Pioneering Sex Research Collaborator, Johnson, Dies at 88

By Woo, Elaine | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), July 27, 2013 | Go to article overview

Pioneering Sex Research Collaborator, Johnson, Dies at 88


Woo, Elaine, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


In the 1950s, couples who wanted better sex lives had few places to turn for help. They could confide in a priest or rabbi and pray for enlightenment or see a psychiatrist and pay for it, only to learn, after months or years, that their mothers were probably to blame.

Then, in 1957, a balding, middle-aged gynecologist named William Masters teamed up with a divorced mother of two named Virginia Johnson in a research collaboration that would permanently illuminate the taboo subject.

Johnson, Masters' collaborator, lover and later wife, who played a leading role in their crusade to turn sex into a science and legitimate field of therapy, died in St. Louis on Wednesday of natural causes, said her son, Scott Johnson. She was 88.

She and Masters co-wrote two landmark books: "Human Sexual Response" (1964), which described with clinical precision the physiological responses to sexual stimulation; and "Human Sexual Inadequacy" (1968), which prescribed specific remedies for such problems as premature ejaculation, impotence and the inability to achieve orgasm.

The latter book, which made the cover of Time magazine, "was a product of Virginia's particular insight," said Thomas Maier, who wrote the biography "Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson," published in 2009. "She was the genius who put together their stew of a therapy that was incredibly effective."

At the Masters and Johnson Institute, which they founded in St. Louis in 1978, the researchers observed and treated thousands of couples, producing findings that empowered women in particular to seek sexual satisfaction with their partners.

Working with an initial group of 694 volunteers, they used tiny cameras and other equipment to collect data on heart rate, brain activity and metabolism during every phase of sex, from arousal to climax.

Their findings shattered many long-held beliefs. Contradicting Sigmund Freud, for example, they found no difference between a vaginal and clitoral orgasm.

They reported astonishing long-term cure rates. Of the more than 2,300 cases treated between 1959 and 1985, 84 percent of the men and nearly 78 percent of the women had lasting results after undergoing a two-week treatment program. The regimen included intensive work with a team of two therapists - one male, the other female - who sent the couples back to their hotel rooms every day to perform "homework."

Despite the cumbersome language in their books - "reacting units," for instance, meant women having an orgasm, while "tension increment" referred to mounting sexual desire - Johnson said the Masters and Johnson approach was fairly simple.

"We're not trying to make perfect lovers," Johnson told The Washington Post in 1978. "We tell them to take what they feel at the time and translate it into a physical 'shared' moment. The turn-on is knowing he 'really' wants to touch you, and vice versa. Even the most double-standard male and the equivalent of that in a female learns eventually if you don't give, you don't get enough back."

Their approach was used around the world but drew many critics. Some questioned the data and methodology that produced their high success rates, while others found fault with what they saw as an over-emphasis on the mechanics of sex.

Most of their books were provocative, including "Homosexuality in Perspective" (1979), a clinical study of homosexual couples that included the authors' claim that they had turned some gays into heterosexuals, and "Crisis: Heterosexual Behavior in the Age of AIDS" (1988), co-written with Robert C. Kolodny, which was ridiculed for its errors, including the assertion that the AIDS virus could be spread by contact with toilet seats and mosquito bites. But "Masters and Johnson on Sex and Human Loving" (1986) was praised for its clarity and comprehensiveness. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Pioneering Sex Research Collaborator, Johnson, Dies at 88
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.