There was a sexually explicit joke making the rounds during the young adulthood of the senior editor. Its theme was sexual variations. Whether it was funny or not is not the main point. The crucial part is that, unknown to the editor at the time, this joke was inspired by the recently released findings of Alfred C. Kinsey. This marked the time that sexuality had come out of the closet and presaged an era of factual acquaintance with human sexual motivation and behavior. Prior to Kinsey, sexual knowledge was promulgated chiefly through doctrine and mythology. Kinsey gave the world an entry into the empirical study of sexuality. It was exciting and modern and promised to dispel the prevailing misconceptions.
In spite of continuing criticisms, Kinsey's work may be viewed as the spiritual parent of a prolific line of research and published work, including this handbook. Through their determination and creativity, many individuals have been instrumental in bringing the study of sexuality into the twenty-first century. Some of these individuals made direct contributions to this book; others are prominently listed in the references.
Empirical studies of sexual orientation and behavior have proliferated in recent years. Although attempts to synthesize historical and contemporary views have been made, we identified the need for an updated yet concise overview of the empirical findings. We further reasoned that such an overview would be meaningful and accurate only if placed within our cultural historical context.
It is the design of this handbook to be a comprehensive aggregate of topic