by Mary Roach
A cheery analysis of how and why scientists have observed, recorded, and theorized about human sex behavior, since gynecologist Robert Dickinson’s case studies in the 1890s, through the Masters and Johnson reach, Kinsey’s questionnaires, Marie Bonaparte’s studies on the relation of clitoral position to enjoyment of sex, and so on. Roach travels to Denmark where she observes pig inseminators sexually stimulating the sows for better results; watches penile enhancement surgery in Taipei; peeks into the small and unsettling world of sex machine hobbyists; interviews the maker of a suction device for women (to increase blood flow to the clitoris); discusses the strange history of testicle grafts; and opens many other windows into the vast array of human sexuality. Stuffed with the kind of tidbits of information that make you cross your legs and squirm (there is a great deal of historical insertions of objects into urethras, for example), and told in vivid, bold, often hilarious prose, this is a hugely entertaining book. It’s not exactly a definitive study of human sexuality, being wide in scope but not deep and with very little in the way of general thesis; however, Roach’s winking, irreverent prose style, her wisecracks, and her wordplay set this book in the highest ranks of popular science surveys.