Monday, September 30, 2013

Masters of Sex

I've just watched an, ahem, 'exciting' new pilot. Called 'Masters of Sex', it chronicles the research of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who studied human sexuality at a time when buttoned up, puritanical attitudes were the norm. And guess what? Americans can watch the first episode for free here.



I've always found research into sex quite interesting, purely from a standpoint of how it can even be conducted. A great book on this topic is "Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex" by Mary Roach, who even manages to convince her husband to go under the microscope with her, so to speak. I'm not certain that the recruitment of subjects would have been as easy as this first episode made it out to be, but hopefully down the track they will deal with some of the complications that could arise from being in such a situation.

Less well known than Kinsey, Masters and Johnson conducted a more scientific investigation of sex, with studies of physiological reactions rather than interviews. One of their chief discoveries was the four stages of sexual response: excitement (hence my lame pun), plateu, orgasm and resolution. While they had a reasonably sex-positive view, espousing sex as a healthy source of intimacy with pleasurable benefits for both parties, there are certainly aspects of their later work that I find distasteful. In particular, Masters later ran a homosexual conversion therapy program, and I wonder how this series plans to address that topic.

 







 


I'd really recommend anybody who isn't that sqeamish to give this series a shot. Yes it has pretty clothes and some GORGE ranch houses, but more importantly it gives a little insight into a rarely discussed side of 1950s life. It's hard to resolve our view of the uptight 50s housewife with their private indentities as sexual beings, and this show is so far doing a really interesting job of exploring what that conflict must have been like for women. Additionally, it's a prudent reminder of how far we have come to obtain these sexual liberties, and how close we come to losing them every day *coughs* Texas *coughs*

If you watch the pilot, let me know what you think!