Archive for book reviews

Everything you always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask

Posted in pop culture with tags , on June 16, 2008 by Gena Radcliffe

Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach

Reading about sex is almost as much fun as actually having sex (sometimes more fun, depending on your partner). It’s fascinating, it’s arousing, it’s shocking, it’s occasionally appalling, it’s even comforting (“Other people like that too? What a relief!”). Rarely is the subject treated with humor, however, or at least not with humor above the high school locker room “and then it got in her eyes!” level. Mary Roach’s Bonk takes a much needed light-hearted yet intelligent and non-juvenile approach to the topic, and is so far one of my favorite reads of this year.

Make no mistake, Bonk isn’t a scholarly text. Roach gleefully pokes fun at a psychologist with the unfortunate name of Dorcas Butt, and her frequent footnotes discuss such topics as auto-fellatio and a martial arts video called Iron Crotch. She also advises “if you know what’s good for you, you will not do a Google search of ‘scrotum’ and ‘elephantiasis.'” However, it is exhaustively researched and endlessly absorbing. Reading about the science behind sex is sort of like finding out how a magic trick is performed–it’s neat to see where the rabbit is hidden, but there’s something to be said for a little mystery as well. Nevertheless, we as the most advanced species on Earth (at least until dolphins grow those opposable thumbs The Onion warned us about) are obligated to learn as much as we can about how our bodies work, why they work that way, and what we can do to either ensure they keep working that way or they don’t turn around and work against us. That counts for the naughty bits too.

The bottom line is, human sex organs are designed essentially to make babies. Sex is a lot of fun and feels great, but virtually every aspect of it, even the shape of the penis and the female orgasm, was originally intended to aid in reproduction. The only evolution we’ve made towards the notion of not populating the world with as many tiny versions of ourselves as possible is mental (and not enough of us have evolved to that point just yet). Nevertheless, we are also one of the very few species who have sex strictly for pleasure, and what we like in that regard tells quite a bit about us psychologically, which is very likely why it’s one of the most underfunded and generally disregarded areas of scientific research.

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