Mary Roach strikes it big again with Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Like her two previous books, Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Spook: Science Tackles the After Life, Roach explores an often under-discussed yet extremely fascinating and history rich topic—in this case, sex—that proves both educational and entertaining at the same time.
Some of the various topics addressed in Bonk include self-willed orgasms, cross-cultural (cringe worthy) approaches to treating erectile dysfunction, and fetal masturbation. Roach looks at the classic sex researchers, including Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson, and summarizes the significance of their findings while also addressing the flaws in their research. She discusses the data on the female climax and the role it may—or may not—play in conception. She discusses artificial testicle implants for both humans and pets (for the sake of Fido’s self-esteem), and tiger penis soup and its mythical powers. And the list goes on and on. Every chapter explores another unique and, yes, scientific area in the field of sex research. Warning: don’t pick up this book hoping for a more intellectually stimulating Fifty Shades of Grey, because you’ll be left wanting—or more accurately, not wanting.
Roach has a knack for summarizing other people’s research in a way that makes it understandable for the layman, while not dumbing it down or oversimplifying the significance of the findings. She inserts witty humor that is tasteful and humanizing and makes a potentially snooze-worthy, scientific topic compelling (not that “nocturnal penile tumescence monitoring” could ever be boring). Roach is clearly passionate about her research, taking it to the extreme of volunteering herself and her husband as test subjects in some of the studies addressed in Bonk. Ever tasteful in her writing, she does keep her finds professional and clean—or at least as clean as it can be when you’re talking about sexual anatomy, positions and physical responses—while subtly inserting clever innuendos and euphemisms.
The one criticism I have about Bonk is its lack of enough research on homosexuality. Though the topic is not overlooked entirely, I felt there could have been more addressed on the topics of homo- and bi-sexual practices and their deep historical presence. A possible explanation for this seeming hole however could be that there is still simply not enough accurate, laboratory tested data in this field.