Home Emotional aspects of sexuality Bill Masters & Virginia Johnson’s research (1966)

Bill Masters & Virginia Johnson’s research (1966)

Virginia Johnson started out as Bill Masters’ assistant. Given she was not his professional equal, she would have lacked the authority to challenge his views. Later they married. Given she was involved in a sexual relationship with him, she could hardly be deemed an objective researcher. Neither would she be the first woman to mistake emotional sensations for orgasm.

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. Female orgasm is simply assumed to occur as a result of intercourse.

Kinsey’s finding that female orgasm is associated with masturbation was ignored. Without any supporting evidence, it was suggested that all women orgasm every time they engage in sociable sexual activity. This is because most women only engage in sexual activity by responding to male sex drive.

Masters and Johnson accepted Kinsey’s conclusion that the clitoris was the female sex organ and source of female orgasm. They simply assumed that the clitoris was indirectly 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. Later Shere Hite suggested this stimulation did not cause orgasm in most 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 analysis, being vague and lacking objectivity, has little impact on modern sexology.

Their sample made no attempt to be representative of the average woman in the population. Their approach involved selecting women who thought they had orgasms from intercourse. The objective was political rather than scientific. The implication was that if it can be shown that one woman thinks she has an orgasm from intercourse then every woman can be convinced that she should orgasm from intercourse. These findings were popular because they promoted intercourse as a means of pleasuring women.

Sex research is not considered a priority in our society. Women themselves have little knowledge of 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.

Men’s sex drive motivates them to want women to be amenable to engaging in more intercourse. For the same reason, women also want to know how they could enjoy intercourse because men expect it from them. Any facts or logic that might explain why women cannot respond as men hope is ignored because it does not help solve the problem. This is an endless search because no one can accept the evidence of their own experiences.

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 the 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 probably explain women’s accounts of orgasm based on physical stimulation without mental arousal.

Regardless of what we call such phenomena, they do not prove that women experience sexual pleasure in the way that men do. Researchers ignore the role of psychological arousal in women’s accounts of orgasm because so few women consider it necessary. This is clear evidence that they never experience arousal and orgasm. Orgasm involves a mental release associated with a psychological peak. We need to be mentally aroused before we embark on the effort involved in achieving orgasm. For men, the arousal process may be trivial but for women, orgasm is much more elusive.

Orgasm only lasts a few seconds. Sexual pleasure revolves around erotic turn-ons and what happens in the mind. The quality of the orgasm we have, our sexual satisfaction, is primarily linked to the effectiveness of the erotic stimuli that cause our mental arousal. Without the psychological aspects of orgasm, we have no conscious awareness of pleasure. For example, if a man ejaculates then he must have had an orgasm because orgasm is the trigger for ejaculation. But there may be 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)