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External Articles | Posted: August 14, 2005

Sordid Science: The Sex Research of Alfred C. Kinsey (The Catholic Standard & Times - Part 2 of 7)


Exclusive Series: Alfred C. Kinsey and American Sex Ed
Part 2 of 7
by Susan Brinkmann
CS&T Correspondent

In Part One of this series, we read about the high degree of sexual nonconformity that was required of Kinsey staff members. In her book, "Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences," Dr. Judith Reisman raises the question of whether or not this requirement contributed to the lack of professional expertise among those chosen to work on Kinsey's team.

For instance, Clyde Martin, a key Kinsey aid and co-author, had no background or training in statistics and yet he was charged with all of the statistical analysis of data for what would become an internationally known project. Even complaints from Kinsey's main financier, the Rockefeller Foundation, about the absence of a professional statistician on the staff, could not persuade Kinsey to fix this critical problem. Reisman suspects that he was unable to find a credible statistician who possessed the degree of sexual deviancy and anti-religious bias he required.

These troubles only added to Kinsey's larger problem - a sexually explicit and highly offensive questionnaire that few "typical" American men were willing to answer. This paucity of respondents was made worse by World War II, which had called many men into service, leaving the only other available source of men to be those attending colleges and universities. But few of these men would give the kind of intimate sex histories Kinsey wanted.

Therefore, Kinsey was compelled to rely upon "volunteers," mostly deviants and a variety of sexual rebels, including incarcerated criminals, streetwalkers, prostitutes and other miscellaneous riff-raff. In order to make the data appear representative of the "normal" American population, Kinsey was forced to engage in what is known as "category manipulation."

In example, a category labeled "college-level" was substituted for "college" in order to include men who might conceivably go to college. Such a broad category included just about anyone, from juvenile delinquents and to the feeble-minded, anyone who might, by some gigantic stretch of the imagination, end up in a college classroom one day.

In a more outrageous example, Kinsey classified 1400 criminals and sex offenders as "normal" on the grounds that such miscreants were essentially the same as other men - except that these had gotten caught. The "human males" category could then include incarcerated pedophiles, pederasts, homosexual males, boy prostitutes and miscellaneous sexual predators.

Clyde Martin, the "statistician," admitted that criminal and abnormal men permeated the sample to such a degree that the only way to clean it up would amount to rewriting the entire book.

Abraham Maslow, a psychologist of global acclaim in the 1940's, and a friend of Kinsey, had already proven that volunteers in a sex study were usually "unconventional" men and women with high rates of unhealthy and disapproved sexual activity. Relying upon these volunteers - even those not counted among prison populations - would produce results that showed a "falsely high percentage of non-virginity, masturbation, promiscuity and homosexuality in the population."

Which is precisely what happened. According to Kinsey's skewed data, 95 percent of the American male population regularly indulged in deviant sexual activity such as extra-marital affairs, homosexuality, pedophilia, etc.

Maslow offered to help Kinsey clean up the "volunteer error" in his work, but once Kinsey realized how this would compromise the outcome of the data, and steer it away from the results he wanted, he abruptly terminated his friendship with Maslow.

In spite of these serious problems, Kinsey's first book, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male," was published in 1948 amidst an enormously successful media blitz. Kinsey and his team always appeared as typical middle-class Americans in publicity photographs, wearing suits and ties and posing with their wives and children whenever possible. Parading the book under the respectable cover of science, coupled with Rockefeller-connected mass media affiliations, the unconventional research of the so-called "All American" Kinsey team seemed acceptable, even state-of-the-art.

But not everyone was fooled. The authentic scientific community proved themselves to be particularly adroit in discovering the methodological nonsense contained in Kinsey's data.

W. Allen Wallis, the University of Chicago statistician and past President of the American Statistical Association, one of the nation's most distinguished statisticians, found serious flaws in Kinsey's work, not least of which was the fact that one-third of the men interviewed were sex offenders.

Even the esteemed British medical journal, the Lancet, concluded that Kinsey "questioned an unrepresentative proportion of prison inmates and sex offenders in a survey of normal sexual behavior."

Dr. Albert Hobbs, a sociologist and author at the University of Pennsylvania accused Kinsey of
violating all three precepts necessary for sound scientific method and procedure.

First, the scientist should not have any preconceived hypothesis in order to present only the facts.
"Kinsey actually had a two-pronged hypothesis," Hobbs said. "He vigorously promoted, juggling his figures to do so, a hedonistic, animalistic conception of sexual behavior, while at the same time he consistently denounced all biblical and conventional conceptions of sexual behavior."

Second, Kinsey refused to publish the basic data upon which his conclusions rested. Third, he refused to reveal the questionnaire upon which he based all of his facts.

The rash of scientific criticism caused Kinsey's financier, the Rockefeller Foundation, to again complain about the absence of a professional statistician on Kinsey's staff. Reisman's book cites a letter from the Foundation to Kinsey on May 7, 1951, which said, in part: "Past and present needs remain unsatisfied in the point of statistics. This fault - this admittedly absolutely basic fault - existed in the project in 1942, it has existed ever since, there is no promise whatsoever that it will cease to exist and we do nothing about it."

Clyde Martin continued on as Kinsey's "statistician," even after the Kinsey Institute released a second book containing more of the same sampling errors, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female," in 1952.

So few "normal" women would talk to Kinsey and his interviewers that the team depicted untold numbers of sexually unconventional women as normal. Kinsey went so far as to classify as "married" any woman who had lived with a man for at least a year, which could conceivably include working prostitutes.

Reisman writes, "By mixing in prostitutes, Kinsey was able to present sexual promiscuity as normal, including perversions such as sex with animals. Although he excluded 934 black women as unrepresentative of the population, he included 31 females who copulated with animals."

Reisman cites Harriet R. Mowrer, a marital-adjustment consultant who warned of the danger of accepting Kinsey's findings at face value: "To accept the Kinsey findings without exacting scrutiny . . . would be to perpetuate the error . . . with harmful results to society . . . . There is no assurance that Kinsey's findings are representative and can be extended to the general population."

Her warnings, and many others like hers, went unheeded. Kinsey's methodological nonsense was applied wholesale to the general population at a cost to society that is almost too staggering to consider.

This series is based on the book by Dr. Judith Reisman, "Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences," available through her website