The Joy of Sexology: Does It Matter That Alfred Kinsey Enjoyed His Work More Than He Let On?

By Larson, Christina | The Washington Monthly, December 2004 | Go to article overview

The Joy of Sexology: Does It Matter That Alfred Kinsey Enjoyed His Work More Than He Let On?


Larson, Christina, The Washington Monthly


In September, Fox Searchlight, a film studio known for such offbeat sleeper-hits as Thirteen and Bend It Like Beckham, arranged one of the first screenings of its upcoming movie, Kinsey, which stars a tweed-clad Liam Neeson as 1940s sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. Movie previews are often glittering affairs, staged in posh Los Angeles or New York venues, attended by impeccably dressed actors, film critics, and publicists. But the Kinsey screening was different. It was held in a small theater in Washington D.C, and afterwards the guests--a motley crew of bloggers, political reporters, and think-tank denizens--hovered around the director, Bill Condon, lobbing high-minded questions about academic freedoms and rewiring societies. These are not the sort of people, that is, who can ensure a film's financial success.

The event didn't make The Washington Post's gossip column the next morning, but its purpose was different: to win articulate friends. Both the studio and the director knew it needed them. Months earlier, conservative activists had launched an onslaught against the film. Radio host Laura Schlessinger and Judith Reisman, author of a book titled Kinsey, Sex, and Fraud, tried to place ads in a Hollywood trade publication alleging Kinsey was a pervert and a pedophile. (Their ads were declined as obscene.) Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America, two social conservative organizations, later bombarded newspaper film critics with mailers impugning Kinsey's character and research. When Kinsey opened to the public, the Abstinence Clearinghouse, a network for chastity educators, organized foot soldiers to picket theaters and hand out pamphlets tided "Casualties of Kinsey" The group's director, Leslee Unruh, explained that "Kinsey should be looked upon in the history books as Hider, as Saddam Hussein."

Other 20th century avatars of sexual open-mindedness don't draw comparisons to perpetrators of mass genocide, including those who came earlier and yelped louder than Kinsey. After all, there was Sigmund Freud, who first popularized talk of sex, including deviant sex, beginning in the early 1900s; Margaret Sanger, who advocated birth control to enable women to separate sex from pregnancy in the 1910s and 1920s; Gore Vidal who lionized gay men in literary fiction in the 1940s; Hugh Hefner, who introduced American men to the Playboy fantasy in the 1950s; Mary Calderone, who promoted sex education and founded SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) in the 1960s--the list goes on.

While conservative pitchforks have been raised at each of these harbingers of the sexual revolution, the anger directed at Kinsey even today, a half century after his death, is unique. For decades, every member of Congress who has tried to choke the spigot of federal funding for sexuality or AIDS studies has hurled invectives at both Kinsey and the University of Indiana research center that bears his name. When the 50th anniversary of his books arrived, conservatives marked the occasion by founding new anti-Kinsey advocacy organizations, such as Restoring Social Virtue and Purity (RSVP). Each year, the Abstinence Clearinghouse devotes two hours of its annual conference to debunking a man whose fame and influence peaked generations ago.

Why does Kinsey hold such a distinct place in conservative crosshairs? The answer is the same reason that his studies of American sexual behavior were so influential when they first appeared. Unlike Freud, whose theories were debated by the educated classes, Kinsey published books that everybody read--or read about. And unlike Henry Miller, Bob Guccione, or Xaviera "the Happy Hooker" Hollander, Kinsey didn't present himself as an advocate of sexual license, but as an objective scientist describing the sexual profligacy and heterogeneity that already existed in American culture. It was the apparent impartiality of his data that so shook America's settled notions of sexuality, as deeply as Darwin's theory of natural selection did the literalist Biblical notions of creation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Joy of Sexology: Does It Matter That Alfred Kinsey Enjoyed His Work More Than He Let On?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.