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Survey: Americans Missed the ’60s Sexual Revolution

June 27, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ A survey of more than 3,000 adults suggests that if there was a sexual revolution in the 1960s, most Americans missed it.

The survey, conducted in 1970 but published this week for the first time, found that Americans overwhelmingly disapproved of prostitution, extramarital sex and premarital sex and were fiercely opposed to homosexuality.

″The number of women jumping in and out of bed at random is exaggerated, I think, just as the number of homosexuals in the population has been exaggerated,″ one of the study’s authors, Eugene E. Levitt, a psychologist at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said in a telephone interview Monday.

The survey, which could help researchers understand how AIDS spreads, was not released for so long because two of its authors fought over whose name should appear first on the title page, said Hubert J. O’Gorman, who edited the survey report to be published Thursday.

The survey’s other authors were Albert D. Klassen of the University of North Dakota and Colin Williams of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

″This is the first major study that dealt with the morality aspect″ of sexual behavior, said Levitt. ″And, by the way, it shows how bitterly anti- homosexual the American people are.″

More than two-thirds of respondents said homosexuals should not be allowed to be judges, teachers, ministers, doctors or government officials, Levitt said.

The study, ″Sex and Morality in the U.S.,″ is the only survey of sex and morality taken in a representative sample of the U.S. population before AIDS, said Charles Turner, a sociologist and director of the committee on AIDS research at the National Academy of Sciences.

″It’s unique data that cannot be reconstructed. It’s of great historical interest,″ said Turner, who had prior access to the findings under a special arrangement with the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University.

Among the findings:

-Extramarital sex was described as ″always wrong″ or ″almost always wrong″ by 87 percent of respondents.

-Homosexual relations among people who don’t love each other were described the same way by 88 percent of the respondents. Even among individuals who love each other, homosexual sex was disapproved of by 79 percent of respondents.

-Eighty-two percent disapproved of teen-age girls having premarital sex; 73 percent disapproved of teenage boys having premarital sex.

-Seventy percent disapproved of adult premarital sex by women, and 65 percent disapproved of adult premarital sex by men.

Fewer respondents disapproved of sexual acts if the partners loved each other, ″leaving little doubt, therefore, that many respondents still cherished the ideal of love as a basis for sexual behavior,″ the authors said.

″These data will be indispensible to any attempt to describe the effects of AIDS on American sexual morality and behavior,″ O’Gorman of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., said in an introduction to the survey.

The survey had been nearly forgotten when researchers at the Kinsey Institute began to search their files for information that could help explain the spread of AIDS, said June Reinisch, the institute’s director.

″In the course of this search, we recognized the potential value of the unpublished 1970 survey data,″ she wrote in a preface to the book.

Klassen took until 1979 to prepare the findings for publication. Williams had been called in to speed the writing. Both demanded to be listed as the first author.

Two years ago, Reinisch pushed a compromise in which Klassen was listed first and Williams was designated the official spokesman for the book.

The data have already allowed Turner to estimate that in 1970 at least 20 percent of adult men had had homosexual contact at some time during their lives.

″We haven’t had a good number for that,″ said Turner, adding that such numbers are critical to understanding the AIDS epidemic.

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