PART 2: A Short History of Sex Studies
There have been many surveys and studies on sex – but only in recent times. Sex was always a taboo subject, so it took a brave few to start educating society about sex and how it not only is part of our make up as human beings, but keeps us healthy and fit.
Perhaps the first scientific survey of human sexuality was conducted by Stanford University’s Dr. Clelia Duel, a physician, hygienist and women's health advocate, who between 1892 and 1920, interviewed women about their sexuality. This was an era when talking about sex, let alone studying it, was practically taboo. One of Duel’s studies involved menstruation, gathering data from 2,000 women over 12,000 menstrual cycles.
A cultural backlash and bashfulness about sex helps explain why Duel’s data was never published while she was alive. She died in 1940. But her records were later discovered in Stanford’s archives in 1973. Her notes described many intimate thoughts from women, mostly born before 1870, along with sexual habits and appetites, spousal relationships, and contraception. It appeared that Victorian women weren’t all that prudish. Her findings were finally published in 1980.
Another female healthcare professional from England, Dr. Marie Carmichael Stopes, published a best-selling book on human sexuality called “Married Love, or Love in Marriage” in 1918. It provided much-needed information about sexuality and human sexual response for a population that knew little or nothing about it. Stopes was one of the earliest writers to emphasize that women should experience sexual desire, that the sexual response of women is different than men, and that sexual intercourse should be a source of mutual pleasure for both sexes.
Beginning in the late 1930s in the United States, Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his research team at the University of Indiana performed their groundbreaking work on human sexuality. Until this time, little was known about what men or women actually did sexually. Kinsey’s team conducted thousands of interviews in the 1930’s and through the1940’s, objectively examining the least studied of all human biological functions—sex. The result was the first large-scale systematic body of research of human sexual behavior, and the findings were released in 1947. The first report was limited to men, but in 1953 a separate study highlighted sexual activity in women. Both studies were later turned into national bestsellers, causing public shock and widespread moral outrage. Yet an important outcome of Kinsey’s research was that it replaced ignorance about sex with facts. Kinsey’s work helped usher in the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and the new professional field of sex therapy.
Kinsey was far from being alone in placing sex under the microscope. Beginning in 1957, William Masters and Virginia Johnson pioneered research into the nature of human sexual response and the diagnosis and treatment of sexual disorders. Their work began in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis, and eventually they started a not-for-profit research institution, which was eventually named the Masters and Johnson Institute. Through direct observations in the laboratory, Masters and Johnson evaluated thousands of sexual responses in men and women. Among their many findings were that women were capable of being multi-orgasmic, dispelling the longstanding misconception that they were not. Their books, “Human Sexual Response” in 1966, and “Human Sexual Inadequacy” in 1979, both became national best sellers.
In 2010, Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, published a mammoth-size study on human sexual behavior. Its National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior gathered data from the sexual experiences of 5,865 adolescents and adults ages 14 to 94. It provided an updated and much-needed snapshot of contemporary Americans’ sexual behaviors, including a description of more than 40 combinations of sex acts that people perform during sexual events.
These studies are not done just because men and women, and adolescents, are interested and curious about personal comparisons—knowing who does what sexually and how often. But rather, the many studies performed since Duel and Kinsey’s research serve a more important purpose. They have relevance for the development of sex education for all ages, reproductive health, and potential treatments for sexual disorders.
Because research shows that partners who are healthy and fit have more sexual pleasures and with less complications, and are sexually active well into their later years of life, these reports may also help individuals with their own personal sex strategies. For couples in their 60’s, 70’s, and even beyond; sex can and should be a part of their lives.
In the next article on Healthy Sex, I’ll discuss many of its physiological and psychological benefits.
Dr. Phil Maffetone is a world-renowned fitness expert who has not only coached some of the greatest endurance athletes to ever have competed, but also helped turn Davide's life around. Circuit25 uses a number of Dr. Phil's coaching philosophies and eating plans in its methods to help people live fit and healthier lives.