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Who Started the Sexual Revolution?


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Some people give the credit, or blame, to Hugh Hefner who celebrated sex for something other than procreation when Playboy went to press in 1953. Less than three years later, Elvis Presley was charged with leading American youth astray with his swiveling hips and sexually suggestive performing style. But they were merely soldiers in the field. The man who led the troops was Alfred Kinsey, whose book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, published in 1948, pulled the sheets from our bedroom activities and inspired a freer, less guilt ridden appreciation of human sexuality. Despite what Time magazine described as "dull, technical writing," the book was a bestseller. Three years later, a second book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, was an even bigger success.

Both Hef and Elvis are nostalgic figures now who inspire more warmth than outrage. The lingering controversy that still surrounds them is muted by their wide acceptance as pop culture icons. Presley can even count staunch conservative William F. Buckley Jr. among his fans.

But Kinsey remains a divisive figure in American society primarily due to his research concluding that homosexuality is more widely practiced than society prefers to acknowledge. The controversy is swirling anew with the release of gay director Bill Condon's film Kinsey with Liam Neeson in the title role. Condon credits the "liberating effects" of Kinsey's research with making Playboy, as well as Dr. Ruth, possible. It's also clear that without Kinsey, there would not have been a Gay Liberation Movement.

Alfred Kinsey may have had more impact on the lives of lesbians and gay men than any other figure. It was Kinsey whose research suggested that 10 percent of the male population was exclusively homosexual at some period in their lives, and that four percent remained homosexual and never engaged in heterosexual activities. "Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual," he wrote. "Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes." In his study of females, he concluded that one to two percent of women were exclusively lesbian. Furthermore, Kinsey suggested lesbians were more capable than men of bringing a woman to orgasm.

Kinsey not only fathered the sexual revolution but provided the seed for the homosexual revolution. Inspired by Kinsey's findings, Harry Hay formed one of the first gay rights organizations, the Mattachine Society in 1955.

Hay credits Kinsey with helping to transform homosexuals from "degenerately misled, isolated, miserable human beings into a body of thousands if not millions of people...with the social and political dimensions of a cultural minority."

If not for Kinsey, Merriam Webster would likely continue to define homosexuality, as it did in 1909, as a "morbid sexual passion for one of the same sex," and the American Psychological Association might still regard homosexuality as a sickness and perversion, a diagnosis they abandoned in 1974.

Kinsey's accepting attitude toward homosexuality is undoubtedly the main reason why he inspires impassioned debate forty-eight years after his death. One of his most voracious critics is Dr. Judith Reisman, co-author of the 1990 book, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People. To Reisman, Kinsey's report is "the sexualized American version of the Communist Manifesto." Reisman claims that "Kinsey's research involved illegal experimentation on several hundred children," an allegation The Kinsey Institute denies. Reisman also outs Kinsey as a closet queen and, therefore, believes his findings about same-sex attraction are biased. She also parrots the familiar and ludicrous charge that homosexuals want to "recruit" children to the gay lifestyle.

Another Kinsey biographer, James H. Jones, echoes Reisman s claim that Kinsey was secretly gay, but is more sympathetic. "It shouldn t surprise us that pleas for sexual tolerance would come from a person who couldn t be himself in public," Jones told The New York Times. Paul Gabhard, one of Kinsey's co-researchers, does acknowledge that Kinsey had an agenda.

"He was brought up by a very puritanical family. During his adolescence, he was sure he was going to burn in hellfire because he masturbated. There was no one to talk to about it, but he knew it was evil, and dreaded he'd go to the insane asylum and all the rest. Later, as a scientist, he could see what an unfortunate situation this was."

If the father of the sexual revolution was produced in a strict, sexually repressive environment, can we not conclude that sexual repression can lead to the promiscuity that Kinsey's critics claim is a result of his landmark studies? It s intriguing to note that Hugh Hefner also grew up in what he described as a "truly typical Midwestern, Methodist, Puritan home."

Perhaps if Kinsey had been taught that sex is a natural function of human existence, he may have stuck to his original field, the study of insects, instead of leading a revolution that divided American society into two camps: those, like Reisman, who insist our morals have been corrupted by his work, and those, like Hay and Hefner, who believe Kinsey helped liberate us from unhealthy, repressive attitudes.

"Sex raises a lot of very interesting questions," Neeson's Kinsey says in the film.

All these years later, it still does.

by Brian W. Fairbanks

Article from Date.info - The Webzine of Date.com

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