Student Research in Beinecke Collections
Rachel Wilf, Yale Class of 2012
“Social Change through Science: Homosexual Activism Influencing the Kinsey Report”
Following the startling success of his first two studies of human sexual behavior, sexologist Alfred Kinsey began research for a third book, never published, focusing on what he called the “heterosexual-homosexual balance.” Kinsey relied heavily on the personal testimonials of gay men in the course of his research, including William “Bill” Miller, a gay model and artist living in New York. Miller’s correspondence with Kinsey, located in the Christian William Miller Papers (YCAL MSS 298), reveals an intimate and mutually beneficial relationship between the two men.
Miller provided Kinsey with contacts within the gay community as well as a wealth of information about gay life, from detailed sexual histories to catalogs of relevant artistic and literary works. Kinsey, in turn, provided Miller with a platform for enacting social change. Miller’s letters reveal that he (and several of his friends who assisted Kinsey in a similar manner) were anxious to achieve greater social tolerance of homosexuality. Miller’s friend Monroe Wheeler (Monroe Wheeler Papers, YCAL MSS 136) wrote that he participated in the study with the goal of “help[ing] humanity take another long stride toward the understanding and tolerance which will one day bring peace to this planet.” Miller’s correspondence with Kinsey, rich in historical detail, serves as a window to understanding the motivations and aims of early gay activists in America.
Rachel Wilf’s essay, written for Professor George Chauncey’s Topics in Lesbian and Gay History course, Spring 2010,is available as a PDF file here: “Social Change through Science: Homosexual Activism Influencing the Kinsey Report.”
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