Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bonk by Mary Roach

It’s been a while since I reviewed a book so, dear readers, I would like to recommend to you _Bonk_, by Mary Roach. This book is subtitled “The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.” I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Roach’s first book; _Stiff_; which was an exploration of what happens to cadavers in America. Her second book _Spook_ (which was about evidence-or lack there of-of life after death) was rather “meh.” However, since second books often suck, when I found _Bonk_ in the remainder section of the Harvard Bookstore I thought it might be worth purchasing. I have to say that was definitely $6.99 well spent.

Ms. Roach is a journalist. Her non-fiction books read as if each chapter was an article she had to write. She has chosen for her books the sort of subjects that inspire, um, morbid curiosity. Somehow she manages to admit this and be snarky about it while still being respectful to (in the case of _Bonk_) the human subjects who volunteer to do sex research and the scientists who do such research and (in the case of _Stiff_) the cadavers she views. Because _Bonk_ is a look into the history of scientific studies of sex I feel that if I just say it was a fun read you, dear reader, will just roll your eyes and say “duh.”

Well, yes, duh, books about science and sex can be fun, but the reason I feel the need to write this one up and share my impression with the world is because this morning the chapter I was reading on the commuter whale made me laugh out loud. I feel a bit bad for the guy who got on at Salem and had to sit next to me (in an older car—the ones with the smaller, blue seats that aren’t really big enough for two people) while I laughed as quietly as I could between Salem and about Chelsea. Unlike most commuter whale-riders he was unequipped with an ipod, a kindle, an ipad, a laptop or even a book. All he had was a folder with some notes in it and he got to sit next to me, reading and shaking with tears coming out of my eyes. Poor man.

The chapter that made me laugh so much was about suction devices designed to help with sexual dysfunction. Apparently, not only are there suction devices to help men get their thing up, but there is also one suction device designed for women (it sucks blood into the clitoris.) The chapter in question was about this suction device for women however the Eros* wasn’t what made me almost fall out of my chair. What made me laugh was the case of a man who had died while beating off with his vacuum cleaner. I’m not sure whether it was that he had suffered “burns on the area in contact with the beater bar” (Bonk, page 208) or the fact that his wife had previously caught him masturbating with the vacuum cleaner, or that when he was found dead he had “one arm encircling the canister in the manner of a lover’s embrace.” (Also Bonk, 208)

Why did these things make me laugh instead of making me squirm? Well let’s start with this one “Dear Future Soul Mate-whoever you may be-I realize that “You can’t love another without loving yourself (Shakespeare) or to put it another way, even in a committed relationship it’s okay for a human to spend “quality time” with himself, however if I catch you putting the moves on my vacuum cleaner we are going to have a serious talk.”

I admit I found the cherry-picked history of scientifically studied sex interesting (with a big eye-roll for Freud) but what really amused me was that there was a man who thought it was good fun to put his dick in contact with the beater bar of the vacuum cleaner-even after his wife caught him at it. Now maybe she suggested that this was not wise and he ignored her. He died of a heart attack while being sucked-off by the vacuum cleaner. And I found this so funny that not only did I laugh out loud on public transportation, but I also stayed up late to write about it on the inter-webs.

*The device that sucks blood into the clitoris. Available for $400 by NuGyn

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