Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections on Being Human” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
Why Is the Penis Shape...
Jesse Bering
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections on Being Human

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  1,255 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
Why do testicles hang the way they do? Is there an adaptive function to the female orgasm? What does it feel like to want to kill yourself? Does "free will" really exist? And why is the penis shaped like that anyway?

In Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?, the research psychologist and award-winning columnist Jesse Bering features more than thirty of his most popular essays
ebook, 320 pages
Published July 3rd 2012 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published November 1st 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Brendon Schrodinger
Jesse Bering is an evolutionary psychologist. That means he asks things like why do we do that? And what could cause nature to select for that behaviour?

Jesse Bering is an evolutionary psychologist who studies sexual behaviour. So what we end up with is a book that would make your mother blush and your grandmother to either faint or laugh uncontrollably and give awkward sepia -coloured sex stories.

And while some part of me feels that I should give a warning that this isn't a book for everyone an
Feb 26, 2016 AlcoholBooksCinema rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
There's a book-cafe close to my house. It is owned by an old couple(the woman is 82 and her husband is 76. Yes, he is younger than her. I know this because she told me). It is a fifteen-minute walk, and sometimes I take my kindle and escape to this place for it's unbelievably calm and peaceful environment, in addition to that, it incorporates a heap of non-fiction books, particularly science. When I took a break from what I was reading, I detected this book on the shelf, initially, I believed th ...more
Aug 23, 2012 Karli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eh. Some of the essays were fun and interesting. Others, not so much. I particularly picked up this book to read the essay on asexuality, and was pretty disappointed. Bering is really committed to an essentialist understanding of human sexuality, and that carries right over into his take on asexuality, and his essentialist stance directs the questions he finds most intriguing about the biological possibility of someone never experiencing sexual attraction. Bering works with an odd definition of ...more
I was going to leave this un-reviewed, but since I struggled between giving it a 2-star or 3-star rating...


The Good: Interesting tidbits of science conveyed with a bit of humor, along with some thoughtful ponderings on what it all -- or at least, what some of it -- means. The essays are short, meaning you can easily pick it up for a quicky as time permits, which leads to...

The Bad: This is a collection of previously-published essays. As such, there's a certain lack of narrative flow -- t

Christine Glasser
Okay so plain and simple: the book is AMAZING. Didn't want it to end. The title refers to just one of the 33 essays and I don't think does the book justice because it is in fact a work of intellectual breadth covering an incredible range of material. What I mean is that it's not as superficial as it probably sounds. It's one those books that I think readers will either love or hate (or maybe just completely not get?) because of the author's very unique style, the provocative subject matter and t ...more
Nov 29, 2012 Melody rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wildly uneven book of essays. Some of them were very good and some of them were amusing. A couple rubbed me the wrong way entirely because they were so personal and Bering assumed that his feelings were universal (f'rinstance, polyamory can't ever work for anyone because Bering gets so jealous he throws up). The essays about suicide were especially interesting. Bering's corny jokes were cute at first but wore on me by the end.
Georgina Ortiz
Jul 10, 2012 Georgina Ortiz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few months ago, I noticed myself just looking at good-looking guys (some of whom used to make my heart palpitate a bit) and feeling nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was then that I realized that I must be getting old, since just a decade ago, butterflies in my chest and stomach were a constant whenever I would come face-to-face with a "potential mate" (in the Filipino language there is a word for this: kilig).

And so I reflected on it. Maybe, I theorized, evolution has dictated that female thir
I saw this book on display in a used book shop in Oregon. I loved the title and knew I would have to read it. I loved it. I knew I loved learning about evolutionary psychology, but this book reminded me on a constant basis how FASCINATING the whole subject is and how much more we have to learn!

I loved all of the subjects for this book. Penises, bodies, the brain and sex, sexual preferences, homosexuality, suicide, and religion. This book was by no means an easy read, nor did I zoom through it, b
Jan 27, 2014 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you do not feel that you are not particularly interested in the shape of penises, don't let the title of this book put you off. The subtitle is “... and other reflections on being human” which is a more helpful description of the collection of essays within.

Bering is a professor of evolutionary psychology, or something equally as fascinating and beyond the reaches of my full understanding. The book begins with a chapter where he does tackle the male genitalia in some detail (pun intended) bu
Jan Bednarczuk
Jul 07, 2012 Jan Bednarczuk rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I was hoping this book would be an informative and fun read, but the author's irritating voice kept me from enjoying the material. I could never really get into the topic he was writing about, due to his constant efforts to draw attention to himself in the form of "humorous" asides and digressions, often seemingly intended to shock the reader with how outré he is. Can we just assume that someone who is willing to pick up a book titled "Why is the penis shaped like that?" is someone who is reason ...more
Deby Depreta
This book's aim was to titillate, rather than educate. I found it immature at best and rather spare on its actual science reportage.
Annoyingly, the author seemed to think the reader needed to know how much he loathed the idea of having intercourse with a woman. He mentioned it a few times in the book.
This book was more about the author's opinions and predilections than factual information.
I was deeply disappointed given I looked forward to a good non-fiction read.
Jul 03, 2012 Book rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: neuroscience, science
Why is the Peni$ Shaped Like That? And Other Reflections on Being Human by Jesse Bering

“Why is the Peni$ Shaped Like That?" is the irreverent, thought-provoking and rather sensational book of essays on human sexuality. Dr. Jesse Bering takes us on a journey of surprising and even shocking peculiarities of being human. Using the latest of scientific research in psychology, neuroscience, biology and a naughty sense of humor Bering succeeds in enlightening the public on fascinating issues pertainin
Mar 28, 2013 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not an easy rating to arrive at. On the one hand, the book is full of interesting and at times valuable information presented in readable prose, fully accessible to a general audience. It was for the most part fun to read and edifying which generally earns a book at least four stars.

On the other hand, the book reads like a collection of previously published pieces, cobbled together under more or less logical headings, then sent off to the binder with a perfunctory introduction and littl
Muhammed Hebala
"The great thing about good science is that it's amoral and objective and doesn't cater to the court of public opinion. Data don't cringe: people do."

Jesse Bering is an evolutionary psychologist who studies sexual behaviour. Some of the essays were fun and interesting. Others, not so much. And some were so boring.

The title refers to just one of the 33 essays and I don't think does the book justice because it is in fact a work of intellectual breadth covering an incredible range of material. Peni
Nov 18, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How could you not want to read a book with this title? The book is a fast, enjoyable read: It's a series of short, clever and often funny, essays most them taking on a sexual topic (an ode to human seman, the female ejaculation) but, not exclusively (death, free will, suicide and animal laughter). All are science-based, AND it's science made user-friendly. Dr. Bering is gay, so unsurprisingly a few essays (5 of 33) deal with the science of homosexuality: repressed homosexuality; can you detect s ...more
Sep 05, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting fodder for speculation, but I expected it to be, I guess. Most of this books is, "Hey, think of this! BTW, someone did an experiment on this once, but beyond that...THINK OF WHAT THIS COULD MEAN!" A fun read, but I was looking for more analytically-based info. Probably because I'm a goofy f*cker like that.
Also: I guess I was looking for something...not as all about the author's sexuality as it was? It was (like I said) a fun read, but you can only read someone writi
I enjoyed this book tremendously. The author covered a very large range of hot button issues and was clear about not over stepping what the scientific evidence is for various theories. It is a great introduction to so many topics in Evolutionary Psychology. Jesse Bering has a great sense of humor.

I was tickled to revisit the work of many evolutionists that I have worked with through my involvement in the Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) program at Binghamton University (
Jan 28, 2013 Yeedle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Humorous and entertaining. I'm not a big fan of evolutionary psychology, and as the author calls it, it's "backwards engineering", using what we know to explain it from an evolutionary perspective, a process that is highly speculative at best and downright absurd at worst. Another problem with evolutionary psychology is that one can probably do the same while taking the creationist perspective. I admit, though, that in some instances such explanations only work within an evolutionary framework a ...more
Roger Blakesley
It was certainly educational. Even about parts I've owned for 51 years. Written entirely, almost, from the perspective of an evolutionary psychologist who was oddly biased towards Darwinian evolution, but who was honest enough to know its limitations. He, of course, in keeping with the presumption of evolution's truth broadly acknowledges dipping his toes deeply into speculation.

And the book lacks the traditional visceral hatred of religion and traditional morality one might expect. The essays i
Charity Becker
Jul 19, 2012 Charity Becker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who isn't a prude
Recommended to Charity by: frogfairie
I'm getting a huge kick out of this book. It's funny and informative, and the author is just so darn adorable. I'm a big science and psychology buff, and I have always been interested in human sexuality; this book covers all of that, and more. I'm about halfway through, and I'm almost dreading the end, yet I find it hard to put down so I can get some actual work done on my OWN books! Not for the squeamish or prudish--you have been warned.
Yasin Çetin
Oct 21, 2016 Yasin Çetin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hiç düşündünüz mü?
Dec 26, 2012 Ana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Strange thing is: I haven't read the book itself, but I read all the articles included in it, prior to publication. Awesome, funny, thorough and with sound scientific bases. Go for it!
Jul 22, 2013 Darren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some fascinating stuff to be found in here, all rendered with a caustic, funny and decidedly unacademic tone. A good read, though I got a little bored at the end. 2 chapters too long methinks.
Jun 05, 2014 Nehal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. Sheds light on evolution's less asked (but much pondered in private) questions. Erudite, witty and smart. Nice job, Dr Bering
Sarah Lawrence
Aside from the clever cover, this book was a little disappointing. Its main fault isn't a crime against writing like some of the books I've read, it's just that...I didn't laugh. But more on that later, because there are more objective issues to address first.

The main problem, which it can't overcome, is that it's pretty much just a collection of previously published articles. Even arranged and revised, it's tough to escape from the fact that each chapter was meant to be a standalone piece. The
This one is going to have to be a "Did Not Finish" for me—both because it's due at the library and because I genuinely just wasn't that into it. It was, unfortunately, one of those books where you read the synopsis and it sounds really intriguing, but then you actually read it and it doesn't quite live up in practice. I think A LOT of this had to do with the way it was written, which just wasn't engaging or accessible enough for me. It can be hard sometimes with nonfiction, for an author to make ...more
Boris Limpopo
Bering, Jesse (2012). Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections on Being Human. New York: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2012. ISBN 9781429955102. Pagine 319. 8,78 €

Due critiche principali a questo libro:

Si tratta sostanzialmente di una raccolta di articoli già apparsi sulla rubrica che Jesse Bering (sì, afferma di essere un discendente del noto esploratore artico Vitus Jonassen Bering). Niente di male, naturalmente (anche se confesso di non amare questo tipo di
Mar 22, 2017 Danni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, book-club
This was an entertaining set of essays intended to help bring the most intriguing set of scientific studies to the applied interests of readers. The book begins with mostly essays about sex, gender, and sexual preferences. This was followed by essays about death, suicide, and joy. The first essays were by far the most enjoyable. Sadly, the book begins to suffer towards the end.
The essays were short and easy to understand. The author's sense of humor is endearing at the beginning but becomes tir
وإن كانت فكرة الكتاب الرئيسة مثيرة، وموضوعه يحتاج لطرق كبير حتى ندرك ونفهم الثقافة الجنسية. لكن بظني طغت أهواء المؤلف على كل هذا، فلا اعتراض على قرار جيسي واختياره بأن يكون ملحداً أو حتى مثيلي الجنس وإنما سيطرت هذا الإختيارعلى سطوره وحروفه أضعف الكتاب.
Steven Fouse
Apr 02, 2016 Steven Fouse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sexuality
I decided that in 2016 I'm going to study human sexuality and sexual ethics for funsies. My first book in this study was Just Love: A Framework For Christian Sexual Ethics by Margaret Farley. Farley's book is a scholarly work that provides a useful measure for determining what is ethical and what is less so regarding human sexuality, and is written from a Christian perspective. I highly recommend it.

Wanting to read not just religious or spiritually-based books on sexual ethics this year, I inclu
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel and Act the Way We Do
  • The Other Side of Normal: How Biology Is Providing the Clues to Unlock the Secrets of Normal and Abnormal Behavior
  • Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing our View of Human Nature
  • The Best Science Writing Online 2012 (Open Laboratory)
  • Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire
  • Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature
  • How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction
  • Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond
  • Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History
  • What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire
  • Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future
  • Sex, Time, and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution
  • The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction
  • A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire
  • A Guinea Pig's History of Biology
  • The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction
  • The Little Book of String Theory
  • Like a Virgin: How Science Is Redesigning The Rules Of Sex

Share This Book