Bonk: unarousing

Having read Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, I was interested in what she’d bring to the table when talking about sex. Well-known for her humorous footnotes and glib commentary, she tends to make what could be dry reading into an enjoyable experience.

While Bonk continues the humorous footnotes, glib commentary, and accessibility of content, overall the books fell flat for me. Part of it I think maybe attributed to Roach’s age (she was 52 at year of publication), the fact that the book is 8 years old (and research even older), and–as she points out many times–sex research is difficult to fund, find volunteers for, and explain to your dates. Obviously any research is limited by these factors.

My biggest issue is that the book (as likely the research does) focuses almost exclusively on sex between a cis man and a cis woman. Obviously Roach can only present research that’s available, but a few too many comments throughout made me concerned that it’s not just lack of research but lack of author looking at said research. Aside from mentions of Kinsey’s work, there’s very little about homosexual sex, and almost all of it is shoved in the last chapter, where it discusses a study from 1976, and–without any further research–Roach discusses how obviously heterosexuals caught up to the gays in talking about sex, so thank goodness for that. (The point being that talking about sex will lead to better sex between the participants, but she makes a 40-year leap without any thing to back her up.)

I won’t hold against her the complete lack of discussion about trans individuals, as there likely is limited research. However, if there is limited research, it seems like it should be important to point out, especially when discussing things related to the brain, arousal, etc.

Obviously Roach has to toe the line between producing edu-tainment and paying the bills, so is likely to play to the largest audience, especially if she has pressure from her publisher to do so, but overall I found the book lacking. Anytime the discussion wasn’t strictly medical/scientific, it felt like she was giggling behind her hand, especially at anything that wasn’t heterosexual vanilla sex. My suggestion: It’s worth loaning from the library, but not buying a copy.

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