Thursday, January 3, 2013

BOOK REVIEW - Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex - Mary Roach

If you’ve ever been curious about the postal service’s contribution to treating erectile dysfunction, what exactly went on in Alfred Kinsey’s attic, and what, if any, is the benefit of sex machines, this is the book for you. Mary Roach, who is best known for her book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, the best-selling book about corpses (a book I stumbled across after its cameo appearance on the TV show Six Feet Under) takes on a whole new area of study in her newest book, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. As the name implies, her newest book tackles the topic of the historical scientific study of human sexuality (or, in some cases, the lack thereof). This book once again proves her ability to take what could be dry research and infuse it with vitality.

Ever the intrepid researcher, Roach follows her research topic into strange (and sometimes terrifying) places. In the name of research she braves the ripe stench that is a barn full of sows in heat and offers herself (and a somewhat reticent husband) as subjects to find out how ultrasounds of human copulation work. Those with weak stomachs would be well advised to skip the beginning of chapter six, where she describes in detail the work of Dr. Hsu, one of the world’s leading urologists. Trust me, it’s graphic.

Reading the book I was impressed by Roach’s talents not just as a writer, but as a researcher. The book is written with thoughtful detail and Roach demonstrates her extraordinary ability to cherry pick the juiciest and most interesting bits of information, making what could be tedious and long-winded research from a far-gone era not only relevant but, in many cases, hilarious. Her writing style is quick, witty, and with just the right balance of authority and humour. Even the footnotes were worth reading, in some cases making me laugh out loud.

I would recommend this book as required reading for any self-appointed sexologist or sexpert. This book knocks other surveys of sex study off the shelf. Covering every significant theory, study and persona in the area of sex research and sexology from Alfred Kinsey and his Report on Female Sexuality to Johnson and Masters to Carol Queen, she slogged through the dry, the boring and the just plain weird so that you don’t have to.

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