Virginia Eshelman Johnson (1925-2013) was thrice divorced and the mother of two children when she was hired by gynecologist Dr. William Masters (1915-2001) in 1957.
Johnson was hired as Masters research assistant to study human sexuality through the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis. Their basis of study? They wanted to watch real people having sex and measure their physical responses and reactions.
Although their predecessor, Alfred Kinsey, had studied human sexuality at Indiana University from 1948-1953, his research was done through interviews. This was not how Masters and Johnson wanted to proceed and so they were to become the first researchers to observe couples, and/or individuals, engaging in sexual intercourse and/or masturbation in a college laboratory. Prostitutes were initially used but later white, better educated, couples, including nurses and students, were enlisted to participate.
Masters and Johnson moved their activities off campus in 1964, establishing their own non-profit center in
St. Louis, called the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation. In addition to their best-selling books, Human Sexual Response (1966) and Human Sexual Inadequacy (1970), their two biggest discoveries were that women could have multiple orgasms and the discovery of the origin of vaginal lubrication. Most married couples could have attested to the first and who cared about the second? Despite this, the public response to their “sex” books was explosive. No one had ever discussed sex in public before because it was considered a highly private and personal matter between a married Christian couple. After their books were released, that all changed.
Considering the enormous brouhaha their “text” books caused in the 1960s and 1970s, you’d think they discovered a cure for cancer. Upon review, their activities, which have always been controversial, even among other sex experts, had very little to do with research and everything to do with sex. These two people clinically removed the love and private intimacy from the marital bed and instead substituted rote sex to be discussed in public like yesterday’s mail. This left many people, not only shocked at the public discussion of private matters but, where once they had been happy with their sex lives, they were suddenly questioning their “adequacy”, by comparison. Masters and Johnson’s “research” provided WAY too much information for most people to digest.
And when you consider the fact that Dr. Johnson stated that he and Ms. Johnson witnessed 382 women and 312 men engaging in sex and, observed at least, “10,000 cycles of sexual response”, I would say that they had WAY too much information too. Considering their two minor “discoveries”, that’s a lot of “research”.
Although they had been lovers from early on in their relationship, Dr. Masters didn’t divorce his wife, in order to marry Ms. Johnson until in 1971. They remained married for 20 years until Johnson divorced Masters, at the onset of his battle with Parkinson’s disease, citing her inability to “reconcile his relentless workaholism with her more sociable temperament.” Nice woman? NO. Ironically, he married again. And as for the social butterfly? She never did.
Masters closed his center in 1994 and died in 2001. Johnson opened the Virginia Johnson Masters Learning Center in the late 1990s to provide audio-cassettes and literature for the sexually inadequate.
Thanks to these two people, sex has lost all of its human dignity, devolving into just another body function. What a terrible loss for everyone.