You are on page 1of 5

Masters and Johnson

Masters and Johnson
The Masters and Johnson research team, composed of William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, pioneered
research into the nature of human sexual response and the diagnosis and treatment of sexual disorders and
dysfunctions from 1957 until the 1990s.
The work of Masters and Johnson began in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University
in St. Louis and was continued at the independent not-for-profit research institution they founded in St. Louis in
1964, originally called the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation and renamed the Masters & Johnson Institute
in 1978.
In the initial phase of Masters and Johnson's studies, from 1957 until 1965, they recorded some of the first laboratory
data on the anatomy and physiology of human sexual response based on direct observation of 382 women and 312
men in what they conservatively estimated to be "10,000 complete cycles of sexual response." Their findings,
particularly on the nature of female sexual arousal (for example, describing the mechanisms of vaginal lubrication
and debunking the earlier widely held notion that vaginal lubrication originated from the cervix) and orgasm
(showing that the physiology of orgasmic response was identical whether stimulation was clitoral or vaginal, and
proving that some women were capable of being multiorgasmic), dispelled many long-standing misconceptions.
They jointly wrote two classic texts in the field, Human Sexual Response and Human Sexual Inadequacy, published
in 1966 and 1970, respectively. Both of these books were best-sellers and were translated into more than thirty
languages. The team have been inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Additionally, they are the focus of a
television project called Masters of Sex for Showtime based on the 2009 biography by author Thomas Maier.
Research work
Masters and Johnson met in 1957 when William Masters hired Virginia Johnson as a research assistant to undertake
a comprehensive study of human sexuality. (Masters divorced his first wife to marry Johnson in 1971.
divorced in 1992.) Previously, the study of human sexuality (sexology) had been a largely neglected area of study
due to the restrictive social conventions of the time, with prostitution as a notable exception.
Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues at Indiana University had previously published two volumes on sexual behavior in
the human male and female (known as the Kinsey Reports), in 1948 and 1953, respectively, both of which had been
revolutionary and controversial in their time. Kinsey's work however, had mainly investigated the frequency with
which certain behaviors occurred in the population and was based on personal interviews, not on laboratory
observation. In contrast, Masters and Johnson set about to study the structure, psychology, and physiology of sexual
behavior, through observing and measuring masturbation and sexual intercourse in the laboratory.
Initially, participants used in their experiments were prostitutes. Masters and Johnson explained that they were a
socially isolated group of people, they were knowledgeable about sex, and that they were willing to cooperate with
the study. Of the 145 prostitutes that participated, only a select few were further evaluated for their genital anatomy
and their physiological responses. In later studies, however, Masters and Johnson recruited 382 women and 312 men
from the community. The vast majority of participants were white, they had higher education levels, and most
participants were married couples.
As well as recording some of the first physiological data from the human body and sex organs during sexual
excitation, they also framed their findings and conclusions in language that espoused sex as a healthy and natural
activity that could be enjoyed as a source of pleasure and intimacy.
The era in which their research was conducted permitted the use of methods that have not been attempted before or
since: "[M]en and women were designated as 'assigned partners' and arbitrarily paired with each other to create
'assigned couples'."
Masters and Johnson
Four stage model of the sexual response
Main article: Human sexual response cycle
One of the most enduring and important aspects of their work has been the four stage model of sexual response,
which they described as the human sexual response cycle and defined as:
Excitement phase (initial arousal)
Plateau phase (at full arousal, but not yet at orgasm)
Resolution phase (after orgasm)
Their model shows no difference between Sigmund Freud's purported categories of "vaginal orgasm" and "clitoral
orgasm": the physiological response was identical, even if the stimulation was in a different place.
Masters and Johnson's findings also revealed that men undergo a refractory period following orgasm during which
they are not able to ejaculate again, whereas there is no refractory period in women: this makes women capable of
multiple orgasm. They also were the first to describe the phenomenon of the rhythmic contractions of orgasm in both
sexes occurring initially in 0.8 second intervals and then gradually slowing in both speed and intensity.
Sexual response in the aging person
Masters and Johnson were the first to conduct research on the sexual responsiveness of older adults, finding that
given a state of reasonably good health and the availability of an interested and interesting partner, there was no
absolute age at which sexual abilities disappeared. While they noted that there were specific changes to the patterns
of male and female sexual responses with aging for example, it takes older men longer to become aroused and they
typically require more direct genital stimulation, and the speed and amount of vaginal lubrication tends to diminish
with age as well they noted that many older men and women are perfectly capable of excitement and orgasm well
into their seventies and beyond, a finding that has been confirmed in population-based epidemiological research on
sexual function in the elderly.
Laboratory comparison of homosexual male versus homosexual female sex
Masters and Johnson randomly assigned gay men into couples and lesbians into couples and then observed them
having sex in the laboratory, at the Masters and Johnson Institute. They provided their observations in
Homosexuality in Perspective:
Assigned male homosexual study subjects A, B, and C..., interacting in the laboratory with previously
unknown male partners, did discuss procedural matters with these partners, but quite briefly. Usually, the
discussion consisted of just a question or a suggestion, but often it was limited to nonverbal communicative
expressions such as eye contact or hand movement, any of which usually proved sufficient to establish the
protocol of partner interaction. No coaching or suggestions were made by the research team.
p. 55
According to Masters and Johnson, this pattern differed in the lesbian couples:
While initial stimulative activity tended to be on a mutual basis, in short order control of the specific sexual
experience usually was assumed by one partner. The assumption of control was established without verbal
communication and frequently with no obvious nonverbal direction, although on one occasion discussion as to
procedural strategy continued even as the couple was interacting physically.
p. 55
Masters and Johnson
Sexual dysfunction
Their research into the anatomy and physiology of sexual response was a springboard to developing a clinical
approach to the treatment of sexual problems in a revolutionary manner. Prior to 1970, when they described their
treatment program to the world for the first time, sexual dysfunctions such as premature ejaculation, impotence,
vaginismus, and female frigidity had been generally treated by long-term (multi-year) psychotherapy or
psychoanalysis with very low rates of success. Masters and Johnson revolutionized things by devising a form of
rapid treatment (2 week) psychotherapy always involving a couple, rather than just an individual, working with a
male-female therapist team that resulted in a success rate of more than 80%. This was strictly a talking therapy
couples in their sex therapy program were never observed in sexual activity.
Treatment of homosexual behavior
See also: Conversion therapy
From 1968 to 1977, the Masters and Johnson Institute ran a program to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality. This
program reported a 71.6% success rate over a six-year treatment period. At the time of their earlier work,
homosexuality was classified as a psychological disorder by the American Psychiatric Association,
a classification
which was repealed in 1973.
In April 2009, Thomas Maier reported, in his biography Masters of Sex (Basic Books) and in Scientific American,
"that Virginia Johnson had serious reservations about the program, and she suspected that, at worst, the results of the
study may have been fabricated by William Masters".
Some sex researchers, Shere Hite in particular, have focused on understanding how individuals regard sexual
experience and the meaning it holds for them. Hite has criticized Masters and Johnson's work for uncritically
incorporating cultural attitudes on sexual behavior into their research; for example, her work concluded that the 70%
of women who do not have orgasms through intercourse are able to achieve orgasm easily by masturbation.
She, as
well as Elisabeth Lloyd, have criticized Masters and Johnson's argument that enough clitoral stimulation to achieve
orgasm should be provided by thrusting during intercourse, and the inference that the failure of this is a sign of
female "sexual dysfunction". While not denying that both Kinsey, and Masters and Johnson have made major
contributions to sex research, she believes that people must understand the cultural and personal construction of
sexual experience to make the research relevant to sexual behavior outside the laboratory. Hite's work, however, has
been challenged for methodological defects.
Moreover, Masters and Johnson's research methodology has been criticized. First, Paul Robinson argues that because
many of their participants were prostitutes, it is highly likely that these individuals have had more sexual experience
and are also more comfortable with sex and sexuality in general.
He says that one must approach these results with
caution, because the participants do not represent the general population. Other researchers have argued that Masters
and Johnson eliminated same-sex attracted participants when studying the human sexual response cycle, which also
limits the generalizability of their results.
Furthermore, Masters and Johnson have been criticized for studying
sexual behaviors in the laboratory. While they attempted to make participants as comfortable as possible in the lab
by giving them a "practice session" before their behavior was recorded, critics have argued that two people engaging
in sexual activity in a lab is a different experience compared to being in the privacy of one's home.
Masters and Johnson
Dramatic production
The American cable network Showtime debuted Masters of Sex, a dramatic television series based on the 2009
biography of the same name, on September 29, 2013. The series stars Michael Sheen as Masters and Lizzy Caplan as
Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E. (1966). Human Sexual Response. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books.
ISBN0-553-20429-7. 1981 edition ISBN 978-0553204292.
Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E. (1970). Human Sexual Inadequacy. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books.
Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E. (1974). The Pleasure Bond. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books.
Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E. (1979). Homosexuality in Perspective. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books.
Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E.; Kolodny, R.C (1988). Masters and Johnson on Sex and Human Loving. Little,
Brown and Company. ISBN978-0316501606.
Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E.; Kolodny, R.C (1994). Heterosexuality. New York; London: HarperCollins.
[1] Nemy, Enid. "AN AFTERNOON WITH: Masters and Johnson; Divorced, Yes, But Not Split" (http:/ / query. nytimes. com/ gst/ fullpage.
html?res=9E04EFDF103CF937A15750C0A962958260& sec=& spon=& pagewanted=1), The New York Times, 1994-03-24. Retrieved on
[2] Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1979). Homosexuality in perspective. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, p. 11.
[3] See Homosexuality and psychology#Declassification
[4] Shere Hite: "I was making the point that clitoral stimulation wasn't happening during coitus. That's why women 'have difficulty having
orgasms' - they don't have difficulty when they stimulate themselves.
Tracey Cox: "It's disappointing that one of Hite's main messages - that 70 per cent of women don't have orgasms through penetration - is not
completely accepted today. Plenty of women don't feel comfortable admitting it, even to themselves, for fear their partners will love them less.
But women are far more experimental now."
[5] Selected Articles by David Streitfeld (http:/ / davidstreitfeld. com/ archive/ controversies/ hite01. html)
[6] Robinson, P. (1976). The Modernization of Sex: Havelock Ellis, Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson. New York: Harper &
Row, Publishers, Inc.
[7] Hyde, J. S., DeLamater, J. D., & Byers, E. S. (2012). Understanding Human Sexuality, 5th ed. McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
[8] Masters, W. H. & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human Sexual Response. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books.
External links
St. Louis Walk of Fame (http:/ / www. stlouiswalkoffame. org/ inductees/ masters-johnson. html)
Article Sources and Contributors
Article Sources and Contributors
Masters and Johnson Source: Contributors: 3finger, AThing, Aeoris, Alan Liefting, Analogdrift, Andrewa, Angela, Bearcat, Benjiboi,
Blackworm, BlaiseFEgan, Born Gay, Brian Huffman, CRKingston, Causa sui, Charmed94, Cjacob44, Cody5, Colonies Chris, Cornellrockey, D6, Discordanian, DocWatson42, Docu, Donreed,
Droll, Emiao, Evolauxia, Ewawer, FT2, Flyer22, Fredlnoakes, Freunlaven47, Fuddle, GD 6041, Galatians5one, Gamaliel, Gnfnrf, Graham87, GregorB, HalJor, Hmains, Idanoyes, Inbetweener,
Inhumandecency, Iridescent, JFlav, Jahsonic, Jameson.thomas52, JasonAQuest, Jerry Pepsi, Johnpacklambert, Karada, Kchishol1970, Kinotgell, Kittybrewster, KuldeepSinghRishi, Kveldulfur,
Leetodo, Lexein, Lionelt, MarionTheLibrarian, Megancohen715, Miharakamikazi, Miller17CU94, Minnsurfur2, Mmustafa, Mygerardromance, MythosMagic, Neddyseagoon, O^O, Ocaasi,
Philip Trueman, Quadell, RS1900, Raph, Rhashmo2, Rich Farmbrough, Ropcat, SD5, Shaggorama, Squirtdoctor, SupermanReturns, TMS63112, Tarek, The Anome, The Deviant, Theopolisme,
ThomasMaierBooks, Tyrth, Vaughan, Waacstats, Wik, Will Beback, 106 anonymous edits
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0