A review of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
So, Mary Roach is a very funny person. There may be no other writer on the planet, including Woody Allen, who could delve so deeply into the mechanics, the chemistry, and the psychology of sex while managing to unleash laughter out loud on just about every other page. The woman is a marvel.
Like Roach’s three other widely-admired books of popular science — Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void — Bonk is thoroughly researched and full of insight. However, as you can tell from the titles, she picks her subjects with a twinkle in her eye. It’s hard to imagine a more skillful way to reimmerse jaded, well-read adults in science — for the first time since our teens, in so many cases.
Consider, for example, some of Roach’s chapter titles:
- “Remember Me Transplants, Implants, and Other Penises of Last Resort”
- “The Prescription-Strength Vibrator: Masturbating for Health”
- “Sexual Intercourse as a Potential Treatment for Intractable Hiccups”
I defy any reader to point to three chapter-headings in any other book that are more provocative than those!
Wondering about that case of hiccups? Here’s Roach explaining the matter. “Followers of sixteenth-century naturalist Li Shih-Chen [used] sun-dried, powdered wolf epiglottis. Li’s hiccup remedy, found in the Chinese Materia Medica, is probably quite effective, for in the time it takes to track and wolf and sun-dry its epiglottis, even the most stubborn case of hiccups will invariably have passed.”
And here’s Roach on the difference between males and females: “I give you a sentence, my favorite sentence in the entire oeuvre of Alfred Kinsey, from Sexual Behavior in the Human Female: ‘Cheese crumbs spread in front of a copulating pair of rats may distract the female, but not the male.'”
Is there anything more to be said?