Biography and Sexual Teachings of Alfred C. Kinsey Part 1

About the author of the famous Kinsey Reports on Sexual Behavior Alfred C. Kinsey, history and biography of the sex researcher.


ALFRED C. KINSEY (1894-1956), U.S.

Alfred Kinsey, born of upright working-class parents in Hoboken, N.J., was a responsible, serious eldest son and one of the first eagle scouts in this country. As a scout he wrote "What Do Birds Do When It Rains?"--his first scientific paper.

Kinsey didn't go out with women until he was 27. At college (Stevens Institute of Technology and Bowdoin), he "was the young man who played the piano at fraternity dances while others danced," reports Dr. Wardell Pomeroy, a fellow researcher. It is said, too, that when one of Kinsey's college friends came to him with a problem--that he masturbated--Kinsey's response was to kneel down with him to pray for help.

After receiving his Ph.D. in entomology from Harvard in 1920, Kinsey conducted exhaustive studies of the gall wasp, an insect which, ironically, reproduces parthenogenetically (without a sexual encounter). He collected at least 2 million gall wasps, and of those millions, he examined 150,000 for 28 different features. Kinsey married the first girl with whom he went steady. His hobby was gardening.

Kinsey hardly seemed a candidate to conduct sex research so shocking that in the world of 1948 it was condemned from the pulpit. Yet perhaps it does make sense, after all. Certainly in 1938, when Indiana University wanted someone to coordinate an interdisciplinary course in marriage, the first to be offered by an American university, the school did well to choose Associate Professor Kinsey--charming, straightforward, a solid family man, the salt of the earth. It would be difficult to accuse him of prurience. He didn't even look the part, for he was a sloppy dresser, who wore unpressed suits and bow ties (always askew) and hair in an unglamorous brush cut.

Painstaking scientist that he was, Kinsey was appalled by the small amount of information that was available to answer students' questions. Most of it, he said, was "biased by moral, philosophic, or social interpretations."

Kinsey was a compulsive collector--stamps, gall wasps, lilies and irises, classical records, even rum-based drink recipes. So he began to do what he did best--collect data--but this time on sex. He started interviewing people about their sexual lives and by 1939 had compiled 570 histories, many (but not all) from students at the college. In 1940 the marriage course was not offered because of pressure from the local clergy, but he did not stop the study. Two years later he received support from the Rockefeller Foundation and was able to expand his staff.

By 1948 the staff had recorded 12,000 histories, each the product of an intensive two-hour interview, containing from 300 to 500 "bits" of information. Kinsey personally conducted 7,000 interviews, an average of two a day for 10 years. He also gave lectures, which allowed his wry sense of humor to surface. When asked his opinion of a doctor who had written that a man reached his sexual peak at 48, Kinsey replied, "My opinion would be that the doctor was 48."

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