Bonk summary
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Bonk Summary and Review | Book by Mary Roach

The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

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We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have Mary Roach’s popular book on sexuality and science, order it here or get the audiobook for free to learn the juicy details.


Bonk delves into the scientific investigation of sex throughout history. For centuries, sex was studied in laboratories and brothels. Today, sex-toy research and development labs and MRI centers spearhead sex research. Bonk is a culmination of two years of research by Mary Roach. She goes behind the doors on the historic and modern scientific investigations of sex. The result is various sex-related facts and tips. Some are useful; some are just interesting.

About Mary Roach

Mary Roach is an American author specializing in popular science and humor. She graduated from Wesleyan in 1981 and then moved out to San Francisco. Though she mostly focuses on writing books, she writes the occasional magazine piece. Her magazine articles have been published in Outside, National Geographic, New Scientist, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.

StoryShot #1: Highlights From the Pioneers of Human Sexual Response

The 20th century had pioneers of human sexual response. Firstly, John Watson investigated sexual behavior within lab settings in the 1910s. Subsequently, Albert Shadle started to investigate animal behavior in the 1940s. By the 1960s, William Masters and Virginia Johnson performed and published Human Sexual Response. This study measured and recorded physiological changes during sexual arousal. The study found that changes in heart rate, breathing patterns, and we could observe other physiological markers of arousal during sexual stimulation. Their research also suggested that there were two distinct phases of sexual response:

  • the excitement phase 
  • the orgasmic phase

At the time, this book was highly controversial. However, as this era developed, society became more open to the book. 

StoryShot #2: Can a Woman Find Happiness With a Machine?

A scientist has created a penis camera to investigate the inside of a woman. This is because research suggested that a man’s orgasm was from the outside, while a woman’s orgasm was inside. Therefore, a man invented a penis camera to understand better the mechanisms inside a woman leading to an orgasm. Mary Roach explains she searched for a long time for this penis camera without success. However, this concept did question whether a machine can effectively help a woman orgasm. Mary observed an orgasm machine in an exhibition. She noticed the machine was effective because the woman had better control of the speed, angle, and thrust. 

StoryShot #3: The Woman Who Moved Her Clitoris, and Other Ruminations on Intercourse Orgasms

In the 1920s, a woman named Princess Marie Bonaparte worried about her inability to obtain an orgasm. Therefore, under the pseudonym A.E. Narjani, she presented a theory of frigidity. This theory was based on her measuring the distance between the clitoris and the vagina in 243 women. According to her results, she argued the distance between these two organs impacted a woman’s ability to reach orgasm. Those with a short distance were more likely to reach orgasm successfully. As Marie defined herself as a téleclitoridiennes, meaning her distance was large, she decided to move her clitoris surgically. However, this did not produce the desired outcome. However, some modern physiologists, like Kim Wallen, still believe a distance less than the thumb’s width increases a woman’s chances of orgasm. The distance appears proportional to the height of the woman and breast size. Mary also considers other more effective approaches for producing orgasm. For example, doggy style is more effective in stimulating a woman’s G-spot. Alternatively, some positions appear more effective as the woman has a sense of control.

StoryShot #4 Does Orgasm Boost Fertility, and What Do Pigs Know About It?

This chapter focuses on the possibility that orgasms could boost fertility. Research has been conducted with boars and sows to investigate this hypothesis. The research seems to offer little evidence of female animal orgasm increasing fertility. Although, some studies found a 6% increase in fertility. This is partly because the research didn’t even confirm that non-human female animals even experience orgasms.

Another study on pigs found that females who experienced orgasm while mating were more likely to become pregnant than those who did not. Additionally, researchers in Holland found that female rats who experienced orgasm during mating were more likely to become pregnant than those who did not. Studies on humans, however, could not conclusively demonstrate that female orgasm increases the chances of pregnancy, though some research suggests that orgasm may be beneficial for couples trying to conceive. 

StoryShot #5: The Diverting World of Coital Imaging

This chapter spoke about the highly advanced research of Dr. Deng. Dr. Deng has produced a scanner which created 4D MRI scans. Essentially, these are 3D MRI scans with a time component. This tool has been highly effective in allowing surgeons to observe an individual’s heart in real-time. In doing so, they can better diagnose problems and identify how to best proceed with surgery. However, Dr. Deng has also used this imaging technique to measure erect penises. This allows him to learn more about individuals with vascular or structural abnormalities in their penises. A long story short, Mary convinced her husband to engage in a piece of research Dr. Deng wanted to complete. It involved Mary and Ed having sex in this machine. Subsequently, Deng could understand better the entry point and the varying angles associated with male and female orgasm.

StoryShot #6: Creative Approaches to Impotence

This chapter covered the work of Dr. Geng-Long Hsu. Hsu is from Taiwan and specializes in repairing penile injuries and curing erectile dysfunction. Mary shadowed Hsu’s work and learned about the creative approaches many people take to avoid impotence. However, there is a long history of odd approaches to impotence. In the Middle Ages, people blamed witches for male impotence. Following this, they blamed the psychological state of man and masturbating too much. 

StoryShot #7: If Two Are Good, Would Three Be Better

Mary covers a wide range of tools used throughout history to increase sex drive. For example, one approach is to transplant or ingest animal testicles. Viagra has been a prominent tool used as a way of increasing sex drive. However, there are alternatives. One alternative is completing daily pelvic exercises.


We rate Bonk 3.9/5. 

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