Alfred Kinsey founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1947. He is famous for the research he undertook on human sexuality after discovering that scientific literature on the topic was lacking. The few studies that existed before his work began time had small sample sizes and a judgemental tone rather than a scientific one. The Kinsey Scale was an attempt to rate sexuality on a numerical scale.
To develop the Kinsey Scale, Kinsey and his research team interviewed thousands of Americans, including college students, prisoners, and sex workers, about their sexual histories. The results showed that sexual feelings and behavior toward the opposite sex changed over time. Kinsey developed the Kinsey Scale to categorize people beyond the three categories of homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual.
The Kinsey Scale rates people from 0 to 6, as follows:
Another category, X, indicates that the person has no sexual contact or reaction.
The research samples for the Kinsey Reports and the development of the Kinsey scale was designed for young, college-educated, white adults and appeared less applicable to minorities and those with lower education levels or socioeconomic backgrounds. While Kinsey's data was collected from over 10,000 face-to-face interviews, his sampling method was described as opportunistic.
Kinsey used his research to create not only the Kinsey Scale but also to publish what became known as the Kinsey Reports. These consist of two books: Sexual Behavior of the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). The reports showed that 37 percent of males and 13 percent of females have at least some homosexual tendencies and that four percent of males and between one and three percent of females are exclusively homosexual.
Kinsey was met with criticism by his contemporaries. Dr. Norman Q. Brill from the University of California Medical Center stated that Kinsey did not sufficiently distinguish between the sexual behaviors of animals and humans in his research and that he used a limited approach. Dr. Brill believed that Kensey's statistics on women were especially inaccurate.
Kensey's research began in the late 40s and is, unsurprisingly, outdated. More recent research shows 8.2 percent of Americans report engaging in same-sex behavior, and 11 percent confirm some attraction to the same sex. Although this newer research did not directly apply the Kinsey Scale, the figures are below Kinsey's conclusion that 37 percent of males and 13 percent of females have at least some homosexual tendencies.
The Kinsey Scale and the Kinsey Reports may have changed the public perception of sexuality as a spectrum, but there are limitations to what Kinsey measures. The Scale measures sexuality using a scale that incorporates only hetero and homosexuality, ignoring pansexual, polysexual, asexual, and other orientations.
The Kinsey Scale has gotten increasingly more popular online in recent years. Many tests and quizzes have appeared across the internet claiming to measure and assign quiz-takers a number on the Kinsey Scale. These are widely inaccurate and based on the mistaken assumption that the Kinsey Scale is a test. Rather, Kinsey and his research team assigned numbers to subjects during their research based on their unique sexual experiences throughout their lifetimes.
Other scales that go further in identifying sexual expression than the Kinsey Scale. One is the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, which examines seven categories: self-identification, lifestyle, social preference, emotional preference, fantasies, behavior, and attraction. This opens sexual identity to more nuanced scenarios that the Kinsey Scale overlooks. For example, a man may be sexually attracted to men but only emotionally attracted to women, or a woman may be sexually attracted only to men but fantasize about women.
Even some of Kinsey's critics gave him credit for opening up a discussion about sexuality, and, though flawed, his ideas of seeing it as a spectrum were ahead of his time. The Kinsey Reports and the Kinsey Scale are responsible for starting a conversation about orientation in America. Today, psychologists see sexuality as a fluid spectrum.
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