An analysis of letters from British correspondents to Alfred Kinsey, pioneering sexologist of the 1940s and 1950s, reveals that they had a ‘very idiosyncratic’ way of tackling the subject of sex.
Among the topics these “ armchair sexologists ” were eager to discuss were penis girth, homosexuality in the Boy Scouts, the religious implications of preserving bodily fluids, and the relationship between stuttering and oppression.
A typical letter Kinsey received was from a Bournemouth resident who wrote, “I am an amateur sexologist.”
And in 1951, a man claiming to be a police officer from Shepherd’s Bush, West London, declared that all Boy Scouts were ‘homosexual’ – and that the letter writer ‘never made the mistake of not recognizing an HS first. introduced ‘.
The letters show that post-war Britons were also fascinated by zodiac signs, sexual jealousy and the appearance of married virgins, according to a study of correspondence by historian Ruby Ray Daily, of Northwestern University, Illinois.
A West Midland letter writer told Kinsey in 1953 that sexuality was defined by astrological signs.
An analysis of letters from British correspondents to Alfred Kinsey (above), pioneering sexologist of the 1940s and 1950s, reveals that they had a ‘very idiosyncratic’ way of raising the subject of sex.
In the post-war era, British ‘armchair sexologists’ were eager to discuss penis girth, homosexuality in the Boy Scouts, the religious implications of preserving bodily fluids, and the relationship between stuttering and oppression. (Above center, Lieutenant General Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout Movement among his young troops)
‘You will now understand’, he wrote, ‘why I am so deeply interested in your unique set of data … there are astrological configurations … that correspond to frigidity and promiscuity, but the verification of such tendencies is (as you are sure will appreciate) almost impossible to obtain ‘.
Ms. Daily said that, compared to Americans and Continental Europeans, British correspondents for Kinsey “may seem to suggest that the long-standing cliché of Britain as a particularly sexually oppressed nation is in fact correct.”
She wrote in the magazine Twentieth Century British History: “ The diversity of topics that British correspondents deliberately considered included the menstrual cycle, homosexuality in the Boy Scouts, the incidence of married virgins, the relationship between stuttering and oppression, penis circumference, sexual jealousy. and the religious implications of preserving bodily fluids.
“With this context, it is revealed that even the most eccentric and monomaniacal letters are typical in shape, if not content.”
As an example, Mrs. Daily also points to a letter written by an academic at Trinity College, Cambridge – who in 1950 asked Kinsey a series of questions about whether ‘the educated Englishman’ was ‘divorced’ at all-male universities and public schools. more likely than American men to be ‘initiated by older and more experienced women’.
Circumcision was a very popular topic among British letter writers, Ms Daily said.
Kinsey’s fascination with the human sex life would lead to the publication of two books: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). They were known as the ‘Kinsey Reports’ and conducted 18,500 face-to-face interviews. Although his analysis was carefully conducted, the studies were heavily criticized for sample irregularities and unreliability of personal communication
In February 1954, a Cardiff man wrote a report complaining about the lack of information about circumcision in Kinsey’s book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.
The Welshman blamed his own intact foreskin for the brief nature of his sexual encounters, ‘briefly, not only from my own point of view, but from the point of view of meeting my partners’.
He also asked Kinsey to send him information about the rate of premature ejaculation in uncircumcised and circumcised men.
Questions such as this one from the British contrasted sharply with the American view of sex.
Ms. Daily continued, “ Whether they responded with hostility, skepticism, or confusion to Kinsey’s work, the Kinsey correspondence indicates that most Americans were surprisingly comfortable with a functional understanding of sex as a spectrum of biology or a catalog of behaviors. . ‘
Alfred Kinsey: From Boy Scout to Groundbreaking Sexpert
Alfred Kinsey is widely regarded as the father of ‘sexology’ – and founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1947.
He was born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1894.
At a young age he showed a keen interest in nature and camping and would join the Boy Scouts.
His parents, both devout Christians, fully supported him in this, while the scouting movement embraced their principles.
Kinsey’s interest in the natural world would see him arrive at Indiana University in 1920, a year after his PhD in biology from Harvard University.
Alfred Kinsey (pictured) is widely regarded as the father of ‘sexology’ – and founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1947
After 20 years in this field of entomology, he began teaching “Marriage and Family” – a course for older and married students.
During that time, his research on the topic of sex increased and he began to collect sex histories to bolster his research.
Within three years, Kinsey had collected about 2,000 sexual histories and earned a grant of $ 1,600 from the National Research Council’s Committee on Inquiry into the Problems of Sex. In 1947, the committee funded the Kinsey team with a grant of $ 40,000.
His fascination with the human sex life would lead to the publication of two reports – Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). These were known as the ‘Kinsey Reports’.
Based on 18,500 face-to-face interviews, they cover a wide variety of sexual behavior.
Although his analysis was carefully conducted, the studies were heavily criticized for irregularities in the samples and the unreliability of personal communication.
One of his findings was that 10 percent of American men were gay.
Dr. Kinsey died unexpectedly on August 25, 1956 at the age of 62. Earlier that year, he gave an interview to NBC News and interviewed his last two topics.
He personally took 7,985 of the roughly 18,000 sexual histories collected by the research team.
In 2004, a movie was released, Kinsey, which chronicles his life, starring Liam Neeson.
Above, Liam Neeson as Alfred Kinsey in the 2004 biopic Kinsey