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Questions About Sex

  Reasons for the Research | Answering Questions | The Published Findings


% Answering Questions

Kinsey and his team began by asking biographical questions: age, educational level, religion, parents' occupational class, and more. The next questions, about dreams and arousal, led into sexual desires and first experiences with the same straightforwardness.

Aware that the makeup of his interviewee population would affect his results, Kinsey tried to ensure 100% participation by various groups. He believed if he interviewed enough diverse groups of people -- college students, prison inmates, blue-collar workers, and so on -- he would capture a statistically significant sample. This approach would cause controversy and, ultimately, the revision of some of his data.


'The main objective was to really find out what is true. And of course what is -- what we see -- was so different than what people really thought the world was like... all we had to do was to try to be true to the data.' -- Clyde Martin, sex researcher

"A lot of people flatly refused to volunteer. A number of people said they had nothing to tell them as they had no sex lives. But my answer to that was, well, if he only interviewed people with vivid sex lives, he would get a very distorted sample and we needed also people with more modest sex lives..."
-- Miriam Hecht, Kinsey interviewee


'[Kinsey] would start [with]... the earliest memory you have of having any kind of sexual experience. And then he would just go on...' -- Alice Ginott Cohn, Kinsey interviewee

'Most people... would tell you that they found the interview itself cathartic... They found in their exchanges with [Kinsey] an opportunity to think about themselves with a kind of candor that may not have been present in their life previously.' -- Jim Jones, biographer

"[Kinsey] did a lot of his interviewing during the Second World War. So many of the women he interviewed were women whose husbands or lovers were away. And women very often reported not a great deal of trouble about that, because for many of them... sexuality was something that you did with someone you cared about... an expression of intimacy. It wasn't an expression of mammalian drives."
-- John Gagnon, sex researcher


"They had two rooms in the library. As I remember... I could look out the window and Pomeroy stood behind me so that there wouldn't be any eye contact. He thought that would be embarrassing... He wouldn't say, 'have you ever done so-and-so?', he'd say, 'how often do you do so-and-so?'. Which I think was very clever, and I would say, 'what are you talking about?' or 'I don't know, I never did,' or whatever, and he would cross things out too, because at that point, I hadn't even been kissed yet."
-- Pat Sheffield, Kinsey interviewee


"Keeping it confidential was sacred to them, because they knew that unless they assured the people who they interviewed that that would be so, nobody would come to be interviewed. People revealed things about themselves that certainly nobody else even knew, not even their wives or husbands or parents or brothers or sisters."
-- Alice Ginott Cohn, Kinsey interviewee


'Kinsey was a biologist. He used his scientific training to ask important questions about the human biology of sexuality, and his answer, his way of thinking about this was essentially taxonomic... He was interested in classifying the varieties that existed in men and women's behavior... He actually doesn't really have a very good grasp on gender differences, because he comes at this from a fairly male view at the beginning.' -- Edward Laumann, sociologist

"Kinsey was a biologist. He used his scientific training to ask important questions about the human biology of sexuality, and his answer, his way of thinking about this was essentially taxonomic... He was interested in classifying the varieties that existed in men and women's behavior... He actually doesn't really have a very good grasp on gender differences, because he comes at this from a fairly male view at the beginning."
-- Edward Laumann, sociologist

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