August 20, 1953, marks the 60th anniversary of “K Day” – the day the press was allowed to report on the findings of Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s research on sexuality and women. It was the first published research of its kind, and it exposed many of the myths of what women are as sexual beings.
In 1948, Kinsey’s report on sexual behavior and the human male sold more than 200,000 copies. Five years later, he knew the reaction to his book on females would be even more intense. He felt if he just released the book, reporters might get the facts wrong, so he wanted to control the information as it went out. He invited press from around the world to come to Bloomington. They were given an advance copy of the book, time to read it and then time to write their articles.
Kinsey Institute director of communications Jennifer Bass says Kinsey read every article before approving it for publication.
“He was reading them for the facts, not for the story, so as long as the facts were correct he would allow them to take them home with them,” says Bass.
Bass says every newspaper in America had something to say about the book, and there were columns and editorials written around the globe. Kinsey’s report busted many of the myths regarding women and sex.
For example, the book noted that half of women were having sex before marriage. Keep in mind this was 1953 when Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on “I Love Lucy” were sleeping in separate beds. In the book, a number of women also reported having extramarital relations.
The reaction was mixed – complimentary from some and disgusted from others.
“There were people who really welcomed it and were so glad that we had this research on women that had never been done before,” says Bass. “And there were people who could talk about it and give us knowledge and background and then there were people who were incensed and insulted and upset that the university was doing research on sex.”
Bass says there’s still a kind of anxiety around sexuality. There’s a lot of information available, but people don’t know how to filter it or what to trust.
“How do I fit in am I normal? Is there something the matter with me? And maybe now is there something the matter with me that I’m not having as much fun as everyone else.”
When Kinsey’s book on women was published in mid-September, the public already knew a lot about it from all the articles that had been published. It went on to become a best seller like the volume on males.