Sex, sex, sex. When it comes to this perennially fascinating topic, there are some things money can't buy - love, intimacy, the warm embrace of a caring partner. For everything else, there's a book - and and here are some of the latest offerings. Check between these covers.
In "The Science of Orgasm" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), a neuroscientist, an endocrinologist and a sex researcher team to create one of the most impressively comprehensive books about orgasms on record. In intimate detail, authors Barry R. Komisaruk, Carlos Beyer-Flores and Beverly Whipple discuss the history, mechanics, physiology and neurochemistry of this most mysterious of physical events.
They explore the effects of aging, disease, medications, hormones and herbs on orgasm, and look at how orgasms occur in people with spinal cord injuries and epilepsy.
Every supposition is researched and meticulously documented, giving clinical heft to the material. Even the most pungent anecdotes are discussed with the academic tone of a botany lesson.
Given the subject matter, this book should be a page-turner. But it's not, probably because the authors tackle the subject with a scientific gusto commonly found among tweedy academics. John Grogan's place on bestseller lists is safe.
The aptly titled "Sex on the Brain" (Harmony Books, 2007), looks at sex from an entirely different angle: deep within the gray matter.
Author Daniel G. Amen, a neuroscientist and brain imaging specialist, draws on 16 years of studying battling marital couples (he calls it "the couples from hell study") through brain-SPECT analysis, an imaging procedure that evaluates blood flow and activity patterns in the brain.
Starting with a primer on the structures of the brain, Amen tackles the neuroscience of attraction like a tour guide in a candy store, pointing out how everything works and what happens when particular areas become over- or under- reactive.
Written in a conversational tone, the book is sprinkled with lively anecdotes, such as the case of the compulsively bickering couple. The brain scan of the wife - who relentlessly rehashed old grudges - had over-activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus. The husband, who seemed constitutionally unable to listen, had low activity in his prefrontal cortex, consistent with attention-deficit disorder. Medications to correct each of these saved the marriage.
There's something a little Machiavellian about some of the book's advice, though. For example, according to Amen, brain research reveals that information on the right side of the body travels to the left side, or simply put, the happier side, of the brain. The romantic implications: Kissing someone on the right side of the body is more likely to make a favorable impression than on the left. You heard it here first.
"Satisfaction: Women, Sex, and the Quest for Intimacy" (Ballantine Books, 2007) by psychiatrist Anita H. Clayton, with Robin Cantor-Cooke, discusses sex through case histories, heavily edited to disguise identities. The author delves into the basic categories of female sexual dissatisfaction: lack of desire or arousal accompanied by distress about it, problems achieving orgasm and pain during sexual activity. The common thread is that the patients are all women with relationship problems that affect their sex lives.
The individual stories are a compelling backdrop for Clayton's message: Unresolved anger toward a partner, risk avoidance, childhood experiences, shame and chemical imbalances can all influence a relationship. The lesson is that many sexual problems can be effectively addressed with a healthy dose of self-examination and from within the context of the client's relationships.
Each chapter ends with a self-inventory, questions intended to be thought-starters for personal exploration. Sometimes, this feels more like a Cosmopolitan relationship quiz than the meaningful exercise it's intended to be.
"Sensational Sex in 7 Easy Steps: The Proven Plan for Lasting Health and Intimacy" (Rodale Books, March) would be better titled: "Everything You Wanted to Know About Erectile Dysfunction but Were Afraid to Ask."
That said, urologist Ridwan Shabsigh, with writer Bruce Scali, lays out a concise step-by-step guide to conquering erectile dysfunction, beginning with identifying the lifestyle, chemical and psychological issues that contribute to it and tackling them one at a time. Shabsigh, director of the sexuality center at New York Presbyterian Hospital, also discusses ED within the context of general health and explains how it can signal underlying health problems, such as cardiovascular disease.
For anyone who appreciates a good how-to, this lays it all out in easy-to-manage steps. Each chapter includes boxed summaries of the most salient points. There's extensive information on natural remedies, PDE-5 inhibitors (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra) and testosterone replacement therapy, as well as second- and third-line therapies, such as vacuum constrictor devices and implants.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times