DARK SECRETS OF DOCTOR SEX; the Kinsey Report, 50 Years Ago This Month, Ushered in the Permissive Age. Only Now Do We Know It Was Based on Bogus Research and Its Author's Twisted Contempt for Women. Society Is Still Paying the Price
Hudson, Christopher, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: CHRISTOPHER HUDSON
HIS WORK was described as an H-bomb exploding over the United States.
When the final volume of the Kinsey Report into sexual behaviour was published 50 years ago this month, it was widely agreed to have had a more shattering effect on Western society than any work since Darwin's The Origin of Species.
Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behaviour In The Human Male and Sexual Behaviour In The Human Female changed life in America for good.
Until the end of World War II, it had been a nation that set out to honour the moral values of its founders.
Men and women strove to uphold the values of virtue and temperance, modesty and fidelity, which distinguished human beings from the beasts. There was an innocence about U.S. society - outside of the big cities and the East Coast elites - that was reflected in films, books and plays, in Norman Rockwell magazine covers and on national TV.
Yet, it was a fatal innocence that led directly to the permissive society of the 1960s and all that flowed from it. Because when an insect-collector came along and slighted moral values, and set out to prove through statistics that human sexual behaviour was no more discriminating than that of animals, few ordinary people presumed to question his scientific method.
Instead, this report by Alfred Kinsey, a little-known entomologist at a secondrate Midwestern university, became a bestseller. Many Americans were so dazzled by his massive database incorporating the sexual histories of 5,300 men and 6,000 women that they took his conclusions as gospel.
The first 800-page volume of Kinsey's broadside against traditional morality, published in 1948, sold 200,000 copies within two months. The second volume also went straight to the top of the bestseller lists, selling 250,000 copies.
By the end of the year, most of the Western world had been led to believe that there was no such thing as normal sexual practices.
The Kinsey Report was instrumental in reinforcing the notion that sexual activity was a good thing in itself. Love is nowhere to be found in these books; in Kinsey's words: 'No-one knows how to approach it scientifically.'
His mechanistic approach has underpinned all the research and most of the writing and presentation of sex in the West ever since.
But what was the truth about Alfred Kinsey himself? What was it that drove his obsession with sexual behaviour to the exclusion of all else? As so often happens, it was an unhappy childhood that turned Kinsey into a man with a mission. Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1894, he was the eldest child of a devout Methodist couple who believed in punishment and hellfire.
Kept out of school by illness for long periods, he was at the mercy of a stern, browbeating father and an overprotective mother, both of whom fostered in him a strong sense of guilt when he stepped out of line.
Alfred and his two younger siblings were not allowed to dance, sing or play ragtime music because these were regarded as ungodly activities. Newspapers and piano-playing were banned on Sundays. Forbidden contact with girls, Alfred was told nothing about sex; he matured young and felt acute anxiety and guilt about his sexual urges.
Methodists taught that masturbation caused insanity. A bout of preadolescent sex-play with a boy his own age in Hoboken left guilty memories Alfred would never forget.
He married Clara Bracken McMillen in 1921, when he was assistant professor of zoology at the University of Indiana.
She was a top chemistry student, a dark-haired, friendly, self-possessed girl who considered herself a freethinker and wore mannish clothes.
Kinsey proposed to her two months after their first date, and she accepted him. But during their fortnight's hiking honeymoon they failed to consummate their marriage, and would not succeed for a whole year - although they went on to have four children. …