Time Enough for Love: Immortality and Sex
How living for hundreds, or even thousands of years, might affect physical pleasure.
Let’s play a game: a thought experiment. By the title, you’ve more than likely figured about where this is going, but let’s just spell it out anyway.
While the jury is out on what the possible upper limits of baseline humanity’s lifespan—meaning without using advanced technology like consciousness uploading, extensive artificial augmentations, or complete genetic reengineering—it's a pretty safe guess that someday, maybe even within the next few decades, we’ll be able to live for upwards of 300 years or more.
With those advancements, or even many of them to a less-than-complete degree, we could be blowing out thousands of birthday candles.
So there’s the game: what will happen to sex when the average human lifespan can be measured in four or maybe even ten digits?
Let’s have some boundaries
As with all games, we have to have a few ground rules. The first is that let’s assume that this longevity is available for most if not all of humanity, to better level the societal playing field. Second, as humanity would be pretty much unrecognizable to us by 2050 (if not sooner), for the sake of our game let’s try not to get mired in trying to be accurate futurists and instead keep things on a level that is more comprehensible to us, now.
Lastly, let’s kick to the curb the old chestnut of being cursed to live for centuries in bodies that are withered and gray. Our immortals are healthy, vigorous, and best of all still amorous.
An eternity of decadence?
Pondering this, it would be easy to wander down the decadent path: that our immortals would eventually get tired of plain old ordinary sex and so gravitate to the outer edges of eroticism.
Maybe they’d spend a few decades as the opposite sex, then a few more years having fun with their own gender, perhaps then it would be time to try out from BDSM, and so on and so forth until they get to some very dark places.
Which raises an interesting side note. If someone could recover from almost any serious injury how might they add this into dungeon play—would near-death and rebirth be a new kink?
Time enough for love
While it’s easy to be cynical about human immortals becoming endlessly jaded, and there is certainly way too much literary fiction saying that very thing, maybe the opposite would be true. That, as the title of Robert Heinlein’s book suggests: we’d have Time Enough for Love.
Simply put: living for a long, long, time would give people an opportunity to try new things. Not for shallow kicks but to understand what sex is like for other people by trying it out themselves.
Like said, why not a decade—or three or ten—patiently and passionately experiencing sex outside your usual gender or orientation? What happens to bigotry and intolerance when you’ve lived for hundreds of years and tried this kind of variety? It’s kind of hard to hold onto hate for an entire lifetime—let alone when it’s measured in centuries.
Some will, of course, but for others having years and years and years of time will give them too many opportunities and experiences to hold onto such a narrow view of the world. It would also grant them unique perspectives on history and human nature: being able to see that things back then weren’t all that great and that things do get better over time.
A lifetime of lifetimes
If you’re worried that the weight of these years might be too much, consider the idea that there might even be a way of affecting your own memory: switching if off and on for years at a time.
Tap dancing close to the rule about keeping all this understandable for our contemporary noggins, it could work by basically giving you a form of amnesia for years at a time.
This would wipe your mental slate clean allowing you to experience sex as someone totally new—and then, after a set amount of time you would have your mind restored with these new memories intact. Or not—it’s up to you.
Decades to scratch your nose
Then there’s the idea that as time becomes more elastic so does even the idea of sex. Foreplay might be enjoyed over decades; orgasms over years. If human immortals are traveling by starship, they might pass the time between stars by mentally slowing themselves. Sex over light years, pleasure stretched from one star system to another.
It’s really hard to understand that being so long-lived would be like. Playing our game, for instance, brings with it our contemporary baggage of thinking of life ending at, if we’re lucky, 100 or so: giving a sense of urgency to even our fantasies.
But if your lifespan is measured in centuries there’s no reason to rush. Take a decade to become a master of oral sex, another to play your lover like a fine musical instrument, yet another to try every kind of orgasm there is—and create some of your own.
Totally smashing that same rule, what might sex become when we aren’t just long-lived but can change every aspect of our physical form, upload our minds into a digital nirvana, or wear a vast interstellar vessel like a second skin?
Time enough for everything
Our time here is limited, just like our lifespans—at least so far. But someday we will have all the time in the world: to learn, to play, to change who we are, to love, and to even make the world a better place.
And even decades plenty left over to ponder everything immortality would allow us to do—and enjoy.