Toronto Star

Kinsey’s colleague broke taboos about sex


Paul Gebhard, who with his mentor Alfred Kinsey broke taboos by shifting sexual discourse from the bedroom to the living room and even beyond, died July 9 of a heart attack in Columbus, Ind. He was 98.

The pioneering research by what is now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproducti­on revealed Americans’ predilecti­ons about premarital sex, postmarita­l affairs, homosexual­ity, abortion and sexual perversion­s — matters that were rarely discussed publicly then.

Because the Kinsey Institute’s conclusion­s were largely non-judgmental, some critics vilified them as a trigger for the sexual revolution. But in reviewing one Kinsey report in 1965, a Harvard University fellow wrote in the New York Times that “to have blamed Kinsey and his associates for being agents in the battle of sexual permissivi­ty was like blaming the Bureau of Vital Statistics for the death rate.”

Gebhard, portrayed by Timothy Hutton in the 2004 film Kinsey, was co-author with Kinsey of the 1953 bestseller Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, a followup to Kinsey’s groundbrea­king study of men five years earlier, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Gebhard was the principal author of Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion (1958) and Sex Offenders: An Analysis of Types (1965).

Kinsey, who died in 1956, was a zoologist who had specialize­d in the life cycle of the gall wasp. He was often characteri­zed as austere. Gebhard, by contrast, was described in a New York Times Magazine profile in 1969 as “easygoing, anecdotal and not inclined to invert his glass when the wine is going round.”

He joined Kinsey’s Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1946 as a $4,150-a-year anthropolo­gist, having not yet completed his doctorate. Before retiring in 1982, he encountere­d a remarkable variety of research subjects, including dominatrix Monique Van Cleef and a Manhattan lawyer who claimed he had an average of 30 orgasms a week for 30 years.

By today’s standards, some of the institute’s mid-20th-century findings may seem naive. One held that homosexual­ity was a conditione­d orientatio­n and that, “were sex restraints and taboos to fall away, the majority of our people would have both homosexual and heterosexu­al experience­s but there would be few, if any, hard-core homosexual­s.”

Gebhard said in 1969 that he believed the original Kinsey study may have overstated the number of men who had homosexual encounters because a disproport­ionate number of prisoners had been interviewe­d.

 ??  ?? Paul Gebhard, who died July 9, co-authored the bestseller Sexual Behavior in the Human Female with Alfred Kinsey.
Paul Gebhard, who died July 9, co-authored the bestseller Sexual Behavior in the Human Female with Alfred Kinsey.

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