Sexual Health: Sexuality Research Causing Stir (cont.)

Berman recently completed two projects that aim to do just that. The first is a national study of women looking at the health and sexual benefits of sexual aids and devices. "We want to get the conversation started that this is not dirty and embarrassing and that 30% of women are using these devices," she says. According to her work, women who use such aids report higher levels of sexual function and overall quality of life.

The other study is a national survey about how women feel about their genitals and how these feelings impact their sexual life and overall quality of life.

"Higher-educated African-American women have the best genital self-image," she says. "One of the biggest predictors of poor genital self-image is usually based on having a partner who said something negative [about the genitals]," she says.

Genital self-image is connected to overall body image and plays a role in sexual function, Berman says. And "genital self-image is something that most obstetricians don't think to address with patients." Berman's latest project is a big study on the role of vaginal lubricants in younger women.

Casualties Remain

Much of the ire surrounding Kinsey's human sexuality research involves his thoughts on the sexual activity of children. Critics contend that Kinsey's data are based on reports from co-workers who sexually abused more than 300 minors to prove that children 'enjoy' sex with pedophiles. In the "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female," Kinsey reports on sexual activity involving girls younger than age 4. It also indicated that sex between adults and children could be beneficial.

It was later shown that he incorrectly used data from prisoners, prostitutes, pedophiles, and other sexually promiscuous people to explain the behavior of all Americans. These are some of the main reasons that abstinence supporters are planning to protest the movie.

"The most devastating part of this whole new resurrection of Kinsey is that it is occurring at a time when we have people dying from sexually transmitted diseases," says Leslee Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D. The organization advocates sexual abstinence until marriage. "When I bring up Alfred Kinsey today, many people don't realize that he is where a lot of this came from," she says. "It's important for people to know how we got to where we are now."

The recent presidential election should speak volumes about what people want and it's not what Kinsey is selling, she tells WebMD. Exit polls showed moral values concerned more voters than either the economy or Iraq.

"Morality moms want health for their children -- emotionally and physically. They don't need more lies and deception," Unruh says. She also says "[Kinsey] was a fraud." While at first Unruh's group and many others across the country were outraged by the movie, they are now "making lemonade out of lemons."

Unruh's organization has put together a booklet called Casualties of Kinsey, which contains stories about how Kinsey's human sexuality research affected the lives of participants and their offspring. One story depicts a woman whose father and grandfather were data collectors for Kinsey and molested her on a regular basis.

"It's absolutely twisted that these things went on and that it was called research," Unruh tells WebMD.

Published Nov. 11, 2004


SOURCES: Laura Berman, PhD, LCSW, clinical assistant professor, obstetrics-gynecology and psychiatry, Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, Chicago; and director, Berman Center, Chicago. Ruth Westheimer, PhD, sex therapist; and radio and TV personality, New York City. Leslee Unruh, president, Abstinence Clearinghouse, Sioux Falls, S.D.

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