Bonk by Mary Roach

Excerpts from Bonk

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From "The Princess and Her Pea: The woman who moved her clitoris, and other ruminations on intercourse orgasms"

Once upon a time, there was a princess named Marie. She had long, thick curls and beautiful brown eyes, and her clitoris was three centimeters away from her vagina. This last bit was very depressing for the princess. She could never manage an orgasm during intercourse, and she felt certain that the far-off placement of her clitoris was the reason. Princess Marie— whose last name was Bonaparte and whose great grand-uncle was Napoleon—was a passionate woman with a commanding libido. Yet sex left her unsatisfied. Her troubles had partly to do with her husband Prince George of Greece, a latent homosexual, who, she wrote in her diary, took her on their wedding night "in a short, brutal gesture, as if forcing [himself] ... and apologized, 'I hate it as much as you do. But we must do it if we want children.'" But you could not hang the princess's discontent entirely upon the gigantic handlebar moustaches of Prince George. For intercourse with the Prime Minister of France also left her cold, as did intercourse with her husband's aide-de-camp and the three other lovers that she took while married to George.

Marie, who disliked Greece and lived mainly in France, went so far as to seek scientific proof for her anatomical theory of frigidity. ...

From "The Sausage, the Porcupine, and the Agreeable Mrs. G.: Highlights from the pioneers of human sexual response"

Albert R. Shadle was the world's foremost expert on the sexuality of small woodland creatures. If you visit the library at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, in Bloomington, Indiana, you will find six reels of audio recordings Shadle made of "skunk and raccoon copulation and post-coitus behavior reactions." (Nearby you will also find a 1959 recording of "Sounds during heterosexual coitus" and a tape of the "masturbatory sessions" of Subject 127253, which possibly explains why no one ever gets around to listening to the raccoons.)

Shadle was a biologist at the University of Buffalo in the nineteen forties and fifties, back before biology had figured out most of the basics of life on earth. While today's biologist spends the days peering through a scanning microscope at protein receptors or sequencing genomes, the biologist of the fifties could put some animals in a pen and watch them have sex. Said Shadle in a 1948 Journal of Mammalogy article on the mating habits of porcupines, "Many facts about these interesting animals await discovery." For instance, it is not true that porcupines have to have sex face-to-face; the female protects the male from her spines by flipping her tail up over her back as a shield.

Here is another fact Shadle discovered by watching Prickles, Johnnie, Pinkie, Maudie, Nightie, and Old Dad in the University of Buffalo porcupine enclosure: One of the males, when sexually aroused, would "rear upon his hind legs and tail and walk erect towards the female ... with his penis fully erected." (Why do I think it was Old Dad?) This was followed by what Shadle describes as an unusual "urinary shower," the particulars of which I'll spare you.

Additionally, an amorous porcupine will often hop about "on one front leg and the hind legs, while he holds the other front paw on his genitals."

My point is that if you want to understand human sexual response, then studying animals is probably not the most productive way to go about it. However, for many years this was in fact the way scientists—leery of social censure and career demerits—studied sex. As always, before science gets its nerve up to try something out on a human being, it turns first to animals. And it took science a very long time to get its nerve up to put sexually aroused human beings under scientific scrutiny.....


... A decade would pass before medical research summoned its courage and hooked up its instruments to live human sex. It was 1932. The researchers, Ernst Boas and Ernst Goldschmidt, knew better than to publish their results in a journal. Their findings appeared quietly on page 97 of their book The Heart Rate. If you are extremely interested in the things that raise or lower a person's heart rate, and exactly how much they raise or lower it, here is a book for you. For example, did you know that "defecating" can briefly bring your heart rate down by eight beats per minute? Or that when a heterosexual man dances with another man—and here I like to picture the two Ernsts in a vigorous foxtrot —his heart rate may rise twenty beats per minute less than it rises when he dances with a woman? The authors include no data on what reading The Heart Rate does to one's heart rate, but personal observation puts it solidly between "sitting" and "sleep."

From "What's Going On In There? The diverting world of coital imaging"

Though two will lie down, the bed is a single. It is a hospital bed, but more enticing than most. The bottom sheet is crisp and smoothed, and the bedclothes have been turned down invitingly, at an angle. Two sets of towels and hospital johnnies are stacked neatly at the foot. The effect is not unlike that of the convict's last meal: a weak bid for normalcy and decency in what will shortly be a highly abnormal and, to some people's minds, indecent scenario.

For the first time ever—after-hours and behind locked doors in an exam room in the Diagnostic Testing Unit of London's Heart Hospital—a scientist is attempting to capture three-dimensional moving-picture (or "4-D," time being the fourth dimension) ultrasound footage of human genitalia in the act of sexual congress. Jing Deng, a senior lecturer in medical physics at University College, London, Medical School, has made his name developing a new technique for viewing anatomical structures in motion. ...

In [a recent] paper, Deng mentioned the possibility of one day soon capturing an ultrasound sequence of real-time two-party human coitus. Though the first few scans would be dry runs to see if the technique works and whether it reveals anything new about coital biomechanics, Deng envisions the scan as a potentially useful diagnostic tool—for instance, in teasing apart the possible causes of dyspareunia (painful intercourse).

I sent Dr. Deng an email asking permission to come to London to observe the first scan. He wrote back immediately.

Dear Ms. Roach, Many thanks for your interest in our research. You are welcome to interview me in London. ... However, to arrange a new in-action would be very difficult, mainly due to the difficulty in recruiting volunteers. If your organization is able to recruit brave couple(s) for an intimate (but noninvasive) study, I would be happy to arrange and perform one.

My organization gave some thought to this. What couple would do this? More direly, who wanted to pay the three or four thousand dollars it would cost to fly them both to London and put them up in a nice hotel? My organization balked. It called its husband. "You know how you were saying you haven't been to Europe in twenty-five years?" ...

From "The Upsuck Chronicles: Does orgasm boost fertility, and what do pigs know about it?"

The inseminators wear white. Their coveralls are white and their boots are white, and they themselves are white, too, it being the tail end of a long, dark winter in Denmark. Their names are Martin, Morten, and Thomas, and they have twenty sows to inseminate before noon. An informal competition exists among the inseminators of Øeslevgaard Farm, I am told—not to inseminate more sows than anyone else, but to inseminate them better. To produce the most piglets.

To win requires patience and finesse in an area few men know anything about: the titillation of the female pig. Research by the Department for Nutrition and Reproduction at Denmark's National Committee for Pig Production showed that sexually stimulating a sow while you artificially inseminate her leads to a six percent improvement in fertility. This in turn led to a government-backed Five-Point Stimulation Plan for pig farmers, complete with instructional DVD and four-color posters to tack on barn walls. . . .

Martin, Morten, and Thomas are in the break room, eating bread with jam and drinking coffee from a slim steel thermos. They are uncomfortable speaking in English, and I speak no Danish. We are dependent on Anne Marie Hedeboe, a visiting pig production researcher whose colleague Mads Thor Madsen drafted the Five-Point Stimulation Plan for sows. The mood in the room is a little starched. I called Morten Martin. I referred to the owner of the farm as "Boss Man," which in Danish means "snot." Unspoken questions hover in the air: Do you find it arousing to stimulate a sow? How often are young male farm workers caught getting fresh with the stock? For their part, the inseminators must be wondering why on earth I've come here.

I could not adequately explain to them, but I will explain to you. Please don't worry. This chapter is not about pig sex. It is about female orgasm and whether it serves a purpose outside the realm of pleasure. What is accepted dogma in the pig community—that the uterine contractions caused by stimulation and/or orgasm draw in the sperm and boost the odds of conception—was for hundreds of years the subject of lively debate in medical circles. You don't hear much these days about uterine "upsuck" - or "insuck," as it was also known— and I'm wondering: Do the pigs know something we don't know?

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