Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and the eccentric letters he got from Britons

An analysis of letters from British correspondents to Alfred Kinsey, pioneering sexologist of the 1940s and 50s, reveal that they had a 'very idiosyncratic' way of addressing the subject of sex.

Among the topics these 'armchair sexologists' were eager to discuss were penis circumference, homosexuality in the Boy Scouts, the religious implications of conserving bodily fluids and the relationship between stuttering and repression.

One letter typical of the correspondence Kinsey received was from a Bournemouth resident who wrote, 'I am an amateur Sexologist.' 

And in 1951, a man claiming to be a police officer from Shepherd's Bush, west London, proclaimed that all Boy Scouts were 'homo-sexual' - and that the letter writer had 'never made the mistake of not recognising a H.S. at being first introduced'. 

The letters show post-war Britons were also fascinated by star signs, sexual jealousy and the incidence of married virgins, according to a study of the correspondence by historian Ruby Ray Daily, of Northwestern University, Illinois.

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One letter writer, from the West Midlands, told Kinsey in 1953 that sexuality was determined by astrological signs. 

An analysis of letters from British correspondents to Alfred Kinsey (above), pioneering sexologist of the 1940s and 50s, reveal that they had a 'very idiosyncratic' way of addressing the subject of sex

An analysis of letters from British correspondents to Alfred Kinsey (above), pioneering sexologist of the 1940s and 50s, reveal that they had a 'very idiosyncratic' way of addressing the subject of sex

In the post-war era, British 'armchair sexologists' were eager to discuss  penis circumference, homosexuality in the Boy Scouts, the religious implications of conserving bodily fluids and the relationship between stuttering and repression. (Above centre, Lt General Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement walks among his young troops)

In the post-war era, British 'armchair sexologists' were eager to discuss  penis circumference, homosexuality in the Boy Scouts, the religious implications of conserving bodily fluids and the relationship between stuttering and repression. (Above centre, Lt General Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement walks among his young troops)

'You will now understand', he wrote, 'why I am so tremendously interested in your unique collection of data … there are astrological configurations … which correspond to frigidity and promiscuity, but the verification of such tendencies are (as you will surely appreciate) almost impossible to obtain'. 

Ms Daily said that compared with Americans and continental Europeans, British correspondents to Kinsey 'might seem to suggest the long-standing cliché of Britain as a particularly sexually repressed nations is, in fact, accurate'.

In the journal Twentieth Century British History, she wrote: 'The diversity of topics upon which British correspondents single-mindedly dwelled included the menstrual cycle, homosexuality in the boy scouts, the incidence of married virgins, the relationship between stuttering and repression, penis circumference, sexual jealousy, and the religious implications of conserving bodily fluids.

'With this context, even the most eccentric and monomaniac of letters are revealed to be typical in form if not in content.'

By way of example, Ms Daily also highlights a letter written by an academic at Trinity College, Cambridge - who put a series of questions to Kinsey in 1950 regarding whether 'the educated Englishman' 'segregated' at all-male universities and public schools was more likely than American men to be 'initiated by older and more experience females'.

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