Mary Roach is who we Singaporeans would call, a kaypoh. When she is curious about a topic, which is plenty, she has no qualms digging into it, and thus has written a series of books in which she had done extensive research on.
This is the first one I read, not because I was especially curious about coupling or sex, but her book which was reviewed in Times last week is still not available at the NLB yet and so i settled with two other books by her.
Look closely at what the couple of ladybirds on the cover are doing. Have you ever wondered, how would poccupines do it? She has the answers in the book, plus many more to those squimish questions I’m sure you’ve wondered about but did not know who to ask. She says, ‘sex is one of those rare topics wherein the desire for others to keep the nitty-gritty of their experiences private is stronger than the wish to keep mum one’s own nitty-gritty’. She added in the introduction that ‘I remain hopeful that the rest of you won’t have reason to cringe ‘(while reading the book). I too have the same hope that you won’t cringe while reading my review or think me a sex pervert for reading it.
This book explores what and how scientists/researchers do to learn about sex, starting from the middle ages. The most famous of them all is of course Masters and Johnson, as well as Kinsey. But there are plenty more, including a Doctor Hsu in Taiwan whom Roach sat in the surgery to watch him do a penile implant into an octogenarian while his 40-year-old wife waited outside.
‘A man having penis surgery is the opposite of a man in a fig leaf. He is concealed face-to-feet in surgical sheets, with only his penis on view. It appears in a small cutout in the fabric, spotlit by surgical lamps. To lie naked would preserve more modesty, for then the onlooker’s gaze is bound to stray. There are moles and chest hair to look at, knees, nipples, Adam’s apples. This way, all eyes stay on the organ.’
And that’s how she writes most chapters, with a facetious humour which I found hard keeping my LOLs soft while reading in the bus. Nothing escapes her – penile implants, sex toy factories, libidos, sex machines (she describes how erotic it was as female Latino factory workers smear red paint on dildos with their hands while chatting non-chalantly in the factory floor), orgasm and fertility (does one affect the other?), Penis and clitoris, paraplegic and sex, fetish, etc, etc. (She missed out on Singapore’s own sex transplant history.) Who are these people who volunteer for such research? Where do sex reserachers get their porn materials? (Porn shops)
As with any Science research topics, there are patents and inventions:
US Patent 4,722,327 – Therapeutic Apparatus for relieving Sexual Frustrations in Women Without Sex Partners.
US Patent 4,869,241 – Disposable Internally Applied Penile Erector
Nothing escapes Roach, not even when she had to par-take as a research subject herself. Her poor husband was also pulled into it.
As a Scientific non-fiction (found in the health section at NLB), this is really a funny book. Practically every page contains a laugh out loud page or footnote.
Sex education has never been this fun.