The Joy Of Sci-Fi Sex – 5 impossible positions

In the film Inherit The Wind, Frederic March declares that science hasn't improved sex any - but it may do yet...

Will the fetishisation of technology arrive at its logical conclusion?

Sex With OneselfBefore the advent of ‘geek chic’ and even geek dating sites, having sex with oneself was something geeks were thought to be rather good at – but this is something else: the novel Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (2003) presents the possibility that human identity could be ‘re-sleeved’ and even split across multiple bodies of different gender. Until this novelty, you could only hope to have homosexual sex with yourself via time travel and alternate universes, etc. Though not explicitly dealt with in the book, Morgan’s vision posits a world where one could potentially inhabit a male and a female body at the same time. If, in that position, you still find yourself playing hard-to-get and can’t get a valid cell-phone number, your problems arguably extend beyond the reach of science…

Recordable sexSex has been filmable since the early 20th century, but the experience itself not; what if you could actually register and replay the tactility of it on some or other medium? The inevitable curiosity to truly understand the experience of the opposite sex could finally be, erm, satisfied. And Bittorrent would suddenly become a great deal more interesting…

Douglas Trumbull’s 1983 sci-fi thriller Brainstorm – whose narrative was severely affected by the tragic drowning of star Natalie Wood during principal photography – deals with new technology that can transmit the total sensory experiences of one human being to another one…and record them!

The apparatus that attaches to the head is rather unwieldy in the pre-alpha version, but by the end of the film super-boffin Christopher Walken has got the equipment down to the size of MP3 headphones, and, sure enough, his sex-obsessed colleague Gordy borrows the rig and records an act of pleasure with his latest conquest. Later on, another of Walken’s colleagues, who is terminally ill, spends an entire weekend plugged into a loop of the critical moment of that illicit recording, and claims, unsurprisingly, to feel somewhat better afterwards.

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The sadder side of this non-existent technology is mooted in Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days (1995), where polysensual sex recordings have become a black market diversion and commodity similar to soft-core (or arguably, hardcore) drugs.

Non-Tactile SexNo, this isn’t the widespread practise of engaging in carnal mutuality on MSN, but rather the notion of ‘psychic sex’ via some kind of scientific intermediary. The most recent example of this is probably the psychedelic love-scene between Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock in the hugely under-rated Demolition Man (1993), but in truth it’s pretty much a carbon copy of the literally electrifying sex scene between Jane Fonda and David Hemmings in Barbarella (1968).

Idle dissident Dildano (Hemmings) suggests that Fonda might like to couple with him, but bridles at her primitive notion of disrobing. Instead they use a ‘mood-linking’ pill, only touching palms as the electrifying effects curl our heroine’s hair into a pretty nasty early 60s housewives’ perm, whilst Hemmings starts smoking –without any cigarettes. Stallone and Bullock decided to forego even the palm contact.

Remote sex, in the form of ‘interactive’ virtual reality suits, has been mooted since the days of The Lawnmower Man (1991), and many rather dangerous prototypes have failed to survive the timorous scrutiny of insurance companies and legal advisors, such as the one developed by Vivid Entertainment in 2001. That hasn’t stopped the (dirty) dream though…

Sex In Zero GravityIn 2061: Odyssey Three, Arthur C. Clarke wrote that both the advantages and obstacles to zero gravity sex were over-estimated, but in the real world (or rather, beyond it), we can but speculate. The only married couple to have gone into space together are astronauts Mark C. Lee and Jan Davis, who flew the 50th space shuttle mission, and they seem to have drawn an understandably discreet veil over the issue. NASA spokesman Bill Jeffs is no more forthcoming: “We don’t study sexuality in space, and we don’t have any studies ongoing with that.”

Since all motion is relative, it’s very hard to work out where the practical dynamics of sex would differ from the Earth-bound variety. At the very worst, it’s the end of carpet burn…

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Roger Moore’s Bond imbued his weightless – and rather tame – love scene with Lois Chiles with some typical English double-entendres during the predictable pre-credits coitus of Moonraker. Zero gravity sex also crops up in Walter Hill’s Supernova (2000), whilst Moving Violations (1985) features an implicit zero-g sexual encounter between actors John Murray and Jennifer Tilly, via a weightlessness simulator.

Sex With RobotsPossibly the most obvious type of science-fictional sex with the broadest number of cinematic and literary iterations, the notion of cybernetic coitus arguably began with the ‘Gynoid’ robot developed from a real woman in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927); when the patently redundant sexual features of the original were transposed onto the mechanoid, the agenda of ‘simile sex’ using self-impelled technology emerged.

In Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001), Jude Law played the sex-robot ‘Gigolo Joe’, the kind of pat and overly perfect cybernetic prostitute which is so frightening and yet so familiar from the current airbrushing on display in Playboy or any modern ‘lad’s mag’. But the model was struck by Katherine Ross, playing a hyper-sexualised robotic version of herself in the conclusion of the original adaptation of Ira Levin’s satirical shocker The Stepford Wives (1975).

Female robot prostitutes also featured in the film version of Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973), where the malfunctioning droids passage from passivity to murderous proclivities seems to represent the flip-side of Levin’s Stepford satire.

Bond sex-bomb Lana Wood played an exploited domestic robot in the 1972 Night Gallery episode ‘You Can’t Get Help Like That Anymore’, whilst Julie Christie had to contend with the amorous affections of her own house-computer in Demonseed (1977). On a lighter note, some of the more basic machines seem to work quite well, such as the ‘Orgasmatron’ in Woody Allen’s Sleeper (1973) and the sexual torture machine designed to kill with pleasure (!) in Barbarella.

But ultimately coin-op sex is not where this particular fantasy is at, and the underlying dynamic of robot sex seems concerned with the impatient wish to exit the need for emotional, physical and practical negotiation which hallmarks ‘the real thing’.

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n.b. Why no ‘alien sex’? Most of it is pretty conventional sex…but with aliens. This has featured in Species, Starman, ‘V’, Alien Nation and hordes of others. The only really interesting cinematic variation is in the ‘Alien’ franchise itself, and I have tried to steer clear of that kind of ‘inter-planetary assault’…

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