Kinsey Institute

The beginnings of The Kinsey Institute can be traced to 1938 when the Association of Women Students petitioned Indiana University for a course for students who were married or contemplating marriage.

Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, a Harvard-trained professor of zoology, was asked to coordinate the course. In preparing for the course, Dr. Kinsey discovered that few scientific data existed on human sexual behavior. What studies did exist were in general either extremely value-laden or based on very small numbers of clinical patients, so Dr. Kinsey began collecting his own data. Eventually he and his research associates obtained more than 18,000 sexual histories based on in-depth, face-to-face interviews. By 1941, Kinsey's pioneering work had earned the financial support of the National Research Council, at that time funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. This support continued until 1954. In 1947, in order to guarantee absolute confidentiality to individuals interviewed and to provide a secure, permanent location for the growing collection of interview data and other materials Dr. Kinsey was collecting on human sexuality, the institute was established as a not-for-profit corporation affiliated with Indiana University. Several names for the fledgling institute were discussed ("Indiana Sex Research Institute," "Kinsey Research Institute," "Institute for the Study of Human Behavior," and "Sex Research Institute") before the "Institute for Sex Research" was decided upon. Dr. Kinsey transferred ownership of all his research materials to the new institute for $1.00. The first trustees of the Institute were Alfred Kinsey, Paul Gebhard, Clyde Martin, and Wardell Pomeroy. The purposes of the Institute listed in the incorporation were: continue research on human sexual behavior; to accept, hold, use, and administer research materials, a library, case histories, and other materials relating to the project.
The mission of The Kinsey Institute is to promote interdisciplinary research and scholarship in the fields of human sexuality, gender, and reproduction. The Institute carries out this mission through:
  • development of specialized collections of resources for scholars;
  • programs of research and publication;
  • interdisciplinary conferences and seminars;
  • provision of information services to researchers; and
  • graduate training.
The Institute's broader mission includes service to the University and professional communities through teaching, clinical and research training, tours and presentations, and to the public through provision of clinical services for problems related to sexual and reproductive health and referral to appropriate organizations and groups. Mission Statement of the Kinsey Institute The unique history, collections and research of the Kinsey Institute have established it as a leader internationally in scholarship, teaching and service in sexuality, gender and reproduction. The Institute's mission is to maintain this leadership by developing and nurturing a community of interdisciplinary scholarship within and beyond Indiana University. This community of scholarship includes the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, medicine, education and law. The primary intellectual and research concerns of the Institute are:
sexuality in its anthropological, biological, behavioral, cultural, historical, institutional, legal, medical, psychological, policy, social, and other relevant aspects.
gender dimensions of sexuality and reproduction, including behaviors, cultural representations, customs, doctrines, ethics, identities, institutions, laws, practices, public policies, social meanings, and other relevant domains.

reproduction as mediated by behavioral, cross-cultural, demographic, epidemiological, ethical, ethnographic, health, legal, policy, psychological, representational, sexual, social, and other relevant factors.

Sexuality, gender and reproduction are fundamental elements of human life and prominent in the organization of human societies. As such, these are critically important areas for research, scholarly interpretation, instruction and debate, with different significance and meanings across different cultures and sub-cultures. Researchers and scholars have a major contribution to make to enhancing understanding of sexuality, gender and reproduction. Ignorance, taboos and fear can obstruct efforts to study, know, understand, and teach about their structural, cultural and individual impact. Research can illuminate a range of problems worldwide, including those related to overpopulation, reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases (most notably, HIV and AIDS), teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, assault and harassment, and sexual dysfunction. These problems occur in varying cross-cultural contexts, at times generating heated controversy, at times religious, legal, and political regulation, intensified mass media and other cultural representation, and international scrutiny and pronouncements through bodies such as the agencies of the United Nations.
Interdisciplinary inquiry into sexuality, gender and reproduction provides immense prospects for enlightenment, prevention, remedy, and understanding of these complex domains, and the conflicts, regulation, and interventions to which they have been subject. Moreover, such research and scholarship can illuminate longstanding debates as to the relative importance of interacting biological, individual and cultural factors in patterns of gender, sexual and reproductive behavior.
Indiana University is richly endowed with interdisciplinary resources, extraordinary faculty expertise and a record of over half a century of investment in research and scholarship in these fields. Hence, it has both the opportunity and responsibility to lead at a time of worldwide concern about sexuality and its biological and cultural consequences.

The Kinsey Institute will provide leadership by:

  • promoting and conducting interdisciplinary research in sexuality, gender and reproduction
  • building resources for the direction, identification, acquisition, cataloguing, development, preservation, archiving and use of its collections
  • providing university, national, and international scholars from a wide variety of fields access to Institute collections through forms of affiliation, collections fellowships, honorary visiting scholar appointments, and by appropriate, equitably applied terms and conditions governing use of materials
  • creating and disseminating knowledge and understanding through international, national and local symposia and seminars, through publication and exhibition, and through research fellowships
  • providing an information service though e-mail and the Institute's web site about scholarship within and beyond Indiana University to bridge the gap between disciplines and other academic communities
  • promoting and assisting the development of courses related to sexuality, gender and reproduction, and in other appropriate ways disseminating its scholarship and teaching
  • seeking endowment to sustain physical and intellectual space for research, teaching, publication, and exhibition in sexuality, gender and reproduction so as to enhance these fields of inquiry at Indiana University and beyond.

Alfred Kinsey Legacy.
In the early nineteenth century, moralists and legal authorities defined the state of sexual knowledge and appropriate practice. In the second half of that century, physicians, psychiatrists and criminologists, joined by other clinicians in the early decades of the twentieth century, dominated theory and research, mainly under the notions of sexual disease and deviancy. Trained as a taxonomist in biology, Alfred Kinsey set out in the 1930s as a disinterested scientist to document the full variety of human sexuality in order to provide a more scientific basis for society's approach to sexuality.

His major legacy as a key figure in the process of change included:

  • the accumulation of a wide variety of materials relevant to the history and sociology of human sexuality that has grown to become among the largest and most comprehensive in the world
  • a database of a size, richness and scope still only partially used but of continuing interest to contemporary researchers
  • a major impact on public attitudes to sexuality, gender and reproduction, particularly on the laws governing sexuality, that has helped legitimize related scholarly research
  • a compassionate spirit that compelled him to try to help individuals struggling with their sexual lives, efforts captured in his extensive correspondence.

The Kinsey Institute art, photography collections encompass the mundane, the arcane, the exquisite, and the scientific.



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