Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.M.: The New York PBS affiliate, WNET-13, recently refused to run a promotional spot for Kinsey on the grounds that it was "too commercial and too provocative" -- although an e-mail from National Public Broadcasting to the movie's distributor described the real problem more frankly: "the content of this movie" and "controversial press re: groups speaking out against the movie/subject matter" might result in "viewer complaints" if the ad were run. Cue Frank Rich:
As for the right-wing groups that have targeted the movie (with or without seeing it), they are the usual suspects, many of them determined to recycle false accusations that Kinsey was a pedophile, as if that might somehow make the actual pedophilia scandal in one church go away. But this crowd doesn't just want what's left of Kinsey's scalp. (He died in 1956.) Empowered by that Election Day "moral values" poll result, it is pressing for a whole host of second-term gifts from the Bush administration: further rollbacks of stem-cell research, gay civil rights, pulchritude sightings at N.F.L. games and, dare I say it aloud, reproductive rights for women. "If you have weaklings around you who do not share your biblical values, shed yourself of them," wrote Bob Jones III, president of the eponymous South Carolina university, to President Bush after the election. "Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil." Such is the perceived clout of this Republican base at government agencies like the F.C.C. that it need only burp and 66 frightened ABC affiliates instantly dump their network's broadcast of that indecent movie "Saving Private Ryan" on Veterans Day . . . .Rich notes that Kinsey has spurred the Traditional Values Coalition to call for a year-long boycott of all feature films released by Fox. Oddly, the proposed boycott does not extend to Fox News.
"Kinsey" is an almost uncannily helpful guide to how these old cultural fault lines have re-emerged from their tomb, virtually unchanged. Among Kinsey's on-screen antagonists is a university hygiene instructor who states with absolute certitude that abstinence is the only cure needed to stop syphilis. Sound familiar? In tune with the "moral values" crusaders, the Web site for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has obscured and downplayed the important information that condoms are overwhelmingly effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. (A nonprofit organization supporting comprehensive sex education, Advocates for Youth, publicized this subterfuge and has been rewarded with three government audits of its finances in eight months.) Elsewhere in "Kinsey," we watch desperate students pepper their professor with a series of uninformed questions: "Can too much sex cause cancer? Does suppressing sex lead to stuttering? Does too much masturbation cause premature ejaculation?" Though that sequence takes place in 1939, you can turn on CNN in December 2004 and watch Genevieve Wood of the Family Research Council repeatedly refuse - five times, according to the transcript - to disown the idea that masturbation can cause pregnancy . . . .
Right now [abstinence-only programs are] the only kind of sex education that our government supports, even though science says that abstinence-only programs don't work - or may be counterproductive. A recent Columbia University study found that teens who make "virginity pledges" to delay sex until marriage still have premarital sex at a high rate (88 percent) rivaling those that don't, but are less likely to use contraception once they do. It's California, a huge blue state that refuses to accept federal funding for abstinence-only curriculums, that has a 40 percent falloff in teenage pregnancy over the past decade, second only to Alaska . . . .
But if Hollywood will always survive, off-screen Americans are being damaged by the cultural war over sex that is being played out in real life. You see that when struggling kids are denied the same information about sexuality that was kept from their antecedents in the pre-Kinsey era; you see that when pharmacists in more and more states enforce their own "moral values" by refusing to fill women's contraceptive prescriptions and do so with the tacit or official approval of local officials; you see it when basic information that might prevent the spread of lethal diseases is suppressed by the government because it favors political pandering over scientific fact . . . .
Kinsey was an anti-Soviet, anti-New Deal conservative, but that didn't matter in an America racked by fear. He lost the principal sponsor of his research, the Rockefeller Foundation, and soon found himself being hounded, in part for his sympathetic view of homosexuality, by the ambiguously gay homophobes J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson. Based on what we've seen in just the six weeks since Election Day, the parallels between that war over sex and our own may have only just begun.