KINSEY, ALFRED C.
KIRKENDALL, LESTER A.
KRAFFT-EBING, RICHARD VON
The Kinsey Reports
The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction
With his two studies on male and female sexual behavior, Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894–1956) brought sex "out of the closet" and launched the modern era of sex research, influencing our sexual thinking as no one had since Freud. To a public discourse characterized by ignorance and hypocrisy, Kinsey brought straightforward sexual language and facts.
Kinsey's name became a household word overnight with the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948. This volume was followed in 1953 by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. The landmark Kinsey reports, written for the academic and medical communities, quickly became best-sellers. They provided the general public for the first time with broadly based, systematically gathered, detailed descriptive data on American sexual practices.
The Kinsey reports generated a storm of public controversy. A vocal minority reviled the studies as an attack on American values because of their frank discussions of premarital sex, homosexuality, masturbation, and extramarital sex. Kinsey's fight for the right to investigate sexual behavior stands as a milestone in the battle for academic freedom. In papers found after his death, Kinsey had written, "There is hardly another area in human biology or in sociology in which the scientist has had to fight for his right to do research, as he has when he has attempted to acquire a scientific understanding of human sexual behavior."
The man who provoked this furor lived in America's heartland; he was a zoologist by training who specialized in the taxonomic study of gall wasps, a family man, the father of four, and a gardener whose irises were a southern Indiana legend. Born June 12, 1894, in Hoboken, New Jersey, Kinsey developed his love of nature early. An avid Boy Scout, he was one of the first in the United States to attain Eagle rank. In high school, he collected botanical specimens as a hobby, then studied biology at Bowdoin College, graduating magna cum laude in 1916. After receiving his doctorate from Harvard University in 1919, Kinsey accepted a position in zoology at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he remained throughout his career. During the next 20 years, Kinsey established a solid academic reputation for his biology texts and his research in taxonomy and evolution. In 1937, American Men of Science listed him as one of their "starred" scientists.
The beginnings of Kinsey's sex research can be traced back to 1938, when the Indiana University Association of Women Students petitioned the university to inaugurate a noncredit course on marriage; Kinsey was asked to coordinate the course and to deliver the lectures on the biological aspects of sex and marriage. The course was an immediate success—enrollment quadrupled during the first two years.
To prepare for his lectures, Kinsey went to the library to search for data. The little he found either was primarily derived from case or small clinical studies or was largely opinion based. Consequently, midway in his academic career, Kinsey turned the energy with which he had amassed a collection of more than five million gall wasps and documented their individual variations toward an area basically unexplored: human sexual behavior in all its individual and group variations.
At first, Kinsey collected data from the students attending the marriage class, then from other students and faculty, and later from almost anyone he could persuade to be interviewed. He developed an interview of 350 questions, the answers to which were encoded to maintain strict confidentiality. Kinsey traveled at his own expense on weekends from Bloomington to other midwestern cities extending his sample to different socioeconomic groups. Without any formal training, he was a master of the face-to-face interview, empathetic and nonjudgmental; approximately 8,000 of the more than 17,000 interviews eventually gathered between 1938 and 1956 were conducted by Kinsey himself.
In 1940, President Herman B Wells of Indiana University, facing pressure from some members of the community and political leaders concerning Kinsey's sex research and his continued teaching of the marriage course, asked Kinsey to choose between the two projects. To the surprise of nearly everyone, Kinsey abandoned the research for which he was renowned and the course that had made him the most popular professor at Indiana University. Kinsey's decision was to dedicate himself to the collection of sexual case histories. He wrote to a colleague that the difficulty of unearthing the facts about human sexual behavior "is one of the things that leads me on."
By the following year, Kinsey's research had attracted the financial support of the National Research Council's Committee for Research in the Problems of Sex, at that time funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. This external funding enabled Kinsey to assemble a multidisciplinary research team and expand his fieldwork. The core of that team was Clyde Martin, Kinsey's student assistant, who became a full-time associate in 1941; Wardell Pomeroy, a clinical psychologist, who joined the group in 1943; and Paul Gebhard, an anthropologist, hired in 1946.
As the number of interviews grew into the thousands, the Institute for Sex Research was established in 1947 as a separate, nonprofit organization, in large part to protect the confidentiality of the sex histories.
In 1948, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, the product often years' research, was released by W.B. Saunders, a publisher of medical texts. No one anticipated that Kinsey's dry, academic study would have an audience beyond physicians and scientists. It sold more than 250,000 copies, was translated into a dozen languages, and was distributed worldwide. Only the Communist bloc countries, Ireland, and South Africa banned it.
Five years later, the Institute released its second volume, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. It also sold more than 250,000 copies and was translated widely. Though generally well received by the scientific community, the book caused a furor in the press, among some clergy, and in the U.S. Congress. In the House of Representatives, Congressman Carroll Reece of Tennessee had formed a committee to investigate tax-exempt foundations and their support of un-American activities. The Committee targeted the Rockefeller Foundation for, among other things, its support of the Institute for Sex Research. One member of Congress commented that anyone who studied the sexual behavior of Americans was paving the way for a Communist takeover of the United States. By mid-1954, the Rockefeller Foundation, in an effort to deflect such pressures, withdrew its financial support of the Institute's work as well as other sex-related research. In a move coinciding with this attack, the U.S. Customs Service began seizing shipments of sexual materials to the Institute.
The stress of coping with the press, the conservative backlash, the need to raise funds if the Institute was to continue its work, and Kinsey's normal 13- to 14-hour work days, all took their toll. Although he developed symptoms of cardiovascular disease, Kinsey did not slow down. He died of cardiac failure following pneumonia on August 25, 1956, at age 62.
Though at this writing it has been more than 40 years since the first Kinsey report was published, Kinsey's studies are still the most widely known and cited works on human sexual behavior. For national estimates on sexual behavior the National Academy of Science's 1986 report on AIDS cited the Kinsey studies and Gagnon and Simon's reanalysis of Kinsey's data.
The studies challenged many widely accepted myths about sexual behavior in American society and thus were highly controversial. Kinsey asked detailed questions about sexual behaviors considered by many to be taboo—extramarital sex, same-sex interactions, bisexual behavior, oral sex, masturbation, and prostitution. Kinsey was not concerned with a cultural-religious or psychoanalytic view of sexual "normality." His primary purpose was to describe the individual and group variations in human sexual behavior from an empirical biological and taxonomic perspective. He did this by looking at the prevalence and frequency of six different "outlets" to orgasm (i.e., masturbation, petting, nocturnal dreams, heterosexual coitus, homosexual responses and contacts, and contacts with animals) and related each outlet to factors of age, educational level, marital status, occupation, decade of birth, and religion.
The most startling of Kinsey's data related to female sexuality, the extent of male homosexuality, and the prevalence of masturbation. At that time, few Americans were prepared for Kinsey's finding that women were interested in sex for more than procreative purposes. To the surprise and shock of many, the data indicated that females are as capable of sexual response and orgasm as males. Half the women interviewed said they had not been virgins when they married, and one-quarter reported they had engaged in extramarital sex.
The view of homosexuality began to change after Kinsey's findings that a third of males and 13 percent of females reported at least one same-sex experience to the point of orgasm by age 45, that approximately 10 percent of male respondents were predominantly homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55, and that 4 percent of white males were exclusively homosexual. Kinsey's research challenged the accepted mutually exclusive categories of homosexual and heterosexual, which did not accurately reflect the complexities of the behavior he found. In Kinsey's words, "The living world is a continuum... the sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex." He developed a seven-point scale with exclusively heterosexual behavior at one end (0) and exclusively homosexual behavior at the other (6). Throughout a lifetime, a person's pattern of sexual behavior could change. Other data conflicted strongly with traditional views about the rarity and danger of masturbation among normal adults, since more than 90 percent of males and 62 percent of females reported having masturbated.
Kinsey was a pioneer in applying social science techniques to the documentation of sexual behavior. He believed that high refusal rates would result among prospective interviewees if a probability sample was attempted. He developed instead his taxonomic methodology, which involved the collection of a large number of diverse case histories (his original goal was 100,000). This strategy, he believed, would result in a reasonably representative sample. Kinsey attempted to compensate for volunteer bias by obtaining sexual histories from 100 percent of a given organization or group. About one-quarter of the total sample was obtained from these 100 percent groups.
The final male and female samples are most accurately characterized as representing white, middle class, college-educated Americans under 35 years of age. Although Kinsey's sample—gathered when sampling theory was not as developed as it is now and today's sophisticated computers were not available—cannot fairly be compared to current research, no study has yet been conducted that matches the immensity of his effort, either in the size of the sample or in the meticulousness and depth of the interviewing by highly trained personnel.
The Kinsey Institute's history has mirrored America's changing attitudes toward sexuality and sex research from mid-century through the McCarthy era, the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. The Institute for Sex Research was established in 1947 at the suggestion of Herman B Wells, then president of Indiana University, as a nonprofit corporation, separate from but closely affiliated with Indiana University. It was President Wells's conviction regarding the need to protect the confidentiality of the sex histories and the ownership of the library and art collections that provided the impetus for the Institute. Kinsey sold the art and library materials he had begun gathering in support of his research to the fledgling Institute for one dollar.
When support from the National Research Council was withdrawn due to pressure from Congress, Kinsey was forced to spend the royalties from the first two reports, funds with which he had planned to establish an endowment for the Institute, to continue the research. After Kinsey's death and the public controversy of the early 1950s, the Institute, under the leadership of Paul Gebhard, sought a lower profile while continuing to maintain a program of research and publication.
The focus turned from data collection to continued analysis of the almost 18,000 interviews gathered. In 1957, the Institute's legal battle with U.S. Customs, led by Harriet Pilpel, a prominent American Civil Liberties Union and First Amendment lawyer, ended with the landmark decision United States v. 31 Photographs, which gave the Institute the right to import erotic materials for scientific research purposes. The Institute's library continued to grow during this period, and the collections were subsequently opened to qualified scholars.
Out of the Institute's unique data base and rich archives came studies by both Institute staff and outside scholars on reproduction, sex offenders, sexual development, erotic art, and Victorian sexual culture. The publications produced under Institute auspices during this period continued to dispel myths about sexual behavior. Pregnancy, Birth, and Abortion (1958) reported that 10 percent of women were pregnant before marriage, and three-fourths of those had induced abortions (of which only 6.4 percent were legal therapeutic abortions). Sex Offenders: An Analysis of Types (1965) provided evidence that most exhibitionists are not physically dangerous and most voyeurs are not incipient rapists.
In the early 1970s, with grant support from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Institute launched major research studies on homosexuality and America's sexual norms. The culminating study from this era was Alan Bell and Martin Weinberg's Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women (1978), which revealed the tremendous range of behaviors, lifestyles, and attitudes evident in gay men and lesbians. One of the more influential findings was that psychological problems were no more prevalent among homosexual men and women than in the population as a whole.
The Institute also assumed during the 1970s a key support role for the field of sexology, publishing a directory of sex research, a thesaurus of sexual nomenclature, catalogs of its social science materials, a sex studies index, and bibliographies from its collections. From 1970 to 1977, funding from NIMH supported the operation of an Information Services desk to handle requests about the research and resources of the Institute.
At Gebhard's retirement, an international search by the Institute's board of trustees led to the appointment in 1982 of June Machover Reinisch, a developmental biopsychologist trained at Columbia University, as director. In accordance with the mandate of the Institute's board and the University's administration, and in consultation with the new Science Advisory Board, the Institute's research program was expanded to include biomedical and psychobiological issues. The Institute was renamed the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction to honor its founder and to reflect its broadened research and educational missions.
Since 1982, research on sexual and psycho-sexual development has been a major scientific focus, brought to the Institute by Reinisch. Two long-term studies are examining the behavioral consequences for offspring of maternal medical treatment with hormones and drugs during pregnancy. These projects have been funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The completed data base will represent the largest ever compiled in this area and will serve as a rich resource for many subsequent investigations.
The Institute continues its commitment to sexual behavior research. Because by the mid-1980s most of the research on the behavioral aspects of the AIDS crisis focused on gay men, the Institute began to study the high-risk sexual behavior of women. Two subsequent studies (1988 and 1991) have investigated the sexual behavior patterns of midwestern university students that place them at greatest risk for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The results showed that substantial numbers of college-age individuals are having unprotected vaginal and anal intercourse with multiple partners. Nearly one-third of the university women and one-fifth of the men in the 1991 survey had been infected with at least one STD. In 1989, the Institute tested a nationally representative sample of Americans on their knowledge of sexual behavior and health, contraception, and reproductive issues. Questions were designed to reflect the thousands of letters the Institute received each year from the general public. Fifty-five percent of those sampled were unable to answer half the questions. Half the respondents thought that a person can get AIDS by having anal intercourse even if neither partner is infected with the AIDS virus. Only 5 percent knew that there are over-the-counter spermicides containing Nonoxynol-9 that have been shown in laboratory tests to kill the AIDS virus and many other STD organisms. The results demonstrated the persistence in our society of many myths and misconceptions about sexuality and reproduction, as well as the lack of basic sexual knowledge on the part of Americans in all age groups, educational levels, and socioeconomic strata.
The Institute is committed to disseminating its research to the scientific community. To date, more than 228 books, articles, and chapters have been published under Institute auspices. Recently, the Kinsey Institute Series has published Masculinity/Femininity, Adolescence and Puberty, Homosexuality/Heterosexuality, and AIDS and Sex, based on interdisciplinary research symposia convened by the Institute since 1983 and attended by experts from both the United States and abroad. Sex and Morality in the U.S., a study of Americans' attitudes and behavior begun in 1970 but whose findings were still valuable in the context of the AIDS crisis, was published in 1989.
Given that most scientific research is supported to a great extent by public funds, the Institute, under the direction of its trustees, has felt a responsibility to seek ways to provide the general public with research-based information. The first step in this direction was the creation of an Information Services Department in the 1970s. Since 1984, the Institute has produced an internationally syndicated newspaper column, "The Kinsey Report," to respond to the public's questions. During its nine years of thrice-weekly publication in newspapers around the world, more than 2,900 questions have been answered about sexual health, sexual behavior, and reproduction, using the most accurate and current research data available from scientists and scholars worldwide. In addition, the Institute produced its first book designed as a resource for the general public. The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex: What You Must Know to Be Sexually Literate, published in 1990, became the Institute's third best-seller. It has been translated into Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Polish, and Spanish and has also appeared in a British edition.
Underlying and supporting the Institute's research and educational outreach programs is its collection of more than 80,000 print items, 7,800 films and videotapes, 25,000 photographs, 28,500 art objects and artifacts, and various data archives. Institute monies derived from fund-raising projects, book royalties, and private donations, but not targeted for research purposes, support acquisitions. No public funds are ever spent to acquire erotic materials for the collections.
The Institute relies to a great extent on gifts of erotica and other materials related to human sexuality, gender, and reproduction. These gifts come from donors and patrons across the United States and around the world. As in the case of all contacts between the public and the Institute, strict confidentiality of donor names is maintained when requested.
Although various collections address particular aspects of human sexuality, the Institute's archives have the unique aim of making available to scholars the variety of literary, scientific, artistic, and popular-ephemeral materials encompassing all aspects of human sexuality from all times, places, and cultures. The variety of materials and forms testifies to humankind's universal fascination with sex and the diversity and similarity of sexual behavior and attitudes around the world and throughout history. The collections include elegant erotic scrolls from the Far East; ancient Peruvian funerary pottery depicting sexual activity; erotic early-to-mid-20th-century comic books known as 8-pagers; popularized accounts of 18th- and 19th-century adultery trials; nudist magazines; still photographs dating from 1855; one of the largest collections of prints and photographs by George Plait Lynes; a valuable collection of Japanese Shunga wood-block prints, including works by Hokusai (1760–849) and Kunisada (1786–865); erotic literary classics and first editions; original biographical materials; art by world-class artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, Henri Matisse, Pavel Tchelitchew, Auguste Renoir, and Leonor Fini, by children, by prisoners, and by psychiatric patients; and films, dating from 1911 that include "blue" movies and footage of mammalian sexual behavior.
Since the mid-1980s steps have been taken to improve the Institute's ability to store, preserve, and make accessible to scholars its unique and valuable collections. By 1988, library staff had increased threefold. Renovations in the latter half of the 1980s added a new art gallery, climate controls for the library stacks, and more than doubled storage space for print materials, the art collections, and visiting patrons. Recently, the Institute's library staff began putting a portion of its catalog on-line. With this project, the Institute's computer data base will become accessible to scholars worldwide through Internet. Use of the collections will continue to be limited, as directed by the 1957 court ruling, to qualified scholars, researchers, professionals, media representatives, and college students with bona fide research projects.
As its focus has expanded and been updated over the nearly four decades since Kinsey's death, the Institute has kept faith with its founder's vision to demythologize sex through research, scholarship, and education, so that individuals can be better equipped to make decisions based on information rather than on ignorance or prejudice.
Kinsey, A.F., W.D. Pomeroy, and C.E. Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1948.
Kinsey, A.F., W.D. Pomeroy, C.E. Martin, and P.H. Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1953.
Bancroft, J., and J.M. Reinisch, eds. Adolescence and Puberty. Kinsey Institute Series. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990.
Bell, A.P., and M.S. Weinberg. Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978.
Christenson, C.V. Kinsey: A Biography. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1971.
Cochran, W.G., F. Mosteller, and J.W. Tukey. Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report. Journal of the American Statistical Association, Vol. 48 (1953), pp. 673–716.
Gagnon, J., and W. Simon. Sexual Conduct: The Social Sources of Human Sexuality. Chicago: Aldine, 1973.
Gebhard, P.H., and A.B. Johnson. The Kinsey Data: Marginal Tabulations of the 1938–1963 Interviews Conducted by the Institute for Sex Research. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1979.
Gebhard, P.H., et al. Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion. New York: Harper Brothers, 1958.
Gebhard, P.H., et al. Sex Offenders: An Analysis of Types. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.
Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences. Confronting AIDS: Directions for Public Health, Health Care, and Research. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1986.
Klassen, A.D., C.J. Williams, and E.E. Levitt. Sex and Morality in the U.S.: An Empirical Enquiry Under the Auspices of the Kinsey Institute. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1989.
McWhirter, D.P., S.A. Sanders, and J.M. Reinisch, eds. Homosexuality/Heterosexuality: Concepts of Sexual Orientation. Kinsey Institute Series. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990.
Pomeroy, W.B. Dr. Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
Reinisch, J.M., with R. Beasley. The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex: What You Must Know to Be Sexually Literate. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.
Reinisch, J.M., C.A. Hill, S.A. Sanders, and M. Ziemba-Davis. Sexual Behavior Among Heterosexual College Students. Focus: A Guide to AIDS Research and Counseling, Vol. 5, No. 4 (1990), p. 3.
Reinisch, J.M., L.A. Rosenblum, and S.A. Sanders, eds. Masculinity/Femininity: Basic Perspectives. Kinsey Institute Series. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990.
Robinson, P. The Modernization of Sex. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.
Voeller, B., J.M. Reinisch, and M. Gottlieb, eds. AIDS: An Integrated Biomedical and Biobehavioral Approach. Kinsey Institute Series. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990.
Weinberg, M.S., ed. Sex Research: Studies from the Kinsey Institute. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1976.
June Machover Reinisch
Margaret H. Harter
Lester Kirkendall (1903-1991) was a pioneer in the field of sexuality education. Born November 15, 1903, Kirkendall received his doctorate from Teacher's College, Columbia University, in 1935. During his early career as an elementary and high school teacher and as a school administrator, Kirkendall often provided informal counseling to his pupils, especially to boys with sexual concerns. This experience was the basis for his first book, Sex Adjustment in Young Men (1940), and for his subsequent specialization in sex education, a field in which he became a genuine innovator.
Kirkendall established himself as a sexuality and family life educator and was the first in the United States to teach college-level courses on human sexuality, at Oregon State University in 1960. During this period, he contributed significantly to sex research with his landmark interview study, Premarital Intercourse and Interpersonal Relations (1961). Kirkendall retired from teaching in 1969.
With Mary Calderone in 1964, Lester Kirkendall was cofounder of the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), which was dedicated to promoting sexuality education, supporting the study of human sexuality, and increasing sex education in schools. Kirkendall held many prestigious organizational positions, such as vice president of SIECUS and member of its board of directors, vice president of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), and charter member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex (SSSS).
Kirkendall wrote and edited more than 13 books on sexuality and sex education, outstanding among them A New Bill of Sexual Rights and Responsibilities (1976), which was endorsed by approximately 40 authorities in the field of sex education. He wrote more than 300 articles and was associate editor of eight publications, including Sexology, the Journal of Sex Research, and Sexual Digest.
Kirkendall received numerous awards for his unique and humane approach to sex education, including the American Humanist Association's Humanist of the Year award, the World Congress on Sexuality's International Award for Promoting Sexuality Education, and the SSSS 1984 Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Human Sexuality. Lester Kirkendall died in May, 1991 at the age of 87.
Kirkendall, L.A. Education for Marriage and Family Living. In F. Zeran, ed., Life Adjustment Education in Action. New York: Chartwell House, 1953.
Kirkendall, L.A. A New Bill of Sexual Rights and Responsibilities. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1976.
Kirkendall, L.A. Premarital Intercourse and Interpersonal Relations. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 1961.
Kirkendall, L.A., and A. Gravatt, eds. Marriage and the Family in the Year 2020. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1990.
Leah Cahan Schaefer
Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840–1902) was one of the founders of modern sexology. His major work in the field was Psychopathia Sexualis, originally published in 1886. It went through many editions and there are three translations of the work into English.
Krafft-Ebing was born on August 14, 1840, in Mannheim, Germany, the eldest of four children in an aristocratic family. He inherited the tide of freiherr ("baron"). His grandfather on his mother's side was a prominent Heidelberg lawyer with whom he lived while attending the University of Heidelberg. This arrangement was probably a factor in his developing interest in medical forensics. After further study in Switzerland, Krafft-Ebing was appointed professor of psychiatry at Strasbourg, and subsequently he occupied similar positions at Graz and Vienna. In addition to his teaching and research, he served as a psychiatric consultant to the German and Austrian courts as well as in other countries.
Though Krafft-Ebing's beliefs and teaching have been called an "unmitigated disaster" for sex research, he, more than anyone else in that period, made sex research respectable. He was, however, very much a man of his own time, and few researchers today would subscribe to his explanations for various forms of sexual behavior. His terminology, such as sadism and masochism, nevertheless, remains part of the modern vocabulary.
Krafft-Ebing married late in life and had two sons and a daughter. He died on December 22, 1902, near Graz, Austria.
Krafft-Ebing, R. von. Psychopathia Sexualis. Translated from the 7th enlarged edition by C.G. Chaddock. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis, 1894.
Brecher, E.M. The Sex Researchers. Boston: Little, Brown, 1959.
Vern L. Bullough