A Sequel to the Kinsey Report

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “There they go again.”

Indiana University was the source for the notorious Kinsey Report. The same agenda that characterized the discredited 1953 report seems to permeate a new survey, the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, whose findings were released in October by the school’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion.

Like the Kinsey researchers, the new study’s authors fixate on bizarre matters most Americans would rather not discuss in polite company: on “more than 40 combinations of sexual acts”; on homosexuality; and on prophylactic use—not surprising given that the survey was funded by the manufacturers of Trojan condoms. The researchers also insist, as in 1953, that because all the behaviors they identify and quantify are “normal,” Americans should not feel embarrassed about any of them, although many are fraught with clear health risks.

Like Kinsey, who based his claims on surveys of the prison population, the study appears to overstate the occurrence of homosexual behavior. The new study claims that between 4 percent and 8 percent of American males have experienced sexual encounters with another man in the past twelve months.

Those numbers may be more accurate than Kinsey’s claim of 10 percent, yet they remain at variance with the findings of more rigorous studies employing more reliable data sets. Crunching data from the 2002 wave of the National Survey of Family Growth, researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found that only 2.9 percent of men, ages 15–44, reported engaging in homosexual acts in the previous twelve months, with an even smaller 1.6 percent identifying their intimate acts as exclusively same-sex. Although older, a 1993 report by the Guttmacher Institute suggests an even lower occurrence, finding that only 1 percent of sexually active men, ages 20–39, reported exclusively homosexual encounters in the previous ten years.

The NCHS report also found remarkably higher levels of monogamy and marital fidelity than the Indiana research suggests. Just 4.5 percent of married men and 3.8 percent of married women informed NCHS of having more than one sexual partner in the previous 12 months, while the comparative numbers were many times higher for never-married, cohabiting, and divorced men and women.

The parallels with Kinsey—along with the Center’s history and reputation, its incentive to sensationalize the results, and the fact that the research was funded by commercial condom interests—suggest that both the methodology and the findings of the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior ought to be viewed with suspicion. Moreover, the very focus of the survey questions provide evidence of C. S. Lewis’s observation, just before the initial Kinsey report, that modern society’s obsession with the sexual appetite “is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.”

If the Center for Sexual Health Promotion were interested in its nominal mission, it would concentrate on exploring the well-documented emotional and physical health benefits of monogamy in general and matrimony in particular. The research literature especially underscores how life-long marriage offers far greater protection against all sexually transmitted diseases relative to any artificial or mechanical intervention, especially for women whose more complex reproductive systems are far more vulnerable to infections resulting from having more than one lover.

The original Kinsey Report created misconceptions that ultimately became self-fulfilling and lowered America’s defenses against aberrancy and sexual expression outside of marriage. If Indiana University is allowed to go there again, the end results for public health and social well-being could be equally catastrophic.

(Findings from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University, Journal of Sexual Medicine 7, Supplement 5 [October 2010]).