‘Masters of Sex’ and Why Americans Still Don’t Know How to Do It

Lisa Waugh

It’s no surprise that America’s reaction to Master’s and Johnson’s studies on sex blew a lot of olives out of martinees back in the 50s. Americans are still just as prudish and repressed about sex, tittering over a celeb’s side boob or the word “tittering.” They’re probably sitting at home right now clutching their pearls as they watch the latest episode of Showtime’s Masters of Sex.

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan make an easier to digest version of the real Masters and Johnson

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan make an easier to digest version of the real Masters and Johnson

People basically lost their damn minds when Miley Cyrus and Rihanna showed off their tits. To me. This is just dumb. But this is also a country that still doesn’t have solid sex education programs.

We tune in in droves to HBO and Showtime to watch actors “screw” and a poorly written book about S&M sells 95 copies in a blink. We’re far from being the fuck masters of Sweden. We’re not even as bold as the British and those people will be in the tweed closet until the Union Jack fades.

Did Human Sexual Response and Human Sexual Inadequacy change the way people fucked? Or how they saw their bodies? And all in a healthy way? And how about the way homosexuality was treated?

I would reckon not.

Because we still consider the act of fornicating so taboo that porn rules the world, gay sex evokes violent protest in some and people still blush when they see an areola under a baby’s mouth.

A Little Side Boob…I Mean Side Note

There is a depressing undercurrent running through the plot line of Masters of Sex. Virginia Johnson seemed to have been trapped. By St. Louis, the 50s, this weird dude – seriously with the scene where she holds his hand and he makes her look away while he cries like a porpoise – and his sex study, her own thinking of having a husband was more comforting than being an independent person.

Probably my own juvenile thinking but looking at masters, I'm like Ewww.

Probably my own juvenile thinking but looking at Masters, I’m like Ewww.

What? That’s not in the series? I’m referring to the real life Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson. Apparently, he was even more of an asshole in real life.

Johnson tells a writer in 1994 that she felt that if she hadn’t of participated in the study, she probably would have been passed over. Considering she was a nightclub singer, sexually free and a mother of two, I find this interesting.

She had a personality that craved the limelight. And she got it in spades, albeit hostile at the outset. The study was a scandal in St. Louis before it was hailed as important and groundbreaking around the world.

Johnson married Bill Masters 15 years after the initial study was released and he divorced her after 21 years of marriage. Masters married a woman he met some 50 odd years prior, someone he felt that he had a missed connection with, once again proving that his needs and desires were always first.

At least this is my interpretation.

Still, Masters of Sex is an excellent series with Michael Sheen’s Bill Masters and Lizzy Caplan’s Virginia Johnson as believable sexual pioneers, no matter how lopsided.