An Analysis of the Kinsey Reports on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Female

By Donald Porter Geddes | Go to book overview

REACTIONS TO THE MALE VOLUME

Whatever may be said about the publicity build-up for Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, it was the American public, not Kinsey, or his publishers, who made the first volume -- Sexual Behavior in the Human Male -- the talk of every town in the country.

Published early in 1948, the Male volume was issued under circumstances and conditions no publisher could prescribe for a book he hoped might become a best seller. The volume was expensive, heavy, full of tables, charts and diagrams. It was weighted down with clinical tables and a bibliography. There wasn't a picture in the book, and the text was monotonous.

Worst of all, though, was the discount. Novels, and the general run of books, are sold by the publisher to the bookseller at a discount of forty percent, and more, depending on quantity. As a rule, it would be easier for a reader to get into a public library at midnight, than for a publisher to get books into a bookstore when the discount is not at least forty percent. The first Kinsey book carried a discount of twenty percent. The reason for this discount was obvious. Its publishers did not expect this book to be bought by the general public, nor did they try to get booksellers to buy copies for stock and display.

The public knew nothing of this situation. All it knew was that there was a book by a man named Kinsey that told more about man and his sexual behavior than had ever been revealed, or known, before. What has become known in publishing as "The Word of the Mouth Club" had selected Kinsey for general conversation. Though the booksellers protested the small discount, there was little they could do. The public demanded the book, and got it. The booksellers sought a larger discount and didn't get it. Even so, the booksellers succeeded in selling a quarter of a million copies.

Kinsey became both a by-word, and a buy-word. He also became the subject of one of the greatest controversies of the twentieth century. The answers were not long in appearing. Among the earliest of them was the book -- About the Kinsey Report -- to which this present volume is companion. The Introduction to that volume follows.

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