Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex - Mary Roach (2009)

  • February 9, 2014 · 5:00 PM

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


Roach is one of those rare writers who can tackle the most obscure unpleasantness and distill the data into a hilarious and informative package… It’s a wonderful read, sprinkled with facts you can quote to amaze your friends.

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 (Our October 2013 book). She lives in Oakland, California.

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  • Bert H.

    I didn't think this book would lend itself to a good discussion but was pleasantly surprised.

    1 · February 9, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Unfortunately, I'm still at work and will not be able to attend today. :-(

    February 9, 2014

    • Jeffrey C. J.

      Sorry you couldn't make it; but I'm sure you're making great dishes!

      February 9, 2014

  • Jeffrey C. J.

    Sorry I couldn't convince Mary to come! :)

    February 9, 2014

  • Andy

    Sorry for the late cancelation but I have a project to turn in and I am running a bit behind on it. Look forward to attending the next meetup.

    February 9, 2014

  • Jeffrey C. J.

    And I'm gonna stick with Panera tomorrow because we're small enough I don't think the Library suits us.

    February 8, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    This is a great book (I've read it before), but I have other plans. I'm looking forward to attending next time.

    1 · February 8, 2014

    • Jeffrey C. J.

      I suppose I could set up Skype but never mind, I'm glad you liked it!

      February 8, 2014

  • Jeffrey C. J.

    Folks, it looks like a lot of you are new to the meetup, so just letting everyone know how we do this. It's really simple and informal. We try to get the big table by the window but sometimes are in the back room of the Panera. It's okay to arrive early and just chat, or stay later but the book discussion will be from 17:00 to 18:00 and you're welcome to bring up anything that's on your mind. We do sometimes go off on tangents and that's okay as long as we're inspired by the book of the month. Other than that, it's pretty informal and the only other thing is I take attendance so I can get a better idea of who to expect at subsequent meetings.

    February 6, 2014

  • Jeffrey C. J.

    Folks, given the nature of this topic I may move us just this once to the Reston Library, in the meeting rooms to the left of the entrance. Still our usual time, but we'd meet there and there'd be no Panera to serve us. I'm only preparing the room for booking but I may cancel it if we still prefer Panera; the Bowie Bevy of Brainy Books had no problem though discussing this at the Panera in Bowie Town Center so I don't think it's necessary to move but if people prefer it, we should have that as an alternative assuming it's approved.

    December 16, 2013

    • Jeffrey C. J.

      I've created a poll to decide where we meet; I'll be deciding around 1 February so by the time the second announcement comes, it should indicate our official location.

      January 12, 2014

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