Masters Of Sex

Co-authors of "Human Sexual Response" Dr. Virginia Johnson (L) with Dr. William Masters (R).

Have any of you been watching Masters Of Sex? The Second Season has just ended and both me and my wife have thoroughly enjoyed it! Looking forward to Season 3 next year. There shall be spoilers in this blog if you haven’t watched it!

Masters Of Sex is based on the true story of Dr William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Real people who, from 1957 researched ‘human sexual response’. I didn’t know much about this research until I watched the programme so I have made sure that I research the facts on them to make sure that I have everything right! As a programme, it has some amazing characters played by bloody great actors (It was a  bit weird seeing the respectable, yet sad and mature character of Margaret Sully played by Allison Janney appear on the comedy ‘Mom’ as the hedonistic, recovering addict comedy mother!) Martin Sheen plays the complicated, angry, frustrated yet vulnerable Masters fabulously. Victoria Johnson is played by a lesser known actress Lizzy Caplan (who reminds me of a Croation friend of mine) who is very good at playing assertive, ambitious, independent, yet sexy 50’s single mother. I have just looked at pics of the real Masters and Johnson and the producers have definitely made them sexier in the programme!

As a programme, it feels like a breath of fresh air. It is a programme that takes it’s time – not every episode is all about the plotline and it dares to spend some time focussing on the characters and their relationship without it necessarily having an affect on the progress of the story. This does slow it down a bit but I praise it for doing this. It echoes the struggles the 2 protagonists go through and brings out the subtleties of the text. I do know of some people who started watching it but stopped because of the pace, but I would urge you to watch it. It also has some lovely sex scenes too, of course! I find that a lot of dramas nowadays can be quite extreme with the action, violence, drugs and constant cliffhangers. Masters Of Sex gives us a break from a lot of that (although more sex than the usual drama of course!)

Dr Masters was a gynecologist very good at his job and very well respected in his field. He decided that he wanted to conduct an extensive study on human sexual behaviour. I haven’t found out why, but from what I can see, he didn’t seem to be a pervert of any sort so that is good. The hospital he worked at when he started the study allowed this because he was in such high demand as a gynecologist. He hired Victoria Johnson as a research assistant to begin with, who in the end, became a research partner. Season 1 and 2 sees his short temper lose him some jobs before he opens up his own clinic and get himself into debt for doing so. It is this clinic where they settled though.

Before Masters and Johnson, there had been some research conducted into sexual behaviour in the human male and female by Alfred Kinsey in 1948 and 1953, but this was only via interviews with subjects. Dr Masters was the first person to actually observe people having sex and recording the phases they went through – this was epically revolutionary and controversial. The first 145 subjects were prostitutes because these were the only people willing to take part in the study, being the only people open minded enough to do so. The sort of studies they conducted don’t seem to have been re-attempted since either.

They studied 10,000 instances of sex and masturbation. The main thing that these studies found was that, in contrast to good ol’ Freud’s beliefs, woman didn’t generally orgasm from vaginal penetration only!! They also found that after orgasm, a man goes through a ‘refactory period’ where they are unable to ejaculate again. A woman doesn’t have a refactory period.

These are the four stages of model response:


Something that is covered in a lot of depth over the first 2 seasons is the affair between the two (true to life too) and they used a lot of these sessions to continue to study the sexual behaviour (any excuse eh!)

The second season ended on the day that J F Kennedy was elected – 1960 – and by then they had got to a point where they had started looking into sexual dysfunction. Masters wanted to treat it physically whilst Johnson wanted to look at the psychology behind it. From my research on them, not only have I discovered some major plot spoilers (damnit!) I have also found that their research focussed on homosexuality in the 70’s for a while. Through further research I found that they went through a phase of trying to ‘cure’ homosexuality, which doesn’t make me very happy L Johnson wasn’t too proud of this aspect.

Their studies went on for many years until 1990 and from what I can see, by the end of the second season, they have barely scratched the surface on the progress they have made. There has always been a struggle in being taken seriously from the first episode and this is prevelant every following episode. It is amazing, now, to think that this was even allowed to be done! It cannot be done nowadays in any hospital because of ethics, so it was a very special time.  I praise them for continuing to push and risking their reputations and credibility to do work that they truly believed in. I am not a doctor but I would love to be able to leave some sort of legacy with the work I hope to do with this business. I am also facing a lot of obstacles doing this job – Facebook, Ebay and Amazon are making it particularly hard for me to advertise or sell, I was unable to get a startup loan from the government and  I have already jumped through a lot of hoops for other companies too. A lot of us believe we are living in a much more enlightened part of life, but through opening this business up I have come to discover that the world/country may not be as liberated as we like to believe, so I hope to challenge this through education, a little like Masters and Johnson did.

So this is a blog just to celebrate the work that Masters and Johnson did – thank you for showing proof that most women need clitoral stimulation to be able to orgasm. I know it caused a lot of controversy back then and that the study continued to be stopped by various obstacles but you got there in the end!!

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