For centuries, human beings have dreamed that they may one day be able to have sex. Once most people reach the age that women can asexually reproduce, they develop what scientists now widely agree are healthy and natural romantic desires. Still, virtually every society on Earth for generations has imagined the idea that one day, humanity might make a great leap forward and finally develop the ability to fool around.

The act has nearly occurred several times, as the following examples illustrate.

According to legend, the Egyptian ruler Cleopatra made out with the Roman general Mark Antony for several hours before falling asleep, and in subsequent weeks the two discovered that their schedules totally didn’t match up.

During the Mughal Empire period, King Humayun kept a harem of women, like many emperors before and after him. Their main duties consisted of listening to him talk about which calligraphers they absolutely had to check out. His two most favored concubines fell in love with each other and planned to commit an act that not even an emperor, for all his leisure time and all the attention paid to his desires, had ever committed. They ended up deciding it would make things weird at work.

The poet John Donne once said to Anne Moore, “Off with that happy busk, which I envy.” She quoted the line in a group message to six of her friends and wrote, “Get a load of this corny-ass motherfucker.”

From 1970-1972, 36-year-old Harold Smith of Peoria, Illinois and 42-year-old Adam Mosier of Tallahassee, Florida, corresponded at length about their plans to go through with physical lovemaking. When they finally met up in March 1972, the revelation that Mosier supported Scoop Jackson in the Democratic primary while Smith supported Ed Muskie put kind of a bummer vibe on the whole thing.

For many, Prince Rogers Nelson was not just a great musician, but a great prophet: he kept people believing that the act could one day be accomplished, that their constant yearning would be quenched, if briefly. After a concert, my aunt Marie once asked if she could have sex with him. He said, “The transmogrifying illusion of the electric dawn is not for the pure of heart,” and rode off on a purple scooter by himself.

In 1995, twelve-year-old Trevor Beckford reported that he had slept with over one million billion women, but that number turned out to be inaccurate.