For Kinsey, Read Kinky

Daily Mail (London), July 27, 1999 | Go to article overview

For Kinsey, Read Kinky


Byline: PETER PATERSON

The Sexual Century: The Sexual Explorers (ITV); Trail Of Guilt: The Acid House (BBC1) FOR everyone who knows that sex has its hilarious as well as its, let's say, ecstatic aspects, last night's opening episode of ITV's The Sexual Century was a great treat.

The trouble with the makers of documentaries on TV's favourite subject - particularly true of this Anglo-Canadian co-production is that they have no sense of humour at all.

To them, sex is a grim business, on a level with war, famine, pestilence, and the deliberations of the World Trade Organisation. But still the funny side creeps in.

In The Sexual Explorers, we were invited to concentrate on the pioneers of sexual studies, starting with Henry Havelock Ellis, of whom Graham Greene once remarked: 'He had the air of a fake prophet, like a Santa Claus at Selfridges.' Ellis, in an unconsummated marriage, did not experience sexual intercourse until he was in his 50s, and had some very odd habits, but that didn't prevent him publishing a seven-volume encyclopaedia on the psychology of sex.

But, hurrying through Freud, the loveless Marie Stopes, and the bizarre Wilhelm Reich, who thought sexual energy could be gathered in a privy-sized wooden box to change the weather or cure cancer, most time was spent on someone who was more a fraud than an eccentric, Alfred Kinsey.

The bogus statistics in his reports are still being unravelled, particularly such oddities as his claim that one in 12 of American men had experienced sex with animals.

This extraordinary finding could, perhaps, have been due to the inclusion of a careless or ill-drafted question in the 1,000 or so queries Kinsey, or his staff, would put to volunteers who were strangely ready, even eager, to talk to a then unknown biology lecturer about their sex lives, and even engage in sex with him.

That so many American males sought comfort in the sheep byre or the cowshed could be interpreted, I suppose, in our feminist age, as a slur on American womanhood, but more likely it is attributable to an element of fantasy arising from Kinsey's desire to shock and amaze.

Kinsey's reputation took a nosedive soon after his two sensational reports, on men and women, were published in the Fifties.

But he remains a natural for sensation-seeking TV producers ever since it was discovered after his death in 1955 that behind the veneer of scholarly inquiry, Kinsey was a monster who encouraged in effect, instructed - his research team to participate in the most advanced sexual practices with him and each other.

HE EVEN secretly filmed his wife in bed with 'volunteers', and, having himself become homosexual, greatly exaggerated the numbers of that inclination among the U.

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