The recent film about Dr. Alfred Kinsey (starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney) could not have arrived at a more perfect political moment. With all the post-election day hand wringing, all the scurrying around about vote fraud, and all the furrowed brows planning Election 2006/2008, it is so refreshing to see the story of a 20th century visionary depicted on the big screen.
The heart of the movie “Kinsey” lies in the powerful cultural-political confrontation between the good doctor and his research institute and the forces of reactionary moral values and conservative renormalization. It is a rather disturbing parallel to the post-election climate that is so awash in “moral values” that more than a few progressives are getting onboard this reactionary vessel.
Will “moral values,” and “Democrats learning to speak the language” of moral values be our next version of “Anybody But Bush”?
Dr. Alfred Kinsey, if he were alive, would have none of it!
To understand Kinsey's subversive power it is important to contextualize his two most famous studies. “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” was published in 1948, immediately in the aftermath of WW2 and with the shadow of the Cold War looming ominously. “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” was published in 1953 in the midst of the Senator Joseph McCarthy-J. Edgar Hoover political witch hunts.
The Puritans of the day shook their heads and their fists when the first book hit the stands. Charges of promoting homosexuality and pedophilia were hurled at Kinsey and his researchers. For the most part the furor simmered and the “wacky scientists” in Indiana were left to do their research.
In a curious insight into the patriarchal nature of 1950's America (and today as well), it was the publication of the report on American women that dealt the crushing blow to Kinsey personally and moved his institute beyond the pale (Kinsey died a few years later).
It was bad enough that men were discovered to be fondling women and (quite often) other men too, but it was morally traitorous to besmirch American womanhood (though one wonders: if all the men in the earlier study were fondling women weren't the women fondling back?).
Suddenly the female body was uncaged. The 200 years of Puritanical efforts at suppression and dissociation from the pleasures of the flesh were exposed as merely having driven sexuality underground. It was too much and Kinsey would be made to pay.
Today the Puritans are back. Let's distinguish them by calling them Techno-Puritans, for they've upgraded from the blunderbuss and the public pillory to WMD and the Patriot Act. But make no mistake, this country is founded on Puritan ideology and it is to these psychological and political roots that America defaults under stress. Has there been a greater stress (excuse?) than 9/11?
Is it into this Puritanical clearing in a morally ambiguous world that progressives are going to be seduced (oops)?
Kinsey understood, in all his complexity as a dispassionate scientist with his feet planted in the sensuous, that knuckling under to the regressive dictates of “moral values” was a step back into darkness.
Remember, when the Kinsey Reports were first published it was a time when so-called “sexual deviants” were being jailed, given shock therapy, called mentally ill by the hallowed DSM-IV, and either self-medicating with alcohol and drugs or committing suicide.
The fact that there has been post-election, Monday-morning quarterbacking about how it was “wrong” and “ill-timed” for homosexual marriage to be advocated, is exactly indicative of the step that Kinsey warned about and refused to take.
In dark times you can never predict from where the next beacon of light will shine forth. In one of the most conservative and fear-ridden periods in American history, Dr. Alfred Kinsey was such a beacon. His uncompromising efforts to debunk dangerous attitudes and neurotic half-truths -- many of them sexist and racist -- saved lives and saved souls.
The Techno-Puritans, in their cultural support of expanded empire, know full well that turning the clock back to a time when the repressive moral values of a body-denying, Earth-destroying culture reigned is a crucial step. Kinsey reminds us that our struggle is far from over.
Kinsey reminds us that there are times and issues where the lines must be drawn so starkly, the “No” stated so uncompromisingly, as to leave no doubt who the forces of humanity are and where they stand.
T. Patrick Donovan is a doctoral student in Depth Psychology and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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