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Sexual Behavior in the Human Female

Sexual Behavior in the Human Female

Copyright Date: 1981
Published by: Indiana University Press
Pages: 896
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    Sexual Behavior in the Human Female
    Book Description:

    Originally published in 1953, the material presented in Sexual Behavior in the Human Female was derived from personal interviews with nearly 6,000 women; from studies in sexual anatomy, physiology, psychology, and endocrinology. The study revealed the incidence and frequency with which women participate in various types of sexual activity and how such factors as age, decade of birth, and religious adherence are reflected in patterns of sexual behavior. The authors make comparisons of female and male sexual activities and investigate the factors which account for the similarities and differences between female and male patterns of behavior and provide some measure of the social significance of the various types of sexual behavior.

    eISBN: 978-0-253-01924-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology
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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
    John Bancroft

    Alfred C. Kinsey, a biologist at Indiana University, had a special interest in taxonomy and its application to the gall wasp. In 1938, at the age of 44, he was asked to teach a course on marriage. This task confronted him with the extraordinary lack of scientific evidence relating to human sexual behavior, and led him to spend the rest of his life striving to fill this gap in knowledge. The extent to which human sexual behavior had been systematically studied previously was minimal, and in several respects Kinsey was a pioneer who broke through the social taboos to pursue...

  3. FOREWORD (pp. vii-viii)
    Robert M. Yerkes and George W. Corner

    It is the function of the National Research Council as an agency of the National Academy of Sciences to further in all feasible ways the development of science and the extension, perfecting, dissemination, and useful application of knowledge of natural phenomena. Thirty-two years ago when studies of sex were virtually taboo the Council created a special committee to initiate, organize and financially support the study of problems in sex and reproduction. During its long and active existence the Committee has sponsored and partially supported scores of investigations, including several long-range and long-continued programs of research. Among the best known of...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (pp. ix-x)
    The Authors
  5. Table of Contents (pp. xi-xxx)
    • Chapter 1 SCOPE OF THE STUDY (pp. 3-21)

      The present volume constitutes the second progress report from the study of human sex behavior which we have had under way here at Indiana University for some fifteen years. It has been a fact-finding survey in which an attempt has been made to discover what people do sexually, what factors may account for their patterns of sexual behavior, how their sexual experiences have affected their lives, and what social significance there may be in each type of behavior.

      Our first report was based upon 5300 white males whose case histories provided most of the data which were statistically analyzed in...


      The present volume is based on reported, recorded, and observed data which we have accumulated in the course of the last fifteen years. As in our previous volume on the male, the reported data have been derived from case histories secured in personal interviews. The recorded data have included sexual calendars, diaries, personal correspondence, scrapbook and photographic collections, artists' paintings and drawings, and still other documentary material supplied by a series of our subjects (Chapter 3). Observations of sexual behavior in fourteen species of mammals, and clinical material supplied by a long list of medical consultants, have been the chief...

    • Chapter 3 SOURCES OF DATA (pp. 58-97)

      The specific sources of the reported, recorded, and observed data utilized in making this volume are described in the present chapter. The use that we have made of the previously published studies on human sexual behavior is also described. Since the data reported in our series of case histories constitute an important part of this volume, the nature of those data is described in some detail in this chapter, and critical tests of the reliability and validity of the case history data are also presented here.

      All of the case histories in this study have been obtained through personal interviews...

    • Chapter 4 PRE-ADOLESCENT SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT (pp. 101-131)

      What an individual does sexually will depend on the nature of the stimulus with which he or she comes into contact, on the physical and physiologic capacities of the individual to respond to that stimulus, and on the nature and extent of the individual's previous experience with similar stimuli.

      The child is born with a physical equipment and physiologic capacity which allows it to respond to various sorts of stimuli. As a newborn infant and even before birth it may react to touch, to pressure, to light, to warmth, and to still other types of physical stimulation. Some of its...

    • Chapter 5 MASTURBATION (pp. 132-190)

      Of the six possible types of sexual activity, heterosexual petting is the one in which the largest number of females engage before marriage, and marital coitus is the one in which the largest number of females engage after marriage. Masturbation is the one in which the second largest number of females engage both before and after marriage.

      Among all types of sexual activity, masturbation is, however, the one in which the female most frequently reaches orgasm. Even in her marital coitus the average female fails to achieve orgasm in a fair proportion of her contacts (Tables 102 ff.), and this...

    • Chapter 6 NOCTURNAL SEX DREAMS (pp. 191-226)

      The nocturnal sex dreams¹ of males have been the subject of extensive literary, pornographic, scientific, and religious discussion. The male, projecting his own experience, frequently assumes that females have similar dreams, and in erotic literature as well as in actual life he not infrequently expresses the hope that the female in whom he is interested may be dreaming of him at night. He may think it inevitable that anyone who is in love should dream of having overt sexual relations with her lover.² But relatively few records of female dreams have been available to establish such a thesis.³ Even some...

    • Chapter 7 PRE-MARITAL PETTING (pp. 227-281)

      Sexual activities may be solitary, involving only the single individual, or they may be socio-sexual, involving two or more individuals. Masturbation (Chapter 5) and nocturnal dreams (Chapter 6) are the two chief types of solitary sexual activity. To judge on the basis of our sample, these solitary activities may provide about a quarter of the orgasms which females have (Table 170, Figure 109). Heterosexual petting, heterosexual coitus, and homosexual relationships are the three main types of socio-sexual activity. They may provide about three-quarters ) of the orgasms which females in the American population have; and because of their social significance,...

    • Chapter 8 PRE-MARITAL COITUS (pp. 282-345)

      About two-thirds (64 per cent) of the married females in our sample had experienced sexual orgasm prior to their marriage. Some of them had had limited experience, some of them had had frequent and regular experience in orgasm. Masturbation, nocturnal dreams, heterosexual petting, heterosexual coitus, and homosexual contacts were the five sources of essentially all of this pre-marital outlet (Table 171).

      Coitus had provided only a sixth (17 per cent) of the orgasms which these females had had before marriage. Although many persons think of “intercourse” and “sexual relations” as synonymous terms, true vaginal intercourse had accounted for only a...

    • Chapter 9 MARITAL COITUS (pp. 346-408)

      For most females and males, coitus in marriage provides, in the course of their lives, a larger proportion of their total sexual outlet than any other single type of activity (Tables 170, 171). Moreover, marital coitus is socially the most important of all sexual activities, because of its significance in the origin and maintenance of the home.

      Throughout most human groups, everywhere in the world, the home has been recognized as the basic unit of the social organization. In only a few instances have there been serious attempts to abandon the family organization, and to substitute some state-centered institution which...

    • Chapter 10 EXTRA-MARITAL COITUS (pp. 409-445)

      It is widely understood that many males fail to be satisfied with sexual relations that are confined to their wives and would like to make at least occasional contacts with females to whom they are not married. While it is generally realized that there are some females who similarly desire and actually engage in extra-marital coitus, public opinion is less certain about the inclination and behavior of the average female in this regard.

      Most males can immediately understand why most males want extramarital coitus. Although many of them refrain from engaging in such activity because they consider it morally unacceptable...

    • Chapter 11 HOMOSEXUAL RESPONSES AND CONTACTS (pp. 446-501)

      The classification of sexual behavior as masturbatory, heterosexual, or homosexual is based upon the nature of the stimulus which initiates the behavior. The present chapter, dealing with the homosexual behavior of the females in our sample, records the sexual responses which they had made to other females, and the overt contacts which they had had with other females in the course of their sexual histories.

      The term homosexual comes from the Greek prefixhomo,referring to the sameness of the individuals involved, and not from the Latin wordhomowhich means man. It contrasts with the term heterosexual which refers...

    • Chapter 12 ANIMAL CONTACTS (pp. 502-509)

      Universally, human males have shown a considerable interest in unusual, rare, and sometimes fantastically impossible types of sexual activity. In consequence there is a great deal more discussion and a more extensive literature about such things as incest, transvestism, necrophilia, extreme forms of fetishism, sado-masochism, and animal contacts than the actual occurrence of any of these phenomena would justify.

      From the earliest recorded history, and from the still more ancient archives of folklore and mythology, there are man-made tales of sexual relations between the human female and no end of other species of animals. The mythology of primitive, pre-literate peoples...

    • Chapter 13 TOTAL SEXUAL OUTLET (pp. 510-564)

      In the present study, we have tried to secure data on (1) the incidences and frequencies of sexual activities among the females in the available sample; (2) the incidences and frequencies of their responses to socio-sexual contacts and to psychosexual stimuli; and (3) the incidences and frequencies of the responses which led to orgasm.

      From most of the subjects it has been possible to secure incidence data on the overt, physical contacts which were recognizably sexual because they were genital or because they brought specific erotic response. From most of the subjects it has also been possible to secure frequency...

    • Chapter 14 ANATOMY OF SEXUAL RESPONSE AND ORGASM (pp. 567-593)

      In our previous volume (1948) we presented data on the incidences and frequencies of the various types of sexual activity in the human male, and attempted to analyze some of the biologic and social factors which affect those activities. In the previous section of the present volume we have presented similar data for the female. Now it is possible to make comparisons of the sexual activities of the human female and male, and in such comparisons it should be possible to discover some of the basic factors which account for the similarities and the differences between the two sexes.



      The responses which an animal makes when it is stimulated sexually constitute one of the most elaborate and in many respects one of the most remarkable complexes (syndromes) of physiologic phenomena in the whole gamut of mammalian behavior. The reactions may involve changes in pulse rates, blood pressure, breathing rates, peripheral circulation of blood, glandular secretions, changes in sensory capacities, muscular activity, and still other physiologic events which are described in the present chapter. As a climax to all these responses, the reacting individual may experience what we identify as sexual orgasm. There is every reason for believing that most...


      It might properly be contended that all functions of living matter are physiologic, but it is customary to distinguish certain aspects of animal behavior as psychologic functions. The distinctions can never be sharp, and they probably do not represent reality; but they are convenient distinctions to make, particularly in regard to human behavior.

      Usually physiologists have been concerned with the functions of particular parts of the plant or animal, and with an attempt to discover the physical and chemical bases of such functions. Psychologists, on the other hand, have more often been concerned with the functioning—the behavior—of the...

    • Chapter 17 NEURAL MECHANISMS OF SEXUAL RESPONSE (pp. 690-713)

      The data which we have now accumulated on the gross physiology and psychology of sexual response and orgasm make it possible to recognize some of the internal mechanisms which may be involved.

      Since there are no essential differences between the responses of females and males to tactile and other sensory stimulation (Chapters 14, 15), such responses must depend upon internal mechanisms which are essentially the same in the two sexes. On the other hand, since there are marked differences between females and males in their responses to psychologic stimuli, it seems apparent that those responses must depend upon some mechanism...

    • Chapter 18 HORMONAL FACTORS IN SEXUAL RESPONSE (pp. 714-761)

      We have seen that sexual responses depend upon a basic anatomy which is essentially the same in the female and the male (Chapter 14), and involve physiologic processes which, again, are essentially the same in the two sexes (Chapter 15). Throughout the present volume we have found, however, that there are differences in the sexual behavior of females and males, and we have presented data which suggest that some of these may depend upon differences in capacities to be affected by psychosexual stimuli.

      Some of the most striking differences between the sexual patterns of the human female and male are...

  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 763-810)
  10. INDEX (pp. 811-842)