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Kinsey Kinky, Not American Males; Says the Author of a New Biography

  • There's something queer about the start of what has become known as the "sexual revolution."
By the Staff of The SPOTLIGHT

Almost 50 years ago -- in January of 1948 -- America was shocked by the news that all was not well sexually in the land. What precipitated the nationwide shudder was a report by an Indiana academic, Alfred C. Kinsey.

The "Kinsey Report," Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, claimed almost all men masturbated and had premarital sex, half cheated on their wives and more than a third had at least on homosexual experience.

Five years later, in 1953, a report on women revealed similar shocking results.

The information must be true, the mainstream media maintained, because it was produced by a "dogged, disinterested scientist."

Ah, but wait. Now, half a century (two generations) later, comes University of Houston historian James Jones who, in a new biography of Kinsey, discloses the hallowed Hoosier had feet of clay. Kinsey, claims Jones, was a "deeply troubled Man," a closet homosexual and masochist obsessed with sex and driven by his own sexual demons to free his fellow citizens from the grips of Victorian repression.

In Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life (W.W. Norton, $35.95), Jones says Kinsey's guiding light was sexual liberation, not science.


The book gives ammunition to Kinsey critics who have accused the researcher of doctoring his findings to fit an already-decided-upon conclusion.

Once described by Time magazine as "almost monotonously normal," Kinsey emerges in the Jones biography as anything but. That the man presented to the public by the media was something quite different -- even diametrically opposed -- to the real Kinsey comes through clearly from official documents, private letters and interviews, some anonymous, on which the Jones work is based.

Kinsey harbored deep guilt about his homosexual fantasies and experiences with masturbation, Jones says, leading him to imprint that persona of the American male.

As a young professor, Kinsey became more and more obsessed with sex, often peppering colleagues and students with intrusive sexual advice -- complete with masturbatory demonstrations, Jones says.

By the time his first famous sex report came out, according to Jones, Kinsey was having sex with other men and arranging for his wife Clara to be filmed having sex with staff members.

Jones interviewed a photographer who recalled filming all sorts of sex in the Kinsey's Bloomington, Indiana attic, including scenes of Kinsey engaging in clearly painful masturbation techniques.

Kinsey was not filmed having sex with either men or women, Jones says, but eagerly watched other couples copulate.


Jones says he is convinced Kinsey was obsessed with his own struggle for sexual identity and with the idea that the whole culture should be freed from the mores he felt were repressing him.

John Bancroft, director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, is unconvinced of the accuracy of the Jones biography. He called the picture of Kinsey that emerges from the book "unconvincing and unrecognizable" to people who knew Kinsey well.

Bancroft also objects to Jones calling Kinsey a homosexual, insisting he was "bisexual." He characterized the attic films as "research."

What is known in academic circles, but not featured in most accounts of the professor's life and work, is that Kinsey's data were based on sampling techniques criticized as unrepresentative even in 1948.

The fact that he took 18,000 in depth sexual histories is publicized without the explanation that his subject were college students, prisoners and people solicited precisely because of their unusual sex lives. In one notorious example, Kinsey based some data on childhood sexuality on the accounts of one child molester.

Still, most researchers in the area of sexuality give a nod to Kinsey as a pioneer. Jones himself says Kinsey "just pulled back the curtain and gave us a hard look at ourselves."

Detractors demur. They say Kinsey gave us a look into the private lives of perverts and projected that persona on all American males.