This year Playboy Magazine, perhaps the most well-recognized pornography magazine in the nation, celebrated their 55th anniversary with a special issue featuring the “55 Most Important People in Sex.”
The list is an interesting (and obviously biased in certain ways to include Hugh “Hef” Hefner and previous Playboy centerfolds among the list) look at who shaped sexuality in 20th century America. Just a warning – most of these link might be considered NSFW.
Topping the list as Playboy Magazine’s #1 most influential person in sex from the past 55 years is Alfred Kinsey. Not a surprise to us here at the Kinsey Institute, as we obviously think Kinsey is a pretty important and influential guy.
Indiana University gets a shout-out in the first line of the article, followed by a problematic quote which states that Kinsey’s Reports showed that “women lust as wantonly as men: mothers, daughters, sisters and wives revealed in interviews their kinky daydreams, masturbation habits and multiple orgasms.”
The paragraph on Kinsey did at least capture his desire to make sex more mainstream, more accepted as a natural right of human beings, including women.
There are also a number of other interesting people on Playboy Magazine’s list, some more recognizable than others (Marilyn Monroe, Jenna Jameson, Elvis Presley) to the general public. I’d like to list a few others that I thought were interesting and really have contributed to the field of sexuality.
#13 Ruth Westheimer aka “Dr. Ruth”: This loveable grandma-type advocated early on for sexual literacy (yay!) through a frank, honest conversation with her audience about sex and pleasure.
#15 Masters & Johnson: In the field of sexuality, the book co-authored by this medical doctor and psychologist (Human Sexual Response) is quite well known. Originally designed as a medical textbook, it soon became a vast source of information for sexuality research, and validated its existence as a true scientific discipline in some ways. It doesn’t come without problems (see the blog post on the recent bisexuality issue and medicalization of sexuality) and they were accused of “dehumanizing” sex but they made a very important contribution nonetheless.
#19 Estelle Griswold: As the Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut in 1961, she and a doctor colleague opened an illegal clinic to disburse birth control to local married couples. Her subsequent arrest and legal challenges eventually led to the Supreme Court ruling that held that people have a Constitutional right to privacy in their sex lives.
#21 Catherine Mackinnion: A controversial figure in both sexuality studies and the feminist movement. She is best known for her crusade (along with Andrea Dworkin) against pornography; believing is it a form of sexual discrimination that is disempowering for women and a civil rights violation, according to her faculty website. She has also contributed a significant amount to the laws around sexual harassment as a law professor at the University of Michigan.
#28 Christine Jorgensen: I was so very happy to see Christine on the list. As one of the first openly transgender (publicized) individuals in the US, she underwent a very public gender reassignment surgery in Copenhagen in 1952. If you want to learn more about Christine, visit the Kinsey Institute and check out the lovely picture of Christine on the wall near the lobby entrance.
#37 Dr. Mary Calderone: This medical director of Planned Parenthood helped establish the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), an organization dedicated to providing age-appropriate sex education in schools. Huge fan, check out their website.
#38 Beverly Whipple: If you’ve heard of the G-Spot, you should thank Beverly Whipple (and her colleague John Perry). Their 1982 book has sold more than a million copies and should be given a nod each time Cosmo writes another article about the wonders of G-spot stimulation.
#43 Betty Dodson: Another wonderful woman and fierce supporter of open, loving sexuality and a movement of embracing the diversity of beauty of women’s bodies. Check out her great blog and art website featuring some amazing vulvar art.
And because I was personally amused by his inclusion:
#8 Tim Berners-Lee: Perhaps only interesting to me because I am an Internet geek. He’s said to have “invented the Internet” but he actually came up with the World Wide Web, so we can all go surf for some porn when we’re bored at 2am. Also, do some useful things – like this blog!