"Something must be decidedly wrong with our civilization," he suggested in his introduction, "to permit such a state of affairs." One of the culprits, he believed, was Puritanism:
Many a boy and a girl brought up in a Puritan environment have come to regard the first attractions of sex as something utterly unholy... They have turned to ascetic discipline and severe torments of the soul, until their outlook has become badly distorted, even at times to the extreme of insanity. These unhappy victims of Puritanism have been prevented from realizing that Nature is only asking her own: that she rejoices in the instinctive revelations of sex; that adolescence is as natural as breathing, and must not be too long absorbed... Puritanism, in its peculiar definition of moral purity and its gloomy approach to marriage, has created a stuffy atmosphere in which it is excessively difficult for men and women to meet naturally.
Even marriage, he suggested, does little to improve couples' attitudes about sex. "Many a young mother finds herself condemned to a painful reticence and evasion," he wrote, "at a time when she should be boldly exultant in her supreme realization of Nature's greatest miracle." A chaste discussion of sex, perhaps, but an endorsement of it nonetheless.
Groundbreaking and influential as Kinsey's work was, it did not succeed in breaking down every last inhibition. As years passed, other researchers picked up where Kinsey left off. In "Sex and the Married Couple" (December 1970), Paul Wilkes profiled two sex researchers, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who in the late 1950s had begun measuring human sexual response in a laboratory setting: they observed hundreds of men and women having sex or masturbating. Masters and Johnson later counseled couples on solving such sexual problems as premature ejaculation or the inability to have an orgasm. Even during the 1960s, in the midst of America's sexual revolution, they found that Puritanism was still an influence. Their highest failure rate—40 percent, they pointed out in one of their books—was with impotent men, "many of whom could not overcome religious strictures that have effectively castrated them." Wilkes pointed out that Masters and Johnson did their work in St. Louis, Missouri—a state where in the 1970s it was against the law for unmarried men and women to have sex.
In the face of such persistent prudishness, Masters described his and Johnson's role as "to put sex back in its natural context; [as] a perfectly normal function—as normal as breathing. " In Wilkes' view, Masters and Johnson had largely succeeded in this goal of shattering taboos and promoting sex as a normal part of everyday life for everyone:
Masters and Johnson have consistently kicked over barriers, pushed their way through myth, mores, and misconception, to come up with undisputedly sound medical and therapeutic information. When a Roman Catholic nun comes to them with complaints of pelvic pain, a bloated feeling at other than 'that time of the month,' and they find massive congestion that can be relieved in only one way, they tell the nun to masturbate to orgasm.
Masters looked to Kinsey as a role model of sorts, and informed himself about the man and his research so that he might be inspired in his own work. As he learned more about him he increasingly came to recognize that Kinsey had been in many ways flawed:
Masters found that Kinsey developed an overpowering ego, would not train a qualified successor, and thus guaranteed that his work would end with his death. He never collaborated with a female researcher although he was studying both sexes. And in his last years, Kinsey was obsessed with the thought that everyone was trying to steal his data.
In the years since the Reports were published, further problems with Kinsey and his research have come to light. In "The Mystique of Betty Friedan" (September 1999), an article questioning the social-scientific underpinnings of Freidan's 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, sociologist Alan Wolfe explains that Kinsey's work "misrespresented the sexual habits and practices of Americans because Kinsey's interviewees were so unrepresentative." Instead of random sampling, Kinsey relied heavily on volunteers who were mostly middle-class, educated, young, and white. He also went searching for gay subjects in places like prisons and bars and included in his data testimonies from convicted pedophiles.