DR. ALBERT KINSEY made sex an object of scientific inquiry. Dr.
William H. Masters took sex into the laboratory and watched.
In 1948, Kinsey wrote "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male." In
1966, Masters and his assistant, Virginia E. Johnson, published
"Human Sexual Response" from the research and therapy at their
Masters & Johnson Institute, just east of Barnes Hospital in St.
Those books helped immensely to widen public discussion of
human sexuality. Masters wishes that proper understanding and
common sense would have kept pace, but he believes the efforts were
for the good.
"At least we can talk about sex now," said Masters. "I think we
did our work reasonably well."
Kinsey died in 1956. Last week, Masters, 78, announced his
retirement. After 50 years of medicine, 40 years of sex research
and therapy, 16 books or revisions, and more patients than he ever
tried to count, Masters said he'd seen enough. He was tired.
On Thursday, he closed his institute, which had operated for
the last two years in the Campbell Plaza at 5900 Arsenal Street. He
had been reducing the institute's activities for about a year.
(The Masters & Johnson Intensive Day Hospital, down the hall
but operated by a company that bought the name six years ago, will
continue providing therapy here and in Kansas City and New Orleans.)
"There's a whole field out here now that didn't exist until
their book came out," Lonnie Barbach, an author and therapist in
suburban San Francisco, said of Masters and Johnson. "They looked
at sex as a part of life, and they did it in a very professional
By that, she referred to the ponderous medical prose of "Human
Sexual Response." The book and its 1970 sequel, "Human Sexual
Inadequacy," were best sellers in spite of the difficult scientific
writing. They didn't produce a work in standard English until 1975,
when they published "The Pleasure Bond."
Barbach said her profession is glad Masters and Johnson did it
"They were conservative in their demeanor and presentation,"
Barbach said last week. "They could go into the lab, watch people's
sexuality and report on it in a professional manner. . . . i
"Masters and Johnson gave credibility to something that,
presented any other way, just would have caused snickers."
Even one of their biggest critics, psychologist Bernie
Zilbergeld of Oakland, Calif., called Masters and Johnson "pioneers
who created the field of sex therapy. They helped make it all
possible. Overall, it's been a good thing.
"But as far as their scientific research, I think it's largely
in disrepute," Zilbergeld said Friday. "It was accepted
uncritically, but the quality wasn't very good."
In 1980, the magazine Psychology Today published an article by
Zilbergeld and the late Michael Evans that was critical of Masters
and Johnson's claims of clinical success and supporting research.
Other serious criticism of their work was to come.
But they still have many defenders. Judith Seifer of Lewisburg,
W.Va., president of the American Association of Sex Educators,
Counselors and Therapists, called their work "still the best we've
got." And Stephanie Sanders, interim director of the Kinsey
Institute at Indiana University, said "Masters and Johnson are
household words. That doesn't happen very often in science."
Does Masters consider himself a pioneer? "No," he said Friday,
"I feel like an old man who was in the right place at the right
The Making Of 2 Therapists
Masters got into the business of sex therapy the serious way.
After graduating from Hamilton College in Clinton, N. …