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  Kinsey's Reports, Scientifically Revisited Previous
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During Kinsey's lifetime, the most damaging critique of his work focused on the sample of people he interviewed, which included large numbers of college students, prison inmates, and acknowledged homosexuals. If he oversampled in atypical populations and did not re-weight his results accordingly, then his numbers would be too high. But are they too high, or despite all of the statistical complaints are they still right? To find out, we compared Kinsey's figures for selected kinds of sexual behavior to those reported in the highly regarded 1994 publication, The Social Organization of Sexuality, by University of Chicago sociologist Edward O. Laumann and his colleagues. The results can be seen in this table.

Males Females
Kinsey (1948) Laumann et al. (1994) Kinsey (1953) Laumann et al. (1994)
Have masturbated 90% 63% 62% 42%
Have had premarital intercourse 85% 74-81% 50% 45-73%
Have had extramarital intercourse 30-45% 26% 26% 15%
Have had oral sex 59% 77-79%
Have had at least one homosexual contact resulting in an orgasm 37% 5% 13% 4%
Have patronized prostitutes 70% 15%

Can These Numbers Be Trusted?
In many categories Kinsey's numbers appear somewhat high: He reports that 85% of men have had premarital intercourse, compared to Laumann et al's 74-81%; he reports that 62% of women have masturbated, compared to Laumann et al's 42%. But the effects of Kinsey's sampling are most noticeable for homosexuality, where he reports that 37% of men and 13% of women have had at least one homosexual contact resulting in an orgasm; this number appears significantly exaggerated compared to Laumann's 5% for men and 4% for women. Another case where Kinsey's numbers look too high concerns prostitution, where he reports that 70% of men have patronized prostitutes compared to Laumann's 15%. But if one digs a little deeper, according to Laumann, much of this difference disappears: Older men who were growing up in the late 1940s and early 1950s are much more likely to have patronized prostitutes than men who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. The implication is that prostitution, or at least the patronizing of prostitutes, has become less common since Kinsey conducted his survey.

One Increased Practice
But there is one category that does not follow this pattern. Kinsey reports that 59% of the men in his sample had had oral sex, whereas Laumann and his team cite a significantly higher figure, between 77% and 79%. In this case, says Laumann, oral sex actually has gotten more popular since Kinsey, as a result of the increasing rate of circumcision among men -- initially promoted, ironically enough, as a way to reduce masturbation.

More Information
In recent years, the Kinsey Institute has published its own summaries of Kinsey's original data online, along with bibliographic pages summarizing some subsequent scholarship.

  Kinsey's Reports, Scientifically Revisited Previous
10 of 10
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