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Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex Paperback – April 6, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 499 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (April 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393334791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393334791
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (499 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David W. Straight on 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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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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Format: Hardcover
Ms Roach has written a hiliarious account of science in search of better sex. A lot of her discoveries fall into the category of "It seemed like a good idea at the time." The author of previous off the wall subjects like "Spook" (post-death exploration) and "Stiff" (dead bodies), she has the knack of finding obscure information that no one has ever heard of. While the book is verbally graphic, it is not porn. She injects herself into her story and her humor resembles the writer, P.J. O'Rourke.
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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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