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Jennifer Bass
Kinsey Institute

Last modified: Friday, September 12, 2003

Kinsey's "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" published 50 years ago this month

Fifty years ago in September, the long-awaited book on women's sexuality, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, quickly became a bestseller.

The book, authored by Alfred C. Kinsey and his research staff at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, first appeared in print on Sept. 14, 1953. It could be purchased for $8, and though published by W.B. Saunders, a Philadelphia company that specialized in medical textbooks, it quickly found a broad audience outside academia.

The findings included some of the first reports on women's sexual activity, including such taboo subjects as premarital sex, masturbation and female orgasm. Kinsey and his staff conducted more than 5,500 interviews to gather data published in the book. As expected, public reaction ranged from admiration and gratitude to horror and disgust.

"The publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female forever changed the way the world viewed women's sexuality," said Dr. John Bancroft, director of the Kinsey Institute. "Kinsey uncovered the behaviors and attitudes of women, revealing some of the major changes that were under way in America in the 1950s."

Documents in the Kinsey collection include letters to editors of newspapers written at the time, some praising and others denouncing the book. Members of the clergy offered wide opinions, some saying that Kinsey's work would benefit humanity by providing more information about human sexuality, while others categorized the research as ungodly and amoral.

The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University continues to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the book's publication through a series of lectures, exhibitions, conferences and other events throughout this year. Information about events is available at