Monday, December 8, 2014

The laboratory study of sex has never been an easy, safe, or well-paid undertaking

I've decided to take a break from throwing tinsel around the house to actually write a book review. I really need to get on these considering I'm still working on reviewing books I read in September. Whoops.

Anyway, to the review. Over the years my friends and I have managed to very far from each other, because we're dumb. Also jobs. Whatever. The point is, we decided we wanted to do more stuff despite differences in timezones and thus set up a virtual book club and our first book was Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach.

I've wanted to read one of Roach's book since I heard someone describe her as sort of Bill Bryson-esque, taking on topics like the digestive system, cadavers, and sex. So hell yes I am down with that. And I'm happy to say that Bonk lived up to my expectations.

Bonk is not only a book about sex, but specifically the intersection of sex and science (you know, if you didn't get that from the subtitle); about sex as studied in laboratories. As she says
It wasn't until the past half century that lab-based science embraced the pursuit of better, more satisfying sex...This book is a tribute to the men and women who dared. Who, to this day, endure ignorance, closed minds, righteousness, and prudery. Their lives are not easy. But their cocktail parties are the best.
She talks  about some of the big names like Alfred Kinsey and Masters & Johnson,* but also about Princess Marie Bonaparte (Napoleon's great-grand-niece) and her quest to figure out the optimal distance from clit to vaginal canal for orgasm during intercourse, or Dr. Geng-Long Hsu, a Taiwanese surgeon who performs operations (which are described in great detail, or at least more detail than perhaps I needed) to fix erectile disfunction issues or Dr. Ahmed Shafik, an Egyptian doctor who studied the effects of polyester on sexual activity by studying a bunch of rats in pants. Roach covers the history of sexual science, where it has come from and where it's going and all of the problems it's run into. Problems like male gynecologists not being allowed to look at female genitalia, which is a pretty big fucking problem.

The book isn't in chronological order, but instead hops around to different topics like "The Testical Pushers: If Two Are Good, Would Three Be Better?" and "The Prescription-Strength Vibrator: Masturbating for Health." It's funny without making fun of those that havedevoted their lives to studying sex. Roach takes the work these people are doing seriously, while admitting all of the ridiculous stuff that you might encounter (see above: rats in pants).

If any of the stuff I've said so far interests you, I absolutely recommend you check out this book. I like Roach's style (so much so I just picked up another of her books, Stiff) and as for the topic really, who doesn't want to learn something more about sex? And it was a hit with the book club.

Gif rating:

*SIDE NOTE, have any of you watched Masters of Sex? Because you probably should. It's sort of like Mad Men, in that it's a drama that takes place in roughly the same time period. And it has Lizzy Caplan, Alison Janney, and Sarah Silverman in it.

Title quote from page 303

Roach, Mary. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Norton, 2008.