Kinsey, Alfred C.
Kinsey, Alfred C.
Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894–1956) was undoubtedly the most famous American student of human sexual behavior in the first half of the twentieth century. In Europe at the turn of the century, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, and then Albert Moll, Havelock Ellis, Magnus Hirschfeld, and Sigmund Freud had opened up to exploration this hidden area of man’s life, chiefly by the presentation of individual case histories and philosophical speculation. In the United States in the period between 1929 and 1940 Katherine B. Davis, Gilbert V. Hamilton, Robert Latou Dickinson, Lewis M. Terman, and Carney Landis had made investigations of certain segmental aspects of sex, but it remained for Kinsey to survey a broad range of human sexual behavior based on thousands of face-to-face interviews.
Kinsey obtained an undergraduate degree from Bowdoin in psycholoy and a doctorate at Harvard in 1920 in biology. He then went to Indiana University where he concentrated on the field of taxonomy, studying the Cynipidae (gall wasps). This study ultimately resulted in important contributions to evolutionary theory.
He began his sex research, unassisted, in 1938. Its importance was soon recognized and his personally financed week-end field trips to nearby cities to gather sex histories became instead three-week interviewing tours, supported by grants, on which he was accompanied by research associates. Clyde Martin and Wardell Pomeroy were among the first staff members to join him in interviewing. Support at first came from the National Research Council and the Medical Division of the Rockefeller Foundation. Indiana University, under the leader-ship of President Herman B Wells, lent solid backing to Kinsey’s sex research, gradually relieving him of teaching duties to facilitate his work.
In 1948 Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was published. It aroused unanticipated interest in the general as well as the academic public, and Kinsey’s name became synonymous with the study of sex. Five years later the companion volume, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, was completed. In 1947 the Institute for Sex Research was established as a nonprofit corporation affiliated with Indiana University, and the staff was gradually augmented to a dozen or more. By this time an authoritative library dealing with sex had been developed and staffed, and valuable supplementary materials such as diaries, daily sexual calendars, art collections, cine, photographs, and other erotic source materials had been collected. In 1950 the United States Customs challenged the right of the institute to import erotica for scientific study and confiscated a collection of material purchased abroad. A case based on these seizures was decided in the Federal District Court of New York in 1957 in favor of the institute’s right to add to its holdings for research uses.
Following Kinsey’s death in 1956, the institute continued the scientific study of sex, publishing the third and fourth volumes, Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion in 1958 and Sex Offenders: A Analysis of Types in 1965.
The two major Kinsey volumes have set a frame-work that has encouraged further research into man’s sexual behavior—even yet a largely unexplored area. Kinsey’s chief contributions to this field of study are (1) a quantified, thorough description of the sexual behavior of a large number of individuals of both sexes and of diverse social status; (2) the discovery of an unexpected range of individual and social class variation; (3) a correction of various misconceptions, chiefly those concerned with childhood sexuality, female responsiveness, and homosexuality; (4) a demonstration that human sexual behavior can be investigated objectively and openly, thus paving the way for subsequent research.
The work of Kinsey and his staff, while praised highly by many scientists, was severely criticized by others. Such was the interest that a committee of the American Statistical Association was appointed to appraise the data in the 1948 book, and although it pointed out certain methodological weaknesses, it acknowledged the general importance of the data (Cochran et al. 1954; Hyman & Sheatsley 1948). As a novice in the field of social science, Kinsey had clearly made some methodo-logical errors, but in the years since the volumes were published scientist and layman alike have increasingly accepted them for what they were meant to be, an attempt to survey the approximate range and norms of sexual behavior. Up to the present time no research of comparable scope in this field has been instigated by other groups, and the eighteen thousand histories in the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University form a backlog of basic data on sex which has still not been fully exploited. The institute that Kinsey founded is now supported in part by the National Institute of Mental Health. Under the directorship of Paul Geb-hard, research in sexual behavior is continuing, and the basic data are being made available to other scholars in the field.
Cornelia V. Christenson
1941 Homosexuality: Criteria for a Hormonal Explanation of the Homosexual. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology 1:424–428.
1948 Kinsey, Alfred C.; Pomeroy, Wardell B.; and Martin, Clyde E. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: Saunders.
1953 Kinsey, Alfred C.; Pomeroy, Wardell B.; Martin, Clyde E.; and Gebhard, Paul H. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Cochran, William G. et al. 1954 Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Washington: American Statistical Association.
Deutsch, Albert (editor) 1948 Sex Habits of American Men: A Symposium on the Kinsey Report. New York: Prentice-Hall.
Ernst, Morris L.; and Loth, David 1948 American Sexual Behavior and the Kinsey Report. New York: Greystone.
Geddes, Donald P. (editor) 1954 An Analysis of the Kinsey Reports on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Female. New York: Dutton.
Himelhoch, Jerome; and Fava, Sylvia F. (editors) 1955 Sexual Behavior in American Society: An Appraisal of the First Two Kinsey Reports. New York: Norton.
Hyman, Herbert H.; and Sheatsley, Paul B. 1948 The Kinsey Report and Survey Methodology. International Journal of Opinion and Attitude Research 2: 183–195.
Indiana University, Institute FOR Sex Research 1958 Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion, by Paul H. Gebhard, W. B. Pomeroy, C. E. Martin, and C. V. Christenson. New York: Harper.
Indiana University, Institute FOR Sex Research 1965 Sex Offenders: An Analysis of Types, by Paul H. Gebhard, J. H. Gagnon, W. B. Pomeroy, and C. V. Christenson. New York: Harper.
"Kinsey, Alfred C.." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 23, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/kinsey-alfred-c
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Alfred C. Kinsey
Alfred C. Kinsey
The American zoologist Alfred C. Kinsey (1894-1956) was known chiefly for his pioneering case studies in the area of human sexual behavior.
Alfred C. Kinsey was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the son of an engineering professor, on June 23, 1894. He received his doctorate in 1920 from Harvard University, where he had been awarded the Sheldon travelling fellowship. He held teaching appointments in both botany and zoology at Harvard before becoming assistant professor of zoology at Indiana University. By 1929 he was made a full professor there.
Kinsey won his early reputation as an entomologist with research on the life of the gall wasp. Studying minutely 28 factors on a large proportion of the more than four million specimens he examined, Kinsey provided research which added much to knowledge of genetics and evolution. He might now be famed only among biologists had he not in the 1930s joined 11 other teachers in giving a marriage course.
Students asked him about sex, and he quickly learned that there were few scientific answers to their questions. Soon he resolved to try to apply accepted methods of scientific research to the universal problem of sexual behavior, and he courageously set himself a long range task, in the face of tradition and taboos. His results made the Indiana University campus a world center for research in human sexual behavior.
Kinsey began his sex studies in 1938, embarking on a well-planned, long-range program designed as "a progress report from a case history study on human sex behavior." In the project outlined, nine volumes would be presented requiring at least 30 years of work by many people. However, by the time of his death in 1956 Kinsey had completed only two volumes.
Initially, Kinsey had the help of one graduate student, whom he paid $900 per year out of his own faculty salary. The first outside financial assistance he received for sex research was $1,600 from the National Research Council in 1941. By 1942 scientists of the Medical Division of the Rockefeller Foundation, after a thorough investigation of Kinsey's work, recommended that the foundation give its support. This it did with grants of as much as $100,000 a year allocated through the National Research Council. By 1954, however, the Rockefeller Foundation cancelled its contribution.
Before publication of his first book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, in 1947, Kinsey was still hardly known outside a narrow circle of biologists. He incorporated his research under the title of Institute for Sex Research, Inc., and all royalties for his first book and the second, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, were used to finance further research.
The first book appeared in 1948 and was based on case studies of some 5,300 individuals. Although Kinsey's intention was to record facts as they had been found and to leave it to others to place interpretation on them, public interest in the book was aroused by the statistical analyses which showed a correlation between an individual's sex habits and the educational and occupational groups to which he belonged. Especially controversial was one conclusion which stated that actual sex practices deviated significantly from the accepted norms established by laws and conventions of society. Anthropologist Margaret Mead found the material "extraordinarily destructive of interpsychic and interpersonal relationships." Nonetheless, the Kinsey Report, as the book came to be called, sold 300,000 copies and became an instant bestseller.
The controversy over Kinsey's earlier findings was still in full swing in 1953 when the second book, which was based on interviews with 5,940 women, appeared. It likewise became a bestseller, with 227,000 copies sold. Alan Gregg of the Rockefeller Foundation wrote:
As long as sex is dealt with in the current confusion of ignorance and sophistication, denial and indulgence, suppression and stimulation, punishment and exploitation, secrecy and display, it will be associated with a duplicity and indecency that lead neither to intellectual honesty nor human dignity. Kinsey's studies are sincere, objective, and determined explorations of a field manifestly important to education, medicine, government, and the integrity of human conduct generally. They have demanded from Kinsey and his colleagues very unusual tenacity of purpose, tolerance, analytical competence, social skills and real courage.
Later scholarship pointed to Kinsey's pioneering case studies as also important for bringing controversial subject matter out in the open for informed discourse. The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University provided a living monument to his pioneering work.
There are two biographical studies of Kinsey: Cornelia V. Christenson's Kinsey, A Biography (1971) and Wardell Pomeroy's Dr. Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research (1972). A chapter on his pioneering work is in Paul A. Robinson's The Modernization of Sex (1976). Detailed critiques of his case study approach to human sexual behavior appear in William Cochran, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1954); Albert Deutsch, Sex Habits in American Men (1948); Morris Ernst, American Sexual Behavior and the Kinsey Report (1948); and Jerome Himelhoch, Sexual Behavior in American Society (1955). □
"Alfred C. Kinsey." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 23, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/alfred-c-kinsey
"Alfred C. Kinsey." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved February 23, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/alfred-c-kinsey