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December 20, 2004

Of Kinsey, Freedom, And License

Bruce Thornton has some interesting thoughts on the controversy over "Kinsey", a new film about sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. The movie's ardent defenders, among them NY Times art critic Frank Rich, are convinced a sinister cabal of religious snake-handlers, administration heavyweights, and red-state neandrathals are preventing helpless blue-staters from learning about the great man's work. No doubt (when he's not draping nude statuary), the Loathsome Ashcroft lurks in an undisclosed location, from which he sends out a Chill Wind to encase anything really juicy in a 3-foot block of solid ice, blocking access to anything rated above PG-13.

Thornton comments:

What set Rich off was the New York PBS station's short-lived decision not to run an ad for "Kinsey," the just-released movie about sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, whom Rich calls a "pioneer" for his 1948 "Kinsey's Report," which according to Rich taught Americans that adultery was widespread, that "women have orgasms too and that masturbation and homosexuality do not lead to insanity." In other words, in Rich's universe, Kinsey is a hero, a torch of scientific reason dispelling the murky fog of disinformation, shame, guilt, and neuroses brought on by sexual repression.

Mr. Rich, Thornton points out, acts as though Kinsey were the first man ever to free the minds of Americans mired in virtual sexual slavery by narrow-minded religious zealots. On the contrary: he merely popularized ideas already in wide circulation for many years. Kinsey's significance lay more in coming along at the right time than in having anything particularly new or startling to say. Rich (like so many Times authors) ignores the lessons of history, probably because he never bothered to learn them in the first place:

Kinsey hasn't been the only person to discover that "sexual liberation" isn't all it's cracked up to be. We've all found out that the promised boons of throwing off the sexual shackles and inhibitions our culture had developed over the centuries didn't quite materialize, and in fact that our liberation simply subjected us to a whole new host of evils. This is where the myth of enlightened sexual liberation Rich preaches fails most obviously: the way it ignores the destructive effects of the sexual license that exploded in the sixties: venereal plagues like AIDS, the debasement of women, the vulgarization of popular culture, teen pregnancy, rampant abortion, the explosion of pornography, and the general cheapening of our humanity that follows when we are reduced to the lowest common denominator of appetite and pleasure.
Rich's myth is wrong as well on the role Christianity presumably played in sexually oppressing us. Another popular myth holds that before Christianity--and in those parts of the world not afflicted with it-- a more natural and tolerant attitude towards sex held sway. The Greeks, we are told, were jolly hedonists, blithely hopping from boys to girls and back. Then came a grim Christianity with its irrational hatred of the body as the devil's playground, and all that sexual happiness disappeared, to be replaced with shame, guilt, crippling inhibitions, and all the psychological maladies that follow such repression.
Again, the story is not even half true. The Greeks were very distrustful of the power of sexual passion, and developed a rich vocabulary and imagery to convey that destructive power, comparing eros to fire, disease, insanity, and the violence of war. They recognized that irrational passion is a force of disorder unless controlled by the taboos, laws, and customs of culture--look at the story of Troy, a whole civilization destroyed because of the adulterous passion of Paris and Helen. There were, of course, differences between the Christian and the Hellenic understanding of sexuality, but in many respects there is a definite continuity in both cultures' awareness that irrational passion is a volatile, potentially destructive power it doesn't do to trifle with.
So too with the idea that non-Christian cultures, particularly primitive societies, were paradises of sexual freedom. This myth of the sexual noble savage explains how easily anthropologist Margaret Mead was duped by the Samoan girls she interviewed, who spun lies about their carefree sexual freedom that Mead faithfully recorded and that many sophisticates held up as examples of how our middle-class, Christian civilization had warped our natural innocence. The simple fact is that human sexuality and passion can be a force of destruction and disorder, which is why every human culture develops various restraints and taboos to control it. Only in the modern world, where modern science and technology mask (at least for a while) some of the physical consequences of sexual license, can we indulge the myth of sexual liberation as the road to happiness.

On our college campuses, the study of history has been replaced by what amounts to agenda-laden social studies. This is what allows the lessons of history to be ignored: they are no longer taught.

Every culture rests on a core set of values that has its basis in a common philosophy and, more importantly, the received wisdom of prior generations. This age is unique in that it has discarded as politically incorrect the wisdom of our forebears. Multiculturism runs rampant: though we are demonstrably the freest and most affluent nation in the world, we teach our students that our system of government is no better than any other: no different from communism, socialism, or radical Islamism. We musn't disrespect the "Other". Critical thinking is discouraged, because to think critically is to "criticize", and that is to be intolerant.

This is how men like Rich win arguments: the novel is always more attractive than the tried-and-true and license is always more alluring than responsibility. With God, facts, and the example of history removed from the debate floor, the opposition is powerless.

The libertines have won the day. That they have done so based on shoddy reasoning and to the detriment of future generations does not seem to distress them in the least. They continue to confuse freedom with license, seducing the unwary with the attractions of the former while concealing the dangers of the latter.


Posted by Cassandra at December 20, 2004 06:15 AM

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Kinsey is playing in town (at the AMC Quail Springs), which will undoubtedly surprise some folks. I'm a bit amazed myself. And whereas this is normally my cue to run... [Read More]

Tracked on December 20, 2004 04:29 PM

Comments

Well, why are we not surprised? I love taboos. They keep the order and balance of things.

Long Live Christian Taboos!

Posted by: Cricket at December 20, 2004 04:18 PM

Margaret Mead?

I have always had a theory that the reason why evolution was taught was to belittle God's greatest work.

Why would we even want to think of ourselves in the image of primates without passions?

Also, wasn't Knsey sort of a pervert in his own right?

Posted by: Cricket at December 20, 2004 04:21 PM

Disclaimer to save my marriage: definitions apply only to single people and married people in "open" relationships. "Me" refers to any speaker, not the writer.

Sluts: people that have more sex than me.

Prudes: people with whom I want to have sex that reject me.

Taboos: concepts that keep me having more or different sex.

Perverts: people that will do things that I won't do.

Posted by: KJ at December 20, 2004 06:19 PM

KJ,
I have never been one to shrink from a discussion of what being a libertine is all about, or a hedonsnit.

You hit it on the head with your definitions.

We Christian taboo practitioners are so maligned.
And then we are asked to pay taxes to support a lifestyle we don't practice.

Posted by: Cricket at December 21, 2004 09:15 AM

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