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The Scientists of Sex
  • September 18, 2013 : 07:09
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LOVE IS THE WORD

JOHNSON: Related to this accusation of mechanization, the point has been raised that in the entire text of Human Sexual Response, the word love isn’t mentioned once.

MASTERS: That’s right, it isn’t. We started to define the physiological facts of sexual response fundamentally because there has been such an incredible amount of misconception, fantasy and fallacy about it. Rather than present an opinion—or psychologic interpretation—we felt it was long past time in this field to find out a few basic facts.

PLAYBOY: Traditionalists also complain that investigations such as yours destroy the mystery of sex. Do you think that’s true?

JOHNSON: We happen to think that the realistic, honest aspects of sexuality are a lot more exciting than the so-called mystery. A knowledge of sex doesn’t impair, but enhances it.

ONCE AND FOR ALL: IS BIGGER BETTER?

PLAYBOY: You have compiled data bearing on the belief that the size of a man’s penis can influence a woman’s sexual responsiveness. Would you tell us about it?

MASTERS: There has long been a myth that penile size relates to male stimulative prowess. We found this not to be true. In the first place, the size of the penis usually has been judged in its flaccid state. In this situation, the penis varies greatly in size. But as it becomes erect, the smaller penis goes through much more of an erective process than does the larger penis. So, at the moment of mounting with full erection, the major differences in flaccid penile size have been remarkably reduced. In addition, the female has the great facility of accommodating the penis, regardless of size, and not expanding the vagina beyond the size sufficient for containment. Vaginal expansion, of course, is purely involuntary and is directed toward accommodation of the particular penis in its erect state.

JOHNSON: It helps to realize that the vagina is a potential rather than an actual space in its unstimulated state. Actually, the vagina is virtually an infinitely expandable organ. After all, it goes from a collapsed state to a size large enough to accommodate a baby’s head.

MASTERS: Of course, we have been talking about physiological response. Psychologically, if the woman really believes that the larger penis in its flaccid state is going to make a difference when it becomes erect, then for her it might. But the really experienced woman would agree that size doesn’t make a crucial difference.

BLUE BALLS (FOR MEN AND WOMEN)

PLAYBOY: One of your most widely publicized findings concerns the four phases of sexual response—excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. What happens to those individuals, particularly females, who don’t go through the full cycle to orgasm?

MASTERS: There are periods of irritability, emotional instability, restlessness, pelvic discomfort, lack of sleep. You see, orgasm is a release point for the congestion of blood in the pelvis. This vasocongestion—which is the medical term for it—is relieved very rapidly if there is orgasm. If not, the release of vasocongestion is slowed, particularly if the woman has had babies and has enlarged blood vessels in the pelvis. Her period of frustration, irritation and pelvic discomfort may last for hours; sometimes—though rarely—a day or two.

PLAYBOY: How about the male? There is a well-known malady among young men, variously referred to in slang as “blue balls” or “lover’s nuts,” in which the male complains of severe pain in the testicles if he is stimulated without reaching orgasm. Is there a similar explanation for this affliction?

MASTERS: Yes. We’ve discovered in our experiments that when the male is sexually excited and approaching ejaculation, the testicles increase in size; the average size increase may be as much as 50 percent over the unstimulated norm. A young male who is forced to maintain this degree of local vasocongestion for a period of time—­without ­release—may well develop some pain and tenderness. Those males who suffer from long-continued “plateau phase” frustration usually either masturbate or have a nocturnal emission and the ejaculation relieves the congestion that way.

ORGASM VERSUS EJACULATION

PLAYBOY: You used the term ejaculation, not orgasm. In the male is there a distinction between the two?

MASTERS: Male orgasm is actually a two-stage affair. The first stage is identifiable by a sensation of “ejaculatory inevitability.” This is when he no longer can control the ejaculation but before he actually has any seminal-fluid emission. This stage of ejaculatory inevitability lasts two to four seconds and is occasioned by contractions of the prostate gland and possibly the seminal vesicles. The remaining part of the male orgasm—that of actual ejaculation—is the expulsion of the seminal fluid throughout the length of the penile urethra by contractions of the penile and urethral musculature. The female orgasm, by contrast, is but a one-stage affair.

PLAYBOY: Did you discover any evidence that women ejaculate?

MASTERS: We have heard from four women who claimed that, with orgasm, they have an overwhelming release of fluid. But we’ve never had the opportunity to evaluate these women in the laboratory.

PLAYBOY: In your book you also discussed female multiple orgasm.

MASTERS: Apart from several physiologic observations of a technical nature, one of the important things we established—to our own satisfaction, at least—is that the female is naturally multiorgasmic.

PLAYBOY: Picking up on the phrase “naturally multiorgasmic,” do you believe that, all other things being equal, the female should achieve orgasm as easily as the male?

MASTERS: Yes, indeed. We have nothing to suggest otherwise. It would seem that puritan and Victorian social restraints have destroyed or altered significantly the female’s natural responsivity.

VAGINA VERSUS CLITORIS

PLAYBOY: Let’s get this straight. There was the debate about clitoral versus vaginal orgasms. We just read an abstract from the Third International Congress of Medical Sexology in which a sexologist claims there are clitoral, vaginal and uterine orgasms.

JOHNSON: Oh, Saint Christopher! The amount of garbage in this field, and the number of people without credibility! Of course, the uterus responds with orgasm—if the woman responding has a uterus. Every other part of her system responds in some fashion as well. The variables are in degree of involvement and intensity and in subjective perception.

IMAGINATION AND FANTASY

PLAYBOY: What role do such psychological factors as fantasy and imagination play in enhancing sexual response for either sex?

JOHNSON: It depends on how you define those terms. What some people call imagination could be described as recall. The only psychological constant in sexual response is the memory of, or the conditioned response to, the pleasure of sensation—in other words, to those things that have become sexually endowed for that person. These may be deliberately invoked during masturbation or during intercourse to help overcome a particular environment or ­occasion—a time or a place that doesn’t turn the individual on.

MASTERS: Imagination, as we define it, plays a very real part in sexual response, but it varies tremendously with individuals. Usually, it is employed during the excitement or early-plateau phases; but at the moment of orgasmic expression, the individual usually is immersed in his own sensate focus.

PLAYBOY: Obviously, imagination would have great value with a sex partner who was not physically attractive. Have you found that physical attractiveness is important to successful sex response?

JOHNSON: Again, all these things are terribly individual.

PLAYBOY: In your experience as investigators, however, aren’t there certain aspects of appearance that seem more stimulating than others for many American men—characteristics such as breast size, for example?

MASTERS: If you talk about breast size, you have to mention Madison Avenue and Playboy, because they have created connotations of sexuality in connection with it. As a matter of fact, the larger-breasted female may not be more responsive.

JOHNSON: Worse yet, a woman’s preoccupation with her symbolic sex quality might cancel out her attention to, or her involvement with, her real sexuality. On the other hand, her symbolic sexual qualities might make her conceive of herself as more of a sexual person; consequently, she might involve herself with more enthusiasm. I’m not an anthropologist, but I think there is evidence that the attraction of the female breast relates to the mother-figure concept.

MASTERS: And yet, in the male population, there are hip watchers, leg watchers. It varies.

PLAYBOY: Do you have any idea how these individual predilections develop?

MASTERS: Personal conditioning, I would guess. Maybe the first exposure to sexuality was a woman with particularly attractive legs or breasts.

THE IMPACT OF PORNOGRAPHY

PLAYBOY: Does pornography have equal erotic potential for women and for men?

MASTERS: According to our experience, yes. The greatest variations relate to an individual’s background and personal preference, rather than to his or her sex.

PLAYBOY: Do you think pornography would continue to have its arousing effects if it were made more easily available and lost its taboo quality?

JOHNSON: Our attitude, like everyone else’s, is purely speculative. But we think pornography certainly gains in its excitement by being forbidden.

PLAYBOY: Do you think it advisable to control its availability?

JOHNSON: I don’t think there’s any real contribution to the goodness of an individual’s life in telling him what he can or cannot read or see.

MASTERS: What is a matter of indifference to one individual may be repugnant to a second and incredibly erotic to a third.

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read more: lifestyle, Sex and Dating, sex, interview, issue september 2013

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