The shame of Alfred Kinsey...

Error message

The late Allan Bloom was a native of Indianapolis who knew the academic world from the inside, serving for many years as professor in University of Chicago's renowned Committee on Social Thought. In The Closing of the American Mind, his jeremiad against the anti-intellectual groupthink so pervasive within the world of higher education, Bloom lamented the havoc wreaked within the hearts of his students by their parents' divorces.

Observing a decline in his students' ability to be hopeful and creative, and a dullness in their eyes demonstrating the mortal wound they had suffered when their baby-boomer parents "split," Bloom barely contained his disgust at the parents' efforts to heal their children's wounds superficially. Recounting how parents paid for counselling sessions in which their child was expected to process his pain in a productive manner, he summed up the whole dirty mess with the statement, "Psychologists are the sworn enemies of guilt."

If therapists are the sworn enemies of guilt, sex researchers are the sworn enemies of shame. And Indiana University's much-ballyhooed Alfred C. Kinsey leads the pack.

Feted at IU's Memorial Union and Auditorium Theater last Saturday night in connection with the Bloomington premier of Kinsey, a biographical film of the Indiana University professor's life and work, the stars were shining for those able to pay. For a simple donation of $1,000, party-goers were granted the privilege of a private reception with actress Laura Linney (who plays Kinsey's wife, Clara ), producer Gail Mutrux, and director Bill Condon. (Liam Neeson, the actor who portrayed Kinsey, was a no-show.) All of this was in celebration of...

the man who pioneered the now-respectable academic discipline of sex research, publishing a series of ground-breaking studies that chronicled and made public the private sexual practices of our nation.

Kinsey believed sexual repression was the cause of much of the suffering of this world, maintaining that the scientific study of sexuality followed by the dissemination of that study as widely as possible would lead to a freedom of expression which, in turn, would bring in a new world of peace in which men would be able to do as they please without fear of consequence--you know, Blind Faith's "Do What You Like" and all that.

Of course, Kinsey's efforts to do away with the shame attached to the immoral acts he spent his life chronicling and participating in did not usher in a new age of Aquarian freedom. Rather, one set of negative consequences was traded for another, and the fruitful discipline of a true morality was exchanged for the fruitless bondage of another morality that was both trivial and false. Instead of Biblical morality prevailing, the infinitely smaller petty morality of Alfred Kinsey won the day. And it is this puny morality that has a lock-grip on the academy and every significant pipeline of public discourse flowing from it.

Instead of community pressure being brought to bear against fornicators, adulterers, and sodomites, it's now brought to bear against those who condemn those crimes--those who are convinced that fornicators, adulterers, and sodomites ought to feel the full force of the community's disapproval.

Today, Indiana University's diversity advocates and the members of the Bloomington City Council's Human Rights Commission use shame as a disciplinary tool against innocent souls caught in the act of expressing disapproval of sexual perversion. Sodomites are out and about while simple citizens with historic commitments concerning the nature and meaning of sexuality are shoved into the closet. The conscience of historic Christianity is clearly not one of the "different voices" being celebrated as part of our city's "grand tapestry of diversity."

Pity the poor widow who, for the sake of conscience, declines to rent her upstairs apartment to a couple living together without benefit of marriage--she will soon learn to obey all the little laws G. K. Chesterton warned us of: "When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws."

When from love--not hate--of their neighbor, citizens work to encourage submission to God's Law (and community disapproval of the breaking of that Law), no matter what justification civil authorities give, they are enforcing censorship when they seek to silence those citizens' voices. Speaking for Jehovah, the prophet Isaiah warned against such oppression:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right! (Isaiah 5:20-23).

Since the mid-twentieth century when Kinsey first began to expose men's dirty secrets, the fruit of the sexual revolution he led has been overwhelmingly negative. Stripping away the shame that used to accompany the practice of sexual immorality has only led to radical decline in our nation's moral and spiritual health, and in the happiness and contentment of our nation's families. Violence in the home--between husbands and wives, parents and children, and children and children--has increased radically. Divorce has increased radically. The poverty rate of women and children has increased radically. Sexually transmitted diseases have increased radically. Deaths due to sexually transmitted diseases have increased radically.

Enveloped in the stench of the rotten fruit produced by Kinsey's work, Bloomington's elite preen themselves, basking in their fifteen minutes of fame as the Kinsey show rides through town. Soon, though, the Klieg lights are switched off and those paid by the taxpayers of Indiana to continue Kinsey's destructive work will tunnel back into their dank holes to continue indexing various forms of human copulation. Refusing to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Following the 1948 release of the Kinsey Report, anthropology's matriarch, Margaret Mead, critiqued the work at an academic conference held later that year:

In every society sex patterns depend on a careful and meticulous balance between ignorance and knowledge, sophistication and naivete.... the Kinsey Report, by the publicity that has been given to this series of facts about extramarital and abnormal and unusual forms of sex satisfaction, has upset the balance in our society between ignorance and knowledge, between the things we don't mention, and the things we do. And it may be expected to have considerable effect in our society for that reason. Quite a good deal of our virtue has depended upon people not knowing what other people were doing--if they had known, they would have gone and done likewise; and when they weren't quite sure, sometimes they didn't.

* * *

Dr. Kinsey has limited himself to the description of a noninterpersonal and meaningless act. There is no suggestion of emotional content, of spiritual significance, of nonspiritual significance, of ethical significance... he is perpetuating, to an extreme degree, the tendency to confuse sex with excretion--excremental rather than sacramental.... The major abstraction which I think any anthropologist from Mars would get out of the Kinsey Report... is that (sex) is an impersonal, meaningless act which men have to perform fairly often--but oftener if they haven't been to school much.

At the end of her address, Mead turned to Scripture:

In the past, it was said, "It is better to marry than to burn." Now we translate (the verse), "It is better to have an outlet of some sort, because you've got to have an outlet of some sort." it's just a question of which outlet and (Kinsey) suggests no way of choosing between a woman and a sheep.

(Margaret Mead, "An Anthropologist Looks at the Kinsey Report," in Child and Family, vol. 18, no. 4, 1979; pp. 294-303.)

Last week, this invitation to a brown bag lunch was circulated here at Indiana University:

SLAG is pleased to announce that Will Stockton will be presenting "The Normalization of Bestiality: Kinsey's Analysis of Human Sexual Contact with Animals" (abstract below) at the next brown-bag colloquium (Friday, November 19 at 12:10 pm in Indiana University's Ballantine Hall, Room 221). Will's topic engages with SLAG's recent conversations on human-animal interrelationships. We hope to see you there!

Absract of The Normalization of Bestiality:
In light of recent attempts by queer and posthuman theorists to expand the "conditions of intelligibility" that surround the category of the human, this paper explores Alfred Kinsey's assertion that bestiality, rather than being "a strange perversion of human affection," is actually "part of the normal mammalian picture" of human psychosexual development. Kinsey's analysis points to the ways in which many of the norms of human and non-human animal relations--norms that govern pet ownership and hunting, for example--are already eroticized, even if they do not approach the profane limit of bestiality. I argue that we must reapproach the bestiality taboo through an acknowledgement of these always-already eroticized relations that challenge notions of essential species difference. Such an acknowledgement does not demand the complete legitimation of bestiality as a mode of sexual expression; there are very important reasons for the taboo, such as animal cruelty and the difficulty of registering consent, that deserve address. Yet an acknowledgement does at least provide the grounds on which a reconsideration of the deployment of the terms "cruelty" and "consent" can begin.

Kinsey was no hero, and those who think he was demonstrate their ignorance of the meaning and purpose--indeed, the God-given beauty--of sexuality. How prophetic Mead was, seeing so clearly half a century ago that we would arrive at this day when men no longer know why they ought to choose a woman instead of a sheep. And a day when those who do are shamed into silence.