If Mary Roach‘s books on sex, death, and the afterlife make science writing look like the most fascinating gig on the planet, her recently released TEDTalk video proves it. Roach’s talk, “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Orgasm,” is wonky, hilarious, and prurient in equal measure. Like this part, for example (video and transcript excerpt below):
One fine day Alfred Kinsey decided to calculate the average distance traveled by ejaculated semen. This was not idle curiosity. Doctor Kinsey had heard — and there was a theory kind of going around at the time, this being the 1940s, that the force with which semen is thrown against the cervix was a factor in fertility. Kinsey thought it was bunk. So he got to work. He got together in his lab 300 men, a measuring tape, and a movie camera. (Laughter) And in fact he found that in three quarters of the men the stuff just kind of slopped out. It wasn’t spurted or thrown or ejected under great force. However, the record holder landed just shy of the eight foot mark. Which is impressive. (Laughter) (Applause) Yes. Exactly. (Laughter) Sadly, he’s anonymous. His name is not mentioned.
In his write up, in his write up of this experiment in his book, Kinsey wrote, “Two sheets were laid down to protect the oriental carpets.” (Laughter) Which is my second favorite line in the entire ouevre of Alfred Kinsey. My favorite being, “Cheese crumbs spread before a pair of copulating rats will distract the female, but not the male.”
Watch the video below, then go buy Bonk, the book behind the talk.