Masters of Sex

The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love

by Thomas Maier

Masters of Sex

Paperback, 415 pages, Perseus Books Group, List Price: $16.99 | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
Masters of Sex
Subtitle
The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love
Author
Thomas Maier

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Book Summary

Thomas Maier follows the careers of William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson Masters, a famous sex research couple who used their own relationship to gain the confidence of study subjects and to convince readers of their expertise.

Read an excerpt of this book

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Masters Of Sex

Sex, in all its glorious expressions, has been an integral part of the American experience in my four biographies — respectively, about Si Newhouse, Benjamin Spock, the Kennedys, and now Masters and Johnson. As Dr. Spock, the best-selling expert who raised America's baby-boom generation, once told me with disarming honesty, "Everything is about sex!" Indeed, at its most powerful and transcendent, sex is about the progression of the species, the origin of self-identity, and the most intimate form of expression between adults.

The story of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, as per- haps none other, deals directly with the eternal mysteries of sex and love. Their public life provides an unparalleled window into America's sexual revolution and its historic cultural changes still with us today, while their private relationship mirrors many of the most basic desires, tensions, and contradictions between men and women. I first interviewed Dr. Masters when he retired in December 1994, already showing symptoms of Parkinson's disease, which would lead to his death in 2001. After several false starts, I gained the complete cooperation of Virginia Johnson in 2005, conducting many hours of interviews, including a lengthy visit to her St. Louis home. Despite worldwide fame, "we were absolutely the two most secretive people on the face of the earth," Johnson confided. "There's simply no one who knew us well. People have a lot of speculation, but they don't know."

For years, the work of Masters and Johnson remained shrouded in strict confidentiality as a result of their own desire to avoid public scrutiny. Only now — with the willingness of many to be interviewed and access to their letters, internal documents, and Masters's own unpublished memoir — can we fully consider their remarkable life and times. For all of the clinical knowledge they gained from America's biggest sex experiment — involving hundreds of women and men and more than ten thousand orgasms — their story is very much about the elusiveness and indefinable aspects of human intimacy. As many today still ask themselves, "What is this thing called love?"

—T.M. Long Island, New York APRIL 2009

From Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love by Thomas Maier. Copyright 2009 by Thomas Maier. Excerpted by permission of Basic Books.