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Kinsey in the News

  Sexual Behavior in the Human Male | Sexual Behavior in the Human Female

Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953)

'...The biggest and raciest commotion the world's press had seen in years...'-- Time magazine; 'Inevitably, the new book will bring protests from those who perceive the workings of morality as opposed to plain animal desire in sex...'-- Newsweek magazine; '...the new Kinsey Report should bring happiness to far more people than it may hurt...'-- Collier's magazine In the five years between the releases of Kinsey's two reports, America completed its evolution from postwar victor to Cold War combatant. With the spectre of nuclear destruction hovering over the world, individuals like Senator Joseph McCarthy parlayed fears of Communism into political power and personal attacks on those in the opposition, who were smeared as un-American. A middle-class ideal of security and family life emerged in this domestic revival.

At a time when American society seemed under attack, Kinsey's report on women was received like another torch on the bonfire. Although some welcomed the report as a necessary tool for education and understanding, outrage crested over the report's implications for American womanhood. A congressional committee launched an investigation into Kinsey's and his funders' possible connections to the Communist Party, and the Indiana professor soon lost his research funding.

Time, August 17, 1953

Kinsey for Lutherans

With Dr. Alfred Kinsey's new book Sexual Behavior in the Human Female almost ready for publication, Missouri Synod Lutherans are preparing a kind of Kinsey report of their own. In 1950 the church's Triennial Convention appropriated $25,000 for a 25-man research team to investigate Biblical references and Christian teaching on marriage and family life and what Lutherans think and do about it... Among the preliminary findings:

  • Only 16% of young Lutheran bachelors (age 16-20) admit to sexual intercourse (whereas Kinsey found that, among non-churchgoing Protestants in the same age bracket, 90% of grade-school-level males, 80% at high-school-level and 45% at college level had premarital intercourse)...

  • 64% of married Lutherans, but only 36% of the clergy, approve the use of contraceptive devices...

There was disagreement between laymen and clergy on what causes family dissension. Said the laity: finances, in-laws and disputes over child-training. Said the clergy: drink, sex, and religion.

Newsweek, August 24, 1953

...Kinsey's report on men was hailed with enthusiasm by some physiologists and philosophers and attacked with equal fervor by others. Any individual's attitude depended on whether he accepted Kinsey's basic notion that man's biological behavior is dictated by biological needs and subject to the same biological rules that govern lower animals...

...[In the Female Report], in concise and easy-to-read language, Kinsey batters at some contemporary ideas about the female's slower sex responsiveness, her earlier sex development, her greater extent of erogenous (sexually sensitive) zones, and her emotional reactions in sex relations... one thing strikes Dr. Kinsey as outstanding: "... the range of variation [of sex behavior] in the female far exceeds the range of variation in the male."

...The slow destruction of the double standard of sex behavior, Kinsey reasons, has resulted from freer consideration of sex matters in our times: the "emancipation" of the female, increased knowledge of contraception, anonymity of persons living in urban areas, control of venereal infection, draft armies which allow American men and women to observe foreign cultures, and drives against organized prostitution (which have drastically reduced the frequency of male contacts with prostitutes, and increased, correspondingly, the frequency of contacts with females not for direct hire.)

Controversy Coming

The female volume is bound to be a controversial book. Kinsey and his associates have made a contribution to man's limited scientific knowledge of human sex behavior. By presenting an immense mass of evidence, gathered by empirical investigation, they have given their concepts a certain statistical validity, but it is subject to limitations and possibly misinterpretations imposed by a purely materialistic approach.

Inevitably, the new book will bring protests from those who perceive the workings of morality as opposed to plain animal desire in sex and from scientists who may not approve of the doctor's method of collecting his case histories...

Time, August 31, 1953


In London last week, the world's biggest daily, the tabloid Mirror (circ. 4,432,700), got out its three-inch type for a single banner headline: WOMEN... K-day -- the prearranged release date for a summary of [Dr. Alfred Kinsey's] book on Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Time, Aug. 24) -- set off the biggest and raciest commotion the world's press had seen in years...

Hearst papers generally gave the story maximum play, while simultaneously cluck-clucking on their editorial pages. Hearst's New York tabloid, the Daily Mirror, which seldom passes up any story with a sex angle, explained to its readers that it ran this "supposedly... scientific effort [because] we felt we could not become overpious and fail to publish it." Scripps-Howard editors had local option on how to handle the story, e.g., the San Francisco News ran only an explanation of why it was leaving Kinsey out ("This is adult reading"), while Denver's Rocky Mountain News cut out the data on the teenage petting. Other editors had more trouble figuring out euphemisms for Kinsey's clinical explanations...

Some editors did their best to keep the story going, with follow-ups on what women thought about Kinsey. Many readers were indignant. The Great Bend, Kans. Tribune got so many protests "from religious groups and... individual readers" that it stopped a five-installment series with the first and swore off: "No more Kinsey."

Collier's, September 18, 1953


by [marriage counselor] Dr. Emily Hartshorne Mudd with Bill Davidson

...For the first time, as a result of [Kinsey's] work we have facts based on they systematic observation of large numbers of people; previous pioneers in the field -- mainly Sigmund Freud and Havelock Ellis-- had instead given detailed reports on individual cases. With the publication this month of the new Kinsey Report on the sexual behavior of 5,940 women, we professionals are buttressed by even more scientific fact, by additional statistically valid averages and patterns...

Education is Urgently Needed

Besides using the Kinsey Report on women as a yardstick for the average (as we did with the first report) we will also use it more broadly -- to educate people. Such education is badly needed. We have actually had hundreds of cases where neither the husband nor the wife realized that women are capable of any sexual response. There are many wives who consider their husbands unfaithful because they are aroused by outside stimulation, such as pictures of other women. Dr. Kinsey's new report will show these brooding wives that nearly all men react strongly to nudity, thoughts of other experiences and so on -- and that their mental stimulations help the man respond to his wife as his immediate love object...

It's not surprising that Dr. Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Female is being described as one of the most controversial books of our age. Fundamentally, it is a magnificent piece of basic research which will be used by scholars for years to come as a jumping-off place for further studies. It and its companion volume give us the fullest set of facts we have at the moment on the subject of human sexual behavior. We still don't understand the implications of some of the facts; others may be disproved later on; and we may never find a practical application for much of the material. But the book should make us at least review some of the codes and mores that were set up before we knew the facts.

Certainly the new Kinsey Report should bring happiness to far more people than it may hurt, and it could even change important aspects of our culture. Several of my colleagues have commented, "Don't be surprised if in the next few years you see a quiet revolution in America, with more and more thinking parents encouraging their children to marry very young -- to spare them the frustration of having no permissible sex outlet during the peak years of their desires."

If this and other significant changes do take place in our culture, it will be difficult to believe that people once asked: "Why would an important scientist like Dr. Kinsey spend fifteen years of his life studying a distasteful subject like sex?"

Letters to the Editor

Time, September 7, 1953

Can't buy our Aug. 24 Time: our newsstands sold out. All holier-than-thous want to read your report on Kinsey's book. Be prepared for indignant letters to the editor.
Captain and Mrs. C. N. Beecham
Wichita, Kansas

Time, September 14, 1953

You are to be complimented on giving such a comprehensive account... Dr. Kinsey feels that the information he has gathered will help people to plan for happier marriages. I believe he is right...
Elizabeth Rosser
Chicago, Illinois

Any man who could get that much straight forward information from one, let alone nearly 6,000 women, should be Time's Man of the Year.
R. C. Tomlinson
West Orange, New Jersey

Collier's, October 16, 1953

I want to commend you on your article... I have been married 19 years and my husband took at least half of those years to learn a few of the things that Kinsey sets down so clearly. Thank you for a fearless article and one which I am sure will help people.
(Name withheld)
De Kalb, Illinois

I am no prude or saint, and Alfred C. Kinsey can publish his report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, but why your magazine should stoop to the low level of publishing a summary of this report is beyond me.
Loren A. Bates
Jackson, Mississippi

Look, October 20, 1953

I read the article on Dr. Kinsey's report with disgust. He takes a so-called survey of a few American women with bad morals and sets them up as an example of typical American womanhood...
Mrs. Chester Lyons
Cedar Lake, Indiana

Dr. Kinsey is to be congratulated for pioneering in the study of a perilous subject: woman. His work will serve as a kicking-off point for hundreds of scientific studies. Yet, I wonder if anyone will ever succeed in categorizing these unpredictable creatures.
Bill Smith
Chicago, Illinois

Collier's, October 30, 1953

I think congratulations are in order to Dr. Emily Hartshorne Mudd and Bill Davidson for showing the proper relationship between the book and education. Instead of merely reviewing the findings, they have made them practical for education by showing the information workable.
Mrs. James Knowles
Detroit, Michigan

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