And other cosmic preoccupations
by Tristan Dickison, staff writer
The dust from World War II settled, its scenes of death sprawled over many nations, and a man in Indiana named Alfred Kinsey turned his attention to le petit mort, or the “little death” responsible for life. Kinsey, a zoologist and university professor, wanted to know how we do it. He wanted to track the ins and outs of human sexuality and to witness it firsthand with all the detached and objective observation he could muster without springing a boner.
It was a slap in the face of Romanticism. Before Kinsey came along, this piece of the human condition had remained in the dark of the bedroom. Previous scientists were either too bashful to investigate or thought such a study impossible. After all, what kind of objective information could describe a ritual springing from our own finicky and irrational desires? Kinsey didn’t know either. But that didn’t stop him from watching one shag after another until he had his “Kinsey Scale” of sexual orientation properly calibrated. This scale ranged from a fully hetero zero to a totally homo six. Wikipedia suggests that Kinsey himself was a vigorous, scandalous three.
Students at Colorado College, like those at the Kinsey Institute, enjoy both academic and literal penetration. Where else but college exists a nexus of newly-independent people eager to learn and in their biological prime? At my high school, the first kids to get laid were also the first to drop out. At CC, kids can be good at both school and sex. Some of us perform better in one area or the other. But I get the feeling that there’s plenty of overlap.
And this way of life extends beyond college students. Humans are capable of performing brain surgery, exploring the ocean floor, and engineering space shuttles—only to go home at night and lick each others’ asses. At night, even a shrewd scientist like Kinsey shook off his lab coat, fixed a scotch on the rocks, and then surrendered to the same primal forces he pursued in the lab. College students also explore, hypothesize, refute, and revise. But at some point our work is finished, and so we close our books to obey our inner animal.
As a CC student, I find myself pitched between two worlds—of the Mind and of the Flesh. Each school year I learn more, and my mind grows sharper. Yet I find the rapturous World of the Flesh (alas!) unknowable. There is no formal education on talking to girls, no foolproof way to keep from acting foolish. Desire is a neurosis. It warps an otherwise functional relationship between two rational, well-meaning people. Desire supercharges them toward and against each other, it intoxicates and distracts them.
In the World of the Flesh, I try to learn, only to end up with my flashcards strewn about me, banging my head against the study carrel. When I feel most alone, I like to remind myself that all of us (even the illustrious Mr. Kinsey) are tugged between these worlds. Our supreme intelligence cannot, will not, deliver us from the animal kingdom.