THE EDITORS OF TIME HAVE NEVER SHIED
away from the topic of sex. When British physician and researcher Havelock Ellis's multi-volume study of human sexuality was released for public consumption in 1936 after being available only to doctors and lawyers for forty years, TIME reviewed the "compendious topographical survey
" and praised the author as honest for asserting that it is good for the community when successful men have more than one mate because it transmits "'their own superior qualities.'" Another opportunity to infuse a news story with sexy details came a few months later in a report of the custody trial of actress Mary Astor
. TIME titillated readers with excerpts from her diary, revelations that TIME called "as purple as the ink they were written in."
Alfred Kinsey made TIME's cover in 1953 when he published his ground-breaking "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female." TIME wrote, "No single event did more for open discussion of sex than the Kinsey report." When the magazine decided in 1964 to investigate the country's changing sexual attitudes, correspondents across the U.S. and in Europe interviewed hundreds of people for the cover story, "The Second Sexual Revolution."
Then came Masters and Johnson's detailed research of the physiology of sex. TIME previewed their report six months before it was published, and three years later marked the sexual revolution with a cover story called "The Sex Explosion." "An erotic renaissance (or rot, as some would have it) is upon the land."
When the sexual freedoms of the seventies were challenged by a rising moral militancy in the eighties, TIME noted, "The sexual revolution has not been rebuffed, merely absorbed into the culture." By the nineties American attitudes had struck a happy medium. TIME called the 1994 University of Chicago report, Sex in America, "a remarkably conservative document. It puts the fringe on the fringe and concentrates on the heartland: where life, apparently, is ruled by marriage, monogamy and the missionary position."
In our Sex and Health cover story, TIME explored the health benefits of sex, noting that "the human race may begin to appreciate that the 'sex glow' stays with them a lot longer than they realized." Then we turned our focus to changing attitudes toward sexual orientation and how these new attitudes are shaping the American family.