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'08 Authors Insider Tips


Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Inspirational
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
Copy Editing
The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft


Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons


2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
What I Did With My Summer


Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
Iím Easy, But Iím No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy


Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
Utopias
Lust
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will


Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel


Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn


Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics


On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank


Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

Bonk
The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

by Mary Roach

Book Review by Rob Hardy



Bonk“I think by now you know how science is”, says a researcher to Mary Roach. “You think you know a lot until you start to ask some really basic questions, and you realize you know nothing.” That’s perhaps a koan-like exaggeration, but it is certainly true that good research answers questions only to turn up more questions. This might be even more true in the arena of sexual research, the topic of Roach’s enormously entertaining and informative Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (Norton). Roach has before written books about scientific evaluation of the physical and spiritual afterlife of the dead, and if she could make such macabre topics engaging and funny, you can count on a lively treatment of how science investigates sex. Part of the reason this book is so interesting is, of course, that everyone is interested in sex, and there is a great tangle of complicated hormones, engorgements, and reflexes that operate to give us sexual joy and we cannot even feel many of them operating. Another reason is that we got a late start in the scientific evaluation of the subject. Kinsey and Masters & Johnson were pioneers in a sphere where few others had gone before, because of a taint of naughtiness. This continues; one researcher says that if asked what her job is, she says, “I do psychophysiological research,” and if they enquire further, “I say something like, ‘Well, we use various visual and auditory stimuli to look at autonomic nervous system reactivity in various contexts.’ That usually does the trick.” And another reason the book is so interesting is that you can read all the books on chemistry, physics, or cosmology you want, and you will never find experiments as funny as those of the Egyptian researcher who monitored the coital rates of rats who wore polyester pants. And that’s just one example of the experiments here.

Roach loves her subject, which she says is “as good as science gets” because it involves researchers who display “a mildly outrageous, terrifically courageous, seemingly efficacious display of creative problem-solving, fueled by a bullheaded dedication to amassing facts and dispelling myths in a long-neglected area of human physiology.” She certainly gets into the spirit of the effort. When she heard that a London clinic would be taking three dimensional movies of couples in coitus, she wrote to see if she could be invited to see the first scan. She got a polite reply back from Dr. Jing Deng, who apologized that “to arrange a new in-action would be very difficult, mainly due to the difficulty in recruiting volunteers. If your organization is able to recruit brave couple(s) for intimate (but noninvasive) study, I would be happy to arrange and perform one.” Roach jokes, “My organization balked. It called its husband.” Its husband is a darned good sport, for the couple flew to London to be the very first clinical subjects. Dr. Deng informs his subjects via instruction sheet “We will ask the penis to be inserted into the vagina from his partner’s back”, and in person he says, “I think facing the wall is better,” adding, “That will be more romantic.” There isn’t any romance, really; it’s like a medical procedure. Deng holds the ultrasound wand to Roach’s belly and other parts. “For the still images, we must hold still for several seconds, like Victorians posing for a tintype, only not like Victorians posing for a tintype.” They even chat with Deng during the coition, and he ends the small talk with, “You can ejaculate now.”

Roach reports on most of the other research without participating in it. One researcher had investigated the erotic sensitivity of the area around the female urethra, and had found that this area is pulled partway into the vagina during intercourse. The researcher didn’t have to get couples in to watch them, and their urethras, perform. He freeze-framed images from porn movies and measured those. “These guys know how to shoot this stuff,” he explains. “They’ve got the good lighting, they get the angles right...” Other researchers published a paper five years ago called “The Human Penis as a Semen Displacement Device”. Not only did our male evolutionary forebears want to deposit their own semen into vaginas, they wanted to scoop out any semen from predecessors, and it turns out the shape of the glans at the end of the penis is just right to do this. This experiment involved no humans except for the experimenters. They used artificial semen (the recipe is given in the book), an artificial vagina from California Exotic Novelties, and three different artificial phalluses, one of them a control without a glans. The lifelike phalluses expelled 91% of the standing semen, while the cylindrical control expelled only 35%. Not having to use human test subjects has advantages, but in reviewing the history of sexual research, Roach found a 1950 study on blood pressure during female orgasm that had been performed on a particular woman who had the ability to fantasize and have an orgasm without physical stimulation of her vaginal area. The first part of the report reads, “Development and subsidence of the orgasm reflex took place without any physical interference.” Roach paraphrases: “It’s okay - she didn’t touch herself.”

Not everyone is enthusiastic about sex. In a chapter on Viagra, Roach prints part of a letter to Ann Landers written when the drug was new: “Please tell those smart-aleck scientists and those big drug companies to work on a cure for cancer and quit ruining the lives of millions of women who have earned a rest.” Not only was Viagra a disappointment for such women (who were not representative of most of Landers’s correspondents on the subject), but it did not work on pandas. It also seems to have little effect on females. Yes, it does cause an increase of blood volume in the female genitals, but while such an increase can be dramatically visible and tangible in the male, in the female it is detected only by physiological monitoring equipment rather than by the women themselves, and when the women don’t notice, there’s not much point in trying to market Viagra to them.

Roach has an appealing jocular prose, and her subjects in one chapter after another are, well, the sorts of scientists that would study such things, so they make for entertaining interviews. This does not keep her book from being packed with information, some of it at the cocktail-chatter level and some decidedly deeper. Here is the vaginal photoplethysmograph probe, and to balance that, the nocturnal penile tumescence monitor. Here is how Danish pig farmers stimulate sows so that artificial insemination has a better chance of success. Here is a report of the “inside-out” maneuver performed during surgery on the penis. Here are reflections about how doing sexual research was almost forbidden in the fifties, and then it became acceptable and fundable, but now in an era of “just say no” it has become difficult again. Here are explanations of how victims of paraplegia, who ought not to have sensation below the waist, can get orgasms. Here is evaluation of the famous upsuck theory of female orgasm, and an admission that studies comparing conception rates of women who have sex with orgasm and those who have sex without have simply not been done. Here are descriptions of sexual quackery from the past, including during the witch craze when witches were busy collecting men’s penises by magic and putting them in the nests of birds who helpfully kept them alive with a diet of oats and corn. Here is the shorthand code used by the San Francisco Fire Department for sex toy emergencies. And here are some results from a forgotten study that issued from the lab of Masters & Johnson. The most fulfilling sex seems to have been that between committed gay and lesbian couples. Roach says, “Not because they were practicing special secret homosexual sex techniques, but because they ‘took their time.’” They moved slowly and lingered over each other’s pleasure. They teased. They talked. Well, perhaps Roach examined research with more revolutionary lessons, but nonetheless, it might be practical to put this one into action.

Rob Hardy
July 2008


Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

(W. W. Norton; 1 edition; April 7, 2008; ISBN-10: 0393064646)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK


_______
© 2008 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.



About the Reviewer:†
Rob Hardy is a psychiatrist who lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife, two terriers, five cats, and goldfish.

He reviews nonfiction for The Times of Acadiana, but has been reviewing books as a hobby for years before that.
WebBio: Rob Hardy



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'08 Movie Reviews

Almost Perfect
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The Fold
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Two
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Fallen
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'08 Book Reviews

Anthologies

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J is for Jealousy
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Lust Bites
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Open for Business
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Possession
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Rubber Sex
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Rubber Sex
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Seriously Sexy
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The Shadow of a... (poetry)
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Tasting Her
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Tasting Him
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Tasting Him
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Novels

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In Too Deep
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In Too Deep
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Seduced by the Storm
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The Wicked Sex
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Gay Erotica

Backdraft
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Best Gay Romance '08
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Hard Hats
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Lesbian Erotica

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The Night Watch
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Non-Fiction

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Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star
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The Humble Little Condom
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