History of Sex Surveys: A Thousand Marriages Part 1

About a survey by Dr. Robert Latou Dickinson and Lura Beam entitled A Thousand Marriages done in the the 1920s, a look at sex, marriage, sexuality and more.


Researchers: Robert Latou Dickinson and Lura Beam. Dr. Dickinson was a practicing gynecologist from 1882 to 1924; in a later work, Human Sex Anatomy (1933), he presented the 1st modern book of repute that contained illustrations of sex positions. He was one of the 1st American doctors to perform artificial insemination with sperm from a donor other than the husband. Seeking information for the treatment of infertility, he studied female response during masturbation. He was one of the 1st American gynecologists to use an electrical vibrator as a means of inducing orgasm in patients previously unable to achieve it by any other means. He also used the technique, later refined by Masters and Johnson, of observing the vaginal lining and cervix during orgasm through a phallic-shaped glass tube with a light on the end of it. His collaborator was also a gynecologist.

Topics Studied: Factual knowledge about the sexual adjustment of the subjects during marriage. Basic areas covered were: general health and circumstances and fertility of wife and husband; symptoms and diagnoses; pelvic disorders and labors; anatomical variations in internal and external genital organs and their relationships to particular sex practices; averages and extremes of sex behavior; control of conception, abstinence, and their aftermath. "The sex side of the love and marriage experience of a thousand wives."

When Done: Over the 40 years of Dr. Dickinson's practice, until the 1920s.

How Done: Physiological examinations supplemented by intensive psychological questioning covering subject's history from childhood to, in some cases, old age.

Subjects Studied: One thousand married women. The majority were Caucasian, urban, well-educated, married to professional men. Fifty percent had 1st come to the doctor for problems related to childbearing, 25% for pelvic growths and inflammations, the remainder for miscellaneous causes presumed to be of pelvic origin. Some were observed for less than a year, others for 40 years.

Where Done: Dr. Dickinson's office in New York City.

Findings: Fifty percent of the women considered their marriages sexually satisfactory. One-sixth experienced considerable persistent distress in intercourse. Eighteen of the wives had remained virgins for one or more years after marriage because neither husband nor wife knew how to perform sexual intercourse.

Average frequency of intercourse was twice a week, ranging from 16% reporting "daily or oftener" to 11% reporting "yearly or less."

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