Reading Bonk

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 13, 2009 1:36 pm

373829312.JPGEarlier today, Chris posted a schedule for our C.P. Snow blog discussion. I’ll be participating in that of course, but am also hosting another conversation on Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, which I’m currently reading as part of the research for my next book.  Here’s the plan

First, those interested should get a copy. I’m not one for scheduling assignments so there’s no official calender on when sections must be complete. We’ll begin in a couple weeks and everyone is invited to contribute to the conversation–even if you’re not reading along.

I’ll write about some of the most interesting subjects from Roach’s book and from there, I hope you’ll offer ideas and insights on topic or suggest a different direction about something else you find particularly fascinating. We’ll develop an ongoing conversation that will evolve over several threads.  Here’s the table of contents to give everyone an idea of what we’re in for:

  1. The Sausage, the Porcupine, and the Agreeable Mrs. G: Highlights from the pioneers of human sexual response
  2. Dating the Penis-Camera: Can a woman find happiness with a machine?
  3. The Princess and Her Pea: The woman who moved her clitoris, and other ruminations on intercourse orgasms
  4. The Upsuck Chronicles: Does orgasm boost fertility, and what do pigs know about it?
  5. What’s Going On In There? The diverting world of coital imaging
  6. The Taiwanese Fix and the Penile Pricking Ring: Creative approaches to impotence
  7. The Testicle Pushers: If two are good, would three be better:
  8. Re-Member Me: Transplants, implants, and other penises of last resort
  9. The Lady’s Boner: Is the clitoris a tiny penis?
  10. The Prescription-Strength Vibrator: Masturbating for health
  11. The Immaculate Orgasm: Who needs genitals?
  12. Mind over Vagina: Women are complicated
  13. Would Would Allah Say? The strange, brave career of Ahmed Shafik
  14. Monkey Do: The secret sway of hormones
  15. “Persons Studied in Pairs”: The lab that uncovered great sex

Unlike reading a lecture, Bonk is just as good out of order.  I started with the prologue, which immediately raises questions about the unusual challenges related to conducting sex research. Just yesterday, I randomly opened the book and started at the nearest chapter, which happened to be #7.  Without giving too much away, I’ll say it was a thought-provoking section. I learned that the first testicle transplants came from rather unexpected donors with some surprising results.  Then I turned back to the beginning and discovered that artificial insemination of pigs involves far more preparation than one would expect.

So far Bonk is funny and very enjoyable, but make no mistake… This NYTimes bestseller is grounded in science, while providing the context, history, and meaning of some very common–but rarely discussed–behaviors.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Culture, Media and Science

Comments (5)

  1. I liked it, although I have to say that Stiff remains my favorite of her books. I would definitely place this one ahead of Spook.

  2. Stiff is great. You should also read the original classics “Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male” and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female”. They are both compelling and intellectually…umm…stimulating.

  3. It’s a great read. Mary Roach has a terrific sense of humor and writing style. For an equally funny read with a perspective from the insect world, I recommend “Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation” by evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson. I read both of those last year and then just recently watched “Kinsey”. Those three different takes on similar topic are a great ‘combo platter.’

  4. For an equally funny read with a perspective from the insect world, I recommend “Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation” by evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson.

    Agreed. It’s delightfully fun.

  5. For all the women out there (and more than one man) I would strongly recommend Elisabeth Lloyd’s “The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution” which demolishes 21 theories advanced to explain the function of the female orgasm.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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