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Sex Research Today

Sexuality is one of the most fundamental aspects of human existence. It is the source of joy and fulfillment as well as health challenges and difficulties affecting men and women, families, and society. From relationships, marriages, and procreation to sexually transmitted diseases, from sexual dysfunction and sexual violence to teen pregnancy and aging issues, sexuality affects many aspects of our lives and our society. The study of sexual response and behavior is fundamental to understanding these aspects of human lives, and to the development and evaluation of effective solutions and interventions for problems associated with sexuality. Sex research today includes a number of methodological approaches designed to address questions of sexual behavior.

  • Surveys and questionnaires and interviews: Most current research relies on asking questions, either by face-to-face interviews, on paper or computer, by phone or Internet. These questions ask about sexual feelings and behavior as well as a person's physical and mental health, and relationship experiences.
  • Psychophysiological measurements: The actual measurement of sexual response is a small part of sex research, but an important tool to improve our understanding of human sexuality. Techniques include the measurement of subjective experience of sexual feeling and response, general physiological reactions (such as skin conductance, blood pressure and heart rate) as well as genital responses. New technologies, such as pelvic functional MRI, allow scientists to view and map sexual processes in the brain and throughout the body.

At The Kinsey Institute, all methodologies are subject to careful procedures monitored by Indiana University's Institutional Review Boards, typically referred to as human subjects committees. These committees review the ethics and procedures to make sure the study provides complete and accurate information to each subject about any risks or benefits regarding the particular study. Research volunteers are well informed about procedures, and all research with humans, even web-based surveys, requires subjects' consent to participate. Anyone asked to participate in sex research is provided with written descriptions of study procedures and goals, and these materials are discussed and signed by both participants and researchers.

The goals of The Kinsey Institute's research program are to improve the health and well being of individuals, couples and families, and of society as a whole, by

  • Improving our understanding of the social, biological, and psychological determinants of sexual response, function, and behavior
  • Collaborating in the development, design and evaluation of effective medical, behavioral and educational interventions

The Research Collections
Understanding the complexities of sexuality requires historical, literary, and cultural critical evaluation. Alfred C. Kinsey established his sexology library with a vision that access to wide range of materials about human sexuality would enhance the scientific and scholarly work of sex researchers. The mission of the Library and special collections is to acquire, preserve and organize print and visual materials that document sexual beliefs, sexual customs, sex research, and sexual ephemera. Representations of sexual behavior and societal attitudes have existed, in art and literature, throughout the centuries and across cultures. The rich, comprehensive, and irreplaceable library, art and photography, and archival collections at The Kinsey Institute assist scholars from many academic specialties to contribute to an interdisciplinary understanding of sexuality and sexual behavior. Today, with more than 100,000 print materials, 10,000 films and videos, more than 80,000 art, artifacts and photographs, as well as and an extensive archival collection collections of prominent sex researchers and sex research organizations, the Library and special collections provide both primary and secondary sources for scholars and researchers who study sexuality, gender and reproduction. It is the premier collection for scholars from across the United States and from around the world.

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