by C.A. Tripp
(Copyright 1990 Wayne R. Dynes. Reprinted from
"The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality" (New York, 1990))
Soon after Alfred Kinsey began tabulating the sex data
he was collecting in the 1940's it became obvious that
several new modes of analyzing it would be necessary, both
for clarity and to avoid confusion. For instance, to show
how easy and feasible homosexual contacts are for "the human
animal" as Kinsey liked to say, it was necessary to
determine their incidence -- that is, how many people's sex
histories contained at least one such experience to the
point of orgasm.
Likewise, an accumulative incidence figure was needed
to indicate what percentage of the histories reflected at
least one such homosexual experience by each age (a
gradually rising curve since additional individuals
each year "come out" or try out such activity). These group
data also made it possible to draw a curve that would
accurately estimate how many subjects would eventually have
at least one overt homosexual experience. As Kinsey put it,
"at least 37% of the male population has some homosexual
experience between the beginning of adolescence and old
age.... This is more than one male in three of the persons
that one may meet as he passes along a city street."
But of course, a single experience does not a
homosexual make (even though a sizable portion of lay
observers has always been ready to assume so). Nor, in any
case, does an incidence figure reflect when and how often
homosexual experiences may be repeated -- thus the need for
some measure of frequency. Frequency figures were
determined by ascertaining in each history how many and how
often homosexual contacts (to the point of orgasm) were
experienced by or before age fifteen, as well as during each
five-year period thereafter, through age fifty-five.
However, since homosexuality can exist as a
psychological response (sometimes in the absence of any kind
of overt activity of the kinds noted by incidence or
frequency figures), Kinsey also devised his famous
Heterosexual-Homosexual scale from 0 to 6;
0 = entirely heterosexual
1 = largely heterosexual, but with incidental homosexual history
2 = largely heterosexual, but with a distinct homosexual history
3 = equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 = largely homosexual, but with a distinct heterosexual history
5 = largely homosexual, but with incidental heterosexual history
6 = entirely homosexual
As indicated, this scale not only takes into account
differences in the balance between heterosexual and
homosexual actions, but also allows an investigator to
consider "psychologic reactions" in arriving at each rating.
Thus, two people might be rated "6" for being exclusively
homosexual, with one of them living out his or her
experiences, while the other might have as little as no
overt activity of this kind -- for reasons ranging from
moral inhibitions to simply a lack of opportunity.
Ordinarily, it is easy to arrive at a single rating for
a person's mental and physical responses. But whenever the
two are in sharp discord (such as when a man has most or all
of his sexual activity with women, but requires homosexual
fantasies to actually reach orgasm) there is much to
criticize in the compromises implicit in the 0-6 scale. (To
such complaints Kinsey simply pointed out that while such
rating difficulties and imperfections are, indeed, apparent
in some cases, it is nevertheless useful, the best rating
device so far, and that more is gained by using than by
The combination of applying these measures of
incidence, of frequency, and of placement on the 0-6 Scale
(tabulated yearly or for a lifetime) not only permitted the
Kinsey Research to cast out oversimplified stereotypes long
used in defining heterosexual and homosexual variations, but
to offer a variety of samples of its white male population,
among them that:
58 percent of the males who belong to the group that
goes into high school but not beyond, 59 percent of the
grade school level, and 47 percent of the college level have
had homosexual experience to the point of orgasm if they
remain single to the age of 35.
13 percent of males react erotically to other males
without having overt homosexual contacts after the onset of
adolescence. (This 13 percent, coupled with the 37 percent
who do have overt homosexual experience, means that a full
50 percent of males have at least some sexual response to
other males after adolescence -- and conversely, that only
the other 50 percent of the male population is entirely
heterosexual throughout life.)
25 percent of the male population has more than
incidental homosexual experience or reactions (i.e. rates 2-6)
for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55.
18 percent of males have at least as much homosexual as
heterosexual in their histories (i.e. rate 3-6) for at least
three years between the ages of 16 and 55.
13 percent of the male population has more homosexual
than heterosexual experience (i.e. rates 4-6) for at least
three years between the ages of 16 and 55.
8 percent of males are exclusively homosexual (i.e.
rate 6) for at least three years between the ages of 16 and
4 percent of males are exclusively homosexual
throughout their lives after the onset of adolescence.
Here, as elsewhere, data concerning homosexuality is
cited for males rather than females, not out of "male bias"
but mainly because equivalent female data often cannot be
understood without extensive additional explanation.
Orgasm, for instance, is fundamental to virtually all overt
male sexuality, while with females, psychological arousal,
overt sexual action, and actual orgasm are often
disconcertingly apart. In fact, orgasm is reached in only
about half of female homosexual contacts (and in a still
smaller portion of female heterosexual contacts).
Moreover, female sexuality tends to be far more pliant,
and thus more changeable, than equivalent male responses.
Thus while the sexual revolution made no appreciable change
in the male percentages mentioned above, certain changes in
female responses, especially regarding homosexual try-outs,
have been noted subsequent to Kinsey's 1953 findings. The
reasons for these and a host of other complex matters in
both male and female sexuality continue to intrigue sex
researchers, and continue to validate the Kinsey 0-6 scale
as a much needed and appreciated measuring and descriptive
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