Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science (Anglais) Broché – 7 mai 2009
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The author's great sense of humor needs to be read to be believed. She spares no one, and particularly not herself or her husband. She travels to Taiwan to watch an implant operation. In one of the funniest parts[and this says a lot, since the book will have you howling a lot] she goes to Denmark to watch artificial insemination of sows. We know this happens with cows, and you might suppose that there's not much difference with pigs, but you'd be wrong, very wrong indeed. Suffice it to say that the best results occur, when, among other things best not mentioned here, the AI person lies down on the sow's back and fondles her teats during the process. You may never regard your morning sausage quite the same way again.
The author has a lot of asides that are a delight to read. If you usually skip the footnotes in a book, you'll miss a lot here. You'll learn a lot--for all the things that might seem frivolous, but which are not, the book is a scientific one. Roach has a curiosity, an appetite for knowledge, and has the capability that perhaps most scientists do not have, which is to mix science and humor. Stephen Gould was able to do this, but his humor was not as pervasive--his writing is, at a guess, 95% science at 5% humor, whereas with Roach it's more like 50-50. Martin Gardner's great Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science may be the closest similar work to Roach's book. This book is certainly not for everyone, and there are those who will be deeply offended, but for most it should be a real treat to read!
"To get inside a lubricated vagina, a penis needs to be hard enough to push against the opening with one to two pounds of force. That is approximately the amount of force required to open a swinging kitchen door." - Mary Roach in BONK
Mary Roach is the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, the enormously instructive and entertaining book on the uses to which human cadavers are put. As far as I'm concerned, instructive AND entertaining is about as good as it gets. With BONK, Roach has outdone herself with a read that I couldn't put down.
Science pursues sex because, after all, it's what makes the world turn. Roach first establishes the history of the science, which pretty much reached mainstream acceptance with researchers Alfred Kinsey and then William Masters and Virginia Johnson. (An excellent film about the former, starring Liam Neeson, is 2004's Kinsey.)
The meat of the book, so to speak, is the wide array of sexual behavior and physiologic functions which scientists have investigated, and which include: the sure sign of female orgasm, the location of the fabled G Spot, female orgasm as a function of clitoral-urethral separation distance, the link between female sexual pleasure and fertility, the validity of the vaginal "upsuck" concept, the validity of the penis-cervix interlock theory, cures for erectile dysfunction, the historical legal implications of male "potency", societal perspectives on masturbation, testicular transplants, penile implants, penis restoration post amputation, the physiology and structure of the clitoris, the internal mechanics of penile erection, orgasm's effect on overall physical health, the value of orgasm as exercise, the role of electroejaculation in people with spinal cord injuries, vaginal lubrication as an indicator of female sexual arousal, the nature of arousal in men vs. women, the physiologic trigger of male ejaculation, the role of hormones on the female libido, the existence of human sex-pheromones, and the qualitative measurement of sex. Juicy stuff, this.
The author's special talent, whether it be in STIFF or BONK, is her serious - but not too serious - approach to the subject matter. At any time, the reader may expect Mary to look up from her notes, cock an eyebrow, and deliver some wryly humorous aside. This is perhaps best seen in the footnotes to the text, as in the one connected to the above quote concerning the amount of penile force required for vaginal entry:
"We have three Houston researchers to thank for this statistic. In 1985, the trio attached a pressure gauge to the tip of a penis-shaped Plexiglas rod and penetrated a small group of female volunteers. It seems to me that if they wanted to approximate the surface friction that exists in real intercourse, slippery-smooth Plexiglas was a poor stand-in for penis skin. Though I suppose that when you're doing an experiment that involves penetrating coeds in your lab, surface friction is less of a concern than, say, human subjects review board friction."
As windows on otherwise esoteric or eccentric subject matter, Mary's books are without peer as reading experiences.
Finally, in case you're wondering, BONK describes a photoplethysmograph as a device used to measure the amount of lubricant vaginal walls exude during sexual stimulation. As a matter of fact, I have one right here for inclusion in Mom's Christmas basket.
To say the book is funny is an understatement. The author has a gift for puns and uses it to maximum potential, taking material that could be somewhat dry and turning it into page turning reading. If you are interested in the science of sex and love to laugh, this is a wonderful book that will not fail to deliver.
She travels widely to investigate any number of relevant topics. The subjects are both human and animal; and the use of a variety of technologies from MRIs, ultrasound, and personal devices receives attention. A major focus of the author is on the understanding and overcoming of sexual dysfunction, ranging well beyond recent obsessions with ED.
She does all of this with understated humor, even volunteering herself and her husband for some not-so-discreet ultrasound imaging. The book is definitely not without merit and is interesting, but it is scattershot - a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It tends to bounce along the surface alternating among the scenario, equipment, the science, the researcher, the participant, etc. More focus and organization are needed, but is still a pretty good contribution to a field that seemingly cannot be discussed forthrightly in the pseudo moralistic US.