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  Kinsey Teaches the Marriage Course at Indiana University Previous
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Slide projector in darkened classroom Alfred Kinsey grew up in a world where sex education, such as it was, focused on abstention. Masturbation was held to be sinful, a sickness with the power to erode one's physical health and moral rectitude. People were occasionally committed to mental institutions for excessive masturbation, or even, on rare occasions, castrated. Homosexuality was regarded with more than mere disgust, for "sodomy" was in most states a felony punishable by imprisonment. Between the two world wars, some junior high schools and high schools started offering sex education, either as part of required biology classes or under euphemisms like "mental health" or "social hygiene." Even then, these classes focused on sexual temperance and the hazards of losing control, including the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

Providing Information
Hoping to save others from the sexual turmoil that had plagued his childhood, Kinsey argued for a different brand of sex education, one that would head off the guilt so often spawned by the Victorian system. He believed that parents should take the lead in providing their young with information about sex, and he and his wife Clara began educating their own children at an early age. Furthermore, he insisted that sex education should go beyond biology and seek to instill in children healthy attitudes about sex. As with everything he interested himself in, Kinsey tore into sex education with missionary fervor. Alfred and Clara started advising students at Indiana University informally about sex, having undergraduates over to their house for tea and sex talk. They even lent their car to at least one secretly married couple so that they could enjoy a little privacy away from the dormitories, and eventually neighborhood parents were consulting the Kinseys about what to tell their own children.

Putting Sex Education Into the Curriculum
In 1938, prompted by concern about sexually transmitted diseases, the Indiana University Daily Student published an editorial demanding free syphilis testing for all students, and others rapidly escalated the demand to include formal sex education as well. Kinsey saw an opening. While other faculty members were debating amongst themselves whether sex education for students was a good idea, Kinsey petitioned Herman Wells, Indiana University's progressive president, for permission to offer a noncredit "marriage course." Wells and the university's board of trustees gave Kinsey's plan their blessing, but stipulated that the course be open only to seniors and married students, and that there be no advance publicity. Kinsey formed a faculty committee to plan the course; true to form, he quickly steamrolled the other committee members into doing everything his way, and cast aside the trustees' admonitions about entrance requirements and publicity. By the first lecture that spring, 98 people had enrolled in the class: 70 women and 28 men.

Instantly Popular Course
Kinsey surrounded by students 1948 lecture The marriage course consisted of 12 lectures, of which Kinsey taught four. In the first lecture, "The Biological Basis of Society," Kinsey argued that sex was the glue that held human societies together. He attacked the self-appointed role of religious institutions in regulating sexual conduct, and deplored youths' almost total ignorance of sex as the inevitable result of Victorian morals and mores. Kinsey's other three lectures covered "Reproductive Anatomy and Physiology," contraception, and individual variation, both physical and behavioral. Kinsey was nothing if not candid, discussing the most intimate details of sexual behavior without embarrassment or euphemisms, and showing graphic slides with drawings depicting the details of sexual intercourse. But while he cloaked the course in the mantle of science, he structured it as a powerful piece of advocacy, arguing strongly for the sexual liberation of males and females alike. Needless to say students loved the course, and Kinsey and his team repeated it in the fall semester, expanded to sixteen lectures and some 200 students.

From Teaching to Research
Along with the course, Kinsey offered individual counseling sessions in which he offered to answer students' questions and advise them on issues related to sex. As he had planned from the beginning, he used these sessions to collect data about students' sex lives, launching his nascent career as a sexologist. By 1940, however, Kinsey had made plenty of enemies on the faculty. Some were personally affronted by his dictatorial management style, some were offended by the course's content, and others simply felt jealous at its success. Accusing him of exploiting students for his own research, they petitioned President Wells to remove Kinsey from the marriage course. Bowing to the pressure, Wells gave Kinsey an ultimatum: He could keep his research or the class, but not both. Kinsey chose the research.



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