June 23rd, 1894 – Happy Birthday to Alfred Kinsey

Today-In-History

Born on June 23rd, 1894, Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American biologist, professor of entomology and zoology, and sexologist who in 1947 founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. He is best known for writing Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), also known as the Kinsey Reports, as well as the Kinsey scale. Kinsey’s research on human sexuality, foundational to the field of sexology, provoked controversy in the 1940s and 1950s. His work has influenced social and cultural values in the United States, as well as internationally.

Alfred Kinsey

Kinsey is widely regarded as the first major figure in American sexology; his research is cited as having paved the way for a deeper exploration into sexuality among sexologists and the general public, and as having liberated female sexuality. For example, Kinsey’s work disputed the notions that women generally are not sexual and that female orgasms experienced vaginally are superior to clitoral orgasms. He initially became interested in different forms of sexual practices in 1933, after discussing the topic extensively with a colleague, Robert Kroc. Kinsey had been studying the variations in mating practices among gall wasps. During this time, he developed a scale measuring sexual orientation, now known as the Kinsey scale, which ranges from 0 to 6, where 0 is exclusively heterosexual and 6 is exclusively homosexual; a rating of X for “no socio-sexual contacts or reactions” was later added.

alfred-kinsey

In 1935, Kinsey delivered a lecture to a faculty discussion group at Indiana University, his first public discussion of the topic, wherein he attacked the “widespread ignorance of sexual structure and physiology” and promoted his view that “delayed marriage” (that is, delayed sexual experience) was psychologically harmful. Kinsey obtained research funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, which enabled him to further study human sexual behavior. He published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948, followed in 1953 by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, both of which reached the top of the bestseller lists and turned Kinsey into a celebrity. These publications later became known as the Kinsey Reports. Articles about him appeared in magazines such as Time, Life, Look, and McCall’s. The Kinsey Reports, which led to a storm of controversy, are regarded by many as a precursor to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.

In 2004, Liam Neeson played Alfred Kinsey in the biographical film Kinsey.


 

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