Wondering whether orgasms make sows more fertile? Turn to Roach for the answer.
One of the funniest and most madcap of science writers, the author has approached sticky subjects to hilarious effect in her two previous books. Stiff (2003) looked at the many uses to which human cadavers have been put, while Spook (2005) told of science’s attempts to understand the afterlife. Her latest is no less captivating or entertaining, as she flings wide the closed doors behind which the scientific study of coitus has traditionally been conducted. Roach details the careers of sex researchers Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Marie Bonaparte (Napoleon’s great-grand-niece) and porn-star-turned-Ph.D. Annie Sprinkle, among others. Such researchers “to this day, endure ignorance, closed minds, righteousness, and prudery,” she writes. “Their lives are not easy. But their cocktail parties are the best.” Emulating her subjects’ daring spirit, Roach displays a firm belief that there is no question too goofy to ask—or, barring that, to Google. What happens when you implant a monkey testicle in a man: Does he get more vital, or does he get an infection? She explores centuries of research into such questions as how penile implants work (a pump could be involved); whether surgically relocating the clitoris can lead to better sex (no); why the human penis is shaped as it is (to scoop out competitors’ sperm); and what exactly is going on when it enters a vagina (shockingly, there is still much to learn). Apart from its considerable comic value, the book also emulates its predecessors by illustrating a precept of scientific research: The passion to know, in the face of censure and propriety, is what advances our understanding of the world.
A lively, hilarious and informative look at science’s dirty secrets.