Before Viagra, Madonna and Sex and the City, Americans learned about sex and love from medical pioneers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Secretively in a small Midwest hospital lab, they presided over the biggest, most controversial sex experiment ever, relying on prostitutes and college volunteers to perform more than 10,000 sexual acts in the name of science.
They documented how the human body responds during sex, and then came up with a successful therapy that replaced Freuds psychoanalysis in curing problems. For more than forty years, these two researchers, who eventually married, reigned as the nations top experts on sex, explaining the secrets of orgasm, emotional fulfillment, and sexual dysfunction. For reasons never told before, they divorced after twenty years amid a clash of success, betrayal, and jealousies.
More than any American couple in the 20th Century, Masters and Johnson revolutionized our understanding of sex. They treated thousands of patients — from politicians and Hollywood stars with marital problems, to gay men and women seeking conversion to heterosexuality. After centuries of religious cant and psychological conjecture dominated by men, their scientific findings underlined the power of female sexuality, forever shattering the portrayal of women as the weaker sex.
They challenged a Puritanical America with its don’t ask, don’t tell philosophy, and paved the way for today’s medicalization of sex with Viagra and other pharmaceutical enhancements. They created a new field of medicine by realizing the desperate need for effective treatments for impotency, frigidity, premature ejaculation and other dysfunctions—a phrase they coined. Masters of Sex underlines their courageous contributions and, through their personal story, explores the modern definition of love and the place that sexuality has in our daily lives.