Rethinking Kinsey and the "Sexual Revolution"

By Kyle Hammer

In 1948 Dr. Alfred Kinsey fired the first major shots of what would come to be known as the sexual revolution and liberation. He did so with the publication of the first study compiled by the now-titled "Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction" located here at Indiana University Bloomington. That publication--"Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" and the later "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" are both recognized as groundbreaking works that heavily influence the field of sex research to this day. A new biography of Kinsey has begun to cast a shadow of doubt on the intellectual certainty of his research and conclusions. The book brings under fire both his methods and the effect his private life may have had on his findings.

Kinsey's work and the Institute trace their roots back to 1938 when the University requested that the doctor, then a professor of biology, create a sex education course for female students and their spouses. In connection with the class, Kinsey began to interview both male and female students about their past sexual experiences. The interviews led to his expansion into the field of sex research, and he eventually gave up teaching the course to concentrate exclusivly on his new work. The Institute for sex research was founded and funded by tax dollars and other grants from various tax-exempt foundations.

In the end, more than ten thousand male and female subjects were interviewed via a technique created by Kinsey. The questioning supposedly reduced the possibility of his subjects lying by interviewing them "face to face" instead of using a questionnaire, and forming the questions in a way that made it difficult for the subject to lie. The sexual histories produced the two volumes mentioned above, and included now famous "statistics" such as the claim that ten percent of all males are homosexuals and twenty five percent of all females have participated in extramarital sex. Kinsey then concluded that since such behavior as homosexuality and adultery were so widespread, they must be normal and healthy and should be encouraged-not supppressed.

This brings us to one Professor James H. Jones and his biography of Dr. Kinsey due out in October. It has been reported by Jones himself in a recent issue of The New Yorker that Kinsey's sampling methods were unsound and his ethics questionable. He raises the possibility that the doctor's sampling method was weighted toward interviewing those on the "sexual fringe," thus skewing the statisitcs he would later report. The Indianapolis Star reported in an August 26 editorial a case in which Kinsey reported orgasms in 317 young children. Current director of the Kinsey Institute John Bancroft was reported as stating that all the 317 cases came from the observations of one pedophile. Yet, based on the testimony of this one individual, Kinsey concluded that those 317 cases were eveidence of sexuality in young children that should not be repressed. Jones also reports that Kinsey was obsessed with homosexuality and masochism. He shows evidence that Kinsey used his research for his own gratification by filming sex acts with his test subjects, friends, and even family.

These new findings indicate the possibility that Kinsey's science may have been skewed by his own quest for gratification and the pursuance of goals contrary to the sexual mores of the 1940's. It also casts doubt on the enitre beginnings of the sexual revolution and its conclusions today. If the very base of the sexual revolution is proven to be bad science, then can we still see all its values as good culture? And, should Kinsey still be a celebrated figure of IU intellectual history? The answer is of course no, and if what has been said about Kinsey is true, then maybe it is time to reexamine what we think about Kinsey, his research, and its modern implications.

Mike Trotzke

Sean Frick

Eric Seymour