Archives for posts with tag: Alfred Kinsey

As a class we’ve discussed the concept of objectivity in the past alongside the guiding voice of Natalie Angier: in her work Woman: An Intimate Geography she often exposed the pronounced lack of objectivity in the work of scientific professionals and how this lack is often manifested in the way of valorizing one or another behavior, body, or way of being at the expense of others.  The issue of scientific objectivity is visited again in Disorders of Desire by Janice Irvine when she discusses the methods and principles Alfred Kinsey engaged in during his legendary sex research in the 1940s and 1950s.  As long as I have been aware of Kinsey’s work and its historical importance, I have conceived of Alfred Kinsey himself as though he were some kind of sex superhero, on a divine mission to increase popular knowledge about sex and liberate all people to enjoy their bodies and libidos.  To some degree, this perception of Kinsey may be in line with how radical he seemed in his own time; however, like most idealizations, this one of mine blinded me to the fact that Kinsey, while certainly progressive, was not necessarily perfect in his methods or attitudes.  As Irvine points out, Kinsey was highly dedicated to the scientific method and ideals of researcher-objectivity: “When Kinsey proclaimed his ‘objectivity,’ he was eschewing both the moralism of religion and the pathologizing tendency of the social sciences.  It was essentially, for Kinsey, a claim that he would make no negative judgments, point no fingers, and condemn no behavior,” (20).  However, while Kinsey appears to have been making every effort to achieve his goal of objectivity, he did not question some of his own underlying assumptions enough to avoid the bias that is inherent in almost all interpretation of research.  For example Kinsey never stopped to question his assignation of “normalness” (and consequently privilege) to white, middle-aged, male members of the middle class.  Irvine describes how this was manifested in his research method: “His staff, then, consisted of male, heterosexual, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs), since for Kinsey these characteristics represented the yardstick of normality,” (25).  Also visible as a manifestation of bias in his work are the strong essentialist themes which are evident when he hearkens back to human beings’ mammalian ancestry for (usually patriarchal) answers to the present day’s question.  This is demonstrated by Irvine as she quotes Kinsey’s work: “He frequently justified the double standard as a biological imperative: ‘The human male’s interest in maintaining his property rights in his female mate, his objections to his wife’s extra-marital coitus, and her lesser objection to his extra-marital activity, are mammalian heritages,'” (28).  These displays of (retrospectively) obvious bias in Kinsey’s work teaches a very important, if disillusioning lesson about accepting scientific research: even those researchers with the best intentions are not free from bias, and therefore no research- scientific, literary, or cultural- should be accepted without first questioning the objectivity of the presentation of the information.

 

By Rosalind Rini

I started reading Disorders of Desire by Janice M. Irvine which made me think about gender as an essence. Irvine discusses Kinsey and his work, but one aspect particularly caught my attention, Kinsey’s seven-point scale. I am sure you know what I am talking about, but until I read Irvine’s article I had no idea what this scale was. The scale is a homosexual-heterosexual continuum. Kinsey rated people based on both their physical and psychological experience.

This scale was used throughout the 40′- 80’s even though the Kinsey Institute found the scale to be useless. Kinsey hoped this scale would help other’s realize that people did not fit perfectly into heterosexual and homosexual categories. I the scare is ranked based on the following numbers:

0. Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual

I. Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual

II. Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual

III. Equally heterosexual and homosexual

IV. Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual

V. Predominantly homosexual, but incidentally heterosexual

VI. Exclusively homosexual

I cans see how this chart can be useful. Number three would identify bisexuals, one would identify heterosexuals, and number six would identify homosexuals. Then the remaining few numbers would categories those who experience with their sexuality. I also see why this chart was disposed. Often people do not identify with one sexuality or can be placed into a category. Before taking this course, I always thought sexuality was binary. Honestly, I did not even believe in bisexuality, but now I am realizing just how unique sexuality can be. This chart was probably useful for society to understand that sexuality is not always black and white, heck it was useful for me. What I find even more interesting about this chart and Kinsey is that Kinsey “refused to talk about homosexuality as an identity or about homosexual persons.” Irvine writes on page 32 that Kinsey felt that everyone had the capacity to be homosexual. This simply means that everyone is homosexual in some way. This idea obviously conflicts with most ideas of the church and a lot of people would disagree. I absolutely agree with Kinsey. I think everyone could enjoy a sexual experience or have sexual feelings toward the same sex, but not everyone has to act on their feelings. I find it to be more true with females because society is more accepting of a female who is bisexual opposed to a male being bisexual. The lesbian friends that I do have, have no problem converting a “straight” girl to be with them, sexually of course. Once the converted girls are done being used, they often go back to being with men. This is easier for society to accept because men have always been more accepting of their girlfriends being with other women, the man might even be turned on by this idea. This is less likely to happen for a man because society thinks once you have sexual relations with one man then you are gay. I thought this to be true. It does not work that way. Men can also have relations with a man or two then happily spend the rest of their life with a woman. I rarely hear about a woman who is marrying or dating a guy who used to date other men. I guess it is just one of those many double standards. Anyways, back to the quote, I think Kinsey’s reasoning behind not talking about homosexuality ties in with Grasz’s idea of sexuality being an essence. Each person has their own idea of what sexuality is. I think everyone can find something different about their sexuality or gender that is different from another person. I included this article that gives some ideas about gender being an essence.

 

-Brent Lopez