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Sexual Behavior In The Human Male

Sexual Behavior In The Human Male

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by Alfred C. Kinsey, Wardell P Pomeroy, Clyde E Martin, Wardell B Pomeroy, Clyde Martin

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When published in 1948 this volume encountered a storm of condemnation and acclaim. It is, however, a milestone on the path toward a scientific approach to the understanding of human sexual behavior. Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey and his fellow researchers sought to accumulate an objective body of facts regarding sex. They employed first hand interviews to gather this data.


When published in 1948 this volume encountered a storm of condemnation and acclaim. It is, however, a milestone on the path toward a scientific approach to the understanding of human sexual behavior. Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey and his fellow researchers sought to accumulate an objective body of facts regarding sex. They employed first hand interviews to gather this data. This volume is based upon histories of approximately 5,300 males which were collected during a fifteen year period. This text describes the methodology, sampling, coding, interviewing, statistical analyses, and then examines factors and sources of sexual outlet.

Editorial Reviews

Howard A. Rusk
Now, after decades of hush - hush, comes a book that is sure to create an explosion and to be bitterly controversial. After the intitial impact, when time permits sober reflection and analysis - the end result of should be healthy. They should bring about a better understanding of some of our emotional problems, and the basis for some of our psychiatric concepts.-- Books of the Century; New York Times review, January 1948

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Indiana University Press
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Sexual Behavior in the Human Male

By Alfred C. Kinsey, Wardell B. Pomeroy, Clyde E. Martin

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 1975 Anne K. Call, Bruce McMillen Kinsey, and Joan K. Reid
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-33412-1



The present volume is a progress report from a case history study on human sex behavior. The study has been underway during the past nine years. Throughout these years, it has had the sponsorship and support of Indiana University, and during the past six years the support of the National Research Council's Committee for Research on Problems of Sex, with funds granted by the Medical Division of The Rockefeller Foundation. It is a fact-finding survey in which an attempt is being made to discover what people do sexually, and what factors account for differences in sexual behavior among individuals, and among various segments of the population.

For some time now there has been an increasing awareness among many people of the desirability of obtaining data about sex which would represent an accumulation of scientific fact completely divorced from questions of moral value and social custom. Practicing physicians find thousands of their patients in need of such objective data. Psychiatrists and analysts find that a majority of their patients need help in resolving sexual conflicts that have arisen in their lives. An increasing number of persons would like to bring an educated intelligence into the consideration of such matters as sexual adjustments in marriage, the sexual guidance of children, the pre-marital sexual adjustments of youth, sex education, sexual activities which are in conflict with the mores, and problems confronting persons who are interested in the social control of behavior through religion, custom, and the forces of the law. Before it is possible to think scientifically on any of these matters, more needs to be known about the actual behavior of people, and about the inter-relationships of that behavior with the biologic and social aspects of their histories.

Hitherto, there have not been sufficient answers to these questions, for human sexual behavior respresents one of the least explored segments of biology, psychology, and sociology. Scientifically more has been known about the sexual behavior of some of the farm and laboratory animals. In our Western European-American culture, sexual responses, more than any other physiologic activities, have been subject to religious evaluation, social taboo, and formal legislation. It is obvious that the failure to learn more about human sexual activity is the outcome of the influence which the custom and the law have had upon scientists as individuals, and of the not immaterial restrictions which have been imposed upon scientific investigations in this field.

There are cultures which more freely accept sexual activities as matters of everyday physiology (e.g., Malinowski 1929), while maintaining extensive rituals and establishing taboos around feeding activities. One may wonder what scientific knowledge we would have of digestive functions if the primary taboos in our own society concerned food and feeding. Sexual responses, however, involve emotional changes which are more intense than those associated with any other sort of physiologic activity. For that reason it is difficult to comprehend how any society could become as concerned about respiratory functioning, about digestive functioning, about excretory functioning, or about any of the other physiologic processes. It is probable that the close association of sex, religious values, rituals, and custom in most of the civilizations of the world, has been primarily consequent on the emotional content of sexual behavior.

Sexual activities may affect persons other than those who are directly involved, or do damage to the social organization as a whole. Defenders of the custom frequently contend that this is the sufficient explanation of society's interest in the individual's sexual behavior; but this is probably a post factum rationalization that fails to take into account the historic data on the origin of the custom (May 1931, Westermarck 1936). It is ordinarily said that criminal law is designed to protect property and to protect persons, and if society's only interest in controlling sex behavior were to protect persons, then the criminal codes concerned with assault and battery should provide adequate protection. The fact that there is a body of sex laws which are apart from the laws protecting persons is evidence of their distinct function, namely that of protecting custom. Just because they have this function, sex customs and the sex laws seem more significant, and are defended with more emotion than the laws that concern property or person. The failure of the scientist to go further than he has in studies of sex is undoubtedly a reflection of society's attitudes in this field.

Scientists have been uncertain whether any large portion of the population was willing that a thoroughly objective, fact-finding investigation of sex should be made. It is quite probable that an investigation of the sort undertaken here would have been more difficult some years ago; but we have found that there is now an abundant and widespread interest in the possibilities of such a study. Thousands of persons have helped by contributing records of their own sexual activities, by interesting others in the research, and by providing the sort of constant support and encouragement without which the pursuit of this study would have been much more difficult, if not impossible. Even the scientist seems to have underestimated the faith of the man of the street in the scientific method, his respect for the results of scientific research, and his confidence that his own life and the whole of the social organization will ultimately benefit from the accumulation of scientifically established data.


The present study, then, represents an attempt to accumulate an objectively determined body of fact about sex which strictly avoids social or moral interpretations of the fact. Each person who reads this report will want to make interpretations in accordance with his understanding of moral values and social significances; but that is not part of the scientific method and, indeed, scientists have no special capacities for making such evaluations.

The data in this study are being secured through first-hand interviews. These, so far, have been limited to persons resident in the United States. Histories have come from every state in the Union, but more particularly from the northeastern quarter of the country, in the area bounded by Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kansas (Figure 1). It is intended that the ultimate sample shall represent a cross-section of the entire population, from all parts of the United States. The study has already included persons who belong to the following groups:

Males, females
Whites, Negroes, other races
Single, married, previously married
Ages three to ninety
Adolescent at different ages
Various educational levels
Various occupational classes
Various social levels
Urban, rural, mixed backgrounds
Various religious groups
Various degrees of adherence to religious groups, or with no religion
Various geographic origins

The study should ultimately include series of cases which will justify a description of the sexual patterns for each of these segments of the population. Whenever it is significant to have data for the American population as a whole, such calculations may be obtained by weighting and combining the figures for the individual groups (Chapter 3).

It is basically most important to know the story for each group in detail. By pragmatic tests of the effect of adding additional histories to the samples, it has been found that about 300 cases are necessary for a good understanding of any group in this study (Chapter 3). The size of the total sample necessary to analyze any larger part of the population thus depends upon the total number of sub-groups which it is deemed desirable to investigate.

To date, about 12,000 persons have contributed histories to this study. This represents forty times as much material as was included in the best of the previous studies; but 12,000 histories do not provide sufficient material for comprehending even those groups which are most frequently encountered in the population. In addition there are other groups which must be studied because they are significant in analyses of more general problems, or because they occupy an unique or critical position in the ontogenies of particular patterns of behavior. It is now estimated that 100,000 histories will be necessary to carry out such a project. With a considerably expanded staff, it should be possible to secure that many histories in the course of another twenty years, and this is the goal toward which the present program is oriented.

Of the histories now in hand, about 6300 are male, and about 5300 of these are the white males who have provided the data for the present publication. The generalizations reached in this volume are limited to those groups on which more or less adequate material is now available, or to those smaller groups which fall in line with the trends established for the whole series of data. But no generalizations can yet be made for many important elements in the population. For instance, it is not yet possible to give more than a suggestion of what happens among males beyond fifty years of age. We have only begun to accumulate data for the highly important chapter that involves infants and very young children. Older, unmarried males, and males who have previously been married, present an interesting situation which is only glimpsed in the present volume. The story for the rural population is quite incomplete, as is also the record for a number of the religious groups. Factory workers and manual labor groups are not sufficiently represented in the sample. Large sections of the country are not yet covered by the survey, although it is certain that there are striking geographic differences in patterns of sex behavior. The story for the Negro male cannot be told now, because the Negro sample, while of some size, is not yet sufficient for making analyses comparable to those made here for the white male. At no place has the sample been large enough to allow more than a six-way breakdown in the statistical analyses (Chapter 3), although enough important factors are now recognized to call for a twelve-way breakdown. A later revision of the present volume may be based on a further accumulation of male histories.

A volume on the female, comparable to the present volume on the male, should be possible in the not too distant future; and volumes on particular groups and on special problems in human sexuality can appear when there is a sufficient increase in the total accumulation of data. It is now planned to publish volumes on:

Sexual behavior in the human female
Sexual factors in marital adjustment
Legal aspects of sex behavior
The heterosexual-homosexual balance
Sexual adjustments in institutional populations
Sex education
Other special problems

All kinds of persons and all aspects of human sexual behavior are being included in this survey. No preconception of what is rare or what is common, what is moral or socially significant, or what is normal and what is abnormal has entered into the choice of the histories or into the selection of the items recorded on them. Such limitations of the material would have interfered with the determination of the fact. Nothing has done more to block the free investigation of sexual behavior than the almost universal acceptance, even among scientists, of certain aspects of that behavior as normal, and of other aspects of that behavior as abnormal. The similarity of distinctions between the terms normal and abnormal, and the terms right and wrong, amply demonstrates the philosophic, religious, and cultural origins of these concepts (Chapter 6); and the ready acceptance of those distinctions among scientific men may provide the basis for one of the severest criticisms which subsequent generations can make of the scientific quality of nineteenth century and early twentieth century scientists. This is first of all a report on what people do, which raises no question of what they should do, or what kinds of people do it. It is the story of the sexual behavior of the American male, as we find him. It is not, in the usual sense, a study of the normal male or of normal behavior, any more than it is a study of abnormal males, or of abnormal behavior. It is an unfettered investigation of all types of sexual activity, as found among all kinds of males.

There has not even been a distinction between those whom the psychiatrist would consider sexually well-adjusted persons and those whom he would regard as neurotic, psychotic, or at least psychopathic personalities. To have so limited the study would, as with moral evaluations, have constituted a pre- acceptance of the categories whose reality and existence were under investigation. That this agnostic approach has been profitable is evidenced throughout this report by the data we have obtained on the high incidences and considerable frequencies, among well-adjusted persons, of behavior which has usually been considered to be both rare and abnormal. The study should constitute a considerable brief for the avoidance of classifications until there is an adequate understanding of the phenomena involved, especially if such classifications reflect evaluations that have no scientific origins.

This is a study of all aspects of human sexual behavior, and not a study of its biologic aspects, or of its psychologic aspects, or of its sociologic aspects, as separate entities. What the human animal does sexually may be the concern of many academic departments, but the behavior in each case is a unit which must be comprehended as such and simultaneously on all of its several faces. Consequently, the persons involved in this research have been chosen because of their special backgrounds in a diversity of disciplines: anthropology, biology, psychology, clinical psychology, animal behavior, and the social sciences; and it is planned that persons trained in still other fields shall in time join in the research. Throughout the nine years of the study, many hours have been spent in consultation with specialists outside this staff, particularly in the following fields:

Animal behavior
Astronomy (statistical)
Child development
Criminal law
General physiology
Human physiology
Institutional management
Law enforcement
Marriage counseling
Medicine (various branches)
Military authorities
Psychology, general
Psychology, clinical
Psychology, experimental
Public health
Public opinion polls
Sex education
Social work
Venereal disease

Rarely has any project had more specific help from specialists in so many contingent areas. It is unfortunate that the number of persons involved is too large to allow specific acknowledgment by name.

While the present volume may be of immediate use to many persons, its publication should emphasize the limitations of our present knowledge and should serve a most useful function if it enlists additional support for the continuance of the research and its pursuit to its ultimate goal. Eighty-eight thousand other persons will need to contribute histories if the survey is to cover the major segments of the population. It is further hoped that the publication of this over-all study will encourage specialists in various fields of biology, human physiology, psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to undertake research on problems which are little more than exposed by the present survey.


The techniques of this research have been taxonomic, in the sense in which modern biologists employ the term. It was born out of the senior author's long-time experience with a problem in insect taxonomy. The transfer from insect to human material is not illogical, for it has been a transfer of a method that may be applied to the study of any variable population, in any field.

As a teacher in biology, the senior author had had his students bring him the usual number of questions about sex. On investigating biologic, psychologic, psychiatric, and sociologic studies to secure the answers to some of these questions, the author, as a taxonomist, was struck with the inadequacy of the samples on which such studies were being based, and the apparent unawareness of the investigators that generalizations were not warranted on the bases of such small samples. Stray individuals had been studied here, a few of them there, forty males in the next study, three hundred females in the most detailed of the case history studies (Landis et al. 1940). More extended samples had been used only in the questionnaire studies, but they were of doubtful validity in connection with a subject like sex (Chapter 2). All of the studies taken together did not begin to provide a sample of such size and so distributed as a taxonomist would demand in studying a plant or animal species, or a student of public opinion would need before he could safely describe public thinking or predict the future behavior of any portion of the population. The sex studies were on a very different scale from the insect studies where, in the most recent problem (preliminarily reported in Kinsey 1942), we had had 150,000 individuals available for the study of a single species of gall wasp.


Excerpted from Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred C. Kinsey, Wardell B. Pomeroy, Clyde E. Martin. Copyright © 1975 Anne K. Call, Bruce McMillen Kinsey, and Joan K. Reid. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
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