According to one account, it was a prostitute who informed William H. Masters that women fake orgasms. And it was the same lady of the night who suggested that his research needed a female perspective when he expressed shock at the notion that women faked them routinely. He took the revelation to heart and made a decision that would pave the way for one of the most famous partnerships in medical research history. He ultimately would hire Virginia E. Johnson – the female half of Masters and Johnson – and together they would become the so called “Masters of Sex”.
Virginia Johnson was portrayed by Lizzy Caplan on the television series "Masters of Sex"
Mary Virginia Eshelman was born in Springfield, Missouri on February 11, 1925. Before she hooked up with Dr. Masters, she studied music, sociology and psychology and worked as a radio country music singer, a newspaper reporter and a market research assistant. Virginia Johnson did not have a college degree, yet she became a nationally recognized researcher, sexologist and author. In fact, Masters once said that Virginia had learned “more than any other woman in the world about human sexual function.” She is best known for her partnership with Dr. Masters, a gynecologist from Missouri (whom she later married) and the groundbreaking work they did together from the late 50s into the 90s. Their first book, Human Sexual Response, came out in 1966 with the American Sexual Revolution as its backdrop.
Masters and Johnson were different than researchers that had gone before them because they studied actual people – 694 of them to be exact – volunteers observed and measured with medical equipment while engaging in self-stimulation and sexual intercourse. Together they witnessed over 10,000 orgasms, treated hundreds of couples who struggled with sexual dysfunction (with a very high rate of success), tackled long held myths about sex and disproved the ridiculous notion that sexual satisfaction comes to a grinding halt later in life. However, their most enduring legacy just might be the fact that they redefined sex as a pleasure of human life to be pursued without guilt or fear.
Virginia Johnson once told an interviewer, “We’ll need two generations who grow up believing that sex is honorable and good for its own sake, and not something to be kept hidden away in a jewel box to be taken down for festival occasions on Friday and Saturday nights.”
We can believe it now, because she said it then. Thank you, Virginia.
Virginia Johnson died at the age of 88 on July 24, 2013. She goes down in history as a true heroine of the Sexual Revolution!