Sexual physiology that’s laugh-out-loud funny
August 15, 2008
This is not meant to be an inflammatory statement, but I never thought books about science were supposed to be hilarious. But that was before I read anything by one of my now-favorite authors, Mary Roach.
I first discovered Roach at Salon.com. Years ago she wrote an article simply investigating how likely it is that you’ll catch a sexually transmitted disease by placing your derriere upon the seat of a public toilet. You see, (and I’ll try and put this delicately) Roach was fed up with entering women’s’ restrooms and finding that some fearful woman without a toilet seat cover had hovered over the seat and, uh, sprinkled all over the place.
In short, Roach quotes scientists who know exactly what germs dwell on public toilet seats, and who still say you’re not going to catch anything by touching them with your rear end. For heaven’s sake, ladies, Roach concludes, just sit down.
This is what I love the most about Mary Roach ” she gets curious about something that irks or intrigues her, looks into it (often at length) and the results are usually interesting and entertaining.
“Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex,” is the most recent result of her curiosity. Roach ventures into the world of sex researchers and beyond, looking into the elusive study of sexual physiology. Roach’s research takes her to pig farmers in Denmark who have learned how to arouse a female pig and increase the chance it will conceive piglets during insemination; she attends a “sex machine event” at the Center for Sex and Culture, and cites plenty of historic studies with graphic descriptions of female and male genitalia.
Roach is extremely dedicated to her topics. For this book she convinced her own husband, Ed, to participate in a study wherein they had sex in a London hospital in front of a researcher collecting ultrasound footage of human genitalia during the act. Roach often just observes ongoing research, but when the scientist ran into trouble recruiting volunteers, she became a participant. She approached her husband this way: “You know how you were saying that you haven’t been to Europe in 25 years?”
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Roach has a sharp sense of humor, and “Bonk” is the perfect platform for it. The intimate act with her husband in the name of science is laugh-out-loud funny. Throughout the book I found myself chuckling and reading her footnotes out loud to whoever was nearby. Are footnotes even supposed to be funny?
There isn’t anyone I wouldn’t recommend this book to. Roach’s first book, “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” was perhaps more fascinating than “Bonk,” but it wasn’t for the faint of heart. While I wait for her to write another book, I’m crossing my fingers that the Aspen Writers’ Foundation invites Mary Roach to town so I can tell her how I admire her writing. And to glimpse a woman who goes to such lengths in pursuit of the best book possible.