|Originally published 1948|
|Similar Alfred Kinsey books, Other books|
The Kinsey Reports are two books on human sexual behavior: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), written by Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and others and published by Saunders. Kinsey was a zoologist at Indiana University and the founder of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction (more widely known as the Kinsey Institute).
- Sexual orientation
- Kinsey scale
- Marital coitus
- Context and significance
Sexual Behavior in the Human Female was based on personal interviews with approximately 6,000 women. Kinsey analyzed data for the frequency with which women participate in various types of sexual activity and looked at how factors such as age, social-economic status and religious adherence influence sexual behavior. Comparisons are made of female and male sexual activities. Kinsey's evidence suggested that women were less sexually active than men.
The publications were immediately controversial among the general public. The findings caused shock and outrage, both because they challenged conventional beliefs about sexuality and because they discussed subjects that had previously been taboo.
Kinsey's methodology used to collect data has received criticism. It has been suggested that some data in the reports could not have been obtained without collaborations with child molesters. The Kinsey Institute denies this charge, though it acknowledges that men who have had sexual experiences with children were interviewed, with Kinsey balancing what he saw as the need for their anonymity to solicit "honest answers on such taboo subjects" against the likelihood that their crimes would continue. Additionally, concerns over the sample populations used were later addressed by the Kinsey Institute. The conclusion of the Kinsey Institute was that none of Kinsey's original estimates were significantly affected by these data sources.
Parts of the Kinsey Reports regarding diversity in sexual orientations are frequently used to support the common estimate of 10% for homosexuality in the general population. However, the findings are not as absolute, and Kinsey himself avoided and disapproved of using terms like homosexual or heterosexual to describe individuals, asserting that sexuality is prone to change over time, and that sexual behavior can be understood both as physical contact as well as purely psychological phenomena (desire, sexual attraction, fantasy). Instead of three categories (heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual), a seven-point Kinsey scale system was used.
The reports also state that nearly 46% of the male subjects had "reacted" sexually to persons of both sexes in the course of their adult lives, and 37% had at least one homosexual experience. 11.6% of white males (ages 20–35) were given a rating of 3 (about equal heterosexual and homosexual experience/response) throughout their adult lives. The study also reported that 10% of American males surveyed were "more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55" (in the 5 to 6 range).
7% of single females (ages 20–35) and 4% of previously married females (ages 20–35) were given a rating of 3 (about equal heterosexual and homosexual experience/response) on Kinsey Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale for this period of their lives. 2 to 6% of females, aged 20–35, were more or less exclusively homosexual in experience/response, and 1 to 3% of unmarried females aged 20–35 were exclusively homosexual in experience/response.
Academic criticisms were made pertaining to sample selection and sample bias in the reports' methodology. This was despite the fact that Kinsey sought to work on a more 'complete' report that would have involved 100000 interviews and that the initial 1948 publication was merely considered by him to be a sample progress report. Two main problems cited were that significant portions of the samples come from prison populations and male prostitutes, and that people who volunteer to be interviewed about taboo subject are likely to suffer from the problem of self-selection. Both undermine the usefulness of the sample in terms of determining the tendencies of the overall population. In 1948, the same year as the original publication, a committee of the American Statistical Association, including notable statisticians such as John Tukey, condemned the sampling procedure. Tukey was perhaps the most vocal critic, saying, "A random selection of three people would have been better than a group of 300 chosen by Mr. Kinsey." Psychologist Abraham Maslow asserted that Kinsey did not consider "volunteer bias". The data represented only those volunteering to participate in discussion of taboo topics. Most Americans were reluctant to discuss the intimate details of their sex lives even with their spouses and close friends. Before the publication of Kinsey's reports, Maslow tested Kinsey's volunteers for bias. He concluded that Kinsey's sample was unrepresentative of the general population. In 1954, leading statisticians, including William Gemmell Cochran, Frederick Mosteller, John Tukey, and W. O. Jenkins issued for the American Statistical Association a critique of Kinsey’s 1948 report on the human male, stating:
“Critics are justified in their objections that many of the most interesting and provocative statements in the [Kinsey 1948] book are not based on the data presented therein, and it is not made clear to the reader on what evidence the statements are based. Further, the conclusions drawn from data presented in the book are often stated by KPM [Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin] in much too bold and confident a manner. Taken cumulatively, these objections amount to saying that much of the writing in the book falls below the level of good scientific writing.”
In response, Paul Gebhard, Kinsey's successor as director of the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, cleaned the Kinsey data of purported contaminants, removing, for example, all material derived from prison populations in the basic sample. In 1979, Gebhard (with Alan B. Johnson) published The Kinsey Data: Marginal Tabulations of the 1938–1963 Interviews Conducted by the Institute for Sex Research. Their conclusion, to Gebhard's surprise he claimed, was that none of Kinsey's original estimates were significantly affected by this bias: that is, the prison population and male prostitutes had the same statistical tendency as those who willingly participated in discussion of previously taboo sexual topics. The results were summarized by historian, playwright, and gay-rights activist Martin Duberman, "Instead of Kinsey's 37% (men who had at least one homosexual experience), Gebhard and Johnson came up with 36.4%; the 10% figure (men who were "more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55"), with prison inmates excluded, came to 9.9% for white, college-educated males and 12.7% for those with less education.
Historian Peter Gay described Sexual Behavior in the Human Male as "methodologically far from persuasive".
The Kinsey scale is used to measure a person's overall balance of heterosexuality and homosexuality, and takes into account both sexual experience and psychosexual reactions. The scale ranges from 0 to 6, with 0 being completely heterosexual and 6 completely homosexual. An additional category, X, was mentioned to describe those who had "no socio-sexual contacts or reactions," which has been cited by scholars to mean asexuality. The scale was first published in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) by Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and others, and was also prominent in the complementary work Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). Introducing the scale, Kinsey wrote:
Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories [...] The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.
While emphasising the continuity of the gradations between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual histories, it has seemed desirable to develop some sort of classification which could be based on the relative amounts of heterosexual and homosexual experience or response in each history... An individual may be assigned a position on this scale, for each period in his life. [...] A seven-point scale comes nearer to showing the many gradations that actually exist.
The scale is as follows:
The average frequency of marital sex reported by women was 2.8 times a week in the late teens, 2.2 times a week by age 30, and 1.0 times a week by age 50. Kinsey estimated that approximately 50% of all married males had some extramarital experience at some time during their married lives. Among the sample, 26% of females had extramarital sex by their forties. Between 1 in 6 and 1 in 10 females from age 26 to 50 were engaged in extramarital sex. However, Kinsey classified couples who have lived together for at least a year as "married", inflating the statistics for extra-marital sex.
12% of females and 22% of males reported having an erotic response to a sadomasochistic story.
Responses to being bitten:
Data was gathered primarily by means of subjective report interviews, conducted according to a structured questionnaire memorized by the experimenters (but not marked on the response sheet in any way). The response sheets were encoded in this way to maintain the confidentiality of the respondents, being entered on a blank grid using response symbols defined in advance. The data were later computerized for processing. All of this material, including the original researchers' notes, remains available from the Kinsey Institute to qualified researchers who demonstrate a need to view such materials. The institute also allows researchers to use statistical software (such as PSPP or SPSS) in order to analyze the data.
Context and significance
The Kinsey Reports, which together sold three-quarters of a million copies and were translated in thirteen languages, may be considered as part of the most successful and influential scientific books of the 20th century. The Kinsey Reports are associated with a change in public perception of sexuality. In the 1960s, following the introduction of the first oral contraceptive, this change was to be expressed in the sexual revolution. Also in the 1960s, Masters and Johnson published their investigations into the physiology of sex, breaking taboos and misapprehensions similar to those Kinsey had broken more than a decade earlier in a closely related field.