Let’s Talk about Sex’: Kinsey, Outrage and the Invention of Postmodern Sexualities

Let’s Talk about Sex’: Kinsey, Outrage and the Invention of Postmodern Sexualities

2009-01-01 00:00:00

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male‘ (1948) was published at a critical moment in the modernist, project of re-assembling post war gendered, domestic order in the home and the wider xenophobic paranoia that resulted in the McCarthy witch-hunts. It was rooted in rationalism that challenged the misinformation, mythologies, religious and moral beliefs of the dominant culture of the USA. A similar, smaller project ‘Little Kinsey’ had been undertaken in the UK by the Mass Observation survey, but the results had been suppressed because they were so scandalous. 

This paper will briefly consider the key data from the Kinsey report (1948) and explore that with reference to the more recent movie ‘Kinsey: Let’s talk about sex’ (2004). A central element in this exploration is the continuity and similarity in the hostile responses to the issues raised by both these productions that have become increasingly inflamed by the conservative discourses that are fuelling the so-called culture wars in the USA. The presentation will be illustrated with extracts from the movies that provide the basis for analysing how Kinsey’s original report may be seen as instrumental in both describing human sexual behaviour, and in so doing, revealed its variety, challenging the rigidity of sexual categories and thereby created a postmodern sensibility of sexual diversity.

Critics of Kinsey in particular, and sexual diversity in general, have made use of the Internet to publish articles that seek to undermine the scientific validity of the report, demonise Kinsey himself and permeate contemporary political and legal discourses with moral absolutism that creates sexual other. It will be argued that the immoderate language and degree of moral outrage interwoven with the most selective use of defamatory abuse suggests fear of social and scientific knowledge, particularly that which critiques heteronormativity while constructing new populations of the sexually vulnerable.

Speakers: Anthony Pryce
Conference: Demo
Areas of Interest / Categories: Sexual Behaviour
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