Skepchick Book Club: Bonk

Esteemed reader, we need to have a talk. About the birds and the bees and all that crazy sex they’ve been having. You see, um, when two (or more, if that’s your thing) researchers really love a subject, they will spend a lot of time in the lab together and if everything goes just right, they’ll end up creating a paper that might get published!

This month we read Mary Roach’s Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. I’ve read all of Mary Roach’s other books, so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed, although I figured I would be a little squicked out at certain sections (and I was right). This book did not make me physically squirm as much as it did my husband (and another guy I knew stopped reading after the penile implant chapter). One of the main messages I took from this book was that Mary Roach’s husband Ed is a good sport!

If you haven’t read the book (you really should), here is an interview the author did and here is a link to some juicy excerpts.

Click through for a more detailed description of the chapters (I’m going to go ahead and say, duh, for mature audiences only), this month’s dessert recipe, and next month’s book pick!

The chapters about female sexuality were mostly about:

  • Arousal: vaginal lubrication (different from cervical mucous) comes from blood plasma through capillaries in the vaginal wall
  • Orgasm: some women get it, some women don’t (perhaps because their clitoris is too far away from their vaginal orifice, as discovered by the unfortunate Marie Bonaparte)
  • Fertility: where I learned the word upsuck
  • Medical vibrators: and the fact that some women do not even know where their clitoris is–or one poor couple who found out that what they thought was a vagina was actually a urethra (OK that part DID make me squirm!)
  • Sex machines: the women in the book did not really seem to enjoy using the sex machines (think of that scene from Burn After Reading), and one person described the machines as good for making “porn for homophobes” for obvious reasons

The chapters about male sexuality were a bit more uncomfortable to read (for my husband) because they included:

  • Penile implant surgery: and descriptions of the procedure that included the word degloving
  • The urethra: this involves a toothbrush and maybe some forceps
  • Neuticles: testicular implants for animals whose owners feel bad for having them castrated (some will order a large size for their beagles)
  • A (creepy) scientist who gave a talk on curing impotence that ended with him dropping his pants to reveal his erect penis and asking members of the audience to confirm its tumescence (fortunately, the nearest people screamed and he put his pants back on)

I felt that the author did a good job of covering most topics in past and modern sex research. There were a few sections on Kinsey and his total dedication to the field, Dr. Dickenson and his Victoria-era work in sexuality (he inspired Kinsey), and some poor researcher named Dorcus Butt. But I can’t list all the topics without ruining some of the surprises in the book, you have to read it for yourself! Note: if you are a squeamish person when it comes to graphic descriptions of penile trauma/surgery, just skip ahead any time the author mentions Dr. Hsu or acupuncture, and you should be fine.

Dessert of the Month: Chocolate Peppermint Pie

This is not the actual piece of pie that Anika made, but it looks pretty darn close! (source)

I didn’t do a themed snack this month because I couldn’t think of something clever, so I just brought bagels (relax, this ain’t Portnoy’s Complaint!). However, Anika–one of our in-person club regulars–brought a homemade chocolate peppermint pie, so I’m featuring her recipe as this month’s dessert. I guess if you were stretching for a theme, some people refer to chocolate pies as “Better Than Sex Pie,” but maybe they just need the right vibrator.

Next Month’s Book: Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman

This book has been recommended to me a couple of times and if you’ve ever been to NECSS, you’re already familiar with the author. I will post about next month’s book on Sunday, January 27th. So, make it through the holidays, and I hope to see you soon!


Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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  1. “what they thought was a vagina was actually a urethra”


    “asking members of the audience to confirm its tumescence ”

    “You can touch- is nice, yes?”
    “Nice, but I have felt bigger…”

    Peppermint chocolate is one of my favorite things, but somehow I’m not in the mood right now…

    1. Yeah, the urethra thing was painful to read, but the woman apparently had an underdeveloped or very tight vagina so to her it was an easy mistake to make. Ouch.

  2. I squirmed throughout reading this book. Anything surgical makes me do so, but I would second your advice to avoid the Dr. Hsu parts.

  3. I actually just read Stiff a week or two ago (apparently my Book Club aim was a little off). I definitely need to read this as well. Has anyone read her other books, besides these two? What else would anyone recommend?

    1. I’ve read all of her books. I really enjoyed Packing for Mars, but it made me not want to go into space ever. Also, if you like her stuff, you should read Jon Ronson’s books because his nonfiction is delightful.

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