The man behind the controversy

The man behind the controversy

Adam Aasen | | Date: 3/12/2003

(saved from 01.12.2012)

The biologist and psychologist Alfred Charles Kinsey taking part in a press conference during an airport stopover. Frankfurt, 22 November 1955 -
The biologist and psychologist Alfred Charles Kinsey taking part in a press conference during an airport stopover. Frankfurt, 22 November 1955 —

Alfred Kinsey was a man who enjoyed the simple things in life.

Kinsey’s oldest daughter, Anne Call, 79, said Kinsey loved fresh air, the sound of birds and hiking, whether he was camping in the Smoky Mountains, Mexico or the hills of Bloomington. And during his walks, he had his three children at his side.

Helen D’Amico, Kinsey’s secretary, said it seems peculiar a man who was so dedicated to family life could be accused of pedophilia, a scandal that has rocked Kinsey’s friends, family and followers for years.

Fifty years after Kinsey published the groundbreaking book «Sexual Behavior in the Human Female» and 46 years after his death, the IU zoologist and sex researcher is still generating attention.

A film that will portray Kinsey’s life is in the works. Actor Liam Neeson, of such films as «Schindler’s List» and «Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,» will portray Kinsey. At IU, the Kinsey Institute has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of «Sexual Behavior in the Human Female» with events such as lectures and film viewings.

But not all the publicity Kinsey spawns is positive. Dr. Judith Reisman, author of such anti-Kinsey literature as «Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences» and «Kinsey, Sex and Fraud,» and syndicated radio therapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger have proposed a boycott of the film about Kinsey. They claim Kinsey committed criminal acts such as child molestation while obtaining research for his sexual studies.

Protesting the unfinished film

The Kinsey Institute claims Kinsey interviewed pedophiles to gather data about child sexuality for his books, but Reisman contests that in addition to reporting pedophiles’ activities, Kinsey acted out similar behavior himself.

«As a matter of fact, all you need to do is to look at copies of his data and ask the question, ‘How did they know the 2-month (old) baby did or did not have an orgasm?'» Reisman said. «Or that the 4-year-old had 26 orgasms in 24 hours, saying they used ‘stop watches’ and calling that ‘science.’ The rapist is called a ‘scientist’ by Kinsey.»

Reisman also accused Kinsey of conspiring with former Nazis and rapists and «enabling violent sexual criminals to proceed in their acts.»

Kinsey made sexual abuse seem as if it were a normal part of development, Reisman said.

«The ‘Female’ book is the one that compares a child being molested ‘or even more serious contacts’ to having been frightened by a spider,» Reisman said. «And that says his ‘data’ prove incest is really O.K. because, he says, the kids generally seek it out.»

Reisman is not the only person enraged about Kinsey’s work. In 1998, Indiana state Rep. Woody Burton (R-Greenwood) sponsored a bill attempting to close the Kinsey Institute because of allegations about Kinsey’s sexuality. The same year, British filmmaker Tim Tate’s documentary, «Kinsey’s Paedophiles,» depicted Kinsey as an accomplice in the abuse of thousands of children.

The debate was recently revived when Reisman appeared Feb. 11 on Fox News’ «The O’Reilly Factor» to debate Rev. Ted McIlvenna, director of The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. The institute has the only graduate school in the United States approved to train sexologists and owns the largest collection of pornography. (The Kinsey Institute has the second-largest collection).

Concerned about the children in Kinsey’s studies, McIlvenna chaired a committee several decades ago to investigate the Kinsey Institute for proof that wrongdoings had occurred.

«After almost two months of investigation, we found no improprieties at the Kinsey Institute,» McIlvenna said.

Discounts of allegations

Later on, McIlvenna hired Kinsey’s confidant, Dr. Wardell Pomeroy, as his academic dean. After developing trust with Pomeroy, McIlvenna was made privy to private information.

«Pomeroy said to me, ‘There (are) going to be a lot of bad things said about this guy, so I want you to know the truth,'» McIlvenna said. «So he shared all of Kinsey’s research and documents with me. I was the only other person Pomeroy showed his collection to, and I went over it for about year and I haven’t seen any evidence to prove Reisman’s accusations.»

Jennifer Bass, head of information services at the Kinsey Institute, said all of Reisman’s and others’ claims about Kinsey committing criminal acts are fraudulent and unfounded.

«If you look at Dr. Judith Reisman’s books, she twists things to make them appear wrong,» Bass said. «For example, that famous picture of Kinsey talking to a child: Reisman could show that photo in a book and say, ‘Look, he’s trying to molest children.’ But the fact of the matter is, that woman, who was the little girl in the picture, came into the institute and told us Kinsey was just one of the nicest men ever and was angered that anyone would accuse such atrocities of him.»

Bass also defended the value of Kinsey’s research, one topic talk show host Bill O’Reilly and Reisman brought up on «The O’Reilly Factor.»

«Mothers call us up to ask if it is normal for her child to play with his penis; does this mean he has been abused?» Bass said. «We have the research to attempt to answer these questions and calm parents’ fears.»

Despite its support of Kinsey, the Kinsey Institute has made few attempts to publicly defend itself, also declining to appear on «The O’Reilly Factor.»

«When you look at all of the allegations floating around, I always expected IU and Kinsey to battle these accusers, but they haven’t,» McIlvenna said. «Actually I don’t think much of the institute. I think they are a bunch of chicken shits. I would have sued all of these activists for printing untrue accusations.»

Kinsey Institute officials said they feel defending the institute is not worth their efforts.

«It’s very difficult to debate people in the spectrum of ‘The O’Reilly Factor,'» Bass said. «People let their emotions carry them away instead of debating the merits academically.»

The personal side

Kinsey’s oldest daughter, Call, who lives in Bloomington, said how people misrepresent her father bothers her.

«Other newspapers are bordering yellow journalism,» Call said. «For example, my father never gardened in his underwear or his jock strap. He did have really short shorts, since it was hot in Bloomington in the summer, but that just goes to show how journalists don’t verify their facts.»

Call said she and her siblings dealt with the controversy in different ways.

She said when people asked her if she was related to Kinsey, she would claim relation to the owners of the popular Kinsey Whiskey produced at the time.

«It was just easier than dealing with the controversy,» Call said. «Actually, the company found out and sent me a case of whiskey.»

Call said people who could not tolerate Kinsey’s findings spur the controversy.

«If those statistics didn’t fit into your moral code, then they discredit the messenger,» Call said.

D’Amico, who knew Kinsey personally when she worked as his secretary, said she is amazed people would accuse Kinsey of sexual crimes.

«He was really conservative,» D’Amico said. «He wasn’t at all the wild-man hedonist that people make him out to be. He was focused on his research and his family.»

Call said her family was one of the most conservative at her high school.

«I was one of the only girls who had to be in by 12:30 after school dances that ended at midnight,» Call said. «He was a fairly old-fashioned guy, but he was very open to new ideas. He was always pretty serious.»

D’Amico said Kinsey’s interest in sex was purely scientific, and he would have had no time to pursue alleged homosexual, extramarital affairs because he was too busy with research.

«I think Kinsey was perfect to study sex at that time because he was actually kind of asexual, so he looked at it objectively, from a scientific point of view,» D’Amico said.

McIlvenna echoed those sentiments, saying when others indulged in sexual acts, Kinsey would relax with music — his other love.

«Kinsey loved music above everything else,» McIlvenna said. «He would spend hours at his Hi-Fi. Pomeroy hated music. So when the staff would go up and talk about sex, Kinsey would just stay and listen to music. And there were sexual acts going on among the staff in private. I know some of the married women experimented with each other. There were a lot of things going on at the institute, sexual but not illegal, but Kinsey never got involved in any of it. He wasn’t a very sexually active person.»

Kinsey Institute officials said they would not comment about the personal lives of employees.

Although Reisman is boycotting the film about Kinsey and others are expressing concern about Kinsey’s work, Myriad Pictures, which is producing the Kinsey movie, declined to comment on the controversy.

Many people on both sides of the debate said they worry the film will inaccurately portray Kinsey.

«(Producer Francis Ford) Coppola is just as inaccurate as Reisman,» McIlvenna said. «I know more about Kinsey than anybody else and nobody has contacted me. But I guess Hollywood doesn’t have to be accurate. It just has to sell.»

Others feel the film will unjustly glorify Kinsey.

«It’s interesting that Liam Neeson played a Nazi who changes his perspective in ‘Schindler’s List,’ and now he is going to play a man who collaborated with Nazis to contribute to the abuse of children,» Reisman said.

Bass denied Kinsey collaborated with Nazis.

Regardless of how a film or critics portray Kinsey, those who personally knew him say they remember a man who loved hiking and listening to his Hi-Fi.

«I just don’t see the controversy,» D’Amico said. «To me, he was just a wonderful man.»

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