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Questions About Sex

  Reasons for the Research | Answering Questions | The Published Findings


% The Published Findings

Kinsey's data revealed that sexual intercourse before marriage -- in both genders -- was more common than believed. Critics voiced louder objections to the news that some women reported having pre-marital sex, but Kinsey's results showed that men engaged in more extensive pre-marital activity.

The Reports also revealed a surprising amount of sexual activity outside of marriage. Kinsey was interested in gathering the numbers, not in making judgments -- yet his seeming lack of moral concern was interpreted by some as encouragement.


'It's interesting how parents reacted. I had a friend who was interviewed -- and knew about as little as I did, apparently, as I found out later... Her mother bought the book to see if there was any mention of Miss J. K. speaking about anything.' -- Patricia Sheffield, Kinsey interviewee

"If I took a moral position, there's no end to what I could chastise people for in terms of extramarital affairs... [but] we didn't feel that it was up to us to change people's lives at all. We were trying to find out exactly what people do and why. And that's a big topic."
-- Clyde Martin, sex researcher


"[The form of the] question changes the dynamics because it requires the person to deny that they do it, whereas before the way these questions were asked was sort of starting with the presumption no one did this, and...you were 'fessing up to something very problematic. That change in the strategy of asking questions is really one of the big scientific legacies of Kinsey's work."
-- Edward Laumann, sociologist


'What Kinsey learned, what I think other researchers have shown, is that women by and large learn what's expected of them from their peers, from their family, from the culture, and try to comply as best they can.' -- Leonore Tiefert, sex researcher

"Somehow this very scientific male with all of his thousands of interviews and his tables... gave us a scientific basis to say, 'this is the enlightened way to start looking at it'... I just really admire him so much. I don't think there are many people in the 20th century who did as much for women and for the human species as he did."
-- Barbara Seaman, journalist


"He asked people... a standard set of questions and he found that they had a huge range of answers. And that was extremely illuminating. If you really thought about it, somehow you'd think, 'well of course, people come from wherever, they're raised in different families, and have different life experiences, of course.' But that's not what the rap was at the time... The revelations about the range of sexual experience, the range of enjoyment levels, the quantitative difference, this was absolutely amazing. And a lot of people couldn't take it in, they kept thinking, well these women had to have been lying, I mean it's impossible that the extreme stories at whatever end of the extreme you're talking about could be true. But I think it was the diversity and the range that was extremely important and that he did get right."
-- Leonore Tiefert, sex researcher


'[Kinsey] gave people an opportunity to fashion a story of their own sexual lives for the first time in their life, which did not engage in moralizing about whether the behavior was good or bad. I think he freed people up in a way to see their lives as a whole, their sexual lives as part of their life.' -- John Gagnon, sex researcher

"When my two daughters were growing up, one of the things I put them to doing was dusting the books. I knew very well that they would find Kinsey's books on the shelves, and I knew very well that they would wait until I was out of the house and turn the pages and browse and check the index. I felt that's a reasonable way for two young women to learn these things... I may say that I learned the equivalent information from reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles and looking up every word I didn't know."
-- Miriam Hecht, Kinsey interviewee

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