The new prude

I am trying not to get too drawn into the “pornography good? pornography bad?” debate for the Cyberporn class, though it will naturally be unavoidable. Don’t get me wrong: I think media have effects on how we think and act, and so certain kinds of pornographic or erotic content is bound to have negative social effects. But I’m also very pro-sex, and have trouble with some of the ideas that get tied up with the anti-porn crusades.

A reader who prefers to remain anonymous recently alerted me to an article in the New Yorker that discussed some of the issues surrounding the new Kinsey film.

A sixty-nine-year-old independent researcher with a Ph.D. in communications and a former songwriter for Captain Kangaroo, Reisman is the president of the Institute for Media Education and the lead author of “Kinsey, Sex and Fraud” and “Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences.” In one article, Reisman describes Kinsey as “a scientific and moral fraud, a certifiable sexual psychopath as well as a sadomasochistic pornography addict and a sexually harassing bully.” Though largely unknown outside social-conservative circles, Reisman has been influential within them. She has served as a consultant to the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and was given seven hundred and thirty-four thousand dollars by Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department to study pornography. More recently, she has been active in the rise of abstinence-only education; in June, her colleagues gave her an Abstie Award for lifetime achievement. Last week, Reisman testified at a congressional hearing about the dangers of pornography addiction, saying that police should be required to collect evidence of pornography consumption at any crime scene.


Reisman also endorses a book called “The Pink Swastika,” which challenges the “myths” that gays were victimized in Nazi Germany. The Nazi Party and the Holocaust itself, she writes, were largely the creation of “the German homosexual movement.” Thanks to Alfred Kinsey, she warns, the American homosexual movement is poised to repeat those crimes. “Idealistic ‘gay youth’ groups are being formed and staffed in classrooms nationwide by recruiters too similar to those who formed the original ‘Hitler youth.’”

This opinion goes way off the deep end of rational debate. Nonetheless, she has the ear of policy-makers. And that’s not surprising. The anti-gay marriage amendments have legitimized the forcible re-closeting of gays, and given voice to ever-more extreme bigotry. Take, for example, state senator Gerald Allen of Alabama:

Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

“I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them,” he said.

What strange and unenlightened times we live in. And what is the responsibility of a university in such times?

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One Comment

  1. The Mad Historian
    Posted 12/5/2004 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    As your mom, I commend you on your pro-sex attitude; after all, in some sense, sex got you where you are today.

    As a historian and as a human (notice which is first!) I too am dismayed by Reisman’s remarks.

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