Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Home Emotional aspects of sexuality Bill Masters & Virginia Johnson’s research (1966)

Bill Masters & Virginia Johnson’s research (1966)

Virginia Johnson was Bill Masters’ assistant. So she was not his equal in a professional sense. Later they married. Given she was involved in a sexual relationship with him, she was not an objective researcher with the authority to challenge his male view of female sexuality. Neither would she be the first woman to mistake emotional sensations for orgasm.

Masters and Johnson accepted Kinsey’s conclusion that the clitoris is the female sex organ and source of female orgasm. They simply assumed that the clitoris is stimulated during intercourse. They suggested that the area of skin around the clitoris is stretched or pulled as the penis thrusts into the vagina, thus providing enough clitoral stimulation for orgasm. It was this assumption that Shere Hite challenged later on with her statistical work. She suggested that this theory did not work for the majority of women.

Masters & Johnson are famous sex researchers but no one reads their book today. Unlike Kinsey and Hite, Masters and Johnson’s work produced no detailed research findings. Anyone who reads their book will find it difficult to identify any scientific conclusions drawn from their work. Their findings were vague and their work has little impact on modern sexology.

Unlike Alfred Kinsey, William Masters and Virginia Johnson did not take a statistical approach or interview people about their sexual habits. Their research involved observing couples having intercourse under laboratory conditions. This laboratory-based approach was much more popular than the interview approach that Kinsey took and has remained the predominant model. Women are simply assumed to have orgasms from intercourse.

This approach involves selecting women who claim to orgasm from intercourse. Such a selection process cannot produce a representative sample. These findings were published as an example of what women are supposed to be capable of. The thinking was: if we can demonstrate that one woman believes she has an orgasm from intercourse then we can convince every woman that she should be capable of orgasm with a lover.

Sex research is not considered a priority in our society. Women themselves have little interest in sexual matters. Women’s willingness to cooperate with men’s desire for intercourse has always been core to men’s motivation to research sexuality. For political reasons, men want to establish that women can enjoy (now defined by orgasm) intercourse just as men do. So any research that supports intercourse as a means of providing female orgasm is promoted. Any research that contradicts that belief is ignored.

In the presence of attractive women, men accumulate a need to release sexual tension. This pressure can be released by masturbation but ultimately relies on penetrative sex. In addition, many men want regular physical intimacy (nudity and genital activity) with a lover. This constant sexual pressure men experience, means they want to know how women can be encouraged to engage in more intercourse. For the same reason, women also want to know how they could enjoy intercourse because a man expects it. Any information that gives a negative view of intercourse is ignored because it does not help solve the problem. This is an endless search because no one can accept the evidence that is blindingly obvious.

Rather than ask women, modern researchers use machines to prove that a woman has had an orgasm. They measure increases in electrical impulses, blood-flow or vaginal secretions that they assume to be evidence of arousal even though women themselves may not be conscious of any pleasure. There are many physiological changes that occur in the human body during sexual activity. Such changes are observed in other mammals, both male and female. But only the male provides evidence of orgasm. Scientists (who tend to be male) are inclined to assume that a woman must have had an orgasm simply because her body returns to its normal state once sexual activity ceases. But this is an assumption and may explain women’s accounts of physical stimulation without any psychological arousal.

Regardless of what we call such phenomena, they do not indicate that women experience sexual pleasure in the way that men do. Orgasm involves a mental release associate with a psychological peak. Researchers evidently do not consider psychological arousal to be critical to orgasm. Yet sexual pleasure is primarily defined by erotic turn-ons and what happens in the mind. Orgasm itself only lasts a few seconds. The vast majority of sexual activity involves the enjoyment of mental arousal.

We need to be aroused in our mind before we are motivated to embark on the mental and physical effort of trying to achieve orgasm. The quality of the orgasm we have, the level of sexual satisfaction, is primarily linked to the effectiveness of the erotic stimuli that cause our mental arousal. Without any psychological aspect, we have no conscious awareness of pleasure. Men also experience this effect sometimes. If a man ejaculates then he must have had an orgasm because orgasm is the trigger for ejaculation. But there was no accompanying psychological pleasure.

Women, on the other hand, can become physically aroused (increased blood flow in the reproductive organs) without becoming psychologically aroused even in the slightest. (Robert Weiss 2014)