From the Science of Sex to the Science of Shopping

I finished Bonk last night. It’s definitely a book that you have to read out loud to people. At least I do. And while she’s funny, Roach manages to write a pretty detailed and scientific book about the science of sex. I really have learned a lot, yes, some about penile implants and the mysterious workings of the vagina. But this book also contains a lot about how sex is studied and how difficult it can be even today to run studies. It’s all pretty fascinating.

Now I’m reading a book that I should have read years ago. In every seminar I’ve attended about retail, Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy is mentioned. It’s the bible of retail stores. Okay, I’m exaggerating. It does contain a lot about human behavior when it comes to shopping. I’m reading all about transition zones when you walk into a store, signage, and the displays. Underhill has spent the last several decades observing the shopper. He’s hired by everyone from Saks Fifth Avenue to the US Postal Service to investigate what goes on in the minds of people when they walk into their stores. Though Why We Buy is not always the most scintillating of books, I’m getting a lot of new information and ideas from the book. It’s definitely less sexy than Bonk.

I’m going to leave you with another quote from Bonk. This is from the chapter on penile prostheses:

What Mr. Wang [a fake name] has sacrificed today is is organ’s natural retractibility. The adjective flaccid will never again apply. In its place are the adjectives bulky and conspicuous. Mr Wang will appear to be going through life at half-mast. Too bad he doesn’t have a pair of underwear that exerts significant inward retentive press. I am borrowing the wording of the team of inventors listed on the patent for Men’s Underwear with Penile Envelope.¹ The patent nowhere states that either of the inventors—who share a last name—had a semirigid penile implant that was causing embarrassing trouser bulge. Nor does it state that the other inventor exerted significant pressure to do something about it. I am, as they say, thinking outside the penile envelope. Just guessing.

¹ Close to but not quite the world’s most embarrassing underthing. First prize must go to the Deorderizing and Sound-Muffling Anal Pad. The patent’s background material details the sad decline of the human anal sphincter muscle, whose gripping capacity fades as we age. The absorbing layer is said to “trap the sound of a flatus,” as though one might later drive the flatus to a less populated area and release it.

The Anal Pad should not be confused with a previous invention called the Anal Napkin, which, in turn, should not be confused with the dinner napkin.