Cosmo to Kinsey: You're a Hack

Cristen Conger

Alfred Kinsey & Co. (Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

Before Alfred Kinsey's landmark Sexual Behavior in the Human Female hit the presses in 1953, the Indiana University institute invited a small group of journalists for a pre-publication look at the highly anticipated report. Social scientist Amram Scheinfeld attended the sneak peak for Cosmo, more than a decade before Helen Gurley Brown would take over the editorial reins and mold it into the sex-centric magazine on today's newsstands. Despite the fever pitch surrounding the survey (which included an attempted $100,000 bribe to Kinsey in exchange for a glance at the findings), Cosmo's Scheinfeld wasn't impressed.

...it boldly attacks many of our existing sex standards with blistering arguments plainly slanted against chastity and in favor of what used to be called free love. But for the most part, it is a technical treatise offering little that is startlingly new and much that is doubtful. It definitely does not measure up to the expectations of a shattering blast that was to upset all our sex thinking and change the whole pattern of our lives.

Scheinfeld rightfully takes issue with Kinsey's non-representative study population largely comprised of highly educated, wealthy white women. Since women college and post-graduate degrees were few and far between in 1953, the Kinsey women were hardly average. But it's Kinsey's depiction of older, unmarried women that pushes Scheinfeld over the edge:

Kinsey's most biting comments are reserved for the "frigid spinsters" who, not understanding what sex is, attempt to restrict the sex behavior of others. Referring to the more than a quarter of the unmarried older Kinsey females including many teachers, directors of youth organizations, club leaders, physicians, and political figures who never had climax, the report warns of the damage that may be done by such "sexually unresponsive, frustrated females" in the "guidance of our youth" and the dictation of public policies and legislation governing sex. An implication is that the better mentors of sex might be "the other half to two-thirds" of the unmarried Kinsey females "who did understand the significance of sex and were not living the blank or sexually frustrated lives which our culture, paradoxically, had expected them to live."

At the same time, the women's magazine wasn't in favor of those unmarried women having sex outside of marriage, either -- a far cry from the spicy headlines on current Cosmo covers. In response to Kinsey encouraging younger women to sexually explore, Scheinfeld fears the negative psychological impact that could have. "But of even more significance than these arguments is Kinsey's denial that loss of virginity brings psychic disturbances and lasting regrets." Egad!

Reflecting the sexual mores of that June Cleaver era, Scheinfeld ultimately scolds Kinsey for forgetting women's paramount sexual motivators that transcend survey data and statistics: "motherhood and love."

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