By: Tim Bean


See, just the word makes you a little uncomfortable.

That’s the streak of Puritan-American running through you. That same streak also says you should go to work even if you’re sick (you shouldn’t), why we have such overpopulated prisons, and why a show like ‘The Walking Dead’ graphically cracks a zombie’s skull like an overripe cantaloupe yet refrains from showing the human butt. You’d be surprised how influential a few witch-hanging, belt-buckle-on-the-head-wearing fanatics still are hundreds of years later.

That changed (mostly) thanks to one-time Hoosier Alfred Kinsey and his work at Indiana University in the 1940s. If you’re not familiar with the influence of the Kinsey Reports (actually two separate books), then here’s a few bits considered common knowledge today that Kinsey discovered with his controversial work. Bear in mind, NO ONE before Kinsey had conducted such an ambitious survey, compiling information from thousands of men and women across the country.

Homosexuality and bisexuality were not aberrations, but actually fairly common among Americans. 

Masturbation among both men and women was common and harmless.

Premarital sex, considered a serious social taboo, was practiced by the majority of the adult US population in the late 1940s. 

Long-term psychotherapy for sexual difficulties rarely helped. Instead, most consenting adults could solve problems just by talking to one another. 

Kinsey didn’t solve America’s unwillingness to discuss sex frankly and honestly; he only brought the need to light. He spent most of his life after publication fighting legal, scientific and moral battles in defense of his research.  Although some scientists criticize his methodology and possible sample bias, the Kinsey Reports still hold up surprisingly well sixty years later. Even among a population that still blushes at the word…


Want to Know More?

Here’s the FBI’s file on Alfred Kinsey. I told you, his research made a lot of people uncomfortable. Including J. Edgar Hoover. No comment.

Here’s the Kinsey Institute’s direct page, with plenty of information about the good doctor himself. And don’t forget, it’s located in Bloomington.

Psychology Today published a great article on the Puritan influence and our thoughts called “Our Inner Puritans.