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Shopkeep, how much for that vaginal photoplethysmograph in the window?
on 12 July 2008
"Not everyone gets their (masturbation study) funding from research grants. Some masturbation professionals get their funding from the sales of Vibrating Port-A-Pussies and Mr. Fred Jelly Dongs." - Mary Roach in BONK
"To get inside a lubricated vagina, a penis needs to be hard enough to push against the opening with one to two pounds of force. That is approximately the amount of force required to open a swinging kitchen door." - Mary Roach in BONK
Mary Roach is the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, the enormously instructive and entertaining book on the uses to which human cadavers are put. As far as I'm concerned, instructive AND entertaining is about as good as it gets. With BONK, Roach has outdone herself with a read that I couldn't put down.
Science pursues sex because, after all, it's what makes the world turn. Roach first establishes the history of the science, which pretty much reached mainstream acceptance with researchers Alfred Kinsey and then William Masters and Virginia Johnson. (An excellent film about the former, starring Liam Neeson, is Kinsey .)
The meat of the book, so to speak, is the wide array of sexual behavior and physiologic functions which scientists have investigated, and which include: the sure sign of female orgasm, the location of the fabled G Spot, female orgasm as a function of clitoral-urethral separation distance, the link between female sexual pleasure and fertility, the validity of the vaginal "upsuck" concept, the validity of the penis-cervix interlock theory, cures for erectile dysfunction, the historical legal implications of male "potency", societal perspectives on masturbation, testicular transplants, penile implants, penis restoration post amputation, the physiology and structure of the clitoris, the internal mechanics of penile erection, orgasm's effect on overall physical health, the value of orgasm as exercise, the role of electroejaculation in people with spinal cord injuries, vaginal lubrication as an indicator of female sexual arousal, the nature of arousal in men vs. women, the physiologic trigger of male ejaculation, the role of hormones on the female libido, the existence of human sex-pheromones, and the qualitative measurement of sex. Juicy stuff, this.
The author's special talent, whether it be in STIFF or BONK, is her serious - but not too serious - approach to the subject matter. At any time, the reader may expect Mary to look up from her notes, cock an eyebrow, and deliver some wryly humorous aside. This is perhaps best seen in the footnotes to the text, as in the one connected to the above quote concerning the amount of penile force required for vaginal entry:
"We have three Houston researchers to thank for this statistic. In 1985, the trio attached a pressure gauge to the tip of a penis-shaped Plexiglas rod and penetrated a small group of female volunteers. It seems to me that if they wanted to approximate the surface friction that exists in real intercourse, slippery-smooth Plexiglas was a poor stand-in for penis skin. Though I suppose that when you're doing an experiment that involves penetrating coeds in your lab, surface friction is less of a concern than, say, human subjects review board friction."
As windows on otherwise esoteric or eccentric subject matter, Mary's books are without peer as reading experiences.
Finally, in case you're wondering, BONK describes a photoplethysmograph as a device used to measure the amount of lubricant vaginal walls exude during sexual stimulation. As a matter of fact, I have one right here for inclusion in Mum's Christmas basket.