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The Classification of Sex

Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge

by Donna J. Drucker

Publication Year: 2014

Alfred C. Kinsey’s revolutionary studies of human sexual behavior are world-renowned. His meticulous methods of data collection, from comprehensive entomological assemblies to personal sex history interviews, raised the bar for empirical evidence to an entirely new level. In The Classification of Sex, Donna J. Drucker presents an original analysis of Kinsey’s scientific career in order to uncover the roots of his research methods. She describes how his enduring interest as an entomologist and biologist in the compilation and organization of mass data sets structured each of his classification projects. As Drucker shows, Kinsey’s lifelong mission was to find scientific truth in numbers and through observation—and to record without prejudice in the spirit of a true taxonomist. Kinsey’s doctoral work included extensive research of the gall wasp, where he gathered and recorded variations in over six million specimens. His classification and reclassification of Cynips led to the speciation of the genus that remains today. During his graduate training, Kinsey developed a strong interest in evolution and the links between entomological and human behavior studies. In 1920, he joined Indiana University as a professor in zoology, and soon published an introductory text on biology, followed by a coauthored field guide to edible wild plants. In 1938, Kinsey began teaching a noncredit course on marriage, where he openly discussed sexual behavior and espoused equal opportunity for orgasmic satisfaction in marital relationships. Soon after, he began gathering case histories of sexual behavior. As a pioneer in the nascent field of sexology, Kinsey saw that the key to its cogency was grounded in observation combined with the collection and classification of mass data. To support the institutionalization of his work, he cofounded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1947. He and his staff eventually conducted over eighteen thousand personal interviews about sexual behavior, and in 1948 he published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, to be followed in 1953 by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. As Drucker’s study shows, Kinsey’s scientific rigor and his early use of data recording methods and observational studies were unparalleled in his field. Those practices shaped his entire career and produced a wellspring of new information, whether he was studying gall wasp wings, writing biology textbooks, tracing patterns of evolution, or developing a universal theory of human sexuality.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-ix

This book has its origins in two Indiana University (IU) graduate courses, one taught by Elin K. Jacob in the School of Library and Information Science (now the Department of Information and Library Science in the School of Informatics and Computing), and one taught by Judith A. Allen in the Department...

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pp. 1-13

Alfred C. Kinsey loved to collect, to study, and to classify elements of the natural world, and his enthusiasm for those scientific practices shaped his whole academic life. He shared his passion for collecting with the young readers of An Introduction to Biology, his first textbook for American high school students...

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1. Learning the Trade, Creating a Collector

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pp. 14-37

Alfred Kinsey had a strong curiosity about the life sciences from an early age—an enthusiasm that guided the course of his life and career. He wrote in his second high school biology textbook in 1933 that his inspiration for writing textbooks was “in the experiences of thirteen summers in camps where I...

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2. The Evolution of a Taxonomist

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pp. 38-62

Kinsey’s scientific work in the late 1910s through the 1930s was in two broad categories: writing and teaching. As he wrote a book on edible wild plants, wrote and edited three different editions of a high school textbook and two different editions of a workbook, and published his last texts on gall wasp speciation, his academic interests began to change. His coauthored book on edible...

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3. Teaching Life and Human Sciences

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pp. 63-87

The combined forces of Kinsey’s scientific writing paired with his biology teaching moved him into the world of human sex research during the 1930s. Together, his writing and teaching on life sciences soon led to his greater interest in exploring the human sciences. His teaching general biology at the college...

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4. Ordering Human Sexuality

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pp. 88-115

Kinsey brought into his worldview for studying human sexual behavior a complex mix of ideas from his entomological research, teaching life and human sciences, and teaching and organizing the marriage course. Those ideas oftentimes coexisted uneasily. He approached the more in-depth phase of human sex...

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5. The Taxonomy and Classification of Human Sexuality

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pp. 116-141

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male reflects Kinsey’s synthesis of material from a wide assortment of disciplines coupled with the data from 5,300 male histories. The book shows the results of his comprehensive interview and research formula: his attempts to fill in the “great gaps in exact knowledge” of...

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6. The Boundaries of Sexual Categorization

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pp. 142-163

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, released to the public the first week of January 1948, immediately generated numerous responses from readers across the United States and the world. The twenty-five thousand articles gathered by the newspaper clipping service that the Institute for Sex Research employed...

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pp. 164-172

Kinsey’s life and work, and the intertwined nature of the two, continue to draw academic and public interest. One of the reasons for that ongoing interest is the difficulty in classifying the man himself. Many are intrigued by the highly sexed and voyeuristic Kinsey, who quietly filmed sex acts—his own and...


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pp. 173-208


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pp. 209-234


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pp. 235-244

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822979500
E-ISBN-10: 0822979500
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822963035
Print-ISBN-10: 0822963035

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 11 b&w
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Kinsey, Alfred C. (Alfred Charles), 1894-1956.
  • Science -- Methodology.
  • Classification of sciences.
  • Research -- United States.
  • Sexology -- United States.
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