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Recently read: The Science of Orgasm

[Originally published at the now defunct group blog explananda.com]

Posted on January 3, 2009
Tags: book_reviews

Barry R. Komisaruk, Carlos Beyer-Flores, and Beverly Whipple. The Science of Orgasm

This fascinating book has everything you ever wanted to know about orgasms, and possibly even more. The authors are, respectively, a neuroscientist, an endocrinologist, and a sexuality researcher. The team approach has resulted in an unusually comprehensive look at the subject. The authors detail not only the mechanics of organism (from the point of view of physiology, neurology, and endocrinology), but also at the effects of disease, aging, medication (especially anti-depressants and anti-psychotics), and illicit drugs on orgasm. And the recent publication date, 2006, means that we’re treated to a pretty current look at what science has to tell us about this process, at once so very, very, very, very familiar, and yet still so mysterious.

Also mysterious is who exactly this book is aimed at. For reasons I no longer remember, I was under the impression when I got it out of the library that it might be aimed at a popular audience. But although the chapters vary a lot in terms of how demanding they are, more than a few of them are awfully tough on a lay reader. This is especially so in discussions of the nervous system. Take this paragraph, chosen almost at random:
Dopaminergic axons that project to the paraventricular nuclei originate from a small group of neurons, termed the A-14 dopaminergic group, which constitute the incertohypothalamic pathway. In rats, the axons originate in a forebrain area, the subthalamus, and project to the hypothalamus. In the paraventricular nucleus, D2 receptors are located on oxytocin-synthesizing neurons . . .

I found these passages a bit more accessible than I might otherwise have because by happy coincidence I only recently finished reading Eric Kandel’s memoir, which spends a lot of time discussing neuroscience. That said, I’m not going to pretend I understood everything in this book, and until you present your credentials, I’m not going to pretend that I think you’ll do much better.

Even if dense scientific prose isn’t for you, parts of this book make for more accessible reading. I imagine too that the book will be of considerable use as a reference for both laypeople and health practitioners looking to understand orgasms, and a host of related issues.


Author: DC
Date: 2009-01-03