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The Gensis of Kinsey
On January 5, 1948, American culture was irrevocably changed. That's the day Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was published by the staid medical publisher, W.B. Saunders – and in a sense, it's the day America started talking about sex. The book became not only a runaway bestseller and media sensation, but the spark that would later ignite the sexual revolution of the 1960s and fuel the increasing sexual tolerance of the ensuing decades. At the time, Kinsey was dubbed the "American Freud” and compared with other great scientific pioneers like Galileo and Darwin.

Before Kinsey's book, one of the most vital elements of human behavior was simply not studied by serious researchers. Why, he wondered, were people so ignorant and silent about such a major aspect of human existence? Driven by a fierce curiosity, as well as a deep-seated emotional need, Kinsey opened up a new world of human exploration. After the publication of Kinsey's book, a nation awoke. Yet today, the questions that Kinsey raised – about why and especially how we pursue intimacy – are as controversial, compelling and relevant as ever.

This is why writer-director Bill Condon accepted the challenge posed by producer Gail Mutrux, who had been seeking the right filmmaker to develop the life and times of Alfred C. Kinsey. "Kinsey changed the way America thinks about sex and the way we talk about it, yet as a man he has mostly been forgotten,” explains Condon. "Behind all the breakthroughs and controversy, there was a basic idea that I'm not sure people heard too clearly at the time. Having spent twenty years collecting over a million gall wasps, Kinsey discovered that not one of these tiny creatures was identical to another. He took this biological concept of individual variation and applied it to human sexuality. It was Kinsey who first said that each person's sexual make-up is unique, and that therefore the term ‘normal' isn't relevant when dealing with human sexuality. There's only ‘common' or ‘rare.' It's still a radical notion today.”

The more Condon read about Kinsey, the more he realized that his drive to explore sex in a strictly scientific context also had an extremely personal dimension. In particular, Condon was struck by how these two aspects of Kinsey's psyche were inextricably linked. "A potential pitfall when making a biographical film is the tendency for the personal drama to overshadow the subject's accomplishments,” Condon observes. "An emphasis on private struggles and crises can diminish what caused the figure to merit public attention in the first place. What drew me to Alfred Kinsey was the intimate connection between his personal life and his scientific project.” As with James Whale, the subject of Condon's previous film, GODS AND MONSTERS, "Kinsey's life and work are really one and the same.”

In his lifetime, Kinsey was an extremely controversial figure, and he remains so today. But the filmmakers decided that the only way to approach this story was with a Kinsey-like attitude: utterly frank, inquisitive, and non-judgmental. "I've found that the film acts as a sort of litmus test for one's own ideas about sexuality,” says Condon. "Kinsey was a very complex man, in some way damaged beyond repair. I thought it was important to present it all, and let people form their own opinions.”

Condon spent over six months doing research, reading oral histories, Kinsey's own writings, related contemporary material and no less than four biographies, particularly Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy's acclaimed Sex The Measure of All Things: A Life of Alfred C. Kinsey. As Condon explains, "There's the official version of Kinsey's life, which is less interesting, and then there's the fascinating personal story that Jonathan was able to uncover.”

Condon also went to the Kinsey Institute in Indiana and interviewed scores of people<

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