In her book, Bonk: the curious coupling of science and sex, Mary Roach joins other scholars and experts such as doctors and scientists in explaining human sexuality in a very interesting manner. The author begins by exploring the works of Alfred Kingsley who was well known in the 1940s and 1950s for his sociological surveys in the USA.
He interviewed interviewing people about their sexual lives which later resulted in publishing of the best sexuality volumes (Roach 18). Although Kingsley was not the first researcher on human sexuality, he provided the foundation through which Mary Roach based her fascinating and interesting works on.
The book Bonk covers different topics and subtopics. Examples of such subjects include plastic mechanical penis cameras, hands free breath and the energy orgasm. It also talks parts talking about the crooked penis. The author also covers topics dealing with sex machines and the correlation between G-spot and the clitoris.
The book goes further and even provides more than expected about sexuality. She discusses a whole topic about pig insemination while another section discusses how scientists in the Middle East region used to fit rats with polyester pants in order to uncover the fabric’s negative effects once an organism was sexually aroused.
Lastly, the book has a section discussing in detail about the vaginal photoplethysmograph, a device that is used to measure the amount that the vagina is engorged with blood and also sexual arousal. In Bonk, the author covered everything she could about human sexuality resulting to a very fascinating book that you may stay for long before you can read in detail similar information.
Mary Roach in her book, discussed human sexuality using the different perspectives such as biological, medical and of course sociological. In this discussion, we shall not discuss everything but our interest will be towards the sociological aspects of human sexuality. The history of sociological perspective discussing about human sexuality dates back in the 1950s from the works of Kingsley.
As indicated above, he interviewed thousands of American women and men enquiring about their sexuality. Although he did not use the sampling technique so as to ensure his results were not biased, he collected views and observations concerning sexuality from different people. From that period on, other researchers have also done researches based on the same subject.
Most theories in the field of sociology, when researching about human behaviors, assume that human behaviors are usually acquired through a learning process. Despite this, they do not refute that there are other force which can influence these behaviors. This was confirmed by Irvine (440) when he indicated that “although how we are sexual is determined by biology, how, when and where we are sexual is usually determined by the cultural settings in which we find ourselves in”.
Sociologists have discussed human sexuality based on two theories although two other minor theories have also been introduced. The four theories are symbolic interactionism, scripting theory, sexual exchange theory and the sexual strategy theories.
These theories explain that objective reality does not exist. They explains that what we go through is the reality and it has been achieved through the social settings which we exist in They give the example of language which is usually used as a means through which people share their experiences forming meaning to a certain phenomenon they have passed through.
The symbiotic interactionism
The theory is based on the works of George Herbert. In this theory, objects are usually given meanings through communication. Human sexuality itself is not viewed as a subject alone but also as an object. The theory gives people them to copy others. When an individual views him or herself as the object, it leads to a decision making process due to the fact that most people act in a way which promotes the positive character or aspects about them.
Sociologists approach symbiotic interactionism by using two approaches. The first approach is the structural symbiotic interactionist which mainly concentrates on how an individual is able to define the situations he or she is faced by thereby being able to form and understand the realities in which they live in. Scholars also argue that this approach is best used when doing a one on one interview or a participant observation where the researcher’s main intention is to uncover how the individual interacts to different situations.
Structural symbolism however, is concerned with how social structure affects the personality and the self limitation of the reality. The sociologists who base their research on this approach use statistical surveys in a bid to try and understand the relationship between behavior, perception and the location within a large institution which makes a social structure.
Human sexuality studies reveal that symbolic integrationists are concerned with the way in which their sexual beliefs and practices are formed from their sexual experiences. To them, institutions such as religion, family, economy and medicine among others are the ones which influence sexuality of a person (Foucault 18).
Religions such as Christianity in places such as the US, approach human sexuality by dictating that marital relationships are the appropriate context of sexual intimacies. To make sure that everybody access and understands this information, the church leaders usually inform their followers whenever they meet or through the existing church documents.
Economic institutions on the other hand influence human sexuality through capitalism. A household requires income. The level of income then influences the number of children likely to be born in a family (Teachman, Tedrow & Crowder 460). Another field which has become very important in determining human sexuality is medicine.
It defines sexual functioning of individuals and incase they are suffering from any illness; recommendation for their treatments is given by the doctors. Law is the last institution which affects sexuality. The law defines what is right about human sexuality and what is not right. It gives procedures which should be followed and also establish institutions which dictate where certain acts can be carried out and where they cannot.
The theory is based on the assumption that sexual behavior is usually learned it is not inborn. It goes further and indicates that for human sexuality to be correct, certain actors and even plots in a sex behavior should be well known to the parties involved otherwise nothing is likely to happen. The socially learned sexual scripts enables one to decide whom to have sex with based on issues such as gender, age and race among others. It also dictates the right time to have sex, where it should be done and which sexual acts are appropriate (Steele 338)
However, one should understand that sexual scripts are not rigid nor are they static. For those who engage in these activities, they do not have to memorize. To understand the scripting theory, one has to understand it in three aspects which are cultural, interpersonal and intrapsychic.
The cultural scripts are found in the cultural narratives and one comes to learn them after to exposure to a certain culture. However the interpretation of these cultural scripts takes place through interpersonal and intrapsychic scripts. The intrapsychic approach argues that the individual achieves personal meaning from cultural scripts while the interpersonal approach argues that reality is usually defined through interacting with the people who have been through the same process.
Sexual exchange theory
The theory focuses on human sexuality based on what is likely to be exchanged during the relationship between the different parties involved. The approach explains that people get into relationships based on: the rewards they get and the costs they incur when in a certain relationship, the exchange of certain sexual resources and also the consequences of sexual satisfaction (Steele 333).
The theory has been used in the prediction of sexual behaviors, the different type of partners different people are likely to chose, the likelihood of premarital sex, and relationship longevity among others all based on the available resources.
Sexual strategies theory
In the sexual strategies theory, much interest has been given to sexual selection. This theory places much concentration on issues dealing with the foundation of sex and how over time desire has changed in order to optimize reproductive success. The theory is based on the notion that not only do people have different problems to overcome in order to ensure the mating process is successful but they also have to negotiate different issues both in the long term and short term mating (Buss 25).
The sociological perspective covers human sexuality through four approaches which are symbiotic interactionism, scripting theory, sexual exchange theory and finally sexual strategies theory. These theories assume that human sexuality is a learned behavior although they do not deny the existence of other forces which can influence the influence behavior
Buss, David. Sexual Strategies Theory: Historical origins and current status. Journal of Sex Research, 35.1(1998):19-31.
Foucault, Michel. The history of sexuality: Volume 1, The will to knowledge. London: Penguin, 1998. Print.
Irvine, Janice M. The sociologist as voyeur: Social theory and sexuality research, 1910-1978. Qualitative Sociology, 26.4(2003): 429-456.
Roach, Mary. Bonk: the curious coupling of science and sex. 2008. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Print.
Steele, Jeanne R. Teenage sexuality and media practice: Factoring in the influences of family, friends, and school. The Journal of Sex Research, 36.4(1999): 331-341.
Teachman, Jay., Tedrow, Lucky and Crowder, Kyle. The changing demography of America’s families. In R.M. Milardo (Ed.), Understanding families into the new millennium: A decade in review. Minneapolis, MN: National Council on Family Relations, 2000. Print.