Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex – Book Review

By Mary Roach.

Simply playful and entertaining, while it takes on one of the big questions: what is this thing called sex? And it follows the most serious scientists from the very distant history until the last google search before going to press.

Beyond being a book on the how’s and why’s of sex research, “Bonk” is a collection of adventures which the author takes on in her investigation of the subject material. Through her personal and sometimes very intimate experiences, she peaks into the details of subjects you never thought you could be interested in, and yet they have you laughing out loud and flipping the pages for the bottom line: cockring patents, tiger penis soup and pig orgasm on the one hand and interviews with some of the leading voices in sexuality research today, on the other hand.

I really enjoyed the fact that Roach did her research scrupulously. It allowed her to find the big names in the field, giving us an almost up-to-the-minute report on leading areas of research; but it also includes information that is relevant and wildly interesting, if out of favour with the IN-crowd at sexuality research conferences. For example, the Egyptian sex researcher and the Taiwanese penis surgeon may not be following the yellow brick road of research; they may not be great references but they sure add some spice to the cooking, not to mention an ethnic diversity.

The footnotes deserve some space on this page, right in the centre. They sometimes seemingly go off on tangents, but they enrich the book with a great deal of humuor and most important – perspective.

The closing has an interesting twist. After covering much of the latest research on humans and animals, the book ends with a lesson from one of the researcher teams most experts consider to be passé – Masters and Johnson. The concept of the conclusion is that the fundamentals of what everyone is trying to understand about sex were published in the 1950’s and all we’ve done since then in circle around the same ideas. Well, obviously by the 300 very funny pages of this book, sexuality researchers have spent lots of time, money and favours having a whole lot of fun and orgasms, so you can’t say it was 5 decades wasted.

If you’re still curious as to what we knew then about sex and what we keep trying to know, the subject matter will undoubtedly provide a good read for you.



    • Written by a non-fiction writer
    • Written in humourous, layperson’s language
    • Based on meetings and interviews with sexuality and fertility researchers
    • Includes humourous B&W chapter illustrations
    • Rich in personal perspectives
    • Footnotes are essential to enjoyment of the text



W.W. Norton & Company, 2008


Dinah Rates      

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