Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

Date Mon, August 21 2017

If I was enlightened and educated by Mary Roach’s  book on cadavers (see my review here), then I am absolutely enthralled with her book on the science of sex.

Now, I’m not only familiar with Mary Roach because of the other book of hers that I’ve read. I first discovered her through an essay she submitted to the Best Sex Writing series in 2009-ish. I’ve also seen at least one her her TED talks on sex, so I am actually more familiar with her as someone who is knowledgeable on the subject of the science of sex than other sciences. Those are just a bonus!

Neither am I a stranger to the general science of sex. I’ve read books and watched TED talks. I subscribe to podcasts and tweet. Hell, I’ve even written content that explains the biology, the physiological, the psychology and sometimes even the sociology of sex. So to say that I was surprised by how much I learned from Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex is one of the highest compliments I can pay.

That isn’t to say that there are not some things that are repeated from other sources. But Roach dives in past the results of the surveys by Masters and Johnson or Kinsey, for example. She contacts researchers or their surviving family members. She discovers who participated and why — and how they may have skewed answers. Roach travels the world to talk to Asian urologists who still perform specific surgeries to help with erectile dysfunction. She talks to experts who might be little known outside of their specific niche or even geographical location. In short, Mary Roach puts in the few work that few people are interested in and, for those who are, even fewer can accomplish themselves. It’s quite the feat!

Mary (and her witting husband) become the subjects in experiments where they have sex in MRIs because there are no other people willing to pick up this mantle. And Roach struggles to measure the distance between her vagina and clitoris, which turns out to be more complicated than you more expect. She’s not shy (neither are most of the characters she comes across in her quest), and it makes for an interesting and educational read.

She knocks on every door, even those in the past. It’s how she’s discovered an oft-forgot fact that shorter women also have a shorter distance between their clitoris and vaginal openings (this is important to a woman’s pleasure and orgasm as you’ll learn if you’re not already aware). She also delves into the history of clitorectomies.

I am continually impressed not only by how intelligent Mary is as an author but how witty. I am sure that I would enjoy discussing Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex with her over a cup of coffee, even though I don’t drink coffee. Her footnotes are clever, and that’s my one complaint with this book: I prefer when footnotes are at the end of each chapter in eBooks. You can easily forget to read footnotes when they’re at the very end of the eBook as they are with Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and the links to the footnotes don’t seem to work quite right in the copy I was provided through my library. However, you don’t want to miss these notes. They’re hilarious!

In fact, most of my Kindle notes come from the footnotes, including this one.

[the] Atlas of Human Sex Anatomy includes a two-page spread of fourteen thumbnail Coital Diagrams with terse, pronoun-sparse titles: “Pillow Lifts Hips,” “He Diagonally Across.” Chaste as these drawings are—the bed beneath the couple is drawn in more detail than are their faceless, featureless bodies—they were edited out of the first edition. Dickinson tried to appease his publisher by replacing the human forms with a pair of entwining robots; however, he reports, “these evasions proved to be not a little absurd” and the publisher eventually relented.

Despite tackling so many subjects in Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, I feel like Mary Roach is able to give just about each subject its due attention. You learn more than you expect and get a little information if you’d like to delve further into the subject. However, unless you’re as qualified and adventurous as Mary, it’s going to be quite the task to do that!

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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Date Thu, July 13 2017

Leave it to me to read a book about cadavers. Actually, I think everyone should read this book (at least, the people who might find interesting and enlightening), so I’ll read it and let you know what I liked about it.

First, a little background. Mary Roach is a journalist and science educator who has been on my radar for over a decade. I first read one of her pieces in a Best Sex Writing book. I’ve also seen her TED talk in which she talks about a pig’s 30-minute orgasm. Ring any bells?

Roach has also written a number of books, some of which are so popular that they’ve been on my library ebook hold list for 9 months. I was pretty excited when Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers finally became available, and you better believe I’m anxiously waiting for the next book from her.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. I knew that I was a fan of Mary Roach and was sure she would teach me something, but I knew very little about cadavers. I also knew that I wasn’t necessarily squeamish about this sort of thing, either morally/spiritually or in terms of disgust. If you are, then I am not sure I would recommend Stiff to you. But if you like to learn, have a tough stomach, like learning about science and want to discover something more about a topic that isn’t readily spoken of, then I would recommend Stiff.

The basic premise of Stiff is Roach contacting all sorts of people and organizations to learn about the options for her own body once she passes on. She talks to researchers, students and other professionals around the world, ostensibly knocking options off her list because of personal preference (or because it isn’t an option at all in modern times).

As the reader follows Mary on her journey, we discover a myriad of “uses” for cadavers and their parts and learn a little more about the process. Roach discusses everything from brain death (and the historic definitions of death) and organ donation to body farms to using human skeletons (in short: it’s no longer done; everything is plastic), using bodies to practice surgery, for ballistics tests and to perform auto collision experiments (a system that’s in dire need of donated bodies).

Roach’s journey comes near the end as she discusses one possible future of body treatment after death, composting, with a Swedish businesswoman who is intent on making it come to fruition. It’s been over a decade since Roach penned Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and this is still not something that’s available, unfortunately.

The book ties up with the reminder that when you are dead, your body is no longer you. It’s simply your body (as we discovered earlier that the author felt after her own mom’s passing), and you retain no rights to what happens. Sometimes our loved ones must simply do what they can to cope (again, Roach discusses how her mother coped with her father’s death and body).

Through her personal anecdotes and humor, Roach easily brings a touch of personality and perhaps lightness to a subject that is underappreciated and sometimes still taboo. It’s easy to read the words she writes in this style. I am looking forward to reading the next Roach book on my pile.

When it comes to this subject matter, in particular, I found myself inspired to see what I could do with my own body. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers certainly gave me something to chew on, and I definitely recommend it!

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4 Ways I’m Different from Other Bloggers

Date Tue, December 30 2014

Review blogs like mine are a dime a dozen these days, and you could say the same thing about their bloggers! Even though I’ve been at this for far longer than some blogs, I have become lumped in with some groups despite some pretty obvious differences. Like these!

I‘m Not a Mom

I’ve talked about this again and again. Because while I feel this is a positive due to my expendable time and money, so many of the people who write reviews and host giveaways are mommy bloggers, and I get lost in the fray. Thus, I am ignored because I only have cats and no babies. And there’s a place for those people, but lots of companies start all their pitches with “Hi Mommies.” Sometimes Dads get some love, but I am neither. And many companies look for people who are moms specifically, even if the product would be a better fit for me. Or even if those bloggers aren’t actually any good at writing reviews.

I might be a geek, a comedienne, an honest and thorough reviewer, a loving and well-loved sister, a good friend, a nerd, a Sci-Fi-aholic, an intelligent, articulate and sympathetic person and it all matters not just because I haven’t squeezed a baby out of my vagina. It’s disheartening. Alienating. Divisive. And even worse when it comes from people directly in the community.

I love Tech

What this means: While other bloggers have to pay their hosts to make and restore backups, run to their husbands with computer problems and think of video games as something only their sons like, I do this all myself. I have a DIY approach to technology, I love getting the latest gadgets and I’m not afraid of a little code. I’ll frown upon your poorly-coded giveaway HTML, but I’ll also try to help you by writing tutorials about how to install memory in your laptop or writing about keyboard shortcuts bloggers just need to know.  You can check out even more Internet tutorials at Her Realm, my personal blog. I am constantly answering questions to the best of my ability in a myriad of blogger groups. This definitely saves me money, but I don’t have the liberty of letting someone else take care of problems, and I can become involved in others’ questions too deeply.

At the end of the day, I like to think I make these topics more approachable to people who might not be as enmeshed with them as I am, and I provide a different POV than your typical white, IT guy.

I Write In-Depth Reviews

What this means: If a product works really well or terribly or is just kinda meh, you’ll know. This is great for companies who really value my opinion, but it’s even better for my readers. The most popular and commented-on posts at Reviews by Cole are this one about Deja Vu and even this one about a cheap paper shredder. My honest and in-depth reviews help consumers, which is my ultimate goal. This blog is about you. And I won’t simply regurgitate product info given to my by the manufacturer or fill up “posts” with photos that do little to tell you how something actually works. I’ve seen reviews that companies raved about in the past, and I was literally left wonder what the product was. This is something that really bothers me about reviews.

One of the things I do have to watch out for is posting pictures. I’ve been trying to post at least one decent quality photo in every review. If the item is in my hands, I want you to see what it looks like or how it works. However, this is rather difficult in my apartment, which has no natural lighting. And I’m such a night owl! Oops!

I Have a Day Job

There are similarities between freelance writing and blogging, that’s for sure. But Reviews by Cole is my hobby. I have less time to dedicate to it because I pay my bills through other means, and any income I make from blogging is purely supplemental even though one of the reasons I started Reviews by Cole was to get paid for blogging.

I’ve surely gotten better at juggling both, but this blog or my Facebook page my struggle because of this fact. Reviews by Cole has and likely always will remain smaller in every way. That’s something I’ve struggled with, but something I’ve also eventually come to accept. I cannot compete with the bigger names because I am just one person and this is not my day job.

In fact, I have respect for people who do make blogging their primary income, especially when supporting a family. I’m not sure I could do it. Like, I don’t think I could break even, and I don’t think I could stay sane even if I did. I don’t want my face to actually be the face of my blog, and I’m not so great at networking. But if I keep this blog a hobby, I don’t really have to do those things. Score!

With millions of blogs on the Internet, variety is more than just the spice of life. It’s essential. Every blogger works to stand out from the crowd, and I can only hope I’ve achieved a bit of that here.

As always, thank you for reading!

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