The Inner Circle

I just finished reading T.C. Boyle’s The Inner Circle, and have to say that while I know it is a work of fiction, if Kinsey in real life was anything like the character in the book, then I’m a little put off by him personally. In the book he comes across as extremely pushy with regard to his closest colleagues, their wives and their collective sex lives. On the other hand, his all-consuming need to shed light on the sexual behavior of men and women is commendable if he was as zealous in real life as he was in the book, which seems to be true from the little I know about the real man.

I’m actually kicking myself in the ass because a friend of mine just spent the holidays in Bloomington. If I had thought about it sooner I would have asked her to get me copies of both Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Oh well, I’m sure I can order them online somewhere since I can’t seem to find an e-book version of the two reports anywhere.

Like I said, in The Inner Circle “Prok” has a disturbing obsession with coercing the three men who work with him and their wives into situations in order to help them get over their “sex shyness” for “the sake of the project.” Alright, often enough his inner circle willingly participates, but John Milk’s – the main character’s – wife in particular struggles to balance Prok’s forceful nature with her own boundaries. And other characters – including Prok’s wife Mac – at times give in to a sense of duty rather than any real desire to engage with Prok sexually in those particular moments.

My skin crawled on occasion while reading this book, but I would say that was probably the author’s intention. He also did a great job recreating the world in which Kinsey and his colleagues were conducting their study. Reading about how closed off America was sexually, how deep into the dark and into the world of crime it forced some sexual acts, it almost seems to be the natural conclusion that Prok had to push his colleagues as far as he did in their personal lives. But only almost—at least in my opinion.

Though at times slow, I found myself unable to put this book down. If you haven’t already read  it, it’s worth it just to see how different the world in which we live differs from that of America from the end of the 1930s to the beginning of the 50s—and that in more ways than just sexually.

And if anyone has recommendations for good books about the real Dr. Sex, send them my way, please!

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