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Alfred Kinsey's Work 50 Years Later

For the reprint edition of Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Indiana University Press, 1998), the current director of The Kinsey Institute, John Bancroft, M.D., has written a new introduction, "Alfred Kinsey's Work 50 Years Later," in which he considers the main criticisms levied against Kinsey, identifies ways in which Kinsey has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, and gives his own evaluation of Kinsey's work as presented in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, and The Kinsey Data: Marginal Tabulations of the 1938-1963 Interviews Conducted by the Institute for Sex Research. All three volumes have been reprinted by Indiana University Press this year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first Kinsey study, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (W.B. Saunders, 1948). Order these reprint editions from IU Press.

Dr. Bancroft's essay has the following headings:

  • Kinsey's Methodology
  • Kinsey's Mission
  • The Naturalness of Sexual Behavior
  • Kinsey and Children
  • Kinsey as a Scholar of Sexual Science; and
  • Conclusions (Scroll down for the full text of this section.)


In the field of sexual science, where intellectual heavyweights have been in short supply, Kinsey remains the pre-eminent sexual scientist. The fact that he was trained as a biologist, yet carried out a massive study of human sexual behavior which was closer to social science than to biology, accounts for some of the mistakes and errors of judgment that he made. He was clearly a stubborn man with strongly held opinions. He needed to be in control, making it less likely that he would accept the advice of others, and this resulted in his taking some wrong directions. However, Kinsey showed himself responsive to criticism when it was backed up with good evidence, and without this stubborn and somewhat arrogant streak, he would not have succeeded in what was an exceptionally courageous and monumental piece of pioneering research. While sometimes being hypercritical of his academic peers, he showed strong compassion for those who he believed suffered as a result of their sexual lives. He doubted that the causes for such problems lay with the individual, but rather the repressive social environment in which he or she had developed. He wanted sex to play a positive part in people's lives. In this respect, he was a somewhat naive idealist, whose ideals surfaced at a time when the whole issue of sexual morality was in or near the "melting pot." The extent to which Kinsey is responsible for changes in sexual attitudes and behavior that have occurred since he published his two volumes is debatable. There have been many relevant and powerful socio-cultural factors involved during that half century. But what is beyond dispute is that he opened up the debate about sexual behavior and in several respects "demystified" it. Some will continue to regret this, preferring that sex remains surrounded by mystery, whatever the human cost. As far as I am concerned, he was a man of scientific integrity and great compassion who made a superhuman effort to do what he thought needed to be done, and for this, he deserves our greatest respect.

Copyright © 1998, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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