On Kinsey and His Methodology

We read excerpts from Sexual Behavior of the Human Male and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female, Alfred Kinsey‘s meisterwerks (sp?), in my sex and gender class, and I was trying to remember where I’d read the Ginsberg reference that led me to believe once and for all that Kinsey’s methodology was flawed. Well, seeing that I own about as many books by or about Allen Ginsberg as the Princeton University Library (okay, that was slightly hyperbolic, but only slightly), it didn’t take that long. This is from p. 66 of Bill Morgan’s biography of Ginsberg, I Celebrate Myself:

[Herbert] Huncke seemed to know everyone worth knowing on the street, from criminals to policemen. In fact, in 1945 Professor Alfred Kinsey was canvassing people in the Angler Bar as research for his pioneering study of American sexual practices. He recognized Huncke as someone who could secure interesting subjects for his study, and he offered Huncke a few dollars to bring him people willing to talk anonymously about their sex lives. Huncke was more than willing to oblige. He brought Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Kerouac to Kinsey for study and their interviews were integrated into his monumental study, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, published in 1948. Allen’s responses undoubtedly were the most uninteresting of the group, since he was still a virgin.

Yeah, that last sentence is a bit funny—but I think the prevailing attitude is “come on!” Huncke was a transient drug addict who knew his way around the underworld and counterculture of ’40s New York. He slept with both men and women, and he brought Kinsey the trio—Kerouac, Burroughs, and Ginsberg. Kerouac, though he regarded himself as straight, had slept with men before; Burroughs, despite his common-law marriage, enjoyed his North African boys; Ginsberg hadn’t quite decided what he was in 1945, but his long relationship with Peter Orlovsky kind of turned him into a gay icon. And now let’s think: if you want to do a scientific study on the “sexual behavior of the human male,” and you want to extrapolate statistics such as what percent of the male population has had sex with a man, does it really make a lot of sense to seek out like the four men in New York who would actually admit to it?

Yeah, Kinsey was still ground-breaking, I think. But it was more in what he was willing to study than in his actual findings.

On a semi-unrelated note, I wonder if I, college freshman that I am, am really entitled to pontificate on quasi-intellectual matters when I haven’t the education or broad base of general knowledge to draw any informed conclusions. Your thoughts on the validity of my pontifications are always welcome. There’s a comments box below.

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One thought on “On Kinsey and His Methodology

  1. daleinnis

    You’re well-read, well-educated, and not yet ossified. I think you’re the idea quasi-intellectual pontificator! :)

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