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Time Flies, Task Grows

Spring 1997

The Kinsey Institute Passes the Half-Century Mark

In its fifty-year history, the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction has weathered controversies and periods of public neglect. It has published scholarly volumes that became popular best-sellers and those that only academics bothered to open. It has been in and out of the public eye. Through it all, the Institute has maintained its commitment to furthering understanding of human sexuality.

Today, the list of social problems linked to sexuality is longer than ever. World population growth, teenage pregnancy, and the spread of HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases are but a few of these. The need to address these problems is pressing, and to do so effectively, the relevant sexual factors must be better understood.

"As the international leader in the serious study of human sexuality, the Kinsey Institute is doing its part to find solutions to serious social problems through providing better information about their sexual aspects," says IU Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School George E. Walker.

Dr. John Bancroft, director of the Kinsey Institute since May 1995, sees the Institute as a home for an interdisciplinary approach to sexuality research.

My aim is to encourage a more integrated and complete understanding of human sexuality that weaves together biological, cultural, and psychosocial approaches," Bancroft says. To that end, the Institute provides help and research materials to scholars from a wide array of disciplines, and it brings scholars together through cross-disciplinary symposia and seminar series.

The Institute also pursues its mission through its own research program. At present, of the two principal studies underway, one assesses the effects of oral contraceptives on women's sexuality and well-being; the other investigates the role of central neurophysiological inhibition on male sexual response, of possible relevance to both high-risk behavior and sexual dysfunction. Updates on the Institute's research will appear in forthcoming newsletters. A new initiative is the establishment of the Institute's research-oriented clinics described elsewhere in this newsletter.

The Kinsey Institute's library and special collections of art and other objects relating to human sexuality have long been regarded as the most comprehensive in the field. "The collections are an invaluable source of information about how attitudes and behaviors have changed or stayed the same through history and across cultures," says Judith Allen, director of the Women's Studies Program at IU Bloomington. In a new project, the curatorial staff will soon begin work to properly preserve, organize, and improve scholarly access to the Institute's extensive photography collection and its archives. This project is funded through IU's Strategic Directions Charter program and Research and the University Graduate School.

Today, the Kinsey Institute is reaching beyond the accumulation and recording of knowledge to put research and scholarly activity to work. Its activities are relevant on a global scale in the areas of public health and policy, yet they are of immediate benefit to individuals as well.

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