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Kinsey Institute's Reinisch Wants to Renew, Expand Sexual Studies : American Sex Habits Changed Since 1948--but Not That Much

May 18, 1986|BEVERLY BEYETTE | Times Staff Writer

(Reinisch, who is divorced and planning to marry a colleague, psychologist Leonard Rosenblum, does not have a biological child but legally adopted Karen, now 24, when Karen was 21 and chose to live with Reinisch instead of with her parents.)

Study of Reproductive Cycles

Also under way at the institute is a research project on reproductive cycles, one aspect of which is the examination of social and physiological aspects of "menstrual synchrony," the observation that, among women who spend a great deal of time together, menstrual periods of some shift so that the periods of all begin to coincide.

This is, Reinisch said, "very common" and there is evidence that a pheromone, a natural chemical released in perspiration and transmitted in the air, may be responsible. When the essence of this chemical was applied to the skin of a study group of women, she said, within four months all began cycling within three days of one another.

The questions raised, she said, include, "Who are the leaders? Who are the followers? Is ovulation affected by this?" What are the factors that determine an individual woman's propensity to set the menstrual pattern or, conversely, to follow another woman's pattern?

How does menstrual synchrony affect an individual woman's fertility?

Reinisch wants to learn more, too, about pheromones released by males and why, as the research has shown, sleeping in the same bed with a man (without sexual activity) makes a woman more apt to ovulate. And why does essence of the male chemical, applied under the noses of female subjects with irregular menstrual periods, regularize the periods of the majority?

And what does it all mean? Reinisch's mind was racing ahead to better living through chemistry--natural chemistry. Maybe these pheromones will be the basis "for new contraceptives, new fertility drugs," she said. "You don't take pills, you sniff things. It would be less intrusive, much more the way nature intended. . . . "

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