The Daily Agenda for Thursday, January 5
January 5th, 2012
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Kinsey’s “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” Released: 1948. The dry, scientific, statistics-laden Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was published by W.B. Saunders, a respected publisher of medical textbooks and journals who had no idea what they were getting into when they agreed to publish this book. Their experience was with a limited customer base where a run of 5,000 copies was considered a huge success. W.B. Saunders ended up publishing a quarter of a million copies during that first year instead.
The only person who wasn’t surprised by the runaway success of what became known simply as “The Kinsey Report” was Alfred Kinsey himself. He and his colleagues had spent the previous nine years interviewing nearly 12,000 people across the country, asking them questions covering more than five hundred details of their intimate, sexual lives. When the book was finally published, America was emerging from the frugality that marked the Great Depression and World War II, full of economic and cultural vitality and itching to settle down in their Levittown houses and start making thousands of babies. The Kinsey Reports quickly entered popular culture along with Tiki-chic, bachelor pads, and a huge post-war baby boom. Sex was breaking out all over, and “Kinsey” became a popular code-word for anything risque. It also introduced millions of Americans to the notion that gay people — and a lot of other people as well — have gay sex. Now more than sixty years later, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (and its companion volume, 1953’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female) are still the books that everyone loves — especially those who have never read them. They are also the books that social conservatives love to hate, blaming them for sparking the sexual revolution of the 1960′s. For more information about the book’s impact, you can check out our report, “According To The Kinsey Reports,” which was written on the occasion of the book’s sixtieth anniversary.
Alvin Ailey, Jr.: 1931. It can be said that Alvin Ailey singlehandedly elevated African-American dance from popular steps to modern art. It’s hard to imagine African-American modern dance with without his Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, even though he was always proud of the fact that his dance company was integrated. Ailey combined modern dance with classical styles, bringing together a long, unbroken leg line (“a ballet bottom”) and a dramatically expressive upper torso (“a modern top”). “What I like is the line and technical range that classical ballet gives to the body. But I still want to project to the audience the expressiveness that only modern dance offers, especially for the inner kinds of things,” he once explained. His signature work, Revelations, drew on his memories of his early childhood in Texas, combining elements of blues, spirituals, and gospel music with a thoroughly modern choreography. His 1970 American Ballet Theatre commission, The River, had the ABT’s ballet company employing classical dance styles with the music of Duke Ellington.
Ailey was openly gay, a fact which caused tensions between him and his mother. When he was dying of AIDS in 1989, he asked his doctor to announce that he had died of a blood disorder to spare his mother the social stigma of dying from AIDS. Considering the many barriers that Ailey smashed to smithereens during the course of his career in dance, his final act stands as a sad anomaly. And yet his work endures. His dance troupe carries on his legacy through performances, commissions and in providing higher education to dance students through The Ailey School.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?