SEXUAL BEHAVIOR IN THE HUMAN MALE
Kinsey, Alfred C. Pomeroy, Wardell B. Martin, Clyde E. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia and London: W.B. Saunders Company. 1948. pp 804.
This book is the result of an in depth study of human male sexual behavior. It is divided into three parts. Part one describes the history and methodology of the study, part two looks at the factors affecting sexual outlet, and part three delves into the sources of sexual outlets. The book includes many detailed charts and graphs depicting the findings of the study.
In part one, the objectives and development of the study, the interviewing process, statistical problems, and validity of the data are discussed. Chapter one reveals that the objective of the study was to “accumulate an objectively determined body of fact about sex which strictly avoids social or moral interpretations of the fact.” We learn that the data for the study was collected over a period of nine years, from first-hand interviews administered mostly by Kinsey and Pomeroy, of 5300 white males from all over the United States, but predominantly from the northeastern quarter. We also learn that the techniques used were taxonomic, primarily concerned with the measurement of variations among the human species, as is done by modern biologists in examining other species. Mention is made of the opposition and objections that were encountered in undertaking this study, as well as the support encountered. A brief overview of other taxonomic studies of human sexual behavior is included in this chapter, as well.
Chapter two describes the interview process, focusing on the use various technical devices in interviewing. The devices described are: putting the subject at ease, assuring privacy, establishing rapport, the sequence of topics, recognizing the subject’s mental status, recording at time of interview, systematic coverage, supplementary exploration, standardizing the point of the question, adapting the form of the question, avoiding bias, direct questions, placing the burden of denial on the subject, avoiding multiple questions, rapid-fire questioning, cross-checks on accuracy, proving the answer, forcing a subject, limits of the interview, avoiding personal identifications, avoiding controversial issues, overt activities versus attitudes, and interviewing young children. The importance of the interviewer’s background of knowledge is discussed at length, as well.
Chapter three delves into statistical problems concerning the data. The items covered on the sex histories, the code that was used to record the data, and supplementary techniques are looked at first. Next, the twelve biologic and socio-economic factors of sex, race/culture, marital status, age, age at adolescence, educational level, occupational class of subject, occupational class of parent, rural-urban background, religious groups, religious adherence, and geographic origin are discussed. A discussion of the statistical importance of the size of the sample follows. And then a look at hundred percent samples versus partial samples educates its readers to Kinsey’s compensation for the volunteer bias, by having 25% of the sex histories come from 100% groups. The elements of the statistical analysis, including individual frequencies, group frequencies, frequency curves, group averages, means, standard deviation of the mean, medians, percents of individual outlet, percents of group outlet, correlation coefficients, and accumulative incidence curves, complete the chapter.
Chapter four considers the validity of the data, pointing out that “it is impossible to get more than approximations of the fact on the incidences and frequencies of various types of human sexual behavior.” A number of techniques have been applied to test the significance of the calculated data. These techniques include: Re-takes of whole histories, comparisons of spouses, other cross-checks, comparison with direct observations on similar groups of males, smooth trends, hundred percent samples, comparisons of interviewers, comparisons of accumulative incidence data in successive periods, relative accuracy of immediate memory versus remote recall, and consideration of older versus younger generations as related to recall. Finally, nine conclusions are made considering the accuracy and validity of the data.
In part two, the various factors affecting sexual outlet are explored. These are: early sexual growth and activity, total sexual outlet, age, marital status, age of adolescence, social level, stability of sexual patterns, rural-urban background, and religious background. Chapter five is devoted to early sexual growth and activity and first sets out to define erotic arousal and orgasm, noting the variation in pattern of orgastic response in individuals. It is also noted that much of the data pertaining to the different kinds of orgastic reactions in pre-adolescent boys, was supplied by older subjects who have had sexual contacts with younger boys. Pre-adolescent sex-play, including homosexual play, heterosexual play, and animal contacts are looked at. Finally, adolescence, including physical developments, age and school grade at beginning of adolescence, and sources of first ejaculation are considered. One significant finding was that more than 99% of these boys adopted a regular routine of sexual activity after the initial experience of ejaculation.
Chapter six considers the frequency of total sexual outlet, individual variation, factors affecting variation, low frequencies and sublimation, and high frequencies of outlet. The figure arrived at for frequency of total sexual outlet of the average white American male under thirty was 3.27 per week, and for all white males up to age 85 the figure was 2.34 per week. The variation or range was 0 to 29+ per week. Factors affecting variation of frequency include numerous biological factors, psychological conditioning, and sociological groups.
Chapter seven considers the effects that age has on the various sexual outlets, noting that it is the most significant factor affecting frequency of sexual outlets in the human male. Chapter eight considers the effect that marital status has on sexual outlets, noting that the mean frequency of total sexual outlets for the married male is always higher than for that of the single males, at all age levels. Chapter nine considers age of adolescence and“whether early involvement in sexual activity, or high frequencies of early activity would reduce one’s capacities in later life,” and concludes that early activity does not impair capacities in later life, and that in fact, those individuals who delay sex, retain minimum frequency of outlets in later life, and those who mature later have more limited sexual capacities.
Chapter ten considers the effects that social level has on sexual outlets, by looking at that educational level and occupational class, noting that each social level is convinced that its pattern is the best of all patterns. The social levels are furthest apart on their attitudes on petting and pre-marital intercourse. The upper level’s value of virginity at marriage increases the occurrence of petting, whereas the lower level’s lack of taboo for premarital intercourse, decreases the occurrences of petting, a behavior that they actually consider a perversion. The upper level tends to rationalize on the basis of what is “right or wrong,” while the lower level tends to rationalize on the basis of what is “natural or unnatural.”
Chapter eleven considers the degree of stability in patterns of sexual behavior by comparing older and younger generations via two kinds of calculations. One involves the “comparison of the incidences and average frequencies in two generations of the same educational level.” The other compares “patterns of behavior of individuals with patterns of behavior in the occupational classes to which their parents belonged.” It was found that very few individuals “adopt totally new patterns of sexual behavior after their middle teens,” and that “these very early years are fundamental in the development of both individual and community patterns of sexual behavior.”
Chapter twelve considers the difference between the sexual outlets of individuals of a rural versus an urban background. There were slightly lower frequencies of total sexual activity in the rural population, as well as fewer socio-sexual contacts, and much higher frequencies of animal intercourse. It is noted that animal contacts in rural boys was a matter of opportunity, and city boys, given the opportunity, would use that as a sexual outlet. Chapter thirteen considers the effect of religious background on sexual outlets. It was found that greater differences existed between devout and inactive persons of the same faith than between two equally devout groups of different faiths. It was also found that “no social level accepts the whole of the original Judeo-Christian code, but each level derives its taboos from some part of the same basic religious philosophy.”
In part three, the various sources of sexual outlet are summarized. These sources are: masturbation, nocturnal emissions, heterosexual petting, pre-marital intercourse, extra-marital intercourse, intercourse with prostitutes, homosexual outlet, and animal contacts. Chapter fourteen devotes itself to the sexual outlet of masturbation, defined as “any sort of self stimulation which brings erotic arousal.” It was found that 92% of the total population was involved in masturbation culminating in orgasm, that masturbation provided the first ejaculation in two-thirds of the boys, and that masturbation was the primary outlet for most early adolescent boys. Chapter fifteen devotes itself to nocturnal emissions, which are believed to be the product of dreams, and not the result of some biological force without any psychic accompaniment, however, it is noted that there has been no scientific proof of this. It was found that 83% of the total population has experienced nocturnal emissions at some point in their lives.
Chapter sixteen takes a look at heterosexual petting, defined as “any sort of physical contact which does not involve a union of genitalia but in which there is a deliberate attempt to effect erotic arousal.” As with nocturnal emissions, the psychic components are more important than the physical components in this sexual activity. It was found that petting is primarily an activity of youth at high school and college levels, and that 92 % of all males in theses groups were involved in petting before marriage, and that this pre-marital petting experience contributed to the effectiveness of the sexual relations after marriage.
Chapter seventeen takes a look at pre-marital intercourse, or genital union that takes place before marriage. It was found that most males do have intercourse prior to marriage, and that the less education an individual has, the more likely he is to engage in pre-marital intercourse. Also, boys who live in cities and towns are more likely to engage in pre-marital intercourse than those raised on farms. Chapter eighteen devotes itself to marital intercourse, the one type of sexual activity approved by our Anglo-American mores and legal codes. Frequencies, coital techniques, extent of petting, mouth stimulation, breast stimulation, manual and genital stimulation, positions in intercourse, anal eroticism, speed of male orgasm, nudity and preferences for light or dark, are all considered, noting the variations that occur in the human animal’s sexual behavior.
Chapter nineteen considers extramarital intercourse, genital union that takes place with someone other than one’s spouse, outside of one’s marriage. It is noted that “about half of all married males have intercourse with women other than their wives at some time while they are married,” and that “the human male would be promiscuous in his choice of sexual partners throughout the whole of his life if there were no social restrictions.” Also, it is noted that wives at every level tend to accept the non-marital activities of their husbands, where the husbands are not so inclined to accept non-marital activities of their wives. Chapter twenty looks at intercourse with prostitutes, reporting that about 69% of the total male population has some experience with prostitutes, and between 3.5% and 4% of the total sexual outlet of the male population is with female prostitutes. Lower social level males have more enjoyable experiences with prostitutes than upper level males.
Chapter twenty-one discusses homosexual outlet, noting that 6.3% of the total number of orgasms in the total male population is derived from homosexual contacts. Also, it is noted that the majority of the male population has had at least some homosexual experience in their lifetime, and that about 60% of pre-adolescent boys engage in homosexual activities. Chapter twenty-two discusses animal contacts, noting that about 8% of the total population has had sexual experience with animals, and that only .3% of the total outlet of the male population was derived from sexual contact with other animals. For most individuals, animal contacts did not occur more than once or twice, or a few times in their lifetime.
In 1994, Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, and Michaels came out with The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, a book that reports the complete results of what claims to be the “nation’s most comprehensive representative survey of sexual behavior in the general adult population of the United States.” It is based on interview responses from 3,432 randomly selected American men and women between the ages of 18 and 59. It was a survey done by sociologists, as opposed to previous scientific research conducted by biologists or psychologists, and focuses primarily on how the individual’s social environment affects their sexual behavior.
Laumann et al’s report is similar to the Kinsey reports in its magnitude, and general use of surveys as method of collecting data. Some of the content of the two reports is the same. Both reports are interested in early sexual experiences, masturbation, and a variety of sexual practices, including homosexuality. However, the Kinsey reports were of a different era, before the work of Masters and Johnson, the widespread use of contraception, the sexual revolution and AIDS. Laumann et al’s report includes topics such as contraception, AIDS, and sexual health and dysfunction. While Kinsey does use taxonomic techniques, and is interested in measuring the variations of sexual behavior in the human species, he is also very interested in the sociological factors influencing sexual behavior.
Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, which came out in 1953, just five years after the male report, and was based on the 5940 case histories of white females, is of course the female companion to the male report. In both reports, the majority of participants are younger white adults with some college education. Of course, there is much significant difference in the findings of the two populations, but the methodology was the same.
The author’s main bias is his belief in the importance of the scientific study of sexuality, and the freedom of such study without the restrictions of cultural mores. I perceive the negative and positive aspects of this book to be one and the same. This book is so scientific, which gives it credence in our society, but also alienates those who are not science-minded. It is far too dense in information for the average lay person. Hence, those who can most benefit from this book are scholars, researchers, and other persons working in the field of human sexuality. In my comparison to a more recent study, I noted certain current information that was not included in the Kinsey reports, but that was merely due to the era, and not to any fault of the authors. Kinsey reported on the social concerns of his day, and did so in a very thorough manner, fulfilling his goals, undoubtedly.
This book is well written. It is very systematic and clear in its descriptions and presentation of subjects and material. The charts and graphs are well laid out and very useful in examining the data. The book’s contribution to the field is tremendous. It is probably the most cited work in the field of sexuality. I cannot imagine where we would be as a society without this work. It seemed to shine the light into the dark corners of the bedrooms of America. It gave us empirical proof that human sexual behavior is indeed varied, just as Henry Havelock Ellis reported in the Victorian era, and perhaps without entirely meaning to, “normalized” such behaviors as masturbation, petting and homosexuality, and even to a certain degree, hebephilia and bestiality. In its approach to merely report on human sexual behavior without attaching any moral judgment to the behaviors, it boldly modeled another way to look at our behaviors and sexual differences, as just that…merely behaviors and differences. This book showed America how we could be curious about our varied sexual behaviors, instead of judgmental.