Hey queer kids,

A reader suggested the movie Kinsey for your viewing pleasure.  You can check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppZwSABxeYE

And while the movie is quite good, it made me realize that I hadn’t really talked about Kinsey and his work at all.  So, here’s a primer:

Alfred Kinsey is known as the father of human sexuality and Indiana University, where he worked, now has a whole institute devoted to the study of sex and sexuality because of him, called the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. But Kinsey himself is best known for two things: first and foremost, his pioneering study of Human Sexuality in the Adult Male (and subsequently, a volume on the Adult Female), and secondly, his theoretical construct, now known as “The Kinsey Scale.”

The 2004 movie Kinsey focuses on the former: Kinsey and his team of researches took off across the country to interview all varieties of people- from prison inmates to public school teachers- about their habits regarding intercourse, masturbation, arousal, and sexual orientation.  The questions he asked at each interview span well over 3 pages and each case study would trace that person’s entire sexual history.  His studies found that, contrary to popular wisdom of the time, many more people of 1950’s America were engaging in premarital sex, masturbating, having sex across generation gaps, and committing adultery.  Obviously, it caused a huge uproar at the time of publication, although we may think of it as simple common sense at this point in history.

What I find more interesting was his theory about degrees of sexual behavior, known as the Kinsey Scale.  It runs from 0-6 with 0 being “exclusively heterosexual” and 6 being “exclusively homosexual,” with all others falling somewhere in between.  Of course, these demarcations can be divided infinitely, so that a 72 year old lesbian who once slept with a man in her 20’s could be a Kinsey 5.94, or a bisexual man who sleeps almost equally with men and women could be 3.2.  The interesting thing about the Kinsey Scale is the strong division in what it tries to assign value to: sexual behavior, but never sexual orientation. Kinsey understood that behavior and orientation sometimes do not align, and that in many cases, the way we understand sexuality can never be accurately represented by a simple point on a spectrum.  For example, I consider myself bi-romantic (I have fallen in love with men and women), but homosexual (I only enjoy sex with women)- what in the world kind of number could I assign to that?  On the other hand, sexual behavior is easier to diagram- I’ve had sex with 2 men and one woman, so I fall around a Kinsey 2, depending on how you factor in length of the relationships.  This, of course, gets very sticky when you consider people who are trans, genderqueer, two-spirited, or any other gender identity which doesn’t fit within our dichotomized idea of gender.  Sadly, that wasn’t where Kinsey focused his research energy.

POINT BEING- everyone should give Kinsey a hand for helping to deconstruct the societal taboos and misassumptions which plagued the 1950s and we should all try to emulate his openness by considering the way we are all, in our own way, abnormal sexually.  Yay!

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