The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
I read a review of another book by Mary Roach that said that if she was a professor, she'd be the one with no students dropping out—because she makes her topic the most interesting thing on earth. I can't agree more! I think that those of us who are professors should consider Mary Roach's books required reading! And Bonk is no exception.
In her book Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Roach tackles the science of human reproduction. Although she aims to tell the story of a controversial area of scientific endeavor, sex, she necessarily also gives us some interesting and little-known content of that field.
For example, do you know what the penomotor reflex is? It's triggered by stimulation of the penis and results in the tightening of urethral sphincters (to close off the bladder during the male sex response) and tightening of the anals sphincters (to ensure that feces stays in the rectum during sex).
Roach is thorough in her research and perceptive in her understanding of the science of reproduction. She also has a wonderful grasp of the process of science.
But more than that, she is one of the most brilliantly witty—hilarious—science writers today! How else could one effectively portray this taboo subject? I suppose that one mustn't giggle while reading a nonfiction book in science. But I dare you to not giggle, and often, while reading this book! But it's not silly or juvenile gutter humor . . . it's humor that points out the cultural and scientific paradoxes characteristic of the scientific study of sex. And it's humor that brings that essential touch of humanity to science.
Don't skip the footnotes in this book! They are not only informative . . . they are often outrageously humorous!
For example, on one page where the medical acronyms started to get a little thick, and a little ridiculous, Roach begins a footnote, "and [distinct] from HAFD, hyperactive acronym formation disorder"
On a page about primate sex, a footnote begins, "Ladies, do not get involved with a chimp. Not only are they fast ejaculators, they want to perform this minor irritation constantly. (Highest copulatory frequency of all primates.)"
I think everyone should read this book. However, those who teach A&P must read this book. It is chock full of anecdotes and facts that we can use in our courses to help our students better understand (and relate to) the biology of reproduction. Some of what is revealed in Bonk is necessary to a sound understanding of reproductive science, yet has been missing from most textbooks and courses.
Those of us that were at the 1995 Annual Conference of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society in St. Louis remember the fascinating stories (and oh! that movie of orgasm research) shared by my friend William Masters shortly before his death. Those stories, also shared with brilliant wit, have affected the thinking and teaching of all of us who were there. More than that, those stories broadened our understanding of human sexual anatomy and physiology. And therefore, also broadened and deepened the understanding of countless of our students. Some of those stories, and others besides, are told in Bonk—and can serve the same role for us as that classic Masters presentation.
Although I'm sure it was not her intent, Mary Roach has provided us A&P professors a short, entertaining update course in human sex and reproduction.
Listen to the story on NPR's All Things Considered.
I highly recommend this book!
Read it now!
Mary Roach tells about her experience as a subject of a scientific sex study!
|Also by Mary Roach:|