email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAlways Forever MaybeAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting OffGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot My ShameNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePhilosophy of Love, Sex, and Marriage: An IntroductionPhilosophy of Sex and LovePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in AntiquitySex in CrisisSex in the World of MythSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Dangerous Art of Blending InThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Evolution of BeautyThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incurable RomanticThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe PervertThe Phenomenology of Sex, Love, and IntimacyThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThings We Didn't Talk About When I Was a GirlThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebUntrue VirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Does Consent Really Mean?What Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
Males, it seems, tend to be much more focused and less easily distracted when it comes to sex. As Alfred Kinsey discovered, "Cheese crumbs spread in front of a copulating pair of rats may distract the female, but not the male" (252). Interestingly, this 'fact' helps to explain why Viagra works well for many men but attempts to find a 'female Viagra' have been far less successful. In men, there tends to be a strong connection between mind and body with respect to sexual arousal. Hence, an erection is a sign of arousal, and lack of one usually means there isn't any arousal. Women tend to be more complicated: vaginal lubrication, e.g., doesn't necessarily mean that a woman is sexually aroused, and the lack of lubrication doesn't necessarily mean she is sexually uninterested. (No wonder we men are so often confused.) Hence, if a man has trouble getting or maintaining an erection -- "erectile dysfunction," or "ED" in current parlance -- it is typically some sort of problem 'of the body,' which can be cured by a purely chemical intervention. When women complain of a lack of interest in sex, however, the problem is not so straightforwardly corporeal and hence a cure isn't likely to be purely chemical. As Roach puts it, "it is the mind that speaks to a women's heart, not her vaginal walls" (255).
Due to this complexity, it is often perilous drawing sexual conclusions based solely on bodily responses to various stimuli. Roach reports on one fascinating (and disturbing) study carried out by Canada's National Defence Medical Centre in the 1950's and 1960's.
The purpose of this study was to uncover sexual orientation via physical criteria in order to keep gays out of the military. In this case, the criterion was pupil response. Subjects were strapped into a machine -- the "Fruit Machine," no less -- to record pupil response when the subjects were presented with various stimuli. "If a man's pupils widen while he looks at a naked man, they figured, then that must indicate a preference for the male package" (256). As Roach points out, the experiment was beset with problems from the start: to begin, they had difficulty attracting test subjects. The Department of Defence maintained, of course, that they had no gays in the forces and so sent no subjects, and Mounties were, understandably, reticent to volunteer as a control group or anything else. The experimenters also forgot to control for the brightness of the images subjects were being shown: "Meaning that if an RCMP recruit looked at an image of a dark brown horse, the Fruit Machine operator would have to assume that the Mountie and his mount were engaging in something more than national security" (256). Switching from pupil dilation to measuring changes in the circumference of a man's penis wasn't much better since people can, through will power and training, come to control their response. Indeed, through Pavlovian conditioning, people can be trained to develop new erotic fetishes, such as knee-high, fur- lined boots, high-heeled black shoes, and golden sandals (257).
Roach's book is filled with reports of such studies, covering everything from the relationship between clitoral location and sexual excitement, whether female orgasm produces an "upsuck" that boosts fertility, attempts to improve male fertility through testicle grafts (taken from a host of sources including monkeys and executed convicts), whether masturbation is good for your health, finding sex test subjects in Islamic countries, to the exploits of some of the early pioneers in sex studies, including Kinsey and Masters and Johnson. Needless to say, it's a quirky book, and Roach has a quirky sense of humor as well as a quirky sense of what is interesting subject matter. Examples of her humor include the following, the first of which occurs in a discussion about 'sex machines'. "At the base of the penile assembly was a wide, black, wiry cuff of 'fur-like' or 'hair-like' material. For the partner-less woman who wants not only the ultimate climax or orgasm, but also the feeling that she is actually having sex with a shoe buffer" (57). "Women who came to him for contraceptive advice were told to wear a piece of cat liver in an ivory tube attached to their left foot. Though I suppose this might well help keep you from getting pregnant, in the same way that Birkenstocks might" (214). Examples of some of the very odd subject matter Roach provides her readers covers everything from odd urethral insertions for sexual pleasure (Kinsey used a toothbrush, bristle end first) while others used corsage pins, twigs from Christmas tress, and a farmer who used a rat's tail (33, footnote) to the various machinations of pig 'inseminators' in their efforts to impregnate sows (including how to 'milk' a boar and riding on the sow's back as she is inseminated in order to mimic the male's movements during intercourse).
Oddly, however, Roach hardly discusses sexual behavior at all. That is, her book focuses almost exclusively on biology and neurophysiology at the expense of the ways in which humans in particular think about sex and the effect those 'thoughts' -- conscious or unconscious -- have on our sexual behavior. Moreover, in a book that takes a number of pokes at scientific investigations of sex, one would have thought that many of theories propounded by sociobiologists-- or evolutionary psychology as it is now more typically called -- would have made good grist for her satiric mill. Unfortunately, these theories don't get any mention at all. Finally, I was also somewhat disappointed by the lack of a unifying theme for this book beyond what the subtitle affords us. That is, the book is more a random sampling of some strange work done by scientists in the field of sex research than it is a unified whole working towards a conclusion. That having been said, however, much of the material here is fascinating and Roach presents it in an accessible and humorous way.
© 2008 Robert Scott Stewart
Robert Scott Stewart, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Cape Breton University