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, in itself, was evidence of women’s much lower interest in sexual matters and their lack of authority 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, extra-marital affairs, homosexual activity and sex with prostitutes. 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 report on male sexuality was published in 1948 followed by the female report in 1953. The five-year gap was due to the controversy over his conclusions on female sexuality. His research covered a period of more than 10 years (between 1938 and 1948), which allowed time for some of the more reticent individuals to be persuaded to contribute. This approach ensured the research samples were representative of the general population. Kinsey spoke to over 5,300 men and 5,940 women (white Americans). He indicated that it was likely that race and culture influence our 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. Despite such a large proportion of the female population being unresponsive, women’s orgasm claims were accepted at face value. As a scientist, Kinsey was obliged to document the orgasms women reported with a lover. But he doubted the claims because he found that the frequencies with which couples had intercourse correlated with the man’s responsiveness. If women had orgasms with a lover, one would expect their responsiveness to impact on intercourse frequencies in a similar way.

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. Male orgasm is easily identified because it is accompanied by ejaculation. But there is no proof of female orgasm. If a woman says “I might have had an orgasm once”, this is not evidence of orgasm. A person knows for sure if they have an orgasm. Orgasm does not occur spontaneously. Orgasm is most usually the result of consciously bringing mental arousal to a climax.

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.

Even with women’s doubtful orgasm claims, Kinsey concluded that very little of women’s overall sexual activity ever resulted in orgasm. To the public, it was a revelation that women were capable of orgasm at all. Only 20% of women (in Kinsey’s sample) masturbated regularly. Yet he concluded that masturbation was the most reliable way to orgasm. When masturbating, women could achieve 95% of the time. Kinsey used these masturbatory experiences to understand the physiology of female orgasm.

Kinsey’s work was publicised on television and he sold many books. But few people are interested in academic non-fiction on a topic as sensational as sex. Research (in any field) naturally ages as time passes. The difference is that in other fields, research is continually updated. No further work was done to either confirm or correct the original research. Even though Kinsey highlighted the role of the clitoris in female orgasm. This information was just as unpopular today. Any woman who raises the issue of a lack of orgasm is unpopular with her own sex because by highlighting her experience, she calls into question the orgasms other women think they have. Sexology should provide the factual regardless of the public’s need for reassurance.

The findings from the statistical sex research were not accepted even when first published. The researchers were subjected to verbal abuse, character assassination and the marginalisation of their work. The approach of asking women to document their experiences was simply dropped. It had not provided the results that were wanted. Specifically it did not support the emotional beliefs of the general public and the sexology profession. Consequently, there is no sex research program (of any significance) in any institution anywhere in the world today. Modern day research focuses on obscure and tangential issues that hold little interest for the public. There is no research into the big issues involved in understanding human sexuality.

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)