May 2, 2005
SIECUS has been at the forefront of attacks on abstinence education this past year. Precious inches in mainstream newspapers have granted special privileges to claims by SIECUS that abstinence education is harming children.
Abstinence educators have used this as a positive opportunity to direct people to medically accurate information supporting their curricula as well as to research proving the successes of abstinence programs. Yet an obvious question remains. Who is SIECUS?
The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) had its official beginning in 1964. But its history is best understood by going back to the 50s when two influential people were stirring the beginnings of the American sexual revolution.
In 1948, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was published by Alfred Kinsey. It spent 43 weeks, just short of one year, on The New York Times bestseller’s list. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, followed in 1953.
At the publication of his books, Alfred Kinsey became a cultural icon validating virtually uninhibited sexual behaviors of all kinds. Only decades after his ideas had made their way into mainstream media and college courses did the truth about his so-called research come to light.
Fully documented today by reputable researchers, Kinsey has been shown to be a man driven by his own extreme sexual urges to rewrite definitions of healthy human sexual behavior by manipulating data and violating basic tenets of sound research. For a starter, to “prove” “open minded” acceptance of data, members of Kinsey’s staff were expected to engage in homosexual, adulterous and promiscuous sex. Things got worse.
Under Kinsey’s firm guidance, pedophiles were coached on how to record molestation of children, data from prostitutes was generalized to represent sexual behaviors of married women, and male data relied heavily upon prisoners including sex offenders. Still locked behind closed doors at Indiana University, this data was “analyzed” by a Kinsey team lacking any experience in statistics and has ever since been unavailable for independent analysis by outside experts.
As Americans were eagerly reading Kinsey, a New Yorker was building an enterprise that would change the face of America and sex forever. In 1953, Mary Calderone began work as medical director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Politically a libertarian, she pushed for non-judgmental attitudes about sex. In her preface to Sexuality and Human Values, a Siecus book she edited, Calderon had little good to say about religion, characterizing it as a “mythology” or “shibboleth” set “to hem sex in with attitudes and restrictions that prevent its full flowering.” She exhorted scientists and religionists to “make it possible for human beings to realize their erotic potential in full and responsible conscience.”
Given an emphasis on eroticism, it is not surprising that Calderone was also a strong advocate for abortion. Editor of Abortion in the United States (1958), she pleaded for years with the American Medical Association (AMA) to establish a Task Force Report and Resolution dealing with the responsibility of physicians to be a source of population control.
Kinsey and Calderone, each working to unlock “erotic potential” as the goal of normal sexual behavior absent the “repressive” norms of traditional morality and accommodated by legal abortion, needed only one thing to break the bonds of sexual restraint. It arrived in 1960.
Frank B. Colton, a biochemist with G.D. Searle and Company, directed research leading to the discovery of Enovid, the first oral contraceptive. In 1960, a drug supposedly designed to help married couples plan their families, leapt across this artificial barrier and exploded full force into the American culture.
Only four years after arrival of the birth control pill, SIECUS was born. Mary Calderone left her position with Planned Parenthood to become both the executive director and secretary of SIECUS. Wardell Pomeroy, co-author of the Kinsey books on sexual behavior, joined the group of founders on the SIECUS Board.
Given the history of the founders of SIECUS, it is no surprise to learn where their seed money came from. Years later Christie Hefner wrote, “Through the Playboy Foundation, Hefner put his money where his mouth was. It made the initial grant to establish an Office of Research Services” for SIECUS in the late 60s.
At its initial press conference on January 9, 1965, Mary Calderone stated SIECUS would “perhaps take positions on problems of sexuality in America.” Indeed, it did back then. And it does today.
If you want to understand the positions SIECUS takes today on abstinence education, there is no better way to illuminate their statements than with the light of Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and Mary Calderone. Like dominoes, in a predictable chain-reaction, one push toward “erotic potential” in 1964 has led today to an automatic reaction against abstinence.
Return next week to get a closer look at the ideas that formed SIECUS and defined the “erotic potential” at the core of its existence: SIECUS Redefines Humanity.
November 19, 2004: KINSEY: Brave New World?