Feature Archive

'50s Sexuality Research Still Causing a Stir

The new movie on controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey has sex experts and protesters talking about what he did for human sexuality -- and morality -- in the U.S.

By Denise Mann
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith

It is a rare lecture in which Dr. Ruth Westheimer, PhD, does not pay some type of homage to famed 1950s sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey, PhD.

"In the Jewish tradition, we are taught that if you stand on the shoulders of giants, you can see farther, so I do mention Kinsey," Dr. Ruth, the famed New York City-based sex therapist and radio and TV personality, tells WebMD. "I think we have to be grateful to Kinsey because 50 years ago, he was willing to talk about a subject matter that was really taboo," says Dr. Ruth, the author of many books including her most recent, Dr. Ruth's Guide to Talking about Herpes.

Now the subject of a major motion picture starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, zoologist-turned-sexpert Kinsey published two major studies -- "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" in 1948 and "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" in 1953 -- that are still considered, by some, to be the foundation of human sexuality research. In addition to the new film, his work is also the basis of a new fictionalized novel by T.C. Boyle called The Inner Circle, a musical that is Broadway bound, and two television documentaries. Dr. Ruth recently saw a screening of the new movie Kinsey, which is set to open nationally Friday. "It's definitely worth seeing and it should be celebrated," says Dr. Ruth, who mentioned that she did get kissed by Neeson at the premiere. But as much as Kinsey's work has its advocates, it also has its critics, both then and now.