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Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex [Kindle Edition]

Mary Roach
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (345 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The best-selling author of Stiff turns her outrageous curiosity and infectious wit on the most alluring scientific subject of all: sex.

The study of sexual physiology—what happens, and why, and how to make it happen better—has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research has taken place behind the closed doors of laboratories, brothels, MRI centers, pig farms, sex-toy R&D labs, and Alfred Kinsey's attic.

Mary Roach, "the funniest science writer in the country" (Burkhard Bilger of The New Yorker), devoted the past two years to stepping behind those doors. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Why doesn't Viagra help women—or, for that matter, pandas? In Bonk, Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm, two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth, can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to slowly make the bedroom a more satisfying place.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Roach is not like other science writers. She doesn't write about genes or black holes or Schrödinger's cat. Instead, she ventures out to the fringes of science, where the oddballs ponder how cadavers decay (in her debut, Stiff) and whether you can weigh a person's soul (in Spook). Now she explores the sexiest subject of all: sex, and such questions as, what is an orgasm? How is it possible for paraplegics to have them? What does woman want, and can a man give it to her if her clitoris is too far from her vagina? At times the narrative feels insubstantial and digressive (how much do you need to know about inseminating sows?), but Roach's ever-present eye and ear for the absurd and her loopy sense of humor make her a delectable guide through this unesteemed scientific outback. The payoff comes with subjects like female orgasm (yes, it's complicated), and characters like Ahmed Shafik, who defies Cairo's religious repressiveness to conduct his sex research. Roach's forays offer fascinating evidence of the full range of human weirdness, the nonsense that has often passed for medical science and, more poignantly, the extreme lengths to which people will go to find sexual satisfaction. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The New Yorker dubbed Roach “the funniest science writer in the country.” OK, maybe there’s not a lot of competition. But even if there were thousands of science-humor writers, she would be the sidesplitting favorite. Of course, she chooses good subjects: cadavers in Stiff (2003), ghosts in Spook (2005), and now a genuinely fertile topic in Bonk. As Roach points out, scientists studying sex are often treated with disdain, as though there is something inherently suspicious about the enterprise. Yet through understanding the anatomy, physiology, and psychology of sexual response, scientists can help us toward greater marital and nonmarital happiness. Such altruistic intentions, which the book shares, aren’t the wellspring of its appeal, however. That lies in the breezy tone in which Roach describes erectile dysfunction among polygamists, penis cameras, relative organ sizes and enhancement devices, and dozens of other titillating subjects. Not to be missed: the martial art of yin diao gung (“genitals hanging kung fu”), monkey sex athletes, and the licensing of porn stars’ genitals for blow-up reproductions. To stay on the ethical side of human-subjects experimentation, Roach offers herself as research subject several times, resulting in some of her best writing. --Patricia Monaghan

Product Details

  • File Size: 284 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0393064646
  • Publisher: Norton (April 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0011UJLC6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,919 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
343 of 347 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars were you ever in an MRI with a friend? March 30, 2008
Format:Hardcover
This a truly great tale of a first-hand look at science and sex from both the inside and the outside! Mary Roach provides a humorous and often very personal view--both as a participant and observer--of humans, animals, and mechanical devices: there is much that you would never have imagined, and perhaps would rather never of heard of at all. She and her husband Ed have sex in a 20-inch diameter MRI tube in the interests of science. The doctor looks on, makes suggestions, and finally tells Ed "You may ejaculate now". The author also recounts the experiments by Kinsey is his attic many years ago and tries to track down the film footage.

The author's great sense of humor needs to be read to be believed. She spares no one, and particularly not herself or her husband. She travels to Taiwan to watch an implant operation. In one of the funniest parts[and this says a lot, since the book will have you howling a lot] she goes to Denmark to watch artificial insemination of sows. We know this happens with cows, and you might suppose that there's not much difference with pigs, but you'd be wrong, very wrong indeed. Suffice it to say that the best results occur, when, among other things best not mentioned here, the AI person lies down on the sow's back and fondles her teats during the process. You may never regard your morning sausage quite the same way again.

The author has a lot of asides that are a delight to read. If you usually skip the footnotes in a book, you'll miss a lot here. You'll learn a lot--for all the things that might seem frivolous, but which are not, the book is a scientific one. Roach has a curiosity, an appetite for knowledge, and has the capability that perhaps most scientists do not have, which is to mix science and humor.
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80 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
"Not everyone gets their (masturbation study) funding from research grants. Some masturbation professionals get their funding from the sales of Vibrating Port-A-Pussies and Mr. Fred Jelly Dongs." - Mary Roach in BONK

"To get inside a lubricated vagina, a penis needs to be hard enough to push against the opening with one to two pounds of force. That is approximately the amount of force required to open a swinging kitchen door." - Mary Roach in BONK

Mary Roach is the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, the enormously instructive and entertaining book on the uses to which human cadavers are put. As far as I'm concerned, instructive AND entertaining is about as good as it gets. With BONK, Roach has outdone herself with a read that I couldn't put down.

Science pursues sex because, after all, it's what makes the world turn. Roach first establishes the history of the science, which pretty much reached mainstream acceptance with researchers Alfred Kinsey and then William Masters and Virginia Johnson. (An excellent film about the former, starring Liam Neeson, is 2004's Kinsey.
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Things We Do For "Love" April 5, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Author Mary Roach set out to find and write about sex research around the world (and about the yeilds of that research) and wound up following a lot of very strange paths. From a urologists office in Taipei to a sow furrowing operation in Denmark to a "toy" manufacturer in Chatsworth California, the author tracked down all leads that were presented to her and followed up to learn all there was about how the human anatomy works and why research on this subject is usually cloaked in euphemisms. At times she delves back into the 1800s to explain how we are where we are today and why.

To say the book is funny is an understatement. The author has a gift for puns and uses it to maximum potential, taking material that could be somewhat dry and turning it into page turning reading. If you are interested in the science of sex and love to laugh, this is a wonderful book that will not fail to deliver.
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69 of 77 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but a little scattershot (3.5 *s) September 16, 2008
Format:Hardcover
The author in this book basically researches sex researchers and their work: sexual anatomy, function, and response. She does this with certain misgivings, as sex research, even in modern times, has largely had to fly under the radar. Researchers often have to battle insinuations that they "enjoy" their work just a bit too much.

She travels widely to investigate any number of relevant topics. The subjects are both human and animal; and the use of a variety of technologies from MRIs, ultrasound, and personal devices receives attention. A major focus of the author is on the understanding and overcoming of sexual dysfunction, ranging well beyond recent obsessions with ED.

She does all of this with understated humor, even volunteering herself and her husband for some not-so-discreet ultrasound imaging. The book is definitely not without merit and is interesting, but it is scattershot - a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It tends to bounce along the surface alternating among the scenario, equipment, the science, the researcher, the participant, etc. More focus and organization are needed, but is still a pretty good contribution to a field that seemingly cannot be discussed forthrightly in the pseudo moralistic US.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars informative and entertaining
Bonk is a great read and Roach is a fantastic author. While the topic is, by its very definition, of great interest to many readers, Roach's dry wit and voluminous information... Read more
Published 22 hours ago by P. Shapiro
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good easy read but a bit disjointed
It is a nice history and travelog of her time delving into the subject but she does not offer any specific conclusions or much in the way of lessons learned from her fascination... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Alan L. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Stupid stupid stickers
Why are the stickers they put on used books so freaking hard to get off?? I spent an hour scrubbing at it with rubbing alcohol. The book looks good though...
Published 8 days ago by taxonomdeplume
2.0 out of 5 stars No Real Content
Very basic boring book. A collection of interesting anecdotes surrounded by a conversational attitude, can be fun. Somehow it isn't.
Published 11 days ago by 'bekah
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book
I enjoyed the historical perspectives that were shown in the book.

I also appreciated how it tried to differentiate concepts continually mentioned by the media with what... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Book-Aholic
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
This book definitely kept my attention and I will be recommending it to my friends. May even read it again in a few months which is rare for me.
Published 13 days ago by Anne
3.0 out of 5 stars 70 years too late
As a nonagenarian I just wish a lot of the info here was available (maybe it was, but not known to me) when I was young enough to find it useful. Read more
Published 22 days ago by gamma-ray guy
4.0 out of 5 stars Bonk
Good read and I love the humor interspersed with the interesting facts! Definitely makes an interesting read into the history and study of sex.
Published 25 days ago by Makeba Bostic
4.0 out of 5 stars Sex the Weird Way
A very educational and entertaining read. Definitely not detailed, descriptive, salacious, or pornographic, but still entertaining about the development of studies about sex and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dorothy O. Dewing
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
Informative yes. Funny no. Save your money. It is Masters & Johnson all over again with an attempt at humor that just did not work.
Published 1 month ago by lost in cyber world
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More About the Author

MARY ROACH is the author of "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers," "Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife," "Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex," and "Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void." She lives in Oakland, California.

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