The Inner Circle is a work of fiction that also includes some real facts about Alfred Kinsey, the man best known for the Kinsey Reports. The entirety of the book comes to the reader through the mind of a fictional character named John Milk. Author T.C. Boyle makes it very clear that John Milk is a fictional character and not a historical person.
As such, the entire book is given to the reader from a first-person viewpoint. John Milk has recently started college, and is asked by a women if he would “engage” her. The purpose wasn’t for marriage. It was so the two of them could attend a “Marriage Course” lecture given by Alfred Kinsey. Only those who were married, or intending to be married, would be allowed in. Allowing unmarried people in would have caused too much of a scandal.
In reality, what became known as the Kinsey Reports were considered incredibly controversial. The reason was likely because Alfred Kinsey (and those who helped him) were studying human sexuality. The group originally focused on asking men to answer a bunch of questions about their sex lives. Later, after “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” was published (in 1948), they started working on “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” (published in 1953).
In short, the story in this book comes directly from the main character. As such, he could be considered an unreliable narrator, because he only has access to his own thoughts and feelings. Eventually, his “faux engagement” ends – the woman decided to date someone else. John Milk starts working for Dr. Alfred Kinsey (who is called “Prok” in the book). John Milk ends up dating – and actually marrying – a woman named Iris.
It seems to me that the book is called The Inner Circle because it is the best way to describe how Alfred Kinsey, and his wife interacted with the men – and later their wives – who worked with “Prok” (and his wife Clara, called “Mac” in the book).
The Wikipedia page for this book says, The Inner Circle revolves around the tensions that are bound to arise if a small group of people deliberately abandons the traditional moral values with which they were raised in favor of an unconventional outlook on love, marriage, and sex. While Kinsey preaches that sex is nothing but a “hormonal function”, devoid of emotion, John Milk has extreme difficulty adjusting to this concept where his own wife – the young and beautiful Iris – is concerned.”
Another way to look at the The Inner Circle is that it mainly consisted of the young men that went to work with Alfred Kinsey. This group took interviews from men (and later, women) about their sex lives. It was information that was needed for the books that Kinsey wanted to publish.
I had already heard about Alfred Kinsey and his studies of human sexuality before I read The Inner Circle. Things that were considered controversial at the time, including that he and his assistants were collecting personal sexual histories of others, would likely not bother too many people today. At the time, though, what they were doing could have easily led to dangerous circumstances.
In the United States today, most schools provide at least some type of sexual education to students (based on what is appropriate for their age). The purpose is to ensure that young people have a basis to understand how and why their body is changing, why they are finding some of their peers to be attractive, how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy from happening.
Sadly, there are several “red states” in our country that have chosen to enact harmful laws that prevent young people from receiving credible sexual education, from accessing birth control, or from accessing abortion. Many, if not all, of those states are also enacting laws that are extraordinarily harmful to people who fit within LGBTQIA+ (which includes myself).
Some of those laws are now harming cis-gendered girls, who are accused of being trans girls (especially of those girls are good at sports). In addition, trans boys and men are being harmed because some of them have a uterus, and might one day require a hospital to give birth in, or to have an abortion.
Overall, I found The Inner Circle to be interesting, while keeping in mind that the majority of the characters in the book, and their choices, were entirely fictional. There are a lot of scenes where some form of sexuality is taking place, including amongst the Inner Circle families. There is a lot of emotional drama happening, especially when more than one of the members of the group falls in love with someone who is not their spouse.
The Inner Circle – by T.C. Boyle, is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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