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20.1C: Sexual Behavior Since Kinsey

  • Page ID
    8569
  • The Kinsey Report helped spark the sexual revolution, in which social regulations regarding sexual activity were loosened.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Summarize the impact of the Kinsey Report and the sexual revolution of the 1960s on American sexuality

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • The Kinsey Report was the largest study of norms in American sexuality to its time, conducted by Kr. Alfred Kinsey.
    • The development of oral contraception also contributed to the loosening of social regulations on sexuality.
    • The sexual revolution was a social movement in which social rules of sexuality became more lax.
    • The Kinsey scale is a numeric scaling of individuals along a continuum of complete heterosexuality to complete homosexuality.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • sexual revolution: A period in which attitudes towards sexual behavior undergo a substantial change, usually in the direction of increased liberality.
    • oral contraception: Medications taken by mouth for the purpose of birth control.
    • Kinsey Report: The Kinsey reports are two books on human sexual behavior, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), by Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and others, and published by Saunders. Kinsey was a zoologist at Indiana University and the founder of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction (more widely known as the Kinsey Institute).

    The publication of the Kinsey Report, the findings of norms in American sexuality by Dr. Alfred Kinsey, in the early 1950s contributed to the sparking of the sexual revolution, or the loosening of sexual mores demanding sex between heterosexual married partners that occurred in the 1960s. While other sexualities were still stigmatized in most post-Kinsey environments, the sexual revolution was marked by popular acceptance of premarital sex. Studies have shown that between 1965 and 1975, the number of women who had had sexual intercourse prior to marriage showed a marked increase. The social and political climate of the 1960s was a unique one in which traditional values were often challenged loudly by a very vocal minority.

    Kinsey’s 1950s study of sexuality contributed to the sexual revolution of the 1960s in two ways. First, prior to the Kinsey Report, no one had interviewed and published such an exhaustive and comprehensive analysis of Americans’ sexual desires and practices. Kinsey’s report reachd the conclusion that few Americans are completely heterosexual in desire or practice as indicated by the Kinsey Scale, or a numeric scaling of individuals along a continuum from complete heterosexuality to complete homosexuality. Though the Kinsey Report was published in the popular press, it was a scientific study conducted by a biologist at an academic institution. Popular readers of the Kinsey Report imbued the findings with a sense of scientific authority and professed faith in their accuracy. While other sexual orientations and acts were still marked as non-normative, society began to accept that other sexualities existed. The Kinsey Report was one step towards non-heterosexual orientations and behaviors becoming accepted by society as normal. Second, one cannot underestimate the significance of the mere publication of the Kinsey Report, independent of its findings. Prior to its publication, sexuality was considered uncouth to include in conversation. Kinsey’s publication initiated a national environment more tolerant to conversations about sexuality, which in and of itself loosened the grip of normalized, marital heterosexual relations.

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    The Pill: The landmark Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut affirmed women’s right to use birth control.

    Another scientific product had a profound impact on the development of the sexual revolution: the development of oral contraception. “The pill” provided many women a more affordable way to avoid pregnancy. Before the pill, there was a lack of affordable and safe options for contraception, rendering unwanted pregnancy a serious risk of premarital sexual activity. In 1960, the Food and Drug Administration licensed the drug, enabling its legal sale. However, many states still outlawed the use of contraceptives in order to reflect and enforce an ethic in which sexual activity was only acceptable for reproduction. The pill became an even more favored and socially acceptable means of birth control in 1965 when the Supreme Court decided the case of Griswold v. Connecticut. In its opinion, the Supreme Court held that the government could not dictate the use of contraception by married couples because such action would be a violation of the right to marital privacy implied in the Bill of Rights. The ruling furthered access to birth control and contributed to a post-Kinsey sexual environment in which society increasingly accepted premarital sex.