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Alfred Kinsey breaks the sex taboos and prompts sexual revolution

Tijana Radeska
Alfred Kinsey

Alfred Kinsey was a precursor of the “sexual revolution” in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was a scientist, most noted for his work on male and female sexual behavior.

Kinsey provided scientific knowledge and understanding about sex, sexuality, and gender.

In 1938, he established the Institute for Sex Research at the Indiana University, today known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.

Kinsey in 1955

Kinsey in 1955

Kinsey was born in 1894, in New Jersey and grew up in a devout Methodist family.

Even though his family didn’t support his scientific work later, they certainly encouraged his interests in nature, camping and  joining the Boy Scouts and the reason was more than obvious- the gr was founded on Christian principles.

Kinsey enjoyed it, and in 1913, he became one of the first Eagle Scouts.

He was a brilliant student, graduating as valedictorian of his high school class and later in 1916, as “magna cum laude”  at the Bowdoin College as a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology.

Then he enrolled in Bussey Institute at the Harvard University where he studied under the entomologist William Morton Wheeler. Kinsey made his doctoral thesis on gall wasps.

Beyond any doubts, he remained devoted to his work and thus brilliantly contributed to biology and entomology.

Gall wasps. Photo credit

Gall wasps. Photo credit

Today, the American Museum of Natural History has a collection of 18 million insects out of which 5 million are gall wasps collected by Kinsey.

Kinsey had a bitter relationship with his family. Although he was a very successful student and scientist, his family disapproved of his choices.

Neither they showed support when he married Clara McMillen – a chemist and entomologist who he met during a picnic organized by the zoology department.

Clara Bracken McMillen

Clara Bracken McMillen

During the 1930s, Kinsey accepted to teach a course on marriage. It was then when he realized that there isn’t almost any scientific data on sex, especially when he couldn’t answer his students’ questions on the topic.

So, he decided to apply the principles of scientific research on the topics concerning sexual behavior.

Kinsey is considered as the first major figure in American sexology. Many of his arguments are dismissed or questioned by modern sexologists and other scientists, but they all agree that he was the first one, brave enough, to make such researches on taboo topics.

Kinsey during an interview. Photo credit

Kinsey during an interview. Photo credit

First, he studied and applied scientific theory in his researches.

Then he strictly focused on interviews in which various people were explaining their sexual experiences, desires, and needs in detail.

In the end, he became an observer and later a participant. He had an open relationship with his wife, both of them having sex with other people. She significantly contributed to Kinsey’s work on sexuality.

Kinsey's home in Bloomington

Kinsey’s home in Bloomington

In 1938, he launched the first sex studies program and two years later he obtained research funding from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Medical Division, which enabled his further researches.

In 1948, Kinsey published his first book on sexology “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” which was sold in nearly 500,000 copies in a couple of days.

In 1953, he published the sequel “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” but it wasn’t as popular as the first one.

Kinsey was a controversial figure of his time and a riddle to the public and media. His work was brand new and as government officials at that time didn’t have any other term to apply to him rather than communism, Kinsey was subjected to anti-Communist investigations.

He had a great collection of sexual material from all around the world, so in 1956, the U.S. Customs seized few pornographic movies sent to Kinsey. But Kinsey passed away before the case was legally resolved. He died of a heart failure at the age of 62.

Alfred Kinsey

Alfred Kinsey. Photo credit

We have another interesting read for you: Native American tribes recognized a gender separate from male and female it was called – “Two-Spirits”. They weren’t seen as homosexual among their tribe

No matter how controversial Kinsey had been, today he is considered as one of the greatest contributors to the studies of sexual behavior and sexuality. At last, his Institute at the Indiana University remains named after him.