Friday, 26 August 2011

Book review: Bonk

A couple of years ago I watched this TED talk, online, by Mary Roach, and I was moved to go and buy her book. It took me a while to get round to reading it (I have too many books in that queue!) but Oh, it was well worth it.

Bonk: the curious coupling of sex and science is just the cuddliest, funniest book you'll read about sexual physiology in your life. Concentrating on the hard science rather than social history or gender politics, Roach takes a wry (sometimes flippant) look at the history of scientific study of that physiology, carried out by some very eccentric, obsessive people and often in conditions of secrecy, peer opprobrium and public outrage.
She has chapters on the clitoris, penis, orgasm, erection and surgical enhancement (monkey glands, anyone?) but keeps getting swept off into strange diversions covering sex toys and penis cameras,  MRI scanners (she did it in a tube, for science) and sewing machines.

I learned a lot in the midst of my giggles. The book is just littered with weird facts you'd love to bring up at dinner parties. Like...

  • Foetuses masturbate in the womb.
  • Allowing for age, social class etc, the risk of death among men who have two or more orgasms a week is 50% lower than for men who orgasm less than once a month: Catholics priests die younger than Protestant ones.
  • Women get nocturnal erections during sleep in the same pattern that men do.
  • Not only are there penile, clitoral, vaginal and anal orgasms - there is such a thing as a non-genital orgasm. Orgasms during sleep are often non-genital. So are the orgasms of people with spinal injuries. Some people can do it by brushing their teeth, or sneezing, or just thinking about it.

  • Or - and this is a particularly good one for an uptight maiden aunt tucking into a bacon sandwich - pigs, unlike cows and horses, don't take well to artificial extraction of semen for AI purposes, so boars have to masturbated by human hand "hard and without let-up - for the entire duration of the ejaculation: from ten to fifteen minutes. You should see the size of their hands." 

And sex with animals is not limited to agricultrual workers, on or off the clock. You will not believe what scientists get up to in the lab...

I totally recommend Bonk - for anyone into sex, or popular science, or both - so long as they have an open mind and a sense of humour. 


Jeremy Edwards said...

Excellent—my risk of death must be something like 400% lower!

Janine Ashbless said...

I'm practically immortal...

Jo said...

Yeats had the monkey gonad operation! He was obsessed with virility and youthfulness - and all he had to do was keep wanking, bless him.

Sadly, I'm not sure the female orgasm is as toxin cleansing as the male one.

I don't know why it's startling about foetuses touching themselves, so do babies and toddlers. I mean.. why wouldn't they??

Janine Ashbless said...

Aargh, the monkey gonad thing! It's horrible! and it's not like surgery was even relatively risk-free in those days :-(

P,s: Hey Jo - you're back! Have a nice holiday?