Why do testicles hang the way they do? Is there an adaptive function to the female orgasm? What does it feel like to want to kill yourself? Does “free will” really exist? And why is the penis shaped like that anyway?
In Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?, the research psychologist and award-winning columnist Jesse Bering features more than thirty of his most popular essays from Scientific American and Slate, as well as two new pieces, that take readers on a bold and captivating journey through some of the most taboo issues related to evolution and human behavior. Exploring the history of cannibalism, the neurology of people who are sexually attracted to animals, the evolution of human body fluids, the science of homosexuality, and serious questions about life and death, Bering astutely covers a generous expanse of our kaleidoscope of quirks and origins.
With his characteristic irreverence and trademark cheekiness, Bering leaves no topic unturned or curiosity unexamined, and he does it all with an audaciously original voice. Whether you’re interested in the psychological history behind the many facets of sexual desire or the evolutionary patterns that have dictated our current mystique and phallic physique, Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? is bound to create lively discussion and debate for years to come.
“This book could fuel a score of dinner-party conversations…this is more than some scientific stocking-filler: it uses science to unsettle our most embedded assumptions. It is deeply thought-provoking.”
—Sunday Times (UK)
“Excellent in its entirety, woven of Bering’s rare tapestry of scientific rigor and a powerful, articulate social point of view.”
“You must buy [Bering’s book] to be both entertained and the life and soul of cocktail parties from now ‘til the end of the world.”
“Bering’s jokes about the things that make us most squeamish invite us to share his joyful curiosity about human sexuality, to see the world through his eyes...As Bering describes it, the complex interplay between biology, psychology, and culture suggests that what makes us most human—empathy—is also what makes us the most complicated beast of all.”
“While remaining strictly true to the scientific facts of any given issue, Bering keeps readers on their toes with his signature salacious quips and stray, juicy peeks at his personal life.”
—Carl Hays, Booklist
“Anyone familiar with [Bering’s] columns knows the goofy, self-deprecatory way he has of digesting lofty concepts. This book . . . is a prime specimen.”
“These entertaining essays offer a cornucopia of ideas that will reward readers with hours of conversational gambits.”
“Anyone interested in reading about the latest developments in sex research told with a generous dose of self-deprecating humor will enjoy this essay collection.”
“An accessible, lively, thought-provoking book for anyone curious about what it means to be human.”
“Bering has a well-researched, erudite response that teaches more about whatever sex-related topic is at hand than quite a few books I’ve come across. I have yet to come away from reading one of his essays or responses to reader questions and not feel considerably better informed than I was just minutes before. Be sure to also check out his latest book…”
—David DiSalvo, “Six Writers Who Know More About Sex Than You Do (So Read Them)” on Forbes.com
“Jesse Bering is the Hunter S. Thompson of science writing, and he is a delight to read—funny, smart, and madly provocative.”
—Paul Bloom, Professor, Yale University, and author of How Pleasure Works
“Jesse Bering is the intellectual spawn of Helen Fisher and Oliver Sacks, and Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? is brainy, informative, compassionate—and hilariously naughty.”
—Amy Dickinson, New York Times bestselling author and NPR personality
“If David Sedaris were an experimental psychologist, he’d be writing essays very much like these. Bering’s unique blend of scientific knowledge, sense of humor, intellectual courage, and pure literary skill is immediately recognizable; no one writes quite the way Bering does. Read this book. You’ll learn, laugh, and then learn some more.”
—Christopher Ryan, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Sex at Dawn
“Nothing sacred is spared in Jesse Bering’s deft, rivetingly informative, and relentlessly hilarious new book. Bering’s addictive curiosity and wry, dexterous humor make this a collection that’s as funny as it is impossible to put down.”
—Violet Blue, award-winning author and sex educator
“Bering has an uncanny way with words, an incisive capacity for logical thinking, and a stunning talent for breathing new life and enthusiasm into science.”
Jesse Bering, Ph.D. is a frequent contributor to Scientific American and Slate. His writing has also appeared in New York magazine, The Guardian, and The New Republic, among others, and has been featured by NPR, Playboy Radio, and more. The author of The Belief Instinct, Bering is the former Director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at the Queen's University, Belfast, and began his career as a professor at the University of Arkansas. He lives in Ithaca, New York.