An amusing book about the ingenious ways scientists have studied sex and overcome the social barriers to their research, Bonk, by Mary Roach is filled with weird science facts. Most of them are pretty trivial, like the way porcupines do it. Some of them you may not want to know, like how to ape the attentions a boar gives a sow. And a few are leg-crossingly disgusting, like the graphic description of surgical treatment for impotence. You might want to listen to an interview first and decide whether you enjoy her sense of humor.
Since it’s so hard to find volunteers, the author (and her incredibly game husband) participate in some of this research. It can be entertaining to learn how researchers have used well-placed cameras, heart monitors, and MRI to document what’s really happening “down there.” But you’d think with so much discussion of science, you might learn more than a smattering of hydraulics and hidden organs. Just when you think there might be some real insights offered, you get the authorial shrug of “women are complicated.” So, if there’s any lessons to be drawn, it’s familiar advice: communicate, pay attention, and keep practicing.
Just don’t read this out loud on the bus.
Next week: Birds and bees, in the merry, merry month of May.