Alfred Kinsey, the famous sex researcher, had a rule for those who conducted his intimate questionnaires. Don’t ask: “Have you ever had sex with a goat?” he instructed. Always say instead: “When was the last time you had sex with a goat?” Or: “How often do you have sex with goats?” These formulations eliminated the element of shame, he explained, and allowed the interviewee to assume, at the outset, that anything might be considered normal.
I’ve often thought about this principle in relation to journalism – we tend to frame questions, unwittingly, in ways that can be off-putting to the interviewee – but I’ve never had an opportunity to ask Kinsey’s exact question outright. Now, here before me in a north London restaurant, is Damian Lewis, soon to appear in the West End in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?. He is on his lunch break from playing a man who confesses to his wife that...
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