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9 Ways Sex Changed Forever Because Of The Real "Masters Of Sex" Researchers

Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson's life work definitely affects your current sex life.

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Masters of Sex is a show about two researchers in the 1950s–60s who studied human sexual behavior by watching people have sex in real life.

The show is based on the book of the same name by Thomas Maier, who documented the true story of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson.

Masters of Sex by Thomas Maier
Masters of Sex by Thomas Maier

Masters was an OB-GYN at Washington University in St. Louis when he met Virginia Johnson, a single mother of two children who took on a role as his research assistant, eventually becoming his partner both professionally and intimately.

Masters and Johnson's relationship was complex and lasted decades, resulting in the publication of several books that revolutionized the way we think of sex.

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While their research on homosexuality proved to be harmful, their work on heterosexual relationships helped improve the sex lives of countless people.

Here are some of the ways they influenced sex today, according to the book Masters of Sex:

1. We gained an understanding of the cycle of sex, which, as stated by Masters and Johnson, had four stages.

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It was shown that "when stimulated sexually, both men and women pass through an excitement phase, a plateau phase, an orgasmic phase, and a resolution or refractory phase. These four phases could vary widely in duration and intensity between individuals."

2. We owe pretty much everything we know about women's orgasms to their research.

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Masters and Johnson learned that many women, "especially when clitorially stimulated, can regularly have five or six full orgasms in a matter of minutes." They also discovered that "along with the possibility of multiple but separate orgasms, some women were capable, in rare circumstances, of 'status orgasmus' — an extended peak of orgasm lasting from 20 to more than 60 seconds without returning to a plateau."

3. They also proved that penis size doesn't matter.

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"Masters and Johnson discovered among aroused women that the anterior vaginal wall moved backward and upward, creating a 'tenting' effect, along with a near doubling of the uterus, to accommodate the penis."

4. The myth that your sex life withers away as you age was completely debunked.

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Bill and Virginia found that "while a male over 50 years old might wait minutes rather than seconds for an erection, he might become a better lover because of greater ejaculatory control. And while research showed a woman might experience less elasticity in her vagina, briefer orgasms, and a shrinking of the clitoris, she too could carry on with her partner well into her 80s."

5. So was the idea that pregnant women can't have safe sex.

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"Pregnant women could have sex without fear of hurting the fetus, their study showed, and in some cases increase the potential orgasm, especially during the second trimester."

6. They focused on curing sexual dysfunction, ultimately helping save marriages and relationships.

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"Much of [their] 467-page book [Human Sexual Inadequacy] described different forms of impotency and sexual dysfunctions, and the specific therapies derived to treat each problem...using Masters and Johnson’s sensory methods, [couples] could enjoy intimacy so long as they were reasonably healthy and had 'an interested

and interesting partner.'"

7. And without their work, medicine that will help improve your sex life wouldn't exist.

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"The medicalization of sex, introduced by Masters and Johnson with their anatomical discoveries and clinical descriptions, soon entered a new realm of drug-induced orgasms fostered by America’s pharmaceutical industry. Big Pharma, previously on the fringes of psychosexual research, reaped a fortune from Viagra and other highly marketed methods for solving erectile dysfunction."

8. They also started an entire trend of sex therapy clinics that allowed people to speak candidly about their sex issues for the first time.

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"'There are different roads to the mountaintop, but most start from the base camp established by Masters and Johnson who, in these telescoped times, have already become to sex therapy what Freud is to psychotherapy,' Science magazine proclaimed."

9. But mostly, they proved that Freud was not only wrong, but quite misogynistic in his beliefs.

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Freud had likened the clitoris to a woman's pre-adolescent substitute for a penis, and spread the belief that a woman's maturity was dependent on her preferring vaginal orgasms to clitoral ones, labeling women who climaxed from clitoral stimulation as "frigid" and "butch."

Masters and Johnson later stated that this line of thinking was "a potpourri of behavioral concept unsupported by biologic fact” and that “decades of ‘phallic fantasies’ have done more to deter than to stimulate research."

To read more about the complicated lives of Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson, and how their research impacted sex today, you can purchase Thomas Maier's book here.

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