Kinsey Reports on Human Sexuality TRAVIS D. SPEICE University of Cincinnati, USA In 1948 Alfred Kinsey, along with colleagues Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin, published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male ( 1998). This report on sexuality was considered groundbreaking for its time and called into question many of the previously held beliefs surrounding sexual behavior in the United States. Kinsey et al. ([1953) 1998) later published a parallel report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female five years later in 1953. Some authors have described Kinsey’s work as having completely changed the attitudes of Americans regarding sex simply because it brought conversations about sex and sexuality out into the open (Bullough 2004). Topics such as masturbation, homosexuality, and premarital and extramarital sex were discussed at length in both reports. Before his reports on human sexuality, Alfred Kinsey studied the gall wasp extensively. In totality, he measured in detail more than 35,000 individual wasps (Bullough 2004). His work of measuring and cataloging gall wasps made him the most knowledgeable individual in this area. Kinsey’s taxonomic skills prove to be valuable in his new inquiries into human sexual behavior. While he could not collect and examine humans the same way he did gall wasps, Kinsey was able to construct a study that documented the sexual histories of thousands of individuals. Kinsey’s reports were based on some 18,000 interviews. Kinsey conducted well over half of the interviews himself. The central focus of his work was to understand the sexual activities and behaviors that led to or contributed to the experience of orgasm. He kept his emphasis on biology and removed moral or social descriptions or explanations, in order not to bias his writing. In his own words, “the present study, then, represents an attempt to accumulate an objectively determined body of fact about sex which strictly avoids social or moral interpretations of the fact” (Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin  1998). What follows is a summary of the major findings. SEXUAL BEHAVIOR IN THE HUMAN MALE This volume uses a sample size of 5300 white American males of various ages, education levels, social levels, marital statuses, geographies, occupational classes, religions, and so on (Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin  1998). The bulk of the writing describes variations between and within nine sources of sexual outlets. Some of their major findings are summarized here. Masturbation Approximately 92 percent of males are involved in masturbation leading to orgasm. Among their findings on masturbation frequencies, Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin reported the following. • • • Married men masturbate considerably less than unmarried men. Men of lower education levels masturbate less frequently. Although males in rural areas masturbate less often than males raised in cities or towns, masturbation constitutes a higher percentage of rural males’ total sexual The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies, First Edition. Edited by Constance L. Shehan. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2016 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/9781119085621.wbefs140 2 • • • K I N SEY R E P ORT S ON HUM A N SEX UA L I T Y outlet compared to that of males in cities (i.e., males in cities rely on other sexual outlets more than rural males but masturbate in higher frequencies). In regard to religion, men identifying as Jewish Orthodox or devout Catholic have the lowest frequencies, while religiously inactive Protestants have the highest frequencies. Age is a strong predictor of frequency of masturbation – adolescents masturbate more frequently and rates decrease into old age. It is not uncommon for some young boys to masturbate. Nearly all boys who experience erotic arousal masturbate. compared to males living in rural areas, and that frequencies are also lower for men who are devoutly religious. Kinsey noted, first and foremost, that “marital intercourse is the one type of sexual activity which is approved by our AngloAmerican mores and legal codes” (Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin  1998, 563). Kinsey described many findings concerning marital sex, including the following. • • Given these findings, Kinsey concluded that, contrary to popular belief that masturbation causes ailments such as blindness, insanity, infertility, and so on, masturbation does not cause any harm at any age. Nocturnal emissions Experiencing ejaculation/orgasm in one’s sleep is referred to as a nocturnal emission. Kinsey’s work found that roughly 83 percent of males experience nocturnal emissions at some time in their lives, while 17 percent of men seem to never experience this. Collegeaged boys have the most frequent rates of nocturnal emissions and frequencies tend to drop off after marriage. Premarital, marital, and extramarital intercourse While Kinsey recognized that generally there are social norms in the United States that discourage premarital sex, he suggested that the reasons for these attitudes be investigated, considering that his study found that most males engage in premarital sex. He found that frequencies for premarital sex are higher for males living in cities and towns • • Nearly 100 percent of married men in the sample experience orgasm resulting from marital intercourse. Marital intercourse accounts for the majority of a man’s sexual outlet. This majority, however, is not more than 85 per cent. The remainder of the married male’s sexual outlet consists of masturbation, nocturnal emissions, petting, extramarital relations, homosexual contact, and animal contact. Within the population with lower education levels, men attempt to reach orgasm as quickly as possible in intercourse. Kinsey reported that this happens within two minutes for nearly 75 percent of these men. “Upper level” males more often attempt to delay orgasm. Men prefer to engage in marital intercourse with the lights on, while women prefer the lights to be off. Among married men, nearly half have intercourse with women other than their wives at some point while they are married. These frequencies depend on certain social variables. For instance, extramarital relations are less frequent for males living in rural areas compared to those living in cities/ towns. Men who self-identify as nonreligious report higher frequencies of extramarital intercourse. Among the lower social levels, frequencies of extramarital intercourse are K I N SEY R E P ORT S ON HUM A N SEX UA L I T Y highest when males are younger, then decline with age. Intercourse with prostitutes A surprising 69 percent of the total white male sample reported having some experience with prostitutes, although many are limited to just one or two experiences. Intercourse with prostitutes accounts for only 4 percent (at most) of the total sexual outlet experienced by men (only petting to climax and animal contact account for less). Homosexual outlet In terms of males’ total sexual outlet, homosexual contact accounts for 6.3 percent of orgasms. Kinsey’s findings on homosexual experiences are perhaps some of his most noteworthy findings from these reports. More than one in three males experience some homosexual contact resulting in orgasm between the beginning of adolescence and old age. Nearly 50 percent of men who are unmarried by 35 have had homosexual experiences. In documenting the homosexual experiences of males, Kinsey developed a scale that he called the “heterosexual–homosexual balance.” This tool places sexual experiences (regardless of sexual identity) on a scale of 0 to 6 with individuals having “exclusively heterosexual contacts” at 0, and individuals having “exclusively homosexual contacts” at 6. This is significant because Kinsey suggests that homosexuality and bisexuality are other forms of sexual activity that are common and that sexuality is not a binary as was previously thought. These findings were cited at length in the discussion to remove homosexuality as a disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973. Animal contacts Approximately 8 percent of males in Kinsey’s study had experience with animals. In sum, 3 less than 1 percent of total orgasms were derived from animal intercourse. While frequencies were very low overall, they were higher among rural farm boys. SEXUAL BEHAVIOR IN THE HUMAN FEMALE Kinsey’s report on female sexual behavior extends from his work on men. For this report, the sexual histories of 5940 white females were included. He wrote extensively on various types of sexual activity among females. Also included in this volume is a lengthy discussion of the anatomy of sexual response – detailing the function and contribution of male and female anatomy, as well as a discussion of the physiology of the human orgasm in both men and women. It is important to note that Kinsey did not find quite as much variation between different groups of women (i.e., varying by age, education level, geographies, etc.) as he did in his sample of males. The report on female sexual behavior is important because it brought to light the fact that women not only are sexual but that women experience and participate in a wide range of sexual activities. His findings are summarized as follows (Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin  1998). Masturbation Kinsey reported on a number of his findings regarding techniques used by women while masturbating and the frequencies of masturbation. His findings included the following. • • • Masturbation is the sexual activity in which women most frequently reach orgasm. Women do not masturbate as often as men. Most women discover masturbation by self-discovery, as opposed to learning by means of printed materials, observation, or discussion with others. 4 K I N SEY R E P ORT S ON HUM A N SEX UA L I T Y Premarital, marital, and extramarital intercourse Kinsey reported that 64 percent of the married females in his sample had experienced orgasm prior to marriage. Just 17 percent of these orgasms were from heterosexual intercourse. Premarital sex was more common among women who were less actively religious. Kinsey concluded from his studies that, for both men and women, marital sex provides the largest proportion of their total sexual outlet compared to any other type of activity. While women engage in this sexual activity more than any other sexual activity, they do not always achieve orgasm with intercourse, though men nearly always do. Among the married women in the study’s sample, 26 percent had had extramarital sex by the age of 40. These frequencies were lowest among the devoutly religious. Women tended to engage in this activity with other married males who were near the age of the women. Homosexual contacts Consistent with his reports on male homosexuality, Kinsey reminded readers that sexual contacts between individuals of the same sex are known to occur in nearly all species of mammals. Frequencies of homosexual contact were considerably lower compared to those for men. By the age of 40, 19 percent of women in the total sample had experienced homosexual contact. Among never married women, however, this figure was 24 percent. Of the women who had had homosexual experiences, 50–60 percent reached orgasm on at least one occasion. of men in the sample had been erotically aroused, while only 16 percent of women had been aroused. CRITICISMS Kinsey’s work came under attack many times during the 15 years he spent collecting sexual histories. Indeed, there were groups that pressured Indiana University (which sponsored much of his research) to shut down the study. Still others criticized him for not collecting a completely random sample. Additionally, Kinsey was criticized for not turning in sexual deviants (e.g., pedophiles) to the authorities when participants divulged such information in their histories. Kinsey’s work shattered several presumed assumptions concerning sexual behavior among both men and women. Many feared that, with this new knowledge, the institutions of marriage and family would deteriorate. Kinsey addressed this criticism, arguing: “there appear to be more persons who believe that an extension of our knowledge may contribute to the establishment of better marriages” (Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin  1998, 13). The support for Kinsey’s work greatly surpassed any potential negative outcomes. Indeed, Kinsey and his colleagues provided not only a better understanding of sexual behavior more generally, but their research contributed specifically to the feminist and LGBT liberation movements which would gain momentum in the decades after their work was published (Bullough 1998). SEE ALSO: Gender and Sexuality; Sexuality REFERENCES Animal contacts Frequencies of animal contacts among women were also considerably lower compared to men. Kinsey also reported that, while watching animals having intercourse, 32 percent Bullough, Vern L. 2004. “Sex Will Never Be the Same: The Contributions of Alfred C. Kinsey.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33(3): 277–86. DOI:10.1023/b:aseb.0000026627.24993.03. Bullough, Vern L. 1998. “Alfred Kinsey and the Kinsey Report: Historical Overview and Lasting K I N SEY R E P ORT S ON HUM A N SEX UA L I T Y Contributions.” Journal of Sex Research, 35(2): 127–31. DOI:10.1080/00224499809551925. Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell B. Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin. (1948) 1998. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 5 Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell B. Pomeroy, Clyde E. Martin, and Paul H. Gebhard. (1953) 1998. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.