The Anatomy of a Sexual Revolution

Can voyeuristic science form a valid basis for overturning society’s sexual mores?

As the 20th century began, the United States held Victorian values as the generally accepted standard of morality. In contrast, the century ended with America’s president being impeached by the House of Representatives for perjured testimony relating to adultery within the confines of the Oval Office suite.

During the impeachment process, Congress was confronted by the results of polls indicating that the majority of the electorate supported the president in spite of his admitted misconduct. As former presidential candidate Gary Hart can attest, such a state of affairs was unthinkable even a decade earlier. The best that can be said is that at the end of the century, traditional moral standards are, for many, confused, ill-defined and, to a great extent, abandoned.

Victorian morality stemmed from the traditional religious view, based on the teachings of the church fathers, that sex was inherently evil but tolerated for the sake of procreation. This view was further reinforced by the church’s requirement of celibacy for priests and nuns—those ostensibly more holy and dedicated to serving God. These views, however, are contrary to biblical statements, such as the teaching that “marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4), and the apostle Paul's comment that “forbidding to marry” is a doctrine of demons (1 Timothy 4:1–3). Nevertheless, sincerely religious people believed the traditional religious views regarding sex for more than one and a half millennia. Believed, but didn't always practice.

As the 20th century progressed, religious teaching was to a great extent superseded by scientific pronouncements. The sex-is-sinful view was swept aside, leaving Western culture in a moral vacuum. The transition from one ditch (all sex is evil) to the other (all, or almost all, sex is good) was so rapid in the second half of the 20th century that perhaps no time was spent in between.

In reality, both positions, though radically different, are forms of morality without God, in that neither view faithfully reflects God’s standards as revealed in the Bible.

The Victorian morality didn’t recognize God's purpose for sex—that of binding a husband and wife in a loving relationship as “one flesh.” The book of Proverbs, for instance, repeatedly warns about the evil of adultery, but it also points out in very positive language the joy of marital love: “Rejoice with the wife of your youth. . . . Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love” (Proverbs 5:18–19). Such biblical concepts didn’t fit comfortably within Victorian notions of propriety.

On the other hand, the antithesis of the Victorian view fundamentally rejected God’s commands prohibiting premarital and extramarital sexual relations (Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:20).

On the Coattails of Science

Arguably one of the greatest factors influencing the sweeping transformation in American morals in the past century was the publication of two books by Alfred Kinsey: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948), followed by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). These two books, popularly known as “The Kinsey Reports,” had a remarkable impact. This was partly because Kinsey, wanting to benefit from the high regard in which science was held, put himself forward as a dispassionate, objective scientist.

The material for his two books came from interviewing and compiling sexual histories on nearly 20,000 people. Based on these interviews, Kinsey declared that Americans, in spite of their conservative public stance toward morality, were in private far more sexually active (in ways that were socially unacceptable at the time) than had previously been believed. His contention, reflecting an evolutionary perspective, was that people, being just another form of animal, engaged in various sexual practices as a result of their mammalian heritage. His conclusion was that society should not condemn individuals for doing what was simply in their nature to do. Furthermore, he vehemently argued that traditional morals advocating sexual restraint were not only hypocritical, but also an evil that cruelly prevented men and women from finding full happiness in life.

Though Kinsey attacked the hypocrisy of the morally conservative society around him, he was—as revealed in the biography Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life by James H. Jones, Ph.D., a professor of history at the University of Houston—the ultimate hypocrite, a play actor, projecting to the public the image of a dispassionate scientist and a very normal, easygoing family man while in private being quite the opposite.

"During his lifetime," Jones reported, "Kinsey carefully cultivated the image of a simple empiricist, a compiler of data who reported the facts with scientific disinterest. . . . The man I came to know bore no resemblance to the canonical Kinsey. Anything but disinterested, he approached his work with missionary fervor. Kinsey loathed Victorian morality. . . . [He] was a crypto-reformer who spent his every waking hour attempting to change the sexual mores and sex offender laws of the United States" (p. xii).

One incident reported by Jones shows just how little resemblance Kinsey bore to his public image of a mild, easygoing gentleman. In January 1945, Jones recounted, Kate Mueller, then dean of women at Indiana University, received a complaint from the distraught mother of a coed whom Kinsey had pressured into giving her sexual history. Mueller reported the matter to the university president, Herman Wells. Based on an interview with Mueller in 1971, Jones reported: “Hoping to resolve their differences, Kinsey made an appointment to confer with Dean Mueller. Despite his efforts to win her over, the meeting did not go well, to say the least. . . . ‘He asked me if I wouldn’t change my attitude about supporting the girls who did not want to be interviewed. . . . I felt very strongly that I could not ever ask the girls to give him interviews when they did not voluntarily want to do so,’ she explained. ‘As we discussed this a little further,’ she continued, ‘Mr. Kinsey became very angry with me, emotionally angry, and he shouted. . . . He was really shaken by my refusal, because I think that the one thing that he could not endure was to be thwarted in his need for getting more cases.’”

Jones, again quoting Mueller, wrote that she was “quite frightened” by Kinsey’s menacing demeanor. He added, “As nastily as he had treated her, he could not resist the temptation to add insult to fear before leaving. ‘He [told] me I was unsuited for the job I had; he thought I ought to give him my own history,’ [Mueller] said with a grimace. Choking back tears, she added, ‘He went so far as to say I should have some treatment by a psychiatrist to correct my bad attitudes and so forth’” (p. 515).

Earlier in his biography, Jones commented on the irony of Kinsey’s public work versus his private persona: “For a man who had become a celebrity by invading other people’s privacy, he guarded his own with cool determination” (p. 5). “Kinsey was a man with secrets,” Jones stated, “a man whose stupendous guilt had combined with his puritan work ethic to produce his spring-coil vitality. Beginning with childhood, Kinsey had lived with two shameful secrets: he was both a homosexual and a masochist” (p. 4).

Kinsey Unmasked

Jones’s book (over 900 pages) was based on extensive research, including interviews with scores of people who knew Kinsey in various capacities. Thus he was able to reveal a side of Kinsey that had been kept from the press during his lifetime.

For example, Jones recorded that “within the inner circle of his senior staff members and their spouses, [Kinsey] endeavored to create his own sexual utopia, a scientific subculture whose members would not be bound by arbitrary and antiquated sexual taboos” (p. 603).

Jones commented, “The sexual escapades in his attic were political dynamite. If the press had gotten wind of what was happening, Kinsey’s career would have ended then and there. Yet not only did he go right on staging these sessions but he compounded the danger by creating a visual record. Unbeknownst to all but the participants, Kinsey filmed many of these sessions in his attic. . . . Public opinion would never have tolerated sexual filming, particularly of the kinds of behavior he preferred. However much he shouted ‘science,’ the public would have answered ‘pornography’”(pp. 605, 611).

In a chapter of the biography entitled “A Report on What People Do,” Jones remarked: “The beauty of sex research was that it allowed Kinsey to transform his voyeurism into science. Former staff members recall that Kinsey started observing live sex fairly early in the research” (p. 503).

Kinsey’s views on pedophilia are even to this day unacceptable to most in society. Commenting on a quote from Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, in which Kinsey calmly and graphically summed up the reams of detailed accounts that pedophiles had submitted to him, Jones noted: “Children gasping for breath, sobbing, screaming in pain, fainting, and desperately struggling to fight off the assailants Kinsey dignified as ‘partners’—these were descriptions of hapless victims” (p. 512). But Kinsey didn’t see it that way. He believed that any act that furthered his “scientific research” was valuable and valid, even if it was being carried out by child molesters.

Jones went on, “By the mid-1940s, Kinsey had come to believe that many sexual perversions, however repugnant to the public, were basically harmless. . . . He even questioned society’s condemnation of pedophilia.” In a 1984 interview, Paul Gebhard, a close colleague of Kinsey, told Jones: “[Kinsey] let us know that pedophilia wasn't as black as it was painted, that it could be, under proper circumstances, beneficial or something like that—which would be heresy nowadays. Well, it was heresy then!”

Flawed Statistics

Not only was Kinsey not an unbiased observer, but his methods produced significantly inaccurate results. John Gagnon, Ph.D., of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, in a review sympathetic to Kinsey’s books in the February 18, 1999, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, admitted that “the [Kinsey] studies were particularly deficient in their sampling methods, and it was obvious to researchers at the time that they did not accurately measure the sexual life of American women and men.”

Gagnon further noted that “the findings from Kinsey’s work and the attitudes the work expressed quickly filtered into reformist groups that strove to change laws about sexual behavior, . . . to promote sex education, and to reduce what they saw as hypocrisy about sexuality in American culture.” Nevertheless the studies were used as a “scientific” basis for overturning traditional sexual mores. In effect, as pointed out by Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D., in her 1990 book, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People, the American people were taken in by a deception.

If You’re Okay, I’m Okay

Alfred Kinsey and others who were actively striving to overturn traditional morality were successful in part because they packaged their message as scientific truth even though their facts were riddled with error. However, it is also clear that, shocking though their ideas were, their message was what many in society wanted to hear. Kinsey’s books advanced the flawed concept that if everyone else is doing it, it must be okay. Many of those who previously had held back gained a sense of permission from this faulty line of reasoning.

In addition, by mid-century, the authority of religion had to a great extent been superseded by the authority of science. Thus Kinsey’s pronouncements fell on the fertile ground of a society whose moral underpinnings were a mere shell with no solid core of conviction. Many, even among religious leaders, had come to view biblical teachings as merely human ideas. Thus its instruction with respect to sexual conduct were seen as a set of arbitrary, humanly devised taboos rather than divinely revealed laws to guide humanity through a potentially difficult area of life.

Kinsey’s reports and the efforts of those who used his material as a basis for their own arguments ultimately generated the sexual revolution of the ’60s and ’70s. As Jones pointed out in the preface of his biography: “Kinsey deserves a place in our thoughts when we ponder individuals who helped change their times. More than any other American of the twentieth century, he was the architect of a new sensibility about a part of life that everyone experiences and no one escapes. Kinsey was the high priest of sexual liberation.”

Bitter Fruits

The results of the revolution Kinsey spawned have not been the promised blessings of happiness and sexual fulfillment, but rather a vast increase in sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and children being born to single mothers.

Statistics indicating the degree of such problems are staggering. Social scientist Charles Murray, Ph.D., of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a Wall Street Journal essay a few years ago that illegitimacy is the single most important problem of our time. Various sources estimate that two of every three black children in the United States are now born to single mothers, up from one in every four or five in the early 1960s. Figures for other ethnic groups also show alarming increases. J. Gordon Muir, in a 1998 postscript to his book, Sex, Politics and the End of Morality, asserted that “marriage and traditional family in the United States are on the ropes. Thirty percent of total live births are illegitimate, 70 percent in the black population, 80 percent in some inner-cities. One million illegitimate children are arriving every year.”

The increase in births to unwed mothers, along with a huge increase in the breakup of families through divorce, has produced a massive increase in children being raised in single-parent families. The statistics regarding such children are not encouraging.

In an article entitled “Defining Deviancy Down” (The American Scholar, Winter 1993) Daniel Patrick Moynihan, U.S. senator from New York, commented on the significant advantages that children in two-parent families enjoy. He cited the example of education, noting that “there is at present no more vexing problem of social policy in the United States than that posed by education.” He went on to point out the strong connection between children’s academic performance and the two-parent family. Regarding the speculation that the shame of divorce and being in a single-parent family was the basis of the poor performance, Moynihan, quoting Deborah Dawson of the National Institutes of Health, stated that “the adverse effects . . . were ‘not based on stigmatization but rather on inherent problems in alternative family structures’—alternative here meaning other than two-parent families,” which had until the sexual revolution been the norm.

Now, as Moynihan went on to state, society has been conditioned to redefine what is normal. He wrote: “In a 1992 essay, ‘The Expert’s Story of Marriage,’ [author and social critic] Barbara Dafoe Whitehead examined ‘the story of marriage as it is conveyed in today’s high school and college textbooks. . . . It goes like this: The life course is full of exciting options. . . . Though marriage can offer a rewarding path to personal growth, it is important to remember that it cannot provide a secure or permanent status. Many people will make the decision between marriage and singlehood many times throughout their life. Divorce represents part of the normal family life cycle. It should not be viewed as either deviant or tragic, as it has been in the past.’”

Moynihan remarked wryly, “History commences to be rewritten.”

Two Is Better Than One

Moynihan’s concerns regarding society's departure from the traditional two-parent family were echoed by Ronald Brownstein in an October 25, 1999, article in the Los Angeles Times: “Reducing the number of children born outside of marriage remains one of the country’s most pressing social needs. . . . Children raised without the support of two parents are more likely to use drugs, drop out of school or become unmarried parents themselves.”

In reporting on the nearly 40,000 live births to unwed mothers in the state of Georgia in 1995, that state’s Department of Human Resources commented: “Regardless of the age of the mother, research indicates that [out-of-wedlock] births are related to such things as welfare dependency, substance use, crime, poverty, chronic unemployment, and excessive high school dropout rates. . . . Being born into a single-parent household places a child at much greater risk of encountering these negative experiences.”

A very high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is another consequence of the sexual revolution of the mid-20th century. The American Social Health Association (ASHA) reported that an estimated 15.3 million new STD infections occurred in the United States in 1996. Their Web page on the Internet highlighted the problems associated with STDs, reporting that one in five people in the United States has an STD, that two thirds of all STDs occur in people 25 years of age or younger, that one in four new STD infections occurs in teenagers, and that the cost to diagnose and treat STDs other than HIV is about $8 billion annually.

In a report entitled “Sexually Transmitted Diseases in America: How Many Cases and at What Cost?” ASHA conveyed the human dimension, stating: “In addition to the economic impact of STDs, the [ASHA panel of experts] noted that STDs have a high human cost in terms of pain, suffering and grief.” This statement followed a listing of four common viral STDs that are considered incurable: genital herpes (45 million cases), human papillomavirus (20 million cases), hepatitis B (750,000 cases from sexual transmission), and HIV/AIDS (500,000 cases from sexual transmission).

The cost of the sexual revolution and of the abandonment, on the part of many, of sexual restraint has been very great.

Taken in by a Lie

In writing to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul described attitudes and consequences he saw in the first century that parallel those in the life of Alfred Kinsey and many others caught up in the sexual morass of the last half of the 20th century: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. . . . God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie. . . . For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. . . . committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1:18, 24–27).

There are very real penalties that flow from violating spiritual principles. Our society and our children are suffering the consequences of accepting false principles based on specious reasoning and flawed “scientific” evidence.