Outspokenly attesting that everyone’s a pervert in some form or another, research psychologist Bering (Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections On Being Human, 2012) combines science, research and an unblushing curiosity to plumb the depths of sexual deviancy.
The author prefaces the narrative with his own story of coming out as gay to his mother at 19—just an average boy “who blended into tree bark and lawn ornaments.” Throughout, he appeals for further societal acceptance toward not only the homosexual community, but the socially ostracized “erotic outliers” as well. Addressing everyone, from the prim to the experienced, Bering encourages readers to embrace the willful “unburdening of your erotic conscience” through the examination of a smorgasbord of erotic paraphilias, including common fetishes like toes and tickling and unorthodox fascinations with animals, amputees, insect bites and sandy gravel—the author claims that there are more than 500 varieties of paraphilia. In this meticulously researched and referenced text, Bering offers fascinating case studies involving the power of sexual arousal to neutralize repulsive smells, tastes and predisposed opinions, though chapters on the historical demonization of human arousal, S&M and pedophilia do require an open mind. Refreshingly, the author extends his scope beyond the standard criterion of notorious fetishistic peccadilloes to more taboo sexual preferences that will, to some, skirt the boundaries of good taste (and common law). Anticipating this reaction, he creatively advocates for the understanding, appreciation and acknowledgment of these unique leanings in some of us, though not necessarily for their pardon.
A master craftsman at refashioning reproductive biology into provocative composition, Bering nimbly probes “the darkest corners of our sexual nature” with no illicit aftertaste.