Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Joy of Sex Research: "Bonk" author Mary Roach talks about her latest work.

Thursday night, I went to hear Mary Roach, author of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, speak at Kepler's bookstore. She described to packed house--I felt like I was sitting in coach on a United flight--her many amusing experiences writing a book about the study of sex physiology, as well as the unusual facts she learned. A few notable excerpts:

  • When you write a book like this, everything becomes about sex. (Tell me about it.) For a while, she kept thinking the name of the bookstore was "Kegeler's."
  • She never thought she'd be finding out about thinks like a "phallus-cam." Or the things humans insert into their rectums (known as "collections" if there are more than one).
  • The term "upsuck" refers to the notion that the female orgasm "sucks up" semen--of interest if you're trying to increase your changes of getting pregnant. This notion, however, has not been proven, perhaps due to the difficulty in finding willing research subjects.
  • Her book contains three different recipes for simulated semen. One of the recipes lists its yield as "one ejaculate." (Those of you who are cooks may find this amusing.)
  • She told a hilarious story about a skeet shooter who took part in a study on male multiple orgasm at SUNY. I can't even describe what he called out at the height of passion. Something about the term for shooting two skeet with one shot, an occurance that may be more rare than the male multiple orgasm.
  • There's a woman in Oakland who can think herself to orgasm. In less than a minute.
  • During "foreplay," the male porcupine stands on his hind legs and pees on the female. (I just write it down. I don't make it up.) Skeptical? Well, I just Googled "porcupine foreplay." Here's what I got.
As if those points weren't interesting enough, what were some of the more surprising things she learned?
  • Women have nocturnal erections. (Again, I just report, I don't make up.)
  • The human nose has erectile tissue.
  • How much we don't know about human sexuality. Still researchers looking into the subject are constantly getting turned down for funding, because sex is considered a "lifestyle" issue.

What was the most fun she had while researching the book? Her trip to a factory that makes sex toys. She'll never forget, she said, the image of a guy with a hairnet holding an armload of fake phalluses.

Oh, and then there's the story of when she and her husband became human guinea pigs and had sex in an MRI machine. Dear reader, despite the sacrifices I'm willing to make for my art, even I'm not sure I'd go that far. Mostly because of the danger of the resulting video finding its way onto the Internet--which is what happened to Roach. ( apparently edited the 1-second clip into a repeating loop to make the event look like it lasted much longer than it did. I'm searching now, but not finding it.) She talks a little bit about the experience here:

Maybe this is why Roach's next book will be about space travel. There's a joke in there somewhere, but I've already shot my wad.

See? You start writing about sex, and everything is a double entendre.

1 comment:

spocko said...

I think I'm blushing just reading about this!

Thanks for the write up!