Book Review: Bonk by Mary Roach

After reading Come As You Are earlier this year, I was all geared up to read another life changing book on sexuality. I loved reading Mary Roach’s Stiff last year, so I was prepared to have a similar experience with Bonk. But there was much less emotion and much more science in Bonk than Come As You Are. That’s not a bad thing at all, but I was still a little disappointed. I wanted more relationship revelations, not serious science.

Normally I love scientific books. I love dense medical books that require lots of research to understand and finish. But it’s notoriously difficult to study sex. People don’t want to fund it, and participants can be difficult to come by. Even if you do get funding by a stroke of luck and pursue some studies, the media frequently picks things up and runs with them, and not in a good way.  

I can’t really pinpoint why I didn’t like it. And it’s not even really that I didn’t like it, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. That said, Mary Roach has a great way of writing, truly. She’s funny and thorough while still being accessible, even though her research is clearly extensive. She gets technical in Denmark describing the insemination of sows (did you know they have better pregnancy success rates when the sows are treated well?) and funny when she details the time she and her husband had sex in an MRI machine.

This is a good book for you if you’re interested in the history of how sex is studied. Labs, conferences, classes… if you’re interested in the different findings of academics in relation to sex, this is the book for you. There are rats in pants and giant sex machines (that don’t sound even remotely pleasant), sex manuals from the 1960’s, and determining who’s better at sex between gay and lesbian partners compared to straight partners. There’s an unfortunate lack of trans inclusion and anyone outside the gender binary, but, I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised.

Anyway, it was an interesting overview of how sex is studied but didn’t really give me the revelations I was hoping for. But if you enjoy any of Mary Roach’s other work, like Stiff, Gulp, Spook or Grunt, Bonk will probably be right up your alley.

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