January 9, 2009

Looking Back At Sexuality Research To Find Its Future

A new issue of the Journal of Bisexuality celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first Kinsey Report with an interview with Dr. Paul Gebhard.

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The latest issue of The Journal of Bisexuality features an article written by two current Indiana University researchers from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Dr. Brian Dodge and Dr. Michael Reece, as well as the last surviving member of the original Kinsey research team, Dr. Paul Gebhard.

The article is part of the special issue of The Journal of Bisexuality recognizing the 60th anniversary of the first “Kinsey Report” and features excerpts from an extended interview with Dr. Gebhard by Drs. Reece and Dodge about the state of sexuality studies today.

Kinsey Would Be “Disappointed”

Gebhard states that Kinsey would be “disappointed” in the current state of sexuality research because of its medical model focus or the turning of sexuality into a medical “problem” which would then need to be “solved” by doctors or other medical professionals.

As Dr. Dodge says in the article:

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that research is evolving. Biology and genetics, of course, are part of the picture. But we seem to be swinging in the direction where some scientists are using these as universal explanatory constructs and trying to minimize, or even negate, the role of an individual’s culture and environment, aspects that Kinsey thought were most important.

The recommendations for the future of sexuality studies include:

  • Move away from a disease-focused lens. Dodge said the medical model of sexuality research has established heterosexuality as the norm even though Kinsey’s findings indicated it was natural for people to move across the Kinsey Scale throughout their lives.
  • Improve sampling methods for bisexuality research. Dodge acknowledged that finding “bisexual” participants for studies is often challenging but important, requiring innovative techniques. All too often, however, researchers recruit participants from predominantly “gay-identified” venues, like bars, which are considered convenient yet lack the bisexual individuals that researchers seek.
  • Revive the concept of the Kinsey continuum. Dodge suggested the need for a revival of the discussion surrounding this concept in research circles, as well as popular culture. “The implications of Kinsey’s findings with regard to this scale are significant,” Dodge said. “People should not be pigeon-holed into social categories, such as homosexual, heterosexual or even bisexual. This scale comes as close as anything I’ve seen to help with an understanding of where people are currently and across the lifespan.”

The original article appears in the Journal of Bisexuality: Dodge, B., Reece, M., & Gebhard, P. H. (2008). “Kinsey and beyond: Past, present, and future considerations for research on male bisexuality.” Journal of Bisexuality, 8(3/4), 177-191.