NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t


William Masters and Virginia Johnson became famous in the 1960s for their groundbreaking and controversial research into the physiology of human sexuality. Instead of just asking people about their sex lives, Masters and Johnson actually observed volunteers engaging in self-stimulation and sexual intercourse. Changes throughout their bodies during arousal were measured with medical equipment. A new Showtime series premiering in September tells their story. It’s called Masters of Sex, and it’s based on the book by Thomas Maier, who is also a consultant for the series. Until Maier’s book, Masters and Johnson’s research techniques remained shrouded in secrecy. Maier was able to uncover information through interviews with their friends, family and former colleagues, as well as extensive interviews with Johnson, who on July 24 at the age of 88. Masters of Sex was first published in 2009, but a new paperback edition of the book has just come out. Maier is also the author of books about the Kennedys and the famous pediatrician Benjamin Spock. He joins Fresh Air’s Terry Gross to discuss Masters and Johnson’s discovery of multiple and fake orgasms, as well as Masters’ use of prostitutes and sex surrogates. MORE

NEW YORKER: “Masters of Sex,” a new hour-long drama on Showtime, is a fizzy, ebullient quasi-historical romp about the team of scientific pioneers who transformed American attitudes toward sex. But let’s not bury the lead: it’s also a serious turn-on. For many viewers, this will be reason enough to watch, and there’s no shame in that game; this is adult cable television’s bread and butter, after all. Luckily, the show has an appeal beyond solid date-night viewing. “Masters of Sex” is based on Thomas Maier’s lively 2009 book of the same title, which tells the story of the rise of William Masters, a renegade who aimed to study sex in the lab, using human subjects. In nineteen-fifties St. Louis, where Masters was a prominent ob-gyn, this was an idea outrageous enough that he had to keep the project secret. Then, almost by chance, Masters found his soul mate. Virginia Johnson was a low-level secretary with no college degree, but she had social skills that the doctor lacked, in addition to a spitfire sexual iconoclasm. The two became intellectual partners and, later, lovers—though few knew about that part until many years afterward. Their best-selling 1966 study blasted through medical prudery and Freudian hornswoggle, explaining the physiology of orgasms, spreading the good word about healthy sexuality, and turning them into national celebrities. MORE