Sexual Teachings of William Masters and Virginia Johnson Part 2

About the husband and wife scientific research team William Masters and Virginia Johnson, biography and history of their sexual teachings.


WILLIAM H. MASTERS (1915- ), U.S., and VIRGINIA E. JOHNSON (1925- ), U.S.

The first people interviewed were 188 female and 27 male prostitutes. While Masters found the interviews valuable in that they yielded information about "innumerable variations in stimulative techniques," many of which he later used in therapy, he decided not to use them as subjects because they tended to move around the country too much and because the women often suffered from chronic congestion of the pelvic region. By talking with them, however, he debunked one commonly held "fact" about prostitutes--that they were frigid. Though the people he talked to were in the business for money first, they also claimed to like sex.

The volunteers he finally chose for the program were ordinary people, many of them students and patients, who were interested in helping with sex research. Neither exhibitionists nor publicity seekers, they were accepted if they could reach orgasm in the laboratory, something that turned out not to be as difficult as might be supposed; the environment became familiar to them and they tended to forget where they were. There were 694 subjects, married and unmarried, ranging in age from postadolescence to late 70s for the women and late 80s for the men. Among them, they had 10,000 orgasms in the laboratory, with remarkably few failures, by masturbating manually and with a vibrator, by having intercourse with the man on his back, by having intercourse with the woman on her back, by using the coition machine, and by stimulation of the breasts alone.

In a deliberate attempt to forestall sensationalism, the publisher--Little, Brown and Co.--brought out Human Sexual Response, the book which contained their findings, in a plain, brown-paper wrapper, with no trade advertising, in a print run of only 10,000 copies. Their goal was to reach some of the 250,000 doctors for whom the book was intended. Within months of its publication in 1966, 250,000 copies had been sold, mainly to the public at large, at $10 each. This in spite of the fact that the text was fiendishly hard to read. Max Lerner said, ". . . the book's language . . . is so severely technical and barbarous as to make Kinsey a light essayist."

Reactions were strong and mixed. Leslie H. Farber, a psychoanalyst, was typical of those who did not want to accept the team's findings about female sexuality; he wanted a return to the days when a woman "was content with the mystery and variety of her difference from man, and in fact would not have had it otherwise." In spite of the fact that Human Sexual Response proved that women are orgasmic beings, he said, "My guess, which is not subject to laboratory proof, is that the female orgasm was always an occasional, though not essential, part of a woman's whole sexual experience."

Prof. Albert Goldman reacted against the fact that older people could function sexually (and did) by saying, "One wishes that we could return to the wisdom of an earlier time that accepted physical decline and sought compensation in pursuits that transcend the physical."

But the American Medical Association backed the study, and Dr. Colin Hindley of the University of London said, "If we are inclined to regard sexual union as something so sacrosanct that it should not be open to investigation, we should remember that a similar view was taken regarding the stars in Galileo's day."

Meanwhile, starting in 1959, the Masters-Johnson team was conducting a therapy program for sexually troubled couples, which was the subject for a second book, Human Sexual Inadequacy, published in 1970. It described their incredibly successful treatments for premature ejaculation and impotence in men, orgasmic dysfunction and vaginismus (involuntary spasms of the vagina) in women, and dyspareunia (pain during intercourse).

The therapy takes two weeks and consists of "therapeutic foursomes" with Masters and Johnson, followed by private practicing by the patients back at their hotel. The emphasis is on "sensate focusing" and "pleasuring" without intercourse.

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