She remembers him smiling...
Good afternoon, Ma'am, please sit down ... Is this comfortable? ... Ah, let me help you...there...Can I get you anything?...A glass of water?...Well, we have fruit drink and coffee, and ...Yes, that bridge mix is for everyone, have some ... Yes, of course you can smoke...no, it doesn't affect the findings... heheheh ...Here, let me light you up... You know, there is something stronger in the back...if you want, we can get you a cocktail...Sorry I can't join you, don't drink myself...No?...
He places his pocket watch on the table, facing him, uncaps his fountain pen, and begins...
As an interviewer, his persona was of a friendly, easy-going man who'd seen and heard it all -- "been there, done that"-- in modern parlance. In his notes, he remarked that one of the easiest ways to get people to admit to a given activity was to assume that "everyone did it", if they didn't talk about it, and so his questions would center around "when" the activity began, given in a deep melliflous voice with a touch of a Scottish burr. Every assurance was given of anonymity: no one, other than he himself, would ever know the identity of this profile -- the Institute would never grant a release. Answers would be recorded in code, and the code was never written down -- no third party could read it. Everyone got respect -- a prostitute being interviewed in prison would be afforded all the courtesy of one of his wife's Garden Club friends stopping by for late lunch in his own home, while a girl of six or seven would be treated to a grand afternoon of toys and sweets and animal stories with the most wonderful uncle -- but he asked so many questions! A black gay man from Harlem might find a raffish-looking fellow, knowingly speaking of "tearooms" and "Horn and Hardarts" with the suavity that many were later to see in William Burroughs, while a scared college freshman would enjoy a relaxed man-to-man talk about sports, the outdoors, academic pressures...The first sexual questions would appear sometime after the twenty-minute mark, beginning innocuously and progressing in detail and content, and the interview, with up to 521 standard questions, depending on individual experience, usually lasted between one and two hours.
His physical appearence and rare personal asides belied this persona, to great advantage. In the late Forties, his bow tie, pocket watch (with Phi Beta Kappa key) and sandy center-parted hair was already beginning to look priggish; given half a chance, he was more than happy to admit he was a preacher's son, voted (mostly) Republican, had been a Boy Scout troop leader (Eagle Scout No. 77), who simply loved the outdoors (one of his books was an exhaustive study of edible wild plants, classified variously as to taxonomy, culinary properties, and overall tastiness). He rarely, if ever, smoked or drank, and his public behavior towards women was that of an old-fashioned gentleman. Viewed objectively, there was little in him to set anyone's heart aflutter but his wife's: his body, revealed in family snapshots, is pale, flabby, crooked-backed through early malnutrition and childhood disease, while his face is craggy and baggy-eyed, squared-off like an Easter Island monolith. Clothed, he was even more squarish-looking. Yet, animated by a thought, or simply smiling for the camera, there is an elusive, sensual, quality that shines through even today -- one might call it, after William Blake, "the lineaments of gratified desire". In his day, he was classed with Galileo, and he still is, but for other reasons. Some people now say he was a pedophile, a monster. He was also an accomplished, if amateur, classical pianist, and over a lifetime, collected, mounted and categorized 5 million gall wasps, measuring each under a microscope for 28 variables, as well as writing the most encyclopedic treatise yet upon their taxonomy. His name was Alfred Charles Kinsey, and he is considered the father of academic sexology, author of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.
He was born in 1894, in Hoboken, NJ. His father, a lay preacher at the local Methodist church, was puritanical in the extreme, having risen through poverty to a position teaching engineering at a local small college. Growing up, young Alfred's many childhood illnesses were largely those of the poor: rickets, from poor diet, rheumatic fever, from poor sanitation, and typhus. Repeatedly, he was told that it would be a miracle indeed if he reached his twenty-first birthday.
He found escape and release in Scouting and nature studies: in the wide-open spaces he could put the sickroom behind, gleefully walking around all-male camps in the altogether as a cheap source of Vitamin D (though, as a Scoutmaster he counselled against masturbation). Scouting softened his father's authority with the sense that there was, indeed, a disciplined, virtuous life outside the home while in the discipline of science he could find a new order outside religion altogether (idolizing Thomas Henry Huxley, he styled himself an agnostic). He loved wearing his uniform, commanding other boys (all through his life he fought a tendency towards bossiness), and the rough life of the outdoors. In an age when many campers still spread canvas sheets over beds of brush and grass (no sleeping bags) in improvised shelters of felled branches, he often declared he would much rather sleep out under the stars than in the fanciest hotel in town.
Although his father, who taught at an engineering school, had marked him out to be a fellow engineer, he rebelled, and took up biology, graduating Bowdoin College in 1917. His first paper was a report on what birds did when it rained, and later, the (quite charmingly written and illustrated) book of edible wild plants, as well as several undergraduate biology texts, before hitting the jackpot with gall wasps.
The common gall wasp is about the size of an ant, and is noted for its great number of species and variations: much like the birds of the Galapagos, evolution can be seen almost in action from one tree, one branch to another. Since they are, for most of their lives, sessile, living within the confines of their respective galls, and rarely, if ever, fly, their only means of spreading from one tree to another is if the leaf or twig on which their gall has formed snaps off in the wind.
Over a twenty-year period, Kinsey collected, measured on eighteen data points, and mounted five million gall wasps, traveling from Canada to Mexico and into Central America in a roving lab housed in a pick-up truck, and many species of gall wasp are named Kinsey even today.
Clara MacMillen was the reigning beauty of the Indiana campus when she decided to pick Kinsey out as her lunchtime companion, and from the start, they were made for each other: despite his health problems, he'd grown into an elegantly handsome, if somewhat shy, young man, who enjoyed such leisure time home activities as making rag rugs, sketching and cooking, and Mac cherished a wild tomboystreak and an unflappable can-do attitude that served her well on camping trips. (It speaks well of how much they understood each other that Kinsey's first gift to her was a pair of hiking boots.) Soon, she was trooping after him, up hill and down dale, collecting wasps, and in a few short years, "ProK" (short for Professor Kinsey) and "Miss Mac" were married.
His honeymoon was disasterous: virgin at marriage, he had little idea how to deflower his bride.(The fact that he'd scheduled a trek up the White Mountains during blizzard season helped to delay matters..) Worse, when he tried, following the instructions from his trusty Marriage Manual by Van de Velde, his wife complained of excruciating pain. The next generation of Kinseys was seriously in doubt, when he made the decision to take the problem to the family doctor. There, after a thorough examination, Mrs. Kinsey was found to have a thicker-than-usual perforate hymen, and Kinsey himself, a larger-than-usual penis, however somewhat less than adequate to the job at hand. Quick work with a scalpel solved the problem, and the Kinseys were soon blessed with four children. With characteristic thoroughness, Kinsey found himself reading and discussing "the sex thing".
In the late thirties, he was "Dr. Sex": students, needing answers fast on a variety of sex and gender-related questions, would routinely turn to him, on subjects ranging from basic anatomy and physiology to venereal disease (which was then having a mini-epidemic). Although the college already offered some health information, he started a "marriage course" in the University of Indiana, where he gave basic biological knowlege to married students and students contemplating marriage.
The course comprised six sessions, and was couched in the most reserved clinical language. Beginning with the statement that most of what he was about to say would be, in a more enlightened age, common knowlege to a child of twelve, he asserted that human beings were living things, just as plants and animals were, and therefore subject to the same natural processes as a tree or an ant. Moving right along, he detailed how reproduction works in the animal world, and contrasting this natural order with the prevailing set of mores. Subsequent lectures dealt with the development of genitalia in both males and females, which he held, in an age when women's anatomy was still thought of as belonging to "lesser men", as equal in complexity and evolutionary development, adolescence and sexual attraction. The fourth lecture covered sex for singles, Thirties-style: masturbation (which he thoroughly demystified, and heartily endorsed), wet dreams (which he called "nature's safety valve"), petting and general making out. By the fifth lecture, having thoroughly acclimated his audience, he introduced the subject of sexual intercourse, or more dryly, "coitus", which he covered with the same explicit detail that he used in explaining, for example, the pollination of apple trees. Now and then, he'd editorialize, pointing out, for instance, that the missionary position was but one of many ways in which copulation might be achieved: it was simply unknown in the animal world, while most non-Western cultures favored the woman being on top. In fact, he marveled, whole books had been written on the subject! A final lecture covered fertilization, pregnancy, and contraception (his favored methods being the condom and the diaphragm). It was during this course, students besieged him with dozens of questions that he simply couldn't answer: the light of biological science had never been fully turned on human sexuality as it had been on bugs and worms.
It was at this juncture that Kinsey began to think of conducting surveys: after all, humans, in his opinion, were just a more complicated gall wasp. Starting with mimeographed surveys, he progressed to personal interviews, conducted with the care of his study of insect taxonomy. Finding the task of interviewing a hundred thousand people a daunting prospect, in 1942 he recruited three assistants, Clyde Martin, Paul Gebhardt, and Wardell Pomeroy, taught them interviewing techniques and the all-important code, applied for, and got a Rockefeller grant as "The Institute for Sex Research" and proceeded to interview well, nearly everyone in sight, eventually covering all 48 existing states and finishing 18,000 worksheets.
The results were astounding. Some men didn't like kissing, some women achieved orgasm by having their feet rubbed. Tiny, prim old ladies turned out to be multiorgasmic masturbators; some hearty halfback types were almost asexual. Lower income groups engaged in extramarital sex within the first few years of marriage, and were faithful thereafter; upper income groups did exactly the reverse. While masturbation had been considered rare and an abberant behavior, fully 96% of all males had engaged in it at one time or another. Some happy couples engaged in intercourse less than once a year, some others several times a night. Contrary to widely held medical beliefs, the majority of homosexuals were indistinguishable from the general population: neither effeminacy nor masculinity (or any degree therof) was a predictor of behavior. Worse yet, there seemed to be a great many more people (male and female) with homosexual experiences than could have ever been imagined: up to 40% of all males had had at least one orgasm with a member of their own sex; ten percent had lived in a homosexual relationship lasting up to three years. (Given that many men he'd studied had had military or prison experiences, it's hardly surprising, though later work by Gebhardt, his handpicked successor at the Institute, bore this out in the general population as well.) Only four percent were exclusively homosexual, a finding that led to the famous "Kinsey Scale" of sexual orientation: ranging from one (exclusively heterosexual) to six (exclusively homosexual), it allowed for "predominantly heterosexual with some homoerotic outlet"(2), the reverse(5), and the ever-elusive "bisexual"(3.5).
It was, in a word, the gall wasp problem all over again: owing to the way most children learn about sex, magnified by individual physical differences, every individual, in every generation had had to, in effect, reinvent the wheel to suit themselves. Variation seemed the only constant: the definition of normal, which at the time meant no sexual partners outside marriage, no masturbation, no attraction to the same sex, 2.5 acts per week and no oral or manual orgasms within marriage began to look more and more like a Platonic ideal, rather than a statistical mode.Women displayed an even greater statistical scattering. True to his taxonomical background, he classified sexual activities as "common", "uncommon", "rare", and "unique": as a zoologist, rather than a psychologist or medical doctor, he made no recommendations as to what a person "should" have as a sexual life -- he simply took down the data.
During this time, his family life was, by and large, a happy one, marred only by the early death (juvenile diabetes) of his older son. His two daughters (Anne, tall and rangy like ProK, and Joan, small and round like Mac) and remaining son Bruce lived in a charming Craftsman-style house under a persimmon tree, full of nooks and hiding places, playing ping-pong in a "secret" attic room (later made "unsecret" and used by the Institute as a photographic studio), eating outdoors at a picnic table, sunbathing in their back yard, and accompanying their parents on wasp-collecting expeditions. Kinsey was a doting, if somewhat eccentric, father, gardening (his iris collection was held to be one of the best in the country) in a loincloth while neighbors filed to church in their Sunday best(Vitamin D, he'd explain with a sly twinkle; privately, he considered Nature his true faith), discussing his daily findings at the dinner table ("Sex was something like the family business." one daughter recalled. "We knew other families didn't talk about it, but then, most people I knew thought ticks were insects."), and teaching them every kind of craft or game a former Scoutmaster was likely to know. Their own sex education was not only thorough, but age-appropriate, though "Kinseyized", to an extent: early on acclimated to the differences between male and female (both Miss Mac and the ProK enjoyed sunbathing and nude swims in camp, to which their children were cordially invited) by six, all of them had seen pictures and movies of mating animals (lessons the ProK reinforced by object lessons in the garden), at ten, developing breasts, and for Bruce, descending testicles, were the subject of informed anticipation, announced, duly noted and counseled individually. From then on, menses, masturbation, and the behavior of dates were noted on worksheets specially coded for each child, and care was taken (to show respect for others' beliefs) to preserve as decorous a facade as possible: no matter if they knew better, he joked, they were expected to behave like ladies and gentlemen. Sexual activity (other than masturbation) was forbidden until eighteen, but encouraged afterwards: one daughter recalls a letter asking when she and her boyfriend of two months would commence sexual intercourse, with helpful hints to make her first time comfortable and pleasurable. Mac, though a classic stay-at-home mom, typed Kinsey's manuscripts, helped mount wasps, hosted home concerts on Kinsey's beloved piano, baked persimmon pie, and dispensed sex and childrearing knowlege among the neighbors, in between leading troops of Girl Scouts. Throughout their marriage, she said, she and the ProK never stopped loving each other.
During his surveys, he found the utility of knowing the homosexual subculture, experimentally coupling with Clyde Martin, one of his team, while on the road. To his great surprise and delight, he found he enjoyed the attentions of other men as much as he had the marriage bed, and found a whole new world, conducted in public washrooms, Turkish baths, Greenwich Village flats and waterfront bars, as exotic and dangerous as any bug-hunting expedition in Mexico. The sight of nude young men, he found curiously, could arouse him as much as a lovely young girl. Coming home to Mac, he reported his findings in the usual way: instead of her usual polite interest, she was visibly hurt.
To make things up, he acted as Cupid, offering Mac to Clyde and vice versa, and to his relief, found them to be quite compatible. For a time, he enjoined the staff to experiment themselves and to swap spouses, envisioning the Institute as being the core of an emerging free society where sexuality could be expressed freely and without reservations. This was met with mixed results: Gebhard still recalls with a chuckle his dogged efforts to get an orgasm, any orgasm, with another man, to change his K number from one to two. (Kinsey finally relented, saying at least Geb wouldn't judge.) More seriously, Clyde Martin's wife fell in love with Gebhard as a result of extracurricular huggermuggery, seriously jeopardizing their respective marriages, as well as the cohesion of the Team. Still, most staffers remember the Kinsey years at the Institute as happy, carefree ones, full of excitement, parties at the Kinseys', and lots of sex.
The findings were published in 1948, quietly, by a scientific publisher, for $6.50 (often given as sex-fifty), the equivalent of more than fifty dollars today. But almost from the beginning, there was a buzz. Kinsey and company found themselves the first "instant celebrities" of the postwar age, having delivered, in one reviewer's opinion, "an atomic bomb" to prudery. It's as if a whole nation's private lives had been laid out in the open, said another.
There were, of course, some doubts: Margaret Mead cautioned that the study failed to consider the effects of enculturalization, even though a good amount of the male volume supported her notions of human sexuality being something more than Victorian platitudes about "purity". Niebuhr lamented that such a complex issue as human love had to be subjected to clinical scrutiny. Mostly, however, the reviews were good, and Kinsey found himself a household name. Comedians referred to their offspring as "too old for the Bobbsey Twins and too young for the Kinsey Report." Martha Raye had a mini-hit with a single "Oooh, Dr. Kinsey!" Mae West remarked that she'd done as much as Kinsey, except that she was hands on, and didn't kiss and tell. An obscene telephone caller in Manhattan amused himself by pretending to be a Kinsey interviewer: after he was caught and written about in the press, scores of women called Bloomington -- not to complain, but to schedule real interviews for themselves. Cole Porter (who probably read his findings on homosexuality with some pleasure) quoted his Report in "Too Darn Hot", a number in his landmark musical "Kiss Me, Kate". Women's magazines asked Mrs. Kinsey for her persimmon pie recipe, and were given the quotable sound bite "I hardly see my husband anymore, now that he's taken up sex." A New Yorker cartoon summed up the response handily: a woman reading the Report concealed behind a seed catalog (!), looks with mixed suspicion and fear at ... her newspaper-reading, straight-looking spouse.
Still, people continued to write to Dr. Kinsey on sexual matters large and small. His reply was usually that he couldn't give much help without a full sexual history. Meanwhile, they should consult a medical doctor (not a zoologist) for any physical conditions, but mostly, they shouldn't worry too much -- would they consent to having it taken if they were going near Bloomington or on their next tour?
What he, nor any American could not have known, was that a storm was brewing in Washington, with gay sex a key component, in ways that Kinsey's naive assumptions about the intrinsic harmlessness of human sexuality had no part.
In 1949, Senator Joe Mc Carthy began investigating the involvment of the Democratic Party with Communism. Homosexual himself, he found a ready ally in a fellow gay man, J. Edgar Hoover, and an ambitious young gay lawyer, Roy Cohn, and his assistant, (Kinsey number unknown) G. David Schine.
Their main modus operendi was blackmail. Sighting a potential prey, they'd first insinuate that they were homosexual, and threaten exposure. Since homosexuality was illegal in many states, and grounds for dismissal in almost every government post, this was enough to compel compliance. They would then move onto questions about possible Communist activity as well. The only way out was to admit to all charges, and to name others.
Obviously, Kinsey had a goldmine of names from which to draw, but he refused to hand them over, beginning a series of setbacks for Kinsey and the Institute. The Rockefeller Foundation ceased their grant, and several shipments of sex-related artwork and literature were seized by the U.S. Customs Office, necessitating long pleas for funding and many legal costs.
Sexual Behavior of the Human Female was roundly panned, despite a marked softening of his position: few wanted, in the early Fifties, to hear that the daughters, wives, and mothers of America, too, were masturbating, having pre-and extra-marital sex, sometimes with each other, and even selling their favors with abandon. Finally, as his swan song, he toured Europe, eventually visiting Aleister Crowley's Abbey of Theleme with Kenneth Anger.
His health, strained to the point of breaking for so many years, finally began to fail. For years, he had regulated his sleep with a regimen of barbituates (and possibly a few amphetamines as well): in his waning years, he found himself dangerously addicted. His heart, though never strong, began to give out. Finally, he suffered an embolism stemming from a small bruise on his leg, and died the next day.
Dr. Kinsey died in 1956, but the controversy continues.
Most of his main detractors are sexual conservatives outside the academic sphere who credit him with altogether too much authority in the sexual revolution, just as creation scientists do Darwin in the question of Bibical inerrancy: discredit Kinsey, the thought goes, and the sexual revolution will implode, the lid snapping again shut on Pandora's Box. While most of Kinsey's most shocking findings in 1948 are no big deal now - adolescent masturbation all but ubiquitous! premarital sex rampant! married couples performing oral sex! millions of gays among us! — some of his personal quirks and flaws in surveying remain problematic.
Now, do you have any questions?
- Firstly, as likable as he was, he could also be selfish and tyrannical: as a dad, his script was more "Life With Father" than Ozzie Nelson, and he tended to micromanage every aspect of the Institute, from the dress and grooming of interviewers upward.
- Bastard he might have been, but that's hardly criminal. His childrearing style may have been Edwardian, but his daughters remember him as being as loving as he was strict. Staffers tended to have the same impression: he could be a kindly boss, he could be a pain in the neck. He kept a dish of bridge mix on his desk, in lieu of lunch, and would often express impatience with staffers who insisted on doing otherwise (away from his desk, his tastes in food were equally gauche, salting or drowning whatever he ate in mayonnaise before tasting). He was notoriously tight with budgeting, both at the Institute and at home, and shared hotel rooms, and even beds with other male staffers (even if he wasn't having a sexual relationship with them), to cut the cost of lodging. Ever on the lookout for new sources of data, he'd urge staffers to keep sexual diaries, detailing what they did, when, and how. (Paul Gebhard, now past ninety, still keeps his, as others did throughout their lives.) However, many people remember him as being scrupulously honest, kind to those in difficulties, and generous with both time and money to anyone with a legitimate need. Many of the people he interviewed remember him fondly, and he often recieved letters, even Christmas cards and birth announcements, from former students and interviewees. What he never was, was boring!
Second, as I alluded before, he was not altogether heterosexual, and many critics have pointed to this fact, concluding that he was probably entirely gay, and had slanted the results of the Male volume to justify his sexuality. The "Female" volume was merely a play to the public; he disliked women and would have much more liked to have followed up with a volume on sex offenders or male homosexuality.
Yes, he had sexual relations with Clyde Martin, and several other men. But he also, with Mac's knowlege and consent, slept with several other women, as well as the redoubtable Miss Mac herself, to whom he was, until the end of his life, a passionately loving husband. His attitude towards women was strongly egalitarian, and, as I have hinted, he was not above a bit of role reversal. However, to label this as "latent homosexuality" is a stretch. He was, from all evidence, bisexual, and just as interested in female perspectives as male. Had his data shown that his personal sexuality was, as he would put it "uncommon", or "rare", he would still have published findings to that effect. The projected, but unfinished volumes were to include Sex and the Law (a survey of laws governing sexual activity), Sex Education, Sexual Adaptation in Institutional Settings (that is, sex in prison), and Sexual Compatibility in Marriage. Of these volumes, only one would be concerned with homosexuality to more than a passing extent.
I reiterate: only four percent of his survey were exclusively gay, and only 40% of all men had had any homosexual relations at all. (Despite contemporary urban legend, he never claimed that 10% of all men were "homosexual", that is, entirely gay.) What makes his findings uncomfortable for many is the fact that there are so many who are neither strictly hetero- or homosexual, but something else altogether.
- Most serious researchers now consider him to be a self-aggrandizing fraud: he was a voyeur and a pedophile who supervised the rape and torture of hundreds of children, recruiting pedophiles to conduct experiments under the direction of ex-Nazis.
- Most of this is urban legend, stemming from allegations made by Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D (Communications), echoed by similar critics, who have little to do with academic sexology as such. Ms. Reisman's crusade stems from the fact that had been callously told that "children are sexual from birth" in response to her distress at finding her ten-year-old in a compromising position with a neighbor boy. From that day forward, she became a one-woman crusader against "child porn", which she defines as any kind of media depicting, writing about, or even mentioning sexual acts involving young folks under eighteen: she gives the love scene from Romeo and Juliet as a prime example. Acting on a tip given to her that "Kinsey and Pomeroy...one was a homosexual, and the other was a pedophile" (presumably referring to Pomeroy's Boys and Sex and Girls and Sex, two widely read sex education manuals of the early '70's), she latched onto table 34 in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male as evidence of Kinsey's pedophilia.
The truth was that there were no experiments done on children. Kinsey's sole information-gathering tool was the interview; he privately owned that of the nearly eight thousand interviews he conducted, there were eight men who admitted sex with children. One, tentatively identified as "Rex King", claimed to have had sex with thousands of individuals, including hundreds of children, including infants, keeping detailed notes on all his contacts from 1917-1946. (It's to be noted, also, that he died soon after his interview.) At least some of table 34 is derived from this data: however, even with this data factored out, the results are roughly the same. What of the rest of the data? Most of it was derived retroactively, from adult respondants recalling early childhood memories; some of it came from parents observing their children. (It's to be noted that a common European folk practise involves manually stimulating babies to calm them.) And some of it, as I detailed in my introduction, came from children themselves, whose mothers or schoolrooms he visited or had visit (with their mothers) at his home in Bloomington. At no time did he interview any children under 12 without a parent or teacher in the room.
One man from Germany wrote in to Kinsey after the "Male" volume was published, talking about his experiences as a pedophile, who was later found to have been an ex-Nazi, but he recieved only Kinsey's standard reply letter thanking him, etc., but cautioning him that such talk placed him under the danger of severe social repercussions. As for the woman in Britain, who claimed to have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her relatives "so they could answer questionnaires from the Kinsey Institute", there never were any questionnaires ever sent out. As I said, sexual histories were taken by interview, only.
- Well, what about the movies, didn't he film all those men jerking themselves off?
- Yes, and all those gall wasps, and porcupines, and beef cattle copulating. And Martin and Gebhardt, and Pomeroy, each with their spouses, plus a few volunteers. (And it was William Dellanbach that shot the films.) He thought that since human sexual intercourse was more complicated than say, conjugating paramecia, it should be filmed,not photographed, for the Marriage Course. What do you think he would show, blue movies?
- OK, so what about the swizzle sticks? The hangings? The orchitis? Didn't he, somehow, die of sex?
- Now we get into sensitive, embarrassing, but, less than frightening territory. Towards the end of his life, Kinsey enjoyed urethral stimulation, that is, sounding his penis, a variation, as he might have said, somewhat "rare", but nowadays not unknown. (In fact, a piece of male jewelry, the so-called "Prince's Wand" has been devised to do just that.) He also enjoyed experimenting with rough play to his scrotum, mild strangulation, play-piercing, and one fine day, circumcised himself in the bath. While all these are also "rare", and doubtlessly dangerous, in no way do I see them compromising his findings: it speaks volumes about his so-called bias that he didn't make these "rarer" parts of his personality the centerpiece of his writing.
It's true that at one point, also late in his life, he suffered an inflammation of the scrotum. This is commonly the result of a viral infection elsewhere; certainly it seems to have been so in his case (a bad cold with a sore throat). As I pointed out, he died of a disengaged blood clot sustained while working in the garden, not of some exotic sexual activity.
- No, no, no! I want to hear about the orgies, man, in his attic, with someone filming him, and how he used to have group sex in his tent with all those little boys when he was a camp counselor, and...um...I mean, he masturbated several times a day...he thought it was necessary for health! What about that? Admit it, most serious researchers consider him a self-aggrandizing fraud! I read it right here, in this web site...
- Oh, get a grip on yourself. For what it's worth, this lusty, bisexual man spent a good chunk of his life asexual, that is, he felt no interest in dating, had his only outlet in nocturnal emission, and wrote in his high school yearbook "Man delighteth not me, no, nor woman either." No boy he ever mentored has ever come forward with anything other than routine questions about health (which in his day, meant patrolling masturbation -- really) and no advances other than encouraging nudity (being that his spine bore permanent scars of lack of sunshine, one can hardly blame him). Even when one tallies up his later life, he was known to have had sexual relations with only nine individuals. He never said anything was "necessary for health", nor made any prescriptions about "proper" or "healthy" sexual activity. His sole interest was finding the truth about what people did -- not to judge or preach. And what do you know about his masturbatory habits? Have you broken into the Institute and cracked the code?
As for 'serious researchers', most people in the field of academic sexology acknowlege him as a founder and a pioneer, whose work is still being mined for data today. The Institute for Sex Research is now called The Kinsey Institute for Sex, Reproduction, and Gender, and is located in Morrison Hall at the University of Indiana, in Bloomington. His detractors, on the other hand, tend to be outside the field of scientific sexology, self-styled "Christian" pundits outside academia altogether intent on skewering the "10%" canard, and the usual suspects on the lunatic fringe. While it's acknowleged that some of Kinsey's figures were somewhat skewed, work by Paul Gebhardt in the Sixties worked to redress this wrong, and they stand up fairly well today. In short, who's more "serious": a recognized Institute in a well-regarded State University, or a graduate student from a university founded by Pat Robertson, taking data from a woman without medical training who claims that pornography biologically warps your brain with erototoxins?
- When he started his work, there were only two venereal diseases, gonorrhea and syphilis. Now, there are fifteen and counting. Don't you think that he did more harm than good in promoting sex out of marriage? And don't you think by weakening the marriage tie, he didn't contribute to the skyrocketing divorce rate? Don't you think that a more Bible-based approach to sexuality wouldn't have been better in the long run?
- Hmmm, a tough one. First, as his own figures show, there was plenty of sex going on outside of marriage even with social strictures in place. It is to be noted that the Middle Ages, with their strict, traditionally Christian mores reinforced with both civil and ecclesiastical law, plus the threat of hell fire, was also the age of romantic love, that is to say, adultery. Kinsey himself believed strongly in the emotional and practical side of marriage, and believed that everyone, no matter how they stood on the Kinsey scale, could benefit from being married -- whether they had sex with each other, with others, or not at all was a purely private matter. (FWIW, Kinsey's own father, a staunch "Bible-believing" Methodist, divorced and remarried -- the two never spoke again.) As for venereal disease, it's to be noted that part of the reason that we were given as much advance warning as we did with HIV was largely due to the visibility of the gay community. Elsewise, gay victims of AIDS, such as Liberace, Freddy Mercury, and Robert Mapplethorpe would have probably have had their deaths covered up and explained as "the flu" or another cause, with the result that HIV would have remained as much a mystery inside the medical community as without. We owe Kinsey a debt of gratitude that we're able to talk about the subject so candidly: most of these diseases have existed long before our times, but were never recognized by medical science until now. Kinsey favored condoms for all non-reproductive sex between male and female: he most certainly would have promoted their use between sexually active people (whatever their number) today!
He caps his pen, looks at, and pockets his watch, and rising, extends his hand.
"...and that brings us to the end of our interview...Madam, I find nothing to be ashamed at in your history. The life-force is strong in you; you have large appetites, and you have been lucky enough to have been able to gratify them. If men speak ill of you, it is out of envy, not scorn. Had I lived your life, doing what you have done, I would celebrate every day."
She remembers his smile.
Kinsey:Sex the measure of all things, Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Indiana University Press, 1998
Kinsey: A Biography, Cornelia V. Christenson, Indiana University Press, 1971
Alfred C. Kinsey, A Public/Private Life, James H. Jones, Norton, 1997