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1953 Thirty Years Ago

March 2023
1min read

On September 14 appeared Sexual Behavior in the Human Female by Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, and Gebhard of the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University. It caused quite as much stir as had the companion volume on men, published five years earlier- more of a stir, perhaps, for those were days before the media had made fodder as familiar as the television listings of women’s hopes, fears, troubles, and joys. And it was then a given that only men talked openly about sex. That women consented to answer Kinsey’s questions was in itself something of an innovation. “Neither younger girls nor older women discuss their sexual experiences in the open way that males do,” said Kinsey.

He described his book as a “much more human document” than its predecessor. He meant by this that he wanted to root his statistical findings in a context of emotional and social reality itself immune to numerical description. Some of this (rightly or wrongly) would today be dismissed out of hand: a woman, he concluded, marries “to establish a home, to establish a long-time affectionate relationship with a single spouse, and to have children whose welfare may become the prime business of her life.” A man is more likely to marry because of “passion.” He held that women seldom daydream about sex and are less readily stimulated by the mere sight of the loved one, and he cited, in support, the one-sided nature of pornography. His claim that there was no such thing as purely “physical” frigidity is more likely to be accepted by contemporary researchers.

In commenting on the book for Life magazine, the novelist Kathleen Norris expressed amazement that it took years of research to establish that women are “less susceptible to sex impulses and less enslaved by the urge for sex experience than men are. … There is not a woman in the world who has not been aware of it since her earliest teens.” But Fannie Hurst looked forward instead of back. “It is, of course, conceivable that with women’s economic independence only in its infancy, security may some day come to mean something different from mere security-in-trousers. … the social revolution through which we are now muddling will find its middle of the road. And the Kinsey reports will likewise find their quiet and deserved place in the march of knowledge.”

SEPTEMBER 21 : A North Korean pilot lands his MIG near Seoul and wins the $100,000 reward promised by Gen. Mark Clark, the United Nations commander.

SEPTEMBER 30 : President Eisenhower names Earl Warren Chief Justice of the United States.

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