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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society


By Jolyn Wagner, M.D.

"Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual; The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories" (Kinsey, 1948. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male).

Alfred Kinsey's investigation of human sexuality in post-World War II America rocked a façade that had been passed off as Truth. The in-depth personal interviews that Kinsey conducted exposed the gap between what people generally admitted and what they actually did. Like a current day post-modernist, Kinsey deconstructed terminologies revered by scientists, psychoanalysts and moralists alike. He questioned the validity of "homosexual" and "heterosexual " as distinct categories. In fact, Kinsey challenged the very idea of "normal" sexual behavior, revealing instead a boundless array of human sexual practices.

Kinsey is a remarkable film that chronicles the story of Professor Kinsey ("Prok"), who transforms from gall wasp expert to human sexuality pioneer. However, Kinsey goes well beyond entertaining biopic. Skillfully directed by Bill Condon, the film invites the viewer to explore the unfolding world of sexuality through Kinsey's own dispassionate lens. Despite the evocative and sometimes graphic subject matter, Condon is never titillating or gratuitous. In fact, it is Kinsey's respectful tone emulated so effectively by Condon that allows the viewer to safely follow on this controversial journey. Liam Neeson creates a Kinsey who is human. We see a Kinsey who's passion can turn to obtuse dismissal of those who love him (wife, colleagues and son). Condon provides flashbacks suggesting psychological motivations for Kinsey's determination to explore sexuality. With the exception of the final scene in the film, Condon avoids deifying Kinsey, allowing him instead to heroically struggle with the rest of us.

How does the struggle continue? Kinsey's belief that accurate information would be sufficient to banish ignorance and promulgate tolerance was naïve. His carefully collected data has served more like a Rorschach image, where observers "find" what they are projecting. Where some individuals saw the freedom of the Sexual Revolution, others clearly saw the moral decay of that same Revolution .Still others managed to ignore the explosive data altogether, clinging tenaciously to misplaced orgasms, primary female masochism and homosexuality as perversion. As psychoanalytic therapists, we are free to marvel at our own blind spots and to ponder them with avid curiosity. No one need be immune. Although the movie reminds us that our sexuality remains embedded in struggle, Condon reassures with a nuanced twinkle that it can be satisfying and fun.