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The 1948 first edition of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, the first of the two Kinsey reports.

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), by Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and others. Kinsey was a zoologist at Indiana Universitymarker and the founder of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, more widely known as the Kinsey Institute.

The research astounded the general public and was immediately controversial and sensational.The findings caused shock and outrage, both because they challenged conventional beliefs about sexuality and because they discussed subjects that had previously been taboo.

Critics have stated that some of the data in the reports could not have been obtained without observation or participation in child sexual abuse, or through collaborations with child molesters. The Kinsey Institute denies this charge, though it acknowledges that Kinsey interviewed men who had sexual experiences with children, and some former and current directors of the Institute described those men as "pedophiles".


Sexual orientation

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-category 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.

Kinsey Scale

The Kinsey scale attempts to describe a person's sexual history or episodes of their sexual activity at a given time. The scale ranked sexual behavior from 0 to 6, with 0 being completely heterosexual and 6 completely homosexual. An additional category, X, was mentioned to describe asexuals, those who experienced no sexual desire (Kinsey Male volume, page 640, table 141). It was first published in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) by Alfred 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:

The scale is as follows:

Rating Description
0 Exclusively heterosexual
1 Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2 Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 Equally heterosexual and homosexual (bisexual)
4 Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6 Exclusively homosexual

  • Men: 11.6% of white males aged 20–35 were given a rating of 3 for this period of their lives.
  • Women: 7% of single females aged 20–35 and 4% of previously married females aged 20–35 were given a rating of 3 for this period of their lives. 2 to 6% of females, aged 20–35, were given a rating of 5 and 1 to 3% of unmarried females aged 20–35 were rated as 6.

Marital coitus

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.

Extra-marital sex

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.


Data was gathered primarily by means of interviews, which were encoded to maintain confidentiality. Other data sources included the diaries of convicted child molesters. 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.

Subject matter of the report led itself to sensationalism. Based on his data and findings, others claimed that 10% of the population is homosexual, and that women enhance their prospects of satisfaction in marriage by masturbating previously. Neither claim was made by Kinsey.


Objections on moral grounds

The books have been widely criticized by conservatives as promoting degeneracy. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male has been on two conservative lists of the worst books of modern times. It was #3 on the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute's 50 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century and #4 on a conservative website with modest web-traffic Human Events' Ten Most Harmful Books of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

Objections to methodology

In addition to moral objections, academic criticisms pertain to sample selection and sample bias. Two main problems identified were that (1) significant portions of the samples come from prison populations and male prostitutes, and that (2) people who volunteer to be interviewed about taboo subject are likely to suffer from the problem of self-selection, both of which 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." Criticism principally revolved around the over-representation of some groups in the sample: 25% were, or had been, prison inmates, and 5% were male prostitutes.

A related criticism, by some of the leading psychologists of the day, notably Abraham Maslow, was 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 or close friends. Before the publication of Kinsey's reports, Dr. Maslow tested Kinsey's volunteers for bias. He concluded that Kinsey's sample was unrepresentative of the general population.

In a response to these criticisms, Paul Gebhard, Kinsey's successor as director of the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, spent years "cleaning" 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, prison population, male prostitutes, and those who willingly participated in discussion of previously taboo sexual topics had the same statistical tendency. 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.

Other attacks have centered on the sex life and motives of Alfred Kinsey himself. James H. Jones's biography, Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life, describes Kinsey as bisexual and experimenting in masochism. He encouraged group sex involving his graduate students, wife and staff. Kinsey filmed sexual acts in the attic of his home as part of his research. Biographer Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy explained that using Kinsey's home for the filming of sexual acts was done to ensure the films' secrecy, which would certainly have caused a scandal had the public become aware of them. James H. Jones further wrote that Kinsey's appetite for unconventional sex and his disdain for conventional sexual morality, drove Kinsey's agenda to strip sexuality of guilt and to undermine traditional sexual morality. Critics contend that Kinsey allowed his agenda to bias his work. They point to Kinsey's over-representation of prisoners and prostitutes and his classification of couples who have lived together for at least a year as "married".

Organized opposition

Some opposing groups including RSVPAmerica, headed by Dr. Judith A. Reisman, and the Family Research Council have stated that they aim to discredit the Kinsey Reports. These groups often accuse Kinsey's work of promoting unhealthy sexual practices or morals.

RSVPAmerica advertises publications such as Kinsey: Crimes & Consequences and Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People, both by Reisman, and the video "The Children of Table 34", funded by the Family Research Council. The campaign website states that the video "presents the story of Dr. Reisman's discovery of Dr. Alfred Kinsey's systematic sexual abuse of 317 male children."

In its 1998 response to the core allegations made by Reisman, Kinsey Institute director John Bancroft stated that the data on children in tables 31–34 of Kinsey's Sexual Behavior of the Human Male came largely from the journal of one adult pedophile, who had illegal sexual interaction with these children. The man's journal started in 1917, long before the Kinsey Reports. Bancroft further stated that Kinsey explicitly pointed out the illegality of the man's actions, but that he granted his source anonymity. In addition, Bancroft reiterated the Kinsey Institute's claim that Kinsey never had any sexual interaction with children, nor did he employ others to do so, and that he interviewed children in the presence of their parents.

Child sexual response experiments

In the Kinsey Reports are data concerning pre-adolescent orgasms. Particularly controversial are tables 30 through 34 of the male volume, which report observations of orgasms in over three-hundred children between the ages of five months and fourteen years. For example, table 34 is, "Examples of multiple orgasm in pre-adolescent males. Some instances of higher frequencies." A typical entry indicates that a certain 7 year-old had seven orgasms in a three hour time period. Kinsey's critics state that data such as these could have only been obtained by direct observation of or participation in child abuse. In particular they point to the information given in table 32, "Speed of pre-adolescent orgasm; Duration of stimulation before climax; Observations timed with second hand or stop watch," and say that the only way such precise data could have been collected was through cooperation with child molesters.

The Kinsey Institute states on its website, "[Kinsey] did not carry out experiments on children; he did not hire, collaborate, or persuade people to carry out experiments on children." and that "The bulk of this information was obtained from adults recalling their own childhoods. Some was from parents who had observed their children, some from teachers who had observed children interacting or behaving sexually, and Kinsey stated that there were nine men who he had interviewed who had sexual experiences with children who had told him about how the children had responded and reacted. We believe that one of those men was the source of the data listed in the book."

Former and current directors of The Kinsey Institute confirmed that some of the information was gathered from nine pedophiles and that Kinsey chose not to report the pedophiles to the authorities, balancing what Kinsey saw as the need for their anonymity against the likelihood that their crimes would continue.

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.

To what extent the Reports produced or promoted this change and to what extent they merely expressed it and reflected the conditions that were producing it is a matter of much debate and speculation.

See also

External links


  1. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 656
  2. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Table 147, p. 651
  3. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 651
  4. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Table 142, p. 499
  5. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p. 488
  6. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Table 142, p. 499, and p. 474
  7. Kinsey, et al. 1948. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Table 147, p. 651
  8. Kinsey, et al. 1953. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Table 142, p. 499
  9. Ibid, p. 488
  10. Ibid, Table 142, p. 499, and p. 474
  11. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p. 348-349, 351.
  12. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, pp. 585, 587
  13. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p. 416
  14. Kinsey, Alfred. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p. 53.
  15. Jones, James H. (1997). Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life. New York: Norton.
  16. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, pp. 677-678
  17. John Tukey criticizes sample procedure
  18. But 26% (1,400) of Kinsey's alleged 5,300 white male subjects were already "sex offenders." (Reisman)
  19. Maslow, A. H., and Sakoda, J. (1952). Volunteer error in the Kinsey study, Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 1952 Apr;47(2):259-62.
  20. Martin Duberman on Gebhart's "cleaning" of data
  21. The Kinsey Institute - [Publications]
  22. The Kinsey Institute - [Publications]
  23. Reisman, Judith (2006). Kinsey's Attic: The Shocking Story of How One Man's Sexual Pathology Changed the World. WND Books.
  24. Jones, James H. (1997). Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life. New York: Norton.
  25. Kinsey Institute director denies allegations by Reisman
  26. Kinsey Institute statement denies child abuse in study

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