An Electronic Newsletter
Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Issue #58 -- December 2004
2. Kinsey the Film, Kinsey the Man: Just Another Target of Juicy Media Conflict
3. Sex for the Holidays!
Because of a major, ongoing computer crash here, there's no way to publish a normal issue this month. Fortunately, I'd written something last week after seeing the Kinsey film. It's longer than the usual SI article; since it's the main piece in this issue, I hope you take the time to enjoy it.
We'll be back to normal in January--by computer, typewriter, or quill. Promise.
the Film, Kinsey the Man: Just Another Target of Juicy Media Conflict
The Bible contains no injunctions against cannibalism. That's not because Hebrews and early Christians thought it was morally acceptable--it's because no one was doing it.
On the other hand, the Bible contains serious warnings against adultery, incest, and same-gender sex. That's because there were people doing these things.
A half-century ago, Alfred Kinsey asked 18,000 Americans what they did sexually. He didn't get any cannibalism, but he did get plenty of adultery, incest, and same-gender sex, along with oral sex, prostitution, and masturbation. Like any good scientist, he categorized the behavior according to fundamental demographic variables: by age, gender, race, religion, and so on. Simple.
Simple except for two things: Millions of frightened people relaxed, and millions of frightened people got more frightened. The first group flocked to his classes and made his books bestsellers, while the second group tried to destroy his livelihood and freedom, and banish his work.
The two groups' descendants are still battling. His professional offspring struggle against government, Church, and even academia to educate and heal Americans. Much of the public cherishes scientific knowledge about their own bodies, and the freedom to use sexuality as a form of self-expression.
The descendants of the second group are still trying to destroy Kinsey fifty years after his death, with bizarre stories of sadomasochistic, incestuous orgies of child abuse and bestiality. They warn that Kinsey's work is responsible for America's pornography, sex crimes, and abortions (as if there were none before 1948). They even claim that Kinsey's disciples have infiltrated the Catholic Church, and should be sued for giving bad advice about how to handle pedophile priests. Yes, really.
It's in a country that spends $10 billion per year on porn but which is not allowed to see an entertainer's nipple on TV that the biographical film Kinsey arrived last week. Good news: it's a wonderful film, intelligently written, beautifully photographed, gracefully acted. The era from 1900-1950 is lovingly recreated. There's a little bit of sex (quite gentle except for the Kinseys' wedding night, which was awkward and painful for both) and some nice humor (also quite gentle). The film isn't preachy about the storm of fear, hate, and ignorance that desperately attempted to return America to the closet whose door Kinsey opened with his naive faith in science and human beings.
So for entertainment, go see the film. Or see it to support the producer and distributors, who are being threatened with boycotts from thousands of evangelical websites and pulpits around the country. Or see it because it will put your own struggles for sexual identity and self-validation into a comforting context. That, of course, is Kinsey's ultimate legacy.
But enough about Kinsey the man, or Kinsey the film. Let's talk about the people who hate both man and film, how the media covers this hatred, and why we should care. Because that's what today's electronic media are primarily about: sex and hate. Besides, we're all post-modernists: we've learned that no thing is as real as its broadcast image.
Frightened, angry people are using Kinsey to make points--to their constituents, to the media, to their own repressed eroticism. There's a whole industry keeping the national fear machine going; not even control of the Presidency, Congress, and Supreme Court soothes these folks.
They tell us that Satan literally walks among us, that he will literally be seducing us until Judgment Day. With that siege mentality, it's sensible to constantly scan the horizon for evil. And if sexual impulses are inherently evil, well, we will never run out of evil stuff to fear. Like the Aztecs who were waiting for God when Cortez arrived, Alfred Kinsey is the latest devil for which the Christian Right has been waiting.
The media's in bed with these Satan-worshippers, thrilled to
broadcast the latest chapter in
They aren't educational, because there's no attempt to get
at the facts. They aren't news because they involve the same old organizations
(Focus on the Family, Traditional Values Coalition, American Family Association,
Kinsey described sexual reality in
The two "sides" being presented are 1) scientists and educators and 2) moralists and "concerned citizens." What exactly are the latter's credentials to critique science? To draw conclusions about the effects of science? To predict how things would be different with different science? How many moralists know the difference between a cluster sample, snowball sample, and a random sample--the key methodological question about the Kinsey data they so confidently disparage?
The anti-Kinsey "side" says:
These facts are not matters of opinion--they are matters of public record. There aren't two sides to these questions; there's only one side--the truth. But in giving viewers the meta-message that there are two sides to this "controversy," the media not only obscures the truth, it undermines the idea that there IS truth about this. Thus, nothing is required from the audience--no thought, no evaluation, no growth. In fact, people can watch the conflict without actually listening to what's said, because they know which protagonist they believe based on which "side" they're on.
With all the talk shows purporting to "explore" the Kinsey "controversy," there hasn't been one that has challenged the assumptions of those who damn him:
Kinsey accurately noted that Americans enjoyed oral sex, masturbation, and premarital sex. Today, virtually everyone accepts this as factual, and organizations from the American Medical Association to the Unitarian Church accept these behaviors as healthy when done honestly and respectfully. But many people are uncomfortable with, and disown, their own behavior. Our President, for example, who had plenty of premarital sex, insists we spend hundreds of millions of dollars teaching kids not to.
Kinsey and his interviewers asked about both attitudes and behavior, but he felt that behavior spoke more eloquently. "Often," he said, "the expressed attitudes are in striking contradiction to the actual behavior, and then they are significant because they indicate the existence of psychic conflict."
Kinsey: still telling the truth after all these years.
3. Sex for the Holidays!
...Not with your publisher, but by your publisher. Yes, all my books, CDs, and audiotapes are on sale this month--just in time to give yourself, a colleague, or loved one a gift.
Titles include "Talking With Your Kids About Sex," "Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexual Issue," "The Erotic Prism," and much, much more.
Every order received by December 25 will get a free copy of "Beyond Orgasm," my recent book about sexual communication and self-acceptance.
For descriptions of all items, and to order, see www.SexEd.org/books.html and www.SexEd.org/audio.html.
You may quote anything herein, with the
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexEd.org)."