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  Questions and Answers: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5
  Back to Introduction | Forum Participants

Day 4:
February 17, 2005

Q: Do I misunderstand or did Kinsey advocate acting on every sexual impulse? Coming of age in the sixties, I remember the complications that arose from the "if it feels good do it" attitude. Did Kinsey advise any constraints on sexual behavior?

Holliston, MA

Answered by James H. Jones:
Based upon his research and his own inclinations, Kinsey believed that sexual restraints did more harm than good to society. Consequently, he was very accepting of most forms of sexual behavior. Yet he did draw at least one line in the sand. He insisted that sexual acts between or among people had to be consensual. Kinsey believed that sexual acts that involved more than one human being should be agreeable to both parties, or to all parties if the number exceeded two. Consequently, he opposed and condemned rape or the use of force of any kind.

James H. Jones

Q: Do you believe that in today's society, such a profound study could again be conducted with such magnitude? It would be interesting to see how different the findings are considering the proliferation of the internet and expanded knowledge of sex and sexual behavior.

Granville, OH

Answered by Melissa Pardue and Robert Rector:
We do not believe that a study like Kinsey's could ever be published today because of the universally accepted scientific standards of research, which Kinsey's work does not meet. We believe Kinsey's study was a scientific fraud due to the sampling methods he used. The fact that he included "data" from a habitual pedophile regarding the abuse of hundreds of infants and children is of course also problematic, if not very disturbing. What still remains one the most troubling aspects of Kinsey's work is that we feel this sham was carefully concealed from the American public for so many years. In our view, Alfred Kinsey was an ideological activist with a radical sexual agenda. He conducted deliberately fraudulent research in order to promote this agenda. We also think he created a fraudulent public image as a straight-laced entomologist in order to deceive the public about his values and objectives.

Other more recent studies (such as the Hite report) that have used the same type of biased and subjective sampling that Kinsey employed have been simply laughed out of the public arena. It is unlikely that we will ever see such a fraud of social science of this magnitude again.

What we view as Kinsey's radical public agenda remains unacceptable to most Americans today. The majority of people agree that healthy sex should be linked with intimacy, love, and commitment, factors that are generally absent from the kind of casual sex that Kinsey advocated. Parents seem to strongly agree with this as the message we should be reinforcing to our teens. A December 2003 Zogby poll found that 91 percent of parents wanted schools to teach that "adolescents should be expected to abstain from sexual activity during the high school years." A similar poll by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found 92 percent of adolescents themselves say society needs to send teens that strong message.

You are right that we have much better and expanded knowledge of sex and sexual behavior than during Kinsey's era, which is a good thing. Specifically, there is a growing body of valid scientific research that measures the impact and effects of sexual behavior and sexual choices. What has emerged from this research are the manifold harmful consequences to the kind of casual and irresponsible sex that Kinsey advocated. Of specific interest to many researchers is how early sexual behavior affects the ability to form and maintain stable relationships and/or marriages in later years. These and other findings will undoubtedly become better understood in the future.

Melissa Pardue

Robert E. Rector

Answered by Adrienne Verrilli:
I absolutely agree that it would be interesting to see the findings of a modern-day, large-scale study on sexual behavior. There is so much that we still do not know about people's sexual behavior and relationships. Kinsey's ground-breaking work certainly provided us with a great deal of valuable information. However, you are right in your assessment that a lot has changed in the decades that followed. It likely that a study today would find different results as attitudes about sexuality have evolved and information has become more readily available.

Such research is very important. Without a deep understanding of behavior, public health and education professionals are at a real disadvantage when it comes to helping people understand their sexuality, make healthy choices, and avoid negative consequences such as unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Unfortunately, in today's political environment, research on sexuality is rare and under attack. As I mentioned on Day 2, National Institute of Health officials recently warned scientists who study HIV and AIDS to prepare for political interference with their research. A May 2003 New York Times article reported that the HHS might begin to apply "unusual scrutiny" to grants that used key words such as "men who have sex with men," "gay," and "homosexual." And just yesterday the Washington Post reported that presenters at an upcoming suicide prevention conference were directed by H.H.S.' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to change the title of their workshop. The presenters had originally called their workshop "Suicide Prevention Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals," but were asked by SAMSHA officials to omit the four descriptive words. They were told that it would be "acceptable" to use the term "sexual orientation" instead.

So, the short answer to your questions seems to be that regardless of how valuable such research would be, it is unlikely that we will see a new Kinsey-like study anytime soon. SIECUS believes that this lack of research comes at the expense of the health and well-being of all Americans.

Adrienne Verrilli

Q: If a patient, client, of mine were to disclose that she'd never had an orgasm... and felt something was wrong with her... how would you recommend that I advise her? (This is a case I was given as an assignment to research (with no boundaries)... Who better to ask than the Kinsey panel!!!)

Los Angeles, CA

Answered by Dr. Gilbert Herdt:
While unusual, the case you report is by no means unique. She should have the expectation of having a happy and fulfilling sexual life. In the case of a client, I would of course advise that you take a full sexual history, and ask her how she feels about the issue. It might be advisable as well to recommend that she see her personal physician and have a complete examination, specifically discussing the matter with the M.D. The results of the first and second step would help determine to you and her the next step. Good luck!

Dr. Gilbert Herdt

Q: What does the Kinsey Institute focus on today, decades after Kinsey's initial work, and what is the general focus of sex research these days, decades after major social shifts in American sexuality?

Debra Hyde
Hartford, CT

Answered by Catherine Johnson-Roehr:

Whereas Alfred Kinsey was interested in 'what' people were doing sexually, today at The Kinsey Institute we are more interested in 'why,' to help define answers to problems that individuals, couples, families and society face around sexuality.

Some of our themes are:

  • Understanding how people differ in their responses to sexual situations;

  • Understanding the role of emotion in sexual decision-making and sexual well-being;

  • Understanding the interaction between mind and body in sexual behavior and response;

  • Exploring the role of hormones in sexual response and well-being;

  • Understanding the factors that contribute to both health and distress in sex and sexual relations;

  • Understanding the role of experience and environment in sexual and relationship problems, including the effects of sexual abuse and the Internet.

In addition to the work being done by our own research staff, The Kinsey Institute makes its extensive collections available for use by a wide variety of scholars researching aspects of sex, gender, and reproduction. With more than 100,000 print materials, 10,000 films and videos, more than 80,000 art, artifacts and photographs, as well as an extensive archival collection, the Library and special collections provide both primary and secondary sources for researchers from many disciplines. The Kinsey Institute Library continues to collect, archive, organize, and preserve print and audiovisual materials that document sexual behaviors, sex attitudes, sex education and literature. We are building a strong archival program and provide a permanent home for the records and papers of sex research organizations and sexologists. These manuscripts and archival materials serve as important primary resources for students of sexuality.

The Institute's collection of art, artifacts, and photographs provides unique visual resources for scholars and researchers. Founded by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s, this collection of mostly donated material spans more than 2,000 years of human history and contains artworks, professional and amateur photographs, objects, and ephemera from a wide range of cultures and time periods. We have an active exhibition program, as we believe it is an important part of our educational mission to share aspects of our collection with the interested public. All together, these materials make The Kinsey Institute the premier sexuality research collection for scholars from across the United States and around the world.

For more information on sex research today, please visit our website (

Catherine Johnson-Roehr

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