Masters and Johnson


While I was in Idaho with my family and mentioned to my parents how I was interested in Sexuality, my mother thought of Masters and Johnson. I thought I should see what they are all about and from reading about them, I am impressed as well as disappointed. Masters and Johnson did extraordinary work in the sexology field and paved the way for further research, but in the end, they too were effected by their human condition, to be culturally and socially influenced and integrate it into their research. Sex will never be just sex, which Masters and Johnson show us.

Below is the information I have found about Masters and Johnson along with some of the articles online that I could gain access to.

Who are they?

“The Masters and Johnson research team, made up of William 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.

Their work 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 their 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.

They have been inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.” (

The Research

“Master 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 1969. They divorced three decades later, largely bringing their joint research to an end.) 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 one notable exception.

Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues at Indiana University had previously published two volumes on sexual behavior in the human male and female in 1948 and 1953, respectively (known as the Kinsey Reports), 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 behaviour, through observing and measuring masturbation and sexual intercourse in the laboratory.

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’.”(p. 11)[1]” (

Four Stage Model of the Sexual Response

“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. They defined the four stages of this cycle as:

This model shows no difference between Freud‘s purported “vaginal orgasm” and “clitoral orgasm”: the physiologic 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 do research on this topic. To see more, go to this site:

Lab Comparison of Homosexual Male vs. 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)” (

Sexual Dysfunction

Apparently, they found a cure for impotency? Or rather, were one of the first researchers to come to a conclusion about it. To read on, go to this site:

Cure of Homosexual Behavior

“From 1968 to 1977, the Masters and Johnson Institute ran a program to convert or revert homosexuals to heterosexuality. This program reported a 71.6% success rate over a six-year treatment period[3][4]. At the time of their earlier work, homosexuality was considered a psychological disorder by the American Psychiatric Association[5].”

Their Publications

  • Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E. (1966). Human Sexual Response. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-20429-7.
  • Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E. (1970). Human Sexual Inadequacy. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-20699-0.
  • Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E. (1974). The Pleasure Bond. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-20915-9.
  • Masters, W.H.; Johnson, V.E. (1979). Homosexuality in Perspective. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-20809-8.


“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 criticised Masters and Johnson’s work for uncritically incorporating cultural attitudes on sexual behaviour into their research.

For example, Hite’s work showed that 70% of women who do not have orgasms through intercourse are able to achieve orgasm easily by masturbation. She has criticised 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 been a crucial step in sex research, she believes that people must understand the cultural and personal construction of sexual experience to make the research relevant to sexual behaviour outside the laboratory.”


This link provides an overview about what Masters and Johnson accomplished as well as some of the controversy surrounding their work:

This site provides a biography of both Masters and Johnson (though I think more is extensively covered on Masters) and some of the information that I will provide here:


Masters and Johnson were pioneers and someday I wish to follow them in a sense, to pave another path for new thought about Sexuality. I hope in my research towards discovering more about sexuality that I am not effected by my time, but maybe it is inescapable. If it is inescapable, I hope to achieve the impossible, to discover truths about Sexuality and to further freedom to choose who you love and what you do in the bedroom. Masters and Johnson were one of the first steps, hopefully I will make a few steps.


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