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This essay investigates Alfred Charles Kinsey's interest in and openness to human sexuality. He began as a zoology professor at Indiana University, challenging the taboo subject of human relations. He decided to start a sex studies program after realizing other students shared similar concerns. He believed in sexual freedom and equality for all genders, and he considered any sex actions between consenting adults to be a normal and healthy aspect of human existence. His research helped future psychologists and scientists grasp the fundamentals and basics of sexology by doing something no one had done before: interviewing thousands of Americans about their sexual experiences (P).
Alfred Kinsey: A Sex Research Pioneer
Early Life and Background
Kinsey was born in New Jersey on June 23, 1894, and was the oldest of his three siblings. His mother, Sarah Kinsey, described him as “shy and soft spoken.” Though his father, Alfred Seguine Kinsey, was a well-respected engineer, his family suffered instability and serious poverty (Condon). Kinsey’s family was discreet and reserved; his parents never showed affection towards each other and even less for their children (Alfred Kinsey).
The first ten years of his life, he had health problems and suffered from contracting rickets, rheumatic fever, and a case of typhoid which would affect him lifelong. These illnesses caused him to have spine problems and denied him for military service in WWI (Condon).
Kinsey’s father, unlike himself, was an extremely religious Christian and an intimidating professor, who ordered him to enroll in Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey to become an engineer. After a year and a half of following his father’s dreams, Kinsey dropped out in 1916 to fulfill his interests of becoming a biologist at Bowdoin College in Maine, where he later obtained a Bachelor's degree in Science. He never heard from his father again ever since he did not live up to his expectations of becoming an engineer, even after graduating with honors. After graduation, he was accepted to Harvard University to continue his studies in biology and successfully obtain a Ph.D. in 1920. He became a zoology professor at Indiana University at Bloomfield and was called "Prok" – short for Professor K, by his friends, students and even his wife (Kinsey and the Homosexual Revolution).
In 1926, as a fairly new and young scientist, Kinsey wrote a successful textbook that would be used in high schools: An Introduction to Biology. He argued that it was a "mistake to test the importance of knowledge by its known, dollars-and-cents application." He was also listed as a “starred scientist” by American Men of Science written by J. MckeenCattel and Dean R. Brimhall (Reflections in the Mirror of Venus).
As a professor, he studied entomology and botany and was well-known for collecting 7.5 million gall wasps and finding dozens of species with his students that were cataloged by him (Kinsey and the Homosexual Revolution). He would travel thousands of miles and camp for several days to collect this species from all over the world. Even though he was passionate about the study of insects and animals, he became interested in sexology and paved the way for future scientists. In 1929, he also wrote, The Gall Wasp Genus Cynips A Study in the Origin of Species a non-fiction book about his research in gall wasps (Turner).
The Rise of Sexual Psychology
In 1920, at the age of 26, Kinsey met his future wife and student, Clara McMillan, at a zoology department picnic; McMillan was the first woman Kinsey had ever dated. Because McMillan had an adherent clitoris, they did not have sexual intercourse for almost a year until it was surgically corrected. They both began an open relationship which influenced Kinsey’s work as a sexologist. Though some people thought that their open marriage consisted of McMillan being with other men, Kinsey was the one actually to have male partners. One of them was Clyde Martin, another one of his graduate students who formally began to be a part of McMillan and Kinsey’s relationship. Their polymorous relationship, in the main, seemed to be a happy marriage, with four children (Alfred Kinsey).
In 1938, Kinsey expanded his interests in doing academic work on human mating habits and began teaching a ‘married sexuality’ class, that only accepted students who were married or engaged. The University then granted him permission to teach the non-credit course called Marriage. The class prepared students for the fundamentals of sex for marriage. Almost 100 students, mainly women, signed up for the class. He believed that Victorian repression should be abandoned and any topic that was sex related should be discussed in an honest, adult manner. At the time, sex was a taboo topic, which led to limited amounts of research, studies, and answers for students with sexual concerns. Even though his work led to a wider acceptance of sexual discussions with his students, it raised a series of groundbreaking and controversial subjects for the public.
Credentials and Books
His first public and intimate discussion at Indiana University presented the idea that late marriages are fundamentally counter-productive to health, which was later awarded a scholarship from Rockefeller Foundation to conduct more studies on human sexology and led to the rise of sexual psychology.
In 1948, he became widely known after publishing his book about sexual behavior in human species, called Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, the book topped the best-seller lists and sold more the 300,000 copies, which later helped him gain permission to film sexual encounters. In 1953, he published his second book called Sexual Behavior in the Human Female also known as the “Kinsey Report.” This particular book raised more controversy because it was shocking to accept that women had sexual desires (Alfred Kinsey).
His works earned him fame through popular magazines like Times, Life, Look carried who wrote articles about him and also helped attain media recognition. Although his theories and researches, raised questions and controversies, it gave way to American Revolution in the 1960s.
Kinsey’s Research and Controversy
As the father of the sexual revolution, he studied and proposed different theories and practices about the study of sex. He became one of the first psychologists to have developed a scale test to measure human sexuality; this determined whether a person was gay, straight, or even bisexual and was known as The Kinsey Scale (Figure 1).
Kinsey began his class by gathering information from his students but questioned why they were not willing to cooperate with his written questionnaires and surveys. His student and lover, Martin, helped him understand that because sex was a restricted topic, students were not comfortable with having written documentation about their sex lives to a stranger. Thus, Kinsey started doing more personal one-on-one interviews and anonymous surveys with his students to gain their trust and gather more information (Condon).
He collected anonymous information about students' sex lives about masturbation, sodomy, sex in prison, and other frowned upon topics without judgment. He also traveled to Chicago to interview homosexuals and their sexual life and engage in gay encounters; this was during a time that almost all gay men and women were closeted (Kinsey).
Many of his experiments provoked controversies and raised questions. For example, he began a study called "Table 34" where he could record orgasms in children between 5 months old through 14 years old. Though it is illegal to do this type of experiment today, people still question if whether his research consisted of pedophiles to make the children reach climax (Table 1). He also included this chilling observation: “Orgasm is in our records for a female baby of 4 months.”
According to Secret History, Kinsey’s Paedophiles, Kinsey met with a U.S Government Land Examiner named Rex King. To protect King, Kinsey nicknamed him “Green.” Green traveled to Arizona and New Mexico to experiment on more than 800 children by molesting them, whileKinsey recorded their orgasms with a stopwatch. In the video, biographers argue that the orgasms the kids were feeling were screams of pain rather than pleasure (s).
Today, the Kinsey Institute, situated on Indiana University’s campus, continues to refuse to open the records of the Kinsey child sex data to the public. During the late 1980s, these allegations were taken into civil court but were later dismissed in 1994 (Kinsey American Experience). His records then helped begin a better understanding of sexology.
Kinsey’s last few years raised more controversy than ever before. Following the publication of his book Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Rockefeller cut Kinsey’s sex research funding in 1954 and left the rest of his research unpublished. A congressional committee claimed that Rockefeller was aiding Kinsey’s research to weaken American morality and support communism. Even though he still sought out alternative ways to fund his research, it would be too late (Kinsey American Experience).
On August 25th, 1956 he died of pneumonia and a heart attack and did not live to see many of his accomplishments come to action. After his death, in 1955 the American Law Institute published a new edition of Model Penal Code or a proposed criminal code that states may choose to adopt. It took Kinsey’s ideas that laws should not ban homosexuality practices and anal sex acts between consenting adults. The American Law Institute’s book remains influential to legislators, and later numerous states repealed these morality laws (Alfred Kinsey).
Today, the American Museum of Natural History still owns about 7.5 million specimens of gall wasps collected by him in the 1910s and is valued at $250,000.Kinsey once said that “Men are just bigger, more complicated gall wasps,” which led to the methods he used to document sexual history (Turner)
The Kinsey Institute for Sex Research still houses about 14,000 films, one of the world’s largest collections of pornography the “Kinsey Collection.”Kinsey collected the films as a part of his world-famous research into human sexuality. The porn library includes sex-education titles, racy vintage Hollywood fare and the Brazilian art-house classic “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.”
Today, researchers and psychologists argue that Kinsey’s studies have had a profoundly negative impact on American women and children, weakening legal protection from sexual abuse and falsely portraying “sexual liberation” as an unalloyed good, despite astronomic increases in divorce, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases and physical abuse of women and children. Opponents of sex education refer to Kinsey as a pedophile and pseudo-scientist, while others refer to him as the liberator of sexuality and the founding father of America’s moral decline.
Kinsey concerning History and Systems Course
Before long, psychologists believed psychology should not concern itself with the structure of consciousness, or structuralism because consciousness was constantly changing. Instead, psychology should focus on the function or purpose of consciousness and how it leads to adaptive behavior or functionalism. Thus, it resulted in the works of Kinsey and what he believed. Kinsey was fascinated with the works of Darwin, the father of evolution. He collected a different specimen of gall wasps to study their physical features and behaviors, like Darwin, before becoming a sexologist.
Kinsey and Darwin
Charles Darwin and Alfred Kinsley are believed to be pioneers of the destruction of the traditional American values. The men work hard towards the elimination of the Judeo-Christian morality. On one side, the teachings of Charles Darwin were against Christianity and instead promoted atheism in a more scientific form. On the other hand, Kinsey did the studies and articles that promoted sexual revolutions, which in turn culminated into various sexual misbehaviors like sodomy and prostitutions in the American society.
Kinsey and Freud
Kinsey did perform an empirical research which showed a liberal stance towards homosexuality among the American adults. This study came after Sigmund Freud had come up with the basic theory of human sexuality. In Sigmund's theory, it was believed that people are naturally bisexual, but can quickly change their sexuality because of their experiences with those who take care of them, or their parents. Kinsey's studies were seen as those that promoted adultery; however, the research showed that most children engaged in sex to the point of the organism before reaching the age of 17 years. Freud and Kinsey agreed to the fact that homosexual orientation is not a form of medical illness.
Indeed, Sigmund argued that homosexuality is not advantageous, but the society should also not be afraid of it since many people have been at one point involved in homosexuality either directly or indirectly. Freud further stressed that persecution of the homosexual should not take place because it is entirely unfair, and goes against the principles of human rights. Considering this stance, both Kinsey and Freud can be viewed as people who contributed towards the establishment of laws and regulations that support the practice of homosexuality and immorality.
Kinsey vs. Functionalism and Structuralism
Functional theory tries to explain the operations of society. The theory stipulates that the community comprises of structures that work together by ensuring that the relationship between people is one that promotes stability and solidarity. Through Kinsey’s research, it is apparent that one of the ways of creating bonds in a society is through intimate relationships. So, the ideas of functionalist theory agree with the Kinsey's report that majorly focused on the sexual behavior of members of a given society. As Alfred attempts to promote and explain the importance of the sexual relationship between people of the same or different gender, functionalism emphasizes the need to have healthy relationships, of which sexual interaction play a role. On the other hand, structuralism stipulates the people's cultural behavior can be understood according to how they relate to others, and one of the ways of creating relationships is through sexual behavior which Alfred Kinsey advocated for in his report.
Kinsey’s vs. Behaviorism
According to the behaviorist theory, the observable human behavior is influenced by conditioning without considering feelings or thoughts. Alfred Kinsey, on the other hand, had a keen interest in the sexual behavior of people and used interviews and direct interaction with the respondents to gather and expand the information on sexual history. Kinsey and his team managed to get comprehensive information because they encouraged the participants. The encouragements and motivations used to reflect the behaviorist approach to solving problems by modifying behavior.
Alfred Kinsey. (2014). Retrieved April 20, 2017, from http://www.nndb.com/people/413/000059236/
Condon, William B., dir. “Let’s talk about sex.” Kinsey. 2004. Television.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (2010). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Bronx, NY: Ishi Press Int.
Kinsey American Experience. (2005, January 27). Retrieved April 28, 2017, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh//amex/kinsey/peopleevents/e_after.html
P. (2015, January 20). Retrieved May 02, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG8JN8p9Fso
"Reflections in the Mirror of Venus." Time 24 Aug. 1953: n. Print.
S. (1998). Retrieved April 31, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjyl1wDjCu4
Turner, C. (2007). A Lot of Gall. Retrieved May 02, 2017, from http://cabinetmagazine.org/issues/25/turner.php
No. of Orgasms
No. of Orgasms
Note: Examples of multiple orgasms in pre-adolescent males. Some instances of higher frequencies (Kinsey).
Figure 1. People at “0” report exclusively heterosexual (opposite sex behavior or attraction). Those at “6” report exclusively homosexual (same-sex behavior or attraction). Ratings 1–5 are for those who report varying levels of attraction or sexual activity for either sex (Kinsey).
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