Sexual Revolution, Part Two

‘Kinsey’ proves our collective need to show a little leg

It’s almost 2005 and we still have to fight for our right to talk about sex, not to mention the right to legally recognize homosexual relationships or the right to have basic reproductive biology in schools. So it’s no surprise that the Fox Searchlight movie Kinsey—a film about Dr. Alfred Kinsey, the scientist who pioneered the discussion of sex in America—opened last month to widespread critical acclaim and, of course, stinging conservative condemnation.

This time, however, I’m personally insulted.

In an article that, thankfully, has received considerable attention, the Concerned Women for America (CWA) have the audacity to compare Kinsey to a Nazi criminal. Robert Knight, director of the CWA’s Culture & Family Institute, told the Associated Press that “instead of being lionized, Kinsey’s proper place is with Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele or your average Hollywood horror flick mad scientist.” Scientist? Absolutely. But practitioner and organizer of systematic torture? Absolutely not.

Mengele was the Nazi doctor who conducted horrific experiments during the Holocaust. His abuse of twins, pregnant women and other prisoners is considered torture—not science. The CWA’s comparison is not only fundamentally and pathetically untrue, it’s blatantly offensive and, frankly, stupid. An apology issued later does little to counteract the offensive idiocy inherent in the comparison. In the context of public debate over the movie, this sort of justification shows us just how misinformed the anti-Kinsey intellect is.

The fight for the socially open discussion of sex has been a political issue since before the sexual revolution. And now, with control of the executive office firmly in conservative hands, we continue the debate over abstinence education, sodomy and sex in the public forum. Groups like the CWA must be rejoicing at the avowed religious conviction and sexual conservatism of the new administration. I, as someone who supports people doing whatever and whomever they want in bed, am not. I can smile smugly, though, because like it or not, sexual progressiveness will win out in the end.

People who say Kinsey is to blame for the sexual revolution may be right. What they forget, however, is that the sexual openness of the 1960s on forward had to come out of the sexually repressive decade before. If we follow this pattern, then in the decades to come we’ll experience a new wave of sexual progress. Historical patterns lead me to believe that the Neo-conservative, sexually repressive current state of affairs will give way to a second sexual revolution, in which we learn all sorts of new kinky facts about our fellow Americans.

The CWA, self-righteously standing up for America, uses the Kinsey debate to hammer home the idea of abstinence-only education. In responding to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report on the dangers of abstinence-only education, the CWA said, “What could be more solidly scientific than telling a child that abstinence is the only method that is 100 percent effective in protecting from pregnancy and specific sexually transmitted diseases? Apparently the ACLU needs to hire stronger fact-checkers before cranking out inaccurate press releases.” Fact-checking lectures from the people who compared Kinsey to a Nazi? I don’t think so. The CWA does have one valid point: Abstinence is indeed the only 100 percent effective method of safe sex. They neglected to mention, however, that Mississippi and Texas, two states that overwhelmingly supported Bush and his sexually repressive agenda, have two of the top-five highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, according to careful research done by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health research, policy analysis and public education.

If the CWA wants to lend an ounce of credibility to their mission, they must not choose their information or historical allusions so hastily and inaccurately. The creation and condemnation of the movie Kinsey is clearly reflective of larger debates within our country. But when this repressive administration is out, it will usher in a new and improved sexual revolution.

Aviva J. Gilbert ’07, a Crimson editorial comper, is a history and literature concentrator in Lowell House.