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Kinsey - Sex is a contentious issue; we have everything from over-population to sexual abuse to gender equality to HIV/AIDS



Feature by: Jack Foley

SEX is everywhere nowadays it seems. No matter where you look, there is usually something associated with it.

Advertising frequently employs it (even to sell fridges and sofas!), while gossip columns are filled with the sex secrets and scandals of celebrities. Hell, some of the best-known programmes use sex as their biggest selling-point (Nip/Tuck and Desperate Housewives).

Hard to believe, then, that sex was considered something of a taboo subject as recently as the late 1940s and early 1950s, particularly in countries like America.

Indeed, in the United States it took someone as bold as Alfred Kinsey, a respected zoologist, to give the subject the exposure it deserved thanks to his groundbreaking books, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, which lifted the lid on American attitudes to sex, exploring what people did behind closed doors in an honest and frank manner.

Needless to say, they became runaway bestsellers and provoked a media outrage, while also providing the spark that would later ignite the sexual revolution of the 1960s and fuel the increasing sexual tolerance of the ensuing decades.

A new film, Kinsey, charts the rise of this zoologist and the obstacles he faced in exploring sexuality, while also lifting the lid on a few uncomfortable home truths about people's attitudes to sex.

For its star, Liam Neeson, the film has come at an extremely pertinent time, given society's current fixation with all things sex-related.

"We are living in a neo-conservative time," he explained "Sex is a contentious issue. We have everything from over-population to sexual abuse to gender equality to HIV/AIDS.

"These are sexual issues that are shaping the world. Kinsey was one of the first to analyse sexual health on a grand scale. There’s a lot of ignorance about him, so it is timely.

"Gail, the producer, spent eight years trying to get the film made. Studios didn’t want to touch it because it was too contentious. But it is amazing how human sexuality defines us as a species and is yet still the least understood aspect of our existence."

When asked about his own attitude to sex, the actor is equally candid, having clearly benefited from the research he did for the role of Kinsey, as well as his own sexual maturity.

"I believe sex defines you," he said. "I guess the older I am, because I’m a father, it is a very, very special thing.

"When I was a young boy, I was running around and trying to kiss girls and stuff… now it’s like here’s the issue of sex. You can have these incredible children.

"I’m not saying all sex leads to kids, of course not. But it’s something I do not treat lightly. There’s something very sacred about it, still. But I’m blessed because I’m in an extraordinary marriage and blessed with these two amazing kids."

Neeson can easily understand, too, how Kinsey became so obsessed with his research, particularly given the attitudes which prevailed at the time, when awareness of all things sex-related was shockingly sparse.

"Kinsey hated ignorance in the world, especially when it came to young people and sexual ignorance.

"In the 1930s, for instance, it was common to find girls who didn’t know how babies were born.

"While in the 1940s, there was a famous survey done of high school boys; 70% didn’t realise a man was necessary for a baby to come into the world. That’s a staggering ignorance that Kinsey deplored."

It's a stark contrast to what Neeson's co-star, Laura Linney, describes as America's 'schizophrenic relationship' to sex.

"Sexuality has been laid claim to by morality in a way. But at the same time, it is used shamelessly to make money – an enormous amount of money," she commented.

"But what was so interesting to me about making the movie was taking a look at America’s history with its relationship to sex and sexual behaviour, to see the history of that. Pre-Kinsey, post-Kinsey, now – and the schizophrenic relationship America has with sex."

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