If Science Is For Liberals, Then So Is Bonk

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Reading Liberally Page Turner
by Amanda Milstein, Living Liberally

Today the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding a hearing about the catastrophe that is Abstinence-Only Education. In honor of that, I am reviewing Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach, while filled with hope (OK, I am way too cynical to be filled with anything that even remotely resembles hope) that, in the future, science and sex will be more closely linked in classrooms around the United States.

"Since when did Science become a liberal issue?" a comic asked at last week's Laughing Liberally in NYC. I would guess that that occurred sometime between when Galileo got in trouble with the church and the Scopes Trial. But now the truth is oddly liberal, so I hereby claim Bonk for liberals and those with a high threshold for the somewhat alarming.

I was going to a Passover retreat with a left-leaning crowd and was placed in charge of books and games, so I decided Bonk would be able to entertain pretty much everyone for seventy-two hours. This was more than true — I at least entertained myself by interrupting discussions on Jewish law in order to read people quotes about testicular grafting surgery such as "At one point [the surgery-performing doctor] described curing a twenty-two year old youth of, among other afflictions, the 'frequent writing of incoherent, rambling dissertations on architecture.' It seemed no ailment stood strong in the face of another man's testis."

Seriously, is that funnier than what you can and cannot eat on Passover, or what?

I spent most of my time reading Bonk laughing so hard that I was either forced to read passages out loud or having people read over my shoulder because they wanted to know what was so funny. During a bus ride from New York to Silver Spring I read the book at the same time as a friend because we both refused to put it down.

Mary Roach discusses a variety of sexual experiments performed by such notables as Masters and Johnson, and weirdos like the great grand-niece of Napoleon Bonaparte. Roach is experimented on numerous times (she and her husband have sex in an MRI machine, she inserts a vaginal photoplethysmograph while being experimented on in a place called the Female Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory), she visits a sex-toy factory, and discusses historical sexual scientific advances and mishaps in a way that caused me to laugh so hard I thought I would sustain serious injury to my lungs. Bonk is a gleeful and hilarious exploration of the past and future of sexual science, and covers a variety of vital topics, from a discussion of the dangers of severed penises being eaten by ducks, bizarre cures for impotence, to everything else weird and related to sex that you would, quite frankly, never be able to imagine.

Maybe America's children don't need to know how to most efficiently stimulate pigs while artificially inseminating them (There are five steps that apparently include bouncing the pig up and down — I don't really want to describe the other steps), but it would be nice if they knew enough to know more than teens in Florida, a state with abstinence-only education leads sexually active teenagers to believe that "...drinking a can of Mt. Dew would prevent unintended pregnancy, or drinking a capful of bleach would prevent HIV/AIDS." Because the science of sex can be hilarious, but not knowing anything can be downright tragic.