Mary Roach Compares Sex Around The World
Mary Roach grew up in a small house in Etna, New Hampshire. She graduated from Wesleyan in 1981, and then moved out to San Francisco. She spent a few years working as a freelance copy editor before landing a half-time PR job at the SF Zoo. During that time she wrote freelance articles for the local newspaper's Sunday magazine. Though she mostly focuses on writing books, she writes the occasional magazine piece. These have run in Outside, National Geographic, New Scientist, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine, as well as many others. A 1995 article of herse called "How to Win at Germ Warfare" was a National Magazine Award Finalist, and in 1996, her article on earthquake-proof bamboo houses took the Engineering Journalism Award in the general interest magazine category. Mary Roach also reviews books for The New York Times.
Mary Roach grew up in a small house in Etna, New Hampshire. She graduated from Wesleyan in 1981, and then moved out to San Francisco. She spent a few years working as a freelance copy editor before landing a half-time PR job at the SF Zoo. During that time she wrote freelance articles for the local newspaper's Sunday magazine.
Though she mostly focuses on writing books, she writes the occasional magazine piece. These have run in Outside, National Geographic, New Scientist, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine, as well as many others. A 1995 article of herse called "How to Win at Germ Warfare" was a National Magazine Award Finalist, and in 1996, her article on earthquake-proof bamboo houses took the Engineering Journalism Award in the general interest magazine category. Mary Roach also reviews books for The New York Times.Her first book, Stiff, was an offshoot of a column she wrote for Salon.com. Her other books include Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, and Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War.
Question: How are Americans having sex?
Mary Roach: I think what was interesting to me is just the split in this country. I think... Like, I frequently get questions often, you know, from Europeans or Americans. Americans seems so prudish when it comes to sex. Wait, wait, wait, wait. Which Americans are you talking about, red state or blue state, you know, urban or rural? Because we have nothing in common. And that holds true for sex, I think.
Although, you know, there are some... there are some conservative religious groups that are... that are very pro-sex. I mean, I interviewed a guy who... he had this product... It was basically vaginal weightlifting and it was the strength in the kegel muscles. And it's this... Looks like sort of a two-sided doorknob and you would insert it and kind of squeeze it and pull it up and down and... I was interviewing this guy and as it turns out, he's a Christian. It's a Christian company. They had this sort of Christian symbol. I thought... I said to him, "Wow, that's... I wasn't expecting that." He said, "Why?" And I said, "I don't really associate sexual pleasure with Christians." I'm sorry, that... which... that sounds really ridiculous but conservative Christians. And he said, "No. Sexuality is a gift that God wants us to enjoy." And the guy was so open, he was talking about men can kegel too, you know, you just hang a wash cloth of it and lift, lift, lift. And I'm like... Look at the logo on the screen, which is sort of this flowing water and it was just...Anyway, so you have to be careful when you make these assumptions about religious conservatives and sexuality. But anyway, as a general statement, there is a real schism, there's a split in this country. And it seems to have...Both sides of it have gone further...They've gone further apart, you know what I mean? Like, there seems to be more and more openness and tolerance in the, you know, the urban and liberal community and less and less in the other side of the fence. So that's really just... I mean, I... Again, because I was looking at the physiology, I didn't really... I didn't really focus too much on cultural issues.
Question: Where is the most progressive sex research?
Mary Roach: The most cutting-edge work...You know, there's a really great lab...University of Texas in Austin, that's a great lab. There's good stuff being done...You know, so much of it now is testing drugs, and that's going on I mean, that's really where the cutting edge is. That was... I wasn't as interested in that because for my perspective as a writer and researcher, it's boring, it's... you know, if somebody's taking a pill and writing a journal about whether they felt horny on Tuesdays as opposed to Monday or whatever.
So there's not... There's just very little of it going on outside of the pharmaceutical area, which was sad to me because, you know, the stuff that I was focused on and I was so interested in was explorations of sex just for the sake of figuring it out and understanding it. Like, there was this guy, Roy Levin, who's now retired. He's a UK sexologist. And he was doing the stuff... He's the kind of scientist who thinks, all right, so homosexuals like anal sex, the prostate, what role does it play? What does the prostate...You know, what's going on there?
So he was... You know, he wanted to leave, he was retiring so he never got around to doing that. But that kind of stuff where you're willing to...you're willing to say, you know, I'm curious, nobody studied this, let's just do it. That kind of work was...Those guys are all retiring or they've died. There's just... There's so few of them out there. Giles Brinley was another one... The British did a lot of that... a lot of that pioneer work. And Masters and Johnson, of course, in 1950s. That was extraordinary, what they were doing at the time that they were doing it. So the big names have kind of... We've entered an era of lots of people doing a little less exciting work, you know.
Recorded on: April 6, 2009
Author Mary Roach on the red state-blue state bedroom divide.
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