Before joining the Stony Brook University faculty in 1987, Kimmel worked as assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University from 1982 to 1986 as well as visiting assistant professor at New York University. He returned to his alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley, where he was visiting professor from 1992 to 1994. In the academic year 1992–1993, he was voted "Best Professor" on campus by The Daily Californian.
Kimmel is considered a leading figure in the academic subfield of men's studies. He has written numerous books on gender and masculinities including Men's Lives (2010, 8th edition), The Gendered Society (2011, 4th edition), Manhood: a Cultural History (2012, 3rd edition), and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men (2008). He has co-edited The Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities (2005) and Men and Masculinities: a Social, Cultural and Historical Encyclopedia (2004) which was named "Best of Reference 2004" by the New York Public Library. Moreover, he is the editor of a series on genders and sexualities at New York University Press. In 1992–1993, Kimmel founded the journal Masculinities which was associated with the American Men's Studies Association. The journal was a precursor to the journal Men and Masculinities which was picked up by SAGE Publications in 1998 and became one of the first academic journals focused on men, with Kimmel as its editor.
In 2004, Kimmel was one of 15 scholars chosen for innovative scholarship by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. His research title was "Globalization and its Mal(e)contents: The Gendered Moral and Political Economy of the Extreme Right".
In an article about a "fight club" in Menlo Park, California, Kimmel remarked that there was a sadomasochistic thread running through them, and said they "are the male version of the girls who cut themselves. [...] All day long these guys think they're the captains of the universe, technical wizards. They're brilliant but empty. [...] They want to feel differently. They want to get hit, they want to feel something real."
Kimmel is married to the journalism and media studies academic Amy Aronson. The couple has one son.
Accusations of sexual harassment and resignation
Just before receiving the American Sociological Association's Jessie Bernard Award in 2018, Kimmel was accused of sexual harassment. Soon after, the American Sociological Association provided a statement by him to the Chronicle of Higher Education in an article that outlined unconfirmed allegations of sexual harassment. In this statement, he delayed receipt of the award, giving his accusers six months to file a complaint with the American Sociological Association's Committee on Professional Ethics. Kimmel filed for retirement as charges from a Title IX investigation were pending. Since that time one of Kimmel's former graduate students accused him of using outdated language to describe the trans community, discussing pornography in work-related settings, and assigning non-work related tasks to his advisees.
^Korgen, Kathleen Odell; White, Jonathan M.; White, Shelley (2011). Sociologists in Action: Sociology, Social Change, and Social Justice. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press. p. 175. ISBN978-1-4129-8283-2.
^"Biography". Stony Brook University. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
^Hanna Rosin (November 22, 2013). "Even Madder Men". New York Times. Retrieved June 30, 2014.