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Online Forum

  Questions and Answers: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5
  Back to Introduction | Forum Participants


Day 3:
February 16, 2005

Q: In the 1960s we heard "make love, not war." Is there an inverse relationship between sexual freedom and aggressive, warlike behavior? Are repressed cultures more violent than others, or are pro-sensual cultures more peaceful? What lessons can humanity learn from the bonobos?

S.N.
Portland, OR


Answered by Dr. Gilbert Herdt:
Yes, there is a relationship between war, aggression, and the control of sexuality, as many observers since the time of Freud have noted. If you go to the American Sexuality magazine (available online at nsrc.sfsu.edu) for March, 2003, you will find a major article I have authored on the topic. Scholars such as Kinsey and Foucault suspected that the more repressed a culture, the more violent and reactive. When sexuality is accepted as part of the arc of life, there is less of this, as Margaret Mead suggested. Bonobos teach us that when sexuality and affection are part of the group life, there is in general a better acceptance and adaptation.


Dr. Gilbert Herdt

Q: I've only recently began educating myself on feminist history and haven't come across any mention of Kinsey yet. Are there any decent books on Kinsey's influence on feminism?

Marion
Ohio


Answered by Catherine Johnson-Roehr:
Many feminist scholars are looking at Alfred Kinsey's impact on society and on the lives of women, then and today. In November 2003 The Kinsey Institute and the Department of Gender Studies at Indiana University co sponsored a conference titled "Women's Sexualities: Historical, Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives." Invited scholars such as Estelle Freedman, Elizabeth Grosz, and Anne Fausto-Sterling presented papers on the critical contributions of Dr. Kinsey and the impact of his book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). Many of the conference participants were working on Kinsey-related topics.

Other scholars who are looking at Kinsey's influence include Jane Gerhard, whose book, Desiring Revolution: Second-wave Feminism and the Rewriting of American Sexual Thought, 1920 to 1982 is a feminist critique of Kinsey and other 'sexologists.' Lynn Gorchov has written a Ph.D. dissertation titled "Sexual science and sexual politics: American sex research, 1920-1956 (Alfred C. Kinsey)," The John Hopkins University, 2003. Judith Allen is currently working on a book that will examine the contributions of Alfred Kinsey's female colleagues to his research and publications.

The Women's Sexualities conference marked the end of a year-long series of events organized by The Kinsey Institute to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female." The keynote speaker was Gloria Steinem. Her remarks, made from a feminist perspective, may be heard on our Web site at:
http://broadcast.iu.edu/lectures/steinem/

You may also wish to browse the list of events and speakers, who presented a variety of perspectives on Kinsey and on female sexuality:
http://www.indiana.edu/~kinsey/
services/2003/list.html

My thanks to our librarian Liana Zhou and to Jennifer Bass, head of information services, for their assistance with this response.


Catherine Johnson-Roehr

Q: If Kinsey's reports were supposed to help change people's views, why is homosexuality still an issue today? It's not like people in same-sex relationships have changed any.

M.
Cincinnati, OH


Answered by James H. Jones:
Kinsey hoped that his monumental research would normalize attitudes toward homosexuality. And certainly our society has made considerable progress in that area. Still, many people, whether from religious beliefs or their own values, continue to regard homosexuality as abnormal behavior. Such beliefs underscore the work that remains to be done to gain acceptance and equal rights for the gay and lesbian members of our society.


James H. Jones

Q: Growing up secluded from direct sexual education or family conversations, (when I became pregnant, unmarried, my father commented, "maybe we should have talked about it more") I have spent the middle part of my 30's trying to learn the biological reasons for my sexuality. I surpressed most of my passion into being a robot to my husband. Then one day I relaxed and experienced orgasm opening my eyes to a new world. Now I am asking questions of my friends about their sexuality and I can see how closed my generation is and the difference of those younger than me. Once a month I meet with 4 other women of varying ages; 1 the same age as I am and 3 varying ages in the 20's. The younger women all had such an open comfort level with conversing with us about their private practices as well as devices. In recent studies is the trend for generation Y and X'ers to be more open in sharing their sexuality in social conversations? Is the 'sexual peak' of women leaning towards late 20's rather than the mid 30's because of women feeling more comfortable about their sexuality earlier?

Jeanne Marie
Milwaukee, WI


Answered by Dr. Julia Ericksen:
According to Paula Kamen, in Her Way, young women are indeed more comfortable having social conversations with friends about their sexual experiences. On a more anecdotal level, I would say this is true, from having taught generations of students abut sexuality. As to sexual peak, couples experience declines in sexual activity as they age, but with heterosexual couples, it seems to depend more on the man's age that the woman's.


Dr. Julia Ericksen

Q: I'm curious about Clara's life. Are any of her writings/diaries available? Did she remarry after her husband died?

Robin Onaclea
Eugene, OR


Answered by Catherine Johnson-Roehr:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to say a few words about Clara (McMillen) Kinsey. She was a truly remarkable woman, who is still famous around Bloomington for her many years with the local Girl Scouts. She loved the outdoors, and would stash dead birds and other interesting specimens in her freezer so that she could show them to the girls. She also taught many kids how to swim.

There are no published writings by Clara Kinsey. Clara did not remarry after Alfred Kinsey's death in 1956. She died in Bloomington in 1982 at the age of 83.


Catherine Johnson-Roehr

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