Let’s talk about sexual diversity

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There are two lectures at the
intellectual heart of this intelligent biopic of Alfred Kinsey, the sex
researcher who dared to turn a scientific eye onto our sex lives. These reveal
the two most important parts of Kinsey’s professional persona: His need to
catalogue and collect and his desire to disseminate and educate.
The first lecture, given as a
30-year-old zoologist, was about the gall wasp. In describing his continuing
obsession with collecting and cataloguing these insects, he demonstrates their
infinite variety. In doing so, he prefigures his future findings on human
sexual diversity.
Years later, after Kinsey
marries and his interests have spread beyond gall wasps, he is giving a lecture
on human sexuality – called a ‘marriage class’ to mollify prudish attitudes of
the day. He asks a seemingly loaded question of a quivering undergraduate.
part of the human body is able to increase in size by a factor of ten?”
sure I don’t know,”
shocked young woman replies.
Kinsey quickly puts her out of
her misery, supplying the answer – the iris – as well as the warning that she
may be in for some considerable disappointment in future.
While the second example may
well involve some artistic licence, it is characteristic of the warmth and
humour with which this frequently shocking movie is infused. And shocking it
is. Despite the passage of some fifty years since the publishing of Kinsey’s
reports into human sexual behaviour we seem to have become much more
knowledgeable about human sexuality, but perhaps no wiser. Much of the
information that Kinsey gathered is now relatively common knowledge, but many
of Kinsey’s methodologies would still be frowned upon.
Kinsey has been endlessly
profiled in the build up to the release of this movies. Some of these are
obsessed with addressing whether Kinsey was, in some sense, a hypocrite. The
objective scientist is set up in opposition to the moral bankrupt. This is a
nice juicy dichotomy for the writing of a feature article but relatively
unimportant compared to what the film highlights; Kinsey’s impressive
determination to scientifically catalogue human sexual behaviour, a genuine
compassion for his participants and a single-minded determination to take us
out of the sexual dark ages.
Whatever Kinsey’s faults – and
a person is inevitably not perfect in every aspect of their lives or work – he
should be judged on his best work. It’s always easy to criticise, to pick holes
and knock things down. Having the strength to build a project of this magnitude
from scratch and having the vision and courage to follow it through, that is
something we can all aspire to.
the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD
is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from
University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about
scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.