You probably think you know a thing or two about sex…and I’m sure you do. But, you probably don’t know more than the handful of writers I’ve chosen to profile below, because these people are hardcore. By that I mean, they really know their stuff, and their stuff is quite sexy. Most of them write about other topics as well and do a fine job of it, but for the moment I want to get you acquainted with their sensual sides.
Jesse Bering writes the outstanding Scientific American column, “Bering in Mind”. His essays and books are consistently rich and engaging, but some of his best writing comes in response to reader questions — and people will ask him just about anything. The remarkable thing is that no matter the question–whether it’s about a latex fetish or scatological arousal–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, “Why is the Penis Shaped Like That?: and Other Reflections on Being Human” that’s scheduled for release in a couple months.
Sheril Kirshenbaum is an example of a science writer (and scientist) with many interests and the talent to cover them all well, but her claim to fame is a book she wrote about the science of kissing, entitled, fittingly enough, “The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us”. You think you know what’s going on when your lips meet his/hers? Read this book and I guarantee you’ll start seeing the kiss and physical affection overall in an entirely new light. Kirshenbaum’s triumph is that she’s able to pull that off without leaving us with a clinical, sanitized aftertaste. There’s a fine line between scientific insight that broadens and enriches our perspective, and dispassionate knowledge that dulls our appetite for being human. Fortunately, Kirshenbaum knows where that line is and doesn’t cross over to the dark side.
Jena Pincott is talented, sharp, and an extremely nice person — but most importantly for this list, one hell of a writer. Her sex science gestalt came with her book,“Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes? Bodies, Behavior, and Brains–The Science Behind Sex, Love, and Attraction”. I read the book a couple years ago in preparation for an interview with Pincott and can still remember my astonishment coming across stuff I couldn’t believe I didn’t know. Seems like there’d be an age of sexual cognitive ripeness after which there aren’t any new surprises. Read Pincott’s book and you’ll know that’s far from being the case. More recently, she wrote a book about pregnancy entitled, “Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy”. If you are considering having a child, or even if you already have kids, this book will teach you a few new things with a style that will make you feel like you’re chatting with someone in the same room.
Mary Roach holds the high honor of having written perhaps the best known sex-science book to hit shelves in the last 10 or so years: “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex”. When I spoke to her about her experiences writing the book (and she had a few notably salacious ones), she said “Bonk” is what happens when a liberal arts kind of person takes on a science topic — she had to experience the topic to do it justice. If you are already acquainted with Roach’s writing, you know that she is as funny as she is smart. You’d have a better chance of being bitten by a shark in your swimming pool than you would getting bored while reading “Bonk” or any of her other entertaining books.
Kayt Sukel’s work was just recently brought to my attention, but I’m already seeing why she’s a sex-science notable. Her first book, “Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Attraction” is receiving several favorable reviews and, from what I have read so far, strikes me as a judicious blend of neuroscience, psychology and sociology. She also writes about sex and other topics for The Washington Post, USA Today and The Christian Science Monitor, and writes a regular blog about sex, love and life for The Houston Chronicle. And she’s one of the few writers that I’ve seen embraced with equal passion in the pages of Elle and Scientific American on the same subject. She’s clearly doing something right.
When it comes to finding an expert on all things sex, you can’t come much closer than Marty Klein. He’s written seven books and over 200 articles on the subject, and he writes a regular blog at Psychology Today called “Sexual Intelligence”. Of course, there are thousands of credentialed sex experts out there, but what makes Klein different (and worthy of this list) is his ability to communicate what he knows. He’s also one of the more controversial of the writers on this list for his position on sex addiction (he calls it a “dangerous concept”) and his outspokenness on what he calls the “Oprah-ization of therapy.” His strong stances on those and other issues contributes a grittiness to his writing that I find refreshing. Klein is going to tell you what he thinks with straight-to-the-point prose, and the best part is you’ll learn a lot from reading what he has to say whether you agree with him or not. Check out his latest book, “America’s War on Sex”.
David DiSalvo: I’m a science, technology and culture writer who contributes to Forbes, Scientific American Mind, The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, Esquire, Mental Floss and a smattering of other publications. My first nonfiction book, “What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite” (Prometheus, 2011) is available in paperback and Kindle, and my second book, “The Brain in Your Kitchen” is now available for Kindle. More at my website: www.daviddisalvo.org. Contact me at: disalvowrites [at] gmail.com. You can find me on Twitter @neuronarrative and at my website, The Daily Brain.