Sunday, January 22, 2006

0 or 6?

Just finished Inner Circle from one of my favorite writers; TC Boyle. In this historical novel Boyle explores fictional University of Indiana senior, John Milk's, entrance into and experiences with the secretive and cult-like formation that surrounded Sexologist Alfred Kinsey from the late 30's until Kinsey's death in 1954. Milk, milktose?, for Boyle, is the epitome of the mid 20th century American academic male. Traditional in outlook but open to the positivist notions that still dominated many before the retrenchment, particularly social, of the 1950's. Milk is the first to be initiated shall we say (Kinsey liked boys, not that there is anything....), into the world of the Kinsey Institute and the small group of researchers that interviewed thousands of middle class types, although they did interview some prisoners, prostitutes and people of color, about their sexual histories to catalogue the sexual practices of the human animal. Using the tools of modern taxonomy Kinsey tried to educate the world about the actual practices of people when it came to sex which came as a surprise to many given the high level of misinformation being doled out by sexists, celibate priests and other deviants at the time.

A true crusader, Kinsey almost single handily gave open minded people everywhere ammunition against the moralists and hypocrites who have persecuted gays, enforced patriarchy and tried to control our personal freedom from time immemorial. At the time, only some 50 years ago, almost every state in the US and in many countries around the world anti-sodomy laws reigned which allowed many to be executed or thrown in jail for taking part in oral sex with their partner, married or not, male or female, while at the same time the head of the FBI, Gay Edgar Hoover, was dressing in prom gowns and diddling his boyfriend.

Boyle's book is a look at the Kinsey Institute world from the inside. How did Kinsey treat his colleagues? Like serfs in ways. He was autocratic and a sexual predator who seemed oblivious to others attempts to separate sex and emotion. In the name of sexual freedom Kinsey chose underlings that he knew would tow, and participate in, the line. Was Kinsey a hypocrite? No. He expected everyone to divide sex and emotion as he did. He also expected people around him to work as hard as he did which eventually led him to an early grave at 62. Was Kinsey's research unassailable? No, particularly in the sample that he was able to interview although as mentioned above he was aware of these limitations.

Boyle's book like the recent biopic, Kinsey, give us a keen look into one of the greats of the 20th century. We now seem to think that rationality and reason reign but all one has to do is watch a couple hours of daytime TV or listen to a Osama bin Laden tirade to know that all kinds of superstition and meta-physical nonsense have the up on the round earthers.

In other words, read:

The Inner Circle,



and read:

The Kinsey Report (the two volumes Sexual Behavior and the Human Male and Sexual Behavior and the Human Female).

Current frequently asked questions about sex.

No comments: