In this hilarious book about the science of sex, Mary Roach takes a broad look at all the sex researchers who have put their reputations on the line to study something derided by others. She mainly focuses on the last hundred years, discussing such sensitive topics as the female orgasm, male impotence, and animal sexuality with more than a touch of humor that makes this book a surprisingly quick and amusing read, with some information tucked in where no one would ever suspect it.
I have heard a lot about Mary Roach, mostly good. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with her other two books, so I decided to start with this one, especially given that my library had it. I definitely didn’t make a mistake there. This book was constantly laugh-out-loud funny. I was trying to get it read fairly quickly as someone else had placed a hold on it at the library by the time I tried to renew it, so I sat and read it straight through in one solid blast of information. I did not expect it to be so funny. Sex definitely can carry awkwardness, anyone who remembers sixth-grade health class knows that, but Roach turns it around and makes that awkwardness funny, especially when she comments on the roundabout ways the scientists used to describe it in their papers in order to justify their research.
I also found the book to be very informative. This is, after all, non-fiction, and packed with facts about sex. It may be funny and easy to read, but it delivers what is essentially a history and summation of sex research, broken up into categories which are chosen for maximum interest and amusement potential. Most of this information isn’t exactly useful, but it’s certainly not going to be found anywhere else.
Even the way Roach carries out her research is made to be amusing. She writes about the difficulties of figuring out what these scientists actually did, given that she can’t get their videos or equipment, of talking to current researchers, and even of using herself and her husband as subjects in a study. She’s so up front and frank about these things that it’s impossible to feel uncomfortable even when she’s describing being naked in an MRI machine. She travels around the world in aid of her research and must have garnered herself quite a reputation, but part of this book’s aim seems to show us that this is a perfectly valid and interesting research field. It’s awkward, but there is certainly work to be done, and the results are surprisingly worthy.
In my opinion, Bonk is definitely the way popular non-fiction should be done. Funny, light-hearted, but still factual and informative. I definitely recommend this book. Even if the subjects of Spook and Stiff make me somewhat uncomfortable, I’ll probably look into them anyway just because I enjoyed this one so much.