Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
by Mary Roach
Leonardo da Vinci held a dim view of sex. “Copulation,” he once said, “is awkward and disgusting.” His attitude, writes author Mary Roach, didn’t prevent him from studying human genitalia in some detail. Yet Leonardo was an outlier in the history of sex research. Well into the 20th century, Roach says, other scientific pioneers were so squeamish about studying the mechanics of human sex that even leaders in the field resorted to extrapolating from the observed mating habits of small woodland animals. Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey famously pushed science beyond many old inhibitions in the 1950s, but barriers remain. If a scientist today isn’t interested in developing a new Viagra, says Roach, obtaining funding can be a problem.
Roach is an unusually entertaining science writer, said Pamela Paul in The New York Times. In her best-known book, Stiff, she took a close look at the myriad fates of cadavers and made facing death fun. In Bonk, she finds deep comedy in a potentially titillating topic. Part of her trick is that she’s “interested less in scientific subjects than in the ways scientists study their subjects.” She’s without doubt a “bold, tenacious” reporter, ready to crisscross the globe to scrutinize various research frontiers. But she’s also winningly amused by goofy scholarly jargon or the idea of couples trying to get it on while they’re wired like marionettes to various monitoring devices.
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