Mary Roach wrote a whole book about it (Bonk) but certainly seems like she still has fun with it. The cervix photographer and her partner have new pictures of her post-orgasmic cervix, which means they're still having fun. But many scientists wonder if sex knowledge is, well, ruining sex.
Bennett Gordon, writing for the Utne Reader, says:
Researchers often reduce sex down to its most basic, physical elements, viewing intercourse in terms of function and dysfunction, rather than idiosyncratic preferences.
He — and the Boston Globe's Drake Bennett — are (of course) mostly concerned about Viagra. The latter writes:
At its worst, they warn, [sex science] is pushing us into a sort of sexual arms race as people engage in sex acts that hold little interest for them, partake of a growing pharmacopeia of sex drugs, even get formerly unheard-of cosmetic surgeries to measure up to a fictional sexual ideal.
I don't know that sex science is to blame for that as much as sex marketing — but Gordon and Bennet conflate the two.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the marketing of Viagra. Many people swear by the drug's regenerative properties, but Bennett writes, "the benefits of Viagra and similar pills have to be balanced against the fact that they have made our sex lives seem like something that can - and should - be fixed with a drug."
And, while that's do doubt true, I'm not sure that's an argument for less knowledge or research, even into the mechanics of sex and sexual pleasure.
So what is the problem?
The overly medicalized science isn't just misguided, it also prevents helpful work from being done. Bennett quotes Amy Allina, program director at National Women's Health Network, saying, "We don't really know - and this is a timely one - how unemployment affects a couple's sex life."
Interestingly, 12 years ago, I participated in a sex study of how worry (as opposed to fear) affects arousal... so there was certainly work being done on stress and (at least female) arousal more than a decade ago, even if it Allina and Bennett haven't seen it around.
They do think there is hope, though.
Scientists are now proposing a new, more "humanistic" model of sex, according to Bennett, that respects the idiosyncrasies of people and their relationships. Looking beyond the physiological, sex science could promote a more healthy view of sex as it functions inside of relationships.
Which, again, is great: sex quite often has a psychological component and a social-psychological component, and understanding how those interact with the physiological component is important. But do we have to throw the boner-pills (or the supposedly forthcoming ladyboner pills) out with the proverbial bathwater to get there? Can't we understand our bodies and our minds and our relationships better and thus have better sex?
Are Sex Studies Bad for Sex? [Utne Reader]