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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/20/2005 Archived Entry: "Book review: Why do Men Have Nipples?"

Why do Men Have Nipples?
Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini
By Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D.
Three Rivers Press (a division of Random House), 2005

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

When I selected this book for review, I was under the impression that it was a serious, informative tome written by a doctor and a scholarly layman, using a question and answer format to respond to all the questions that are most commonly asked of doctors at parties. And was it? Well, yes and no.

You see, while Billy Goldberg is a real doctor who works as an emergency room physician in New York City, Mark Leyner is a real smartass who normally writes topical, satiric humor, a la Dave Barry. You may have read some of his books, My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist; Tooth Imprints on a Corn Dog, I Smell Esther Williams, etc. This dynamic duo makes a credible attempt to answer the questions most frequently asked by party guests of anybody who is introduced as a doctor, in the form of a table of contents divided into chapters with headings like "YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT for food questions ("Why are you served juice and cookies after you donate blood?"), "BODY ODDITIES" for physical questions (like the titular question "Why do men have nipples?") and even "ALL YOU (N)EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX (for the answer to such old wives' tales as "Does using a tampon for the first time make you lose your virginity?"). But the running (or run-on) dialog Dr. Goldberg uses between chapters to describe a party that he and Mark went to, where he was pestered with dumb questions like the aforementioned while Mark made a pest of himself by getting drunk and giving impromptu lectures on Life, the Universe, and Everything, as well as the many transcripts from their Instant Messaging, which resembles a Marx Brother's movie script, lets you know that neither of these gentlemen (a word that is debatable in Mr. Leyner's case) really takes this book seriously.

Oh, they pretend to; many references are made to the book in their Instant Messaging segments, namely as an obligation that must be met, along with unflattering descriptions of their editor and various acquaintances who fail to recognize their literary genius or medical skill. Those of you with sensitive stomachs or delicate sensibilities should be forewarned that the language used to describe your inner workings gets pretty graphic, though the bad words are kept to a minimum. For example, the byproduct of digestion is always referred to as "poo", while male and female genitalia are properly referred to by their grownup names (though Mr. Leyner tends to fall back on such cutsie phrases as "Private Willie is Playing Reveille" to describe morning erections, which, incidentally, tend to happen most frequently during the REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, phase of sleep), and descriptions of really gross stuff like vomiting are kept to a minimum. But on the whole, this book is an amusing blend of practical knowledge and sheer smart aleckiness that is sure to help you win bets and settle arguments at any party.

By the way, the answers to the above questions are:

"Why are you served juice and cookies after you donate blood?" There is no real medical reason for this; it's just a polite tradition. The idea is that it will help you replenish your body fluids and raise your blood sugar. But donating blood doesn't affect your blood sugar, just your blood volume, and the small amount of juice they give you isn't enough to replenish the amount of body fluid you just lost, or they wouldn't be telling you to increase your intake of fluids for the next 24 hours. Apparently the purpose of this little snack is "to allow you to rest and adjust before you go on your way after doing your civic duty." Goldberg and Leyner also suggest some alternate food combinations to attract more potential donors, like champagne and foie gras for the upper-crust crowd, Vitamin Water and a Power Bar for the hipster, diet soda and a steak for the Atkins crowd, and a forty and some fried wings for the hip-hop crowd. Not too stereotypical, is it?

As for the titular question, "Why do men have nipples?", it should be apparent to anybody who hasn't swallowed the Intelligent Design Theory that we are all mammals, descended from apes (or lower humanoids, if you prefer), and all members of mammalian species have three things in common: body hair, three middle ear bones, and the ability to nourish our young with milk that females produce in modified sweat glands called mammary glands. That's right, guys; those lovely protuberances that you admire so much are nothing but overdeveloped sweat glands! But even though females have the mammary glands, all human embryos start out the same way in the womb. During development, the embryo follows a female template, which is the basic design for all humanoid bodies, until about six weeks when the male sex chromosome kicks in. Then the embryo begins to develop male characteristics. The finished product is left with nipples and some breast tissue, which may or may not be covered by chest hair. Men can also get breast cancer. There are even some medical conditions that cause male breasts to enlarge, a condition known as gynecomastia, usually caused by obesity or using anabolic steroids. (This revelation is followed by a tasteless Barry Bonds joke regarding his probable use of steroids, which I strongly suspect was inserted into the book by Leyner the smartass.)

As for the old chestnut, "Does using a tampon for the first time make you lose your virginity?" the answer is a resounding NO! The only way you can officially lose your virginity is by having sexual intercourse for the first time, or "going all the way". Yes, I do mean having a man insert his erect male organ all the way into your vagina! The average tampon isn't long enough to penetrate the hymen, that little fold of tissue that partly covers the mouth of the vagina. Granted, the hymen can become stretched during activities like gymnastics, horseback riding, even masturbation, but you can still use a tampon and remain a technical virgin, if you're an old-fashioned girl with your heart set on marrying an old-fashioned boy with the same traditional beliefs and values as yourself.

There are lots of more fascinating questions in "Why Do Men Have Nipples?" which are bound to amuse, offend, or titillate you. I don't have the time or space to answer the more fascinating ones like "Why do beans give you gas?" or "Can you catch diseases from a toilet seat?" or all the other mysteries of the universe that have been intriguing you since your school days, the questions you didn't dare ask your parents or teachers, or spent hours arguing about with your friends. Just get your own copy and you're sure to find yourself the most popular person at any gathering where a doctor is having difficulty explaining these dubious facts of life to people who've been too well lubricated by alcohol to let a subject drop. At the very least, you'll be taking pressure off the poor doctor!

Replies: 1 Comment

A friend sent me your review. Given the subject matter of the Why Do MEn HAve Nipples, I was wondering what you thought of my recent book--Odds'R--The Odds On Everything Book, or if you had read it.

Posted by Roger Schlaifer @ 01/22/2006 02:43 PM PST

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