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Home Intellectual aspects of sexuality Alfred Kinsey’s findings (1948 and 1953)

Alfred Kinsey’s findings (1948 and 1953)

Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues held private interviews with over 10,000 people. His team classified people according to sex, age and education level. They then produced tables to see if there were any correlations between sexual activity and personal characteristics. Kinsey used the frequency of orgasm (responsiveness) as a measure of sexuality. His work was unpopular for highlighting women’s much lower responsiveness. The reports were co-authored by four men. This was a reflection of women’s much lower interest in sexuality and their lack of authority in sexual matters compared with men.

Kinsey’s team acquired an unprecedented knowledge base, which enabled them to objectively assess a person’s sexual experiences. Kinsey’s work was unpopular because people were offended by its explicitness. He provided statistics for men and women’s total outlet (defined by the incidence of orgasm) including masturbation, coitus, homosexual activity and (in rural areas) even sex with farm animals. Kinsey’s work provides us with the most comprehensive data we have on sexuality. There has been no research since that has come anywhere close to the detail and thoroughness of his work.

Kinsey’s project attracted publicity and his academic reputation was sound. His research covered a period of more than 10 years, which allowed time for some of the more reticent individuals to be persuaded to contribute and made the research more representative. Kinsey spoke to over 5,300 men and 5,940 women but he limited his research to the white population of the USA. He indicated that race and culture may have an effect on sexuality.

Kinsey’s report on male sexuality was published in 1948 followed by the female report in 1953. The research for both was carried out between 1938 and 1948. The five-year gap was due to the controversial findings on female sexuality. Around 10% of the women in Kinsey’s sample (549) acknowledged that they had never had an orgasm in their life. Many women (30% of Kinsey’s sample or about 1,800 women) openly admitted that they were never or rarely aroused. Only 70% of women orgasm at all. Despite such a large proportion of the female population being unresponsive, women’s orgasm claims were accepted at face value. There are few men who have a low responsiveness and essentially none who are unresponsive.

Kinsey found that men were on average up to 6 times more responsive than women. For men under 30, orgasm frequencies were 3 times per week on average. He found that women orgasm around once every 2 to three weeks on average. Women’s orgasm frequencies through masturbation and lesbian sex were both sporadic and infrequent. It was only with a male lover, that women claimed to have orgasms in line with male orgasm frequencies.

As a scientist, Kinsey was obliged to document the instances of orgasm that women reported with a lover. But he made it clear that he had doubts about these claims. The clitoris is clearly equivalent to the penis. Women alone and with another woman stimulate the clitoris. The most damning evidence was that the frequencies with which couples have intercourse correlated very clearly with the man’s responsiveness. A woman’s presumed responsiveness had no effect on the regularity with which couples engaged in intercourse.

Kinsey’s report focused on orgasm in an attempt to draw objective conclusions. This approach provided interesting insights into male sexuality because when a man is stimulated genitally, orgasm is usually a given. Female orgasm is more subjective and relies on a woman’s testimony. Even including women’s claims of orgasm with a male lover, Kinsey concluded that very little of women’s overall sexual activity ever concluded in orgasm.

Kinsey found that only 20% of women masturbated regularly. Yet he concluded that masturbation was the most reliable means for a woman to orgasm. The research indicated that female masturbation was 95% effective. This fact was not promoted. Kinsey acknowledged that he and his fellow researchers used female masturbation as the basis for understanding the physiology of female orgasm. The accounts of orgasm that women reported from masturbation alone provided the most convincing explanations for how women experience a phenomenon similar to male orgasm. Kinsey’s conclusion that women orgasm most easily when masturbating was ignored.

Kinsey’s work was widely publicised on television and he sold many books. But few people are interested in an academic work of non-fiction on a topic as sensational as sex. It was a revelation that women were capable of orgasm at all. Most women only engage in sexual activity by responding to male sex drive (few women masturbate) so they concluded women must orgasm from intercourse. It was thereafter proposed (with no supporting evidence) that all women orgasm every time they engage in any kind of sexual activity.

The idea that women have a sexuality of their own, that provides for their orgasm quite separate to what men want is alien to many people because of the way they experience sex. Heterosexual activity is driven by men’s desire for intercourse. The act of intercourse reflects what we see in Nature and provides a woman with the family she wants. Once a woman has accepted a man as her mate, she accepts the need to give a man the release he needs.

The validity of extending generalizations derived from a study of any sample depends, fundamentally and unavoidably, upon the representativeness of that sample. (Alfred Kinsey 1948)