Culture Rover

#55 - Kinsey and Elvis in 1956

Alfred Kinsey died in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1956. According to the recent film, Kinsey, the PBS documentary, and other sources, he was tired and defeated by the negative response to his study, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, which was published in 1953.

During those same years of the mid-1950s, a certain singer was forging a new style at Sun Studios in Memphis. Elvis Presley had his first national number one hit, "Heartbreak Hotel," in 1956.

Which leads me to wonder: Did Elvis accomplish on the vernacular level what Kinsey set out to achieve scientifically? Which was to begin to liberate Americans from sexual repression, misunderstandings, prudishness, and fear of the body.

It proved to be a limited liberation, but an important one, opening up a new place to dwell, where loneliness found its shared abode -- heartbreak hotel's sexual research interview room turned into hips swaying just below a television screen.

4 March 2005

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