I just finished Bonk by Mary Roach and what an interesting look at the technologies of science! As some of you know, my specialty in philosophy is the philosophy of sex, love, and human relationships. When I grabbed this book, I was expecting this to be purely scientific, abstract, and looked at from a distance. The author actually gets involved in the research and takes you through a journey to the interesting (and weird) displays of how sex and science come together.
The author’s involvement was a little distracting at first (I guess because of my expectations) but after a while, I got used to it. It was fun to read about her misadventures of trying to gain sexual research, being somewhat embarrassed when people found out what she was studying, and we’re learning along the way.
This book is part history, part science, and extremely readable. However, don’t expect for Roach to discuss the scientific aspects of what goes on in the body during sex (although she discusses a little of it as a side note). This book is mainly about the eccentric aspect of sexuality: how vibrators got started, studying orgasms by watching pigs (apparently, they’re the only other species that fondles breasts during coition), Masters and Johnson’s penetrating machine, clitoral pumps to cure FSAD (Female Sexual Arousal Disorder), 4-D MRI’s (which I was amazed that Ms. Roach and her husband Ed volunteered to do this study, in the name of science), Da Vinci’s diagrams of the penis (apparently, he was the first to figure out the correct anatomical framework of a penis), insertion of penile rods for paralegic people (that chapter was a little squeemish for me to read), and countless others.
All in all, it’s a fun read. It’s not academic, but it’ll certainly whet you’re appetite about the synthesis of sex and science. I should point out that if you’re expecting a straight out scientific outlook of sex, it’s best to go straight to the experts: Masters and Johnson. Roach’s book seems to talk about the eccentricities of sexuality, but when it comes to the standard stuff, she seems to mention it in passing (or maybe I was just skimming it because it was rephrasing Masters and Johnson and I’m already familiar with it).
All in all, if you’re interested in sexuality in general–and even the eccentric quirks about sexuality–this book is for you. It’s an easy read and surprisingly bold in some places, (like I said, I cringed during the penile implants, and I raised my eyebrows about the sixtysomething year old women who wanted to try the “Thrillhammer”). Roach also brings in some humor with it which adds a nice human touch.