at the Kinsey
Psychologists have long played a major role at the
Kinsey Institute. Here’s what they are exploring now.
By Rebecca A. Clay
In 1938, women students at Indiana University asked for a class for students who were engaged or married. They got more than they asked for: They helped launch the field of sexuality research.
The university asked zoology professor Alfred C. Kinsey, ScD, to coordinate a
class on sexuality, reproduction, contraception and similar topics. In preparing for
the class, he discovered that the scientific literature on human sexual behavior was
sorely lacking. There were few studies, and most were based on small numbers of
patients or were judgmental in tone. In response, Kinsey set out to create his own
data. In the years that followed, he conducted face-to-face interviews with almost
8,000 people about their sex lives, with his colleagues collecting another 10,000
Today, psychologists at what is now called the Kinsey Institute are conducting
research that is far different from Kinsey’s project of creating a taxonomy of
human sexual behavior.
Research on how sexual behavior and the menstrual cycle interact to affect the
human immune system, for example, could have implications for how to time
vaccinations for maximum efficacy and how to schedule cardiology visits for the
most accurate test results. Another researcher offers study participants “condom
buffets” so men can find the most comfortable fit, which could improve condom
usage and reduce HIV infections. Another project could help identify sexually
aggressive men and inform future interventions.