Alfred Kinsey: a disturbing report

May 28, 2017

By Elishama |

For decades when statistics were presented as to the proportion of the male population of North America that was homosexual the percentage commonly and unquestioningly proffered was ten percent. This figure first arose from the groundbreaking 1948 report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, by Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894-1956), an Indiana University entomologist (his expertise was gall wasps), and his colleagues Wardell Pomeroy, Clyde Martin, and W.B. Saunders. Kinsey is considered the father of sexology and a key player in the 20th century sexual revolution.

Kinsey’s report, which he began researching ten years earlier, actually said, “10 percent of the males are more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55, but that only four percent were exclusively homosexual throughout their lives, after the onset of adolescence” (Male, pp. 650-651). However, it claimed that as many as 37% of the male population had had at least one homosexual experience (to the point of orgasm) in their lifetime. The one-in-ten ratio became standard statistical propaganda for the remainder of the century. As recently as February 6, 1989, the head of the American Psychological Association, Bryant Welch, confidently testified that “in fact all the research supported the conclusion that a sexual orientation found consistently in about ten percent of the male population and approximately 5 percent of the female population...research showed that across different historical eras and in totally different cultures the incidence of homosexuality remained the same irrespective of public attitudes and prohibitions.”

In reality “all the research” does not support that conclusion. According to University of Delaware sociology and criminal justice professor Joel Best, the incidence of homosexuality among adults is “between 1 and 3 percent.” Studies done since 1987 in England, France, Norway, Canada and the United States all put the incidence of exclusive homosexuality in the general population consistently between one and two percent of the male population and about half that for the female population.

Joel Best, the author of Damn Lies and Statistics (University of California Press, 2001), observes that gay and lesbian activists (and APA president Bryant Welch) preferred to use Kinsey’s long-discredited one-in-ten figure “because it suggests that homosexuals are a substantial minority group, roughly equal in number to African Americans – too large to be ignored.” Tom Stoddard, a leader in the gay rights movement, admitted as much to Newsweek in February 1993: “We used that figure (10 percent) when most gay people were entirely hidden to try to create an impression of our numerousness.” In other words it was a useful lie.

Even in Kinsey’s own day there were serious critics of the methodology by which he arrived at his numbers. They included such notables as Margaret Mead, Lewis Terman, Karl Menninger, Eric Fromm and past president of the American Statistical Association, W. Allen Wallis. Later investigation has confirmed Kinsey’s research was profoundly flawed. Kinsey claimed to base his conclusions on data collected from a sexually explicit questionnaire comprised of 350 questions. Rather than using randomly chosen participants Kinsey relied instead on “volunteers” to answer his questionnaire. He even advertised for them (volunteers made up about 75 percent of his male subjects), even though the problem of “volunteer bias” had been pointed out to him by Abraham Maslow (who would publish a critique, with James Sakoda, entitled “Volunteer-Error in the Kinsey Study”). According to Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman volunteers for sex studies tend to be two to four times more sexually active than non-volunteers.

Dr. Albert Hobbs, a sociologist and author at the University of Pennsylvania, accused Kinsey of violating three precepts necessary for sound scientific method and procedure. First, the researcher should not have any preconceived hypothesis so he may present only the facts. Hobbs noted “Kinsey actually had a two-pronged hypothesis. He vigorously promoted, juggling his figures to do so, a hedonistic, animalistic conception of sexual behavior, while at the same time he consistently denounced all biblical and conventional conceptions of sexual behavior.” Second, Kinsey refused to publish the basic data upon which his conclusions rested. Third, he refused to reveal the questionnaire upon which he based all of his facts.

Kinsey did not reveal at the time that the volunteers included, by his own admittance, “several hundred male prostitutes” (some put the number at about six hundred). For his 1953 report, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female, Kinsey could find so few average women willing to be interviewed that he actually redefined “married” to include any woman who had lived with a man for more than a year. This duplicitous change allowed him to add common-law volunteers to his “married” women category, hundreds of whom were female prostitutes, strippers or burlesque performers. He also included staff members and their wives. Such a methodology artificially inflated the statistics for pre-marital sex. It also expanded rates of adultery to one-half of the “married” males and one-fourth the “married” females. Kinsey claimed to find no ill effect from such behaviour. Coaching of volunteers was also common in collecting data; as was admitted in a 1972 book by one of his colleagues (Wardell Pomeroy, Dr. Kinsey And the Institute for Sex Research, 1972).

More disturbing was Kinsey’s heavy use of prison inmates: 1,400 of the possibly 5,300 final male subjects (twenty-six percent). The exact number of total participants in Kinsey’s study is not clear. Most of them were convicted sex offenders. Forty-four percent of these inmates had had homosexual experiences while in prison. As a Kinsey associate, Paul Gebhard, later confided, when gathering data in prisons Kinsey and his team would purposely seek out “sex offenders,” especially “the rare types.” This helped maximize the statistical magnitude in the general population of deviancy.

Based on such revelations one can concur with British anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer that Kinsey’s milestone reports were simply propaganda masquerading as science. Because Kinsey’s landmark studies were widely advertised and used by radical social reformers and homosexual activists as evidence of the unrealistic and hypocritical nature of American sexual conventions it is worthwhile to examine just what might have motivated him to advance such disingenuous research.

In April 2004, after five years of study, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a bipartisan conservative membership association of 2,400 lawmakers from 50 states, concluded that the work of Kinsey was a fraud and contained “manufactured statistics.” The report outlined the influence these bogus numbers had on the weakening of 52 sex laws that once protected women, children and marriage.

In 1998 James H. Jones, professor of history at the University of Arkansas, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his biography Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life (W.W. Norton, 1997). Jones spent over twenty-five years researching his subject. Through his research be came to recognize that Alfred Kinsey was not a disinterested scientist. He was probably, as long suspected, a homosexual, but also a masochist, a voyeur and a group-sex aficionado. Jones interprets Kinsey's life as an unrelenting struggle to free himself from his own religious upbringing and the sexual guilt he knew as a boy. His father, Alfred Sr., was a staunch, no-nonsense Protestant who ran the household with an iron fist. Young Alfred hid his sexual tendencies from his father, and the contradiction between his outward moral uprightness and his inward, hidden sexual distortions caused him great anxiety. By the time he went to graduate school Kinsey was determined to use science to eliminate this anxiety by eliminating the distinction between natural and unnatural in regard to sexuality. He wanted to use science to “prove” that every sexual desire, no matter how bizarre, is natural. Kinsey’s goal was to discredit and demolish contemporary sexual taboos by use of seemingly scientific data.

Jones points out that Kinsey long believed that human beings were naturally “pansexual,” that is, they had no natural goal–such as heterosexuality–but if left to themselves in a kind of state of nature would satisfy their sexual desires in whatever way happened to strike their fancies. Society restricts this natural pansexuality, causing individuals all kinds of anxiety. Kinsey therefore believed that while we assume that people follow society’s sexual rules, they secretly want to act upon their natural pansexuality, and very often do. This deviation from social sexual rules–be it in adultery or homosexuality–is really not a deviation at all, but our natural, pansexuality reasserting itself.

Jones reveals that another important motive in Kinsey’s research was finding sexual opportunities for himself. He claims Kinsey had many homosexual lovers, some of whom were his graduate students, and that Kinsey encouraged his wife, Clara, to have sex with other men (the couple remained married for 35 years). According to the book, Kinsey also prompted his wife, closest associates, and staff members to have sex for his observation. This was often filmed on the Indiana university campus and in Kinsey’s own attic (Jones, pp. 605-614, 669-684, 755). Among the things recorded were masturbation, homosexual and sado-masochistic acts. He further encouraged them to engage in group-sex. Hidden behind the closed doors of his Institute for Sex Research, “Kinsey decreed that within the inner circle men could have sex with each other, wives would be swapped freely, and wives, too, would be free to embrace whichever sexual partners they liked” (Jones, p. 603).

As he got older Kinsey’s perverse sexual appetites became increasingly uncontrollable. He brought in outsiders when he became bored with his colleagues and had himself and others filmed in sexual acts for “research” purposes (including Kinsey himself being filmed from the torso down masturbating and inserting objects into his urethra).

An even more devastating critique of Kinsey’s research methods and personal character is found in the books Kinsey, Sex, and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People (Vital Issues Press, 1990) and Kinsey: Crimes & Consequences (Institute of Media Education, 1998) by Dr. Judith Reisman. In the earlier book (which she co-authored) she and her colleagues decried Kinsey’s intentional misrepresentation of rapists, homosexuals, prostitutes, sadists, masochists, and the like as average Americans. Probably most controversial is their accusation that Kinsey used information gathered from child molesters in his study.

Using the Kinsey Institute’s own documents Reisman claimed that the gall-wasp-expert-turned-sexologist used information on childhood “sexuality” gathered from pedophiles who sexually abused at least 317 pre-adolescent minors (and possibly as many as 2,035) to prove that children are sexually responsive. “Some of the victims were only two months old, and some were subjected to more than 24 hours of nonstop sexual atrocities,” says Reisman. While the Kinsey Institute has threatened to sue her for libel (as well as then television hosts Pat Buchanan and Phil Donahue for hosting her) they never carried through with any of their threats. Reisman in turn has accused the Kinsey Institute of a defamation campaign against her.

As extravagant as Reisman’s claims may seem, they are not without warrant. In Kinsey’s 1948 report he recounted using nine men to “observe” the sexual responses of children for his research (p. 177). “Some of these adults,” Kinsey wrote, “are technically trained persons who have kept diaries or other records which have been put at our disposal.” He included a chart that indicated that these “trained” adults were inducing sexual “orgasms” in babies as young as five months of age. One four-year-old is reported to have had 26 “orgasms” in 24 hours. An 11 month-old baby had 14 “orgasms” in 38 minutes. In his 1953 report the sexual data was mainly taken from “adult partners” of 609 pre-adolescent girls. Kinsey called these molestations “play” and claimed them harmless. A passing statement even makes one wonder if he might have had some personal involvement. Kinsey reported “observations which we have just recorded” on “4 cases of females under one year of age coming to orgasm” (Female, p. 105, italics added).

And just how were children and infants judged to be having orgasms? Kinsey looked for several behaviors: violent convulsions, groaning, “an abundance of tears” (i.e. sobbing), extreme trembling and fainting. In other words, what any normal adult would view as a child’s severe reactions to trauma Kinsey interpreted as children enjoying themselves. In Kinsey’s analysis, “it is difficult to understand why a child…should be disturbed by having its genitalia touched…[or by even] more specific sexual contacts” (Male, p. 121). One wonders how such disclosure did not result in public outrage and criminal charges. Did his persona as a man of science put him beyond reproach? Kinsey’s public image was carefully thought out and posed. He intentionally marketed a look of stodgy middle-American conservatism.

Reisman’s child-abuse charges appear validated by several Kinsey-research eyewitnesses interviewed in the 1998 British television documentary, Secret Histories: Kinsey’s Paedophiles. The program was never shown in the United States. Biographer James Jones counters, “There is just no evidence of which I am aware” that Kinsey trained and directed pedophiles to collect data. He believes the pedophile charges against Kinsey are “not credible” and tends to support the Kinsey Institute’s version of the story. In 1995, the institute’s director explained to the public that Kinsey had based this data on the diaries of one anonymous pedophile who had kept detailed records of his sexual abuse of 317 children from 1917 to 1948. According to Jones this man, whom Kinsey called “Mr. X,” was sixty-three years old when they met.

Yet this claim to there being only one pedophile whose activities occurred independent of Kinsey’s research seems to conflict with Kinsey’s own self-disclosure and the 1991 admittance of a close colleague, Clarence A. Tripp, who commented on Reisman’s accusations: “[She is] talking about data that came from pedophiles, that he [Kinsey] would listen only to pedophiles who were very careful, used stopwatches, knew how to record their thing, did careful surveys....[T]hey were trained observers.”

Perhaps the most widely publicized connection between Kinsey and a known pedophile took place in Germany a year after Kinsey's death. Notorious Nazi pedophile Dr. Fritz Von Balluseck was on trial for the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl when correspondence from Kinsey was found in his possession. Kinsey was encouraging the doctor to continue sending him “data” from his crimes and even urged him to “be careful” in one letter. These details appear in the British documentary film.

Ideologically speaking Alfred Kinsey’s goal now appears quite evident. Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker articulate it in The Architects of the Culture of Death (Ignatius, 2004). While veiling his agenda behind imposing charts and high scientific tones, “Kinsey reported all sexual behavior as if he were merely a neutral, scientific observer, never making distinctions between normal and abnormal, natural and unnatural, good and evil. Then he would declare that, since all kinds of hitherto taboo sexual acts actually occur far more often than readers had been aware, they could not be considered abnormal, because whatever occurs frequently must really be quite normal. What is normal must also be natural, and what is natural cannot be bad. Therefore, all sexual activities, whatever previous generations have thought of them, must be good. Science, therefore, can free us from the irrational prejudices of previous generations, for ‘there is no scientific reason for considering particular types of sexual activity as intrinsically, in their biologic origins, normal or abnormal’ (Kinsey, et al., Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male).” To drive home the pressing need for changes in social attitudes Kinsey claimed 95 percent of American men had committed acts that violated existing sex-crime laws that could land them in jail.

Kinsey not only claimed sexual abnormality to be statistically normal but that many pillars of society engaged in behaviors society unfairly labeled deviant and yet are “well adjusted” individuals. Indeed “most of the complications which are observable in sexual histories are the result of society’s reactions when it obtains knowledge of an individual’s behavior, or the individual’s fear of how society would react if he were discovered” (Male, p. 202). Kinsey was rationalizing the naturalness and therefore normalcy of homosexual acts, as well as pedophilia and bestiality. He was an outspoken advocate of adult-child sex. In each of these cases Kinsey saw the problem not as the behaviour itself but in society’s negative reaction to it. To Kinsey a female doctor who said she cautioned her patients that masturbation could become obsessive and harmful was an “inhibited old maid” while a molester of possibly 800 children was a “soft-spoken, self-effacing…gentleman” (Wardell Pomeroy, Kinsey and The Institute for Sex Research, New York, 1972, p. 122).

To overcome moral prohibitions Kinsey used his skewered data but also skewered language. He used terms that presented human sexual behaviour as purely a physiological “animal” response. Throughout his books he continually referred to the “human animal.” In his volume about women he likened an orgasm to sneezing. All sexual outlets were equally acceptable. As even the libertarian anthropologist Margaret Mead accurately observed, in Kinsey’s view there was no moral difference between a man having sex with a woman – or a sheep. For Kinsey human sexuality differed from animals only when it came to procreation. Animals instinctively have sex in order to reproduce. On the other hand, human procreation got little notice from Kinsey. In his entire 842-page volume on female sexuality motherhood was not mentioned once.

When Alfred Kinsey died in 1956 the press had only praise for the man. The New York Times declared he was “first, last and always a scientist.” In 2004 a movie was released called Kinsey. It starred Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. Gay writer-director Bill Condon did present something of the lead character’s sexual vices, in a subdued fashion, but kept intact the myth of Kinsey as man of science – who forced a sexually repressed America to look honestly at their sex lives. The film was critically well received – with the movie, Neeson and Linney being nominated for Golden Globe Awards and Linney for an Oscar. As one reviewer stated: “For a movie so frank and explicit, ‘Kinsey’ has a soft spirit. Violins swell. The warmth of the Kinsey's unconventional marriage shines through….‘Kinsey’ is a celebration of diversity; it’s about the solace knowledge can bring.”

While the film was a financial flop the ideas Kinsey promoted have been largely a success; becoming a reality in law and polity in the decades since his death. The boundaries of acceptable sexual behaviour have radically shifted and are still fluid. Promiscuity and deviancy have been normalized in Western society.

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