Thursday, November 09, 2006

Kinsey: Let's talk about sex -- Well worth watching!

Last year, I skipped the movie about pioneer sex researcher, Alfred Kinsey, because I thought that I already knew everything about him and that it might be dry. Was I ever wrong! The dialogue in the movie was crisp and unexpectedly funny and the acting was stellar. (What else could be expected from Liam Neeson, Chris O'Donnell and Laura Linney?)

The movie traced the puritanical and oppressive upbringing that poor Kinsey endured as a boy who was born in 1894 and raised by a fire and brimstone, preacher father. Those were the days when no one talked about masturbation and it was widely thought to cause blindness or insanity; oral sex was feared in the event that it resulted in infertility; and no one knew a clitoris from a clavicle!

Kinsey was one of the first to break down those barriers in the 1920s and 1930s. He started classes at university for young couples who were about to get married in order to give them proper sex education, rather than the abstinence message that they had been receiving in their hygiene class. He interviewed 18,000 people and wrote books about his findings, for which he was widely criticized because what he found was that there was a large disconnect between what people said was "moral" sexual behavior, and what they actually practiced behind closed doors.

Moreover, he stated that "37 percent of U.S. men (and 13 percent of women) had had at least one homosexual experience, while 62 percent of women (and 92 percent of men) masturbated. Premarital sex was common. Half of married men and a quarter of married women had cheated on their spouses." [Source -- National Geographic News]

In addition, Kinsey concluded that the majority of people were bisexual. This was during an era when adultery, homosexuality and oral sex were illegal in many states!

Kinsey had two great failings: firstly, as a zoologist, he could never understand that the human mammal with different from other animals. Humans had feelings that were intricately tied to their sexuality. Animals did not. Secondly, Kinsey's research methodology was questioned by many sources as being skewed and lacking objectivity. He interviewed most of his people face-to-face and then transcribed his findings. At least one quarter of his subjects were prison inmates, 5% were male prostitutes and they were all volunteers. A good research design should have a randomized study, preferably double blind so that the researcher and his assistants did not directly interpret data from subjects in order to avoid potential bias on their parts.

The movie clearly discussed Kinsey's first failing but was not explicit enough about the second one regarding research methodology. Having said that, Alfred Kinsey was an amazing man and this is an awesome movie. Great entertainment and it made me feel that despite our cultural ambivalence about sex, we definitely have come a long way, baby.

Sigrid Mac

No comments: