The publication of the Kinsey report means for the for the first time that frank talk about sex is no longer the sole domain of the church and psychoanalysts. Now, everyone could be master of that domain. Martin Gumpet says that the frank talk of the newly published Kinsey Report makes it “an important, useful and honest book.”
The Kinsey report is an important, useful, and honest book. It contains many debatable statements, and there are probably a number of statistical and technical errors–which this reader can only suspect but which other critics have cited with vehement disapproval. It is fortunately not, as it purports to be, an entirely objective report of “what people do.” There is frequent evidence of social and moral interpretation, which needless to say has given rise to violent criticism by opponents of the whole project. Obviously the statement that, under our present laws, 95 percent of our total male population could be convicted of sex crimes becomes social dynamite when it is offered as a statement of authoritative scientific fact. Most of us were aware of it all along, but proof was lacking. The same is true of such findings as these: that 85 percent of American males have pre-marital intercourse; that 59 percent have some experience in oral-genital contacts, a criminal offense in a number of states–and by criminal I mean a felony, not a misdemeanor; that from 30 to 45 percent have extra-marital intercourse; that 37 percent have had some homosexual experience; and that 17 percent of farm boys have intercourse with animals. These figures may be slightly changed by further studies, but on the whole they would appear to be accurate–and they come as no surprise to anyone who has intimate and undistorted knowledge of human relations.
The reception and the effects of the Kinsey report have been quite as interesting as its contents. It has stimulated a frank discussion of sex that has had the character of an explosion and has provided a wholesome release. Indeed, the healthy, intelligent attitude displayed by the general public has been very remarkable. There are, of course, some angry and malicious detractors, and perhaps no one would be surprised to find Dr. Kinsey and the whole Zoology Department of the University of Indiana hailed before a Congressional committee investigating un-American sex activities. On the other hand, the recent comment by Albert Deutsch that Kinsey stands as a martyr along with Socrates and Copernicus is an embarrassing overstatement. After all, this author of a bestseller is today a public figure acclaimed by many respected citizens.
The success of the book is an encouraging sign of the genuine interest of American readers in solid knowledge–which may be a shock to our educators and to condescending editors who think they know “what the people want.” Until now only two organized groups have been entitled to talk about sex–the churches and the psychoanalysts. Today sex seems to have become a matter for more or less mature discussion by the people who are primarily involved in its problems. It is no wonder, then, that clergymen and psychoanalysts are among the most militant enemies of the report. One important and highly gratifying effect of the book is that it appears to have lifted the feeling of guilt from hundreds of thousands of readers. This mass psychotherapeutic function is one secret of its success. People work with touching eagerness through the appalling mass of boring charts and statistics in order to discover with relief that they are not outcasts, not psychopaths, not criminals, when they masturbate or enjoy other “abnormal” sexual outlets. They learn that they are as “normal” or as “vicious” as anybody they meet on the streets of their home town. If this relief from tension and guilt can be bought for $6.50, it is a most happy social accomplishment. But everybody in the guilt business is bound to feel at least a little angry.