Hi there! You've reached the homepage of Ben Lavender! Ben is a computery person who partakes in many kinds of nerd tomfoolery, but mostly programming! You've found his home on the web, with the caveat that a lot his day-to-day stuff ends up on social networks, so this site makes him seem pretty stodgy.
Enjoy your stay.


Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

06 Dec 2008

Funny enough, I suppose.

About 2 years ago, I picked up Roach’s Stiff, which is all about what we do with dead bodies these days. That was written well and quite informative; there really is a whole world of cadaver activities. Bonk is just as funny, but I found the content less useful. Roach’s in-between book was some sort of survey of what happens when we die, which I naturally skipped. One gets the feeling that she’s plucking out topics that are easy to write about in an entertaining way. She does it pretty well, though, so we can forgive her her subject choice.

Combining the history of sex science, some of the personal histories of the researchers themselves, and some meta-writing on the process of researching the book itself, Bonk tries to cover the gamut of modern sex science. While no 5 pages is particularly badly done, the book as a whole feels fairly flat. We spend 20 pages on Roach’s hunt for some sort of Penis camera used in a study 20 years ago, and what feels like half the book on erectile dysfunction. Meanwhile, the history of female orgasm, admittedly an episode of science that would be hilarious were it not so sad, is about 4 times as long as some much more interesting modern stuff–‘thinking off’ and training paraplegic women to masturbate by giving them a feedback loop to their cervical muscle contractions. Roach submits to in-lab sexual imaging with her husband, which is quite interesting. But this episode goes on and on and on, and less than 10 pages are spent on a lab doing research on what makes sex good as opposed to clinical. We learn that gays and lesbians seem to be having more fun, but that’s about it.

Roach repeats over and over that this field is really more or less unknown–nobody’s studying it. She mentions the problems for finding grant money to answer basic questions about sexual response, then glosses over the results of the few studies that have found that cash. I just kept feeling there was meat missing here.

I can’t say this book was a waste of time, but I was pretty disappointed in the shallow coverage of a lot of topics here. I would read another one of Roach’s books if she wrote on a topic I know little about, but I’ll pass on most anything else.