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