The legacy of Paul Gebhard

Post courtesy of IU Communications colleague, Milana Katic:

When I was asked to film Paul Gebhard in August 2014, I wasn’t fully aware of the unique opportunity I had been given.

Like me, most people wouldn’t recognize his name right off the bat. However, everyone seems to know the name of his former employer and colleague: Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

Gebhard was one of the original four interviewers who helped Kinsey gather research for what would become some of the first empirical studies of sexuality in the United States. The sexual histories that would be gathered by Kinsey and Gebhard, along with Clyde Martin and Wardell Pomeroy, would later be compiled into the Kinsey Reports, ultimately changing how human sexuality would be studied for years to come.

“I felt like a little boy that fell into a candy shop,” Gebhard said in one of our on-camera interviews, all of which can be seen on the Kinsey Institute’s website. “After sex being hushed up, suddenly I was in the middle of it.”

He had been the last living member of the original four Kinsey researchers; he passed away July 9, 2015.

Hearing the news of Gebhard’s death greatly saddened me, but it also made me incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to play a part in immortalizing his experiences on the frontier of sexual studies on film.

The original members of the Kinsey Research team.

Pictured from left: Alfred Kinsey, Clyde Martin, Paul Gebhard and Wardell Pomeroy. Photo Courtesy of The Kinsey Institute.

After Kinsey’s death in 1956, Gebhard’s contributions to the study of sex continued when he assumed the position of director of the Institute for Sex Research, now known as The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. He was the longest-serving director of the institute, from 1956 to 1982, and he can be credited with really getting the institute’s work off the ground during those formative years.

It was an amazing experience getting to hear about the shaping of Kinsey’s research from a first-hand prospective and even more amazing that, at the age of 97, Gebhard remembered details of his time with Kinsey more than I even remember my senior year of high school (which only happened five years ago and is just pathetic).

I didn’t know who Paul Gebhard was when I was asked to film him a year ago, but I now know that his contributions to the study of sex are invaluable to academia and society in general. He played a hand in erasing widespread misconceptions about sex. He helped bring the diverse spectrum of sexualities to light. He aided in starting to let people see that sexuality wasn’t something to fear but something to embrace as a normal and necessary part of life. But in his own words:

“I think setting the stage for sex research was our biggest contribution.”

And for that, he will always be remembered.

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