- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - From the drawers of Dr. Helen Fisher’s New York City apartment to seven white boxes at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute, the personal effects of one of the world’s most interviewed sex experts outline her career with magazine stacks, VHS tapes and audio cassettes without their cases.

These are just the leftovers. Many tapes hit the trash, and newspapers were recycled, before Fisher considered her press mentions to be an “archive.” Ten years ago, Kinsey library director Liana Zhong asked Fisher if she might like to donate what remained - books she had authored, tapes from television appearances she had been given on her way out of the studio, magazine clippings from National Geographic to Penthouse - as something for scholars to study.

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The thought of her thoughts becoming an immortal record made Fisher weep, but the idea slipped from her mind. She went back to work. The Rutgers University professor of anthropology gives interviews by the dozens, about 40 coming every Valentine’s Day. She crafted a compatibility test for the dating site chemistry.com. In most articles with “chemistry” and “love” in the title, Fisher was quoted.

She kept multiple copies of her books, which had been translated into languages from North America to the Near East. Magazines and video tapes remained, too. “Not quite in the stove,” Fisher said of the collection at her apartment, “but in the cabinets next to the stove.”

The possibility of shipping her materials to Kinsey was again floated when another researcher she had worked with, Justin Garcia, landed in Bloomington. During a speech on lust and attachment at IU Oct. 1, Fisher announced she would donate her archive to the Kinsey Institute. All of it.

She cried again.

“It’s an absolutely remarkable feeling. This would all go in the garbage, but instead, it’s going to go to one of the most exciting, dynamic places in the world,” Fisher told The Herald-Times (http://bit.ly/1jnMFKJ ).

There is work that needs to be done to make the archive more than piles of periodicals, newspapers and audio and video recordings. Since it was received via FedEx in the days following Fisher’s announcement, Zhong and her colleagues have been poring through the materials to find where they fit among the institute’s other collections, from gerontotherapist Harry Benjamin’s almost 70 years of diaries and daily planners to articles about homosexuality and transvestitism by German physician Magnus Hirschfeld.

Researchers come to the Kinsey with a topic, not necessarily a person to study, and the staff points them to the collection that might pique their interest. Zhong would say Fisher’s ideas stand out for an anthropological approach to sexuality. She’s an expert on romantic love but also a “spokesperson for the sex research field,” Zhong said, with hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings in the archive for researchers to peruse.

One tape, for example, holds a 2005 interview with Fisher on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” Actor Jude Law had just been caught sleeping with the babysitter, and the world wanted to know why men cheat. The answer referred back to the evolution of the species. Men increased their chances of passing their genes on to the next generation if they had multiple partners, and women are attracted to good-looking men, she said, because it’s indicative of a healthy immune system or higher levels of testosterone.

“Some men have lots of opportunity,” Fisher explained.

But this isn’t something Fisher reheard once she said it. She rarely, if ever, watches or listens to an interview once she gets the tape. Episodes of “PBS NewsHour,” ”The Today Show” and “Oprah” are in the archive, but she never watched them herself. “It’s just too embarrassing,” Fisher said.

Fisher has no use for her tapes, but researchers at Kinsey might. Heading deeper into her 60s, Fisher also has more personal items she wants to eventually leave to the institute, including a six-inch-wide stack of letters from fans of her speeches. She also has another stack of love letters. Thinking like an anthropologist, she wants researchers to have access to her as a human being, because it gives more context to the work.

There is a bear-claw necklace from one of her many travels. In her apartment, there are two portraits she could part with. Of course, she would prefer to send the one of her from a younger age.

“We leave these things to our children, our grandchildren,” Fisher said. “The world is my children and my grandchildren.”

Fisher’s research has brought her to 82 countries, including the back of a “rickety, old pickup truck” with five men in New Guinea to talk about how many wives they prefer to have. They settled on one or more than two - but not two. With two wives, they said, it is impossible to do anything with the one wife without the other knowing who he’s with.

She recalls another interview with a Kenyan man on BBC Radio, where she asked a similar question: “How many wives would you like to have?” He had three, but Fisher became curious as he took a long pause. “Is he going to say five, 10, 25?”

“None,” he said.

These experiences all make up a library of knowledge, parts also gifted to the Kinsey Institute through her books, “The Sex Contract,” or “El Contrato Sexual: La Evolucion de la Conducta Humana” in Spanish. Or “Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love by Understanding Your Personality Type,” which in Dutch reads “Waarom Hij? Waarom Zij?: Begrijp je Persoonlijkheidstype en Vind de Juiste Partnerr.”

While the titles move from Fisher’s possession to IU’s catalog, the process of giving them away has given back to Fisher.

“It really does make you look at your life and what you’ve been able to accomplish,” Fisher said. “I’m always looking forward; I’m rarely satisfied. This really allows me to look back.”

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Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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