Skip PBS navigation bar, and jump to content.
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS


The Film & More
Film Description
Transcript
Primary Sources
Further Reading
Acknowledgements

Special Features
Timeline
People & Events
Resources

spacer above content
Transcript

Narrator: Summer, 1953, the Korean War is ending. Francis Crick and James Watson decode the structure of DNA. But the biggest news event in America is the publication of a book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, otherwise known as the Kinsey report.

James Jones, Biographer: In boardrooms, in barbershops, at the ballpark, people standing on the corner. They talk about Alfred Kinsey's data.

Woman Interviewed, Archival: I think it's a good thing. I think the more you know about anything the better you can do it, and the better you can do it the more successful you are.

John Gagnon, Sex Researcher: Suddenly someone had said, "Here is the American sex report card. And this is what it looks like," and I think that's what caused the huge reaction.

Narrator: At the center of the storm was an unlikely figure, a 59-year-old Professor of Zoology from Indiana University named Alfred Kinsey. Kinsey had done what no one had dared do before: Interview thousands of Americans about their sexual experiences.

Reading, Alfred Kinsey : This research has been possible because over the past fifteen years some tens of thousands of people have cooperated...

Julia Ericksen, Sociologist: Kinsey wanted to interview every kind of sexual activity and to hear every different kind of story and every different kind of account of sexuality.

John Tebbel, Kinsey Associate: He made you feel that you were not talking about yourself even though you were. Somehow, uh in the first five minutes, you would be telling him things you had never told anybody.

Narrator: What Alfred Kinsey would tell Americans about sex would shake them to their core.

James Jones: Suddenly the conspiracy of silence is shattered in a society that had been tapped down, and really things will never be the same again.

Kinsey

Narrator: On a crisp fall day in 1938, the bucolic campus of Indiana University in Bloomington was a buzz with excitement. A small notice had appeared announcing a new course on the subject of human sexuality. The course was to be given by Professor of Zoology, Alfred Kinsey. Its syllabus promised a series of frank lectures covering sexual technique, physiology, and contraception. IU students hoped the class would fill a gaping hole in their education. For several years, an epidemic of venereal disease had spread fear on college campuses. At Indiana, the student newspaper had begun to clamor for a real course on sex. Most Students, even those already engaged, knew next to nothing about what to expect on their wedding nights.

Alice Ginott Cohn: At that time, Indiana University was very, very repressed. There was a ten o'clock curfew for girls. I stayed out later. Oh you would think the world had come to an end.

Bob Bayer: There was a lot of braggadocio, but uh, no, that was all bluff. There was not a lot of premarital sex going on at all. Most of my knowledge of sex was gained in the back seat of a '26 Chevy.

Patricia Franck Sheffield: I grew up on a farm. And we had cows and we had a bull and we had a pig; she had 17 babies which I watched born. Other than that I didn't know much of anything. Except I had masturbated, and I thought I invented it.

Morris & Alice Binkley: My mother thought it was time to talk to me. And she said, now if you go to a church meeting some evening with your boyfriend and you share a songbook and you hold it, and you help hold it with your hand and your little finger sticks out and he helps hold it with his hand and your, his little finger, that's sex.

Narrator: Though professor Kinsey's course was restricted to seniors and married students, hundreds lined up to register. Some underclassmen donned fake wedding rings to qualify for admission and others moved up their actual wedding dates.

Morris & Alice Binkley: He announced that he was going to give the course that fall and so we got married September the 6th and we had a week to take a honeymoon, uh... the next week, we started in on Kinsey's class.

Narrator : Whatever students had hoped for from Kinsey's course, few imagined what they would actually witness. On the first day of class, Kinsey boldly staked out his philosophy. "The only kinds of sexual dysfunction," he declared, "are abstinence, celibacy and delayed marriage." Then he turned on the slide projector.

James Jones: You would have to put yourself back in the 30s to begin to imagine how outrageous the content of that class was, how astonishingly vivid and unvarnished and factual and accurate it was about human sexual behavior.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Biographer: Kinsey came straight out; he talked about clitorises, orgasms, penises. Unheard of in 1936, people almost fainted with fascination and excitement.

Morris & Alice Binkley: I knew about the penis. But I had never heard of the word clitoris.... I'd heard of homosexuals but I really didn't know what a homosexual was. He drew a big long line up on the board and he had women at one end and men at the other. And then in the center he said there some women that are more like men than women and some men who are like women than men. .... So I got a little bit better idea.

Narrator: In many ways, Alfred Kinsey was the last man students would have expected to shatter the silence on sex. With his crew cut and bow tie, he seemed the very embodiment of the straight-laced professor more at home in his biology lab than in the classroom. But alongside Kinsey's Midwestern conservatism burned a missionary zeal. He lectured that sexual ignorance led to real suffering, and sexual liberation was the key to a strong marriage and a happy life.

Reading, Alfred Kinsey : It is ideas as to what is proper and what is not which interferes with the consummation of marriage. It is prudish ideas that do more than any other single factor to undermine the home.

Morris & Alice Binkley: I think he was sincerely wanting to help. He explained to us that there were a lot frigid women and they'd been taught that sex was wrong, uh, and that um, you shouldn't have sex you know. And then when they got married they couldn't uh, participate, they didn't know how and didn't, and they were afraid.

James Jones: What he wanted to do in the marriage class, was to give people the tools, that they needed to understand their own sexuality, to act upon it without guilt and to have it be a vital and joyful part of their existence.

Narrator: Word of Kinsey's class spread quickly through conservative Bloomington. Alumni and faculty members were horrified to learn of Kinsey's clinical description of the sexual act, and his open endorsement of contraception and sexual freedom. Foremost among Kinsey's critics was Thurman Rice, a professor of medicine who had decided to drop in on the marriage class.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: Kinsey at this time was showing slides of penis entering vagina and Thurman Rice was a burly person at the medical school was turned on by this. And he was outraged, he said, he...he said, and what happens if some little rosebud of a, of a, of a coed is also turned on, she'll go out, she'll sleep with everyone, she'll get pregnant.

Narrator: Galvanized by Rice, a group of faculty members brought pressure on Kinsey to stop teaching the marriage course. But Kinsey was defiant. "If they think I will back down," he confided to a friend, "They don't know me."

James Jones: Hidden beneath the mantle of science, Kinsey psychologically is always a man in opposition. He's a rebel fighting against the forces of censorship and oppression and Victorian, Victorian morality.

Narrator: Alfred Charles Kinsey grew up in a cold water flat in the dismal industrial town of Hoboken, New Jersey. Kinsey was a sickly child. He suffered from rickets, rheumatic fever, and finally a case of typhoid. Doctors doubted whether his heart would last until he was 20.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: At school, like sick people often are, he was bullied a lot. And this was compounded by the fact that his father was also a bully.

Narrator: Kinsey's father, Alfred Seguine Kinsey, was a striving Engineering Instructor at a small college and a self-ordained Methodist Preacher.

James Jones: Kinsey's father was a patriarch, writ large. And he wants to have a moral oasis. He wants his children to be reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And in his household there's a lot more admonition than there is nurture.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: He used to send Kinsey out to buy cigarettes, aged eleven, which you weren't allowed to do then any more than now. And the moment the shopkeeper had, uh, sold the cigarettes, Kinsey's father would pounce, he'd report him to the authorities and of course that made him unpopular.

Narrator: Too sick to play sports with other boys, forbidden to see girls outside of school, young Alfred spent most of his time alone. In the Kinsey household, life was to be lived for the improvement of the soul, not the satisfaction of the flesh.

Paul Gebhard, Kinsey Associate: The household was certainly asexual. He never saw any affection between his parents. So you know sex was, uh, you wouldn't even mention it in that family. What it amounted to, he grew up thinking sex was evil, that uh, masturbation would uh, put you in the madhouse ultimately you know.

Narrator: Masturbation was a consuming worry not just in the Kinsey household. At 16, Alfred joined the Boy Scouts, which warned its young charges about the dangers of self-abuse.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: One of his troop was called Kenneth Hand. And he kept all the letters, which Hand wrote him, which are quite often about trying to stop masturbating in veiled language. But you can see it clear -- I had another of those fits, that sort of thing.

Paul Gebhard: Kinsey commiserated with him and said, oh yes, it's a terrible thing you know, it's...I suffer from it too, we must fight it and the kid said, well what do we do? And Kinsey said, well I, I guess all we can do is pray. So they both got down on their knees by the cot and prayed to be relieved of this terrible sin.

Narrator: As a teenager Alfred bowed to the moral prescriptions of his times. But on scouting trips, he found relief from the suffocating pressure of his home life.

James Jones: Nature is freedom. It's breathing space. Nature is getting out of the house. Nature gives Alfred Kinsey an area which he can define himself.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: He would walk, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five miles a day and you can sense this release. You begin to see, there's a very strong person here, a person with enormous willpower.

Narrator: Alfred learned the names of every tree, every plant, and every insect he encountered. At school, he soon knew more than his biology teacher. His classmates called him 'the next Darwin'. The nickname fit. Alfred had found a new religion: science.

James Jones: When Kinsey finishes high school, he's the valedictorian of his class, he's this bright, shining youth, and he's ready to set the world on fire. Everyone knows but his father that he wants to be a biologist. The only person on the planet who can't face that is his father...

Narrator: At 19, Alfred announced he was leaving home to train as a biologist. But his father wouldn't hear of it. Having given up on his son becoming a preacher, he insisted that Alfred stay home and pursue a practical career in engineering.

James Jones: There is a cataclysmic confrontation with his father that takes place in the driveway of their home...he doesn't recognize the son who's in front of him, this is the kid who's supposed to be dutiful, this is the kid who's supposed to do his father's bidding. And the kid who's standing in front of him is defiant and he's independent and he's asking his father in an angry voice for independence. His father can't give it to him.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: So Kinsey walked out. He simply walked out

Paul Gebhard: All his father gave him was a suit of clothes. No support after that, he was on his own.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: Freud said that the hero first defies the father and then defeats him. But you have to be brave, to defy and defeat a man who's dominated you since you were born. And Kinsey was brave.

Narrator: Six years after leaving home, Alfred Kinsey arrived at Indiana University, a newly minted Professor of Zoology. He had amassed a brilliant academic record at Bowdoin College and Harvard Graduate School in his chosen field of Entymology. Now he threw himself into his work, spending months out in the field collecting insects and hour upon hour holed up in his lab. With little time left for socializing, Kinsey's life on campus was lonely. Despite his good looks, he had little confidence with women. But there was one young woman able to see through his awkward exterior. Clara Bracken MacMillen, the twenty-two-year-old daughter of Indiana school teachers, was short and plain looking, but brilliant and fiercely independent.

James Jones: It wasn't love at first sight, but she saw a potential in him. She was willing to help a shy guy who had no experience, virtually none, dating women. I think she was willing to kind of work with him in ways that a, a woman who demanded maybe more sophistication or more experience uh, with women might not have been able to.

Narrator: The two began to see each other. Alfred called Clara "Mac," she called him "Prok," short for Professor Kinsey...

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: It was a strenuous courtship his first present to her, it was a clasp knife, a pair of Bass boots for hiking... and some other kind, it was sort of a backpack or something which she must have slightly blinked at.

Narrator: Alfred and Clara were married in a simple ceremony on June 3, 1921. But their wedding night did not go well.

Julia Ericksen: He certainly himself said that when he married he was a virgin and that his wife was a virgin too, and that they had a lot of difficulty at the beginning because they didn't know what to do...and remember this is a boy, man who as a boy had been feeling terrible about masturbation so now he gets married and suddenly he's supposed to be an expert.

Narrator: Alfred and Clara struggled on for months unaware that Clara had a restricted hymen, which made sex all but impossible. After a simple surgery, the couple finally consummated their marriage. Alfred was 27 years old. Mortified by his sexual fumblings with Clara, Kinsey went in search of answers, plunging into the existing literature about sex.

Paul Gebhard: He began to rebel against all this prior restraint and cast aside the religious dogma and start thinking about sex and then start reading about it and finding that uh, there was very little known and that what a lot of what was known was nonsense.

Narrator: Kinsey found that what had been written consisted largely of moral prescriptions thinly disguised as science.

Julia Ericksen: Most of the writers with few exceptions up to this point have thought society needed to repress sexuality because sex unbounded is a bad thing.

Man, Scientist, Archival: Can you see them wriggling back and forth across the slide? Those are the germs that cause your syphilis. You had to learn the hard way...

Narrator: Unbounded sexuality was not only blamed for spreading venereal disease and unwanted pregnancy, but for causing nervous disorders, intemperance, even madness. The role of sex research, it was widely believed, was not to find out what people were really doing, but to endorse a narrow range of acceptable behavior.

James Jones : The only sex that is condoned in American society is sex between a man and a woman in marriage. Masturbation, extramarital contacts, homosexual contacts, every way that you can think of to have an orgasm that is not between a man and a woman in marriage, is forbidden by society.

Narrator: Kinsey was deeply disturbed by what he found in the sexual literature. As a scientist, the lack of empirical data offended him and the overtones of morality reminded him of his childhood. But most of all, the narrow view of sexuality was at odds with his belief in the boundless diversity of nature. The source of Kinsey's conviction was a tiny flightless insect called a gall wasp. Ever since Harvard he'd collected the wasps with a compulsive intensity.

John Bancroft, Sex Researcher: He literally collected millions of specimens and was interested in how you know each gall wasp was always a little bit different from the next one.

Narrator: By the mid-1930's, Kinsey had painstakingly measured, labeled, and pinned tens of thousands of insects. What he saw amazed him: while other biologists had lumped nature into distinct categories, Kinsey's wasps seemed to create a vast blur of individual variation.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: In these millions and hundreds of thousands of gall wasps, not a single one was the same. They were all different. This, this was a lesson that, that fascinated him. Variety therefore, became, um, fundamental to his thinking.

Narrator: Kinsey's discovery -- that subtle differences existed in every living creature -- was the key scientific insight of his life. He published his findings in two highly acclaimed volumes. But, as he began to look into sex, the question nagged him: would the principle of natural variations also apply to the more complex subject of human behavior? To find out, he began posing questions to those around him: professors, friends, and graduate students on gall wasp collecting trips. He heard stories of pre-marital and extra-marital affairs, of fantasies and desires that went far beyond what he had read about in books.

John Tebbel: He was discovering sex was a lot bigger than people thought it was. You know everybody thinks of sex in terms of their own experience, when actually it's a tremendous tapestry of experiences. And that covers a vast territory.

Narrator: By 1938, Kinsey had been talking and reading about sex for more than ten years. He was ready to share his discoveries in a new kind of sexuality course, one that would banish myth with fact and prejudice with tolerance. The marriage course was a hit. As it entered its second year, news of Kinsey's openness quickly spread far beyond the classroom. Anxious undergraduates began to line up outside his office seeking answers to questions about sex.

Clyde Martin, Kinsey Associate: He emphasized that I always ought to wear a condom, uh, which I remember rather shocked me, I'd never thought of uh, trying to have sex before marriage.

Narrator: After office hours, Alfred and Clara hosted students in their home, offering tea, biscuits, and advice about the facts of life.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: He would help these students. There was a, a married couple who hadn't, couldn't live together, they had to sleep in separate dormitories. And they, and they had nowhere to make love. And, and Kinsey had a battered huge Nash, which had quite a big rear seat and Kinsey would lend it to them. He would put the key on a wall and they would come and take the key, drive off, make love and return the Nash to his house.

Narrator: Gradually, Kinsey began to imagine a new type of research: Cataloguing his students' sexual experiences in a detailed way. He would invite them to come after class for a personal conference, then urge them to reveal their sexual histories.

James Jones: The marriage course gives him his first opportunity to collect sexual histories. It is in every sense a laboratory for him.

John Gagnon: He would say, how old are you? And, and it would begin to flow from there.

Alice Ginott: He would start what was the earliest memory you have of having any kind of a sexual experience

T. C. Boyle, Novelist: When was the first time they were ever aware that there was a difference between the sexes? When was the first time they masturbated? When was the first time they had any sort of sexual experience?

Narrator: Before long students were pouring out their secrets to Kinsey.

James Jones: He was an absolute genius at putting people at ease. He could be fatherly. He could be oh so reassuring. He could be confrontational. He could be disinterested. He could be passionately sitting forward in his chair. He seemed to sense what people needed.

John Tebbel: He made you feel that you were not talking about yourself, even though you were. He made you feel that he you were as scientific as he was. Somehow in the first five minutes you would be telling him things you had never told anybody.

Alice Ginott: Now the first hour uh, was all pre-intercourse information. And then he would ask you, have you ever had intercourse. If your answer was yes, the second hour, you stayed another hour. Boys on campus figured out, girls who stayed two hours had had intercourse. And so they would sit out there. If you came out after an hour, they were not interested in you. If you came out after two hours, they made a pass at you.

Narrator: By the spring of 1939, Kinsey had held more than 300 after-class conferences with students. Five had asked about anatomical problems; eight about an absence of erotic feeling; 36 had inquired about masturbation; 29 about premarital intercourse; and nine more about homosexuality. To Kinsey, the case histories underscored the need for more research; to many alumni and faculty, they were proof that the professor had gone too far.

James Jones: Naturally, as word of what was transpiring in that class filtered to the larger academic community, people came out of the woodwork in opposition.

Narrator: One man stood between Kinsey and certain disciplinary action -- Indiana's new president, Herman Wells. A fierce advocate of academic freedom, Wells was determined to defend his faculty's research no matter where it might lead. But Wells was also a pragmatist, who knew there was only one chance to appease Kinsey's enemies.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: Wells gave Kinsey a choice, he said, you can, you can do the marriage course, but you must stop asking these questions, or you can give up the marriage course and continue to get your sexual histories.

Narrator: Kinsey was furious, but made his choice without hesitation. At the age of 45, he walked away from a respectable and successful career in Entymology, to strike out into the risky world of sex research. "It was heart warming to see you settling into what I supposed will be your real life's work, " and old friend wrote him. "A project big enough to need all sides of you: the reformer, the scientific fanatic, the teacher all rolled into one and full steam ahead..."

Narrator: In the fall of 1939, Alfred Kinsey began actively collecting the sexual histories of Americans.

Paul Gebhard: He started out originally using college students. And then being a natural born collector, he couldn't stop with that; he started interviewing some of the faculty members. Then he started getting the building and grounds people. Nobody was safe...

Narrator: He took Clara's sexual history, and even interviewed his own teenage children.

Joan Kinsey Reid: I felt the same way as I would if I went to a doctor I had never met before and I was an obstetrical patient....

Ann Kinsey Call: And Joan and I have never talked about it. We both have the same impression.

Joan Kinsey Reid: Right. It really was a non-event as far as I'm concerned.

Ann Kinsey Call: I feel that way too.

Narrator: Pretty soon, Kinsey had outgrown Bloomington altogether.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: He goes to nearby universities. He goes to clubs. He goes to Indianapolis. Wherever there are people Kinsey goes.

John Tebbel: Right from the beginning his main objective was to get as many people as possible in as many different levels of social strata as he could penetrate.

Narrator: Looking for working class men to interview, Kinsey made frequent stops at the Indiana State penal farms.

Julia Ericksen: He realized that in the 1930s, the prisons were full of working class men who'd been unemployed and drifting from town to town and eventually got themselves locked up. So there was this ready supply of working-class men to interview.

Narrator: In prison, Kinsey made a discovery that shocked him: locked up alongside hardened criminals, he met dozens of men who had done nothing more than have consensual sex.

John Bancroft: There were relatively few uh, types of sexual activity that you could engage in which didn't break the law. Having sex before marriage; adultery was illegal; in some states oral sex was illegal even within marriage; and certainly anal sex was...

Narrator: Kinsey was disturbed that sexual acts he regarded as perfectly normal had been criminalized, especially homosexuality.

John Bancroft: The homosexual communities at that time were, very much under threat. They were very stigmatized. They were very likely to be charged by the police and sent to prison, regarded as pathological.

Martin Duberman, Historian: When I was a teenager, I remember looking through an issue of Life Magazine in which uh, they had photographs of typical criminals. And under one which they labeled, "the homosexual," there was the picture of a rather pretty uh, sort of effeminate, white boy. And I looked at that picture and I thought my god, it's a picture of me. Uh, and I remember being uh, shocked and horrified for months. Uh, it's true, you know I'm a criminal.

Narrator: As he left the prison farms Kinsey was deeply upset, in part because of his scientific beliefs and his resentment of arbitrary authority. But there was another reason.

James Jones: I think Kinsey at a very early age began to understand that his sexual identity is complicated and that he is interested in members of the same sex.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: One shouldn't call it homosexual because it, the sex was so buried, but it was romantically involved with, with other boys....

Narrator: Even after falling in love with Clara, Kinsey remained attracted to other men. During gall wasp expeditions, Kinsey had initiated discussions of sex with his graduate students. One of them in particular caught his attention, a handsome young entymologist named Ralph Voris.

Man reading Kinsey's words: "My Dear Voris: we shall have a joyous time just the two of us. I shall reserve a single room for us and then plan on three weeks in the field. Oh we'll have a gabfest".

Paul Gebhard: He fell in love with Voris is what it amounts to. And I'd say from that point on I think his homosexuality became more apparent.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: Certainly his bisexuality as it developed fueled his feelings. The more he found out how outrageous the treatment of homosexuals was, the angrier he became and the more determined to, to totally find out what was going on.

Narrator: Driven by scientific and personal curiosity, Professor Kinsey set out for Chicago to find and interview gay men in rooming houses and underground bars. At first it was slow going.

Martin Duberman: As soon as any suspicious character presented himself at the door for admittance, there was a bell or some button that the guy watching the door would press. And we knew that that was the cue to instantly break apart.

James Jones: He was so obviously sincere. He would go into a gay bar and say, I'm Alfred Kinsey and I want to talk with you guys about your private lives. I'm a scientist and what you tell me will be important for the public to know.

Kenneth Anger: Kinsey had an amazing ability to put you at ease. He knew how to talk to a street prostitute or a street hustler or a gangster and get, and ... and somehow break the ice, get along with them.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: In the first three days he only got two histories. Well then he learned how to do it and the two histories said okay, I'll ask X and Y. And then suddenly this world burst on him, this homosexual underworld, which astonished him. He writes rather guardedly to Voris, saying: 'this is the most extraordinary thing I've ever discovered in my life. Why hasn't anyone found out about it and written about it?'

Man reading Kinsey's words: 'My dear Voris, now I can pick up histories five to seven a day. I have been to gay Halloween parties, gay clubs, taverns which would be unbelievable if realized by the rest of the world... why has no one cracked this before?' It is a scientific gold mine.'

Narrator"One day," Kinsey promised one young man in Chicago. "my research will speak with the combined wisdom of the experience of all of you."

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: And now the scientist is absolutely overwhelmed, and not only the scientist, because it's then in Chicago that he had sex with men for the first time. So it's not just the scientist catching fire, it's the man.

Narrator: Kinsey returned from Chicago flush with excitement. The histories he had taken there -- of homosexuals, bisexual married men and hustlers with hundreds of partners -- revealed a range of sexual activity greater than anything he had imagined. Chicago had confirmed his long-held belief that the principle of variation he had observed in nature also applied to human sexuality. For the first time, Kinsey began to envision a truly national study, one that would take the sexual pulse of America, document its incredible variety. He would need as many as 100,000 sexual histories from men and women, old and young, black and white, rich and poor.

Julia Ericksen: Kinsey was trained as an entomologist as an entomologist he wanted to see all the varieties of the gall wasps that he studied. And that was what he was trying to do with human sexual behavior.... By collecting the enormous variety of sexual experiences that everybody had had. So he wanted to interview every kind of sexual activity and to hear every different kind of story and every different kind of account of sexuality.

Narrator: The goal that Kinsey set for himself would require him to give up nearly everything else in his life: teaching, gall wasps, even time with his family. Clara had long known the personal costs of her life with Alfred: "I always realized that his work would have to come first, " she once said. "You can't ask a man to give up what is the driving force of his life because he is your husband. But after Chicago, Alfred asked Clara for even more understanding.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: One of the things about his marriage was he never hid anything from her, ever. And they must have had to come to terms with the fact that he wanted to sleep with men.

James Jones: Clara adored her husband and I think she wanted to be close to him and close to his work. It's not a common bond and it doesn't fit the, the garden-variety type of relationship that you see with most heterosexual unions. But that Alfred loved Clara and that Clara loved Alfred I have never doubted.

Narrator: In December 1942, Kinsey looking for money to fund his research, invited officials of the Rockefeller Foundation to Indiana. They arrived full of skepticism. Kinsey's idea of finding 100,000 people willing to talk about sex seemed unrealistic and highly risky. Kinsey set about to change their minds. He showed off his huge gall wasp collection, then sat the Rockefeller men down to one of Clara's home-cooked meals of pot roast served with tea and cinnamon. Finally, he persuaded them to give their own sexual histories.

James Jones: Once Kinsey had a person in that room, he was enormously persuasive. And they see him draw out from them the same thing that he drew out from every person he ever interviewed, which was the truth about their behavior. They were in the presence of a scientist, they did see a guy who devised a wonderful instrument for getting at the truth. And it made them true believers.

Narrator: The Rockefeller team was convinced: Kinsey was the ideal candidate to helm a large-scale sexual study -- a happily married family man who voted Republican and never appeared without his bow tie. The Foundation approved a major grant. Kinsey immediately founded The Institute for Sex Research at Indiana and set about finding a staff of interviewers. He wanted men who -- like himself -- would be conservative in appearance, but liberal-minded about sex.

T. C. Boyle: He looked for people who expressed absolutely no, no qualms about any sort of sexual behavior. In fact, he wanted people who were not as he said, sex shy.

Narrator: Kinsey put the word out through the academic grapevine. He was soon put in touch with a young Harvard anthropologist named Paul Gebhard.

Paul Gebhard: The first time I ever heard about Alfred Kinsey was in Cambridge when one of my professors came up and hesaid "What do you know about the work of Alfred Kinsey?" And I said I haven't heard of him, uh, what did he write? And uh, poised my pencil and he said he hadn't written anything yet. and I said, well what is...what is his subject? And he said, sex. And I said, aha, tell me more.

Narrator: Kinsey also recruited Wardell Pomeroy, a young prison psychologist whom he had met in 1941.

James Jones: I think he found in Wardell Pomeroy a romanticized version of himself. Pomeroy was handsome enough to be a movie star. And he was also very interested in sexual contacts.

Narrator: For the third member of his team, Kinsey had to look no further than his own backyard: Clyde Martin an earnest IU student who did yard work for the Kinsey's on weekends. The two had first met when martin was a 21-year-old undergraduate and Kinsey took his sexual history.

Clyde Martin: It was a very friendly sort of interview and I came away with the idea that masturbation's perfectly okay. And I recommended people in my rooming house, and they all contributed histories.

Narrator: This was to be the inner circle: Martin, Pomeroy, Gebhard, and Kinsey. But there was no doubt who was in charge.

John Tebbel: When Kinsey organized his staff, it was apparent at once that's what situation was going to be as far as they were concerned. He was the, the ruler of the domain

Paul Gebhard: He was actually a benevolent despot you might say. You didn't call him Alfred or cozy up to him or anything else. And he always referred to me as Gebhard. He never called me Paul.

Narrator: Kinsey put his team through a grueling process to learn the interview, which had grown to include questions for every conceivable sexual situation.

Paul Gebhard: It was agonizing. It was like having a perpetual final examination. And the basic interview was a little over 300 questions, so you had to memorize 300 questions.

Narrator: Each question had to be asked in a neutral tone without bias or judgment.

Gebhard: We made it easy for people by assuming they'd done everything. We wouldn't say, have you ever? Instead we'd say, how old were you the first time. You know it was with the pencil poised you know, as we expected it. And that surprised people but also reassured them.

Narrator: Recognizing the need to keep his interviews confidential, Kinsey had devised a complex code to record his subjects' answers.

Paul Gebhard: The code sheets were divided up into a series of rectangles. And the meaning of uh, any symbol or numeral was dependent upon which rectangle it was entered in. For example, anything entered in this column had to do with premarital intercourse. Another column up here would have to do with orgasm in sleep.

Narrator: Depending on where it was written, 'M' could mean masturbation, marriage, masochism, or Methodist. By the end of their training, Kinsey's men had become infused with his sense of purpose. "I knew this was untrodden territory, " recalled Pomeroy. "We were pioneers."

Paul Gebhard: I felt I was getting in on the ground floor of some research that would be enormously important.

Narrator: The team took to the road, crisscrossing the country in search of interviews. Kinsey pushed them hard -- fourteen hour days, six days a week. By 1943, they were averaging 300 interviews a month.

James Jones: They get on a train, or they get on a plane and then they start taking histories. And the histories consume the day. And you cannot miss a beat in those histories. The level of concentration is fierce. Those spill over into the evenings. After the evenings, do they go home and go to bed? No, no, they go cruise Times Square. They're lining up the next group of contact people.

Paul Gebhard: We could do an unmarried college student in, easily in an hour. A single married person um, an hour-twenty, maybe an hour. But then when you get somebody with two marriages, three marriages, each one of which had to be.... Then we'd looked at our, glance at our watch surreptitiously and say, oh my god, I'm going to run late, I'm going to run.... You know my, my next appointment is coming in in ten minutes; this guy is on his third marriage you know.

Narrator: But as they pursued interview subjects throughout America, the team faced a problem: how to make sure that they were representative of the entire population. Members of the Rockefeller Foundation had urged Kinsey to consider the emerging field of probability sampling, in which a few randomly chosen individuals would represent the whole country. But Kinsey worried that too many people would refuse to give their histories, leaving a sample of only those most eager to talk about sex.

Edward Laumann, Sex Researcher: You just could not walk up to one in ten people, hit them on the shoulder and say you've been selected to be included in my sex survey. He just simply did not believe that that was something that was likely to be successful.

Narrator: Ever since his gall wasp study, Kinsey had trusted in the power of large numbers to tell an accurate story.

Julia Ericksen: Kinsey thought if he got enough cases, he'd be able to represent everybody and he'd be able to say how often all of these kinds of things occurred in the population...

Narrator: To gain access to large numbers, Kinsey hit upon a novel idea: what he called 100% groups. He would interview everyone in a group, while making sure the groups themselves were different: bowling leagues in Kinosha, sewing circles in Syracuse, Fraternities at Indiana university, and even the cast of a streetcar named desire on Broadway. Group by group, Kinsey planned to construct a picture of American sexual behavior.

Patricia Franck Sheffield: I saw a notice on the bulletin board in the dormitory, recommending that we volunteer for a research project with a noted scientist named so and so. He hoped to get 100% participation from the group and so these other gals came raring out to talk us all into being part of the 100%. And the last one that I remember who didn't really want to go in had to be coerced pretty much, because once they told her it was scientific research she went.

Narrator: By 1946, the team had completed more than 8,500 interviews. But their quest to collect sex date without outside interference was getting increasingly difficult. "It was like living on a submarine sliding through dangerous waters on a difficult mission," one team member remarked. In city after city, Kinsey was denounced by local clergy and attacked in newspaper editorials; once, he was arrested for solicitation as he sought interviews from prostitutes.

John Gagnon: You couldn't study sex without taking a risk. To ask people about their sex lives as an interviewer was risky. To go to Times Square to interview hustlers: risky. To rent hotel rooms to have people come and talk to you: risky. There was nothing in anything he did that wasn't a risk.

Narrator: But the team pushed on. What was emerging from their data, they all knew, was a revolutionary picture of American sexual diversity.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: They all believed in what they were doing. They regarded it as a crusade. The ignorance, the anxiety, the pain which had been created by the lack of knowledge must be got rid of.

John Gagnon: As he went from prisons to gay communities, to just everyday folks, what really I think moved him was the massive amount of ignorance in the society about sexuality. And I think that slowly built sort of the fires of the reformist in him. His own response to all the people he dealt with was profoundly compassionate and profoundly generous.

Narrator: "Dear Doctor Kinsey: I hope you will read this letter I am writing to you because I have a great problem. Is it possible for a person to be male and female as the same time? I am a girl, 20 years old, and I love another girl very much and she also loves me; and I know that that isn't right I am at my wit's end. Please answer me, sir, please help me.

Man reading Kinsey's words: Dear Madam: Your question is a fair one -- if love is extolled by poets and teachers, then what can be wrong with it in any form that remains fine and real. The only answer I can give is that homosexuality happens to be out of fashion in the society thru which you have to move. I would give more than you know to see things turn out right for you. Dr. Alfred Kinsey

James Jones: His heart goes out to the people whose experiences are similar to his own, people who had felt conflicted in childhood, people who were made to feel guilty. And as he comes to understand their pain and suffering, I think his own pain and suffering begin to diminish. I think he becomes more and more comfortable with the notion that science will liberate them and science will liberate him.

Narrator: Over time, Kinsey had come to believe in a sexual utopia, a world free of the fear and doubt he knew all to well, a world he would help to create.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: The perfect sexual world, that's simple. A world without guilt. And he believed that...that without guilt, and without the various pressures society brings to bear, people would lead very much freer sexual lives. That men would have a great many more partners, but that women would as well, and he wanted to bring this into being, and so he encouraged it amongst his, amongst his team.

Narrator: Kinsey, who had always played a strong role in the lives of his circle, from how they dressed to where they lived, now pushed into their sexual lives as well.

Paul Gebhard: I felt a certain amount of pressure and so I tried homosexuality and it didn't work, it just wasn't my cup of tea. And uh, I was always impotent and humiliated, so I finally said, Kinsey you know I said, Prok, to hell with this, it's not, it's certainly not doing me any good and I'm sure it, it doesn't...it doesn't make my tentative partners very happy either, so..... No, so then he, he stopped, he said, okay. You know he, you tried.

Narrator: Kinsey himself slept with Pomeroy and several of the wives, and then seduced Martin, nearly thirty years his junior.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: Clive Martin did surprise Kinsey, after about a year. I have a feeling it was to sort of put Kinsey off. He said to Kinsey what would Mack say if, if I, if I asked if she'd sleep with me? And Kinsey was absolutely astonished. However he asked her and Mack was delighted.

T. C. Boyle: She was swept up in his enthusiasm. This was his obsession. It became her obsession too. But I wonder about the emotional valence between them, if there is jealousy. If, if notions of love and romance can be totally separated from the mechanical act of sex, the hormonal act of sex as Kinsey would suggest it can be. And so I do believe that Clara, despite her protestations to the contrary, became lonely.

Narrator: Clara wouldn't be the only one wounded by Kinsey's vision of sex disengaged from love.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: Shortly after Gebhard arrived, he began to have an affair with Clyde Martin's wife, Alice, and very quickly, Alice began to fall in love with Gebhard.

Paul Gebhard: It started to develop into a, a stronger attachment. And uh, enough so that when this came to Kinsey's attention he, he drew me aside and said, you know this is, you're damaging Martin's marriage and we can't have this and I want you to stop right now, no more, so I did.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: Alice Martin never forgave Kinsey. She never forgave Kinsey for stopping her love affair.

T. C. Boyle: I do feel ultimately that there is a spiritual element that Kinsey is disregarding. And that perhaps his behavior with his inner circle, with his wife, with the wives of - of his fellow researchers might have been harmful in ways that he wouldn't admit. Or didn't want to know about: harmful emotionally.

Narrator: "The present volume is a progress report from a case history study on human sex behavior...", "this study will fill a gap in our knowledge", "14 percent of males have had contact ...", "26%", "94%, "these histories represent scientific fact divorced from social customs..." By the summer of 1947 Kinsey had begun writing the first in a planned series of nine volumes on human sexuality. It would focus on men. His team crunched the numbers from more than ten thousand interviews. Paul Gebhard oversaw the analysis while Clyde Martin hand-drew dozens of charts. The results that began to emerge were striking. Men reached their sexual peak at the age of 19. 68 percent of males had had sex with a prostitute. 37 percent of males had had at least one homosexual encounter. Kinsey drove himself harder than ever, working deep into the night. When he finally delivered the manuscript that Fall, it topped out at more than 700 pages.

Paul Gebhard: He came to me and said Gebhard, publishers are asking how many they should print and what do you think how many? And I said, well it's I think all the universities will probably want a copy, another, a library. And I think there are a great many physicians that will want it. I said, I think they should print five thousand. And Kinsey said, nonsense, Gebhard, nonsense. They should print at least twenty thousand.

Narrator: On January 5, 1948 Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was released. Within several months, more than 200,000 people bought a copy. It was not only the best-selling book of that year, but the biggest science book ever.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy: It was compared to an atom bomb. Every magazine, every newspaper, carried banner headlines, huge reports. And the effect was extraordinary.

Narrator: What soon became known as "The Kinsey Report" spawned scores of cartoons and popular songs.

Miriam Hecht, Kinsey Associate: Are you kidding? Kinsey's name became a byword. There would be gags about him on the radio. Everybody knew about Kinsey

Anger: It was kind of like a hula-hoop or something, it was the fad. Suddenly you could talk about sex because Kinsey had.

Jones: In boardrooms, in barbershops, at the ballpark, people standing on the corner, they talk about Alfred Kinsey's data, what does it mean, are we to believe it? What do these numbers tell us? And how can this image be so at odds with what we're taught?

Narrator: For the first time, Americans had been confronted with their own sexual behavior, and it appeared to be far more varied than anyone thought possible.

Jones: Ninety percent of all men masturbate. More than 50 percent of men have had extramarital affairs more than 50 percent of men have had premarital affairs. Suddenly the conspiracy of silence is shattered in a society that had been tapped down, and really things will never be the same again.

Gagnon: This is about America. And I think that's what caused the huge reaction, it was suddenly someone had said, here is the American sex report card and this is what it looks like.

Narrator: Implicit in Kinsey's report was a controversial but simple principle: when it came to sexual behavior, there was no good or bad, normal or abnormal. Even more revolutionary, the book argued that human sexuality didn't fit into neat categories. Instead Kinsey argued for a sliding scale from zero to six to reflect the many shades of sexual behavior.

Ericksen: There were people who practiced exclusive heterosexuality and there were people who practiced exclusive homosexuality but most people were somewhere in between. He actually thought if society wasn't so repressive, probably everybody would have been somewhere in between.

Duberman: We're talking about a body of theory that stresses the fluidity of human sexual desire. He said that all these categories that culture has invented like homosexual or heterosexual that these are inventions of the human mind they're not the products of nature.

Narrator: Kinsey's scale was part of his larger argument that society accept the full range of human sexuality.

Hardy: What he did you see; he lifted a huge weight of guilt, anxiety and worry. To be told that it's perfectly normal to sleep with another man if you're a man, its perfectly normal to want to sleep with another woman if you're a woman, this made a huge difference. People suddenly felt all right. I'm all right. I'm not this creature I thought I was.

Narrator: At first, reaction to the Kinsey Report was overwhelmingly positive. "The book is a triumph of sanity and reason," declared the New Republic. Good Housekeeping gave the book it's seal of approval and called it, 'the most important report of its kind ever attempted." Kinsey spoke at packed auditoriums across the country. At Berkley, 9,000 college students crowded into a hall made for half that many.

Hardy: Kinsey became a famous man. He was recognized everywhere. He was asked to talk everywhere. He liked being famous you know he enjoyed it. He liked coming into the room and heads turning. He liked being the person who had been invited as the top guest. And finally, people, the world beat a path to his door

Narrator: But what the world did not yet know was that there were serious flaws in Kinsey's methodology, flaws that would come back to haunt him. Buried deep in the male volume, in four small tables, was the most contentious data in all his work.

Bancroft: Tables 31 to 34 are about orgasms in pre-pubital boys. And they describe how many of the boys experienced orgasm, boys, young boys having repeated orgasm. Uh, it's not entirely clear from reading the book where this comes from.

Narrator: In fact, Kinsey had drawn nearly all of the material from the diaries of one person. In 1945, he had heard of a man with an astonishing, if perverse, sexual history. Intrigued, he went to meet 63-year-old Rex King.

Hardy: He had a family tree of thirty-six and he'd slept with seventeen of them. His grandmother introduced him to heterosexual intercourse, his father to homosexual intercourse, he'd slept with quite literally countless men and women.

Narrator: King claimed to have molested several hundred children, most of them Mexican migrants living nearby. He'd recorded detailed descriptions of his crimes in several cramped notebooks, which he handed over to Kinsey. The notebooks, Kinsey believed, were a unique record of the sexual responsiveness of children. He decided to use them in the study. But even some of his own team were dead set against it. "To get data," Pomeroy said later, "Kinsey would have made a deal with the devil."

Boyle: There is no moralizing in what he's doing. And perhaps one of his pitfalls is that at some point with sexual behavior, there should be some kind of moral restraints. That is especially with regard to pedophilia.

Gebhard: We figured this data is valuable data. Now just because the guy is a pedophile and it's illegal activity, you don't throw away valuable data. Of course now all the ethicists say we should have turned him in, nonsense. If we had turned anybody in, that would have been the end of the research. So we protected uh, him just like we protected everybody else.

Narrator: The existence of Rex King remained a well-guarded secret for many years, but a number of critics found plenty else to take issue with. Eminent figures like Lionel Trilling and Margaret Mead criticized Kinsey for failing to take into account the complexities of culture or the role of love. The criticism that stung Kinsey most came from fellow scientists, who focused on the accuracy of his sample. He had planned to overcome the problem of selective sampling by getting as many different groups as he could. But in the end, he found only certain groups willing to cooperate.

Laumann: The problem is that you know the kinds of organizations he was likely to be invited to, or would invite him to do it, he was obviously not going to be invited to talk at the Pentecostal Church group, and those folks are missing.

Narrator: There were charges that Kinsey had allowed his personal interests to creep into his sample. He'd relied too much on college students at the expense of the working class, too much on Whites at the expense of Blacks, too much on the sexually marginalized at the expense of the mainstream.

Gagnon: When he ran the numbers I think he might have had a slight taste for the shock. Gee, the world really isn't the way those people think it is, it's really this way, cause I've been out there in the world and it is this way.

Ericksen: I don't think there's any doubt that Kinsey overestimated the frequency of sexual variety in America. I don't think he overestimated that, those that variety existed.

Laumann: He was able to demonstrate that ordinary, every day types of persons were doing a hell of a lot of things, and it was that characterization of the richness and diversity of human sexuality that was crucial.

Narrator: As debates over Kinsey's methodology spread, the Rockefeller Foundation became concerned. It dispatched three world-renowned statisticians to Bloomington.

Ericksen: Cochran, Mostello and Tukey, these were all men who had spent their life doing statistics you know. And they, they...had never done sex research before. In fact John Tukey told me that they used to rouse one another out of their hotel bed by saying, sex is calling. Kinsey thought they weren't very serious because they would sing Gilbert and Sullivan as they were sitting around the table, going through the tables. I also think they made Kinsey feel unbelievably defensive.

Narrator: The two teams, Kinsey's on one side, Rockefeller's on the other, met for 12 tense hours. The Rockefeller men argued that Kinsey should change course and pursue a small random sample of individuals. Kinsey refused, stubbornly insisting that, in sex research, only a large number of interviews would work. The meeting broke up without resolution. The statisticians returned to New York to write a report for the Foundation. Undaunted, Kinsey pursued his study exactly as he wanted. He was soon exploring an even more unconventional methodology: filming sex acts between his staff and invited guests.

Kinsey Daughters: One time we came down to Indianapolis, we were looking for a dog and I called, and I guess mother said, well you can't come. And we all did know that the staff was trying to understand the physiology involved in sex. They would work on some of those things with the staff as the guinea pigs so to speak.

Hardy: The photographer would fix up the lights so that the, the people being filmed or the person being filmed were in a sort of cone of light, so they couldn't see the, the observing... And there they'd be, Kinsey sitting, taking notes, the cameras whirring.

Anger: On one of my trips to Bloomington, Kinsey asked if Bill could photograph me masturbating and I said, well I have no objection, I mean. And I said, well what, what's your interest in it? He made sort of a joke about it, he said, well some people curl their toes and some people don't. ...And I said, you know...uh, we'll find out whether you're a toe curler or not.

Narrator: Kinsey told his staff that by observing sex directly he could address riddles left unsolved by his interviews. He was especially interested in women, the subject of his next book. What kinds of sexual behavior did women engage in? Why did some achieve orgasms, while others didn't? How did women become aroused? To help answer these questions, Kinsey enlisted Wardell Pomeroy.

Hardy: He could use Pomeroy as a sort of sexual missile, which he could fire as, as it were at people he wanted to film. Particularly, he was very, very interested in very, very responsive women who had multiple orgasms. And Pomeroy was of inestimable value in demonstrating this, so Kinsey could watch and take notes.

Narrator: A frequent film subject was Kinsey's own wife. When Clara wasn't appearing on camera herself, she helped make others comfortable.

Gebhard: She used to uh, just astound some of the people that were there, here, these guys would be sitting around, some of them nude or something, the door would open and she'd come in, 'I thought you'd like some ice cream and vanilla pudding, you know what I'm saying, hand out food. They were really dumbfounded.

Jones: She is not going to be left out, she's not going to be excluded. If she has to serve milk and cookies in her house in something that's not a tea party, it's still her house, it's still the work that she supports and she's going to be part of it.

Narrator: For more than two years, Kinsey managed to film sexual acts -- and keep it a closely guarded secret. By 1953, having poured over hundreds of hours of footage and nearly 18,000 interviews, he began writing the female report, the much-anticipated follow-up to the male volume. As publication neared, he became even more secretive insisting that trash cans at the Institute be numbered and checked, doors triple locked, drafts of the book kept in a safe. Taking on women's sexuality, Kinsey knew, was far more explosive than reporting on men.

Ginott: Women, they were sacred. Women didn't have any sexual needs, they didn't have any sexual appetites, God put them on earth to satisfy male sexual needs.

Narrator: For many American women, sex was a source of anxiety, even shame.

Woman, SOT: I never talked about sex to any of my friends. So by the time that I married my husband I was full of recrimination self-recrimination and guilt and shame and felt very isolated.

Sheffield: I think women failed to have any pleasure in it, possibly no orgasm or just it was badly done, one way or the other, thought it was their own fault.

Narrator: But Kinsey believed that the female sex drive had merely been suppressed by society. His data had revealed that 66% of women dreamed of sex, 62% had masturbated, 14% had multiple orgasms. Whereas men's sexual appetite peaked in their teens, women's continued to strengthen into their 30's. Many in society feared that if women explored their sexuality, it would threaten the cohesion of the family. Kinsey countered with another bold argument: A woman's sexual freedom didn't threaten her marriage, it strengthened it.

Ericksen: He talks about how many women have had sex before marriage and gone on to have normal marriages. In fact he actually suggests and really says women who've had orgasm before marriage are much more likely to have orgasmic marriages then to have satisfactory sex lives within marriage. That's pretty revolutionary for 1953.

Narrator: On August 20, 1953, what the press dubbed "K-day," the female volume finally came out. Many women hailed it as long past due.

Male Interviewer: "Have you formed any opinions about the Kinsey Report? I think it's a good thing. I think the more you know about anything the better you can do it and the better you can do it the more successful you are, irrespective of what it is." But there were many more Americans for whom Kinsey's theories and supporting data proved to be deeply offensive.

Woman: I wouldn't like to read the book, no.

Reporter: You would not like to read it Do you approve or disapprove?

Woman: I disapprove of it.

Hardy: There was a huge upsurge of popular anger. Not critical, magazine anger at first. It was people.

Man #2: I don't think any decent woman would give a man her opinions on such a matter. I know my sister wouldn't, I'm quite sure my mother wouldn't.

Hardy: They simply couldn't believe it. American womanhood masturbating? American womanhood sleeping with each other? This isn't true. This isn't what women are like. He's been seeing...I mean what has he been seeing. These are lies.

Ginott: So suddenly here comes a man who says, hey, wait a second, women do have sexual needs, they do have sexual appetites. And of course, then was a tremendous, my sister, my wife, a tremendous uproar.

Voice reading Billy Graham: Doctor Kinsey's one-sided report is an indictment against American womanhood. It will cause children to doubt the fidelity of their parents and will lead to various types of moral abuses.

Narrator: Kinsey reacted to the criticism with defiance. "The scientist who observes and describes...reality is attacked as an enemy of...faith," he declared. "We should be able to discover more intelligent ways of protecting social interests without doing such irreparable damage to so many individuals." But the backlash only strengthened.

Hardy: The female report is made complicated by the moment at which it came out. It came out in 1953, the war was over, and the Cold War had begun. And one of the manifestations was the McCarthy episode.

Man: Are you a member of the Communist Party?

Narrator: Senator Joe McCarthy had begun to hold hearings into the Communist infiltration of American institutions, including the big National foundations. One by one, the heads of Carnegie, Rand, and Ford were hauled before a house investigating committee to justify their grants.

Gebhard: When the Rockefellers' turn came up to be grilled, they used the Kinsey Institute as a club to bludgeon them...publishing our findings...were weakening the American family, destroying American morality and in general making it much easier for a Communist takeover. And boy, and that was the kiss of death.

Narrator: Adding fuel to the fire, the Rockefeller statistical team finally issued their report, two years after visiting Bloomington. Despite their admiration for Kinsey's efforts, they concluded that he had made serious errors in his sampling.

Erickson: John Tukey, actually said to Kinsey that he would have, he would prefer a sample of, a probability sample of 400 to Kinsey's 18,000 interviews. Kinsey never forgave him for that.

Narrator: In 1954, the Rockefeller Foundation pulled the plug on Kinsey's funding. Kinsey sunk into a deep depression. He scrambled to find money where he could, without success.

Tebbel: He seemed like a different man. He was doing something he so obviously hated to do and you could see it in his eyes, if you knew him. You could see in his face this terrible stress he was under; he was really aging before your eyes.

Narrator: Faced with the collapse of his study, Kinsey spent more time alone, and took his private sexual exploration into darker territory.

Hardy: One of the things he explored was the conjunction between pain and sex. He gradually over the years built up a very close conjunction personally. Kinsey found as time passes you can't really have the pleasure without the pain.

Narrator: Kinsey's experiments with masochism had started years before, but as his depression deepened, they became more intense.

Gebhard: As he once pointed out, he said it, you have to be careful about masochism because the threshold always rises, you need more and more stimulation. By the time I knew him it was definitely painful.

Hardy: He began to be unable to sleep, so he took Nembutol. He had to take pep-up pills, to wake up from the Nembutol.

Anger: I could tell he was tiring more than when I first met him. Mac took me aside and said she was worried about his heart. And I guess that was the problem.

Narrator: In August 1956, Kinsey was stricken with a major heart attack. Paul Gebhard was the last to speak to him before he was rushed to the hospital.

Gebhard: He was lying on his bed, and he wanted to say something to me, so I went over and leaned over him. And he said, Gebhard, don't do anything till I come back.

Narrator: Alfred Kinsey died on August 25, 1956, at the age of 62. Some said the cause was overwork; others, a deep sense of failure.

Hardy: He hadn't managed to persuade people that his sexually tolerant attitude was the right one and he died a disappointed, bitter man. Actually, of course, he hadn't failed. He was on the winning side and helped to make it the winning side, but he didn't know that.

Narrator: Kinsey may not have caused a sexual revolution, but he had discovered one brewing beneath the placid surface of American life. That revolution would burst into the open just a decade after his death.

Jones: If Kinsey could have made it to the 60s, it would have been a different world for him. He would have seen Women's Lib, he would have seen the Civil Rights movement. He would have seen most importantly for him the Gay Liberation movement. And those, and those things would have warmed his soul.

Narrator: For countless Americans, Kinsey's vision of sexual freedom was personally liberating.

Ericksen: Many young women read the Kinsey report and thought, oh my gosh, I'm not going to hell if I give into my desires before I'm married or I think, I mean I know gay men who've told me that they first discovered that oh you could be, there was something called homosexuality and perhaps that described them, when they were living in small towns; And they had desires they didn't have practices, and they came to define themselves as a result of Kinsey and they found reading Kinsey very liberating.

Hecht: When my two daughters were growing up, one of the things I put them to doing was dusting the books. And I knew very well that they would find Kinsey's books on the shelves, and I knew very well that they would wait until I was out of the house and turn the pages and browse and check the index, and I felt that's a reasonable way for two young women to learn these things.

Narrator: Kinsey would be given credit for triggering the Liberation Movement of the 1960s, but he would also be blamed for increasing promiscuity, teen pregnancy and the spread of AIDs. In part, it was Kinsey' own uncompromising nature that made him a figure of lasting controversy.

Bancroft: His story was more tragic because he was so provocative in the way that he pursued it. If he'd have been more diplomatic in, in the way that he approached this then he actually might have achieved more.

Narrator: But it also required a man of Kinsey's unyielding conviction to begin a national conversation about sex that persists to this day.

Gagnon: Kinsey was a man who felt that truth was better than ignorance, that inquiry was better than dogma. And if people knew things, they would make better decisions. And if they made better decisions, they'd make a better society and it was. It would be a better place, to know about sex than not to know.

Kinsey: I want to emphasize, however, before we finish, it is the history of science that wherever we fill in a gap in our knowledge, mankind ultimately may profit.

Man: Dr. Kinsey

page created on 1.27.05 back to top
Site Navigation

The Film & More: Film Description | Transcript |  Primary Sources |  Further Reading | Acknowledgements

Kinsey Home | The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline
People & Events | Resources

American Experience | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe | Web Credits

© New content 1997-2005 PBS Online / WGBH



Kinsey American Experience

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: