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The Classification of Sex

The Classification of Sex: Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge

Donna J. Drucker
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Classification of Sex
    Book Description:

    Alfred C. Kinsey's revolutionary studies of human sexual behavior are world-renowned. His meticulous methods of data collection, from comprehensive entomological assemblies to personal sex history interviews, raised the bar for empirical evidence to an entirely new level. InThe Classification of Sex,Donna J. Drucker presents an original analysis of Kinsey's scientific career in order to uncover the roots of his research methods. She describes how his enduring interest as an entomologist and biologist in the compilation and organization of mass data sets structured each of his classification projects. As Drucker shows, Kinsey's lifelong mission was to find scientific truth in numbers and through observation-and to record without prejudice in the spirit of a true taxonomist.Kinsey's doctoral work included extensive research of the gall wasp, where he gathered and recorded variations in over six million specimens. His classification and reclassification ofCynipsled to the speciation of the genus that remains today. During his graduate training, Kinsey developed a strong interest in evolution and the links between entomological and human behavior studies. In 1920, he joined Indiana University as a professor in zoology, and soon published an introductory text on biology, followed by a coauthored field guide to edible wild plants.In 1938, Kinsey began teaching a noncredit course on marriage, where he openly discussed sexual behavior and espoused equal opportunity for orgasmic satisfaction in marital relationships. Soon after, he began gathering case histories of sexual behavior. As a pioneer in the nascent field of sexology, Kinsey saw that the key to its cogency was grounded in observation combined with the collection and classification of mass data. To support the institutionalization of his work, he cofounded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1947. He and his staff eventually conducted over eighteen thousand personal interviews about sexual behavior, and in 1948 he publishedSexual Behavior in the Human Male,to be followed in 1953 bySexual Behavior in the Human Female.As Drucker's study shows, Kinsey's scientific rigor and his early use of data recording methods and observational studies were unparalleled in his field. Those practices shaped his entire career and produced a wellspring of new information, whether he was studying gall wasp wings, writing biology textbooks, tracing patterns of evolution, or developing a universal theory of human sexuality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7950-0
    Subjects: General Science, History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    Alfred C. Kinsey loved to collect, to study, and to classify elements of the natural world, and his enthusiasm for those scientific practices shaped his whole academic life. He shared his passion for collecting with the young readers ofAn Introduction to Biology, his first textbook for American high school students. For him, collecting led to happiness, but a larger collection led to even greater happiness. Collecting was a means of developing good character and showing scientific accomplishments. Having a collection of natural objects demonstrated classificatory abilities and handicraft skills, and provided an opportunity to teach others about one’s area...

  2. 1 Learning the Trade, Creating a Collector
    (pp. 14-37)

    Alfred Kinsey had a strong curiosity about the life sciences from an early age—an enthusiasm that guided the course of his life and career. He wrote in his second high school biology textbook in 1933 that his inspiration for writing textbooks was “in the experiences of thirteen summers in camps where I had a share in showing plants and animals to some ten thousand young folks of high school age.” He archived the work of boys at various nature camps in the Northeast who performed experiments with ants under his supervision. He describes on the first pages of his...

  3. 2 The Evolution of a Taxonomist
    (pp. 38-62)

    Kinsey’s scientific work in the late 1910s through the 1930s was in two broad categories: writing and teaching. As he wrote a book on edible wild plants, wrote and edited three different editions of a high school textbook and two different editions of a workbook, and published his last texts on gall wasp speciation, his academic interests began to change. His coauthored book on edible wild plants demonstrated his curiosity about wild foods and his interest in reordering and challenging accepted forms of classification. Through writing and editing his high school textbooks and workbooks, he developed a philosophy of science...

  4. 3 Teaching Life and Human Sciences
    (pp. 63-87)

    The combined forces of Kinsey’s scientific writing paired with his biology teaching moved him into the world of human sex research during the 1930s. Together, his writing and teaching on life sciences soon led to his greater interest in exploring the human sciences. His teaching general biology at the college level led to his incorporating human biology and reproduction into his biology courses for Indiana University students in the early 1930s. That teaching decision, in turn, nurtured his interest in sex education at the postsecondary level, culminating in the first session of the marriage course in the summer of 1938....

  5. 4 Ordering Human Sexuality
    (pp. 88-115)

    Kinsey brought into his worldview for studying human sexual behavior a complex mix of ideas from his entomological research, teaching life and human sciences, and teaching and organizing the marriage course. Those ideas oftentimes coexisted uneasily. He approached the more in-depth phase of human sex research using ideas and beliefs from previous research synthesized into his own view. He favored using multiple positions in a heterosexual encounter to improve the chances of orgasm for both participants, allowing children to explore their sexual bodies and feelings with little to no adult supervision, and the idea that premarital sexual experimentation was good....

  6. 5 The Taxonomy and Classification of Human Sexuality
    (pp. 116-141)

    Sexual Behavior in the Human Malereflects Kinsey’s synthesis of material from a wide assortment of disciplines coupled with the data from 5,300 male histories. The book shows the results of his comprehensive interview and research formula: his attempts to fill in the “great gaps in exact knowledge” of human sexual behavior.¹ His shift to using machine-organized data and quantitative methodology signaled a shift in the most popular and lately dependable tools of sex research. Alfred Emerson, who had known Kinsey since the early 1940s during their mutual work for the Society for the Study of Speciation, praised the aims...

  7. 6 The Boundaries of Sexual Categorization
    (pp. 142-163)

    Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, released to the public the first week of January 1948, immediately generated numerous responses from readers across the United States and the world. The twenty-five thousand articles gathered by the newspaper clipping service that the Institute for Sex Research employed eventually filled seventy-two oversized binders.¹ TheMalevolume sold 185,000 copies in the first two months of publication.² Academic criticism of and interest in theMalevolume was similarly extensive and swift across numerous academic fields, including a special conference organized by the American Social Hygiene Association devoted specifically to the volume (which Kinsey...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 164-172)

    Kinsey’s life and work, and the intertwined nature of the two, continue to draw academic and public interest. One of the reasons for that ongoing interest is the difficulty in classifying the man himself. Many are intrigued by the highly sexed and voyeuristic Kinsey, who quietly filmed sex acts—his own and those of many others, including his own staff and various sadomasochists—in his attic, while his wife Clara served coffee and persimmon pudding to the tired participants after they put their clothes back on. For others, he fits the image of the scientist in tireless pursuit of truth,...