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Mary Roach – Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

June 4, 2008

73. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach (2008)

Length: 319 pages

Genre: Non-Fiction; Pop-Sci

Started: 03 June 2008
Finished: 04 June 2008

Summary: Sex is one of the fundamental aspects of human life – the fundamental aspect of human life, from one way of looking at things – and yet it is one of the human functions that we know the least about… from a scientific standpoint, anyways. In Bonk, Roach describes her personal (sometimes very personal) investigations into the research of a variety of scientists and doctors who have and are currently working to shed some light on all aspects of this necessary, enjoyable, but woefully understudied activity.

Review: Due to a variety of cultural factors, sex just isn’t something you talk about – at least not in most situations. As Roach puts it early on in her prologue (aptly titled “Foreplay”), “Sex is one of those rare topics wherein the desire for others to keep the nitty-gritty of their experiences private is stronger even than the wish to keep mum on one’s own nitty-gritty.” However, I think she sells herself a little bit short; while most of us would prefer not to know the details of the sex lives of our acquaintances, friends, and relatives, reading a complete stranger’s account of sex inside an MRI machine can be quite fascinating. And, if Roach is that stranger, completely hilarious. She writes with flair and without embarrassment, not getting hung up on stodgy technical terminology but not shying away from some less-“appropriate” slang and innuendo, either. Her descriptions of some of the sex research of yore had me hooting with laughter (apparently someone was granted a master’s degree for determining whether chimpanzees had orgasms… manually determining), yet at the same time she was clearly concerned about accurately representing the science involved in the less ridiculous studies. The one issue that I had with this book was that Roach veered off on quite a few tangents, so that I’d get to the end of a chapter not entirely clear about how we’d gotten from point A to point B, but the topics were interesting enough and the writing clear and funny enough that even without a clear road map, it was still an enjoyable ride. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Not for the severely prudish, but everyone else who’s had sex, thougt about sex, or even heard of sex will probably be entertained by this book, and may even learn a thing or two in passing.

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First Line: A man sits in a room, manipulating his kneecaps.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2008 11:08 am

    Okay, that first line is completely bizarre.

  2. June 5, 2008 11:30 am

    Heh. The kneecaps were a control activity, to check baseline heartrate, blood flow, etc., to compare it to the experimental activity of manipulating… other body parts.

  3. June 5, 2008 9:38 pm

    I’m with Dev on that first line. Very strange, even without the subject matter. Still, I might have to keep my eyes open for this. It sounds fairly interesting.

  4. SomeDude permalink
    January 17, 2013 9:33 am

    It’s an interesting book. I learned quite a bit actually.
    However if I had an option, I would have preferred a summary. of each chapter. Most chapters could have been summarized in a sentence to a paragraph. There is far too much “fluff” throughout. Too many unnecessary off-topic descriptions and too many attempts at jokes that just fall flat.


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