Masters of Sex: Realistic Insight Into Human Sexuality

Within the scientific universe, absolutely nothing fascinates me more than human sexuality. I don’t mean this exploitative, dehumanizing sexuality that permeates our society like a disease; the sexuality that advertisers and media turn into product placement. I’m talking about the sexuality that happens between people: the most natural urge to give and receive pleasure. Unfortunately, these same media members that sell sex prefer to only sell it to men. The aptly named “male gaze” is the predominate insight – that just so happens to be the straight male gaze, too. The little female sexuality allowed is either presented incorrectly or harshly rated by the MPAA as NC-17, simply for showing a woman receiving pleasure. In a world that won’t allow a woman to own her own orgasm, Masters of Sex takes the standard of female sexuality and turns it on its head.

Masters of Sex is a Showtime series based on a 2009 biography by Thomas Maier called Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love. It explores the scientific research of Dr. Masters and his female assistant in the mid-1950s on sexuality – specifically female sexuality. Emmy-nominated for her work on The Pacific, writer and producer Michelle Ashford not only captures female sexuality well, but even incorporates social stigmas that remain in place almost sixty years later.

Episode 102

In the series premiere episode, Dr. Masters asks the ever-relevant question, “Why would a woman fake her orgasm?” To which Virginia Johnson replies, “Because she wants to get back to whatever else she’d rather be doing.” Indeed, women continue to fake orgasms six decades later for very similar reasons, the most common being women don’t know how to orgasm. For such a progressive, sex-obsessed society, women are still not given realistic representations of sex. Television, movies, and even pornography focus primarily on vaginal intercourse as the mutual pleasure portion of sex. However, for many women, that is hardly the truth. With an estimated percentage of 75% of women never reaching orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone, Masters of Sex tackles female sexuality issues with a vengeance.

The show also spectacularly incorporates debunking previous sexual discoveries made by psychologist Sigmund Freud. One such claim is that a woman’s external, clitoral orgasm is “juvenile,” and an internal, vaginal orgasm is a sign of “maturity.” Anything other than a vaginal orgasm, according to Freud, means a woman is “frigid.” Realistically, it’s a means by which many women can only achieve orgasm, but, as Ms. Johnson believes, Freud made this “immaturity” claim because he recognized a woman’s ability to achieve orgasm without a man. In a decade where a woman’s goals went no further than marriage and children, pleasure without the necessity of a man was simply a dangerous tool for female empowerment.

Sexuality is not the only issue being tackled in Masters of Sex. The two most goal-oriented women, Virginia Johnson and Dr. Lillian Depaul, begin as rivals on the show. Dr. Depaul, the only female doctor at the hospital, strives only to devalue Ms. Johnson at the beginning of the series in her collaboration with Dr. Masters. In turn, Dr. Depaul is criticized by the secretaries, who see her as intruding where women don’t belong. While it is strongly pertinent to the time period, we cannot say the same problem doesn’t happen today. Women not only see women as competition, but find it necessary to be the absolute best to feel valued by male colleagues. While competition is common in both sexes, women continue to attack one another on personal levels. Instead of supporting one another in gaining positions of power, women appear to use jealousy and aggression to ensure their positions so women beneath them cannot surpass and gain more recognition. It is shameful that women, after sixty years, still feel threatened by other empowered women.

Masters of Sex is absolutely one of the most progressive and sexually accurate shows on television right now. Female sexuality needed a refreshing new perspective, and with a female-driven production team, women’s orgasms are finally getting the accurate recognition they deserve. Taboo topics are also being tackled in each episode, including closeted homosexuality, birth control, casual sex, and even male topics like uncircumcised penises and infertility. Season two premiered in July and hopefully continues to receive positive reviews, not only with critics, but viewers as well. Unfortunately most people don’t typically get Showtime on basic cable programming, but Netflix is quickly becoming home to female-focused shows (Weeds, Orange is The New Black). Hopefully Netflix will jump on board for a little sex research very soon!

Christina McCarty

Christina McCarty

Christina McCarty is a recent graduate from the University of South Alabama with her Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts. She loves everything about theatre from directing to stage performing to building elaborate costumes. She enjoys traveling, eating, cooking, going to Disney World, and binge-watching Netflix on her downtime. One day she hopes to work in professional theatre as either a costumer or a director.
Christina McCarty

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