The title of this book might sound like an oddity, scandalizing reader on the impropriety of the question. Could it not have been one of those questions left unsaid and unexplored? Not for evolutionary psychologist Jesse Bering though, who considers nothing absurd or off-limits in the world of science. Impolite it might sound, the salacious query led to incredible evolutionary insights that surprisingly began to attract scientific attention only recently. Dangling precariously outside the human body, human phallus is considered a highly specialized tool manufactured by nature over hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution.
Taking readers on a bold and captivating journey, Bering seeks answers to some of the most taboo questions: Why is it pretty big in comparison to the privates of other apes? Why does it have a distinct mushroom-capped glans? Why are the unattractive testicles uneven in size? Quoting extensively from published research by Gordon Gallup and others, the author concludes that size not only helps stretch its reach inside the female body but together with the bulbous glans it performs what in the field of evolutionary psychology is called ‘reverse engineering’.
Considered to be a by-product of adaptation that gives humans a competitive edge in terms of their reproductive success, reverse engineering performs a special removal service by expunging any foreign sperms lying in there. The penis may have evolved its shape to lessen the chances of one becoming the unwitting surrogate father to another man’s kid. It might shock those who consider our species as being blissfully monogamous, but some degree of fooling around has been there ever since.
Drawing from his published essays in Scientific American and Slate magazines, Bering presents a selection of astounding oddities of human sexuality that can enliven any drink party. From examining male reproductive anatomy to exploring dirty brain science and from intriguing sexual fetishes to the Gayer science and more, the book offers as much hard science as entertaining speculation within the framework of evolutionary psychology. Despite some of its outrageous conclusions, the book is worth an exhilarating ride.
Himself a gay, Bering considers this ‘condition’ to be one of the reasons why the brain of a gay person is as slow as molasses when it comes to finding a way around. Never ask a gay man for directions. How to distinguish a gay person from a straight man? Evidence suggests that gay people produce different armpit odors from straight people and that these scents are detectable. If nothing more, Bering has been successful in arousing curiosity around some of those aspects of everyday existence that rarely merit popular imagination.
I am confused whether or not to recommend this delightfully readable book. All I can say is: Ball’s in your court!
Why is the Penis shaped like that?
by Jesse Bering
Transworld Books, UK
Extent: 350, Price: £8.99