After the Allied victory in World War Two there was a mood of optimism and boldness in the U.S. that might be difficult for later generations to imagine. The world seemed to be making progress. Kinsey was a zoologist at Indiana University, but midway through his career he realized that widespread ignorance about sex is a more important subject for study and research than the evolution of wasps. He interviewed thousands of people about their sexual lives, and wrote two books “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” the publication of which were likened to dropping an atomic bomb on traditional puritanism. But many people strongly resist and resent change; some people are terrified by change. Hence the hysterical propaganda film: “The Kinsey Syndrome: How One Man Destroyed the Morality of America”
The film parrots standard slogans and rhetoric: “children don’t know” about sex until someone “steals their innocence.” The dramatic music and horror movie sound effects serve no purpose than to cultivate the mood of fear this film wants to provoke. Vicious and blatantly groundless accusations are made against the courageous and pioneering scientist, Alfred Kinsey. The narrator claims the foundations of our nation are “Christian principles.” Bogus figures on missing children are quoted to terrify viewers by exaggerating the risk of stranger abduction. Instead of quoting national statistics on child injury and fatality, an obscure “estimate” of child abductions is repeated more than once to mislead viewers about the most frequent and most deadly dangers children face. A self-interested author quotes the hysterical parent of a victim as saying “Your child could be next,” as if that’s a reliable source to calculate the actual probability of danger.
Prosecutors and other self-interested non-experts are quoted making silly and irrelevant emotional statements like “Your child can disappear in an instant.” The narrator repeats what a prosecutor claims: that abused children are “scarred forever,” and “messed up for life,” as if he’s a medical doctor as well as a prosecutor. The discredited claim that children who were sexually abused “often lead troubled lives” is merely repeated without mentioning the counter-evidence.*
The film makes no distinction between “pedophiles” and child molesters. It makes false claims about the supposedly high rate of recidivism of “pedophiles,” without acknowledging (or unaware) that one of the world’s leading authorities on pedophilia says not only do sex offenders against children have a relatively low rate of recidivism, an estimated half of sex offenders against children aren’t even pedophiles (many are actually psychopaths who prefer adult sex partners).** The film later contradicts itself by claiming that most pedophiles are never caught. How does anyone know that? If we don’t have access to most pedophiles, how can we make valid generalizations about them as a group?
The narrator refers to “us as a society” as if everyone is in agreement about the supposed need for terror. He quotes a law firm as saying the supposed increase of sex offenses against children is “directly tied” to the increase of pornography on the web. Since when is a law firm an expert on the alleged (supposedly causal) relationship between pornography on the web and sex offenses? Even a former porn star is quoted for her valuable opinion on the supposedly causal connection between porn and sex offenses against children. (She and a former pornographer later testify how God saves.)
Sensationalist journalists are shown making groundless claims like “the average child molester” has more than 100 victims, and quotes one hysteric (Judith Reisman) who claims, incredibly, that much of the current “horror show” can be traced back to the scientist Kinsey. She quotes the old conspiracy theory (with only token support) that organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation wanted to corrupt America’s “Christian principles” by any means necessary.
Rather than trying to prove the silly claim that Kinsey was largely or solely responsible for the supposed increase in child sexual abuse later, the film goes on to attack the validity of Kinsey’s pioneering research. Most incredibly, Kinsey’s research is criticized for selection bias because he included convicted sex offenders and prostitutes as part of his population sample. While that criticism may very well be justified, this film nowhere mentions that the multitude of research claiming that child sexual abuse is usually seriously harmful was no less guilty of selection bias by including patients in therapy as part (if not all) of their study populations. According to this film, selection bias is bad (or “scientific fraud”) only if your opponents do it.
Note that we are talking about early sex research done in the 1940s and 1950s, compared to sex abuse research as recent as the1990s. Nor does this film mention another type of bias created by the political correctness police: publication bias. For a long time it has been very difficult if not impossible to obtain any funding to conduct and publish impartial child sexuality research, regardless of who applies for it.
Much footage is devoted to Kinsey’s survey of children’s sexual experience, quoting Judith Reisman who hysterically claims he was “responsible” for the sexual abuse of hundreds if not thousands of children. In reality, the data in question were claimed (by Kinsey and co-researchers) to have come from several child molesters long after the fact. A recent director of the Kinsey Institute says he believes only one child molester provided the data, and Kinsey’s claim of several molesters was intended to protect his source (just as a journalist’s privilege, lawyer/client, doctor/patient, etc.). But regardless of the number of Kinsey’s sources, none of the film’s long discussion proves Reisman’s accusation that Kinsey was “responsible” for any child molestation (let alone hundreds or thousands), or that the data (regardless of the number of sources) were not accurate. The film contradicts itself again by quoting another propaganda film that claims an outside scientist (not part of Kinsey’s research team) trained the molester to record his data.
The reports that some children enjoyed their sexual experiences are called “shocking” by the narrator. Reisman suggests that children having orgasms is torture, and it would be impossible for a four-year-old to have 26 orgasms within 24 hours, as reported in Kinsey’s book. (Reisman should read my forthcoming blog post about my own childhood.) On the basis of my personal experience of my own childhood orgasms I would agree with Kinsey’s critics that some of his book’s description of orgasms in young children is hard to believe. Orgasm in childhood is a normal and natural response to stimulation, and not at all as dramatic as either Kinsey or his hysterical critics claim. I am not claiming any observations; I am speaking from the horse’s mouth.
The film claims a crucial point is that Kinsey and his researchers must have encouraged pedophiles to molest children and record their observations carefully, but despite a lot of effort attempting to prove that point (Kinsey researchers are accused of “word play,” and actors posing as scientists are shown giving stopwatches to other actors posing as dirty old men, accompanied by dramatic music), a Kinsey co-worker and former director of the Kinsey Institute flatly denies any such thing, and convincingly explains that the pedophile(s) were not encouraged nor trained to do anything. Only parents and child care workers who observed children spontaneously playing by themselves were encouraged to record their observations carefully.
This propaganda film wouldn’t be complete without a pseudonymous victim claiming recovered memories. A woman says she was molested by her father with a stopwatch when she was a child, and she claims the father boasted that he had helped Kinsey’s research. She only remembered or realized what had happened years later. Although she claims her mother didn’t know about it at the time, the latter reportedly corroborated the woman’s accusations – an inconsistency the film sees no need to explain.
A truly bizarre part of this story is the revelation that after WWII, Kinsey had reportedly corresponded with a former Nazi in Germany who was later arrested for the possible murder of a child during the war in occupied Poland. But the narrator tries to confuse the time period with ambiguous verb tenses that suggest the crimes were in progress during Kinsey’s post-war correspondence. The evidence for molestation was evidently the molester’s diaries which he kept during the war, and yet the narrator in this film keeps saying Kinsey corresponded with the man who “was molesting” children, rather than saying he “had been molesting” or “used to molest” children. The former Nazi is also repeatedly called a “Nazi,” even though the time period referred to is clearly the 1950s. Once a Nazi always a Nazi?
Kinsey’s letters are said to have encouraged the man to “continue his research,” but no evidence is offered that by that phrase he meant molest more children, nor is any evidence presented that any more children were in fact molested. Instead, the viewer is presented with images of an actor wearing a Nazi uniform complete with swastika armband, accompanied by dramatic music. At the end of this part of the story, the narrator stops playing word games himself and says in no uncertain terms: the “Nazi’s” crimes took place during the war (not during Kinsey’s post-war correspondence).
The film makes another weak attempt at guilt-by-association in Kinsey’s efforts to obtain the diaries of the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley in Europe. Kinsey’s motto “Do your best and let other people react as they will,” is likened to Crowley’s motto “Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law.” Hardly a close resemblance. Complaining that Kinsey’s research influenced the modernization of sex laws, this film neglects to mention that many sex laws date back to the 1800s. Is that the enlightened period we should forever consider a model of legal wisdom?
Calling anyone under 18 “children,” and labeling Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner as Kinsey’s “pamphleteer,” the film brings Reisman back to make the arrogant and ridiculous claim that Playboy and similar magazines must be arousing, and arousal must be acted out in violent sex crimes. “That’s just the way the human brain works,” Reisman declares. Despite the certainty with which the supposed link between pornography and crime is asserted, only the weakest arguments are offered as evidence, e.g. sex crimes increased during the 1960s, the same period in which Playboy became very popular, which is like saying the increase in coffee drinking is responsible for the increase in sexual abuse because both occurred during the same decade. No hard scientific evidence for the supposed porn-crime link is mentioned.
Another contradiction: After arguing that viewing porn creates a sex addiction, Reisman claims viewing porn desensitizes people to sex. I’m glad she finally got it right. The self-righteous saviors of children’s purity are unbound by logic, and amidst the shame over child sexual abuse, they are shameless in presenting this propaganda film as honest, dispassionate analysis. The film concludes by claiming Kinsey’s death was a masochistic suicide, and although I’m unable to verify or dispute that claim, the claim does nothing to discredit the courageous and pioneering work Kinsey did during his life, and his work’s possible contribution to the revolution in popular attitudes that previously censored open discussion of human sexuality and healthy sexual development.
Compared to his European predecessors (Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis, Freud), Alfred Kinsey was more open-minded and much more scientific. Kinsey was not perfect, but he marked a clear and precious historical transition from sexual philosophy and moral indoctrination to sexual science and balanced education. Despite blatant propaganda films like this one, we are still making progress on that road.
*Rind et al. “A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples” (Psychological Bulletin 1998, Vol. 124, No. 1, 22-53); and Rind et al. “The Validity and Appropriateness of Methods, Analyses, and Conclusions in Rind et al. (1998): A Rebuttal of Victimological Critique From Ondersma et al. (2001) and Dallam et al. (2001)” (Psychological Bulletin 2001. Vol. 127. No. 6. 734-758).
**Seto, Michael C. “Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against Children: Theory, Assessment and Intervention.” (American Psychological Association, 2007).