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« Sam Vaknin on Narcissism | Main | Stoned »

March 16, 2005

Elsewhere

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Enough about girls and math, the WashPost says. What about boys and reading? Sample passage:

What is known is that boys generally take longer to learn to read than girls; they read less and are less enthusiastic about it; and they have more trouble understanding narrative texts yet are better at absorbing informational texts ... Scientists have said that boys are born with smaller language centers in their brains -- and larger spatial centers -- than girls and that boys develop language abilities at a slower rate, though eventually they catch up.

* Another tiptop conservative-philosophy blog: Right Reason -- partly staffed, it's hard not to notice, by refugees from Conservative Philosopher. Que pasa among the righties anyway? Dave Lull notices this Dadahead posting, which offers some possible answers.

* I'm glad none of the participants suddenly found she needed to take a pee. NSFW.

* John Preston's review of a new bio of Cary Grant is a first-class introduction to Grant's life and work. FWIW, I consider "Cary Grant" to be one of the 20th century's most entertainingly classy creations, on a par with the Cord automobile and the Chrysler Building. The gold standard for writing about Cary Grant is Pauline Kael's love letter/essay, "The Man From Dream City." I haven't been able to find Kael's piece online, but all film buffs should own "For Keeps," a best-of-Kael collection that contains the essay, anyway.

* Any bets about whether the NSFW event this series of surveillance photos records was a set-up? If it was: nice job!

* I thought Steve Sailer's thoughts about Dems, Repubs, and white males were shrewd and funny.

* Here's a photo of one of the more eccentric extreme sports I've run across recently.

* It can't be emphasized often enough: surveillance cams really are everywhere these days.

* Are you as perplexed as I am by the way "slavery" is assumed by so many people to refer to only America's experience of slavery? Yet slavery was a feature of human life for millenia prior to the 1800s, and it continues to be practiced in parts of the world today. Here's a BBC report on slavery in Mauritania, for example.

* I don't know about you, but it certainly never would have occurred to me to invite Catharine MacKinnon to a screening of "Inside Deep Throat" ...

* France has a tradition of courtliness and flirtation; sexual banter and provocation are considered to be a part of the good life, a civilized pursuit akin to wine, art, and travel. American black culture has a culture of courtliness and flirtation too; I'm often amused and impressed by the playful, stylish, and witty give-and-take black men and women get going between them. Yet most white Americans seem remarkably uptight about flirting. Why? Are they scared of it? Do they think that enjoying a harmless-if-charged moment will ruin their chances of material success? Do they just not know how to enjoy the game? Maybe they could use some how-to-flirt tips.

* Tyler Cowen is recommending Steve Levitt's new econ book "Freakonomics."

* Alfred Kinsey: scientific hero or irresponsible sexual-revolution propagandist? I've done no independent looking into the question myself. But articles like this one certainly suggest that even if Kinsey was a hero, he was a very compromised one.

* I found John Gray's review of a new biography of Friedrich Nietzsche insightful as well as moving, though I'm not entirely sure why.

* Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson discusses the history of boredom, which seems to have begun with the Industrial Revolution. The word "boredom" apparently doesn't appear in the English language prior to 1760. Over at The Idler, readers contribute short descriptions of some of their happiest moments.

* Outer Life spends time experiencing life as an extravert, and survives to tell us what it was like.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at March 16, 2005




Comments

That Kinsey article is just a hatchet job by a guy with (to mix my metaphors a bit) an axe to grind--for a more reasonable assessment, see this article from the Washington Monthly. For instance, the article you posted gives this complaint about his studies:

The worthlessness of Kinsey’s method of carrying out “sex research” ought to have been evident from the start. It involved collecting a vast number of “sexual histories,” detailed accounts of the sex lives of various individuals, revealed to Kinsey and his associates in lengthy interviews ... That this whole approach is statistically dubious should go without saying. (Some of Kinsey’s nervous financial backers said it anyway, but Kinsey wasn’t of a mind to listen.) People willing to recount the intimate details of their sex lives to perfect strangers are bound to be more likely to engage in other risqué activities. Any account of the sexual behavior of the population at large that rests on such a skewed sample will inevitably overstate the frequency of deviant behavior. But this is far from the end of the story, or of the problems that plague Kinsey’s method. Notoriously, he derived his “sexual histories” largely from persons on the fringes of society—prison inmates and the denizens of gay bars, the latter being in the 1940s and fifties much farther outside the mainstream of American life than they are now.

But the Washington Monthly article explains that Kinsey was aware of the problem of biased samples and did about as much as was possible at the time to get as representative a sample as he could:

As conservatives rightly point out, and anyone working in the field of sexuality research today will acknowledge, Kinsey didn't obtain a statistically representative sample of America. A modern researcher would have approached Kinsey's quest differently. However, Kinsey was neither lazy nor nefarious in designing his enterprise. He worked at a time before modern social science methods for selecting random population had been developed. “He started at time zero. There was no one whose work he was building on,” says Edward Laumann, a professor sociology at the University of Chicago who in 1992 undertook a modern survey of American sexual behavior. “[Kinsey] was a meticulous scientist and a man of sufficient ego, as am I, that he didn't want to be wrong. So he tried very hard to be right.”

There's no master list of the American population from which researcher can easily sample. So Kinsey devised an elaborate system for identifying as many social groups and settings as possible, which he would then visit to solicit interviews. Alert to the danger that his sample would be skewed if the most sexually experienced people were the most loquacious, he made a point of gathering “100 percent” samples—in other words, hectoring all present at a given location to contribute so that he could have a complete portrait of the sex life of a sorority, a garden club, a gay bar, or a church congregation. He visited all 48 states, though, for practical reasons, the largest percentage of respondents came from the Midwest, especially Indiana and its bordering states. He didn't obtain a statistically representative sample, but not for lack of trying.

Conservatives complain that Kinsey's interviews included prisoners and gay-bar swingers in New York, who gave stories from America's wilder side. That's true, but those interviews comprise a small fraction of the overall sample. In fact, one of his research assistants, Paul Gerhard, subsequently removed the prison samples and reanalyzed the data, finding relatively little difference in the overall results. On the other hand, just under half of Kinsey's male interviewees were white-collar workers, which he far overrepresented as a percent of the population in the late 1940s. He similarly over-sampled college and graduate-school diploma holders. If anything, Kinsey's overall sample was flawed, less by the inclusion of inmates or swingers, than by the inclusion of too many people with higher education, who hit the books instead of the altar in their early and mid-twenties.

Those who imagine Kinsey's subjects were primarily picked up at New York's Automat on 42nd Street, a gay prostitute's hangout, charge that in addition to scraping the bottom of the barrel, Kinsey found people inclined to lie to make their stories even more titillating. As with all interview-based research, it's a valid concern that people may be tempted to exaggerate or deny, especially when the question is how often they sleep with prostitutes or the length of their penis. It would be unfounded to say that no one lied to the good doctor. But we do know from Kinsey's sample that he spoke with far more people whose social backgrounds would incline them to deny incidents of sodomy or extramarital affairs, for example, than to exaggerate them. Moreover, Kinsey took active measures to minimize fabrications. Long before subject review boards, he pioneered the idea of subject anonymity to minimize the incentive to fudge the truth, and he repeated questions to check for consistency. In a few cases, he brought back subjects to retell their sexual histories after several years in order to confirm that he was given the same story.

Like a census taken in a given year, Kinsey's interviews represent a snapshot of some portion of America at a given point in time. There's no perfectly analogous data to compare it to. Kinsey recorded that 6 percent of women and 21 percent of men had sex by age 16; in 1995, a study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that 39 percent of men and 45 percent weren't virgins at 16. It's no surprise that the figures from 40 years later are significantly different. University of Chicago's Lautmann thinks, for example, that Kinsey's numbers on premarital sex were indeed too high, in part because he over-sampled college and graduate students who postponed marriage longer than the rest of the population. On the other hand, Kinsey approximated the number of exclusively homosexual males at 4 percent of the population. “In fact it's about 3 percent, so that ain't bad,” says Lautmann.

Granting the flaws in his sampling techniques, symptoms of the social science at the time rather than of any secret agenda, the broad conclusions Kinsey drew from his data have held up—and it's those conclusions that ultimately changed the way a nation talked about sex and subsequently kicked the long arm of the law out of the American bedroom: Homosexuality, premarital sex, and extramarital sex were all more common than previously acknowledged. His sociological observations have also endured. Men and women have different sexual learning curves. Members of different economic classes approach sex differently. Masturbation is almost universal among unmarried men. Abstaining is easy for some, much harder for others.

Posted by: Jesse M. on March 16, 2005 5:53 PM



Jesse -- One of the reasons I find it impossible to make any sense of the Kinsey phenom is that every source I turn to seems ideologically motivated. Have you run into one that doesn't seem to be? Here's balacned-seeming a passage from an Amazon reviewer (who likes Kinsey, and who likes the most recent, pro-Kinsey, Kinsey biography):

Thus, while many may initially find the reformist scientist a hero, the eccentricities and excesses of his professional and personal behavior will undoubtedly make many initially open minded readers wince in discomfort as the Kinsey story progresses. His theories in support of adult/child sexual interaction, for instance, are, tellingly, only marginally explored by Gathorne-Hardy, and Kinsey's obsessive search for personal sexual satisfaction, which led him to what many will interpret as self-mutilating activities, may be seen as signs of pathology by even the sophisticated general reader.

Alfred Kinsey was a driven man in every major aspect of his existence, and moderation, balance, and other disciplines of self control were not qualities he advocated for the public or usually practiced himself where sexual activity was concerned. Had Kinsey been more intrinsically conservative in his private behavior, it is likely that many more people today would feel at ease with his work and be able to embrace it wholeheartedly. But Kinsey's solitary habits [...] are unlikely to gain him a broad sympathetic audience in either a personal or professional capacity.

The simple truth, which Kinsey was well aware of, is that full public disclosure of personal sexual practices, even those that are the most common, will probably never sit well psychologically with most members of Western societies. Kinsey had one of the highest public profiles of his era, and must have realized that his own sexual history would eventually become public knowledge and inevitably discredit him in the court of public opinion, which may partially explain the paranoia of his last years.

As Gathorne-Hardy emphasizes repeatedly, Kinsey's work--which amounted to a personal crusade--was largely motivated by his own puritanical religious upbringing and the sexual frustration that resulted from it. His subsequent sexual interaction with some of the private citizens whose histories he documented, as well as with his own professional staff, underscore the common sense concern that the researcher's occasionally intimate approach potentially contaminated his data and compromised his ability to remain object. However, Kinsey's findings have held up statistically over the ensuing decades and compared favorably with subsequent research.

Anyway, I have a hard time making much sense of all this. Interesting that the Chicago guy you quote seems to admire Kinsey, because the Chicago study (which I read in the early '90s, did some revising of Kinsey that at the time was considered pretty drastic -- so drastic that the Chicago study didn't get anything like the recognition it deserved. Like I say: I'm confused.

UPDATE: Ah, found it. Here's Richard Rhodes' review of the biography of Kinsey that made waves a few years back with bad news about his sexual and research practices. Rhodes, who's no fool, seems to think there's something to the book. My wishy-washy conclusion is that Kinsey had guts, did some valuable work, but was screwy enough to make us all be a bit wary of him.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 16, 2005 6:38 PM



I'm confused by the argument advanced by the author of the Washington Monthly's article:

As conservatives rightly point out, and anyone working in the field of sexuality research today will acknowledge, Kinsey didn't obtain a statistically representative sample of America. A modern researcher would have approached Kinsey's quest differently. However, Kinsey was neither lazy nor nefarious in designing his enterprise. He worked at a time before modern social science methods for selecting random population had been developed.

So, I take that to mean that statistics were well enough understood that Kinsey (1) knew that he didn't have a statistically representative sample, (2) understood that this wasn't a good thing, and (3) published the data anyway. I don't remember any big warning words on those books that said, "This data cannot be relied on as it was NOT taken from a statistically representative sample."

How scientific was that, exactly? Sounds like the claim that Kinsey was pushing an essentially ascientific agenda comes pretty close to the mark.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 17, 2005 3:31 PM



So, I take that to mean that statistics were well enough understood that Kinsey (1) knew that he didn't have a statistically representative sample

"Statistically representative" is a matter of degree. A perfectly representative sample would by definition have to be one where every member of the population is equally likely to be picked to be part of the study; even today this is impossible. For example, even if you have a database of every phone number in the country and randomly select people that way, some people will be more likely to choose to participate than others, and there are also plenty of people who don't have listed phone numbers (this was mentioned as a problem with polls before the last election). I'm not sure what they mean when they talk about "modern social science methods for selecting random population", but maybe modern social scientists have access to more comprehensive databases of people to pick randomly from than Kinsey did.

(2) understood that this wasn't a good thing, and (3) published the data anyway. I don't remember any big warning words on those books that said, "This data cannot be relied on as it was NOT taken from a statistically representative sample."

Again, "statistically representative sample" would definitely have to be a matter of degree, there's no way to get a perfectly representative sample today either, but that doesn't mean we need warning labels on every sociological study ever published. There is still a fairly significant amount of uncertainty about the exact percentage of the population that is exclusively homosexual, for example (see this page for more on the difficulties of answering that question). I think it's taken as a given that social science researchers are not claiming perfect accuracy, but as long as they do the best they can with the resources available, and their methods are made available for other scientists to examine, there's nothing unscientific about publishing these results without the need for warning labels.

How scientific was that, exactly? Sounds like the claim that Kinsey was pushing an essentially ascientific agenda comes pretty close to the mark.

See my comments above. And if he was pushing an agenda, why is it that subsequent studies have tended to confirm his numbers?

Posted by: Jesse M. on March 17, 2005 9:37 PM



Umm, I think the problem is that subsequent studies, at least the ones I've seen, do not confirm many of Kinsey's numbers, which in fact uniformly overstate most percentages, just as you would expect when relying on essentially voluntary data.

Also, there are all sorts of statistical measures of how reliable or unreliable measurements are from a variety of errors. At least today, any study that doesn't provide these "margins of error" is not entirely reputable. And I don't believe, unlike the author of the Washington Monthly article, that none of this was understood when Kinsey was publishing. I believe much of this was developed by guys at the Census Bureau back in the 1920s and 1930s.

So...given the obvious connection between Kinsey's feelings of being marginalized by society's puritanical morality and the goal of publishing such statistics, which seems to have been to make 'deviant' activity more visible and thus normative...well, I find it kind of hard not to have doubts about exactly how scrupulous Kinsey was being, scientifically speaking.

He certainly wouldn't be the first sexologist to have a private agenda, nor the last.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 17, 2005 10:04 PM



Umm, I think the problem is that subsequent studies, at least the ones I've seen, do not confirm many of Kinsey's numbers, which in fact uniformly overstate most percentages, just as you would expect when relying on essentially voluntary data.

Which percentages are overstated? The Washington Monthly article said that the percentage of men and women he found had had sex before age 16 was lower than modern measurements (but this likely reflected social changes), that the percentage he found for exclusively homosexual men matched modern measurements, and that his numbers for premarital sex were "probably" too high because he oversampled people with college degrees. I have read elsewhere that his numbers for masturbation and adultery also held up pretty well in subsequent studies, although I can't find details on this. This Encarta article says that "Smaller studies have confirmed many of the findings of these pioneering sex researchers [Kinsey, Masters & Johnson] and have challenged certain others", which makes it sound like overall his findings have held up.

Also, there are all sorts of statistical measures of how reliable or unreliable measurements are from a variety of errors. At least today, any study that doesn't provide these "margins of error" is not entirely reputable.

What sort of "statistical measures" are you talking about? Certainly, if you know ahead of time what the probability distribution is "supposed" to be, you can use statistics to give you an idea of how fair your sample was, and alternately, if you assume that your sample was fair, you can use statistics to give you an idea of how likely it is that a particular hypothesized probability distribution is the correct one in this case. But if you don't know in advance whether your sample is fair or what probability distribution the phenomenon you're studying is supposed to obey, I can't think of any statistical test that could be applied to such a situation.

Posted by: Jesse M. on March 18, 2005 12:07 AM



Jesse -- I think the New Criterion piece may well be hatchet-jobbing Kinsey. On the other hand, I think there's also a good chance Kinsey's odd personality did effect his findings, and that some of his behavior and some of his methods were 'way out of line by most standards. I'm not sure why these two facts can't both be true, but, like I say, I haven't read the many 500 to 1000 page long books about Kinsey that have been published, and I'm not going to either.

On the other hand, I was working in the press when the Chicago sex study came out (circa 1990, if I remember right). It was anticipated with great excitement -- and then not all that much was finally made of it in the press. As far as I could tell, that was entirely because many of its findings (and stastistics) were far less sensational than Kinsey's had been. The press had been hoping for more homosexuals than Kinsey reported, not fewer; and they were very disappointed to learn that religious people report far higher levels of sexual satisfaction than nonreligious people do. Instead of saying, Wow, the Chicago people were much more careful than Kinsey was, and look at the findings they came up with, the press instead picked the Chicago study apart, and then relied on questioning the validity of sex studies entirely -- entirely, as far as I could tell, because in some key ways the Chicago study didn't confirm Kinsey.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 18, 2005 12:46 AM



Ah, just found some actual facts.

A couple of the problems non-ideologues have with Kinsey and his work:

* Many of the people he interviewed were prisoners.

* Many of his conclusions about the sexual behavior or children came from interviews with a pedophile.

A couple of examples of the diffs between his findings and Chicago's (which were the results of much more carefully done studies):

* Kinsey claimed that half of married men and a quarter of married women cheated. Chicago concluded that 80 percent of married people never stray.

* "Kinsey reported that 37 percent of American men (and 13 percent of women) had had at least one homosexual experience. Ten percent of the males in his sample were predominantly homosexual." Chicago concluded that "only about 2 to 3 percent of sexually active men and 1 to 2 percent of sexually active women are currently engaging in same gender sex."

Those are pretty dramatic diffs. And some people who see themselves as standing for sexual liberation weren't about to be pleased by them. The gay numbers also helped turn the press a bit against the Chicago studies -- the press liked the idea that 10 percent of American men were gay.

I found these examples in a National Geographic article.

Incidentally, Kinsey may well have been a hero (that's a matter for opinion), as well as a good scientist doing the best he could. (Haven't read the bios, so I don't know.) But it's at least interesting to learn that he was something of a sexual extremist himself -- the bit about performing a self-circumcision certainly makes the eyebrows raise a bit. And it's interesting to see the directions in which the figures he came up with seem to have been wrong.

I mean, that's OK: Newton was a weirdo in some ways, and it's normal in science for results to get refined over time. It seems to me hard to maintain though that Kinsey wasn't a bit of a weirdo, and that his results and conclusions didn't reflect a bit of his personal weirdness.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 18, 2005 1:11 AM



Re: "bored"

I'm never quite sure what to make of these longitudinal-slice intellectual histories of single concepts, or perhaps words. While it's interesting that the word "bored" developed its modern usage only in 1760, I'm skeptical about how much can be inferred from this fact. If "bored" derives from, say, the boring out of cannon barrels--undoubtedly rather boring work--then the significance of the date falls apart, since boring cannon barrels had been going on for a long time at that point. And was agricultural work or home manufacture (via the 'putting out' system) that existed prior to 1760 so intellectually satisfying? The logic connecting boredom to the industrial revolution seems a bit thin to me, at least if you think seriously about what it replaced.

But maybe I'm reacting to the review, not the original book.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 18, 2005 12:10 PM



A couple of the problems non-ideologues have with Kinsey and his work:

* Many of the people he interviewed were prisoners.

Well, the Washington Monthly article says this:

Conservatives complain that Kinsey's interviews included prisoners and gay-bar swingers in New York, who gave stories from America's wilder side. That's true, but those interviews comprise a small fraction of the overall sample. In fact, one of his research assistants, Paul Gerhard, subsequently removed the prison samples and reanalyzed the data, finding relatively little difference in the overall results.

* Many of his conclusions about the sexual behavior or children came from interviews with a pedophile.

Yes, this is true. Kinsey did make it clear which of his data came from pedophiles, but he attributed the data to several sources when in reality it all came from one man, Rex King. Even if the data was scientifically useful and Kinsey did not believe the abuse was ongoing at the time King gave him the data, I agree it was morally wrong not to report him to authorities.

This page on the Kinsey Institute website says that most of the data on child sexuality came from other sources:

Kinsey clearly stated in his male volume the sources of information about children's sexual responses. The bulk of this information was obtained from adults recalling their own childhoods. Some was from parents who had observed their children, some from teachers who had observed children interacting or behaving sexually, and Kinsey stated that there were nine men who he had interviewed who had sexual experiences with children who had told him about how the children had responded and reacted. We believe that one of those men was the source of the data listed in the book.

A couple of examples of the diffs between his findings and Chicago's (which were the results of much more carefully done studies):

* Kinsey claimed that half of married men and a quarter of married women cheated. Chicago concluded that 80 percent of married people never stray.

* "Kinsey reported that 37 percent of American men (and 13 percent of women) had had at least one homosexual experience. Ten percent of the males in his sample were predominantly homosexual." Chicago concluded that "only about 2 to 3 percent of sexually active men and 1 to 2 percent of sexually active women are currently engaging in same gender sex."

The infidelity one does show a large difference, although it's possible that this is partly because couples who aren't attracted to one another are more likely to divorce today than in Kinsey's time. As for homosexuality, you're comparing two different numbers--the percentage of people who have had even a single homosexual experience (Kinsey's 37/13 figure) vs. the percentage who are currently engaging in same-gender sex (the Chicago study's 2-3/1-2 figure). According to this page from the Kinsey institute summarizing data on homosexuality, the Chicago study you're referring to (by Laumann, Gagnon, Michael and Michaels) found that "9% of men and 4% of women reported having engaged in at least one same-gender sexual activity since puberty"--still about 3-4 times smaller than Kinsey's numbers.

To compare other findings of Kinsey's with findings from more recent studies, look at these two pages:

Summary of Kinsey's findings
Summary of other studies

Posted by: Jesse M. on March 18, 2005 1:42 PM



A fun set of comparisons and data points, tks. The Kinsey Institute has occasionally had a hard time of it trying to stay open, so it's not like they're unbiased either. They've got a genius whose reputation they're devoted to and depend on. And god only knows what the WashMonthly's up to in this case.

Anyway, a minefield, no? I marvel a bit that he's become such a ferociously-contested phenomenon, and conclude that the pro-Kinseyites and anti-Kinseyites are both up to no-good. But that's probably cynical.

I'd hazard a guess that many of the attacks on Kinsey have been ideologically motivated. But I'd also guess that a) even so some of the facts the ideologues have turned up were valuable, and that b) some non-ideologically-motivated people who've looked into his work have been made uneasy too. I'd also guess that a lot of the pro-Kinsey arguments are basically pro-sexual-liberation arguments. He seems to mean a lot to pro-sex-lib people. I think they'd be wise to cut him loose and not depend on him so much myself, but that's just an opinion. I suspect that they're so devoted to their cause that they can't imagine moderating any part of their stance.

I wish I could sort it all out, but I don't have the necessary info or sourcing. Here's hoping someone comes along and makes some trustworthy sense of it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 18, 2005 1:55 PM



My spider sense tingles whenever I see terms like "homosexual experience" that are divorced from all realities except political ones. Whether it's Kinsey or his modern mouthpieces I am not particularly interested, but when statements like that are made without being concrete I get the sense that someone's doing some deceiving. In particular, I know I've been in some situations that I would consider "homosexual experiences," but I have a really broad definition of what I would consider "homosexual experiences", one that includes a lot of pretty standard activities like locker-room behavior, an unwelcome butt slap, and drunken conversations with guy friends. My guess is that if the survey questions are as broadly phrased as the reporting of them, then at least a good 20% of that 40% figure reporting "homosexual experiences" is actually on the other tail of the distribution curve -- Those who are so heterosexual that they consider a lot of normal behaviors to have homosexual components and thereby distance themselves from it.

Posted by: . on March 18, 2005 5:01 PM



To muck things up even further, there's also the argument that sex is a special case -- that all the sex-researchers have managed to do (at best) is measure a lot of button-pushing, and that that's an insultingly reductionist idea of sex. Sex (or "erotic experience," or something) being understood to be far more about the feelings and sensations -- the sense of "spirit" (or something) that moves through us -- at such moments than it is the specific bits of licking or rubbing that are going on.

What do y'all think of that argument? I think it makes a good point. I'm not averse to measuring what can be measured, god knows. But god also knows that there's always the danger -- the certainty really -- that some people will then work from the measurable-results back to the experience and impose the interpretation on the events. And I think we can see a bit of this in the way sex is currently discussed (or not discussed). People are amazingly dimwitted and literal about what sex is, or can be, these days. It's understood to be nothing more than "what gets you off," leading people to think that there must be some magic formula that works for them, and encouraging them to think of sex as more analogous to chowing down on junk food (salt! sweet! crunchy!) than to enjoying fine dining, or art, or religion. It promotes a reductionist view of something that, by nature, is the thing that will always escape reductionism (and should probably be understood to be exactly that).

Kinsey (and the other sex researchers) bear some responsbility for this, I think. They may deserve credit for other things, I dunno ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 18, 2005 5:25 PM



Re: Ambiguity, having now read the links provided by Jesse with Kinsey's findings represented as ~40% of men having been brought to orgasm homosexually, only one response will do:

Heh.

Posted by: . on March 18, 2005 5:33 PM



Some statistics that came up in a conversation recently:

The Kinsey Report is where the figure 10% of the population is gay comes from. The Yankelovich MONITOR, 1994 based on random sampling estimated the self-identifying gay population at 5.7%, with concentrations as high as 9% in large urban areas, and 4% in rural settings. (The Canadian 2001 Census estimate figure was 8.1%.)

.....

Between 1989-1990, a National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL) of nearly 19,000 people was undertaken in Britain. The survey examined a cross section of people throughout the country, and looked at their sexual attitudes and behaviour, including people's same sex sexual experiences. The NATSAL survey was repeated between 1999-2001; this time the subject group involved less people, at just over 11,000. The results of the study provide us with an interesting comparison of how same sex sexual behaviour is changing in Britain.

Among men they found the following results;

NATSAL I (%) 1990 NATSAL II (%) 2000

Ever had a sexual experience, not necessarily including genital contact, with a partner of the same sex? 5.3 8.4

Ever had sex with a same sex partner, including genital contact? 3.7 6.3
[ed. What definition of "sex" can this survey possibly be using that they have to specify 'including genital contact'?]

Have you had a same sex partner in the last five years? 1.4 2.6

And among women they found these results;

NATSAL I (%) 1990 NATSAL II (%) 2000

Ever had a sexual experience, not necessarily including genital contact, with a partner of the same sex? 2.8 9.7

Ever had sex with a same sex partner, including genital contact? 1.9 5.7

Have you had a same sex partner in the last five years? 0.6 2.6

The differences in the two NATSAL surveys clearly indicate the changes that have been occurring in people's same sex sexual attitudes and behaviours. The greatest change is highlighted in the increase in women who have indicated that they have had a same sex sexual experience, not necessarily including genital contact, as this increased from 2.8% in 1990 to 9.7% in 2000. More men said that they had had a same sex sexual experience too, up from 5.3% in 1990 to 8.4% in 2000, thus showing that either same sex sexual behaviour is either on the increase or that people are more willing to report it.

When looking at same sex sexual attraction, and not necessarily sexual experience, the figures have also changed over the ten-year period, with women showing the most significant difference. In 1990, 93.3% of men said they had only ever had sexual attraction towards the opposite sex, whilst by 2000 this had fallen to 91.9%. 93.6% of women in 1990 said they had only ever been attracted to men, but by 2000 this had dropped to 88.3%. From this we can therefore deduce that 11.7% of women and 8.1% of men have felt a sexual attraction towards the same sex at least once in their lives.1, 2 ~avert.org

.....

Based on a range of population samples, we benchmark
between 6% to 7% of the adult U.S. population self-identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual ? or between 14 to
16 million individuals over the age of 18.? ~Witek-Combs Communications '05
[ed. Seems like a pretty hopeful estimate, considering that there's not even reliably 6-7% of the population that has even had homosexual sex, according to the numbers above]

Posted by: . on March 19, 2005 2:16 AM



"." -- Kinsey's 10% always felt very high, at least to me. But the figure suited progressives, who loved citing it as proof that society was repressive, or quirky, or whatever point they wanted to make at the time. I've got no proof of this (except that I was there at the time), but I feel pretty certain that the main reason the Chicago study didn't get anything like the amount of press it looked like it was going to guess was that it so drastically reduced the estimate of how many homosexuals there are in the population. That was partly a function of gays in the media, but mostly a function of displeased lefties. IMHO, of course.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 19, 2005 1:19 PM






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