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Showing posts from May, 2009

"Women, Sex, and Masters and Johnson" -- Reaction to Book and Podcast

Women, Sex, and Masters and Johnson
May 17, 2009 by Michelle Smith

I found an interview withThomas Maier, the author of Masters of Sex, a book about legendary sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Masters, a gynecologist, and Johnson, a psychologist, observed an estimated 10,000 live sex acts in there Washington University research lab. In the process they discovered valuable insight into the “sexual response cycle” and sexual dysfunction.
After talking to my female friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that women and their sexual selves are not always well understood. Apparently, that opinion is shared by many and I found this part of the interview interesting:
“…the biggest revolution of Masters and Johnson’s work has to do with discovering and underlining the power of female sexuality. Rather than being the weaker sex, their studies showed conclusively that women could be multi-orgasmic and possessed a greater sexual capacity than men. Their clinical proof shattered …

The Buffalo News: Editor's Choice -- "Masters of Sex" Review

Editor’s Choice
MASTERS OF SEX: The Life and Times of William Masters andVirginia Johnson by Thomas Maier(Basic Books, 412 pages, $27.50). Among the many and various troubles with sex is that you can seldom trust anyone’s stories about it. No human activity is more subject to ridiculous locker room braggadoccio; nor, by the same token, is there any topic more given to post-facto score-settling (when you consider the tales of exes that have been taken as truth by contemporaries and posterity alike, it’s enough to make you wonder if history—at least of the glandular variety—has EVER been valid.)
Alfred G. Kinsey could only search for truth in anecdotes and culture. That’s why the world so desperately needed William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the researchers and therapists who investigated what happens during sex as scientists, wrote about their findings and treated what went wrong as “dysfunctions” (their word, bless them) to be set right. To make a science out of prurience and therapy…

Reviews and Blurbs So Far

Masters of Sex "offers a wonderfully written and totally absorbing look at an amazing couple." – Booklist, *starred review*

“Maier’s sedulously researched and deeply absorbing biography suggests that love is far more elusive than an orgasm … Set against a larger cultural landscape that spans the domesticated ‘50s and liberated ‘60s on up to the present, stopping on the way to evaluate the effect of Masters and Johnson’s work on everything from feminism to perfumes, Masters of Sex is a richly informed and elegantly organized account of the two people behind the logo that stood for new sexual horizons”. – Daphne Merkin in Tina Brown’s website “The Daily Beast.”

“The strangely chilling story of two sexual pioneers… Perhaps influenced by its steamy subject matter, Masters of Sex, Thomas Maier's new book about the couple's career, may strike some readers as unusually graphic for a biography, but this unsettling story of sex and science in theory and practice is ultimately m…

Penthouse Review

Masters of Sex
May 14th, 2009 By Penthouse Magazine
Tags: Full Frontal, Reads

Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love
-By Thomas Maier
(Basic Books)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Masters and Johnson, a pair of researchers who started out at Washington University in St. Louis, are responsible for much of our modern thinking about sex. Maier’s history provides an in-depth look at the twin paths of their professional research and personal relationship (they were married from 1971 to 1992), while dishing about the duo’s work as sex therapists for Hollywood stars, such as the incredibly sexy Barbara Eden of I Dream of Jeannie fame, and Senator Jacob Javits. There are plenty of fireworks here, from the pair’s controversial prescriptions of sex surrogates to the revelation that Masters developed his “squeeze method” of delaying ejaculation from observing the action in whorehouses. An excellent writer and a top-not…

Larry Mantle Show: Interview in Pasadena, California's KPCC

Here's an interview on the Larry Mantle Show on May 20 in Pasadena, California

Oprah's Book Club: Recommends "Masters of Sex" by Thomas Maier

Masters of Sex
By Thomas Maier
432 pages; Basic Books

It's shocking to realize how little we knew about the physiology of sex—female sexuality, in particular—until the 1950s, when gynecological surgeon William Masters set up a semiclandestine laboratory at a university in St. Louis and, together with his assistant, Virginia Johnson, employed the latest technology (a plastic penis equipped with a camera!) and volunteer subjects to record what happens during the act. Illuminating the previously misunderstood and underestimated female orgasm, their findings (published in the 1966 best-seller Human Sexual Response) were an important factor in heating up the sexual climate of the 1960s. The increasingly successful researchers helped many grateful couples, who flocked to their clinic with their most intimate problems. But science failed to do much for Masters and Johnson themselves. Sex with her boss was understood to be part of the job description for Virginia Johnson, an attractive divor…

Masters and Johnson Treated Presidential Candidate, Gov. George Wallace, After 1972 Assassination Attempt

Excerpt from "Masters of Sex" by Thomas Maier

Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama wanted the White House in the worst way. In 1963, Wallace became the face of the Old South when he attempted to prevent de-segregation at the University of Alabama. “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” Wallace promised in his inaugural, after having sworn privately to “outnigger” any political opponent. Like a proud little rooster with slick, black hair, Wallace stood in front of the school, as nationwide television cameras rolled, defiantly blocking the entrance of two black students into the all-white public institution until federal marshals finally intervened. The publicity allowed the one-time boxer to launch a 1964 brief bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, appealing to the prejudices of a nation. When Alabama law prevented him from running for another gubernatorial term, he prompted his wife, Lurleen, to succeed him but she died in 1968 of cancer wh…

Early Word: Librarians Don't Be Shy

Masters of Sex
On the Daily Beast, Daphne Merkin writes about the cleverly titled Masters of Sex, a biography of Masters and Johnson, the pioneers of sex research, Masters and Johnson, calling it

…a richly informed and elegantly organized account of the two people behind the logo that stood for new sexual horizons.

The review is as fascinating as the book sounds.

Several libraries have not yet ordered it.

American Prospect: "Masters of Sex is this spring's true must-read book for those looking to revisit the heady, early days of the sexual revolution."

Sex Work
Two new biographies -- one of Helen Gurley Brown and the other of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson -- offer cautionary tales about mixing sex and the workplace.
DANA GOLDSTEIN | May 14, 2009 | web only
Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown by Jennifer Scanlon, Oxford University Press, 288 pages, $27.95
Masters of Sex by Thomas Maier, Basic Books, 432 pages, $27.50

"I've never worked anywhere without being sexually involved with somebody in the office."
So said Helen Gurley Brown, editor of Cosmopolitan magazine for over 30 years, in a 1982 interview. When the reporter asked Gurley Brown if she had any ethical or feminist compunction about sleeping with a boss, she replied, "Why discriminate against him?"
This kind of glib, manufactured-to-shock statement was typical from Gurley Brown, who had nearly two decades of experience in advertising by the time she wrote her 1962 best-seller, Sex and the Single Girl. Gurley Brown …

The Economist: "If there is a moral to this tale, it is perhaps that the human heart remains as much of a mystery as the sex organs once used to be."

So long in coming
May 14th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love
By Thomas Maier
Basic Books; 384 pages; $27.50 and £15.99
Buy it at

WHEN William Masters was an associate professor of obstetrics at Washington University in the early 1950s, he wanted to see the library’s one textbook on human sexual physiology. No dice. The book was regarded as possibly pornographic, and thus reserved for full professors. Actually, he would not have learnt much even if the librarians had been persuaded to slip him the volume in a brown paper bag. In those days people’s sex organs were pretty much terra incognita, as a new biography of Masters and his research partner, Virginia Johnson, vividly explains.

Human sexual behaviour had been studied, since the late 1940s, by Alfred Kinsey, another American researcher. But Kinsey’s work was sociological, not medical. He reported …

Gelf: Q & A about "Masters of Sex" and Biography writing

MAY 16, 2009
When Masters Met Johnson
Biographer and investigative reporter Thomas Maier chronicles the couple and their research that revolutionized American attitudes toward sex.

Sara Michael

It's fitting that Thomas Maier's latest biography opens with the scene of a 15-year-old girl, later to be known to the world as Virginia Johnson, losing her virginity to her high-school sweetheart in the back of a Plymouth sedan. How else could you launch into the intimate story of one of America's pioneers of human sexuality?

Johnson is one half of the pair credited with shattering long-held myths about the physiology of human sexual response in the 1960s. In Masters of Sex, Maier's intimate portrait of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the author examines the lives of this secretive couple who brought sex to the lab and were among the first to study the physiology of the orgasm.

"Had Bill Masters still been alive he would have put the kibosh on this."

Boston Globe: Masters and Johnson and Sex and Love - The New Debate

The new romantics
Should we get the doctor out of the bedroom?
By Drake Bennett, Globe Staff | May 17, 2009
A half-century ago, the researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson brought sex into the laboratory. For thousands of years, sex had been the object of philosophical inquiry and religious stricture, occupying everyone from shamans to psychoanalysts, and giving the world an oceanic supply of marital and extramarital strife. But it hadn't really been studied, not in the clinical, moment-by-moment manner that Masters proposed.
The problem, believed Masters, a stern ob-gyn at Washington University in St. Louis, was that you couldn't study sex solely by asking people about it, because they were so often unaware of - or dishonest about - what was going on in their own bodies. Along with Johnson, an assistant who soon rose to the rank of co-researcher, Masters brought people, singly and in pairs, into examining rooms and observed them closely with the tools and technologies …

Orange County Register: Would Masters and Johnson Be Possible Today?

Orange County Register,
Hot topic at UCI: Sex, sex and more sex
May 17th, 2009, 5:00 am · posted by Gary Robbins, science writer-editor

Acclaimed biographer Thomas Maier will visit Beckman Center at UC Irvine on Wednesday (map)to give a public talk about his new book, “Masters of Sex,” the inside story of William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Masters and Johnson, as they were known to the public through their books, were among the most influential human sexuality researchers of the 20th century, conducting pioneering studies in St. Louis that examined everything from the four stages of the sexual response cycle to impotency and homosexuality, and sexual dysfunction. Masters, a gynecologist, and Johnson, a psychologist,conducted some of their work in secret at Washington University, and the couple, who later married, claimed to have observed at least 10,000 live sex acts in laboratory settings.
Maier, who was widely praised for his book, “Dr. Spock: An American Life,” will give his free t…

Harvard Bookstore: Is Virginia Johnson More Important Pioneer to Female Sexuality Than Gloria Steinem and other Feminists?

Nick's Picks: Fine Books and Collections Magazine

Nick's Picks: An Ecclectic Quartet
Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, by Thomas Maier; Basic Books, 411 pages, $27.50

If the subject is about how a single book has the power to impact the way people think and comport themselves in intimate relationships, then you have to include the release in 1966 of Human Sexual Response by William Masters and Virginia Johnson, a blockbuster with international consequences that was followed four years later by a powerful followup, Human Sexual Inadequacy. Prior to these books, what people knew about the mechanics of sexual relationships came from text books. Their first-hand reports of human sexuality, reported clinically in their books--Masters and Johnson observed 10,000 sexual acts in pursuit of their data--changed the entire paradigm. Thomas Maier--the biographer previously of another inhabitant of this exclusive group of attitude-changing a…

Radio Podcast Interview about Masters and Johnson on KWMU

Here's an interview with Don Marsh, host of St, Louis on the Air, produced by a local NPR station.

"Masters of Sex" author to attend book signing in Central West End

KSDK -- The author of "Masters of Sex; The Life and Times of Williams Master and Virginia Johnson, the Couple who Taught America How to Love" will be in the Central West End to sign copies of his book.
Thomas Maier will be at Left Bank Books at 399 North Euclid on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
Maier joined NewsChannel 5's Jennifer Blome to discuss his book. Click on the video link to watch the interview.

Playboy Praises "Masters of Sex" in New Review

By J.R. Nelson
Author: Thomas Maier
Publisher: Basic Books
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Cover Type: Hard Cover
If it's hard to imagine a truly adequate sex-ed class before William Masters and Virginia Johnson, it’s probably because there wasn’t one. Masters and Johnson literally wrote the book on how we get it on. Pioneers in the physiological study of human sexuality and the treatment of sexual dysfunction, their bestselling 1966 classic Human Sexual Response and its follow up, Human Sexual Inadequacy, were sparks that helped ignite the sexual revolution.
As Thomas Maier reports in his new biography of the duo, Masters of Sex, the journey of Masters and Johnson after that initial success was a hard one. Some of their work, including research on homosexuality and converting/reverting gays and lesbians and a later book on AIDS, have been justifiably controversial. In addition, the duo’s 40-year relationship was complicated; their marriage and professional partnership end…

Mother's Day Story of Virginia Johnson - the Working Mother who Became America's Sex Expert: Now on Kindle and Audio As Well as Hardcover

What better gift for Mother's Day than the intimate story of Virginia Johnson, a twice-divorced mother of two, who went back to college and became the world's leading expert on sex and love -- particularly female sexuality. Before Madonna, Dr. Ruth, Gloria Steinem and Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw, Virginia was leading her own life an independent-minded woman who blazed her own path with Dr. William Masters.
All of this can be found in "Masters of Sex", the 400-page biography of Masters and Johnson, which is offered on Kindle, as well as in hardcover and audio versions.

Masters and Johnson's Legacy in St. Louis - How Biggest U.S. Sex Experiment Took Place, Why Does Washington University Not Honor Them?

Masters and Johnson's Legacy in St. Louis- "Masters of Sex" by Thomas Maier discussed on Charlie Brennan's radio show on

Harvard Bookstore, Friday May 15th, 3PM- "Masters of Sex" by Thomas Maier

Harvard Book Store is pleased to welcome award-winning author and investigative journalist THOMAS MAIER for a discussion of his new biography of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Masters of Sex.

DATE: Friday, May 15th
TIME: 3:00 PM
LOCATION: Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Avenue
TICKETS: This event is free; no tickets are required

Masters and Johnson's "Gay Conversion" True? - Panel Discusses at Launch for "Masters of Sex"

The controversy surrounding Masters and Johnson's theory of "gay conversion" is discussed at the book launch for "Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, The Couple Who Taught America How To Love," by Thomas Maier (Basic Books), which took place April 27, 2009 at the New York Academy of Medicine. In the biography, Maier raises strong doubts that many so-called conversion cases -- claiming to change patients from homosexuality to heterosexuality -- were embellished and fabricated. During this panel discussion, moderator Laurie Garrett questions Maier and panelist Dr. Robert C. Kolodny, former associate director of the Masters and Johnson Institute, about concerns these "gay conversion" were made up, and about the consequences of this theory. They are joined on the panel by writer Gay Talese (his comments that evening can be seen on other video related to this one.)

Boston Globe Reviews "Masters of Sex"

Carnal knowledge
Birds do it, bees do it, but it took Masters and Johnson to explain how we do it
By Michael Washburn | May 3, 2009
MASTERS OF SEX: The Life and Times
of William Masters and Virginia Johnson,
the Couple Who Taught America How to Love
By Thomas Maier
Basic, 411 pp., illustrated, $27.50

You know you want it - we all do, even though most have remained in the dark about what it actually is. Desire does make its demands, yet for all the staggering influence sexuality exerts on human history, we've more or less remained condemned to a misinformed sexual adolescence. As case in point: For years, original "sexologist" Elizabeth Osgood Willard's proclamation that an orgasm was more debilitating than an entire day's labor in the fields was considered scientifically valid.
Knowledge, thankfully, advances, though often in suspect ways. Over the past 100 years or so, the study of human sexuality examined the extravagantly theoretical (Richard von Krafft-Ebing's …

Great Sex Experiment of Masters and Johnson -- Book Launch of "Masters of Sex" by Thomas Maier

For a decade, Masters and Johnson oversaw the biggest sex experiment in U.S. history -- the clinical observation of nearly 700 people who engaged in sex while observed in a lab at Washington University in St. Louis. At the book launch for "Masters of Sex", the new and only biography of Masters and Johnson, author Thomas Maier discusses this great experiment with panelists Laurie Garrett, Gay Talese and Dr. Robert Kolodny. Along with a few laughs, the discussion turns to the scientific significance of Masters and Johnson's work, their private affair before they married, and how some 700 men and women were convinced to become volunteers in this great sex experiment at one of America's top university medical schools.

Virginia as "Star of the Show?" Interview with St. Louis Post-Dispatch: At Left Bank Books This Thurs, May 7

Masters and Johnson mixed business and pleasure
By Jane Henderson
Sunday, May. 03 2009
Famous sex researchers Masters and Johnson married, but love probably wasn't
the reason.
The St. Louis couple's shared bedroom was a bit like their offices — a work
compact, a new biography says.
William H. Masters' proposal to Virginia E. Johnson seemed "constructed on
business commitments," Thomas Maier writes in "Masters of Sex" (Basic Books,
411 pages, $27.50).
But even as Bill and Gini, as Maier calls them, debunked sexual myths with
their scientific studies, they learned that the very thing that eluded them
often did play an important role in a happy sex life. In short, love mattered.
Maier, an investigative reporter for Newsday who talked by phone from Long
Island, will be here Thursday to discuss his book.
Masters and Johnson's research was reported far and wide for decades after they
published their first book, "Human Sexual Respo…