict criteria regarding “alone time.” These articles were inspired by a comedian’s joke. They might have appeared under titles like “Comedian Makes Joke About Porn” if they had been properly named. However, it’s possible that the title won’t get as many clicks.

So is it possible to masturbate in space?

On this matter, NASA has remained largely silent. As far as we can tell, masturbation in space appears to be safe and doable, despite the possibility of some logistical issues with having sex with someone in space and the fact that the absence of gravity does affect blood flow. In fact, astronaut Michael Collin claims that one medical advisor promoted space masturbation in order to avoid prostate issues in his 1989 book “Liftoff.” Collins said:

Before the Skylab flights, various medical concerns were expressed, including the possibility of the celibate crew getting infected prostate glands that could lead to urinary tract problems. One doctor advised regular masturbation, advice Joe ignored.”

2020 investigation by Vice revealed that Russia’s space service may have gone above and beyond. Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov said in his journal that his country offered to send an inflatable sex doll and “colorful” movies for the 14-month flight. Polyakov, allegedly, turned down the doll.

While there are still some unanswered questions regarding sex and masturbation in space, NASA hasn’t given astronauts any advice against masturbating out of concern for mass impregnations.

Interestingly, however, NASA has conducted experiments regarding intercourse between animals, and allegedly humans, in space in the past. It turns out that only a few select “positions” are possible without mechanical aid. The “Missionary Position”, for example, is one that is definitely not possible in zero-G. 

Food for thought. 

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