Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

And Other Reflections on Being Human

Jesse Bering

Macmillan Audio

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 from Scientific American and Slate, as well as two new pieces, that take readers on a bold and captivating journey through some of the most taboo issues related to evolution and human behavior. Exploring the history of cannibalism, the neurology of people who are sexually attracted to animals, the evolution of human body fluids, the science of homosexuality, and serious questions about life and death, Bering astutely covers a generous expanse of our kaleidoscope of quirks and origins. 

     With his characteristic irreverence and trademark cheekiness, Bering leaves no topic unturned or curiosity unexamined, and he does it all with an audaciously original voice. Whether you’re interested in the psychological history behind the many facets of sexual desire or the evolutionary patterns that have dictated our current mystique and phallic physique, Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? is bound to create lively discussion and debate for years to come.


Read an Excerpt

How Are They Hanging? This Is Why They Are
A few years ago, the evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup, whom we’ll meet again later in this section, along with his colleagues Mary Finn and Becky Sammis, set out to explain the natural origins of the only human male body part arguably less attractive than the penis—the testicles. In many respects, their so-called activation hypothesis elaborates on what many of us already know about descended scrotal testicles: they serve as a sort of cold storage and production unit for sperm, which keep best at a temperature slightly lower



  • Ask Jesse Bering Anything: What Role Does The Foreskin Play?

    Jesse Bering steps in for Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast to answer the question, "What Role Does The Foreskin Play?"

  • Jesse Bering on why the penis is shaped the way it is.

    Specifically, on human vs. primate penises.

  • Ask Jesse Bering Anything

    Jesse Bering fields questions over at Andrew Sullivan's The Dish on the Daily Beast.

  • Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? by Jesse Bering - Audio Book Excerpt

    Listen to an excerpt from the audio book edition of Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

  • Big Think: Jesse Bering asks Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

    Big Think's Megan Erickson talks with Jesse Bering, a scholar-in-residence at Wells College, a columnist at scientificamerican.com, and contributor to Slate about belief, the evolutionary quirks of the human body, and the larger insights found in biology. Jesse is the author of Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? And Other Reflections on Being Human and The Belief Instinct.



Praise for Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

In the Press

Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? PW Talks with Jesse Bering
Research psychologist Jesse Bering's Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? And Other Reflections on Being Human uses 30 quirky essays to dissect what makes us human. It turns out the results are very strange. Bering talked with PW about our species-wide squeamishness and whether suicide is adaptive.
- Publishers Weekly
Book review: 'Electrified Sheep' and 'Why is the Penis Shaped Like That?' reflect on being human
Book reviews from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Six Writers Who Know More About Sex Than You Do (So Read Them) - Forbes
You probably think you know a thing or two about sex...and I'm sure you do. But, you probably don't know more than the handful of writers I've chosen to profile below, because these people are hardcore. By that I mean, they really know their stuff, and their stuff is quite [...]
- Forbes.com

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Jesse Bering

  • Jesse Bering, Ph.D. is a frequent contributor to Scientific American and Slate. His writing has also appeared in New York magazine, The Guardian, and The New Republic, among others, and has been featured by NPR, Playboy Radio, and more. The author of The Belief Instinct, Bering is the former Director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at the Queen's University, Belfast, and began his career as a professor at the University of Arkansas. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

  • Jesse Bering © Mitchell Bach
    Jesse Bering


Available Formats and Book Details

Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

And Other Reflections on Being Human

Jesse Bering



Macmillan Audio