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Polymorphous perversity in the heartland

The scandal of the Kinsey Institute and Indiana University


Alfred Kinsey in New York City on March 18, 1948 Associated Press

Polymorphous perversity in the heartland

If you are looking for Ground Zero in the sexual revolution, you might not think of America’s heartland, but you should. You should think of Indiana University and The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Founded more than 75 years ago as the Institute for Sex Research, it was from the start a primary platform for the sexual revolution and the twisted vision of its founder, Alfred Kinsey.

The Kinsey Institute is in the news because Indiana’s legislature passed a funding bill, later signed by the state’s governor, that banned the Kinsey Institute from receiving state funds. Last week, Indiana University’s board bowed to student and faculty protests and voted to delay a vote on separating the institute from the university. IU president Pamela Whitten expressed continued support for the institute as a part of the university: “I look forward to our collaboration as we ensure that the Kinsey Institute continues as a beacon of academic freedom at IU for decades to come.”

Defenders attempt to dismiss concerns as based on conservative critiques. But it is for that reason that I rely on none of it. Everything that follows, as you’ll see, is based on my review of the primary source material. It reveals the Kinsey Institute as no “beacon” of academic virtue. In reality, the Kinsey Institute is a laboratory, museum, and library of what the radical philosopher Michael Foucault called “polymorphous perversity.”

Kinsey, a biologist who had conducted specialized research on gall wasps, was one of the most important figures driving a new and radical vision of human sex and sexuality in the 20th century. He arrived in Bloomington as a biologist, but his dark legacy has virtually nothing to do with gall wasps and everything to do with the fact that he was a deeply tormented man given to multiple forms of sexual deviancy whose ambition was to destroy traditional sexual morality and to liberate humanity into a new sexual age.

That new era of sexuality and sexual morality came packaged with the aura of science and Kinsey’s most famous work, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, published in 1948, presented the American public with the argument, supposedly driven by scientific methodology, that sexual practices believed to be deviant were in fact normal. Indeed, the main message of Kinsey’s work is that there is no normal. His most famous work was followed in 1953 by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, but by then Kinsey’s mission was fully underway. He had become an icon of sexual liberation.

James H. Jones, one of Kinsey’s two authoritative biographers, noted that Kinsey “approached his work with missionary fervor.” To what end? “Kinsey loathed Victorian morality as only a person who had been injured by sexual repression could despise it. He was determined to use science to strip human sexuality of its guilt and repression. He wanted to undermine traditional morality, to soften rules of restraint, and to help people develop positive attitudes toward their sexual needs and desires.” This was not a true scientist pressing for data. This was a moral revolutionary who knew exactly what he was doing.

So did Indiana University. By the end of Kinsey’s life—and well before the institute was named in his honor—Kinsey had shifted his research to include the filming of various sex acts in his own home near the campus, often including himself (or his wife) in the sexual activities. The goings on were hardly a secret. Indiana University’s legendary president Herman Wells ran cover for Kinsey and the institute. In the definitive biography of Wells, published by Indiana University Press, no less, James H. Capshew writes: “Both Kinsey and Wells maintained scrupulously dignified public profiles that contributed in no small way to their success in keeping the sex research going. Each was singularly devoted to their respective subjects at IU—biology and administration. Wells’s increasing national stature, leavened by a winning personal charm, provided an effective screen against criticism.”

Indiana University has provided that screen for Kinsey and his institute ever since. Wells understood that some distance between the institute and the university was prudent, so he insisted that a separate legal entity be created. Amazingly, Indiana University reversed that logic and made the Kinsey Institute a formal part of the university in 2016. That set the stage for the legislature’s recent action to force a separation. 

It is good that Indiana’s legislature has finally acted. It is good that Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill. But why so late? The evidence of moral horrors has been right there for 75 years—right in Kinsey’s infamous book. The moral horrors included the sexual abuse of boys, even of male infants. In tables 31 to 34, the sexual response and capacity for orgasm is measured in young boys and infants. That “research” can only come by massive sexual abuse and Kinsey’s purpose in citing the data in the tables was to normalize early sexual behavior of just about any sort.

Kinsey insinuated that the data on the boys came from nine men, but it was later discovered that it was one man who provided the data for four of the tables.

Defenders of Kinsey and the institute have argued that Kinsey was not directly involved in the sexual abuse of children. The institute currently has a web page devoted to defending Kinsey, and it states: “Kinsey did not carry out any experiments on children. He did not falsify research findings, and he in no way condoned sexual abuse.”

The first claim may be true. The second is patently false. The third is reprehensible. Kinsey did falsify research findings. He insinuated that the data on the boys came from nine men, but it was later discovered that it was one man who provided the data for four of the tables. John Bancroft, a former director of the institute stated: “But why Kinsey did not reveal that there was only the single source for the four tables we do not know—perhaps because he did not want to draw attention to this one man, or alternatively because he was particularly interested in this evidence and did not want to diminish its scientific credibility by revealing its single source.”

Kinsey did falsify the data. This statement was not made by an outsider, but by a former director of the institute itself. Furthermore, Kinsey did condone sexual abuse, and he did so in the name of supposed sexual research. Bancroft also stated of Kinsey: “He, therefore, was particularly interested in the observations of adults who had been sexually involved with children.” Wardell Pomeroy, who was Kinsey’s co-author and colleague at the institute, said that the one man who provided the horrifying data on children and infants “had had homosexual relations with 600 preadolescent males.” Kinsey was so excited about the data that he invited the man to come to Bloomington.

Note this chilling language from a letter Kinsey wrote to this man: “If expense is any factor in limiting your trip East, we can cover a good bit of that for you.” He continued: “We really ought to have two or three days, and preferably more, in which to discuss our material and to work out further plans for cooperating with you; so wherever we meet, I hope it will allow us time enough to really cover the ground.” Need money? Kinsey will send it. He wanted to “discuss our material” and “further plans to cooperate with you.” Kinsey went so far as to state his endorsement in bracingly clear language: “I congratulate you on the research spirit which has led you to collect data over these many years.” Let those words sink in.

That letter is in the archives. All this material is available for any honest person to find. Kinsey put the data in the book and congratulated himself on his achievement. But the Kinsey Institute continues to lie. The administration of Indiana University hides behind the lies. Indiana Rep. Matt Pierce, a Democrat who represents the Bloomington area in the legislature, has stalwartly defended the Kinsey Institute against criticisms. “These same unproven allegations about Kinsey were circulating about 20 years ago. Really crazy stuff about Kinsey experimenting with children and babies that were circulating in these conservative culture-war stories.” Nice try, Mr. Pierce. No source I have cited comes from anything conservative. Every source is directly tied to documents easily available to you right there in Bloomington. Some of it is published by the university’s own press. The most damning evidence is in Kinsey’s own book and letters. You either don’t care or don’t tell the truth.

For decades, Indiana University has been proudly related to the Kinsey Institute. From the inception, much has been hidden from the public. Now, we know why. The university’s president defends the institute in the name of academic freedom and the board could not even summon the courage to break from the institute after the legislature’s bill was enacted. Faculty and students have demanded that the institute must continue as part of the institution.

Let’s be clear: The scandal of the Kinsey Institute is not just its name, but its existence.

Out of moral necessity, I have left much of the evidence unstated. A mountain of perverse evidence lies behind what is revealed here. Just consider what all this says about American higher education today. Reflect on what this means for our society and its future. Take stock of what is at stake. Hug your children, and keep them far, far away from Indiana University.


R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College and editor of WORLD Opinions. He is also the host of The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of several books, including The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. He is the seminary’s Centennial Professor of Christian Thought and a minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches.


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