The Kinsey Scale

Kinsey's Early Life

Having influenced the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s, Alfred C. Kinsey is considered to be one of the most influential human sexuality researchers of the 20th century. Kinsey was born on June 23, 1894, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Growing up, Kinsey had an interest in studying biology.

However, his religious father insisted he should focus on engineering. Much to the dismay of his father, Kinsey chose to study biology at Bowdoin College in Maine. Kinsey loved biology so much that he continued his studies after graduation. In 1919, Kinsey earned his doctoral degree from Harvard and joined the Indiana University faculty.1

While teaching at Indiana University, Kinsey’s research shifted from biology to sexuality. Consequently, he found himself lecturing against the Victorian morality (the social regime in the 1800s that rigidly repressed sexuality). For instance, Kinsey taught his students that “nearly all the so-called sexual perversions fall within the range of biological normality.”1

He wanted to replace the constricting social norms of sexuality with a new wider biological definition. Accordingly, Kinsey’s popularity at Indian University grew and enrollment for his lectures multiplied.

Publication of the Male and Female Sexuality

With the financial support of the Rockefeller Foundation, Kinsey began to conduct in-depth interviews with male and female students about their sexual histories. Kinsey published his research in two separate publications: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953).1

Together, the books contained over 11,000 sexual histories and “provided a series of revelations about the prevalence of masturbation, adulterous sexual activity, and homosexuality.”1 Although the books were very long and styled with dry scientific writing, both books were considered financially and critically successful.

 The Kinsey Scale

While collecting research for his male and female sexuality publications, Kinsey and his colleagues recorded an incredible revelation: contrary to popular belief, sexuality is not black or white, but rather it is a large spectrum of sexual variations.

During the interviews, Kinsey uncovered that sexual attraction to the opposite-sex was not always consistent. Kinsey wrote, “Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats…The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects."2 In order to accommodate his research and findings, he created a chart that demonstrated the large diversities in sexuality: the Kinsey Scale.  

The Kinsey scale, also known as the heterosexual-homosexual rating scale, is a seven-point numerical chart ceded with sexual preferences. For instance, a “zero” on the charts categorizes a person as exclusively heterosexual, and a “six” on the chart indicates a person is entirely homosexual.

The chart is mutually exclusive, which means people could not belong to more than one category. For example, a person cannot be both a category “zero” and “one.”2


0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual

1- Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual

2- Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual

3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual

4- Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual

5- Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual

6- Exclusively homosexual


Kinsey discover that most people did not fall under the two extremes (exclusively heterosexual or homosexual). Although the attraction varied, most people displayed some sort of sexual fascination with both the opposite and same sex. 

Contrary to popular belief, the Kinsey scale is not a test. Many websites claim to provide people with Kinsey scores. However, these results are completely fabricated. Kinsey was only able to categorize a person after extensive, detailed, and personalized interviews.

Criticisms of the Kinsey Scale and Publications

The most serious criticism of Kinsey’s publications is that his samples (the 11,000 interviewees) “were not representative of the general population.”3 Most of the people Kinsey interviewed were students that attended Indiana University and the surrounding areas.

The opponents argued that his sample population was skewed towards the urban college-aged students. They claimed that the urban youth were much more likely to experiment in their sexuality than the general population.



1. Brown, Theodore M. "Alfred C. Kinsey: A Pioneer Of Sex Research." American Public Health Association, July 2003. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

2. "The Kinsey Institute - Kinsey Sexuality Rating Scale." The Kinsey Institute - Kinsey Sexuality Rating Scale. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.

3. PBS Staff. "Timeline: Alfred Kinsey's Life, and Sex Research and Social Policies in America." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.Last updated 30 January 2014

Last updated 13 February 2014