Today In History, 1953: “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” Published

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

The first half of what is collectively and colloquially known as “The Kinsey Report” appeared in 1948 with the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Jan 5). That volume revealed that the human male in America was having a hell of a lot of sex: pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, self sex, oral sex, masochistic sex, sadistic sex, and, most shockingly, gay sex. The book was controversial, but somewhat less so than you might imagine. After all, boys will be boys, even in 1948, and sexual experiences were more or less seen as coming with the territory. Sure, there were criticisms: it wasn’t statistically rigorous, the sample wasn’t representative, he relied too much on questionnaires distributed among prison populations. And while the “how many” and “how often” is what was talked about most, the fact that there was any kind of data on an activity that everyone did but nobody talked about, helps to explain the first volume’s success. Now, all of the sudden everyone was talking about it — as science, not smut, which made all the difference in the world.

The reception for the second volume, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953 was very different. Kinsey anticipated some of its criticisms based on methodological complaints about the first volume. He purged the inmate and other atypical populations, and he listened more carefully to what statisticians were telling him. But he couldn’t correct all of his shortcomings. Clyde Klucknohn, a Harvard University anthropology professor, in a review for The New York Times, called the book “a brilliant and arguable contribution for which we are all in their debt.” He thought however that it was “not a definitive treatise…. The honest title would have been: ‘Some Aspects of Sexual Behavior in American Females (Primarily Educated, Protestant, Regionally Localized, Adolescent through Middle-Aged).'”

Time, August 24, 1953.

But other criticisms of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female went way beyond the statistical, largely because this time, we’re not talking about boys being boys, but the fairer sex and the flowering of female desires. Finding out that more than 90% of women had indulged in sexual petting, 66% dreamed about sex, 62% masturbated, about half had given blow jobs, half had had sex before marriage, a quarter had cheated on their husbands, and a sixth had had sex with another woman at least once in their lives (also: “Homosexual contacts are highly effective in bringing the female to orgasm.”) — all of that was seen as an attack on American Motherhood and her apple pie.

Kinsey was branded an enemy of religious propriety and American values. Rep. B. Carroll Reece (R-TN) chaired a House committee to investigate alleged ties between Kinsey and the Communist Party. The Rockefeller Foundation, which had provided funding for Kinsey’s studies, cut him off. Kinsey spent the next two years trying to find another benefactor, and the stress took its toll. He died in 1956 at 62 following years of declining health. The fallout from the two volumes would have a chilling effect on large scale statistical studies of human sexuality for the next 40 years. When AIDS appeared on the landscape in 1981, the Kinsey reports, flawed as they were, were still the only significant source of information on human sexual behavior on which to base a response.

Reactions to Sexual Behavior in the Human Female weren’t universally negative. A few found the volume’s titillation entertaining, and it certainly cut a wide swath through popular culture. But most importantly, many women found comfort in discovering that they weren’t sexual freaks, that many other women also enjoyed sex in all of its various forms. And despite their many methodological shortcomings, the Kinsey reports opened an entire field of study that was ripe for exploration. Pioneers often get things wrong; Columbus died believing he found a western route to the East Indies. But pioneers do one thing very well: they point the way for other explorers to carry on the work of discovery.

There are no comments for this post.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.