Excerpts From Prof. William Simon's Review of
Kinsey, Sex and Fraud

  Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People. An Investigation Into the Human Sexuality Research of Alfred C. Kinsey, Wardell B. Pomeroy, Clyde E. Martin, and Paul H. Gebhard. By Judith A. Reisman and Edward W. Eichel, 1990.

Reviewed by William Simon, Ph.D.
Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1992, 21(1), 91-93.

 

This is not a book. At best, it is an inflated political pamphlet. On the surface it is addressed to the relevant scientific communities, when actually it is designed for the most naive or ideologically driven of readers. It cannot be offered to knowledgeable readers because it offers absolutely nothing new by way of either information or insight. Through innuendo, distortion, and selective representation of decontextualized "facts," it weaves together a paranoid view of impending moral and social disaster being engineered for the worst imaginable reasons. It is, of course, an impending moral and social disaster that these authors have heroically risen to protect us from-if only we have the good sense to heed their warning.

The basic thrust of the arguments presented is that the pioneering research of Alfred Knsey and his associates not only was flawed, as almost all in retrospection already understand, but that it was deliberately designed to undermine basic American values and, in particular, the family as an institution. Moreover, they appear to claim that virtually all the serious research on human sexuality that followed was either conducted by those who shared Kinsey's sinister Machiavellian intent or those who were hopelessly deceived, if not seduced, by his findings....

The assault on Kinsey rehashes old issues that are described as if they have long been neglected and are just now brought to light by the marvelous insights and acumen of these two authors.... What is to be learned by knowledgeable readers is just how self-correcting the practice of science turns out to be, as virtually all the specific complaints of these "critics" have already been publicly aired. And that I find to be very reassuring. Read properly, Reisman and Eichel's accusation of fraud, which most typically feeds off of the admirable candor of researchers like Pomeroy and Gebhard, speaks only to their remoteness to the best part of our shared tradition – the endless pursuit of error.

One might well ask why one should bother reviewing this kind of politically motivated trash at all. I can think of only two reasons: First, they raise one issue that is worth considering, even if there is no immediate resolution in sight; and, second, to use the occasion to reflect upon the possible impact of the book.

The one issue that they raise that, aside from their own narrow purposes, is worth considering concerns Kinsey's reporting on the sexual capacities of infants and young children. More specifically, some part of these data derived from the observations of an individual who, even by current standards, was engaging in unlawful and possibly abusive sexual contacts with children. Should Kinsey have used these data? Rather than reporting this person's observation, should he have reported the observer to the authorities? How far does the promise of confidentiality and commitment to a nonjudgmental position carry us?

To answer that question, other questions must be asked. Without a willingness to barter for entry into the realm of the proscribed, how little we might presently know. For too long the dominant sources of information about sexual matters, beyond that most narrowly defined as conventional, were confined to the clinic and the prison. Even a casual familiarity with the thinking of the past century reveals how distorting and costly this bias in access turned out to be. Indeed how much the very understanding of the sexually prescribed suffered from an absence of information about the proscribed? Moreover, how much of our understanding and misunderstanding of the sexually proscribed derived from our limited access to its manifestations? However, the need to correct this bias does not by itself justify a kind of Dr. Strangelove aloofness from a concern for implicit moral issues that admittedly on occasion has marked sex research. While being an agent of the misconceptions and bigotries of a time and place can be said to describe much of what has passed and currently passes for sex research or clinical practice, we must also be equally alert to tendencies to overidentify with the subjects of our research. A brief book notice is no place to attempt a full discussion of these questions. At best, it can be an occasion to call for a continuing dialogue, even for one for which there can be no perfect conclusion.

The second speaks to impact of this kind of "inflated" exposé on our research efforts. The impact of this work on the general public will be minimal, despite the excessive endorsement of a knowledgeable critic like Patrick Buchanan. At best it will have a short life in book displays typically also featuring works on Communist-inspired conspiracies involving fluoridation of drinking supplies, attempts to demasculinize North American men by lacing their food with excessive amounts of estrogens, and the martyrdom of Ollie North. The real damage will occur were we to take such critics too seriously, were we to any degree to avoid the controversial, were we to lapse into the needlessly mystifying and obscuring mumbo-jumbo jargon that researchers have too often used in the past to protectively cloak their vision of the sexual experience. This book should be granted nothing but contempt.
 

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