Kinsey Scale, once a revelation, fails to be relevant today

Warning: This piece contains some content related to sexual assault.

Internet quizzes about identity are prolific, and while most are fun, it is important to realize they are for entertainment. Tests like the Kinsey Scale, which measures sexuality, are often built using scientific methods over time, not just a few random questions.

Alfred Kinsey, born in 1894, studied biology and psychology. He worked as a zoology professor at Indiana University and specialized in entomology, the study of insects. While at Indiana University, he initially studied the mating habits of the Gall wasp, but then began studying the sexual habits of married couples.

According to the Kinsey Institute, Kinsey interviewed thousands of people to develop his initial research, which led him to publish the book “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” in 1948. This book included the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, often called the Kinsey Scale. It was developed by Kinsey and two colleagues, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin.

The Kinsey Scale is viewed by some today as incomplete. Most scales, including Kinsey’s, assume gender to be binary, while examining the fluidity of sexuality. According to an article from Medical News Today, the Kinsey Scale doesn’t represent all gender identities and sexual orientations or include the sexual experiences of asexual people.

The scale includes a rating of 0-6. The 0 end of the scale is completely heterosexual and the 6 is completely homosexual, with varying degrees of bisexuality in between.

Later, another category based on research of those who had no sexual contact or reaction were designated the letter X. The scale measured three categories only: heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual.

Kinsey believed an individual’s sexual behavior was fluid and always changing, and that all people could be measured on his scale. In Kinsey’s research, a person would be assigned a number based on their sexual history. Kinsey’s aim was to show that people did not fit in either heterosexual or homosexual categories exclusively, but rather that sexuality exists on a spectrum.

Some scales, such as the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, were developed years later to take Kinsey’s idea a step further. Klein’s grid examines a person’s sexual orientation in the past, present and future. Its variables include sexual attraction, behavior and fantasies, emotional and social preference, heterosexual/homosexual lifestyle and self-identification. A person then assigns each box in the grid a rating between 1-7 for each variable.

According to Psychology Today, while the Kinsey Scale operated on the belief that sexuality occurred along a continuum and one’s orientation fell anywhere between two poles on that continuum, Klein’s grid investigated sexuality much deeper.

Kinsey’s research was initially funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, which was a very radical move at the time, according to the foundation’s website. The foundation funded Kinsey from 1941-1954. After publication of his second book, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” the Rockefeller Foundation withdrew support due to accusations by anti-communism committees that they were aiding communism by weakening morality in America.

Kinsey’s research would later lead him to be dubbed the “father of the sexual revolution,” but not everyone was a fan. In his own time, critics believed his research methods were skewed, while others accused him of being a pervert.

Judith Reisman, founder of the anti-Kinsey movement, believes that all of Kinsey’s research is flawed and that Kinsey was a sex offender and child abuser, according to an article written in The New Yorker.

Reisman believes Kinsey was either involved in or directly responsible for those who were engaged in activities that led to the data on the infamous Table 34, published in “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.” The table listed ages of adolescent boys as young as five months old and their timed sexual responses. The data on this table led Kinsey to believe that people are sexual from an early age.

According to a 1995 article in The Washington Post, a Kinsey Institute spokesman said the findings of Table 34 were not based on scientific experiment but based on accounts of a single pedophile. This announcement came after accusations that Kinsey was a pedophile and a fraud.

In Reisman’s argument “Kinsey Crimes & Consequence,” she specifically references the case of Esther White (pseudonym). White claims Kinsey paid her father to perform unethical sexual research on her when she was a child.

Reisman also claimed in this report that female data was skewed and presented females as largely sexually promiscuous. The Kinsey Institute has refuted these claims and continues to explore sexuality sciences.

Kinsey’s study showed that same-sex behavior was more common than previously believed. It, along with other studies, helped push the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 to remove homosexuality as a diagnosis in “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” according to Psychiatry Online.

The Kinsey Reports, which include both of his published works on human sexuality, opened the door to discuss then-taboo subjects, which in turn helped reduce some societal stigma. While his work was earth shattering in the early 20th century and helped fuel a sexual revolution, the scale doesn’t represent the current complex world of sexuality. The Kinsey Institute, founded in 1947, continues to explore human sexuality and relationships.

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