In Kinsey’s 1948 Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and then again in his 1953 Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, the concept of “total outlets” is introduced. Kinsey needed a way to measure the data on the incidences and frequencies of a variety of sexual behaviors in the human male and female. He defined “total outlets” as “the sum of the orgasms derived from the various types of sexual activity in which that individual had engaged.” While Kinsey acknowledged that, obviously, many incidences of sexual behavior do not culminate in orgasm, and that even those incidences do, in reality, make up part of an individual’s total sexual outlet, providing the individual with an emotionally significant experience, he chose the orgasm, a physiological event, as the significant factor in determining an individual’s “total outlet”. The reason Kinsey gave for this is that the orgasm appears to satisfy a basic physiological need for most males and females and that the emotional situations involved in all of the sexual contacts would be quite difficult to assess and compare. He was, in so doing, hoping to achieve more “precision in analysis.”

 The six chief outlets, or sexual behaviors, that Kinsey reported on are masturbation, nocturnal emissions or dreams, heterosexual petting, heterosexual intercourse, homosexual outlet, and animal contacts. While some individuals derive all of their orgasms from a single kind of outlet, most people depend on two or more of these sources of outlet, and some may even include all six in a short period of time. There are of course an infinite number of possibilities of combinations of these outlets, and indeed, Kinsey found that no two sexualities are identical. The range of variations in the incidences and frequencies of the various outlets was found to be greater in women than men, however, still significant in the male population. Prior studies of the frequency of human sexual activity had looked at only one outlet at a time, such as masturbation or marital intercourse, and consequently produced lower frequency rates of sexual activity. Kinsey’s “total outlets” considered the bigger picture of incidences and frequencies of human sexual activity, giving society a more accurate understanding of human sexual behavior.

This bigger picture of human sexual behavior in our society was also uncovered through the careful consideration of twelve biologic and socio-economic factors in Kinsey’s studies. They were 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. In studying a variety of homogeneous groups, and then determining the relative size of the groups in the national census, Kinsey was able to reconstruct a picture of the “synthetic whole.” The differences that emerged between the homogeneous groups are of great social importance.

“For Kinsey and his colleagues, the profile of sexual activities and the total number of orgasms from any outlet represented the complex outcome of a tension between biological sexual possibility and cultural constraints.” (p. 78, Laumann et al) While Kinsey recognized the significance of certain biological factors, such as sex or age, he emphasized the role of social and cultural forces in relation to one’s biological potential. Kinsey believed that a person’s biology and society were essentially having to compromise, that without social constraints, the number of orgasms and variety of sexual experiences would be much greater for everyone.

The biological factor of age was found to be the most significant factor affecting frequency of sexual outlets in the human male. Also, the total number of sexual outlets for married individuals was found to be greater than that of single individuals. Devoutly religious women, particularly Catholics, were found to have fewer “total outlets” than religiously inactive women. Also, it was concluded 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. It was discovered 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.”

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.” 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. 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.”

 Masturbation, defined as “any sort of self stimulation which brings erotic arousal,” was found to be the primary source of outlet for most early adolescent boys and provided the first ejaculation in two-thirds of the boys. 92% of the males in the sample had masturbated, and masturbation frequencies after marriage decreased. It was the source of first arousal for approximately one-third of the women and the source of first orgasm for 37% of married females. Masturbation was also the source of 7-10% of all orgasms in marriage of women between the ages of 16-40. 62% of the females reported that they had masturbated, and 45% who had masturbated, indicated they could reach orgasm in three minutes.

Nocturnal emissions or dreams, more commonly known as “wet dreams,” occurred in 83% of the male population at some point in their lives. And about two-thirds of the females in the sample had dreams that were overtly sexual, 20% of them culminating in orgasm. 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,” was found to be primarily an activity of youth at high school and college levels. 92% of all males in the sample were involved in petting before marriage, and it was found that this pre-marital petting contributed to the effectiveness of the sexual relations after marriage. 40% of the females had experienced heterosexual petting by age 15, and between 69% and 95% had such an experience by age 18, and 90% of the entire sample, and nearly 100% of those who had married, had such an experience before marriage.

It was found that 68% of the men in the sample had engaged in pre-marital intercourse by age 18, and that the less education an individual has, the more likely he is to have intercourse prior to marriage. Also, boys who live in cities and towns are more likely to engage in pre-marital intercourse than those raised on farms. 50% of the women had engaged in pre-marital coitus, and there was a marked correlation between experience of orgasm obtained from pre-marital coitus and the capacity to reach orgasm after marriage.

The frequency of coitus in the married male and female were comparable. The average frequency in late teens was about 2.8 times a week; by age 30, 2.2 times a week; and by age 50, 1.0 times a week. It was found that about half of all males had some extra-marital experience at some time during their married lives, and that about one fourth of the females in the sample had experienced extra-marital coitus by age 40, 85% of those responding to orgasm, at least on occasion. About 69% of the males in the sample had some experience with prostitutes, and between 3.5% and 4% of the total sexual outlet of the male population was found to be with prostitutes. The lower social level males reported having more enjoyable experiences with prostitutes that the upper level males.

Some kind of homosexual outlet, or sexual contact with a person of the same sex, occurred in 37% of the males in the sample. It was found that about 60% of pre-adolescent boys engage in homosexual activities, and that 10% of the males in the sample were predominantly homosexual between the ages of 16 and 55. By age 30, one fourth of the women had recognized erotic responses to other females. It was found that 2% to 6% of the females in the study, aged 20-35, were more or less exclusively homosexual in experience and response.

Animal contacts, or sexual contact with another species, had occurred in 8% of the total male population. Only .3% of the total outlet of the male population, however, was derived from sexual contact with other species. 1.5% of the female population had some sort of sexual relation with other animals in pre-adolescence, and 3.6% had sexual contacts with another type of animal after they had reached adolescence.

Indeed, the concept of “total outlets” enabled us to understand much more about the complexity and diversity of human sexual behavior. The concept of “total outlets” was in fact the quantitative method that the field of sexology had been lacking. “Three of Kinsey’s predecessors—Krafft-Ebbing, Freud, and van de Velde—knew nothing of statistics.” (p. 104, Brecher) According to Brecher,  Kinsey was responsible for legitimizing the scientific study of sexuality, putting it on “a firm quantitative foundation,” an opinion undoubtedly shared by many.









Brecher, Edward M. The Sex Researchers. Boston and Toronto: Littlel, Brown, and Company. 1969. pp 354


Kinsey, Alfred C. Pomeroy, Wardell B. Martin, Clyde E. Gebhard, Paul H. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelpia and London: W.B. Saunders Company. 1953. pp 842.


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.



Laumann, Edward O. Gagnon, John H. Michael, Robert T. Michael’s Stuart. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. pp 718