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Timeline: Alfred Kinsey's Life, and Sex Research and Social Policies in America

1873-1947 | 1948-2003  


January: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male is published, to rave reviews and much shock. The title sells 200,000 copies in the first two months, and will hit the top of the bestseller lists by June. Scholarly reviews criticize Kinsey's work on a number of fronts. The most serious criticism is that his samples are not representative of the general population.


Kinsey hires a photographer to film volunteers and members of his research staff engaging in sexual activity.


Kinsey sues the U.S. Customs Service for permission to import erotica for research. The dispute will drag on, and remain unresolved on his death in 1956.


At the invitation of Committee on Research in Problems of Sex and the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Statistical Association convenes a panel of statisticians to review the results of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. The panel dismisses some of the scientific criticisms of Kinsey's work, but upholds others. Kinsey pressures the panel to mitigate their verdict, and in June 1952 the panel comes out with a watered-down, largely favorable report.


Dean Rusk, newly appointed president of the Rockefeller Foundation (and later secretary of state in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations), becomes concerned about divisions that Kinsey's work is causing among the foundation's officers and trustees.


Two Barry sisters read review of Alfred Kinsey Report over the shoulder of Beverly Lawrence Summer: The Reece Committee, formed by the House of Representatives and chaired by Republican congressman B. Carroll Reece of Tennessee, begins investigating nonprofit organizations for possible connections with the Communist Party.

August: Alfred Kinsey is featured on the cover of Time magazine.

September: Kinsey's second opus, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female is published. It causes a larger stir than the male volume. Many reviewers lambast it as an "indictment of American womanhood."


January: The press reports that Kinsey and the Rockefeller Foundation have become a target of the Reece Committee. Foundation president Dean Rusk pulls the plug on Kinsey's research grant.


Citing Kinsey, the American Law Institute publishes its Model Penal Code, with no ban against consensual, adult homosexual and anal sex. Many states adopt the model code, effectively legalizing homosexual and anal sex.


August 25: Alfred Kinsey dies of congestive heart failure. His wife Clara will live until 1982.


The Pill The Food and Drug Administration approves the first birth control pill.


The President's Commission on the Status of Women is established, chaired by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The commission will take two years to publish its Peterson Report, documenting workplace discrimination against women and making recommendations for child care, maternity leave, and equal opportunity for working women.


William Masters and Virginia Johnson publish another milestone in sex research, Human Sexual Response, in which they define four phases of human sexual response: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.


Hippies celebrate the sexual revolution and the age of "free love" with the motto, "make love, not war," as 100,000 young people gather in San Francisco for the Summer of Love.

The Supreme Court overturns state obscenity laws in Memoirs v. Massachusetts, allowing publication of John Cleland's 1750 novel, Fanny Hill.

Less than a decade after the first birth control pill's approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, over 12.5 million women worldwide are taking the medication for contraceptive purposes.


Masters and Johnson publish Human Sexual Inadequacy, in which they offer thoughts on the treatment of frigidity in women, impotence and premature ejaculation in men, and other sexual problems. They will subsequently open a clinic in St. Louis to treat sexual dysfunction.


March 23: The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in Eisenstadt v. Baird that a state cannot stand in the way of distribution of birth control to a single person, strikes down Massachusetts law prohibiting the sale of contraceptives to unmarried women.


The Supreme Court legalizes abortion in the landmark decision Roe v. Wade. The court bases its decision primarily on the tenet that a woman's right to privacy extends to reproductive matters. The decision will spur controversy and a call by anti-abortion activists to overturn it.


'Homo Sex is Sin' sign The rise of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a devastating disease that can be transmitted sexually, helps energize forces of sexual conservatism, who deem it God's revenge on homosexuals.


Rising sexual conservatism begins to manifest itself in social policy when the U.S. Congress declines to fund sex research, and in the efforts of individual legislators to bar funding for various National Institutes of Health-approved studies of human sexual behavior, including many related to public health. Abortion foes continue to attack Roe v. Wade.


The Food and Drug Administration approves Pfizer's Viagra as the first prescription drug for the treatment of male impotence, now known as "erectile dysfunction." By 2003, Viagra will generate $1.9 billion in annual sales for Pfizer.


In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court voids state sodomy laws, overturning an earlier Supreme Court ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986). Lawrence's attorneys cite Kinsey's statistics on homosexual sex.

1873-1947 | 1948-2003  

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