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Sex, Love & Science


In a small classroom in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, Cathy Wyatt prepares for the first lecture of a speaker series in her Marriage and Family course as she waits for the rest of her class to file in. Students type away or scribble down note


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Students in the current Marriage and Family Interaction course absorb Cathy Wyatt’s lecture. /Photo by Rose Bythrow

The history of the Kinsey Institute

1938. Kinsey teaches his first marriage course to Indiana University seniors and married underclassmen.

1940. After a series of complaints, Kinsey stops teaching the class and devotes his time to research on sexual behavior.

1947. Kinsey establishes the Institute for Sex Research by selling his case histories to Indiana University for $1.

1948. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male sells 500,000 copies in the first year. A Gallup poll finds that Americans agree by a five-to-one majority that it was "a good thing" to have the information in what is known as "the Kinsey Report."

Televangelist Billy Graham names Kinsey the man most responsible for the moral downfall of America.

Anthropologist Margaret Meade criticizes Kinsey for handling the subject of sex "as an impersonal, meaningless act."

Hoosier composer Cole Porter mentions Kinsey in lyrics for "Too Darn Hot" from "Kiss Me Kate": According to the Kinsey Report, ev'ry average man you know/Much prefers his lovey-dovey to court/When the temperature is low.

1953. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female is published. One reviewer calls it "an indictment of American womanhood."

Kinsey appears on the cover of Time magazine. A subhead says, “Reflections in the mirror of Venus.”

1956. Kinsey dies at the age of 62, leaving behind nearly 8,000 sexual histories.

That same year, Paul Gebhard, a colleague of Kinsey’s, becomes director. His leadership saw several legal battles with U.S. customs and searching for new funding sources.

1958. Pregnancy, Birth, and Abortion is published. It isn’t as popular as previous books but is well received by the scientific community.

1981. The institute is renamed the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research. The 25th anniversary of Kinsey’s death is commemorated.

1982. June Reinisch is appointed director and is accused of scientific fraud. The Institute is renamed the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.

2004. Kinsey, a movie starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, in an Oscar-nominated turn as his wife, premieres at the IU Auditorium. Roger Ebert called it “a fascinating biography.”

Julia Heiman takes over as executive director. The institute develops its online presence.

2014. Sue Carter is appointed executive director of the institute, which now delves into the science of love.

Story by Kelseigh Ingram

What a marriage course looks like now

In a small classroom in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, Cathy Wyatt prepares for the first lecture of a speaker series in her Marriage and Family course as she waits for the rest of her class to file in. Students type away or scribble down notes as she and her assistant instructor Samantha Krejnik give their presentations.

Tonight’s topic is intimate partner abuse and domestic violence, a topic that might not have even been touched in the time that Dr. Kinsey was teaching the class. She takes a more holistic approach to teaching the class, which only runs for the second eight weeks of the semester. Wyatt’s method is to start with the individual, then to branch out to the larger systems that are at play.

Cathy Wyatt lectures her Marriage and Family Interactions class on intimate partner abuse. /Photo by Rose Bythrow

Wyatt conducts the class in a smaller room than the auditorium that Kinsey might have taught in when only seniors and married college students were permitted to take the course, though she teaches with the same frankness that he might have had, albeit with much more leeway thanks to changes in social mores over the past several decades. She also shares a bit about her own personal life in order to give students a more concrete understanding of the topic that she is covering. There is mere silence aside from her speaking and the AI typing the class’ grades into Canvas, aside from laughter that bubbles up when Wyatt makes a funny comment.

The lecture portion of the class ends and students break into three small groups to share their first or favorite childhood memories. One that comes up is when a woman in the class lost her first tooth at the zoo.

The groups then discuss three different articles, one in particular on the subject of marriage contracts drawing up quite a bit of debate.

In a small office in the IU Health Center, Wyatt shares that she imagines that Kinsey was more data-driven in regard to relationships and family than look at the emotional bonds that are formed between people.

“I wouldn’t expect Kinsey to have a lot of material on LGBT partnership or relationships,” Wyatt muses, though she concedes that he might have had information and simply couldn’t discuss it in class. The dynamics of families with LGBT parents is something she hopes the Marriage and Family class will discuss more in depth in the future.

Wyatt also express interest in seeing more discussion of disabilities within a family dynamic. She also notes that open marriages would definitely be something she could see being discussed in future courses as the picture of what marriages and families look like continues to change.

Story by Kelseigh Ingram