ALFRED C. KINSEY by James H. Jones

ALFRED C. KINSEY

A Public/Private Life
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The author of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, etc., is portrayed here as homosexual, voyeur, masochist, scientist, and social revolutionary. The first so-called Kinsey Report (1948) blasted Victorian morality by presenting statistical analyses of searching face-to- face interviews with thousands of American men who revealed sexual behavior that was shocking and liberating at the same time. Most men said they masturbated; many had premarital and extramarital sex; many had homoerotic experiences; and a small percentage had sex with animals. If that information--and the much milder revelations in the 1953 Kinsey Report on women--seems old hat now, it created a furor at the time that led all the way from American church pulpits to Congress (where, as recently as 1995, a bill was introduced calling for an investigation of Kinsey's influence on sex education). Beginning with Kinsey's guilt-ridden childhood in New Jersey and an unhappy relationship with an authoritarian father, Jones (History/Univ. of Houston; Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, 1981) describes the scientist's life in the kind of microscopic detail that would have pleased the man who began his career as an entomologist. After earning a Ph.D. from Harvard, Kinsey settled on the faculty of Indiana University. His interest shifted from insects to human sexual behavior because, he said, of his students' questions. Supported for many years by funds from the Rockefeller Foundation, he collected countless sexual histories, including those of homosexuals, pedophiles, prisoners, and prostitutes. Citing many anonymous sources, the author also reports that Kinsey privately practiced what he preached about sexual liberation: increasingly painful masochistic techniques, homosexual encounters, and later, with the staff of the Kinsey Institute, wife- and husband-swapping (episodes that were frequently filmed in the attic of Kinsey's home). An exhaustive, compelling portrait of a scientist hailed as both a ``genius'' and a ``dirty old man.''

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-04086-0
Page count: 832pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997




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