Jun 17, 2008  •  In Books, Reviews

Book Review: Bonk

I’d written before that science and mathematics were never my forte in school.

Which is unfortunate, because I love learning the facts and figures behind our amazing world.

This is precisely why I get overly excited when I watch a program (hello, Discovery, History, and the National Geographic channels!) or read a book that can explain things to me in straight, matter-of-fact, and entertaining ways that do not make me want to gouge out my eyes.

A few years ago I picked up a book called Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. Roach takes a macabre and often shushed topic to investigate the science and industry surrounding death…in a highly entertaining and hilarious manner. I loved it.

So when her new book, Bonk: The Curious Couping of Science and Sex, was released, I grabbed a copy right away.

The book did not disappoint.

Roach’s study of sexual physiology takes the reader through history, sociology, and of course, biology to answer the whats, whys, and hows behind sex. She visits smelly animal breeding facilities, attends sex workshops, takes a tour of a sex toy company, and even participates in scientific studies in order to get the facts.

Here are just some of the things I learned:

  • The pig’s penis, like their tails, is shaped like a corkscrew.
  • The male pig is the only animal aside from the human male to fondle breasts during sexual encounters.
  • Amputees often suffer from the “phantom limb” syndrome. This can, in fact, occur with penis amputees as well. Consider the “phantom erection,” where the sensation was so vivid that the sufferer would bend over and check for its presence.
  • A 1990 issue of Sports Medicine published an article called “The Sexual Response as Exercise.” The author’s name? Dorcus Butt. (Imagine the playground teasings this psychologist must have received as a child! And to answer your question, no, sex does not make for a good workout.)
  • A 2003 issue of Seizure reported a Taiwanese woman who, once or twice a week, would have an orgasm (followed by a mild seizure) when she brushed her teeth. And yes, this was proven via EEG.
  • Roach’s favorite sentence from Alfred Kinsey’s famous Sexual Behavior in the Human Female is, “Cheese crumbs spread in front of a copulating pair of rats may distract the female, but not the male.”
  • Contrary to stereotype, men are more selective in their preferences for visual stimulus. Women, both gay and straight, respond physically to sexually erotic images regardless of who is engaging in it or doing what. Men only tend to respond to stimulus that fits their sexual orientation and interests.

As always, the book is filled with lengthy footnotes containing anecdotal evidence and humorous FYI’s. My favorite?

Nominations for a Nobel Prize, I found out when I contacted the Nobel Foundation to try to verify Shafik’s, remain secret for fifty years. You make the claim, and nobody can prove otherwise until after you’re dead. Add one to your resume today!

All in all, a highly informative and entertaining book. I highly recommend it for information junkies with short attention spans such as myself.

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