Sex the Measure of All Things: A Life of Alfred C. Kinsey

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Author
Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Author Indiana University Press $39.95 (528p) ISBN 978-0-253-33734-4
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-1-85619-604-8
Paperback - 513 pages - 978-0-253-21726-4
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It seems fitting that the man who started the culture wars over sexuality with the 1948 publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male should now be the subject of them. Kinsey's life and career have always been controversial, but the 1997 publication of James H. Jones's Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life intensified the debate and attracted significant media attention by using sensational language to make the claim that the sex researcher was a deeply tormented homosexual masochist whose ""inner demons"" caused him to distort and falsify his research. While Gathorne-Hardy's new biography by necessity covers much of the same ground, and gives its predecessor fair credit, it also presents itself as a corrective to what its author sees as Jones's deeply ingrained prejudice against his subject and a ""strong distaste for homosexuals and homosexuality"" as well as nontraditional sexual practices. Methodical and cautious, Gathorne-Hardy lacks Jones's more gripping narrative drive, but he reveals much new important material--such as Kinsey's incredibly productive professional and personal relationship with novelist Glenway Westcott--that illuminates the man and his work. Gathorne-Hardy's study functions best, and most importantly, as a sharp and insightful critique of what he sees as Jones's biases. Tracking what he says are Jones's use of innuendo and pejorative language, his internal contradictions and seemingly purposeful misreadings of interviews, the author not only builds a solid case against the earlier work's conclusions but places them in an increasingly anti-sexual modern cultural context that is reminiscent of the society Kinsey himself fought against 50 years ago. (Mar.)
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