To understand the workof the biologist Alfred Kinsey, it is important to first understand the contextunder which he lived and worked.
In the 1940s there was little to no acceptanceof sex as a topic of conversation and investigation, even in the academiccircles in which Kinsey worked. His publication made in 1948 on the sexualbehavior of the human male, was one of the first to study sex from ascientific, and therefore widely-accepted, point of view. To discuss the moralor ethical issues that arise when studying his work it is essential to be aware of the context in which the actionstake place, and to then study and analyze just how fundamental and valid hisfindings were, when putting them up against the behavioral norms of the presentday. When Kinsey begins to impart courses on sexology they areonly open to a select few; married students, teachers, and seniors. As much asthis was a cause of enervation for Kinsey, this restriction seemed logicalgiven the historical context. However, the very fact that there is arestriction on sexual education brings up an interesting point; should there beany type of restriction on sexual education? Seemingly simple to answer, Ibelieve that this question underlines an important point that society struggleswith, even today.
If sexual education is basically more knowledge, any restrictionon it seems to be no more than restriction on more knowledge for theindividual. Age seems to play an important role in this discussion; some peoplebelieve that sex should not be deemed a matter so controversial that it cannotbe discussed with any person, no matter how young. However, in the society thatwe live in, it is practically still taboo to have a sex-related discussion withsomeone of a younger age. According to John Bancroft, Kinsey is seen by many asan architect behind the decline of family and sexual values.
Personally, I’vepondered this issue throughout my whole life because of my upbringing in arelatively “open” household. I have always believed that I am able toparticipate in sexual discussion in an open way with mostly anyone that iswilling to discuss it on the same terms, however, even though I feel at easediscussing it with, for example, my parents, I must admit that I feeluncomfortable talking about sex when there’s a child in the room. Thisreluctance to talk about the topic with child is seemingly normal in thesociety that we live in, but I often wonder how much a person will have tolearn on their own because adults are unwilling to instruct them in sexualeducation, and how counterproductive this could eventually end up being. One of the most thought-provoking issues or methods thatKinsey used was the “kinsey Scale”, a zero to six scale that he devised inorder to determine a person’s sexual preference, zero being exclusivelyheterosexual and six being exclusively homosexual. At the time, and even today,this scale brings up the seldom talked about fact that a person is hardly everexclusive in their preference to one gender.
With this I believe that it isrelatively easy to agree upon, what I consider more difficult to reach aconsensus on is on the debate of just how accurate a scale on sexual preferencecan actually be. Put simply, sexual attraction and preference are merelyfeelings felt towards another person, male or female. This is why I find it sohard to agree with this scale, because I believe that feelings towards anotherperson cannot be measured.
The fact that there is a “3” in the scalemeans that a person feels the exact same attraction to both men and women, andwith this too I disagree. It is my opinion that you cannot feel the exact sameamount of attraction towards one person that you feel towards another.Different relationships offer different types of satisfaction andgratification; the very fact that the Kinsey scale has a mid-point arguesagainst this. Therefore, if it is notpossible to be equally heterosexual and homosexual doesn’t this disprove theKinsey scale in its entirety? My conclusion on the Kinsey Scale is that it isimportant, but not entirely correct. It is important for there to be a concretescientific method that speaks against the notion of exclusive sexualpreference. The dialogue built around the Kinsey Scale is also, I think, animportant dialogue to have. Nevertheless, I believe that there is no such thingas an equal sexual preference towards both genders simultaneously. The final issue that I wish to touch upon, and perhapsthe issue upon which greater part of the movie based on Kinsey’s life that cameout in 2004, revolves around, is the possibility (or lack thereof) to study sexfrom a strictly scientific point of view.
The movie makes an effort to humanizeKinsey’s struggle, both sexually and scientifically, nevertheless, Kinsey is ascientist and his surveys are carried out with the strongest emphasis on howhumans react based on their status as “mammals”. I consider this atopic too complex to be carried out onthese terms, however, it is the incredible complexity of the topic itself thatwould have made it impossible for his work to have been accomplished hadfeelings and emotions been strongly taken into account. Even the movie takesthis particular “weakness” of Kinsey’s findings into account, and theimpossibility of disregarding the link between the emotional and scientificwhen studying sex is brought up often. The human sciences are particular inthat way; to appropriately study and understand them, it is necessary tounderstand the complexities behind human behavior. In the natural sciences, forexample, this must not be taken into account; a mammal will have sex withanother mammal because it is necessary for the procreation of their species.
However, even though humans are mammals there are various reasons, besidesimple procreation, for which they will have sex, all reliant on their societalnorms and individual behavioral traits. The point is that humans are individualon the most basic of levels, and to understand their behavior, it is necessaryto comprehend the vast difference between one and the other: between theindividual and the community. In conclusion, it is my opinion that Kinsey’s findingswere both interesting and of the utmost importance, if only for the fact thathe brought matters which were seldom discussed into the public eye, andtherefore into common conversation. That some of his findings, or some of hismethods to extract information, were marked with weaknesses can only beattributed to the fact that he was working within the realms of an incrediblyclose minded society, and that in essence he was a biologist, that went fromstudying the behavior of gall wasps, to trying to understand the complexitiesof human behavior.