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Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
by Mary Roach; narrated by Sandra Burr


Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

I had borrowed this book from the library a while back and was planning to listen to it when the scienceblogs book club blog posted a charming review. I moved it to the top of my queue right quick.

Bonk penetrates the mysterious and hidden world of sex researchers. Roach exposes the challenges these brave scientists face, challenges to their motives (many people automatically assume sex researchers are perverts), challenges to their results (from all sorts of positions), and challenges to their credentials as scientists. She samples promiscuously from many fields, from endocrinology to psychology to behaviorism. Most importantly, she does so with whimsy and lots of good jokes. (P.S. – if you noticed any double-entendres in this paragraph, they were intentional.)

Some other thoughts:

  • At one point, Roach describes some sex research conducted by Alfred Kinsey in his attic. Unable to get official approval for studying copulating couples, Kinsey set up a space and a filming studio in his attic. He used money from the primate study budget to hire a photographer to film the couplings. At one point, Roach writes that “Kinsey asked the man to film his staff. That sentence can be read in three ways, all of them accurate.”
  • Later in the book, Roach recounts having asked one researcher where they purchased the “erotic visual stimuli”–porn–used in the studies. Roach imagined some special supply house for science-research erotica. The researcher replied, “Sex shops.” Roach deadpans that the researcher has “more interesting business receipts than most of us.”
  • Showing a remarkable tenacity to get the story, Roach volunteers for a number of studies herself, and even talks her husband into participating in a process involving being scanned in flagrante by an MRI.
  • It’s amazing how much sex research is still restricted by prudery. Roach discusses study after study that obfuscates its purposes through jargon and double-speak in order to pass human review board and grant application committee processes.
  • Apparently there are a lot of male, um, enhancement surgeries on men well within the spectrum of average endowment. The doctors doing these surgeries attribute the rise in demand to the ubiquity of pornography.
  • Roach describes the process listed in the bullet above in strong detail, pausing momentarily to acknowledge that she can’t appreciate how uncomfortable the passage might make men. Let’s just leave it at one word: de-gloving.

Overall, a very entertaining book. I plan to read Roach’s other book, Stiffs, at some point soon. I’ll give you an update when I do.

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