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Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

4.0 181
by Mary Roach

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The best-selling author of Stiff turns her outrageous curiosity and infectious wit on the most alluring scientific subject of all: sex.
The study of sexual physiology—what happens, and why, and how to make it happen better—has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research


The best-selling author of Stiff turns her outrageous curiosity and infectious wit on the most alluring scientific subject of all: sex.
The study of sexual physiology—what happens, and why, and how to make it happen better—has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research has taken place behind the closed doors of laboratories, brothels, MRI centers, pig farms, sex-toy R&D labs, and Alfred Kinsey’s attic. Mary Roach, “the funniest science writer in the country” (Burkhard Bilger of The New Yorker), devoted the past two years to stepping behind those doors. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Why doesn’t Viagra help women—or, for that matter, pandas? In Bonk, Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm, two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth, can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to slowly make the bedroom a more satisfying place.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker called Mary Roach "the funniest science writer in the country," a strange accolade perhaps for someone best known for books on death and its aftermath. With this book, the author of Stiff and Spook finds a topic guaranteed to make us giggle: sex. Bonk leads us on a zestful romp through the scientific study of lust, ecstasy, and the co-mingling of genitalia. Roach shows that the apparently tireless work of sex researchers often skirts some very funny boundaries.
Pamela Paul
In her previous books, Stiff and a follow-up, Spook, Mary Roach set out to make creepy topics (cadavers, the afterlife) fun. In Bonk…she takes an entertaining topic and showcases its creepier side. And then she makes the creepy funny. Intended as much for amusement as for enlightenment, Bonk is Roach's foray into the world of sex research, mostly from Alfred Kinsey onward, but occasionally harking back to the ancient Greeks and medievals (equally unenlightened). Roach belongs to a particular strain of science writer; she's interested less in scientific subjects than in the ways scientists study their subjects—less, in this case, in sex per se than in the laboratory dissection of sex.
—The New York Times
Rick Weiss
In keeping with her popular previous volumes Stiff and Spook, Bonk shows Mary Roach to be a meticulous researcher with a passion for the details most likely to make you queasy…Roach is funny and…as insurance against a dull cocktail party, Bonk can't be beat.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Roach's glimpse into the inner workings of sex, be it the orgasm, erection or even the use of Viagra on animals, is a refreshing and fascinating study. Sandra Burr offers a straightforward, unfiltered reading that captures Roach's sense of humor perfectly. Taking the taboo out of the touchy subject matter and giving listeners an entertaining, unbiased look at sexual intercourse, Burr offers an everyday approach to the hot topic that will appeal to a wide ranging audience. Simultaneous release with the W.W. Norton hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 25). (May)

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Library Journal

Roach (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers) has written an incredibly informative history of human sexual physiology, one about the "dirty old men" (and women)-researchers-who, despite societal taboos, have tried to understand the biology of sex. Narrator Sandra Burr's enjoyment of Roach's descriptions and wry comments is obvious (Burr both reads and directs for Brilliance), making this a pleasure to hear. While probably not a great choice for children, this program isn't pornographic, and librarians should not hesitate to put it on general library shelves. Recommended for all adult recreational audiobook collections. [Audio clip available through library. brillianceaudio.com; the Norton hc also received a starred review, LJ3/1/08.-Ed.]
—I. Pour-El

School Library Journal

It takes one kind of skill to pack a book full of scientific information (physical, chemical, emotional) about human sex and sexuality research in the 20th century and to do it with care and thoughtfulness. And it takes another kind of talent to do it with wit, humor, and pure enjoyment. Roach's third book (after Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadaversand Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife) beautifully succeeds in both categories. Working from the early 1900s to the present, Roach carefully and systematically surveys sex research and its findings, examining what was scientific about these studies. She also investigates the sometimes bizarre equipment and conditions devised for the research. There are frequent references to past contributors such as Masters and Johnson and Alfred Kinsey and plenty of information from current contributors both in the United States as well as around the world. Readers will find that Roach's informative and witty footnotes skillfully anticipate questions the text will stimulate. Any side avenue Roach may appear to go down always loops back to her central topic, and she handles the nuances of discussing sex and sexuality very nicely-even when the discussion involves the author and her husband. Highly recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/07.]
—Michael D. Cramer Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
Wondering whether orgasms make sows more fertile? Turn to Roach for the answer. One of the funniest and most madcap of science writers, the author has approached sticky subjects to hilarious effect in her two previous books. Stiff (2003) looked at the many uses to which human cadavers have been put, while Spook (2005) told of science's attempts to understand the afterlife. Her latest is no less captivating or entertaining, as she flings wide the closed doors behind which the scientific study of coitus has traditionally been conducted. Roach details the careers of sex researchers Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Marie Bonaparte (Napoleon's great-grand-niece) and porn-star-turned-Ph.D. Annie Sprinkle, among others. Such researchers "to this day, endure ignorance, closed minds, righteousness, and prudery," she writes. "Their lives are not easy. But their cocktail parties are the best." Emulating her subjects' daring spirit, Roach displays a firm belief that there is no question too goofy to ask-or, barring that, to Google. What happens when you implant a monkey testicle in a man: Does he get more vital, or does he get an infection? She explores centuries of research into such questions as how penile implants work (a pump could be involved); whether surgically relocating the clitoris can lead to better sex (no); why the human penis is shaped as it is (to scoop out competitors' sperm); and what exactly is going on when it enters a vagina (shockingly, there is still much to learn). Apart from its considerable comic value, the book also emulates its predecessors by illustrating a precept of scientific research: The passion to know, in the face of censure and propriety, iswhat advances our understanding of the world. A lively, hilarious and informative look at science's dirty secrets. Agent: Jay Mandel/William Morris Agency
Wall Street Journal
“Roach is a fearless and witty reporter.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Roach ferrets out basic truths and endless absurd details amid mountains of dry science on her chosen subject. . . . It’s a wonderful read, sprinkled with facts you can quote to amaze your friends.”
New York Times Book Review
“[Mary Roach] is a bold, tenacious, and insatiable reporter. . . . A greatly satisfying romp.”
O: The Oprah Magazine
“Roll over, Kinsey. Mary Roach has done it again. Like Stiff, her improbable page-turner about cadavers, Bonk proves that full-bodied research can be riveting.”
The The Oprah Magazine O
“Roll over, Kinsey. Mary Roach has done it again.... Bonk proves that full-bodied research can be riveting.”
A.J. Jacobs
“I would read Mary Roach on the history of Quonset huts. But Mary Roach on sex? That's a godsend! This book is—if not better than the act itself—then a hilarious and entertaining alternative.”
Erik Larson
“[An] account that is at once revealing—alarmingly so—and very very funny. She studs (forgive me) her journey with a multitude of knee-crossing bits of fact that will enliven bedtime conversation everywhere.”

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Mary Roach is the author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Wired, National Geographic, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.

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Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 181 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading science writer Mary Roach is always a pleasure and this new book is no different. The Californian journalist surely has an eye for quirky and the downright sensational. In 2003, she ventured into the fate of dead bodies in her hit book Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers. After that, she wrote on theories of the soul in Six Feet Over: Adventures In The Afterlife. This time, she has outdone herself with the sexiest topic of all: well, sex itself. She takes a romp through all the history of the study of sexual physiology, tackling questions such as: Can you have an orgasm just by using your head? Why doesn't Viagra help women? Is the clitoris a tiny penis? Roach takes these juicy topics head on with painstaking research - just look at the endless entertaining footnotes - and intrepid excursions to meet some interesting personalities. For example, there is the visit to a Danish pig farm to observe farmers enhancing sow pleasure during artificial insemination for better results. She also goes to Taiwan to speak to a doctor who specializes in penis surgery. In another chapter, she and her husband volunteer as subjects in an experiment to capture a real-time image of human intercourse. Her husband chats to the officer during the observed sex to diffuse the tension while Roach takes notes. Her quip? 'I feel like a secretary in a ribald French comedy.' Indeed, it is Roach's eye for comedy and oddball interests that drive the book at a spry pace. The journey is entertaining and enlightening. Critics have said that her cleverness is a mask for bad organization and her smirky tone is a general turn-off. But one feels that real warmth and sympathy do come through in the book and Roach shows respect for research scientists who, in her words, 'endure ignorance, closed minds, righteousness and prudery'. 'Their lives are not easy. But their cocktail parties are the best.' We should not quarrel with a voice like that.
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
Saw Mary Roach on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (she was a riot!) and bought all her books to read. "Bonk" (as in 'he bonked her') is about sex and the science practiced on the subject over the past 150 years. Somehow Roach found just about every scientific and medical experiment and study done on anything to do with sex and digested them all into this brief book (it could have been volumes.) She goes with the best stuff, the weird and funny stuff, and throws in her own wit and sometimes gross humor. The things some people have done in the name of research is mind-blowing. The 'results' are fascinating. Roach's take on it all makes you laugh out loud. I learned a few things, too. I might mention that we also saw Mary Roach give a TED lecture some time ago on the subject of orgasms. A 15 minute digest on the topic for the TED annual convention (you can find it and watch it on the TED web site). That, too, was a riot! And, unless you're a prude, you'll probably love this book and the lecture.
Whymsy More than 1 year ago
Not for the General Reader. Roach has a playful, but matter-of-fact writing style making a very charged subject more comfortable –though by no means relaxed. Her genius for chapter titles and ability to put her real feelings and experiences researching and writing this book made me feel like I wasn’t alone as I wrestled with my own colorings and impressions of the info she presented. Overall this book is quite the trip. I definitely experienced “What the hell?” moments that stuck with me. At times I laughed out loud and other times I cringed as my over active imagination supplied me with images I can never unsee. It took me awhile to get through it as I wrestled with my feelings on the wide variety of subjects and I would say this isn’t your typical one sit read. This book deserves a chance to be absorbed and thought over, not rushed through like a racer only looking for the finished line. Caution: This is not a book for the general reader and definitely only for older somewhat(which always is relative) mature readers, but I do have to say I liked it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had read and loved her book Stiff and was excited to find this book at a Body Worlds exhibit. This book was not a disappointment. Mary Roach and her hubby throw themselves into her research, and the results are hilarious. Another win for Mary Roach. Not a book for anyine who is not interested in human body function or for the prudish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While the title certainly seems titilating, the book swings from funny to gross to amazing to unbelievable, and back again, too often to notice there's not much here for those seeking a cheap thrill. Instead, expect to find a new appreciation for those bold enough to study what are often taboo subjects, and she who was bold enough to write about them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ihave to tip my hat to mary roach for this book. I like the way she talked about sex in a way that was funny as well as informative. I will say this book opened my eyes in more eays than one. This is a must read, its not for kids but one book that will stick with you for awhile
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach approaches every subject with curiosity and humor. I love her writing! The footnotes may be my favrite parts.
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Love Mary Roach's work and this book was especially entertaining! Who doesn't like reading about sex? For purely scientific purposes of course!
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BigLar81 More than 1 year ago
This is a great read, especially if you love facts with story telling. I was afraid this would be a dry but factual account of the history of sex research! But it really is an interesting and most amusing and somewhat titilating story of the study of sex research. Although I am not sure i would have participated in the research in the same manner as the author. This is a fast and entertaining read, we'll worth the time and cost. Still the subject matter stirs controversy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this......so informative and hilarious as usual.
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Dr_Wilson_Trivino More than 1 year ago
Bees do it, birds do it, heck we even do it. What am I talking about … SEX! In Bonk, Mary Roach uses her tenacious research style to see out the true nitty-gritty of this taboo subject. More than a mere salacious tale, Bonk delves into every imaginable area to human sexuality. From the traditional to the bizarre to the technical, Roach jumps right in with gusto in finding out the why. It can get a little bit technical at times for my taste, I did learn many new things that relate to the one thing we must do to survive, have lots of sex to foster a new generation. She covers the most complex phenomenal of the world- the orgasm. Bonk is a must read to those that want to get the skinny on SEX.
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