Kinsey Publishes Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Alfred Kinsey published a revolutionary report that suggested that 4 percent of Anglo-American men were exclusively homosexual. In addition to raising a topic that traditionally had been discussed only behind closed doors, Kinsey’s work made inroads into dispelling the prejudices toward and stereotypes about gays and lesbians.

Summary of Event

In 1948, Alfred Kinsey released unprecedented findings about human sexuality in his work Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. To compile the report, Kinsey’s researchers interviewed volunteers from all walks of life, though most of the data came from the input of fifty-three hundred college-aged Anglo-American men. Kinsey’s highly trained face-to-face interviewers could ask as many as 521 questions, depending on the participant’s specific experiences. The questions focused on sexual experiences Kinsey considered measurable, which meant that in actuality the results provided information about the behavior of given individuals at specific times. Kinsey also asked questions about erogenous zones, premarital sex, extramarital sex, oral sex, foreplay, masturbation, and orgasm. The section concerned with homosexuality made up only one area of the overall study. [kw]Kinsey Publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) [kw]Publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Kinsey (1948) [kw]Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Kinsey Publishes (1948) Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Kinsey) Sexology Homosexuality;Kinsey studies of Sexuality;Kinsey studies of Kinsey Reports;male sexuality [c]Science;1948: Kinsey Publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male[0390] [c]Publications;1948: Kinsey Publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male[0390] [c]Organizations and institutions;1948: Kinsey Publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male[0390] Kinsey, Alfred

Alfred Kinsey.

(Library of Congress)

Kinsey created a seven-point homosexual-heterosexual rating scale, now called the Kinsey Scale, Kinsey Scale to identify whether a participant’s behavior was predominantly heterosexual, predominantly homosexual, or somewhere in between. He used this scale to measure the degree to which the participants in his study had engaged in some form of homosexual activity. A zero on the scale indicated exclusively heterosexual behavior, and a seven on the scale indicated exclusively homosexual behavior.

The work showed that 4 percent of the white men in his study were completely homosexual. This suggested that, contrary to popular belief, homosexuality was not a perverted aberration. The reports also suggested that there was middle ground between heterosexuality and homosexuality, and that there were people who were bisexual. Kinsey stated that 37 percent of the men in the sample had experienced an orgasm with another man, 10 percent were mostly homosexual between age sixteen and fifty-five, and 8 percent were entirely homosexual (same age range). Finally, Kinsey reported that a person’s sexual orientation could change at different phases of life.

Kinsey already had begun research for this project in 1938, well before the study was published, and the research concluded in 1963, after Kinsey’s death. The findings are most often considered in conjunction with the report Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, which Kinsey published in 1953. Because Kinsey was a well-respected researcher, and his research methods were considered scientific and objective, his findings were taken seriously by both the scientific community and the general public.

Significance

Though Kinsey’s findings were taken seriously, they were not universally accepted as good. The findings about heterosexual sex were controversial enough, but the findings about homosexual sex created a maelstrom of responses. Released, as it was, during the second red scare during the Cold War and on the budding cusp of the United States’ trip through the paranoia of the McCarthy McCarthyism[Maccarthyism];and Kinsey Reports[Kinsey Reports] era, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was one of the few positive signs for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the United States. The report generated widespread conversation about the taboo topic of homosexuality, but many years would pass before the study’s findings were used to counter negative social views of homosexuals and homosexuality.

During the second red scare, and particularly when the United States was deep in the grip of Senator Joseph McCarthy and other anticommunist “red hunters” such as the House Un-American Activities Committee, homosexuality was treated as if it were a dangerous perversion. Workers were often fired merely for any suspicion of homosexuality. Additionally, the few groups, such as the Daughters of Bilitis (founded 1955) and the Mattachine Society (founded 1950), which existed to support lesbians and gays operated in strict secrecy and promised their members the utmost privacy. The entire homophile movement, however, had been relying on studies such as those of Kinsey for their helpful findings that gays and lesbians accounted for a significant percentage of the population and that homosexuality was normal. These groups hoped that science would vindicate them and that superstition and bias would ultimately give way before the strength of scientific study.

Science would need to be married to activism before any degree of equality could be attained, however. After all, the American Psychiatric Association was classifying homosexuality as a mental illness, and it did so until 1973. Kinsey was attacked as a communist by a congressional committee, and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction which he had founded in 1947, lost some of its major private funding because of its controversial work. The institute maintained solid footing, however, and continued to make inroads into American sexual mores. As the sexual revolution and later the gay and lesbian rights movement began to change predominant social attitudes about sex and sexuality, Kinsey’s findings came to be seen as visionary. The Kinsey Institute released the report Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women "Homosexualities" (Kinsey Institute)[Homosexualities] in 1978, well after the GLBT rights movement was in progress.

Later studies have suggested that some of Kinsey’s findings, particularly in the area of bisexuality, were exaggerated by volunteer bias. His landmark research, however, still is considered one of the catalysts that began the slow erosion of prejudice against gays and lesbians in the United States. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Kinsey) Sexology Homosexuality;Kinsey studies of Sexuality;Kinsey studies of Kinsey Reports;male sexuality

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bell, Alan P., and Martin S. Weinberg. Homosexualities: A Study of Human Diversity. Report of a Study Made by the Institute for Sex Research. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">D’Emilio, John. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Duberman, Martin. About Time: Exploring the Gay Past. New York: Meridian, 1991.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gathorne-Hardy, Jonathan. Sex the Measure of All Things: A Life of Alfred C. Kinsey. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jones, James H. Alfred Kinsey: A Public/Private Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kinsey, Alfred. Sexual Behavior In the Human Female. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Sexual Behavior In the Human Male. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

May 6, 1868: Kertbeny Coins the Terms “Homosexual” and “Heterosexual”

1869: Westphal Advocates Medical Treatment for Sexual Inversion

1897: Ellis Publishes Sexual Inversion

May 14, 1897: Hirschfeld Founds the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee

1905: Freud Rejects Third-Sex Theory

1929: Davis’s Research Identifies Lesbian Sexuality as Common and Normal

1952: APA Classifies Homosexuality as a Mental Disorder

1953: Kinsey Publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Female

1953-1957: Evelyn Hooker Debunks Beliefs That Homosexuality is a “Sickness”

December 15, 1973: Homosexuality Is Delisted by the APA

April 20, 2001: Chinese Psychiatric Association Removes Homosexuality from List of Mental Disorders

Categories: History Content