You don’t have a science degree…yet you write about science a lot. Where did your interest start?
I was always interested, but as a reader and an outsider. I try to stick to what I call Science Lite. I don’t do genetics or molecular biology. It’s science that’s big enough that you don’t need a microscope. I remember my second book I had to do some research with quantum mechanics. Never again!
Considering the subject matter of “Bonk,” what kind of people were coming out to your book readings?
The crowds are larger than before. But I think it’s just book people, or people who enjoy readings or like my work. I’m not noticing bondage gear or an abundance of sex workers. When I wrote “Stiff”, people thought it would be all Goth kids and morticians showing up, but that wasn’t the case, either.
What was the oddest you discovered?
The penis camera used by the sex researchers Masters and Johnson, which filmed women from the inside, was pretty remarkable and odd. I wasn’t able to see the actual device, and in my imagination it’s probably far more bizarre and grotesque that it probably was.
In your studies, you discover that the average length of intercourse lasts 2-5 minutes. Really?
It was sort of bizarre and depressing to me. I guess it’s only counting the “in and out” part of the act. Actually, the word “normal” or “average” can mean a lot, as it turns out. For example, they did a study of men who wanted to get penis-lengthening surgery, and every single one fell inside the “normal” range of size. And each one had different shapes, sizes and configurations. Basically, genitals are like faces; they’re all different.
What is a common misperception that you dispelled?
In my chapter “Mind Over Vagina," a study was done on how men and women respond to sexual imagery. Contrary to stereotypes, women will have a detectible response to all types of visual sexual imagery, be it hetero, gay, women with donkey, whatever. Men, on the other hand, are picky when it comes to pornographic images. And, afterwards, women usually claim they didn’t respond.
Who volunteers for this type of research?
They tend to be undergraduate students need some cash and comfortable with sex. It’s not hard to find subjects on college campuses.
You and your husband Ed volunteered.
I had to for the book! A scientist in London, Dr. Deng, was doing three-dimensional scans of couples copulating. They didn’t have a volunteer, so we offered to do it. After all, it was all expense-paid trip, and getting to London is expensive…anyway, the whole thing fell into that surreal/peculiar state you always enter when you’re at a doctor’s office. A guy’s wearing a white coat, he tells you to bend over or something, and you just do it without thinking about it. It wasn’t like actual sex. I was taking notes…
Which you don’t normally do.
(Laughs) Yes, which is not my usual practice. Oh, and Ed took a Viagara so he could get into the whole idea.
Is there anything you couldn’t solve?
We’ve never figured out if a female orgasm contributes to conception. They’ve done studies on pigs, not humans.
You’ve now had books entitled "Stiff," "Spook" and "Bonk." What’s next?
I wish I knew. It gets harder and harder to come with subjects the way I like to title books.