History of Sex Surveys: A Thousand Marriages Part 2

About a survey by Dr. Robert Latou Dickinson and Lura Beam entitled A Thousand Marriages done in the the 1920s, a look at sex, marriage, sexuality and more.


Most frequent complaint--failure to reach orgasm. Duration of orgasm averaged under 15 seconds. Habitual duration of insertion: in 12%, an instant; in 40%, under 5 minutes; in 34%, 5-10 minutes; in 17%, 15-20 minutes; in 9%, 30 minutes or longer.

Of the wives who considered their marriages sexually unsatisfying, 22% were classified as frigid, 46% as suffering from dyspareunia (painful intercourse), and 22% as "maladjusted, usually with strongly worded grievance toward the husband or marriage." These women were less fertile than the "sexually adjusted" women; only 26% of them had 2 or more children, compared with 40% of the women in the other group.

A selection of 114 Jewish wives, Roman Catholic wives, and wives of Protestant ministers showed a 68% sexual maladjustment, compared with 34% in the remaining 984 cases.


1. Every woman showed a capacity for sexual desire, lifelong, inconsistent and fluctuating.

2. There is an important psychosexual correlation between fertility and the degree of sexual harmony.

3. Sexual creativeness is reflected in other phases of life.

4. Sexual abstinence in marriage is ordinarily impracticable.

5. "The physical difficulty typical of the couples studied was that their common knowledge and the husband's technique were not adequate; the psychological difficulty of these couples was their inability to unify sex with the rest of life."

6. Sexual difficulties are infrequently organic (physiologically caused) in the woman. They are variants of mental and emotional behavior.

Most significantly of all, Dr. Dickinson concluded that "most of the maladjustments revealed by the study were preventable." Thirtyfive years later, Masters and Johnson reached the same conclusion.

Public Reaction: Dr. Dickinson's half century of research faced continual attacks by the American Medical Association and innumerable other groups who felt his attempt to obtain an increased knowledge of the physiology of the female reproductive processes was not scientifically creditable. But his contribution outlived his critics. Writing in the Encyclopaedia of Sex, Dr. Albert Ellis calls Dickinson's study "The best large-scale documentation of the cause-and-effect relationships between a Victorian upbringing and sexual frustration in adult life. . . . Nowhere else in the history of sex research are the bitter fruits of sexual Victorianism more tragically documented than in Dickinson's A Thousand Marriages" (published by Williams & Wilkins Co., 1931; 482 pp.).

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