WARNING: Content may be inappropriate for younger readers.
Alfred C. Kinsey has often been described as the “Father of the Sexual Revolution.” His writings, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” may not be single-handedly responsible for that cultural shift, but they most certainly watered and fertilized the soil in which the seeds had been planted.
These books hit the American public like bombshells when they were released in 1948 and 1953, respectively, and immediately became cultural phenomena. Kinsey’s books and the conclusions they presented as scientific fact changed America and the world beyond.
But Kinsey’s conclusions were not based on true science, and were in fact driven by Kinsey’s own personal demons and sexual obsessions. The methodology behind Kinsey’s “research” was deeply flawed, and his “science” was far from objective. Kinsey biographer James H. Jones writes that “[Kinsey’s] research sprang from a private agenda shaped by personal politics,” adding, “Despite his claim of cool disinterest, Kinsey was nothing of the sort. He had definite ideas about how people should behave sexually, and these preferences were only too transparent in his writing.”
Our culture – and especially our children – have been deeply affected by Kinsey’s work, as this exclusive Live Action News series will explore.
KINSEY THE MAN
Kinsey was perhaps not thinking of himself when he said: “The inside story [behind] the journal and newspaper articles is, in many instances, much more important than the material that was actually published. The backgrounds of the individuals who have done the writing very often supply the key to the attitude in the published article.”
These words, however, nonetheless apply to Kinsey and his work: to truly understand his writings, one must understand the man himself.
Although he presented himself to the public as a straight-laced family man driven by purely scientific motives – an image promoted and amplified by an uncritical press – this was a mere caricature designed to shield the secrets of a deeply disturbed man and to provide a veneer of respectability to research that was methodologically flawed, not to mention disturbingly unethical.
According to Jones, Kinsey “used science to combat his guilt feelings” over his own sexual inclinations, which included homosexuality, exhibitionism, masochism, and an obsession with masturbation — the latter two often in combination. Shockingly, Kinsey went so far as to circumcise himself with a pocket knife and without anesthesia in his effort to obtain pleasure through pain.
In his biography, Jones paints Kinsey as a tortured man who ultimately acted upon his own personal sexual obsessions by entering sex research – a decision that also served as an act of rebellion against his domineering, staunchly conservative father (whom he despised).
SCIENCE SUPPLANTS RELIGION
Kinsey was raised in a devout Methodist home and, by all accounts, was deeply religious as a young person. However, he seems to have lost his faith while attending Harvard as a graduate student in entomology, and he eventually emerged as a fiercely anti-religious zealot. His daughter Joan stated that her father had “an active, almost on occasions aggressive dislike for religion.”
Kinsey believed scientists should replace priests, ministers, and theologians as the primary influencers of our culture. He “left [Harvard] believing that biologists should become social engineers” who crafted both public policy and private morality.
ABUSE OF ACADEMIC AUTHORITY
Following his time at Harvard, Kinsey became a professor of zoology and entomology at Indiana University, where he continued the research on gall wasps he’d begun at Harvard. His obsession with sex was evident even then.
According to Jones, Kinsey engaged in lewd correspondence with many of his favorite students, and apparently had homosexual relationships with some of them. On fieldwork trips with graduate students, he would reportedly “go naked” and would urinate in front of students. He would also reportedly direct conversations with his students toward sex on a regular basis.
“The discussions seemed to begin without any logical justification,” Jones states, quoting one of Kinsey’s former students as saying, “He’d just bring [sex up] right out of the blue.” Kinsey was “explicit,” Jones continues. He discussed “positioning and the whole bit,” according to the same former student. “Kinsey not only lauded masturbation as healthy” on these trips, “but offered a detailed discussion on how to masturbate efficiently and effectively,” Jones writes. “[T]o me,” said a former student, “it wasn’t exactly appropriate.”
According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, this could be classified as grooming behavior.
According to the diary of another former student, it is highly likely that Kinsey engaged in sexual activities with some students on these trips. Doubtless because of this dubious behavior, one student’s wife “hated Alfred C. Kinsey,” according to Jones. “He was a dirty old man,” she said.
Kinsey was “manipulative and aggressive, a man who abused his professional authority and betrayed his trust as a teacher,” Jones states. “Kinsey’s behavior with his graduate students showed the risks a sex-obsessed man would take in exchange for … erotic satisfaction,” Jones continues, adding, “Only a desperate man, indeed a compulsive man, would have taken such risks.”
FROM GALL WASPS TO PEOPLE
In 1938, Kinsey shifted the focus of his work from gall wasps to human sexuality. His domineering style, however, remained unchanged. Jones notes: “Something in [Kinsey’s] personality made him want to control everyone he met” – not unlike the father he so detested.
Using his position as the primary professor for Indiana University’s marriage preparation course, Kinsey began to collect – often by employing significant pressure – the sexual histories of his students via personal interviews. By 1939, he had begun collecting the histories of people belonging to various sexual subcultures, and by the early 1940’s he had collected numerous histories from prisoners — including and especially sex offenders.
Long before he had significant data to draw upon, Kinsey was declaring in his marriage course lectures “that nearly all of the so-called sexual perversions fall within the range of biologic normality.” All of his subsequent work was geared toward ‘proving’ that point. “Despite his claims to scientific objectivity, Kinsey sounded very much like a man with a mission, a secular evangelist,” writes Jones.
It wouldn’t be long before Kinsey authored his own sexual bible, in two volumes: “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” in 1948, and, in 1953, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.” Regarding these books, Jones states: “[T]he academic and professional critics tended to raise one or more of the following criticisms: first, Kinsey was a poor statistician … second, his sampling technique was unrepresentative … third, his interview technique was faulty.” Jones also accuses Kinsey of having a hidden agenda to “promote [sexual] permissiveness under the guise of science.”
Jones writes that Kinsey “took tolerance to extremes,” particularly “with regard to incest and child molestation.” He “refus[ed] to acknowledge that certain sexual behaviors were at once antisocial and pathological.” Furthermore, Kinsey did not seem to realize that mainstream sexual morality “might involve something more than mean-spirited attempts to deprive people of pleasure, that [it] might in fact serve beneficial purposes[.]”
All of these are legitimate criticisms, which will be discussed in greater detail in forthcoming installments of this exclusive Live Action News series.
1 – James H. Jones, Alfred C. Kinsey: A Life, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1997, pp. 564-72.
2 – Ibid, pp. 513, 519.
3 – Wardell Pomeroy, Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research, Harper & Row, New York, 1972, p. 343.
4 – Jones, p. 546.
5 – Ibid, pp. 82-3, 123, 163, 255, 344, 384, 610.
6 – Ibid, p. 28-9.
7 – Ibid, pp. 153, 256-7.
8 – Ibid, p. 257.
9 – Ibid, p. 154.
10 – Ibid, pp. 141, 155.
11 – Ibid, pp. 269-72, 283.
12 – Ibid, p. 273.
13 – Ibid, p. 273.
14 – Ibid, p. 274.
15 – Ibid, p. 274.
16 – Ibid, p. 275.
17 – Ibid, p. 275.
18 – Ibid, pp. 278, 282.
19 – Ibid, p. 285.
20 – Ibid, p. 285.
21 – Ibid, p. 276.
22 – Ibid, pp. 276, 285.
23 – Ibid, p. 326.
24 – Ibid, p. 255.
25 – Ibid, pp. 357, 400, 514.
26 – Ibid, pp. 369, 429.
27 – Ibid, p. 333.
28 – Ibid, p. 335.
29 – Ibid, p. 577.
30 – Ibid, p. 577.
31 – Ibid, p. 772.
32 – Ibid, p. 772.
33 – Ibid, p. 525.