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The Kinsey Institute – Exploring love, sexuality, and well-being

Dr. Sue Carter and the Kinsey Institute: investigating the science of love, its connection to sexuality, and their collective impact on our humanity

The Kinsey Institute has the vision to be the premier research institute on human sexuality and relationships.  Their mission is to foster and promote a greater understanding of human sexuality and relationships through research, outreach, education, and historical preservation

History of the institute

On April 8, 1947, Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his research team incorporated as the Institute for Sex Research. ISR had two primary goals: to continue the team’s research on human sexual behaviour; and to administer research resources, including research materials, a library, case histories, and other related materials.

In 1981, 25 years after Dr. Kinsey’s death, the Institute for Sex Research was renamed The Kinsey Institute for Sex Research.

Making new discoveries

Today, just as in 1947, research at the Kinsey Institute seeks to illuminate the most intimate and formative aspects of our lives.

Developments in fields ranging from neuroscience and psychology to biology and gender studies inform questions asked by the institute’s scientists.

Research topics

Human sexual behaviour

How do people behave in their sexual lives? In the 1940s and ’50s, Alfred Kinsey and his team of researchers documented what American men and women did in their sexual lives and determined that sexual behaviour comprises more than physical contact. It also includes desire, arousal, attraction, and fantasy. Recent research explores why people do what they do and the variation of their experiences.

Complexity in relationships

Relationships—whether romantic, platonic, or intimate—present complex questions. What factors and motivations drive infidelity? How do younger generations navigate “hookup culture”? How do hormones like oxytocin affect love and bonding? How do people experience various relationship contexts—whether single, partnered, monogamous, or sexually open? As various aspects of humanity and society evolve, so does the focus of our examination.

Sexual assault + aggression

Sexual assault and aggression impact more than individuals around the world. The lasting effects also reverberate through our communities and societies at-large. Kinsey Institute researchers are developing multi-level approaches to address these issues. That means taking steps to not only document the epidemic of sexual assaults but also to understand the factors behind it.

Sexual orientation + gender diversity

In 1948, Alfred Kinsey developed the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale (“the Kinsey Scale“) to highlight the spectrum of sexual orientation and desire. Today, we incorporate our knowledge of variations in sexual orientation and gender identity into research on behaviour and sexual wellness with particular foci on biology, psychology, history, and culture.

Reproduction + fertility

The body’s physiological and hormonal systems are delicately balanced instruments that respond to environmental and social context. Naturally occurring hormones such as oxytocin, vasopressin, testosterone, and estrogen affect and are affected by health, sexual activity, fertility, and environmental factors. They can even influence attraction, mood, and sexual interest. Kinsey researchers conduct ongoing studies of these issues to better understand the system that keeps humanity going.

Sexual well-being

The deep importance of sexuality to overall well-being and health is often overlooked. Kinsey Institute researchers examine the dynamic relationships between: sexual behaviour; psychosocial factors such as attitude and emotional well-being; human biology factors like environment, fertility and immunity; and significant health issues such as condom use and contraception. A theoretical and empirical focus of this work includes the impact of medical intervention on people’s sexual lives. This broad scope aids in uncovering the effects these factors have on our health and quality of life.

Trauma and Resilience

Sexual violence, along with other traumatic stressors, disrupts mental and physical health and compromises a survivor’s capacity to establish and maintain intimate relationships. These disruptive, life-changing events occur in different contexts independent of sexual orientation, race, and age. The effects of traumatic stressors place a tremendous burden on the survivor, the survivor’s social network, the health-care system, the workforce, and society.


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