Sunday, May 31, 2009
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 Freud’s theories about women and sex, and replaced Freudian psychoanalysis with a far more practical and effective sex therapy that was adopted around the world and created the modern sex therapy field.”
Even in my forties I’ve heard people voice opinions that made it sound as if they felt a woman with a good sexual appetite was in some way wrong or slutty. I’ve never held with that idea.
I make jokes about my past, jokes I’m not sharing here, but the point is that sex is a celebration of life, in my opinion.
Sex between two consenting adults, with nobody getting hurt, where’s the bad in that?
This sounds like a very interesting book. If I get a chance to read it, I’ll review it here.
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 out of what was usually assumed part of the oldest illicit profession obviously took very unusual people.
Masters once confessed “I’m sort of a bastard. I’m no good with people. Never have been and never will be. By choice and by design, I’m not a people person” which provided exactly the sort of clinicality that people could trust when he and his partner Virginia Johnson started telling the world about the subject that is responsible, at the very least, for all of us being here.
Writing a readable but serious biography of Masters and Johnson was no easy task. The natural impulse is to drain such passionate clinicality of personality and leave a hollow crusade in its place. Maier’s book resists it constantly. It’s about heroes and flaws and a couple of people whose lives underlay a good half of what we know for sure about what we all think we know so much.