Sixty years ago this weekend, biologist, professor, and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey changed every American’s life once again by publishing his second book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.
Here’s what he discovered and published:
• Women have orgasms
• Many women have these orgasms without sexual intercourse
• Straight women think about, and have, sexual experiences with other women
Remember, this was in 1953—before 2/3 of Americans alive today were born.
The information hit the country like a bomb from outer space. See some of the reactions from 1953 here.
Kinsey was denounced as a Communist, an atheist, a dangerous degenerate out to destroy America. The government spied on him (it had already confiscated some of his research materials). Clergy across the country demanded his books be censored or burned. The president of his university fielded constant demands that he be fired.
At the same time, Kinsey was interviewed by all the important media of the day. His name made it into song lyrics and comedy routines. His students revered him. Far-sighted professionals around the globe honored him. The Rockefeller Foundation funded him.
Kinsey was a Christopher Columbus, literally risking his life to sail into unknown places. Already a world-class entomologist, Kinsey saw first-hand how sexual ignorance limited and damaged the lives of his students. He believed in the value of knowledge, and understood that sexual knowledge was critical to healthy and sophisticated personal adulthood and public policy.
To this day, many Americans oppose this viewpoint. Narrow-minded legislators de-fund research into Americans’ sexual decision-making and behavior. Many religious denominations reflexively oppose scientifically accurate sex education. Public universities are continually having to justify teaching sexual knowledge, just as Kinsey and Indiana University had to back in the dark ages of the 1950s.
Ironically, the AIDS epidemic provided a “reason” for sex research that some people could finally comprehend. The fact that an epidemic of one million unintended pregnancies every year has not been considered as serious a crisis is a horrible indictment of our fatalism about sexual disaster—and our mistrust of sex for pleasure.
If you’re a woman, or have sex with one, or just like a few, today is a day to celebrate. Give thanks to the brilliant, tenacious, and courageous Alfred Kinsey, who forced America to think about female sexuality—as it actually is.