The Science of Sex

Sex sells, yes? But what about a book on the woman who had an orgasm every time she brushed her teeth followed by a small epileptic seizure and believed that she was possessed, or on women who have nocturnal clitoral erections, or on the woman who can give herself a hands-free orgasm, not to mention the men who can have multiple orgasms and compare this phenomenon to skeet shooting? Does this sell?

Apparently so, as Mary Roach, author of New York Times bestsellers “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” and “Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife,” has found. Her new book, “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex,” has just hit number ten on the Times bestseller list.

On April 24, Roach talked about her new book, read some excerpts, and fielded questions at Hyde Park’s 57th Street Books. Tall and composed, she had no problem interacting with the group of eager middle-aged men and women who had gathered to ask her detailed and sometimes quite personal questions.

Roach highlighted some of the more shocking parts of the book, such as the various objects that surgeons have had to remove from people’s rectums (frozen pigtail, jeweler saw, oil can with potato, and umbrella with enema tubing, among others), but she also spent time elaborating on the different aspects of sex research as a science. For instance, it is much more difficult to get funding for a study on females about pleasure than for a study about fertility. There is also the clinicalization of post-menopausal sexual indifference, in which millions of dollars are currently being dedicated to prolonging sexual activity. She also lingered for a while on the gender imbalance in sex research: according to Roach, even the idea of extending older women’s sex drives is heavily influenced by men’s interests.

So, even if the book is like her book talk, and it is only the most random facts that stick with you, at least you’ll know that a) your earlobes enlarge during sex, and b) simulated semen is made with a lot of cornstarch. And these are not wholly useless pieces of information.