REVIEW: Mary Roach – Stiff, book

I had read Mary Roach’s “Stiff: the curious world of human cadavers” several years ago, and when visiting my friend Jenn in New York, we met up at The Strand so that she could purchase Roach’s newest book, “Packing for Mars: the curious science of life in the void”. Which I then proceeded to monopolize for the rest of the weekend.

Since I didn’t want to abscond with her most recent purchase at the end of the weekend, Jenn lent me Roach’s “Bonk: the curious coupling of science and sex” instead. Roach has a knack for tying together wacky research findings and journalistic interviews into a fairly coherent narrative. Even when the connections are a bit wayward, she’s funny enough to keep you reading along at a good, swift pace. For a book that’s all about sex it really isn’t very racy, but it certainly is fascinating.

I was delighted to read her behind-the-scenes story on the research paper “Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Male and Female Genitals During Coitus and Female Sexual Arousal”. To record live footage of intercourse in the constrained, public environment of a MRI machine the researchers worked with acrobats and Viagra – performance enhancers all around!

I had read this paper myself several years ago, while doing research for artwork for the 2004 CBC’s Nature of Things television documentary “Sex, Lies and Secrecy: Dissecting Hysterectomy”. I needed a visual reference for the shape and position of both the female and male organs during intercourse. Searching for this kind of reference online can be, as you might imagine, …tricky. What a relief to find a serious science paper with some answers (in case you’re interested, the male organ has the shape of a boomerang during intercourse).

Uterine fibroids, artwork for TV documentary CBC's "Sex, Lies and Secrecy: Dissecting Hysterectomy", 2005