Monday, August 23, 2010

Mary Roach Is Going At It Again

Yes, snarky science writer Mary Roach penned a book about sex research. No, the book wasn't called Stiff.

Stiff was about decaying corpses; Bonk is about copulating live bodies (well, for the most part. There is mention of autoerotic death and whether a beating-heart cadaver could have an orgasm if properly stimulated). Mary goes at her subject with the usual curiosity and irreverence befitting a woman who was raised as a strict Catholic. (Too strict, of course. Press down on that spring all you want but someday -- BOING! Or in this case, BONK!)

Bonk is subtitled The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. That coupling part also includes Mary and her husband who volunteer to have an intimate moment recorded by dynamic 3D ultrasound imaging. Why bother with dull regular ultrasound for such an occasion? Just go all the way.

Going solo Mary gets some hands-on experience with a photoplethysmograph probe used to gauge her reactions while watching videos both neutral and erotic. Besides physical reactions, psychological responses were also recorded with the arousometer. One would think such a device would be high tech, using a PET scan to monitor brain activity, but actually it's nothing but a lever similar to a car's automatic transmission shifter operated by the subject to indicate her reactions. She moves the lever up and down to record her level of arousal. Of course, a computer touchscreen would work as well but then the Freudian symbolism is lost.

And Mary makes this poignant observation, one that brings laughter to MIB's:

"Orgasm appears to be a state not unlike that of the alien abductees one always hears about, coming to with messy hair and a chunk of time unaccounted for."

Along the way the reader will also encounter the postage stamp tumescence test, the Smithsonian Institution penis bone collection, the Thrillhammer, and even clamping vaginas.

At one point Mary refers to a scene from the Woody Allen movie, Annie Hall. This supposedly explains her book's dedication: For Woody.


X. Dell said...

(1) Seems to me with or without ultrasound they were going all the way.

(2) It's rare that someone who's been abducted by EBEs is willing to make the comparison.

Doug said...

From your description it seems like she was lobbing a proverbial softball to all the book reviewers; it wouldn't be a matter of whether the puns and double-enterndres would be there but how well could they come up with them?

So I will leave that well enough alone and offer the thought that first came to me:

"Bonk" brings to mind running into a wall; "Boink" is the euphemistic term I've heard for the subject at hand. So maybe the book isn't really about what she thinks it is.

And from her abduction analogy, I wonder: What the heck is her husband doing to her? Oh wait. I guess there's 3-D imagery of that...