Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, December 05, 2021

The ongoing release of Kinsey, a movie account of the life and times of sex-research pioneer Alfred Kinsey, has become a flashpoint for conservative groups, who are seeking to discredit the depiction of Kinsey in the film and, by extension, the body of his work.

I think the core motivation against Kinsey the movie and Kinsey the man is nicely summed up thusly:

“People who are raising these allegations have many more concerns than just Alfred Kinsey,” [Indiana University information services director Jennifer] Bass said. “I think there’s a desire to look for a reason for all the problems we have in society and place blame somewhere. Sex research is not the cause of problems in society today; it’s trying to understand why they exist and what we can do to make a difference with these terrible issues of public health and violence toward women and in the family.”

Not that anyone on the other side will acknowledge that. To mask their hangups, they use misdirection tactics, like questioning the basic statistical work that underlay the Kinsey research:

“You only need to look at the re-election of George Bush to understand why (Kinsey’s surveys) weren’t scientific,” [conservative groups spokesperson Kristi Hamrick] said. “No matter what the exit polls said, it was not a good cross section, and the numbers were wrong. John Kerry didn’t win the presidency. The poll numbers were bad, and that’s also the problem with Kinsey.

“He may have talked to 18,000 people, but when you look at the fact that he talked so disproportionately to prostitutes, sex offenders and pedophiles, you get the mind-set of a sex offender which he then projects on the rest of society. This is not a scientific sample.”

How disproportionate were Kinsey’s interviews? Of course, the scope of the interview pool is described as including “bootleggers, clergymen, clerks, clinical psychologists… housewives, lawyers, marriage counselors, n’er-do-wells, persons in the social register…”, but that doesn’t give much of a clue as to how many of each were included. I haven’t seen the data, but plenty of other researchers have, and the integrity of the methodology continues to be admired decades after it was compiled.

Again, it all comes down to who/what you believe, and none of it really matters to the voices who are dissenting. Frankly, I get the strong feeling that if, out of the 18,000 interviews, only a single one was with a sexual “deviant”, that would be enough to stain the entire study. Scratch that — actually, the entire subject of the study is enough to discredit it, in this worldview.

Get ready for these groups, including the Family Research Council, to declare a grand victory in this fight, on the basis of Kinsey not placing high on any ticket-sales charts by the time its theatrical run ends. It’ll be patently false, because the movie is being distributed on a strictly limited art-house circuit; and so distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures isn’t shooting for blockbuster-like numbers, only a decent return.

A few fringe “family values” groups tried to make a similar argument a few months back over Saved!. Saved! was another limited release, more notable for starring roles by Macaulay Culkin and Mandy Moore than its spoofing of ardent Christians. Naturally, it didn’t come close to matching the box-office of then-still-in-theaters The Passion of the Christ; again, it wasn’t shooting for that level. Not only are all movies not created equal; they’re also not shooting for comparable results.

The situation matches the one for Kinsey simply by stimulus. The re-election of Bush on the crest of the moral-values issue is interpreted by conservative social activists as a starter’s gun for advancing their agenda. This movie is a perfect target for an early litmus test for future campaigns (although this movement started well before the November election). These groups know their timing will never be better than it is now.

Back to the core of it: It’s a blame game, and a futile one at that. Instead of sticking their own heads in the sand regarding sexual issues — which is their prerogative — they want to put the issue itself in the ground. I’m not too big a fan of either action, and so I’ll be buying my ticket for Kinsey whenever it rolls into the Tampa Bay area.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/05/2021 09:32:09 PM
Category: Movies, Society, History | Permalink |


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  1. The Counter-Sexual-Revolution Continues
    The always interesting Tampa Bay-based blog, Population Statistic, looks at the conservative attacks on the new film, Kinsey.

    The re-election of Bush on the crest of the moral-values issue is interpreted by conservative social activists as a s…

    Trackback by South of the Suwannee — 12/06/2021 @ 11:31:57 AM

  2. The Family Research Group would find something wrong with a Lassie film if it got them press and more fundraising.

    Comment by jett — 12/06/2021 @ 01:17:22 PM

  3. I think one of the things that’s happen, and gets used often, in Evangelical Christianity is the idea that every person is an authority.

    Many forms of conservative Christians believe that ever person is a priest. To quote Ben from this post at Scattered Words

    “These laws are all part of a priesthood that doesn’t exist anymore. So we don’t follow them. Christians *are* the priesthood now. We don’t require a seperate priesthood to enter the holy of holies and make atonement on our behalf, we can approach God’s throne ourselves.”

    Right there is the odd belief that individuals are the priesthood *and* they don’t have to follow the laws God set down for the priests.

    If thats’ the case I don’t find it hard that it would follow that any individual could find them selves capable of judging the quality of a scientific study despite the fact that they don’t have any understanding of the methods or the statistics behind the study.

    When you combine this with the idea that you lead with faith and the reason will follow you get really strange results.

    Comment by Michael Conlen — 12/07/2021 @ 02:55:44 PM

  4. Classic “don’t confuse me with the facts” mentality. It’s also reminiscent of behavior in other areas: PTA parents who are convinced that they know better how to educate their/all children than the educators do.

    Comment by CT — 12/07/2021 @ 09:22:02 PM

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