Dr. Alfred Kinsey knew something about sex. He came to this knowledge
in a most basic way: he talked to people. A simple, revolutionary idea
first hatched over sixty years ago. Kinsey and his team of researchers
criss-crossed the country collecting data on the sexual activities of
what he liked to call “the human animal.” Then they shared
that information in a ground-breaking study, Sexual Behavior in
the Human Male, which was first published in 1948.The world would
never be the same. Getting people to open up about the most intimate
aspect of their lives was not a simple proposition. Kinsey developed
an interviewing method that was based on strict anonymity. All answers
were recorded in a cryptic code on a single sheet of paper which was
divided into 287 boxes. Kinsey would ease in with innocuous questions—age,
religion, education, and occupation—before moving on to early
sexual experiences—masturbation, dreams, etc. As subjects began
to relax, he would shift to one of the most revealing aspects of a person’s
sexuality—erotic arousal. Kinsey felt that he could often learn
more about a person’s sexual nature from what they thought about
than the actual activity they allowed themselves to engage in.
The questions on arousal start as you might expect:
- Are you aroused sexually by thinking of females? Males? Both?
- Are you aware of any physiologic changes in your body? Is there
warm skin, deep breathing, rapid pulse?
The questions continue along these lines, gradually becoming more specific:
- Are you aroused sexually by seeing females and/or males in a social
situation, like walking down the street or in a room?
- Are you aroused sexually by reading romantic love stories in books
- Are you aroused sexually by listening to music?
- Are you aroused sexually by motion; that is, by riding in an automobile
or bus or on a train or horse?
- Are you aroused by odors or smells?
- Are you aroused sexually by seeing yourself nude in the mirror?
One of Kinsey’s most effective techniques was to assume that
the answer to every question was yes. This gives the subject permission
to report on experiences they might not otherwise want to reveal.
- Are you aroused sexually by seeing two animals have intercourse
Another technique was to take on the vocabulary and speech patterns
of the interview subject. Kinsey could talk to anyone—housewives,
farmers, prison inmates, even actors. He interviewed the entire original
cast of A Streetcar Named Desire, as well
as the replacement cast.
So here you are, art house patron, thumbing through this magazine while
you wait for the inevitable NPR trailer to begin. Like any other subculture
you have a specific sexual identity, one we’d like to know more
about. So please, take a moment to fill out this questionnaire. Because
there isn’t a lot of time, we’ve skipped over the introductory
questions and gone right to the section on sexual arousal. (Be warned—many
subjects have discovered that giving a sex history can be as illuminating
as ten years of psychoanalysis.)
- Do you own a DVD copy of Salò or
Auto Focus? What about
The Piano Teacher? Camp?
- If so, do you watch them in the nude?
- Were you disappointed when Control Room
turned out to be a serious documentary about Al-Jazeera and not the
sado-masochistic fantasia you were expecting?
- Is the sight of Ewan McGregor’s penis still able to arouse
you sexually, even after seeing it in over 100 films?
- Were you aroused sexually by seeing Hope Davis vomit while kissing
- Does the mention of the word ‘Chloë’ or ‘Sevigny’
cause any physiologic changes in your body? Is there warm skin, deep
breathing, rapid pulse?
- What about ‘Vincent?’ ‘Gallo?’
- Were you aroused sexually by seeing Christian Bale attempt an American
accent in American Psycho? What about Laurel
Canyon, or The Machinist?
- Are you aroused sexually by sitting in a broken seat while eating
art house popcorn?
- Are you aroused sexually by hearing an exotic woman inform you
in five languages that the language of film is universal?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then hurry back to see Kinsey,
which will be opening soon at a theater near you. Liam Neeson plays
the good doctor and Laura Linney is his wife, with Chris O’Donnell,
Peter Sarsgaard and Tim Hutton as his dedicated team of sex researchers.