Examining the '10%' Meme

Examining the ’10%’ MemeJerz’s Literacy Weblog)

Many of my students are thinking and talking about the gay marriage issue. Johanna Dreyfuss mentioned the “10%” statistic, citing the Kinsey report, via http://www.socal-glide.org/statistics.html.

I’ve encountered this statistic in student papers before, so I know that Kinsey didn’t actually claim that 10% of the population was gay. According to The Kinsey Institiute, “10% of males were more or less exclusively homosexual and 8% of males were exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55. For females, Kinsey reported a range of 2-6% for more or less exclusively homosexual experience/response.”

That’s not the same thing as saying 10% of the population is gay, but it’s much less quotable. Just like a student who has already written a research paper that defends his or her position, any advocacy groups looking for statistics to support their views will emphasize the evidence that supports their position best, and often completely ignore evidence that calls their convictions into question.

I haven’t read any of the Kinsey reports, but I am aware of the controversy over his research methods. In one study, he measured the number of ograsms that juvenile male subjects have during a timed period — and this study included children from age 14 to 5 months. One of Kinsey’s former associates says the research included collecting information from trained volunteers who had experience. Or, to give the same statement a shocking “spin” — that is, they worked over an extended period of time with pedophiles who used stopwatches to observe “partners” as young as 5 months.

Dr. Judith Reiseman writes,

Kinsey fathered not only the sexual revolution, as Hugh Hefner and others have said, but the homosexual revolution as well. Harry Hay gave Kinsey that credit when Hay read in 1948 that Kinsey found “10%” of the male population homosexual. Following the successful path of the Black Civil Rights movement, Hay, a long-time communist organizer, said 10% was a political force which could be melded into a “sexual minority” only seeking “minority rights.” With Kinsey as the wind in his sails, Hay formed the Mattachine Society.

But 26% (1,400) of Kinsey’s alleged 5,300 white male subjects were already “sex offenders.”[34] As far as the data can be established, an additional 25% were incarcerated prisoners; some numbers were big city “pimps,” “hold-up men,” “thieves;” roughly 4% were male prostitutes as well as sundry other criminals; and some hundreds of homosexual activists at various “gay bars” and other haunts from coast to coast.[35] This group of social outcasts and deviants were then redefined by the Kinsey team as representing your average “Joe College.” With adequate press and university publicity, the people believed what they were told by our respectable scientists, that mass sexual perversion was common nationwide-so our sex education and our laws must be changed to reflect Kinsey’s “reality.” –
Kinsey and the Homosexual Revolution

So… regardless of whether you agree that people found in gay bars are “social outcasts and deviants,” the study of 5300 white males included 26% who were “sexual offenders” and 25% who were “incarcerated prisoners”.

I’d have to read the study myself to determine whether Kisney would count a prisoner who is serving a jail term of three years, and who is raped by his fellow-prisoners on one occasion, would count as having sexual experiences that are “more or less exclusively homosexual” during that three-year period.

But look out — Dr. Reiseman is a professor of communication, she is not an expert in human sexuality; her area of expertise is not human sexuality, but how selected details of the Kinsey studies have been publicized by certain advocacy groups, to the point where nowadays few people bother to question them. She is president of “The Institute for Media Education,” and she writes books and gives talks on the subject of fraudulent sexuality studies; thus, she’s made a career out of debunking Kinsey’s research. Those details may affect how you accept the evidence she chooses to present, but you should be equally critical of the way people who support Kinsey’s claims present Kinsey’s research. (See www.drjudithreisman.org.)

No matter what your position on whatever issue, be skeptical of statistics that you hear someone cite on TV or that you find online. I think supporters of gay marriage should stay far away from the 10% statistic.