Chapter 3 Alfred Kinsey

Sunday 9 April 2017.
 

Chapter 3 Alfred Kinsey

The book, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male is the report published in its entirety by an American Statistical Association committee. Three of the authors were appointed as a committee of the Association’s Commission on Statistical Standards. The committee had the cooperation of Kinsey, which included visits to the Institute of Sex Research, Inc. at the University of Indiana. Also, the authors went through the interviewing process that Kinsey used in gathering the data for his book.

By the way of summary, the general statement that much of the writing in the book falls below the level of good scientific writing seems justified. (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.150)

The critics are justified in their objections that many of the most interesting and provocative statements in the book are not based on data presented therein, and it is not made clear to the reader on what evidence the statements are based. Further, the conclusions drawn from the data presented in the book are often stated by KPM in a much too bold and confident a manner. Taken cumulatively, these objections amount to saying that much of the writing in the book falls below the level of good scientific writing. In the case of homosexuality, we are chiefly concerned about possible bias in the sample, although cover-up may also be a factor. (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.152)

The book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, by Alfred Kinsey published in 1948 is also historically significant in the development of the concept of the modern homosexual. Kinsey’s study was once considered the "defining study of homosexuality" but which has now been shown to be otherwise. Kinsey in his study saw not a homosexual person, but homosexual acts. He wrote about the physical sexual acts a male did, and it was based on the orgasms he achieved. The often-quoted myth, 10 % of the population is homosexual originated from Kinsey’s study. Kinsey earned a PhD from Harvard University. He became a biology professor at Indiana University where he wrote biology textbooks and a book about gall wasps. He was an entomologist by training, and a foremost authority on gall wasps. It was at Indiana University that Kinsey’s interest in sex research arose after he was asked to participate in a sex education class. This course was to prepare students for fulfilling marriages. Kinsey’s liberal attitudes and open support for contraception resulted in his being quickly replaced by the university administration in teaching the sex education class. Yet Kinsey’s interest in sex research grew and he began the research that eventually led to the formation of the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University. It was through this institute that he published in 1948 the book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.

Time has not served Kinsey and his sex studies well. The criticism he initially received over the publication of his studies has continued to grow over the years. Even in his day the studies were questioned about their scientific value and the scientific standards he imposed in undertaking the studies. It was believed at the time Kinsey was a scrupulous and disinterested scientist during sex research. But over time and through a closer look at Kinsey, of his studies and of the Institute for Sex Research has shown other-wise. Besides looking critically at his research and how it was conducted, there are questions’ about Kinsey’s own sexually and sexual life. Questions are raised about Kinsey being a homosexual himself, and he has at least been labeled a bisexual. Two areas of Kinsey’s study receiving closer attention is how he chose those who were to be a part of the study and the age of some of those included in the data.

Kinsey in his book, Sexual Behavior of the Human Male, was supposedly based on a representative sample of males in the US at the time. A contemporary of Kinsey’s, renowned psychologist, Abraham Maslow, pointed out the concern of sampling when using individuals on a clearly volunteer basis. They are not a representative sample of the general population. Kinsey rejected Maslow’s concern. But his sampling techniques based on today’s sampling standards have raised serious scientific concerns. The findings of his study were terribly flawed by the methodology that was used to collect the supposedly representative sample of the U.S. population. His study had more college graduates, than was the normative for that period, in general most people were not college graduates at that time. He included more Protestants than Catholics; the latter were being less likely to engage in "unusual sexual practices. Approximately 25% of the 5,300 participants in the study were prison inmates. Moreover, Kinsey especially sought out those prisoners who were sex offenders. Of this large percentage of the individuals studied, 44% of these inmates had their homosexual experiences while in prison. Kinsey, himself, admitted to including several hundred male prostitutes. Finally, he sought out "militant gays" and members of gay affirming organizations.

The starting point for discussions of systematic sampling error in sexuality surveys is the studies by Kinsey and colleagues from the 1940s and 1950s (see Brecher & Brecher, 1986; Cochran, Mosteller, & Tukey, 1954; Laumann et al., 1994). In Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin’s (1948) landmark survey of 5,300 males, there was no systematic random sampling. Rather, 163 separate groups were approached, including college students and staff, seven groups of institutionalized males, (juvenile delinquents, adult prisoners [including many male prostitutes], and one group of mental patients), and assorted others including high school students, speech therapy patients, conscientious objectors (for army service), hitch hikers, and people from three rooming houses. A serious limitation of the sample was the over reliance on college students. Kinsey estimated that about half of his personal histories were from people recruited following the attendance of tens of thousands of people at several hundred college and public lectures given by him and his colleagues (Cochran et. Al., 1954). (Wiederman and Whitley editors, Handbook for Conducting Sex Research on Human Sexually, p.86-87)

Once published, it elicited a number of critical reviews from statisticians and 1950 the National Research Council committee that had been funding Kinsey’s research requested the American Statistical Association to evaluate Kinsey’s methodology. After a long period of assessment, involving many meetings with Kinsey and his team, a detailed report by the review group of three - Cochran, Mosteller and Tukey-was published. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p.b)

The more serious criticism centered on what were perceived as the three chief weaknesses of the research. They were the lack of an adequate sample, too broad projection from the date to a larger population, and the use of a mechanistic orgasm-counting approach to the sexual experience. (Christenson, Kinsey: A Biography, p. 143)

The book, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male is the report published in its entirety by an American Statistical Association committee. Three of the authors were appointed as a committee of the Association’s Commission on Statistical Standards. The committee had the cooperation of Kinsey, which included visits to the Institute of Sex Research, Inc. at the University of Indiana. Also, the authors went through the interviewing process that Kinsey used in gathering the data for his book.

Sampling

There is now general agreement in the scientific community that Kinsey’s method of obtaining a sample of Americans did not meet todays’ standard of survey sampling. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p.b)

The critics are correct in their statements about sample size. The implication that conclusions should have been drawn more hesitatingly is also sound. (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.149)

Many of KPM’s findings are subject to question because of a possible bias in the constitution of the sample." (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.2)

KPM had to choose the population to which this study should apply. This decision does not seem to have been made clearly. From the basis for the U. S. Corrections (p.105) we should infer it to be all U.S. white males. (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.10)

The criticism is well-taken that KPM gave inadequate information about what was done. We cannot tell how big the samples were, what groups went into what cells, or just how the sampling was done, in fact we cannot even make a good stab at guessing the sampled population to which KPM’s sample might reasonably apply. (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.65)

In the case of homosexuality, we are chiefly concerned about possible bias in the sample, although cover-up may also be a factor. (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.150)

The defects of this work are widely known: for example, respondents were disproportionately drawn the Midwest and from college campuses, and the research did not use probability sampling. (Turner, Miller, and Moses, Editors. AIDS Sexual Behavior and Intravenous Drug Use, p.9)

Both Jones and Gathorne-Hardy agree his sample was distorted with Indiana furnishing the greatest number of subjects, but he also had a disproportionate number of homosexuals. (Bullough, The Kinsey Biographies, p.20-21)

It has long been recognized that one of the greatest faults of the Kinsey research was the way in which the cases were selected: the sample is not representative of the entire U.S. population or any definable group in the population. This fault limits the comparability and appropriateness of the Kinsey data as a basic for calculating the prevalence of any form of sexual conduct. (Turner, Miller, and Moses, Editors. AIDS Sexual Behavior and Intravenous Drug Use, p.82)

Infant and young male child sexual behavior (Chapter 5, Early Sexual Growth and Activity)

Three of Kinsey’s books were reprinted at the same time, in 1998, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Of interest, additional information was added and is found in only one of the three-reprinted books. This new information addresses Chapter 5 from the 1948 edition of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Chapter 5 from the book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, deals with the sexual response of infants and young children. Interestingly this new information was included in an introduction by John Bancraft, the current director of the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research Sexual Behavior, in the reprinted book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. This new information was not included in the reprinted book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Chapter 5 is from this book and it is this chapter that is controversial. Yet John Bancraft addresses this controversy in only one of the three- reprinted books, and not in the reprinted book in which the controversy arises from, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.

Some of the data on the sexual response of children came from one individual who has now been identified, Kenneth Braun. His interview by Kinsey included the notes he recorded of his personal sexual experiences with family members, animals, male and female children as young as infants.

I decided to check on the sources of this information and found that, without any doubt, all of the information reported in Tables 31-34 came from the carefully documented records of one man. From 1917 until the time that Kinsey interviewed him in the mid-1940s, this man kept notes on a vast array of sexual experiences, involving not only children but adults of both sexes. Kinsey was clearly impressed with by the systematic way he kept his records, and regarded them as of considerable scientific interest. Clearly, his description in the book of the source of this data was misleading, in that he implied that it had come from several men rather than one, although it is likely that information elsewhere in this chapter, on the descriptions of different types of organisms, was obtained in part from some of these other nine men. I do not know why Kinsey was unclear on this point; it was obviously not to conceal the origin of the information from criminal sexual involvement with children, because that was already quite clear. Maybe it was to conceal the single source which otherwise might have attracted attention to this one man with possible demands for his identification (demands which now have occurred even though he is long dead). It would be typical of Kinsey to be more concerned about protecting the anonymity of his research subjects (and convincing the reader of the scientific value of the information) than protecting himself from the allegations that eventually followed. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p.k)

Both Jones and Garthorne-Hardy point out the data was mostly dependent upon the notes taken by a pedophile although Kinsey tried to cover this up by attributing it to varying sources. (Bullough,The Kinsey Biographies.” p.22)

Criticism by those advocating for homosexuality

Time and time again it is most interesting to read what homosexuals and those advocating for homosexuality write in their numerous publications. The criticisms leveled against each other are far from what is presented in the more popular media. This may be seen now in the criticism of Kinsey, from a book by Bert Archer, The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality). Archer is a self-identified homosexual.

Kinsey’s sexuality

Both Jones and Garthorne-Hardy believe that Kinsey was driven by his own sexual needs. (Bullough, “The Kinsey Biographies, p.21)

No one knew at the time, of course, Alfred Kinsey’s impetus for embarking on his monumental and epoch-shifting study of human sexuality came from a desire to justify his own sexual thoughts and practices. (Archer, The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality), p.116)

As a result of his own irregular sexual interests and practices, including being married to one woman, having a long-term simultaneous affair with a man (upon whose death he took up with another), and a rather enthusiastic interest in the sadomasochistic sides of sex, he was not that fond of the sexual theorists of his day, not to mention popular opinion, all of which look disparagingly for one reason or another on the things he enjoyed. (Archer, The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality), p.116)

In his book Archer writes twice and with a footnote, that Kinsey used his data gathering trips to have sex with other men.

Things were effected somewhat by the fact Kinsey used these trips to have sex with men. (Archer, The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality), p.117)

Archer uses a footnote, number 66, to support this statement.

Whether he had sex with any of the men he also interviewed is not entirely clear, but we do know, as of 1997, have testimony, albeit anonymous, from a contemporary friend of Kinsey that he did have sex with men on these trips. (Archer, The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality), p.242)

Archer on page 124 states this again, Not only did he use his data-gathering trips to get sex . . .

It is true that Kinsey himself experimented with sex and, among other things, engaged in considerable homosexual activity not only with his assistants, but with others. (Bullough, The Kinsey Biographies”, p.19)

Kinsey’s interpretations and opinions

But the fact that the complier of all this data (he eventually interviewed about twelve thousand white men) was out to make a point, was out, in fact, to bring the world’s view of human sexuality more in line with his own (which of course was based in intuition, formed as it was before he began his study), is of enormous significance. (Archer, The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality), p.117)

The second, not unrelated point is that Kinsey was not merely presenting data in his first Report - he was making a point, a point he himself was clear about long before he handed out his first questionnaire. This colors things. (Archer, The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality), p.124)

The most visible trademark of the Kinsey style was an ostentatious avowal of both disinterestedness and incompetence wherever matters of ethics were at issue. This is first of all a report on what people do, he wrote of the Male Volume, which raises no question of what they should do. In reality, Kinsey held strong opinions about what people should and should not do, and his efforts to disguise those opinions were only too transparent. (Robinson, The Modernization of Sex: Havelock Ellis, Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, p.49-50)

At the same time, heterosexual intercourse suffered a relative eclipse simply because of the prominence Kinsey assigned to masturbation and homosexuality, both of which were objects of his partiality. (Robinson, The Modernization of Sex: Havelock Ellis, Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, p.64)

But though scientists may avoid explicit moral judgments, research is implicitly striated with values and biases. In fact, Kinsey’s values permeate his work. (Irvine, Disorders of Desire: Sex and Gender in Modern American Sexology, p.37)

Although Kinsey was often critical of those who made assertions about sexual behavior without revealing the evidence on which their assertions were based, Kinsey indulged in a fair amount of this editorializing in the Male volume. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p. n)

Although Kinsey claimed to have been completely neutral and detached in gathering and tabulating his data and to have avoid[ed] social or moral interpretations of the facts, the Report is peppered with commentary and interpretation that reveal Kinsey’s strong biases. (Lewes, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homosexuality, p. 125)

Kinsey, however, did not limited himself to simply reporting his data, but readily offered interpretations and inferences. The Report includes a long section describing checks that performed on the sample and interviewing technique, and concluded that the figures on the frequency of homosexual activity must be understatements. (Lewes, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homosexuality, 128)

Scientific value and scientific standards of Kinsey’s work

However flawed, whether by sample, procedures, or analysis, Kinsey’s insistence upon behavioral variation opened the way for far-reaching and critical cultural transformation in Americans’ understanding of sexual orientation. Kinsey challenged, that is, the biological essentialist and morally flawed deficit views of human nature in man and woman as social and psychological prototypes in Western thought. (Herdt, Sambia Sexual Culture Essays from the Field, p.226)

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. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, pg. p)

Nevertheless, given the potential for selection bias that his method did involve, the review group were critical of his lack of caution in interpreting his findings, and his incorrect use of statistical procedures (e.g., the weighting procedure to produce US corrections)." (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p.b)

KPM’s interpretations were based in part on tabulated and statistically analyzed data, and in part on data and experience which were not presented because of their nature or because of the of space limitations. Some interpretations appear not to have been based on either of theses. ... However, KPM should have indicated which of their statements were undocumented or undocumentable and should have been more cautious in boldly drawing highly precise conclusions from their limited sample. (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.2)

By the way of summary, the general statement that much of the writing in the book falls below the level of good scientific writing seems justified. (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.150)

The critics are justified in their objections that many of the most interesting and provocative statements in the book are not based on data presented therein, and it is not made clear to the reader on what evidence the statements are based. Further, the conclusions drawn from the data presented in the book are often stated by KPM in a much too bold and confident a manner. Taken cumulatively, these objections amount to saying that much of the writing in the book falls below the level of good scientific writing. In the case of homosexuality, we are chiefly concerned about possible bias in the sample, although cover-up may also be a factor.” (Cochran, Mosteller, Tukey and Jenkins, Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p.152)

In reality he limited his research to Americans and Canadians, and he also excluded black histories from his tabulations. Thus by his own admission his generalizations extended only to the white population of North America, despite his inclusiveness of his titles. (Robinson, The Modernization of Sex: Havelock Ellis, Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, p.53)

Kinsey has been criticized on various grounds, not the least of which concerns the implied universality of his American study. Responses by anthropologists at the time ranged from the very critical (Gorer 1955) to the more positive Kluckhohn (1955). Geoffrey Gorer, a British anthropologist, felt that Kinsey exaggerated sex as behavior as a mere "device for physical relaxation . . . . Not only is sex, in Dr. Kinsey’s presentation, as meaningless as a sneeze, it is also equally unproductive; after the equivalent of blowing the nose, that is the end of the matter" (1955:51-52). This point, while perhaps over inflated, raises a cultural critique agreed upon by many in gender research, including John Gagnon (1990) and John De Cecco (1990): that Kinsey studied disembodied acts, discrete behaviors, rather than meaning- filled patterns of action. As De Cecco sees it, Kinsey had four conceptions of sex: that it was a physical activity, that it developed in a mechanistic way, that robust sexual performance was to be admired, and that its chief outcome was not reproduction but erotic pleasure. These attributes all are related to the question of sex as meaning-filled symbolic expression of normative development and sexual socialization in culture. By emphasizing acts instead of symbolic action, Kinsey managed to create a field of sexual study amid a moral climate that had hindered it (Kuckhohn 1955), yet he did so at the cost of divorcing sex from the lives and meanings of whole persons (see also Stoller 1985a). (Herdt, Sambia Sexual Culture Essays from the Field, p.227)

Homosexual: 10% Myth

I think it worth noting two major points about the quoted section from the men’s report. The first is that, as I’ve indicated, what Kinsey said and what we have come to believe Kinsey said are two different things, He did not say that 10 percent of the male population was homosexual. In fact, he said there was no such thing as a homosexual. He was quite explicit on the subject. (Archer, The End of Gay and the death of heterosexuality, p.123)

From all of this, it becomes obvious that any question as to the number of persons in the world who are homosexual and the number who are heterosexual is unanswerable. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 650)

Kinsey and homosexuals

It would encourage clear thinking on these matters if persons were not characterized as heterosexual or homosexual, but as individuals who have had certain amounts of heterosexual experience and certain amounts of homosexual experience. Instead of using these terms as substantives which stand for persons, or even as adjectives to describe persons, they may better be used to describe the nature of the overt sexual relations, or of the stimuli to which an individual erotically responds. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 617)

Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 639)

From all of this, it should be evident that one is not warranted in recognizing merely two types of individuals, heterosexual and homosexual, and that the characterization of the homosexual as a third sex fails to describe any actuality. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, p. 647)

Bibilography

Archer, Bert. The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality). Thunder’s Mouth Press. New York, 2002.

Bullough, Vern L. The Kinsey Biographies. Sexuality and Culture. Winter 2006. Volume 10, Number 1, p. 15-22.

Christenson, Co rnelia V. Kinsey: A Biography. Indiana University Press. Bloomington and London, 1971.

Cochran, William G., Frederick Mosteller, John H. Tukey and W. O. Jenkins. Statistical Problems of the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. The American Statistical Association. Washington D.C., 1954.

Herdt, Gilbert. Sambia Sexual Culture Essays from the Field. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago and London, 1999.

Irvine, Janice M. Disorders of Desire: Sex and Gender in Modern American Sexology. Temple University Press. Philadelphia, 1990.

Kinsey, Alfred C., Warren B. Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W. B. Saunders Company. Philadelphia and London, 1968.

Kinsey, Alfred C., Warren B. Pomeroy, Clyde E. Martin and Paul H. Gebhard. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Indiana University Press. Bloomington & Indianapolis, 1998.

Lewes, Ph.D., Kenneth. The Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homosexuality. Simon and Schuster. New York, 1988.

Robinson, Paul. The Modernization of Sex: Havelock Ellis, Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, New York, 1989.

Turner, Charles F., Heather G. Miller, and Lincoln E. Moses, Editors. AIDS Sexual Behavior and Intravenous Drug Use. National Academy Press. Washington, D.C., 1989.

Wiederman, and Whitley editors. Handbook for Conducting Sex Research on Human Sexually. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Mahwah, NJ and London, 2002.


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