Customer Review

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true pioneer, April 1, 2007
This review is from: American Experience: Kinsey (DVD)
Though there are a few things left out in this 90-minute film (such as Dr. Kinsey's relationship with his children), most of the important aspects of his life and work are presented in an in-depth, informative, and interesting way. One can't underestimate the importance Dr. Kinsey had on the 20th century. Before he published his two ground-breaking reports on sexual behavior in the human male and the human female, society was incredibly sexually repressive and ignorant. The things he taught about in his class on marriage, human sexuality, and birth control in 1938 and 1939 at Indiana University seem rather tame and normal today, but back then it was a scandal when word got out just what he was teaching his students, particularly because he said that the only abnormal sexual behaviors were abstinence, celibacy, and delayed marriage.

The neo-Puritans of today who wax nostalgic for a past that never really was clearly have no idea just what it was really like back then. Back when Dr. Kinsey and his associates were conducting their interviews and doing their research for the reports, the only form of sex that was considered normal and moral was between a man and a woman within marriage (and then only intercourse, not any other varieties of sex). Things such as oral sex, masturbation, and homosexuality were criminalised and considered deranged instead of perfectly normal natural sexual expressions. A lot of people (particularly women) who were brought up sheltered from any knowledge of sex or told that it was dirty and sinful had no idea what to do once they were married and finally allowed to do it, as though they were suddenly supposed to turn into skilled receptive partners who knew exactly what they were doing and what they liked. Dr. Kinsey himself couldn't even consummate his own marriage for several months, not until his wife had a corrective surgery. People viewed sexuality in terms of morality and immorality instead of science or one's own personal convictions, and placed so many strict limits on what was and wasn't considered to be acceptable, basically dictating to everyone how to behave in the privacy of their own homes based on an arbitrary sense of morality. And when the report on the human male came out in 1947, the public for the first time discovered that a lot of men visited prostitutes, had had affairs, regularly masturbated, dreamt about sex, had had gay experiences, and had had premarital sex. The 1953 report on the human female caused a huge backlash, however, because people didn't want to be confronted with the proof that women were actually sexual beings instead of angelic wives and mothers who had no sexual desires and didn't even like sex. Unfortunately, Dr. Kinsey didn't live long enough to see all of the liberation movements of the Sixties and Seventies, when his work would be fully validated and society would finally snap out of its Puritanical repression.

The film also explores some of the controversies in his work, such as some of his rather unorthodox methods (like taping his associates having sex with one another), how he used data from the journal of a pedophile as standard information about sexual responses and behavior of young boys, and how he tended to interview people who were white, outside of the mainstream, and college students, instead of getting a more broad sampling of the entire population, even if some of those people would have given less earth-shattering responses to the survey. It also explores how he viewed human sexuality and his research as a science, a part of nature, and for that reason didn't feel the need to impose any moral limitations on it, such as saying that pedophilia is wrong or that sex is about love, not just biological urges, and that having affairs with one's associates just to further the research might not be the best idea.

Overall, it's a fascinating look into one of the people who had the most impact on the 20th century, helping to bring America out of the Victorian era and into modernity, into an era where morality is a matter of one's conscience, not something arbitrarily dictated to one by a bunch of self-appointed authorities with a very black and white view of the world.
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