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  Alfred Kinsey's Later Years, and His Legacy Previous
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Alfred Kinsey Alfred Kinsey's last years were marked by controversy. The Cold War brought with it political crusades and a large measure of fear that American society was being corrupted. In 1953, following the publication of Kinsey's report on female sexuality, a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives chaired by Tennessee congressman B. Carroll Reece started investigating Kinsey and the Rockefeller Foundation for possible ties to the Communist Party. Over medical director Alan Gregg's objections, Dean Rusk, the foundation's newly appointed president (and, later, secretary of state in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations), terminated Kinsey's funding.

Last Years
Kinsey was devastated, and though he spent the next two and one-half years trying to secure funding from alternate sources, he never succeeded. At the same time, his health was declining, as years of stress, long hours, sleeplessness, and ever-advancing congestive heart failure took their toll. In August of 1956, he fell while working in his garden, bruising his leg and causing a fatal embolism; several days later, on August 25, he died.

The Beginnings of Change
Kinsey died disappointed that he hadn't persuaded the world that sex was good, and that tolerance of the enormous variety of sexual behavior that existed was right. But his dream did not die with him. Kinsey lived just long enough to see the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code, published in 1955, embrace the right of consenting adults to engage in homosexual and anal sex. As the code was adopted by state after state, the old crime of sodomy ceased to exist. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt the final blow to the country's few remaining sodomy laws, overturning Texas's prohibition of homosexual sex in its landmark ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.

Masters and Johnson
Following hot on Kinsey's heels, William Masters and Virginia Johnson began their own epic studies of sexual behavior, using a specially designed polygraph-like device to record the sexual response of more than 700 subjects observed during masturbation and intercourse. Masters and Johnson's work coincided with the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s, in which hippies expounded on the benefits of free love and implored people to "make love, not war." Masters and Johnson built on Kinsey's biological approach, but went beyond "what people do" to try to discover "how it works" and how to overcome particular sexual problems such as frigidity, impotence, and premature ejaculation. Eventually they founded a clinic in St. Louis to treat sexual dysfunction, paving the way for the commercialization of treatments for sexual problems like erectile dysfunction that began in earnest with Pfizer's introduction of Viagra in 1998.

Increased Reproductive Rights
At the same time, the country was fighting a battle about whether sex was solely about procreation, as Victorian morality had once taught, or whether the free exchange of pleasure between partners was reason enough to have sex. In 1960, the Food and Drug Administration approved the nation's first oral contraceptive. Within a few years, millions of women were taking the drug, and freeing themselves to engage in sexual intercourse on their own terms without the risk of becoming pregnant. The Supreme Court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade extended women's reproductive rights to the safe termination of accidental pregnancies.

Ongoing Conflict
Kinsey would have approved: The country's legal and medical apparatus had finally converged to make the pursuit of sexual pleasure for its own sake safe and legal. But the three decades since Masters and Johnson and Roe have yielded mixed results for the proponents of sexual liberalism. Roe elicited strong opposition from the very start, and people opposed to abortion have mounted a sustained and sometimes successful series of campaigns, in and out of court, to reduce women's access to the procedure. With the dawn of the era of AIDS during the 1980s, the question of sex became one of public health. But while public health concerns demanded that the government pursue the study of sex in order to understand why people engage in risky sexual behavior, those in favor of sexual conservatism have sought to end public funding for the research. Yet sex research has endured -- and of that, Kinsey truly would have been proud.



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