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Facts about Kinsey, the film

Frequently Asked Questions to The Kinsey Institute

How true is it?
What about Kinsey's family?
Did the Institute collaborate with the film makers, was it filmed here, does the Institute get profits, etc?
What really happened to funding for sex research?
What role did Indiana University play in supporting Kinsey?
Where did the childhood sexual data come from?
What was the reaction to the research from the media and the public?
What was the scope of Kinsey's data?
How has the data held up, over 50 years later?

How is sex research carried out today?

How true is it?
We don't know everything about the intimacies of Alfred Kinsey's life (we leave that to the biographers), but we do know that he and his staff wanted to understand the variety of human sexual behavior. They didn't have a road map for doing this kind of investigation, with specific procedures and consent forms like we do today, but tried different ways to learn about behavior, always with strict concern for confidentiality. This search for knowledge led to the collection of historical and cultural data - written books and materials, art, and photography - the basis of the Kinsey Institute research collections today.
Dr. Kinsey was interested in mammalian sexual behavior, and collected films of mating behavior of many animals. He also did not feel that still photography could accurately portray the human sexual response, so he began to film human sexual activity. There were only a few of these films made, and those were of selected staff and spouses, as well as a handful of volunteers. It was not until the next decade that this form of observation became a more acceptable part of scientific inquiry, beginning with the work of William Masters, who made a science of the study of physiological response in the laboratory. (See "Sex Research Today" for more about contemporary physiological methodology.)

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What about Kinsey's family?
Alfred and Clara Kinsey were married in 1921 and had 4 children. Don, (1922), the first born, died just before his 5th birthday from diabetes. Anne was born in 1924, Joan in 1925, and Bruce in 1928. In 1930, Kinsey's father, Alfred Seguine Kinsey, divorced his wife in Reno, NV. Kinsey never contacted his father after the divorce. Dr. Kinsey died in 1956 at the age of 62. Clara Kinsey died in 1982; she was 83 years old.

Did the Institute collaborate with the film makers, was it filmed here, does the Institute get profits, etc?
The writer/director Bill Condon, the set designer, and Liam Neeson visited the Institute just before filming last summer, and spent a day using the archival collections in the library. They also walked around the campus and met with people who had known Kinsey in the 1950's.
The film crew followed the same policies and procedures for use of materials as anyone wishing to use the collections of The Kinsey Institute. We do not receive any profits from this film. The filmmakers do, however, have a deep respect for the work of The Kinsey Institute, and have been very supportive in helping get the word out about the Institute today.

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What really happened to funding for sex research?
In 1954, U.S. Representative B. Carroll Reece from Tennessee formed the "House Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations." Though the name made it appear to have a broader focus, the conservative chairman himself stated, "The Congress has been asked to investigate the financial backers of the institute that turned out the Kinsey sex report last August." (Pomeroy, p. 375). The Rockefeller Foundation's Board of Directors, under pressure from Reece's committee, withdrew financial support for Dr. Kinsey's research. President Wells then approached the Trustees of Indiana University to ask for continued support of the Institute for Sex Research, which they granted. Since then the Institute has received funding from various private and public sources, including the National Institutes of Health (NIMH, NICHD, NIDA), Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, Eli Lilly & Co., and Indiana University.

What role did Indiana University play in supporting Kinsey?
In 1938, Herman B Wells became President of Indiana University. His staunch support of Kinsey's controversial human sexuality research earned him a reputation as a champion of academic freedom. In 1947, President Wells helped to establish the Institute for Sex Research as a not-for-profit corporation, helping to guarantee the protection and confidentiality of research subjects. Known today as The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, the Institute holds the comprehensive library and collections, the data from research projects, and the archival materials from leading sex researchers. It is governed by a Board of Governors and Trustees.

The Kinsey Institute continues to be an active research Institute of Indiana University. Faculty and students from arts and sciences, applied health sciences, library science, journalism, education, public affairs and business collaborate on research, teaching and community projects. The Institute co-directs the doctoral level minor in Human Sexuality at Indiana University.

Where did the childhood sexual data come from?
Reports of childhood sexual behavior were mostly from interviews of adults recalling their early experiences. Parents and teachers were also asked if they had noticed sexual reactions in their children, and some children were interviewed in the presence of a parent or teacher. Among more than 5,000 men interviewed for Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, there were 9 who reported having had sexual relations with children. One in particular, with an extensive sexual history, is the source of the childhood response tables in the Male book. Dr. Kinsey and his staff never conducted experiments with children.

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What was the reaction to the research from the media and the public?
Reaction to Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953 was initially favorable.
The Print Media Response to the Kinsey Report at The Kinsey Institute library consists of 72 binders, which contain 18,700 clippings from international journals, newspapers and magazines. "Analysis of the leading magazines found all but one (Cosmopolitan) favorable, and of 124 leading newspapers, 64 per cent were favorable to 31 not." (Gathorne-Hardy p. 395). But a second wave of comments were negative, and Kinsey was attacked by religious and conservative groups, and in some cases by the academic community, which questioned his data collection and analysis.

What was the scope of Kinsey's data?
Dr. Kinsey conducted 7985 of the almost 18,000 sexual histories of the research team. He and his staff interviewed "bootleggers, clergymen, clerks, clinical psychologists…housewives, lawyers, marriage counselors, n'er-do-wells, persons in the social register…"(Male, p.39)
In each history, a subject would be questioned on up to 521 items, depending on his/her specific experience (the average in each case being near 300). Histories covered social and economic data, physical and physiologic data, marital histories, sexual outlets, heterosexual histories, and homosexual histories.
Known together as 'the Kinsey Reports,' Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female included hundreds of references to previous studies in human sexual behavior. Both Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female each sold close to 300,000 copies, and were translated into 11 languages.

How has the data held up, over 50 years later?
In 1979, Gebhard and Johnson published The Kinsey Data: Marginal Tabulations of 1938-1963 Interviews Conducted by the Institute for Sex Research, reanalyzing the original data to be more statistically accurate. Interestingly, most statistics, such as homosexual behavior, did not change significantly from the original reports. To this day, researchers still request original interview data to analyze and compare to current research findings. Kinsey is widely respected today for interview methodology, documenting the wide variation in sexual behavior, studying the differences in male and female sexual response and perceptions, and launching the scientific study of sex.

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More about Sex Research today

Join the Kinsey Institute on November 13th for a benefit reception and screening of Fox Searchlight Pictures' film Kinsey.

Historical timeline: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/about/chronology.html
For biographical information and references: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/about/kinseybio.html
More on controversy: www.kinseyinstitute.org/about/controversy.html


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